Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Making Handmade Books

Bookmaking is more popular than ever in spite of the buzz from the digital world that people are buying fewer books.  Alisa Golden's book, Making Handmade Books:  100+ Bindings, Structure and Forms, is filled with inspiring ideas and techniques for creating one of a kind handmade books.  Following her techniques and advise you can create a beautiful work of art in an afternoon.  This book is filled with photographs of master books and statements by more than 40 established book artists. There is so much inspiration to be found in this and Alisa's other books.

Creating Handmade Books
Unique Handmade Books
Expressive Handmade Books

Happy Book Making!  I would love to see examples of your creations.  Just include a picture in your comments.  Thank you for checking out my blog.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Happy Halloween!

So, it was Halloween night and my daughter, who is now thirteen years old, still wanted to go out trick or treating.  I must admit that I am at this point less than enthusiastic.  But, she really wanted to go.  I told her that she would have to create her own costume and make the arrangements for going out. 

She called her friends and arranged for one of the mothers to drive her home afterwards.  I am always amazed by her resourcefulness.  For the costume she has a knitted raccoon hat that she loves to wear.  With the hat perched neatly on her head she painted her face with black and white paint, and went out as a raccoon.  Very cute!

What I am learning from being a parent is that it isn't necessary that I solve all of her problems.  Given the opportunity to be creative we can all be quite inventive and resourceful.  I'm learning to let go, and let her figure things out for herself.  In the process I free myself up to do more of the things that I really want to do.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Silence as a Revolutionary Act

The following poem was written for my writing group and was inspired by a line from the poem "Famous" by Naomi Shihab Nye 

"The loud voice is famous to silence,
which knew it would inherit the earth
before anybody said so." - Naomi Shihab Nye

Silence waits patiently to be heard,
while the loud voice clamors on
like a room full of pre-schoolers.
It must be hard being silent
waiting for the world to catch hold to the idea
that there might be tremendous gifts found in the stillness.
The loud voice
use to getting all the attention
hasn't figured out yet
that its days are numbered
and that just maybe we are all a bit weary from the noise
In our restlessness we could use a little peace
a few moments a day to sit in stillness
if not completely without thought
then to at least watch quietly as the thoughts float by
no judgment
no criticism
just a faint awareness
as if watching clouds
Oh how sweet the sound
peace and stillness
the restless wondering put to bed
Fame is after all a fickle mistress
what was once in vogue must take a back seat
to the newest trend
Silence as a revolutionary act
silence as the older sister
to the loud voice
knows that everything must change
and the loud voice must grow up
and grow on
and find a peaceful way to co-exist
with her older sister
the other side of herself.

- Eleanor D. Gaston 10/23/2011

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Wooden Box

Ever since I saw the movie "Nights in Rodanthe" I've wanted to make a wooden box. 
Well, here is my first attempt at wood working. 

I AM HOOKED!  I love it! 

For this box I used four types of wood, mahogany, oak, purple heart and poplar.  This project required major power tools.  Very intimidating!  However, with the help of my good friend Tony, I was able to overcome my fear and very carefully proceed.  The box measures 4 1/2" X 6 1/2" and is 3 1/4" deep. 
The bottom panel is poplar and the sides are oak.  Bottom and side panels were cut to size and glued together, using a standard wood glue.  The top panel was made by cutting strips of purple heart and poplar that measured 1" X  1/8".  Then we cut strips of oak that measured 1/4" by 1", and mahogany strips that measured 1" X 3/4".  These strips were glued together to create the pattern.  They were held together with a clamp until completely dried.  I chose to wait 24 hours for the drying time.  The top was then cut to fit snugly on the box.  

What a beautiful box in which to hold all my hopes and dreams, or loose change.  Whatever!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

My Snack Food Box Canvas

This is a project that I found on YouTube.  It's a "cereal box canvas" submitted by Tim Coffey.  I've attached the original video below.  To get the complete process you'll need to view all three episodes of this tutorial. 

The canvas that I created above was not a cereal box, but a snack food box.  What you are seeing is the left side, front and right sides.  I chose it for it's slender size.  I loved this project for it's inventive use of something that would ordinarily find it's way into a land fill. 

The process is really very simple.  Begin by stringing wire through the back for hanging.  Having secured your wire seal the ends with masking tape.  Once the box is sealed cover it entirely with a layer of black acrylic paint.  Allow the paint to dry thoroughly.  Once it's dry cover the box again with gesso.  I used white acrylic paint in place of the gesso.  Again you will need to allow the box to dry thoroughly. 

In his video tutorial Tim used stencils that he created and applied them to the box.  Since this was a experiment for me I chose to draw freehand the images that I used.  With a number 2B drawing pencil I simply sketched very lightly the images.  With the images in place on the front and sides of the box I used a hot glue gun to trace over the drawn lines.  Once the glue was dry I began applying layers of paint. There was really no plan in place.  Remember that this was an experiment.  I let myself play and have fun with the paints.  The final touch was to apply copper colored acrylic with a dry brush. 

I had a great time trying out this technique and look forward to trying it again.  The hot glue was a bit challenging in terms of flow, but I am sure that with enough practice some truly beautiful and unique paintings can be created.  Check out Tim's video tutorial's and get inspired.  I was!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Transitions in life and in art

It's been an interesting summer thus far.  Back in April we moved out of our apartment, put almost all of our possessions in storage and went to live in the country with friends.  My daughter, our dog Birdie and I have a lovely three room apartment that is attached to the home of our good friends.  Being here has been a joy and a pleasure.  Our friends Tony and Regina are kind and fun loving people. 

Being here has given a boost to my creative energy.  I've painted more in the last two months then I have in a year.  Bear in mind though that I have been creative in other ways.  Knitting, crocheting, and jewelry making are wonderful ways to create.  But, painting is my first love.  I do after all have a Fine Arts Degree with a concentration in painting.

Giving up my apartment and putting my life into storage was not easy.  There is a feeling of being in limbo that is a bit disconcerting.  On the other hand, I've had wonderful opportunities for peace, quiet and reflection.  Every evening after dinner, weather permitting, the family and I take a long walk.  The opportunity to be in nature, breathe in the fresh air and listen for the bird and frog sounds is amazingly relaxing.  I feel the importance of this time.  It's a chance for my soul to heal so that it can go back out into the world stronger, more focused and poised to create on a deeper level. 

It has also been great for my daughter to be part of a loving and generous family.  Those family walks in the evening are great for her as well.  She gets to run, ride her bike, and entertain us with her antics.  Having the undivided attention of three loving adults must be so affirming for her.  When we are all laughing at her performances it gives her the impetus to continue.  She is in a sense honing her craft.  After all, her art is performance.  And all forms of creative energy and expression are valid.

Monday, March 21, 2011

The Gratitude Box

 In her book entitled "Something More: Excavating Your Authentic Self", Sarah Ban Breathnach writes,"Being grateful.  That's the first step to the path of joy."  Isn't that really what we all want?  Imagine how wonderful it would be to live a life that is filled with joyful moments.  Does that thought seem unrealistic to you?  Consider this.  What if reality is relative?  Perhaps it is possible for us to choose our own reality based on how we think and what we feel.  
Life can be as easy or as difficult as we make it. It's a choice that we make every day based on our attitude about life.  We've all heard it, time and time again, "seek and ye shall find."  Seek the good and you will find the good.  Seek misery and you can find that too.
Do you know what you are wanting? If we do indeed create our own reality based on our thoughts and feelings, then it makes sense to pay attention to what we are thinking.  Instead of focusing our attention on that which does not bring joy, we can look for the good.

For that purpose I've created a "Gratitude Box."  I took a small gift box and covered it with torn pieces of colored origami paper.  Then I embellished the box with words and phrases that spoke to the idea of gratitude.  At least in my interpretation.  To make it even more interesting and beautiful, I attached beads and ribbons.  Inside the box, I sometimes place slips of paper on which I've written things that I'm grateful for.  There is also a small plastic frog that I keep in the box.  The frog is an acronym for F-fully, R-relying, O-on, G-God.  The frog is a gentle reminder that I'm not in this alone.  God is present in me, in the people I encounter and in every circumstance of life.

The Box and the Frog are wonderful tools that I use often to keep my mind centered on the beauty and wonder of life.  I hope that you will make your own Gratitude Box, and use it often.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

The Fun of Doodling

Doodling is an easy and fun technique for tapping into the unconscious mind in order to nurture the creative process. It's also a fun distraction when you are sitting in a boring meeting.  At any rate, try it out for yourself.  Just take a plain clean sheet of paper, with or without lines.  Using a gel or roller ball pen start with a dot or a line and let your hand take over.  Suspend all judgment and let yourself play with the pen.  Let me warm you.  Doodling can become habit forming.  Have fun with it and Enjoy!  

This video shows a collection of doodles that I've created on small cards.  The cards were discarded library cards.  The kind used years ago that were either typed on or hand written.  I have about 5 thousand of those cards.  They were headed to the landfill when I rescued them.  The cards are the same size as playing cards, and are also great for making artist trading cards. 

I love recycling materials for the purpose of making art, or play. 

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Knitting as a Spiritual Practice

When I was in fourth grade my friend Angela taught me how to knit. The process was an easy one for me to grasp. For years I made head bands and scarves, because they were quick and easy to make. Gradually, I learned to read knitting patterns and my skill level increased. I found that I could sit for hours letting my hands work while my mind slowed down and relaxed.

I didn't know it at the time but what I was doing was a kind of meditation or form of mindfulness.  According to Wikipedia "mindfulness practice, inherited from the Buddhist tradition, is increasingly being employed in Western psychology to alleviate a variety of mental and physical conditions, including obsessive-compulsive disorder, anxiety, and in the prevention of relapse in depression and drug addiction." Actually, you can bring mindfulness to anything you do, and find yourself less stressed and more grounded in the process.

I have found knitting to be a wonderful way of practicing mindfulness. The repetitive process of knitting makes it ideal for this purpose. Knitting gives the hands, eyes and mind something to focus on, but does not impose rigid demands on one's attention. While one is knitting the mind can remain alert to what is going on around it while being actively engaged in the present moment. It's similar to what happens when a person prays with prayer beads.

Once you have decided on what to knit, begin the process by gathering the necessary materials. Having done this begin your spiritual practice by deciding on a scripture, word, mantra or idea that you want to focus on. Cast on and start knitting. As you are knitting quietly repeat your scripture or mantra. Slowly and with concentration focus on the words allowing your mind to fully absorb the idea and meaning.

Practice being an observer.  When negative thoughts or worries enter your mind simply observe them.  Imagine them floating by like clouds.  This technique can quiet the mind.  Be kind and loving to yourself.  Try to suspend all judgment. Recognize yourself as being one with the Divine, worthy of kindness and respect.

Engaging in this process you should begin to relax fully into the experience. Allow your heart to open to the presence of the Divine in you. Relax and let yourself experience Oneness with all of life. Speak freely and openly as if talking with a trusted friend. Allow for quiet moments of listening for ideas or inspirations. Be grateful for the time spent in quiet contemplation, and for the opportunity to create.

Know that just as any craft requires effort so too will your spiritual practice.  As you use your knitting time to connect with the Divine your spiritual practice will grow richer. And, since you are sitting, quietly knitting anyway you may as well make the most of it.

This is an article that I wrote for  To read the original article click on the link below.

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