Starting anew is always a good thing! Here is Vol. 1 of "Artful Living on the Bluff" for you to enjoy. While I am not contributing new material to this blog, please feel free to look around and then visit me at the new and (hopefully) improved "Artful Living on the Bluff" blog at

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Morning Coffee Quotes

After the hard frost we had Thursday night, these were the only flowers left in our garden. If we were better at harvesting, these broccoli flowers would not be in a vase on our table!! :)
"Never take a person's dignity: it is worth everything to them, and nothing to you."
- Frank Barron

"So far as I can remember, there is not one word in the Gospels in praise of intelligence."
- Bertrand Russell

"To lodge all power in one party and keep it there is to insure bad government."
- Mark Twain

"The indispensable first step to getting the things you want out of life is this: decide what you want."
- Ben Stein

"Confidence is contagious. So is lack of confidence."
- Michael O'Brien

"If people concentrated on the really important things in life, there'd be a shortage of fishing poles."
- Doug Larson

"An election is nothing more than the advanced auction of stolen goods."
- Ambrose Bierce

"If you walk with lame men you will soon limp yourself."
- Seaman McManus

"People ask me what I'd most appreciate getting for my eighty-seventh birthday. I tell them: a paternity suit."
- George Burns

"The first step towards getting somewhere is to decide that you are not going to stay where you are."
- John Pierpont Morgan

"One major obligation is not to mistake slogans for solutions."
- Edward R. Murrow

"I count him braver who overcomes his desires than him who conquers his enemies, for the hardest victory is over self."
- Aristotle

"Now more than ever the people are responsible for the character of their Congress. If that body be ignorant, reckless, and corrupt, it is because the people tolerate ignorance, recklessness, and corruption."
- James Garfield

"It's not the load that breaks you down; it's the way you carry it."
- Lena Horne

"Democracy: The state of affairs in which you consent to having your pocket picked, and elect the best man to do it."
- Benjamin Lichtenberg

"Anxiety does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow--only today of its strength."
- C. H. Spurgeon

"If there is a 50-50 chance that something can go wrong then nine times out of ten it will."
- Paul Harvey

"If you wish to be loved, show more of your faults than your virtues."
- Edward George Bulwer-Lytton

"Talk doesn't cook rice."
- Chinese Proverb

"You do ill if you praise, but worse if you censure, what you do not understand."
- Leonardo da Vinci

"Example is the lesson that all men can read."
- Gilbert West

"When the people find they can vote themselves money, that will herald the end of the republic."
- Benjamin Franklin

Friday, October 29, 2010

From the Dark Side...

I finally finished my first foray into darkness. As you may know, I am fearful of the darkness, both real and imaginary. I decided this year would be the year to explore my dark side a little bit. Fabric and fiber have recently taken over my world - beadweaving is taking a bit of a back seat at the moment. My friend Paula has just recently taken over the management of an arts program in a near-by town and was looking for spooky art for a show. I decided it was time to put my fear of things go bump in the night to rest - at least a little.

What came of this is the first mostly fabric necklace which I am temporarily calling "Dark Dreams". I finished it at the ninth hour. My husband was going to deliver it to the gallery for me and he was leaving about 2 minutes ago (if you know what I mean). I was still stitching and also wanted to take some shots before it vanished out the door. My apologies for the quality of the pics - I count on natural light to take good photos and there was none. These have been digitally lightened and my camera doesn't like to focus in low light situations.

"Dark Dreams" is made entirely of fabrics, trims and little goodies from my stash. The ceramic face was, in a past life, part of a gaudy, silvery 80's Christmas ornament. Liberated from the horrid silver lamee and glitter, she became the heroine of this piece. Veiled in vintage black lace, she dreams of death, time and the unknown. The red and black background fabric is a pocket square for which my husband felt no affinity. Saved from the dust bin by the worst of pack-rats (me), it was added to the fabric stash. I burned the edge of the fabric and shredded the lace ruffle surrounding her face - I thought it made the piece a little more "spooky". To finish, it was edged in black lace ruffle and backed with a layer of felt and some cotton knit T-shirt fabric to make it comfy to wear. The nice thing about fabric crafts is that it's easy to sign your pieces. A small fabric tag was added with my name and the year. This is literally the first time I have signed a piece of jewelry!! It's not my "legal" signature - no one can read that - but it does let one know "who" made this necklace and "when". Here are a few more shots - when I get her back from the show I will take better ones. I hope you enjoy "Dark Dreams" :)


Friday, October 22, 2010

Cleaning out

Sometimes, no matter how hard you try, you just have to get rid of stuff. That's on my agenda today. I'm loading up and taking stuff to various places for recycling or donation. Here's my pile!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

LA CRUZ - Newest Fabric Cuff

Here is the latest fabric cuff, La Cruz, finished just minutes ago! Since this is one of the projects on my roster for My Private Art Retreat, this cuff was great fun to make and I'm really proud about how it turned out. I wanted this piece to have a southwestern feel to it and chose turquoise along with shades of brown and silver for the color palette. The centerpiece is a vintage pendant - not real turquoise but still pretty cool. Vintage ribbons - velvet, brocade and silk - were paired with a vintage doily and some pretty crocheted (by me!!) lace along the edge. Hanging from the mandala pendant is a small silver cross for which the piece is named - La Cruz.

Nicely finished with soft felt layered between vintage fabric, this cuff closes with a ribbon and button. It is fully adjustable (one size fits all) - to clasp the bracelet simply wrap the ribbon tie around the vintage button. It will stay comfortably and securely.

The full length of the the cuff is 7 3/4" and it is 2 1/2" wide including the crocheted lace trim. You can find La Cruz for sale on Etsy.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

My Private Art Retreat - Day 3

"Art is the only way to run away without leaving home." Twyla Tharp

I thought this was an appropriate quote for my little art retreat experience! Even though, on day three, I found it completely necessary to leave the house... dang.

So, here's what happened - I started the day by catching up on some of my favorite blogs and drinking a cup of my very favorite tea in the whole world - genmaicha. Next came the scheduling and set-up of the projects for the day:

1. Crack out the Makin's Clay and make some polymer faces using the Sculpey mold

2. Make some resin cabs using the Easy Cast kit.

3. Make some crochet lace for my latest fabric cuff project.

4. Try out the two sewing machine-esque thingys to see if they work of if they are junk.

Since I had not stepped foot out of the house for a while, a walk was in order. I checked out the garage sale listings, found two sales that were pretty close to each other and not too far a distance from me and had a wonderful morning walk. Wow! It was so beautiful out - sunny, cool, crisp - a perfect fall morning. I didn't find anything at the sales except one very tasty cupcake for 25 cents (SO worth it!).

Once back home, I started by getting out my new size C crochet hook and made some pretty edging to use on the fabric cuff. It's a little more wavy than expected but I was happy with the result nonetheless.

Next, it was on to the polymer clay faces! While unwrapping the clay from the plastic packaging, I noticed that some of the colors were more pliable than others. The beige and the brown had become a bit dry and were hard to work with but the other colors were very nice. This clay is really soft and pliable and pushed into the molds very nicely.

I still decided to use the dried out stuff too - as you can see from the photos, the beige faces are a bit rough around the edges but they reminded me of those great ruins you see in movies like "Indiana Jones" - great Buddha-like faces overgrown with vines, cracked from age and erosion.

Here's the complete collection - now I just have to wait for them to dry and they'll be ready for some higher purpose!

Next, I was hoping to tackle my first try at resin but was discouraged after reading the directions. When I read the part about curing and that it needed to be 70 degrees to cure properly, I knew this would have to wait until some nice warm late fall day (if we have any more of those!) or until next spring. Our house temp was 65 and the outside temp was cooler still. Refusing to crank up the furnace this early in the season just to cure 2 or 3 cabs, resin, I'm sorry to say, will have to wait.  :-(

Next came the sewing gadget trials and they both failed miserably. The electric one didn't work at all and the manual one was so cumbersome that it would just be easier to hand sew so there really is no point to the darned thing. Therefore, a decision just had to be made!! Do I need a sewing machine? I had, after all, sold my last one at a garage sale because there just isn't room to sew in this house. But, that was a full-sized sewing machine with fancy stitches and stuff which I never really used. I quite enjoy just sewing in a straight line - maybe a zig zag here and there would be nice every once in a while - but I could live quite happily with a simple little straight stitch sewing machine (so there.). After some quick online research, I decided that a new sewing machine thingy was most decidedly in my future. Besides, all of the "Harry Potter" flicks had been watched so a trip to the library was in order. And, since it's on the way, I'll most likely stop at my favorite resale store. And since I was going out anyway, I might as well go shopping for a new sewing machine! Yep, you can say it... go ahead... I'm weak!

So, off I went to the resale store where I got some very cool stuff! I bought this old jewelry box...

... these fantastic old spools...

... some crochet books....

...and a size J crochet hook to round out my collection - I now have all hooks size C - K. Anything is possible with those!!

At the library, I found this great book, Mary Jane's Stitching Room, by Mary Jane Butters:

This book has lots of great photos and ideas for projects - mostly I just like the photos. As I was flipping through the pages I found myself intrigued by tatting - maybe that will be on the schedule of retreat events sometime? Maybe for My Private Art Retreat #2 - in the spring - so I can finally crack out that resin!!

And, after much running around town, here is the new sewing machine! Still in the box - I'll give it a trial run on day 4 or 5. It's tiny!! I'm pretty sure it's a chain stitch machine but that will be just fine for the type of projects I want to make with it.

Finally, I was home! I watched the first two installments of Back to the Future and worked on my fabric cuff for the evening. Here's the latest:

I'm not sure what will be on the agenda for day 4. Saturday is the best day for garage sales. My husband, who has been at a Russian 7-string Guitar Festival for the past 3 days, will be playing in an evening concert and I will be attending that. A large part of my day will be spent on the road as the concert location is 1 1/2 hours drive from Dubuque. After that, a friend of ours is having a CD release party so we will be drinking beer and listening to too loud music into the wee hours. Phew! It's going to be a busy day! :) I like those.

Morning Coffee Quotes

"Only a real risk tests the reality of a belief."
- C. S. Lewis

"Wit consists in seeing the resemblance between things which differ, and the difference between things which are alike."
- Germaine de Stael

"The person I miss most is the one I could have been."
- George Bernard Shaw

"The reality of the other person is not in what he reveals to you, but in what he cannot reveal to you. Therefore, if you would understand him, listen not to what he says but rather what he does not say."
- Kahlil Gibran

"There is a great difference between knowing and understanding: you can know a lot about something and not really understand it."
- Charles F. Kettering

"The trouble with worrying so much about your security in the future is that you feel so insecure in the present."
- Harlan Miller

"They who dream by day are cognizant of many things which escape those who dream only by night."
- Edgar Allen Poe

"Skill and confidence are an unconquered army."
- George Herbert

"Politics is the art of preventing people from taking part in affairs which properly concern them."
- Paul Valery

"You do ill if you praise, but worse if you censure, what you do not understand."
- Leonardo da Vinci

"Acceptance of what has happened is the first step to overcoming the consequences of any misfortune."
- William James

"Whatever limits us we call fate."
- Ralph Waldo Emerson

"It's a strange world of language in which skating on thin ice can get you into hot water."
- Franklin P. Jones

"When others asked the truth of me, I was convinced it was not the truth they wanted, but an illusion they could bear to live with."
- Anais Nin

"Love to faults is always blind, always is to joy inclined. Lawless, winged, and unconfined, and breaks all chains from every mind."
- William Shakespeare

"When nobody around you seems to measure up, it’s time to check your yardstick."
- Bill Lemley

"In the end, the difference between Conservatism and Liberalism seems to be this: the Conservative thinks of liberty as something to be preserved, the Liberal thinks of it as something to be enlarged."
- Clinton Rossiter

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Red and Gold Inspiration Kit Give-away

Sorry I have been lax at updating the give-away for this month! Since it's so late, this give-away will be for the months of October and November. You faithful followers who have left a comment already this month will be counted twice simply because I like you so much!! :)

I haven't given away an inspiration kit for a few months now but thought it was time. This kit was inspired by the pretty red and gold tin and contains beads, trims and other goodies in shades of red and gold to carry you from autumn straight into the holidays! Leave a comment anywhere on my blog during the months of October and November for a chance to win this crafty mini kit!

My Private Art Retreat - Day 2

Well, here we are half-way through day 2 of my Private Art Retreat :)

Today started with some lovely Genmaicha tea...
...and an archeological dig through my craft studio (aka. closet). As hoped, I emerged victorious having successfully unearthed lots of crafty goodies purchased on a whim and usually from the sale table. Most of these have languished at the bottom of a bin or basket for many, many months but have survived recent organizational attempts. They therefore must have some true value or interest to me.

Here are some of the treasures I found and which have now made it onto the schedule of events at this sweet little art retreat I am giving myself.

Just about every type of antiquing solution ever made by Sophisticated Finishes - all unopened...

some no-bake Makin's Clay in earthy colors and a Sculpey face mold...

an Easy Cast resin kit and cabochon mold...

a one gallon zip-lock full bag of batik fabric scraps with fusible webbing on the back

and two odd sewing machine-esque thingys picked up at garage sales someplace and which I have no idea about how they work or IF they work.

These are all on my list of wonderful art retreat activities but I started my crafty day with some more tea staining and even remembered to take some "before" and "after" shots.

The fabric and trim before:

 Here are the tea bags all bundled and ready to go (I use 12 bags for every batch which is roughly 1 gallon of water). I'm using some very cheap tea bags which were bought on a whim at a dollar store somewhere. The tea was SOOOOOO bad that it wasn't worth drinking but that makes it perfect for this type of activity.

I boil the water and into the pot they go!
I let them steep FOREVER! well... for a really long time, at least... around 10 to 15 minutes. Then I take the bags out, giving them a good squeeze to get all the pretty brown-ness out of them and add the pre-washed (and still wet from the washing machine) linens and laces.

I let them stay in there for a REALLY long time - up to 1/2 an hour or longer because I want the fabric to absorb as much of the pretty color as possible! I also stir the pot every once in a while.

When I can't hardly wait any longer (or need to use the burner for some coffee or something), I remove the fabric from the pot and rinse it until the water runs clear. I pop everything in the dryer on high and wait (very impatiently) to see the final result. The color when the piece is dry will be lighter than when it's wet but I knew when I removed these pieces from the tea bath that this was going to be a great batch!

Here are some "after" shots along side the original "before"s. I tried to lay the fabric out basically the same way and on the same background cloth so the color change would be easy to see. Digital photography is a finicky thing - even though the color of the background cloth appears different in the "before" and "after" shots, it is the same. I hope you will be able to notice the wonderful color change in the original fabric pieces.

...and after.

...and after.

...and after.

And already the afternoon is upon me! So much to do! Yay! :)