Under the sea

"Undersea Garden Bag", upcycled clutch/cosmetic/brush bag for my friend

Day 283: Undersea Garden Bag

As I’ve mentioned before, my friends and loved ones tend to get homemade gifts. I hail from a long line of creative females, so I’m of the mindset that handmade tends to be better. When I make something for someone it’s unique, customized for their color and style preferences, and chocked full of my loving energy. Today’s a special day- 10/10/10, so I decided to work on something special for a special person. This is a belated birthday gift for my friend Jennan.

Lined with dark gray cotton (to hide smudges) :), closes with velcro

She moved out to Hawaii and is also an artist- we painted murals together for many years- and she’s been taking some college courses lately. Sadly, these include some basic painting classes she could certainly do without (you know how it is when you try to transfer credits) which include excruciatingly dull exercises like still life setups… really bad ones too, and lots of them. Knowing how easy it can be to murder paintbrushes, especially when you are filled with rage about your lukewarm rendition of a skull/fruit display, I decided to make her a brush bag, but a pretty one that would hopefully cheer her up the next time she walks in to find a massively uninspiring pile of flotsam heaped upon a hideous tablecloth.

Fun with buttons

This is an upcycled bag, made from scrap fabrics, thread, ribbon, yarn, basting tape, vintage buttons, batting, Velcro and interfacing I had lying around (to be fair, I have a lot of this stuff lying around). It’s quilted with some varied stitches. The combo of interfacing for stiffness plus padding gives it a little added protection and makes it suitable for cosmetics or use as a straight-up clutch as it strikes her fancy. Jen likes blue/greens and pretty-but-not-overly-girly stuff, so I’m hoping this will be just the thing to make her smile.

In other news, my mini paintings are going like hotcakes at the gallery! 7 woodblocks and 6 mini canvases are already off the wall, leaving it somewhat sparse. I’m planning a trip into the city mid-week to refill my space and see my new nephew! Woohoo!


Why, I dare say that’s a dog costume, Watson!

"You're using a dog costume as daily art? Seriously?"

Day 256: Upcycled Dog Costume

I created a couple of dog costumes last year, and they flew off the digital shelves on Etsy. I’m not sure if this was because:

A. Chester (model) is super adorable

B. Small dog owners are slightly crazy

C. All of the above

But this year I had more requests, and I still have a guest room full of fabric, so I agreed to bust out a couple more custom creations. I had intended to post an instructable on how to make an upcycled Sherlock Holmes dog costume as today’s art, but this whole preparing for the Bravo casting call thing is really time consuming. So consider this a part 1- the finished example. Part 2 will be the how-to/pattern.

Old sportcoat= $2 at the thrift store. Making it into a costume for a puppy named Sherlock = priceless. Mastercard can't sue me for saying that, right? If so, I retract it. 😀

Say what?

"Whatcha doin'?"

Day 242: Inquisitive Bird, upcycled sculpture

This sculpture thing is kind of fun- I have to admit it. Today I looked at my pile of scraps and asked myself if I could turn them into a bird. First, I wrapped a bit of batting up into a roll, tied it and snipped it to create a loose body shape. Then I soaked the batting with matte medium and covered it in vintage sewing patterns. Next came hymnal feathers and beak, yarn cowl (perhaps it’s a hipster bird who knits on the subway), lace wingtips, wire feet and straight pin eyes.

Inquisitive Bird is about 6 inches long and a few inches tall.

As I placed him on his legs, he seemed to be tilting his head to the side, (possibly asking me why he was wearing a cowl and lace as a boy bird) and it was a sweet little moment. Voila! Inquisitive bird was born!

Upcycled Art Love

Oooh, ruffles!

Day 205: Spanish Lavender & The Iliad

Today I learned that few things are as satisfying at taking a pile of junk mail and turning it into upcycled art. I’m not head-over-heels, Golden-era-romance-film in love with this piece, but it’s a hint of what could be to come. It’s winking at me. And I’ll take a wink over a middle finger from my artwork any day.

My scissors answered the sleazy mating call of my junk mail pile and this was born.

To make this piece, I carted my 12 x 16” canvas outside with this giant obnoxiously large stick of charcoal (that I initially bought years ago partially for its novelty, but which is handy for large sketching) and did a loose outline of our Spanish lavender’s shadow. I pictured photons shooting through the air at slanted angles as I headed back out of the heat and filled in half the canvas with a French gray. Strips of the Iliad served as directional texture, and junk mail/phone book flowers topped it off. I sense continued decoupage nonsense in my near future.

Markedly more entertaining than tossing it into the recycling bin.

How to turn a book into a painting


Day 169: Glad at Heart

One of the things that makes me really happy is “teaching” people. I never tire of explaining to someone how to do something art-related. There’s a great how-to website out there called Instructables for this very thing. I have used it a few times to learn, but today I decided to take photos as I went and create my first Instructable to show others this simple technique for creating upcycled art with old books. Since it’s taking longer than I thought to wrap up, I’ll finish that and post the link tomorrow. For now, today’s piece is “Glad at Heart”, a 5×7 mixed media painting using pages from The Iliad and a heart embroidery illustration from a vintage Good Housekeeping. 🙂

UPDATE: Instructable complete! Want to make your own upcycled book art? Check out my how-to here.

A fistful of ideas

Scraps from my painting table + 5x7 canvas = upcycled art

Day 166: Fragments

I use a lot of paper in my mixed media paintings, and I tend to avoid throwing anything away just in case I can use it later. This includes tiny scraps…. and I mean tiny. Let’s just say more than once I’ve looked down to find a word or two stuck to Chester’s snooping nose. After yesterday’s piece, I had a full-on kindling stack of Nancy Drew snippets next to the partially used sewing pattern pile. Coincidentally, both caches of flammable paper are located near my incense burner. Perhaps I should remedy that.

Detail from upper half of the painting

Anyway, it occurred to me that layers of these thin lines of text arranged on a small canvas in a kind of random/free association poem-type-of-thing might be interesting. The paper itself is a nice yellow tone having aged since its printing in 1939, and is a similar color to the sewing patterns. I put down some strips from my scraps with acrylic matte medium, laid the patterns over that, and then went back in with more text over the top. A little dark blue and orange watercolor, and we’ve got a fun little piece of art made from scraps! Yay!

Little vignettes started to evolve in the text like short stories sprouting as I worked.