Monday, October 8, 2018

Adorable Folding ATC Dolls

This summer, I joined Stencil Girl's monthly Stencil Club, and have been receiving a monthly shipment of three exclusive designs (small, medium and large) from some of their top designers. They have a Facebook page for club members where we can post our ideas and share photos and tips.

Each month they have a "party call" for members. The September Party Call was to create and exchange ATCs to celebrate the release of StencilGirl's new line designed just for 2.5" x 3.5" ATCs. We could use any StencilGirl designs for our ATCs. That theme was right up my alley, so, I got to work making my favorite kind of ATC--folding ATC paper dolls.

The bodies were made from some stenciled watercolor paper scraps that were leftover from a mermaid paper doll project I did earlier in the summer.

Scraps leftover from the mermaid tails were used for the folding ATC dolls.

I cut the scraps to 2.5" x 3.5"  and added some extra stenciling with a VersaMark stamp pad and Emerald Creek embossing powder.

Next, I used a paper doll template from Retro Cafe Arts and cut scraps of stenciled paper to create the arms and legs.

The outlines and features for the faces are also from a Stencil Club stencil. I added color and detail with water-soluble colored pencil, Derwent Blocks, and Tombow brush tipped markers.

Hair, necks and face color were added to the stenciled face outlines, which were then trimmed to become the doll faces.

Finally, I assembled the dolls by poking a hole through the ATC base and the limbs, then attaching them with a mini brad. The brads allow them to swivel and fold up to fit the required ATC size of 2.5" x 3.5". When the pieces are rotated into position, the ATC dolls are about 4" x 9".

Here's some worktable progress shots of the dolls:
Heads were stenciled and details added with watercolor pencils. The butterfly (for wings) was created by stamping VersaMark through a Gwen Lafluer butterfly stencil onto black paper, then sprinkling on gold embossing powder and heating to melt the powder.
A gold paper Dresden crown was aged with paint and Radiant Rust embossing powder for this doll.
Doll parts were placed in position before attaching with mini brads.

 Here's the final dolls, open and closed:

Interested in learning how to make your own ATC dolls? Later this year I will be teaching a Folding ATC Doll class at The Ink Pad NYC! I'm super excited to share this fun project. Look for announcements from me and The Ink Pad NYC about the date and time.

Friday, September 7, 2018


Art journaling is good for the soul. Picasso famously said: "Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life." When I want to regroup, relax, and re-center, I grab an art journal and start working. Sometimes I start a new page, sometimes I just make a background. Sometimes I paint, sometimes I collage. Sometimes I'm neat, most times I'm messy.
Some of the July 2018 Stencil Club designs from Gwen Lafluer
This journal page started when I received my very first shipment of stencils from the Stencil Club, an offering from StencilGirl. I was fortunate that my very first Stencil Club experience was with stencils designed by Gwen!

I started working on two pages side by side in my journal. The one on the right developed into a beautiful golden Tuscan Summer page. The left side was covered with old book pages and vintage handwriting printouts, then a repeating mandala stencil was added in white.
Two unfinished pages side by side in my journal. On the left, vintage papers and on the right, turmeric teabags.

The white medallions add a subtle lacy feel over the vintage paper collage.
I knew I would eventually use the unfinished page, but it sat in my journal unfinished for a few weeks until inspiration struck. 
Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life. Pablo Picasso
Read more at:
The spark that got me working on the page again was "happy mail." I had just received two gifts: some beautiful paper hand printed by Gwen Lafluer using gold paint with a wood block, and some gorgeous papers and vintage images from fellow artist Darlene Campbell. I decided to try to use both items together.
The hand printed paper, vintage image and roll of washi tape with vintage images.
First, I carefully cut a strip of the black and gold paper. I placed it on the background with the vintage image to see how they looked. They seemed to work together: both had a feel of art nouveau and the black, gold and sepia tones were harmonious.
Step 1
Next, I edged the photo with sepia ink and decided on a tilted placement. I used a glue stick to adhere the papers to the background. Next, on the left bottom of the page, overlapping the photo, I added a bit of thick washi tape with vintage handwriting.
step 2
The page was shaping up, but it needed something horizontal, so I tried a strip of antique looking measuring tape from my washi stash.
step 3
The page still cried "more more more" to me so I added one of Gwen's art deco/art nouveau corner stencils with Emerald Creek gold embossing powder. I also used some sepia archival ink and white acrylic with  her ornamental petals stencil/mask design, which added more interest to the page, but still kept the vintage/sepia feel.

I felt it needed words so I used some small Dina Wakley stamps that said brave, strong, and worthy and placed them around the page. The words were strong, but they were small and got lost a bit.
I decided to use the same words, but make them larger.

step 4
To make the big words, I used one of Gwen's stencils called "not afraid to try" and adapted the letters to spell out the words I wanted. The e and g were a little tricky since they are not part of the stencil, but I fiddled with the o to create an e, and stenciled an a, then flipped the f to get the curve of a g.
For a finishing touch, I poked holes with my awl, then added three black mini brads.
detail of awl, holes and mini brads

When I look at the finished page, I feel calm and peaceful. The colors are soft and earthy, and the vintage image is serene. The words remind me of my inner strength, and that I am indeed brave, strong, and worthy.

Friday, August 17, 2018

Sari Silk Patchwork Belt

The sari silk scraps that are available on Gwen Lafluer's website are irresistible, with their delicious, vibrant colors and glittering embroidery and gemstones. Naturally I ordered them in practically every color. They made gorgeous additions to several of my art pieces. I had quite a selection of scraps left over and thought there would be something magical about combining them with some Turkmen jewelry parts. I tried to visualize just the right project--and while I loved both the vibrant colors of the silks and the unique variety of Turkmen component--I couldn't come up with just the right project. I visualized a blouse, a vest, a skirt and a totebag, but I didn't feel inspired to pull out my sewing supplies and start creating.
My stash of silk scraps, Turkmen jewelry parts and Darn Good Yarn.
One day I was remembering some textile items that were gifted to me and my mother back in the early 1970s. My cousin had been sent to India for a year as a representative from the bank she worked for. Not only did her adventure spark my interest in the designs and fabrics of India, she also became one of my first career-woman role models.

My uncle went to visit her, and brought back exotic gifts for us: perfume and a green silk scarf for my mother, and a yard of yellow linen embroidered fabric (that I made into a fabulous mini-dress) and a hot pink linen embroidered sash for me. The gifts made a huge impression on me--a young "country mouse" who had hardly traveled out of upstate New York.

Fondly remembering the sash from India, I decided to make a belt. First, I put out all the silks to make my color selection.
These were some of the final sari silk selections used for the belt.

Next, I cut them into 2" squares. I had decided that 2" was the perfect width so I would be able to wear the finished belt with my favorite jeans.
I measured the space of the belt loop on my favorite jeans so that the belt would fit through them  just right.

I found some fusible felt interfacing and cut it into long strips, 2" wide.
One side of the fusible interfacing had glue dots that would melt and stick to the silk squares.
A cutting mat, rotary cutter, scissors and a metal ruler were used for precise cutting.
Next, I selected the colors I wanted, and using a rotary cutter with a metal ruler on my cutting mat, carefully cut them into 2" squares.
I arranged the silk pieces in a color gradation and when I had an arrangement I liked, and carefully fused the silk and interfacing together with a hot, dry iron. I used a piece of parchment paper over the silk to prevent scorching, and also to keep the glue of the interfacing from gunking up my iron.
The silk squares were carefully arranged and ironed on to the long,  2" wide strip of interfacing.
A view on my ironing board of one side of the fused squares.
The next step was doing the same thing on the reverse side. Since the fusible interfacing was only sticky on one side (the other side was felt) I used some wonder under lightweight fusible webbing and ironed the squares in place on the flip side. So far, so good!
The fused side was flipped over, and thin fusible webbing used to adhere the rest of the silk pieces.
Unfinished belt, with both sides fused.
I needed to cover up the join marks between the squares, so I decided to connect the pieces with contrasting stitching. I set up my sewing machine with black thread and got to work. My machine has a lot of decorative stitches, so I varied the design. I had never tested some of the stitches so I had fun experimenting.
The stitch choices were all really pretty, but I settled on a few favorites that seemed to go with the silk and Indian theme, and alternated them.
Detail of stitching.
Unfinished belt, fused and stitched.
In a few places, the silk had slipped and the white interfacing showed. I solved the problem by cutting small strips of contrasting colors and stitching on either side. It was a happy accident--the thin patched sections turned out to be some of my favorite parts of the final belt.
Detail shot of small patched and embroidered strips of silk.
The belt was going to need a closure of some kind. I debated about whether to use a buckle or a loop, and opted for the loop since it would allow the belt to be worn both tight around the waist or lower on the hips. I didn't have a D-ring handy, so I pinned some circular binder rings (leftover from my Turmeric Flip Journal project) in place and tested it out.

I tried the unfinished belt on to see how it was looking. So far, so good.
Testing the unfinished belt to see how it fit.
I noticed that the edges were a bit uneven and the silk frayed easily, and debated what to do:
  • I could leave it raggedy and call the design "rustic"
  • I could trim it off, but then the stitching might come undone
  • I could bind it with fabric, but I didn't have enough commercial double-fold binding on hand that would cover both sides and the ends
  • I could make my own binding out of ambitious undertaking...and I was afraid it would overpower the patchwork design
  • I could use some kind of sealant to keep the frayed edges from unraveling
My decision was to try some black gesso along the edges. The black edge would match the black stitching, and the rubberiness of the gesso (when dry) would prevent fraying yet still be flexible.

First, I used a machine blanket stitch along all the edges. Next, I applied the gesso. To keep the line straight and neat, I used a thin, heavy brass bar to block off the center parts. I carefully painted the gesso on with a small round sponge brush, lifted away the bar, cleaned the bar, and continued the process until all edges on both sides were painted black.
The heavy brass bar was positioned so that only a small part of the edge could be painted.
After the bar was carefully removed, the neatly painted black edge was visible.
Black gesso was carefully and slowly applied to the edges on both sides.
Was I done? Almost. It looked pretty good, but the collection of Turkmen jewelry parts was still calling to me.

I "auditioned" the various pieces to see if I wanted to have one on every square, alternate squares, and whether I wanted all round, or additional heart and rectangular shapes.
This "audition" had assorted Turkmen pieces on each silk square.
This "audition" had a round Turkmen piece on every other square.
 After some rummaging around in my sewing supplies, I did manage to find a set of D-rings, and switched the circular rings for the Ds. Before hand sewing the Turkmen accents, I hand stitched the D-rings in place.

I also tried on the belt again so that I would know where to sew the Turkmen pieces. I needed to be sure that, on the reverse side, some of the Turkmen parts would show when the belt was closed and the inside of the belt came through the end of the D-ring. I took care to use very small pieces that might fall near the closure.

The finished belt is colorful, fun, unique, and eye-catching! It can look elegant and festive on a "little black dress" or casual and Boho-chic with a pair of jeans or peasant skirt. I am sure I will get a lot of wear out of it. Although my new belt is really is not at all like the belt my uncle brought back from India in the 1970s (it was wider, hot pink, and had little mirrors embroidered on), it is every bit as pretty and whimsical, and evokes happy memories of my teenage years.

Friday, August 3, 2018

Romantic Collage with Stencils

Artists, including me, tend to hoard beautiful and/or interesting things. Sometimes we save paper goods or fabrics, sometimes it is three dimensional objects like sticks, stones, pieces of metal, beach glass, vintage game pieces, or broken jewelry. Living and creating in a small space, my hoarded treasures are usually paper.  Sometimes the paper is brand new, but often times it is a snippet of paper leftover from a project, a beautiful card, mailing envelope or paper napkin.

When I need to unwind, my favorite creative outlet is collage. I pull out the bits and pieces of papers I have stuffed into shoeboxes and storage drawers and pull out about 10 or 20 scraps that speak to me at that moment. Next, I choose one or two that might be the focal point and set them aside. I choose about 10 favorites out of the remaining papers and put the rest to the side to use another time.

Without a lot of overthinking, I start tearing them into pieces and gluing them to a journal page. Depending on how heavy the paper is, I use either a glue stick or matte medium to adhere the papers.

When I am feeling cozy and soft and romantic, I tend to like earth tones and old text--especially old fashioned script and foreign words. Used teabags have a nice aged quality and add textural interest as well. Flowers, especially roses, add to a romantic feel, as does sheet music.

For the collage above, here's a few shots of how the page came together:
Torn pieces of French handwriting, vintage sheet music, the inside of an envelope, a printout of my own blockprint on teabags, and an old medical journal formed the first layer.
I knew I wanted to use a photo from a fashion magazine that I had been saving. The woman was wearing an old-fashioned lacy dress and I loved the style of her up-swept hairdo and the shape of the dress. I debated about whether to keep the background--the chandelier light was really interesting--but it was large and covered too much of the page so I opted to carefully cut the figure out and place it on my background. I tested the figure in several locations on the page.
The magazine photo of a woman in an old-fashioned dress was my choice for the focal point.
Testing the focal image on the left of the page.
Testing the focal image on the right side of the page.
It was hard to decide quite where to place the lady in white, but I decided to place her slightly to the right of center. I could have stopped here, but I pushed myself to go a little farther. I added a little stamp of a key from a set by Lynne Perrella by Paper Artsy that I had printed on black ink on deli paper. It seemed just right in the background, so I carefully trimmed it with a pair of tiny, sharp scissors and used a little matte medium to adhere it. The deli paper is very thin, and when used with matte medium, makes the deli paper nearly invisible so that the image appears to have been stamped directly on the page.
The page still cried out for more, so I softened and united the page by adding Gwen Lafluer's Ornamental Compass stencil in white. It magically pulled the elements together and made the figure blend effortlessly into the background. The white paint on the delicate stencil added softness and enhanced the romantic feel. I could have stopped here, but there was a big, open space on the left side and I decided it needed words, so I pushed ahead.

The question was: What kind of words? Should I hand-write some words? Use a stencil? Use a stamp? Find some large words in a book or magazine and glue them in? I'm not a particularly talented calligrapher, so I decided to try one of Gwen's new stencils from the Boho collection. Among the butterflies on the Boho Butterflies stencil are a couple of words; I chose "change" and carefully stenciled it on the page using black ink and a fingertip dauber tool (after securing it in place using some washi tape). To emphasize the word and add a little more interest, I also stenciled a small circle and arrow tip from the deco alphabet stencil. One word and the small design filled in the empty space, and added a nice graphic contrast to the soft, romantic page. The contrast between the soft, old fashioned figure makes me think about how far women have come. A Gibson Girl of the 1860s was considered a modern woman of her time, but the great change--women having the right to vote--would not come for another 60 years, and we would not have a female presidential candidate from a major political party until 2016.

Final "change" romantic collage journal page
A similar technique was used on another favorite journal page. I had been home sick for several days and was feeling better and getting pretty bored. I decided to set up a mini studio on my bed atop a tray table, so I pulled out a few boxes of papers and a gluestick and got to work. First, I tore up some of the favorite leftover bits and pieces and glued them down until the journal page was covered. Some of the papers were my own designs done in Photoshop, some were papers printed with images from The Graphics Fairy, and a few were commercial scrapbook paper. It looked pretty good and I was tempted to stop there. But, I pushed myself to take it further.
Step 1 of the kitten and rose collage.
Next, I added to the romantic feel with some corner stencils in black ink, using the deco flower medallion repeating corner stencil.

I loved it! What a difference the stenciling makes in uniting the collage papers and drawing the eye to the center of the page. also seemed to need just a little more.
Step 2 of the kitten and rose collage
I decided it needed something to tie the corners into the center. Thinking of wrought iron, I took a black sharpie and started drawing freehand curlicues all over the page. The curvy lines reminded me of vines, and seemed to go with the rose and other flowers. Song lyrics and words flowed into my head as I was drawing, so with a fine tipped black marker, I wrote them down, and the page was finished. The eye still goes to the center of the page, but the curlicues and words also make the viewer want to look all around the page, read the words, and linger a little longer.
Final kitten and rose journal collage page

To see a great selection of vintage graphics from The Graphics Fairy, click here.
For Lynne Perrella's Paper Artsy stamps, click here.
For Gwen's website, click here.
To see what Gwen and the Artist Tribe members have been creating, click here.