Sunday, November 2, 2014

El Dia de Los Muertos 2014

Dia de Los Muertos, Oaxaca, Mexico

Maybe it's a past life thing but for many years I've looked forward to El Dia de Los Muertos like a child awaiting Christmas.  Although I'm not of hispanic descent,  I've embraced the culture and enjoy celebrating the lives of friends and family no longer with us. Around mid-October I climb into the attic and pull down the boxes of catrinas, calaveras, sugar skulls, textiles, family photographs- and so much more- that I've accumulated over the years.  These are the makings for my ofrenda, or altar, that I build for the Day of the Dead. A big part of my joy is revisiting this collection of objects. 

In addition to building the altar, I transform the house with my collection of handmade pillows, masks, and other objects relating to the holiday - many purchased on my trips to Mexico.

Felted skeletons I found on Etsy
Small collection of calacas, calaveras
This guy looks pretty happy
Every year I do things differently. Sometimes, weather permitting, I build the altar outdoors. We had an abrupt change in the weather this past week so this year I chose the living room.  

I begin by layering the textiles over tables, risers and boxes.  Then I add the photographs, candles, fresh fruit and flowers.  Many friends and family have added to the altar so I continue to include their offerings from past years.  This year we added a painting of our sweet dog, Scout, who we lost in January.

Layered textiles I've collected over the years

Our 2014 ofrenda

Our beloved Scout

Paige left us way too soon
  I have a few friends over to celebrate each year and this year I decided to make party favors from interesting images of calaveras. I decoupaged them to matchboxes and filled the boxes with M&Ms. It was my first foray into glitter and I think I'll be seeing glimmers of glitter for many years to come. It's everywhere.  Oh, and I forgot to hand out the party favors until half of the group had departed. :(

Party favors

Glitter everywhere for days
Another first this year was handmade tissue paper pom poms. I found a great tutorial here and after a total fail in my first attempt, I watched the complete video and the rest turned out well.

Easy to make paper pompoms
On the day of the party I decorated the tables. A friend suggested offering mask painting and although I had no idea whether people would participate, it ended up being a great success. Thanks for the idea, Linda, and all those great art supplies! I also put out paper flowers and butterflies for Frida-style headbands.

Sugar skull from Mexican Sugar Skull online store
Mask painting and floral headband art supplies
Everyone seemed to really get into the mask painting and a few made floral headpieces.
Lots of crafty activity
Mask painting fun

Find rhinestone and glittery stickers at the Dollar Store and Michaels

The outdoor contingent
Fabulous headband creation

Another beautiful Frida-inspired headband
Loved their creative energy

Carl and I

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Lettering Love

My newest activity is hand lettering. I've always been drawn to letters and fonts. And I always loved cursive handwriting as a child. I guess it just makes sense that I would continue to be fascinated.  I'm experimenting with designing different lettering styles and hope to create a collection of some sort. I have no idea where I'm going with this and that's what makes it fun.

Polka dots



Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Drawing again

This was a fun challenge.  I found a cool Fluevog ad in Juxtapose magazine and cut it in two.  I drew the missing half in my own line drawing style. Try it. It's fun!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Pure fun

Untitled 2014

Before designing clothes, jewelry and handbags, there was collage and assemblage. I'm unsure when my love affair with paper began but I know that by the age of 10 I felt it necessary to save certain things.  Inside a box in my upstairs closet sits the November 22, 1963 Fresno Bee from the day of President Kennedy's assassination. Beneath it lies the Beatles captioned photo book I received for my 10th birthday.  Tucked even deeper is the worn, faded spelling book cover made from a brown bag and covered with the signatures and doodles of my fourth grade classmates. I've always saved letters. My favorite ephemerae are true finds- an old paper Sno-Cone cup hidden beneath a vintage photo album from a garage sale. A graphic design textbook full of interesting paper samples and fonts, water stained at the spine but a steal at $2.00. These collections were my first foray into "art" although I declined to call it that.  Later in life, as my interest in collage grew, I was walking down the street in LA, and saw pieces of paper falling from the sky. I looked up to see a man on a billboard tearing off the existing ad while the highly pixelated remnants fell down like big colorful snowflakes. I scrambled to pick up as many as I could.  I used them judiciously in my work,  as a jeweler works with 18K gold.

This love of paper evolved into a line of handmade greeting cards with collaged images stitched to heavy kraft paper.  It became a business. Greeting cards transitioned to cigar box handbags with Bakelite bead handles. Which transitioned to experimenting with image transfer on other surfaces. Which transitioned to Bakelite button jewelry. Which transitioned to collaged vintage tea towel designs. Which transitioned to dresses and tops.  The list continued. My creativity evolved from one thing to another but the consistent theme was an eclectic mix- a collage of one kind or another.  And it was always about business.

Assemblage continues to be the only medium that I do purely for myself- for the simple joy of creating.  Perhaps that's why I enjoy it so.  There's freedom in doing something that is not commerce-driven. Something that doesn't need to reach an end consumer. It starts and stops with me.  It feels pure and fun. When I first started working in assemblage someone mentioned Joseph Cornell. I had no idea who he was.  So I did whatever we did in the late 1990s before Google (Ask Jeeves?) and was overjoyed with what I saw. Simplicity and mystery within the confines of a box.  He had succeeded in doing what I was reaching for.  In a box! My first major project was a set of boxes each one referencing one of the five senses. Vintage sewing machine drawers held ephemera related to sight, sound, taste, touch and smell.  I designed this collection in 1997- to this day, they are my favorite pieces. Perhaps because they are my own?  Without a price point and the scrutiny of others?

The Five Senses 1997

Detail "To Smell"
Detail "To Touch"

Detail "To Taste"
Detail "To Hear"

I recently began to feel the pull toward assemblage.  I pulled out my boxes of "stuff" divided into metal, wood, stone and paper (much lighter after the major cleanse and purge of 2013) and began to assemble.

Each little segmented box ... a life of its own
My little Bakelite man now has a home

Vintage wooden bobbins an homage to stitchery

A separate, closed box to house the monkey mind

Feelings of freedom and joy immediately returned.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Four days in Portlandia

Carl and I had a few free days earlier this month so we decided to take a little trip.  Over a glass of wine, we talked about where we might go and it was Carl's idea to go to Portland.  We've talked about going for several years and so many people have suggested that we'd love it.  So we booked our flights and hotel and we were off!

The first thing we loved about Portland was the rail system. We hopped on the train right outside of baggage claim. Now that's the way a light rail system is supposed to work!

Immediately I noticed the bridges. I hadn't realized that Portland was famous for its bridges.  Carl and I were in the perfect place. We both love bridges.


We checked into our hotel and were ready for food. The young man at the front desk suggested we check out a little spot called Veritable Quandary. Turns out we loved the place and enjoyed a couple of great meals there.  It was also the perfect spot for a nightcap at the end of a long day. We had a quick lunch then hit the trail. (This photo is not our lunch.)

Our second stop was the Pearl District, about a mile from the restaurant. It was a beautiful day for a walk. Several friends had suggested a store called Cargo, so that was where we headed first.

Wow. My friends were right.  Very cool import store stocked to the brim with cool stuff from all over the world.  The owner also carries the work of local artists. Carl and I goofed around in the mask department.   ( I ) could have spent hours there. When I noticed that Carl had made his way to a bench outside, I made a couple of purchases and met him outside.

Strolling around town was a lot of fun. Plenty of interesting architectural detail to see and the Portland "weirdness" that we had heard about was everywhere. But in a good way.



We happened upon the Museum of Contemporary Craft and decided to go in and check out the Fashioning Cascadia exhibit. Lots of cool textile art and a special exhibit by Portland's Project Runway winner, Michelle Lesniak.  We exited through the truly fabulous gift store where I purchased a couple of pieces from local artists.


Later in the afternoon we stopped at a cool little bar called The Teardrop. Their specialty is handcrafted  cocktails, so that's what we ordered. The spiced nuts were the best I've ever tasted.


Next stop was the famous Powell's bookstore where we continued the theme and purchased "Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails- 100 Rediscovered Cocktails and the Stories Behind Them."  Which reminds me that I've already forgotten about the forgotten cocktails and need to get the book out this weekend.

The following morning the weather turned a little gray and it started drizzling. No problem. We bought two umbrellas at Rite Aid and continued exploring. We decided it was the perfect time to visit the Portland Art Museum.

Dinner was at Departure- the top of The Nines. Again, wonderful cocktails and an amazing array of tapas...our favorite way to dine.  (This photo is from the internet. I wasn't able to find the photographer's name to give credit.)

Day three we woke to the news that Portland was undergoing a serious water issue and that no one should drink, bathe or in any other way use the city water in a personal way. Okay...we just went with the flow (or lack of it) and decided we'd just have to consume alcohol all day. The city's beautiful "bubblers" were turned off. 

We had reserved a walking tour of the city's food carts and headed downtown to meet our guide, Adam, and were thrilled to find out we were the only ones who had signed up for the  tour.  Portland has over 600 food carts and, unlike the food trucks of LA,  they're tethered to the same spot in various empty lots around town. It was great fun and we were treated to tasty samples from nine carts. They included sausage, soup, both Chinese and Georgian (Russian) dumplings, pastrami sandwich, empanada, Korean barbeque taco, and a sugary crispy waffle. Although we didn't sample the Grilled Cheese Grill, they won the prize for the best catch phrase.


Saturday's plan was to take the train to Washington Park and visit the Japanese Gardens- another suggestion from many friends. We rode the train to the park but because of logistical issues, opted for the zoo.  We had a great time among all of the families and the three-year olds' meltdowns. Memories...   :)  Here's my favorite photo of the day. He's as tall as and smarter than the average bear.


Our next adventure was a visit to Multnomah Village. I had connected with a friend on Facebook who owns a boutique and was looking forward to meeting her and seeing her store. We couldn't figure out how to use public transportation to get there, so we hailed a cab. Anne Bocci met us at the door with local, handcrafted vodka shots (nice!) and we got a private tour of her store where she introduced us to the work of many local designers. Carl even got into the shopping mode and shared his opinion on a couple of dresses I tried on. (This may have been the first time ever that Carl has been with me when I shopped for clothes. I think the vodka did the trick.)  I bought two dresses- very different from each other and both beautiful. I can't wait to wear them.  We strolled around the little downtown area, then Anne was sweet to drive us back to our hotel.

The next morning, we met my friend, Peggy, for brunch at our favorite spot.  Can you believe that of all the places we chose to meet, she had worked there as a waitress a long time ago! I love synchronicity. I had an amazing plate of chilaquiles and a Bloody Mary made with beet infused vodka. was amaaaazing, as Huell Howser would have said.


We decided to walk down the waterfront to the Saturday Market and see the sights. The Portland Rose Festival was in full swing, as well, so there was plenty of eye candy.  Art, craft, flowers, food, amusement rides... it was all happening!

Carl and I purchased a really cool little piece of sandbox art from Olander Earthworks. He designs these cool little concrete balls that leave interesting impressions when you roll them around in very fine sand.  A fun, kinesthetic tabletop piece.

All in all, an amazing four days and we definitely want to return. There's so much more we'd like to do and see. It was a very happy experience.