NYC Inspired - DIY Pillow Tutorial

This last trip to NYC I had my camera of course. And what captured my imagination as I wandered about the Village and Chelsea and Soho were wrought iron railings. There are so many different shapes and patterns.

What I find inspiring about them is what they represent - a time in history when something as simple and utilitarian as a railing would be bent and twisted and shaped into something beautiful. A time when it was important not only to build something that worked but something that was lovely to see. Form DID follow function.

When I was looking at my photographs of wrought iron railings I felt inspired by their shapes. One in particular grabbed my imagination. This one.

What drew me to this particular wrought iron was its rough texture. You can see that over the years rather than sandpaper down the rust, it was just painted over and over until it became swollen and lumpy.

I also had a plain pillow that I had bought at ABC Carpet and Home and thought that I would marry the two. Here is what I did.

First I gathered together my materials - the pillow, freezer paper, my cutting board, a ruler and a knife. 

I drew a copy of the pattern by hand. I didn't want it to be perfectly in proportion as I wanted the pillow pattern to also have that rough, swollen, lumpy outline.

I cut out the stencil, ironed it on and painted it with opaque fabric paint. I brushed a thin layer from the outside edge inwards to minimize any paint seeping underneath the stencil. The paint went on looking quite greenish but dried more of a bronze colour. 

Have you worked with freezer paper before? It's so easy to use.

And here is the finished product. I am going to put it in the basement in the tv room. The entire room is an ongoing project that I'll share with you in a month or so - let's just say that the before is as bland as you can get. The ultimate in matchy-matchy.

I am pleased with how it turned out - it's a souvenir from my NYC trip that doesn't scream "tourist". And it's always inspiring to make something with your own hands, right?

Pink shirt day against bullying and we made a pink shirt!

Were you ever bullied? I know it sounds CrAzY, but I only realised about a year ago that I was bullied in grade 7. I know - how didn't I know???!!! It lasted about a year and it wasn't so onerous that it interfered with my day-to-day life. It just became part of my daily routine - pack up my school books and then run the gauntlet home. For the entire winter T would be waiting for my friend S and I. We'd try to outrun her and she'd catch us, fill our toques* with snow, push us in the snowbank, dump our books out and then leave. We'd brush ourselves off and go home.

This was before ANY awareness of bullying so it never even once crossed our minds to tell our parents or a teacher or another adult. It just was something that you put up with. T went on to high school and the bullying ended.

Luckily things have changed. Today is pink shirt day at the girl's school. Rather than a store bought shirt, I thought we'd do something quick and crafty. 

A drawing by the girl, some freezer paper, some fabric paint and she was ready for school today. Easy and quick.

So say no to bullying!

*Canadian-speak for woolen hat

MORE Valentine's Day crafts! And some arty thoughts too!

You know already that we do a lot of crafts here at the cottage. Lucky for me, the girl loves to make things, my partner in crime. Here are our Martha Stewart crayon hearts that we made. We hung some in the window.

And we hung some on a few branches that I picked up yesterday at a public market. Our Valentine's Day tree.

What do I love about these? The imperfections. That the hearts aren't perfectly symmetrical. Some I cut out and some the girl cut out. I love hers - the natural lines and shapes. Organic and unplanned and not so -- not so perfect. Original. She's the only one who could have made these particular hearts. 

Remember that in our reading nook I have a shelf with books on art making and creativity? I picked one up yesterday and looked through it - Art and Fear by David Bayles and Ted Orland. It's not a new book. And it isn't a long one. You could easily read it over a cup or two of coffee. And that's where I was yesterday afternoon while the girl was at her pottery class. At a cafe drinking a mocha and looking at what spoke to me when I first read it. Seeing what speaks to me now.

Right now the girl is at a delicious age in art making where she has no inner critic lodged in her brain. She She may get frustrated on occasion trying to execute her ideas, but she draws and paints and cuts and glues and glitters and folds with no judgement. With no criticism. Just unquestioned delight in art making.

Now that would be a lovely place to be. And that's one of my goals for this year - to get back to that place. Or at least a few steps closer.

You see, when it comes to making art, and making music (more on that another time), this quote from Art and Fear resonates with me:

We carry real and imagined critics with us constantly - a veritable babble of voices, some remembered, some prophesied, and each eager to comment on all that we do.

Enough already with the inner critics. Enough with the comments. Enough.

So what am I doing to keep them at bay? To silence them? Two things. First, I am only sharing my goals and art with those who will be supportive. Pearls before swine and all that - no use in setting ourselves up for criticism from the shadenfreude corner, eh? (This is something that Susan Peterson mentioned in an Alt Channel e-class that took last week about setting goals. As an aside, check out the courses coming up - lots of interesting ones!)

And second, (something else from Art and Fear), it's going to be quantity over quality. No, not that I won't care about the quality. Of course I will. But if I get all hung up and judgey and evaluate-y of or or song I play or art that I make, then I will never, ever do anything. Or at least anything that isn't fussed and worried and overthought. 

Amidst the dross there will be some gems.

How about you? Do you have an inner critic? What do you do to dampen its influence on your art making?


We are all sentimental about Valentine's Day around here

It isn't the prettiest nor the fanciest nor the best executed Valentine's Day craft but for us here at the cottage, it probably means the most. This little heart (it's actually about 1 1/2" across) has been around for about four years now. I quickly made it for the girl when she was two and we were on our way to a playdate. A sparkly has worn off and the safety pin isn't THE most stylish but this crazy little heart means a lot to the girl. Isn't that just the way with six-year-olds? It doesn't have to be perfect; it just has to be made by Mom. She'll wear it again next week as usual.

We have some other Valentine's Day crafts on deck for this weekend and I'll share some photos of them early next week. Today I did some quick felting on a toque (translation for the non-Canadians - "woolen hat"). I picked up the hat at American Apparel a few weeks ago thinking that I would do SOME felting but hadn't got around to it. First I needed a stencil.

Before we headed off to school today I had the girl draw a row of hearts. I could have used a formal stencil with the hearts all perfectly aligned but I wanted something more organic and fresh looking. There is something about the originality of the line from a child's drawing. They just draw without the judgements of the inner critic that we adults often struggle with.

I snipped out the hearts to make the stencil and taped it to the hat. Then felted. Here it is part way through the felting. One more step to go!

Make sure that you spritz it with water and then iron with the wool setting. Done!

Are you making anything for Valentine's Day? 


Family and creativity

I soooo appreciate the time that I have with my six-year-old daughter. I know it probably sounds a little crazy, but I often think, "this is her childhood". Not tomorrow. Not the next family holiday or event. Not the next trip. Today. Now. This morning. Breakfast. Walking to school. Picking her up. Making a snack together. Hanging out. This is HER childhood. 

With that in mind, I have found that we love to make things together - to paint and draw and glue and stick and scribble and build. 

So how do I do that? Where do I find the ideas? 

One way that I try to incorporate creativity into our daily lives is to follow the rhythm of the seasons. To find new and creative ways to celebrate the various seasonal holidays that come around year after year. And by creating new traditions we build new good memories.

Do any of you read Amanda Blake Soule's blog Last year she wrote a lovely book called The Rhythm of Family: Developing a Sense of Wonder Through the Seasons

Following the course of a year, this book explores the ways we can create deep family connections and meaningful memories through living in tune with the cycles of nature...from the rhythms of the seasons come the rhythms in our homes, our hearts, our families, and our every day. Paying attention to these changes slows us down; inspires new types of creative play and exploration; instills a sense of family togetherness; and deepens an awareness of nature and self that can make our lives, days, family, and earth grow stronger.

Here at the cottage we celebrate all sorts of holidays, big and small. We make decorations. We paint pictures, we draw, we cut out garlands, and we make centrepieces. We cook special foods and light candles. Most importantly, we do it together - not just the making, but the enjoying and celebrating too. It's inspiring for all of us.

Is it a lot of work? Well, I do make sure that we take on only what we have the time and skill for. Do you remember when you were a kid how sometimes grown-ups would create something while you just watched? Not so fun for the kid! I pitch the art projects and crafts to the girl's age and ability. You know how it is - that fine line between succeeding AND being challenged without being frustrated!

Where do I find my ideas? A starting point for me is the Crafty Crow - it's a great source for all sorts of craft ideas - her own and those she finds on other crafty blogs. She has them organized in number of ways including by age and holiday. Lots of photos and clear, concise instructions. That'll get you started and keep you busy for a while.

Here's something that we did last week.

Remember how I walk the girl to school each day? Well, I knew that we were going to do some crafts around trees. So one day last week on our way home we scooped up as many twigs as we could. 

I let the twigs dry out overnight by the front door. Being a small little house, we were stepping over the twig pile carefully each time we came in and left! I found some 6 inch tall glass jars at Michael's and cut the twigs the same length. I recommend using wire cutters as scissors won't be strong enough.

Get out the glue gun! And some inch wide ribbon about the length of the circumference of the jar with an inch extra to overlap. Lay the ribbon on a flat surface and glue the twigs to the ribbon. Once dry, use the glue gun to attach the ribbon to the jars. Voila - two candle luminaries.

We also made some paper garlands of trees and leaves (10 points to any Canadians recognizing the maple leaf!). And I crocheted some flowers for another garland.

Today after school we will finish a tree painting. The girl painted the trunk using watercolours yesterday and today she will sponge paint the leaves in green, red, orange, and yellow. Then once dry we'll hang it up in the dining room.

Do you celebrate any holidays beyond the usual big ones each year? What are your family's annual traditions?