Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Step Forty Five: Crochet challenge

Dear Fi,
Crochet was on my 2010 list, and on my 52 steps list, and popped up from time to time in my thoughts during the year. To be honest, I didn’t think I would give it a try. I like to learn new things but it is more manageable when the circumstances are favorable ha, ha. I mean: time and peace of mind instead of hectic schedule, evaluations and the end of the semester. Also, I suspect that it is much easier to work with decent supplies... so this is why I won’t mention the brand of the kit I purchased for my first ever crochet endeavor. Of course I didn’t expect great quality while buying a kit for an 8 year old girl. However, I honestly expected some clear and simple instructions. 

It took me forever to start the first chain, and believe me it was not with the help of an illustration or any instructions. It was because of the five minutes of trying and trying very hard ha, ha. So, after the first five minutes I knew that instead of presenting you one of those cute, beautiful and colourful squares (I see and admire here and there in the blogosphere) I would need to try my best to proceed with the simplest chain square.
Things went wrong ha, ha. 

I would love to blame that plastic crochet hook and the cheap sample of yarn included in this set, however we both know that it would be silly he, he.

So I watched how the supposed square becomes shapeless the more I try to “fix” it... When the square starts to remind of a small circle I invited Danbo and promised to make a cute winter hat for him. 

What did I think??? 

That I would have time to crochet throughout the night to keep my careless promise? 

Poor Danbo he was so excited!

To save face I tried to outsmart myself. Can you guess how?

Can you guess now? Ha, ha!

So, instead of a cool and cute winter hat for Danbo I ended up with a formless purplish red old-fashioned bag Barbie wouldn’t ever wear...   
As you can see below my lovely Danbo was quite disappointed with the outcome too...  Despite of his dissatisfaction he agreed to pose with the bag.
I took many pictures of him with the hope of capturing a better grin on his face... 

with no success...
Ha, ha :)
Love :*

Despite of this unsuccessful “first attempt” with crochet I can tell you that even with that poor effect I really enjoyed it. So, learning crochet will definitely end up on my 2011 list. Preferably thought by somebody, hopefully by somebody with tones of patience ;) 

Monday, November 29, 2010

Step Forty Four: A postcard from the sweat lodge

Dear Fi,
You might remember (or not ha, ha) that I’m currently enrolled in First Nation Healing Practices class at the U of C (I need to pinch myself from time to time because this is my last class towards my degree and sometimes I cannot believe that I’m almost done!). Because of this class on November 21st I had the opportunity to participate in a traditional Blackfoot sweat lodge ceremony. 

In short: it was a HOT and AMAZING experience. 

I agree with Ed McGaa who wrote that “[w]hile the sweat lodge itself is simple to describe, it is beyond any mortal writer’s ability to adequately convey the ultimate culmination of spiritual, mystical, and psychic expression of the Sweat Lodge Ceremony. Everyone that I have seen experience [it] agrees wholeheartedly: the Sweat Lodge Ceremony is impossible to describe fully. You have to experience it to truly realize its fullness and depth”.
Dear Fi, it would be really hard to try to describe what happened to me as I was sweating through approximately three hours (with breaks of course!) and yet I would like to share this experience with you somehow... 
So I hope that the paintings below will help.
The first painting illustrates my perception before the sweat lodge. I didn’t actually paint it before the “sweat” but as I had been working on this post I realised that the process of transformation of this painting would be a perfect illustration of a change that happened “in me”. 
The second piece is a “new view”, an alignment in perceiving myself, my life, and the whole world after the ceremony... and as you can see, Dear Fi, the adjustment is quite huge ha, ha ;) 
It truly is...
Love :*

Step Forty Three: Work in progress

Dear Fi,

I was quite surprised to unravel the story behind this piece. I wonder how it works that some of the creative expressions bring these kinds of metaphorical interpretations? Maybe I’m just approaching a mid-life crisis ha, ha ;)
When I teared out page number 25 from this little book to use it for my post a thought about tabula rasa appeared to me. When I was younger the idea of being born as a “blank slate” was very appealing to me. With years I realised that I do not agree with it anymore. Despite of whether one believes in previous lives or not we spend around nine months in our mother’s uterus - so when we push our way through to enter the world we already have some words written on our page. Even if we do not understand the language, even if we cannot comprehend and make meaning we experienced “something” already. Ok, Dear Fi don’t be nervous I’m not going further with my philosophy ;)
The point of this intro was to describe the picture of the book above. We arrive to this world as a piece of a bigger whole with an inscription in our souls. 

Then... life happens and naturally we paint the page while “experiencing our life”. It would be impossible to find exactly the same painting, each one is unique. Sometimes we might not like our creation, we might not understand the patterns, choice of colours and the meaning of our paintings. We might keep going even if we have no clue where are we heading...  
After a while (or for some very early on) our page tears here and there and it might even become broken in some places.

So we try our best to mend the page, to find meaning in what we are experiencing. We try to put our page together, by repairing it, understanding it or predicting what might work for us at the moment... 
We try our best to mend our souls.

Love :* 
Sometimes we might make peace with our life, or even feel in love with our creation. Ha, ha ;)

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Step Forty Four: It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas!

Dearest Sylwi

Ever since I saw your Step Six on creating stamps, I've wanted to have a go myself!

Last week, I ordered the rubber stamp material and a carving tool and was thrilled when it arrived in time for this week's Step!

Inspiration for my stamps this week, came from the extraordinary website of Wilson A. Bentley, Snowflake Bentley, in the shape of images like these...

By adapting his camera to work with a microscope, back in 1885, Wilson Bentley became the first person to photograph a snowflake.

He went on to take more than 5,000 photos of snowflakes during his life, forming a collection of exquisite images, all of them different. It's really an extraordinary collection!

"Under the microscope, I found that snowflakes were miracles of beauty; and it seemed a shame that this beauty should not be seen and appreciated by others. Every crystal was a masterpiece of design and no one design was ever repeated., When a snowflake melted, that design was forever lost. Just that much beauty was gone, without leaving any record behind."
~ Wilson "Snowflake" Bentley, 1925

First, I traced the snowflake in pencil, simplifying its shape, ready to carve...

I transferred the pencil snowflake onto the stamping mat by placing the drawing, pencil-side down and rubbing the back of the tracing paper with a ruler.

When I began carving, I realised I didn't have quite the right tools for the job. I didn't realise the cutters came in different designs! My cutter had a hook on the end and was quite large, whereas I think yours (and Gennine's) were almost like thin scoops? 

I was too far down the line to back out, though. I used the smallest blade in the pack, but it was a bit too clunky for the delicate design of the snowflake. However, I did the best I could! 

I had meant to do three, but ran out of time! :-) So, two it was...

I used the stamps to cheer up a gift tag, the outside of an envelope and also, created a liner for an envelope. 

I found fantastic instructions for envelope liners here, at Paper Source. They sell liner templates, but I just created my own.

Have you had any snow yet? None for us here, but the temperature has really dropped and is set to plummet further over the coming days, with a possibility of a dusting of snow! Yipee! 

Well, when I say "plummet", I mean we might get into single digits! Gee we might even hit zero! ha ha! 

I think "plummet" is more what it does on your side of the Atlantic! :-)

Lots and lots and lots of love

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Step Forty Three: Layering Paper

Dearest Sylwi

There's so much I want to write for this post, but my eyes are so tired, I'm going to take it easy and make a list instead!

I found out this week that the reason I've been getting so many headaches and sore eyes is that I have a little inflammation in both eyes, but also, that I'm becoming long-sighted! After 38 years of perfect vision, my eyes are beginning to fail me! So, I'm going to have to get reading glasses. Till then (and till the inflammation clears up), I'm trying to spend as much time offline as I can. I debated not posting today, but habit kicked in and I thought I'd do a quick upload. It's all a bit scrappy, quite frankly, but never mind! hee! ;-)

Anyway, here's the list...

The pros:

- this is something I've wanted to try with paper for a while
- I found this beautiful vintage flower pattern in a great free source of embroidery patterns online, so I could get on with cutting, rather than trying to design my own flowers first
- I really enjoyed embossing the paper and layering it
- using tiny little adhesive foam pads to build up the layers of paper worked really well
- I'd like to continue exploring other ideas with this technique. Not sure what exactly!
- I really enjoy working with brown parcel paper.

... but...

The cons:

- I'm not sure I like the contrast of white paper against the brown (although, I've discovered that I love white paint on brown paper!)
- I loved the first flower in the centre, but as I kept adding to it, I started to dislike it! It started out much better than it finished! ha ha!
- it doesn't look that great from the side, as you can see the foam stickers behind the flowers
- I'm too tired to play around with lighting to take a photo of it tonight. I hope you can kind of work out what I was trying to do
- I had intended to do the black bits with thread, but had no time, so just inked them! (cheat! ha!)

Sorry to hear you had such a rough week last week. I'll be back to write much more tomorrow and to comment properly on your post.

Hope you're okay. Lots and lots of love,

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Step Forty Two: Stomach flu, a funeral, and tears...

Dear Fi,

Last Tuesday I tried to recover from a stomach flu (which attacked my entire family), from a few sleepless nights, from writing an existential and very personal paper, and from the funeral I attended that day. 

I didn’t want to think about anything that day. After the funeral I came home, lied down in bed and fell asleep, for the first time since Friday. I woke up on Wednesday morning... 

On Tuesday I saw tears everywhere. All I could think for this post was a paper full of tears. I imagined tiny tears on a silver wire, black tears falling down from a white paper, layers of tears hanging out from a celling, and tears of various sizes dancing on a wall. I knew I wouldn’t manage to do something time consuming so I just drew a few tears in my notebook during my break at work and that was all I could do.

The clouds of thoughts surrounded me that day and I couldn't free myself from thinking. All I wanted was to have a still mind, with no thoughts flowing, with no movement - just peaceful stillness. And maybe some clarity instead of the foggy confusion about the whole Universe and the purpose of my tiny life.

With years I’ve noticed that these “things” always escalate in my life around my birthday...    

“Awareness is the key. Do we see the stories that we’re telling ourselves and question their validity? When we are distracted by strong emotion, do we remember that it is our path? Can we feel the emotion and breathe it into our hearts for ourselves and everyone else? If we can remember to experiment like this even occasionally, we are training as a warrior. And when we can’t practice when distracted but know that we can’t, we are still training well. Never underestimate the power of compassionately recognizing what’s going on.” {Pema Chödrön}

I’m trying to experiment for the last 38 years and still mostly fail miserably every day but I keep experimenting anyway ;)

Love :*


Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Step Forty Two: The World's Most Evil Cartoon Character ;-)

Dearest Sylwi

Today, I had intended to try out Cyanotype, a method of photographic printing using UV light that produces beautiful, blue prints. However, it turned out to be a very unco-operative, grey, November day. The sun appeared briefly this afternoon, but not for long enough to try printing, so I had to come up with a Plan B!

I decided instead to try something I've wanted to do for ages, but have been putting off through fear! Creating a cartoon character. :-)

Last week, I signed up for Nanowrimo intending to write a novel about my rescue dog. I do, as you know, have plenty to scream about of stories to tell on that subject! After only 3 days and 4,500 words though, I ran out of steam! :-( I literally couldn't think of one more single word to write about her! :-)

I did begin to think, though, that rather than trying to force her unwillingly into a novel, she would make a funny subject for a comic strip. Drawing out her naughtiness could be a good (healthy) way for me to vent my anger. ;-)

I searched on the t'internet for lessons on cartoon drawing and came across this superb book, "Cartoon Animation (The Collectors' Series')" by Preston Blair and before I knew it, it had arrived in my post box! Damn that "one click!" feature on Amazon! :-)

So, for today's Step, I set about coming up with a cartoon character for my dog... more commonly known as "that damn Shelter Dog!"

It was sooooo hard to draw her face. Oh my goodness. I drew and drew and drew and hated all of them. None of them looked anything like her. So, I decided to stop trying to do the hardest bit first and drew her body, closely following the instructions in Blair's book.

Ok, so ignore the face! That looks nothing like her! The body, I took from the instructions at the top of this pic - you can just see them at the top right. You draw 3 circles for the body, then 4 ovals as paws and then just connect them to create a dog.

It was amazing to see it all coming together in front of me. Me, who can't draw, drew that there (shelter) dog. Yes, it took me ages, but gee! It was fun! :-)

I changed the paws and legs a bit to make them more like my pup's, but otherwise it was just a direct copy of Blair's body. This totally captures my pup when she's in trouble, though. That stance - hee hee! That is HER through and through!

The body was relatively simple, but I took FOREVER to draw her face! After ages of frustrating drawing and rubbing out, I took a break for an hour... and when I came back, I sat down and drew her face first time!

Then it was time to crack open the watercolours and get to the fun bit, the colouring in...

I was really pleased with it ... and then I took another break for an hour. When I came back, I realised that her nose was the wrong shape... and if she was slinking around like this after being bad, both of her ears would be pinned flat to her head...

So, there's still a lot of work to be done to create her. I really loved playing with this today, though. Using ink and watercolour (even though I don't really know how to paint with watercolour, or understand how to create shadows yet) was sooooo much fun.

How on earth cartoonists draw comic strips though, I'll never understand. It took me so long to come up with just this... I couldn't imagine how long it would take to write a whole strip! :-)

Ten Steps to go. Yikes! How quickly a year goes past! Can't wait to see what you come up with this week (if you have any time?!) :-)

Lots and lots of love

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Step Forty One: Halloween edition ;)

Dear Fi,

I almost gave up on today’s post. After coming back from work I did everything to avoid thinking about any ideas I could use today. Mostly because I spent my weekend and Monday writing my paper, then I went to work and it felt like I hadn’t had a break from “doing stuff”. Honestly, I thought that I should take it easy and postpone my post. Then I remembered that I will be writing another paper next weekend and if I don’t post today I’m sure I won’t be able to post next week. This approach didn’t help me much - it actually made me feel even more flat ;)
So, I started to consider some ideas. I thought about something Halloweenish ha, ha, like for example transforming my kids into cute bats ;) This led me to Shona Cole’s book “The Artistic Mother” and the lovely idea of changing her children into fairies ;) So I picked up the book (which, BTW features two of my favourite mixed media artists Misty Mawn and Corey Moortgat) and I tried to decide if the project is doable with the limited time I have.  
I tried to be strong rather than realistic and decided to start the project. So right away I wasted about two hours trying to find pictures of my children’s faces!!! I couldn’t believe that I do not have any nice portraits I could use for this post. Their faces were either to far, or too blurry, or in motion, or not the right angle, or covered with something (ice cream, lollypop, hand...). At some point I just took whatever I had available, cropped and printed it out. 
However, since it was super late I didn’t put any thought and attention into choosing the papers and colours, I didn’t even bother to use some stable paper, just regular printing paper. So it took me two hours to find the pictures and about 30 minutes to make these fairies ha, ha. This is what I call the “desperado technique” he, he. 

So, now I’m heading to bed and I promise I will comment on your two last lovely posts as soon as I can!!!
Love :*