Mostly Handmade Holiday

September 22, 2011

I was happy to see that I’m not the only one preparing for a handmade holiday season before the first day of fall has even landed. Things are very tight this year so most my crafts have to pack a punch and be very inexpensive. I’m very into repurposing fabrics for projects or giving an old item a facelift. I looked through my photo library to see if I had any old projects or ideas to share. Maybe one of these will spark an idea for someone else.

I sew a lot. I have lots of fabric gift ideas, unfortunately most my photos are on my old computer. Luckily, I found a few. None of these are super new ideas but the result will be unique depending on your choices.

Bags are always fun gifts. Simple shapes are easy to knock out and the fabric choices are endless.

This Obi apron comes from a free pattern on Burda Style. I used a mustard linen like material and it’s super cute.

Maybe you can make a pair of custom café curtains for someone. This is a really personal gift and best suited for someone who you really know. You’ll have to measure their window and make refinements as you go.  These curtains were a hit in my old house and I’ve had lots of requests for them!

If you patchwork a bunch of fabric together for curtains and have leftovers, you can use it to make smaller items like pillows. This particular pillow was not sewn together great but you get the idea.

Market bags are always a nice gift. Especially if you live in a city like Santa Monica, Ca that has a plastic shopping bag ban! The styles and fabric choices are endless. Just make sure that they are pretty sturdy. This bag is made out of oilcloth, eyelets and interfaced cotton straps. Repurposed fabrics make great market bags. Think t-shirts, vinyl banners, nylon, and old dresses and skirts.

I love making fabric covered buttons. If you’re like me and have a ton of fabric scraps, this is a great project. You do have to buy the button cover tool and the buttons you can cover. You can get these at Joann’s.  I like to pick 3-5 buttons that compliment each other and attach them to a handmade card. These are great for crafters and non-crafters.

Using embroidery hoops as fabric frames is always nice. I like this giant hoop. You can print a fun saying from a hip poster or embroider it. I would add a wire across the back, like you would on a big picture frame, to hang it straight. You could also print on photo transfer paper for fabric and layer an image or words that way. Make sure if you use words to flip them before you print them or they will transfer backwards. I used foam stamps and fabric paint.

Never underestimate thrift store finds! I’ve found some awesome kitschy art work for just a few dollars. I look at everything through a spray paint lens. The ugliest things can become beautiful mantle worthy pieces with just a little primer and paint! Just make sure you gift these items to the proper personality.

Great framed embroidery thrift store finds! Love the orange frames!

Hard to see here but the wood framed stag etched on glass was a great cheap thrift find!

This white owl used to be a gaudy gold, green, yellow terror. A little primer and paint has transformed it into a cute piece that could grace any mantle. The pitcher/vase was also a thrift store find. Both would make cute presents.

Don’t be afraid to paint on canvas. The outcome may even surprise you! When I’m making a painting for someone else, I really try to see their personality in color. I start with color and I just begin to layer. I’m not a form based painter. I love the abstract and the process of building color, texture, and feeling through movement, experimentation  and emotion. Sometimes I write a special note, poem, or letter inside an envelope that I tuck into the back of the frame. Use a decent gallery canvas and don’t expect to finish in a day. Buy some painting knives, some painters tape and just play. I work on my paintings for weeks and sometimes years! If you get frustrated or disconnected from it just stop and come back to it later.

A painting for myself. Playing with color and texture and memories of sunny play days at the beach.

This painting was a gift for a good friend and represents her love for a complex city.

A painting in the works. Who knows if I'll ever finish it. It's already been about 2 years in the works. Sometimes inspiration just comes and goes.

The next best thing to handmade is buying handmade. Check listings for things like Unique LA and Renegade Craft Fair. We bought some great presents and Renegade Craft Fair a few months ago. One of my favorites is from a seller named Miles to Go. They print t-shirts, bags, etc based on books. The t-shirt pictured is the Stephen King book The Gunslinger. We recently gifted the book and the t-shirt to our nephew. It’s a fun way to get people to read books and support a great small business!

Our loot from the Renegade Craft Fair!

I hope some of these suggestions help or inspire some fun gifts for the holidays or anytime of year. I think gifts should be given all year and for no reason! Get those hands working on a project!


Big Sur Heart

September 20, 2011

When I head north to Big Sur my heart swells knowing that I’ll be rhythmically winding around the edges of cliffs that drop off into a rocky mountain landscape. Around each bend an enchanting view reveals itself without noise. No imagery shouts at you, it just welcomes you. The water’s edge invites you to breathe, the mountains remind you of your size, and redwoods create a canopy of protection that keep out any agendas you brought with you. Big Sur is a place that calls me when I need healing.

Some days the morning fog settles over your soul and gives your heart a new story to tell. Seeing landscapes in layers can mimic the complex layers that we carry within us. When nature reveals her layers to us, bathed in morning light and dripping in heavy fog, the contrast of emotions can leave us breathless for a moment. For me, this is a moment of meditation that breaks through all our layers of  emotional crust. This is how I heal. It may only be a brief glimpse of a ray of sun casting light off the mountain and into the sea but it can change something in us.

This summer has been really hard. I’ve struggled creatively, professionally, and personally. I can feel paralyzed when all three circles overlap and show signs of stress. I think most people experience this feeling at one time or another. The pressure to have a career is intense. It’s double  intense when you haven’t a clue what you’d like to do in life. It’s triple intense when you’re 35 yrs old and everyone you know is a success. It weighs heavy on my heart. This summer I felt like it was the heaviest it’s ever been. It became near debilitating.

My creative life has suffered for a while. In my current job I teach art. I teach kids to trust themselves and their creative choices. I teach them to own their art and create with confidence. I then come home with great ideas and no action. Sometimes there are obstacles blocking my path that just need money and time. Other times it’s just me blocking my path. The more unhappy I am in other aspects of my life the more my creative life suffers. When that outlet closes up, I close up. I think this is true for many artists and creative types. It’s our life blood. Work is just a means to support creative life. It gets tricky sometimes because if that work drains us it can affect our creative life. For me, the two circles have lots of overlap.

My personal life overlaps with both of the other circles all the time . It’s been stressful. On the one hand, I have the greatest husband, friend, and supporter. I’m so lucky in that department.  I’m grateful every day that I get to wake up next to him. For everything that I’ve done wrong in my life, this was the one thing I did right! He knows me at my deepest core. On the other hand, I’m just pretty miserable with other aspects of my life now. I don’t like living in the valley. I hate my commute. I’m pretty stressed everyday . It’s taxing for everybody and on my body. Getting older isn’t easy. I’ve spent tons of time at the doctor getting poked and prodded and having tests done. This has added a whole new layer of anxiety to everything.

I know I’m not the only one out there that feels the heaviness of these three  areas of life overlapping and making life hard at times.  I do yoga, I meditate, exercise, eat right, and try to land on the side of optimism. Sometimes, it’s not enough to break through our layers. The healing process is different for everyone. For me, it was nice to hit the road with friends and wind through redwoods and listen to water crash on rocks. I may not have broken through all the layers but I was able to start cracking them open.

My suggestion for anyone needing a reboot ni life is to take a road trip. It would be awesome if you could go by yourself or with a trusted partner. Unfold into nature and peel back the layers of anxiety and stress. A great place to  start is in Big Sur, Ca. Drive up Highway 1 and visit the elephant seals in Sam Simeon. If they don’t make you laugh you’re not human. Continue on up to Big Sur and go camping in the redwoods. Take day trips to all the beaches and visit local businesses. Have a drink at Nepenthe and a coffee and pastry at Big Sur Bakery. Take photos, write, draw, paint or just look out into the sea. As Big Sur reveals itself to you, you will recover a piece of yourself in the process.

Happy travels!

ebb and flow

May 4, 2010

“Unlike humans, wolves do not deem the ups and downs of life, energy, power, food, opportunity as startling or punitive. The peaks and valleys just are, and wolves ride them as efficiently, as fluidly, as possible. The instinctual nature has the miraculous ability to live through all positive boon, all negative consequence, and still maintain relationship to self, to other.”   –women who run with the wolves,  by clarissa pinkola estes, phd

love. it confuses people. it confuses both those who are falling deep into it and those watching it happen from a distance. sooner or later those who are lost in the boon of love are challenged by others to reframe or reshape that love into something that suits them better. the quote above reminds me that, for humans, to ebb and flow is life. my heart hurt a little recently. i felt like little bruises were left on my heart. in processing my experience i cried a little, i ran a little, i wrote a little and i remembered who i am a little. the bruises began to shrink and my breath returned to me.

i spend a lot of time alone. i love to write, express, ponder and curate my emotions. as i get older, more time is spent here, in this  contemplative world. i found some pictures i took a few weeks back. i was driving home from my grandmother’s house when i noticed we were between rainstorms and the wind was picking up. i was right by the beach knew i had to stop. these photos speak to me in ways i can’t communicate in words. it is moments like these that heal the unintended bruises that life presses onto your heart.

diy kayak!

April 11, 2010

i have always been one to tinker around with stuff. i enjoy learning how to make things myself, even when it would be cheaper to go out and buy the item i’m interested in making. i owe a great part of this need to tinker and create to my dad. we create things in very different ways. he is a former engineer and math is not my strong suit. immediately, it’s easy to see where our creative paths split. i’m the sociologist who is very into the process of art. he is the engineer who likes to create large scale math based wood working projects.

so he is making this wooden kayak in his garage. i wish i had been smart enough to take photos from the earlier stages of construction. i wasn’t, so what i do have photos of are closer to the end stages. he got some instructions off the internet and tweaked them a bit and this is where we are at. it is beautiful. the differing woods and the designs are really coming out as he begins to add coats of shiny liquids. i don’t know what they are to be honest. next i think he has to fiberglass it or something close to that to make it water ready.

we don’t know if it will float. that is part of the great experiment too. as my mom says…if anything it will be a very unique planter in the garden. it’s exciting to watch. the amount of patience it has taken him to plan out, problem solve and create is so far beyond anything i have patience for! pictures of the water launch to follow once it’s water ready!

it was a sunny and beautiful weekend here in los angeles. more importantly, it was the kind of day where valley dwellers like myself wake up and realize you have to go out and enjoy the day. soon it will be too hot to breathe and taking in the outdoors becomes very unpleasant, unless you are digging your feet in the sand at the beach. we headed out to malibu canyon. believe it or not, i’ve lived in or near los angeles my whole life and I rarely explored hiking in malibu. it almost seems like I should be kicked out of california for not deciding to do so until now.

we took the grassland trail (I think) off of mulhulland. first we came across this silo tower structure. it was on top of a hill that only had a narrow trail leading to it. we decided to go for it because the color gradations on the tower were so beautiful. coppers and rust colors decaying into each other against a beautiful backdrop. we’ve been drawn to these copper rusting techniques lately being used in backyard designs. i needed to get a picture to add to my color and texture folder that I keep for art projects and things of that nature. so up we went.

when we reached the top we noticed a tiny door to the structure. i was terrified that it was filled with rattlesnakes. this is a rational fear as many rattlesnakes reside in the brush of the canyons. we peeked our heads in and gasped. the only lighting in the structure is provided by a few cut out circles in the roof. the walls were completely covered in  graffiti and paintings. after doing a quick animal and snake check we went inside. so many cool things to take pictures of. the lighting was intense too. with my claustrophobia creeping up on me, i began to freak myself out after swearing that I heard snakes and quickly snapped a few pictures and then squatted down and squeezed through the tiny door.

we descended the little hill and got back on the trail. a few feet later we saw a rattlesnake slithering into the brush. see, i’m not crazy…rattlesnakes. we kept moving on. we didn’t have any idea where any trails went. we just decided to hike out to the site where MASH was filmed. there were lots of gross parts where there was stagnant water and flies and mosquitos but overall not to bad and not too strenuous….but kinda far. we hiked around for about three hours. the MASH site was anticlimactic…but i’m glad i went to see where all the action took place. all in all it was a great day to be outside and the scenery was lovely. also, i got to spend the day with pete which always makes me happy.

california woodcut prints

September 5, 2009


lately, I’ve been researching california artists. one of my favorite california artists is frances gearhart (1869-1958). her woodcuts are bold in color which veered away from the subtle color tints of japanese woodcuts. her woodcuts are  from  all over california. i’m drawn to the warm colors of her woodcut prints. you can view a collection of her works here.