Life on the creative side

Archive for April, 2011

April Shower’s…

I returned to Blue Antler Studio beneath a brillient blue sky and the sweet smell of lilac in the air. I dropped my luggage at the door, grabbed clippers  and hurried to the large lilac bush in the corner of the yard. Soon the whole cabin filled with an aroma straight from my childhood and one of my favorite spring blossoms.

Then came the rain.

For a week it rained every day and stormed every night.  Three times in as many nights, a good sleep, the kind of seductive sleep one falls into under the sound of rain on a tin roof, was interrupted by the alarm of the weather radio.  I was awaken and  warned of severe thunderstorms as lightening lit up my bedroom and thunder shook the cabin; of flashfloods like the creek at the bottom of Bell’s hill that rose up and over the bridge; and of tornado watches and warning ,  still thankful none actually touched down. But like the clear cool days of autumn, long cold months of winter and the muggy dog days of summer, this is the temperament of spring.  Soon Mother Nature will move on to summer, sending this season, like all that have come before, into memory and, in the case of  spring 2011, into the record books.

As rainy day after rainy day came and went,  and my fresh cut boquet of lilacs slowly faded on the kitchen table, my spring to-do list grew frustratingly long. On my last morning at the Studio, with rain still dripping outside, I put away my list,  poured myself a second cup of coffee and headed to the window seat.  A mist rose from the pond, full for the first time in years. I thought of all the fun  my children had had splashing, ice skating and chasing frogs around its banks. But that was way back before it sprung the leak that turned it into a glorified mud puddle.  Even then the girls had turned it into their own version of a spa, once returning to the house with their little brother in tow, covered from the hairs on their heads to the soles of their feet in silky green mud; only the whites of their eyes and teeth left visible.

Suddenly several wild turkeys seemed to simply appear out of the fog; four big toms sizing each other up, puffing their feathers and fanning out their tails in turkey smack talk. Before long a couple of white tailed deer wandered out of the woods and into the field, calmly grazing in the mist, only mildly noticing the antics of the turkeys. Then much to my surprise and delight the first humming bird of the season zipped past the window.  

So,  while the new side deck may still be waiting for its twisted twig railing, the stone patio its pebble mosaics and the garden its new plantings; for now, the living is easy for the wildlife out on the ridge, the pond has forgiven last year’s drought and I have a renewed appreaciation for the slow, simple, pleasures of a lazy rainy day.

Flamingo Mosaic On Repurposed Salavaged Furniture

flamingo mosaic

flamingo mosaic, trash to treasureThe transformation from trash to treasure is finally complete with a whimsical flamingo mosaic replacing the broken mirrored top of my little salvaged cabinet. After designing a pattern that evolved from one large flamingo to a reflective pool full of wading pink birds to finally  a single pair, one reaching down to sip from a pool of blue-green water the other’s head and neck held in the iconic flamingo curl, colorful plumage reflecting in the water around their feet.

I used small glass tiles snipped into shape and glued down, one by one, using tile nippers and Welbond glue. Then after masking  off the blue areas I grouted the flamingos with pink grout. I tinted the grout by adding red powdered chalk to white grout. Next I taped off the flamingos and grouted the water area using blue chalk for tinting the grout.

The process was slow, even meditative, and before long my thoughts wandered to Venice, Italy and the mosaic class I had attended at the Orsoni glass foundry. I still marvel at the talented, generous artists I met, who both encouraged and inspired me. I remembered the wonderful chocolates that fellow student Merrille, of Belgium proudly roof tops of Venice, Italyshared with the class each day. I recalled the sound of singing rising from the furnace rooms as foundry works toiled at the traditional craft of smalti, glass production.  In my mind’s eye I could see the red tile roofs filling up the studio window and stretching out over the city.  Now as I stand back and look at my completed project, I feel sure my Orsoni  friends would be proud of my efforts.

I’m linking with



Viva la Flamingos – In Mosaic

The prep work is complete and the cabinet painted, I love the effect of the dry brushed blue, but now I must decide how I will finish the top of my salvage project.  Originally it had a faux-aged mirror, which had shattered, and gold accents. My first thought was simply to replace it with a vintage mirror, one with much of the silver backing cracked or pealing. It would be a great look and very French, after all the vibrant French shutters were my inspiration for the blue base.  Of course a painting is always nice, perhaps a French pastoral scene.  Maybe decoupage, like my recent trash can project (see sidebar – Arts and Craft Projects/Vintage Florida). I could apply images of France, I have some great photos of my travels there; all great options, but I’m simply in the mood to mosaic.

one inch glass tilesSo the top will be a mosaic, now I need a pattern.  Digging through my collection of   tiles, it seems I’m consistently drawn to bright orange, coral and pink. But there’s a problem with these particular tiles, well actually two problems, I have a very limited number of them and the cabinet is blue. None the less these intense colors, spread flamingo pattern for mosaic projectout in front of me like a dramatic sunset, excite my imagination. Logic suggests a floral pattern, very French, but my heart is saying flamingo; definitely not French! I will design a flamingo in blue water,I have a myriad of blue hued tiles; aqua, sage, teal, Mediterranean, even the French shutter blue of my inspiration.

The top will be bright-colored flamingos wading in a pool of blue hues; Viva la flamingos!

Refurbishing Trash Unto Treasure

In preparation for its reincarnation, my treasure has been cleaned, re-cleaned and cleaned again, but still a heavy odor of cigarette smoke clings tenaciously to its walls; such are the challenges of re-purposing junk.  It has been scrubbed with soapy water, odor neutralizer and baking soda.  I have sanded, primed and painted my smelly little treasure. Now it spends it days in the sun with its cabinet door wide open. Mother always says that fresh air and sunshine is the best remedy for musty smells; fingers crossed it also works on cigarette smoke.

Even as I struggle with the lingering effects of my treasure’s previous life, I begin the refurbishing.  From the first moment that my heart attached to the discarded piece, I knew that it would be reborn in a lovely shade of blue.  My inspiration was a pair of amazing, vintage, French shutters I recently saw at a flea market.  What I didn’t know, until I began the process, was that it would be applied with a dry brush over the palest shade of aqua, sanded to a worn patina and rubbed with stain to a mellow finish. Simply lovely; but now, how to finish the top… mosaic?

Funky Refurbishing Furniture Project

On my last trip to the beach I happened upon an unexpected treasure. As is the nature of treasures it was buried; unfortunately it was buried under a large pile of trash alongside a quiet, sandy street.  The little bed side stand, discarded and in rough shape, had little or no monetary value, but it did have great proportions, interesting form and wonderful possibilities. But, having been blessed with my dad’s junking spirit and my mom’s artistic eye, I knew the little stand could be salvaged. Fortunately I’m also blessed with a very patient husband, who dug out my buried treasure and brought it home for me.

Now this lovely little treasure is sitting in my studio waiting for its reincarnation,

Handmade Save-the-Date, Invitations, RSVP Cards

wedding invitations, RSVP and save the dates

For months now friends and family, around the country and the world, have had a fun, photobooth picture strip hanging on their refrigerators, displaying the smiling faces of Cindy and Benny joyfully requesting that they save-the-date. Now the invitations have gone out and the RSVPs are finally coming in! With each response the young couple is reminded of the love and support that surrounds them as they prepare for the big day that is rapidly approaching.

Typical of the attitude that Cindy and Benny have had toward their wedding, the save-the-dates, invitations and RSVPs were creatively conceived and individually handcrafted. The project started back in December while we were all gathered together on the Ridge for the holidays.  One afternoon Cindy, Kate and I collected our supplies, poured a glass of wine and settled down by the fire to begin the design process. Cindy had the vision – young and fun, Kate the know how – protocol and etiquette and me the drawing skills.  

As one might imagine with the collaboration of three, creative, headstrong women, not to mention the mother daughter dynamics, the process involved some strong opinions, a little frustration and a lot of laughter; perhaps due in part to the wine, but mostly due to the shared stories of two little girls making their way through childhood to that very moment.

 We shook our heads remembering their little brothers tree climbing escapades; laughed out loud at six-year-old Kate’s wild “Pocahontas hair” and  Cindy’s preteen days playing dress up at the 1800’s  living history site.  Conversation flowed on to their childhood camping group, made up of fathers and children, and in particular the time their game of man hunt included an unsuspecting black bear. They recalled night-time canoe trips down wild Florida rivers, spotting alligators  and countless evenings spent around a campfire alongside many, sure to be,  life long friends.

Laughter turned to tears as we moved from Kate’s magical wedding only months earlier, to her husband’s absence and his tour of duty  in Afghanistan during this, their very first Christmas as husband and wife. Then talk of Paris with stories from my travels and plans for the upcoming honeymoon brought us full circle, ending the day with memories of a special afternoon by the fire; remembering, planning,  laughing,  crying and, of course, lovely wedding invitations, as unique as our young bride and groom to be. 


Vintage Florida

vintage Fl postcards

Trash can decoupaged wth vintage FL postcardsvintage Fl postcardsAt a flea market a few years back, I came across a box of old Florida postcards; images of an idealized paradise portrayed in exaggerated color. In the tradition of vivid Highwaymen paintings, palms, hibiscus and Spanish moss framed spectacular sunsets or dotted the shores of languid lakes reflecting amazing blue skies and graceful pink flamingos.  Flipping one over I learned that In January 1938 Eve wrote from Orlando to Ede in Connecticut, that she had found a room,had a lead on a job and the weather was like summer time; the back of another, stamped 1957 revealed that Ethel, of Saint Petersburg, had informed Mrs. Burbank of Boston that a box of shells would soon be arriving at her door; and a note from “us” let Miss Pearl of Willow Grove, PA, know that they were “having a grand time” during their 1949 tour of Florida.

While the interesting shades of color had caught my eye, the imagery, real and suggested, and hopeful messages from the past, caught my imagination. So the box, filled with fading images and forgotten stories came Lamp shade of vintage FL postcardshome with me.  Now I am a part of their story, and they of mine.

So far the vintage cards have found new purpose simply framed as art,  an up-dated lampshade, refurbished trash can, and unique note cards that anyone would love to receive!

By making copies of the postcards for all my projects, I have preserved the originals. For the lampshade Kate,, made copies of individual postcards, then decoupaged them, one by one, over a plain lampshade then finished off the edges with a rich brown, vintage, velvet trim.

The trash can was made in a very similar manor:

 I made full page copies of a collage of postcards, making sure to place some with the message side up.

Next I brushed onto the trash can, a coat of water based Polycrylic clear satin (I could have used decoupage).

After first trimming off any white edges of the copies I then applied the full sheets over the polycrylic (or decoupage) and gently rubbed out the wrinkles and bubbles starting in the center of each page. 

Once the surface was covered I checked for any areas that looked too uniform or had  long straight lines in the layout. By layering  a copy of a single card over the problem areas I achieved a more pleasing, random pattern.

Being careful not to overwork, which may make the copies run, I  applied a coat of the polycrylic over the entire can. 

Finally I trimmed off any excess paper and, using the brush, I lightly rubbed the raw edges down.  It took a couple of hours to completely dry.

This same process could be used with old photos , letters or any thing that can be copied onto paper. Be creative and have fun!