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I hope everyone had a lovely Christmas and Hanukkah (for those who celebrate them, anyway). Mine were wonderful – I am blessed with a loving, fun, and generous family.

My husband gave me some very cool gourmet chocolates by MarieBelle. Each chocolate is handcrafted from the finest natural ingredients, and the top of each delectable treat offers an artistic rendition of a unique retro-inspired scene or design. Flavors range from the traditional (butter caramel and coconut) to the unusual (champagne – yummy! and gianduja – I don’t know what that is). These are fun chocolates – just ask my daughter.

Here are a few of them:
MarieBelle chocolates

I received my ATC’s from the Artella Holiday Memories swap a week ago but hadn’t had a chance to post them, so here they are:

Artella 2008 Holiday Memories ATC Swap

I love the variety. From top left clockwise the artists are: Jan’ice Rogers, Cheryl Richards, Karen Solliday, and Pamela Tucker.

For Christmas I made necklaces for my sister and sister-in-law. They are the same as the crystal pendant necklace I made for myself a couple months ago (mine was the test drive!).

The one for my sister:
Julie's Christmas gift 2008

And the one for my sister-in-law (this one is exactly the same as the one I made for myself):
Erin's Christmas gift 2008

And here is the collage I made for my Mom:
Mom's Christmas gift 2008

This was my grandmother’s older sister Charlotte, for whom my Mom is named. Charlotte was killed in a car accident a couple months after graduating high school. My grandmother was only seven at the time. She remembers Charlotte as being very sweet and calling her “my sugar cookie”. My mom spent a good deal of time last year researching the details of the accident because my grandmother’s memory was a bit hazy.

And then there were a bunch of photos of Charlotte in a box of old family photos my Mom lent to me, and I also found her commencement card and a thank-you note she had written to one of her aunts shortly before she died, thanking her for a graduation present. So looking at these photos and other items and knowing my Mom’s interest in her inspired me to create a collage in honor of her.

I’m happy with how it turned out. I did a bit of sewing on this one, which I love to do. And I didn’t use any glitter glue – I wanted the collage to be more serious, and not glitzy. The buttons represent history and the connections that female family members have to each other. I’ve read many a blog entry or magazine article where the author mentions how she treasures a button box given to her by her mother or grandmother.

I suspect not many people would recognize the evocative power of a button.

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I finished my ATCs for the Artella Holiday Memories ATC swap. Overall I’m pretty happy with how they turned out. This is the first time I have made ATCs. Each one is 2.5″ by 3.5″. Here they are (the tree background paper is by Basic Grey – I love everything Basic Grey!):

Artella Holiday Memories ATC Swap - 1

Artella Holiday Memories ATC Swap - 2

Artella Holiday Memories ATC Swap - 3

Artella Holiday Memories ATC Swap - 4

Artella Holiday Memories ATC Swap - 5

As usual the crystals did not scan well. It’s a shame, because they add just the right touch of sparkle to the cards, but you can’t tell from these pictures.

I made these using the watercolor paper ATC blanks I ordered from ArtChix. I direct-applied red ink around the edges, front and back. I used scrapbook paper for the backgrounds. I used pictures from the Memories of a Lifetime – Christmas book, resized them and toned down the color a bit in Photoshop, and printed them onto white cardstock that I first treated with the coffee technique.

I originally wanted to use ivory cardstock, but found that I had none, so decided to try out the coffee technique on white cardstock. It turned out pretty cool. I only did light splatters, because I wanted the pictures to be clear.

I ended up having to trim quite a bit off the pictures after I printed them out. I did measure them pre-printing, but I misjudged how they would look, and they were simply way too big. I wasn’t happy about that situation but most of them turned out well anyway.

I used German scrap paper and Swarovski crystals for embellishment. The larger crystals are topaz and the smaller ones are garnet.

The only card I’m not thrilled with is the one with the man and woman by the tree, with Merry Christmas along the side. Why I thought putting the Merry Christmas along the side was a good idea I don’t know. There is so much space at the bottom under the picture, and it just doesn’t look quite right. oh well.

Not sure if I previously mentioned this, but I took a class at AC Moore today on tatting. Bead & Button occasionally has articles featuring tatted jewelry, with beads of course, and I always thought it looked neat. Then I was at AC Moore a few weeks ago (well, I’m there every week. I wish they would stop giving me those 50% off coupons!) and I just happened to pick up the November class schedule, which I never do, and saw a bunch of tatting classes. Most were during the week in the daytime when I’m at work, but one was today, and seeing how I had requested the day off from work, I thought surely this is a sign that I must take this class! Plus it was only $15.

So here is my half-finished, first attempt at tatting. It’s hard to see the stitches because of course I had to use black thread (this is size 10 cotton crochet thread). I know very well when you’re first learning anything that involves thread or yarn you should always use a light color so you can see your stitches easily. But I knew that I would use black again, whereas I doubt I would use white.

First attempt at tatting.

The teacher, Leigh Ann, was kind enough to give me her finished sample, so that when I work on it at home I can see what it should look like.

Leigh Ann's tatted lace.

Isn’t that pretty? She used a thinner thread and needle. Once you get the hang of it, it’s pretty easy. And quick, which I’m all into these days. It’s relaxing too – there’s something about wrapping the thread around my finger and bringing it onto the needle that I find very soothing.

Obviously from the looks of my sample I need a bit more practice, but I’ve already ordered a set of needles and a book from Handy Hands Tatting, so in about a week I should be good to go. I plan on making this my portable creative endeavor.

And I also ordered a bunch of punches that I need for my Polyshrink jewelry. So I’ll be able to work on that soon too.

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Here are my pages for the first two muses in the Artella Alphabetter Muse workshop. The workshop introduces one muse for each letter of the alphabet and provides journal pages, clip art, and journal prompts.

The first muse is the Asymmetry Muse, the Champion of Lopsided Living.
Asymmetry Muse - journal page 1

Asymmetry Muse - journal page 2

And here is Baby Face Muse, The Sweet Guardian of Wild Dreams and Curious Growth.

Baby Face Muse - journal page 1

Baby Face Muse - journal page 2

I’ve always enjoyed writing, though I certainly wouldn’t call myself a writer. I love the physical act of writing, and it doesn’t matter what I’m writing – it could be a shopping list for all I care. I’ve kept journals here and there throughout my life.

I’m enjoying the workshop, but it takes me forever to finish a muse. And there are 26 – this could easily take a year at the rate I’m going!

I finally got my order from Art Chix – I always forget they’re in Canada. I had forgotten that I also ordered glassine envelopes, so I was excited when I saw those. I also got the Mystical and the Ruby Red collage sheets. So I guess I better get started on my “holiday memories” atc’s. I didn’t realize December was so close!

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Now that my MA pieces are done and off in California, I’ve turned my attention to creating some jewelry. I realized the other day that the only jewelry I’ve made this year is the pair of earrings I made for Julie for her birthday. And they barely count – all I did was throw some beads on wire and attach to a finding. Here they are:

antiqued-brass-blue-earrings

Don’t get me wrong – I think they are quite pretty, and I still want to make a pair for myself.

For now though I’m working on a necklace; it’s a project from the December 2007 issue of Bead & Button. I don’t make very many projects from magazines – I’d like to, but I’m always so busy with my own projects. But once in a while I try one, just to do something different. And it was a project in Bead & Button that initiated my love of Swarovski crystal. I never cared for it – I felt it was too cold – until I made this one bracelet, and I’ve loved it ever since. Anyway, here’s the magazine:

Bead & Button magazine - December 2007

The necklace is by Bia Alessi – gorgeous!

And here’s the article:

Crystal Showers pendant necklace by Julie Glasser

This necklace was designed by Julie Glasser. It’s a not-too-complicated pattern for someone who is familiar with right-angle weave. For me, it’s been a bit of a struggle. I don’t know what it is with right-angle weave, but even with the simplest of designs I have problems. And I never have problems with any other stitch. My needle always seems to be coming out at the wrong place. But I’ve managed to get my pendant almost completed:

Crystal pendant, design by Julie Glasser

This picture, as with any picture of Swarovski crystal, just doesn’t do it justice. The sparkle! Like stars.

I almost forgot about the Holiday Memories ATC Swap I signed up for at Artella. I wasn’t sure what to use as the foundation, and I knew I’d seen ATC blanks, so I did a little searching and found some at Artchix that are made from watercolor paper. Now I suppose I could have just made my own, but here are my reasons for not doing so:

1. I don’t have time
2. I like to support my favorite arts & crafts suppliers
3. This gave me the opportunity to also order some Artchix collage sheets

Of course reason number 3 was the deciding vote. Being on a limited budget, I only ordered two collage sheets, along with the ATC blanks, but I’m happy with that. I love Artchix collage sheets – I have a bunch already, and I have used them in many projects. Of course now I don’t remember which ones I ordered (I think it was maybe about a week ago) but that’s ok, because now it will be a surprise when I get them.

By the way, if you’re curious about the title of this post, my two-year-old daughter Lily is going through an I-don’t-want-to-wear-my-pants phase, so the words “where are your pants” is a common refrain in my house. Oh, the joys of living with a two-year-old!

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All art is but imitation of Nature. – Seneca the Younger

I’ve been working on my inchies for the next Artella swap. I’m hoping to have them pretty much done by tomorrow night. Saturday we are off to Ocean City, Maryland for a few days of rest and relaxation. I had to order some blue and aqua glitter glue, so if I get that before we leave then I will probably take them with me to finish by the sea, which would be appropriate. Hey, maybe I could get some real beach sand and somehow glue that on. I like that idea – I’ll have to think about it.

I received an email from one of the assistant editors at Artful Blogging – they are interested in publishing my blog banner in an upcoming issue! I would be absolutely thrilled to have my banner published in such a fabulous magazine. The main reason I started this blog was reading the first issue of Artful Blogging, seeing all the amazing blogs, and thinking – hey, I want to do that! So I emailed her the image and I’m putting my faith out there.

I bought a digital book and a couple digital ephemera packs from Artella for their current digitally-altered book contest. The deadline is September 20. I think my idea is pretty simple and I shouldn’t have any problems getting it done. That means I will be up at least one night until 1:30 in the morning to get it done in time. That’s not too bad, though.

I also finally purchased the bead I’m going to use as the focal point in my mom’s birthday necklace. I can’t post a picture yet, but I will just say that it is gorgeous, and it was made by a very well-known lampwork bead artist. I have an idea of how I’m going to do the necklace, but I’m still working out the details.

Here are a few pictures of Lily from Knoebel’s. They’re a little blurry; apparently our camera does not have an ‘action’ setting.

Knoebel's - On the merry-go-round

Knoebel's

Knoebel's - The Flying Tiger

Knoebel's - The Red Baron

She’s much more adventurous than her mother!

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Reflect on your present blessings, of which every man has many; not on your past misfortunes, of which all men have some. – Charles Dickens

Saturday night I decided to do some cleaning and re-organizing in my studio. I had a small basket of beads that needed to be put away, so I did that, and in doing so was amazed at the quantity of beads that I have. I haven’t much looked at my beads since Lily was born. To say I have a lot of beads is a severe understatement. I could probably open a small booth. I think I will see if anyone at Artella would like to swap some stuff for beads. Not that I don’t want my beads, but there’s no way I can ever use all that I have, and they’re so beautiful, it’s a shame they are sitting in a cabinet, unused and unseen.

When I was done in my studio I sat and worked on my freeform cuff while watching the Olympics. Here it is so far:

My freeform peyote stitch cuff.

I have about four inches done. It’s gotten a bit out of control, as all of my freeform projects are wont to do, but that’s part of the fun. Eventually they take on a life of their own.

I received my inchies yesterday for the inchie swap:

The inchies I received from the first Artella inchie swap.

Aren’t they cute? Each was made by a different person. Another inchie swap is under way, so of course I couldn’t resist joining that one too. September 5th is the deadline. I haven’t come up with a theme yet (I like to do my inchie batches in themes, I’ve decided), but I have no doubt by the end of tomorrow I will know what I’m going to do.

Yesterday Marc’s employer had a family day at Knoebel’s Amusement Park, so we took Julian and Lily. We’d never been there before; it’s about two-and-a-half hours away, but it was so much fun. It’s really lovely, with trees everywhere. It’s great for little kids – they have a whole bunch of rides for the under-five set, and Lily loved them all. We took her on the regular ferris wheel (she went on the kiddie ferris wheel, too – and loved it!) and when we were at the top she wanted to go higher still. I think Marc is right – she is going to be his roller coaster buddy. I will post some pictures later this week.

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Someone, I tell you, will remember us. – Sappho

A little late, but here is a picture of my inchies I made for the Artella Inchies Swap.

Inchies made for the Artella Inchies Swap

I must admit, I’m rather proud of them. I used photos from the vintage children photo cd by Digital Imagery Plus that my mom lent me, and used various scrapbook papers as the backgrounds. I wrote a phrase for each girl, choosing words that I felt best described the feeling I got from looking at her picture. The one on top, ‘thought-full’ (spelled that way on purpose) I kept for myself. They were then finished with Swarovski crystals and glitter glue. Because of course, nothing’s done until there’s glitter glue on it.

I also stamped the back of each inchie, with this really cool rubber stamp I bought a couple years ago. It’s a large stamp, so I just used a portion of it on each inchie. I forgot to scan the backs before I sent them, but here is the back of the one I kept:

Inchie - the back, rubber-stamped

I love them all, and it was so hard to send them off. But send them off I had to do, so of course I sent them in style. I put each inchie in a lovely organza bag, sandwiched the bags between two pieces of chipboard for safekeeping, and slipped that into this envelope:

Envelope, inked and rubber-stamped.

To do this, I took a plain white envelope, pressed VersaMagic teardrop-shaped inkpads in three colors of blue all over it, then stamped on top of that with the same rubber stamp I used for the backs of the inchies, in Versacolor brown.

I then put that into a plain mailer, and off they went. I hope they arrived safely.

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