Monday, March 30, 2009

March ATC Swap

Nina Little, Cheryl Bass, Alisa Noble.
(Not Pictured--Donna Garcia, taking photo!)

Another great part of my weekend was Saturday! We had our monthly ATC swap. This month's theme was "March". As you may've guessed, some of us were struggling to come up with a concept that speaks "March". We didn't necessarily want to do St. Patrick's stuff, so... Then Alisa suggested maybe we could expand our theme to be "The Written Word." At first, me being the "religious zealot" of the group (hee hee) thought she meant we should do something with a Bible verse. She laughed and mockingly said, "Not THE Written Word, silly. Just the written word." Okay. Gee, Alisa, that clears it all up! Crystal.

I struggled for weeks in my head trying to figure out just what I should do. Finally I settled upon the idea of the importance of correspondence between friends (as you know I am big on!) I lament the loss of written correspondence. Receiving a letter or card in the mail (no matter how brief), is one of my most favoritest things ever! No one really does that anymore. We talk on the phone because long distance isn't expensive anymore and you can call anytime anywhere with cell phones. Thankfully, email is at least responsible for SOME form of written communication, but even that is lacking. The loss of properly formulated sentences and overall cohesion probably causes my 8th grade English teacher such grief! So, with my respect for the value of written correspondence, I made these ATCs:

The Front has a cutout image of two women reading letters in the garden. The image is imposed over a vintage french script letter, with vintage lace at the bottom and pink crepe paper on the side (Ann-Denise would be proud!):

The Back includes a fabulous quote by Walt Whitman, "The art of art, the glory of expression and the sunshine of the light of letters, is simplicity."

Additionally, I wrote teeny tiny actual letters to each of my three friends I swap with: Nina, Donna, and Alisa. They are tucked inside these little vellum envelopes that I made. It was really sweet when they took them out and read them.

Donna (the tough-exterior-nobody-messes-with-me-gun-totin'-warrior) even got teary-eyed. We bonded and had "a moment".

For presentation, I stuck with my "brown paper bag" concept, as implemented last time. I figure if you put things in a plain jane brown paper bag, they won't expect much. When they open it up, no matter how lacking my ATC may be, it will be better than they expected! I mean, who really expects something great to come out of a brown paper bag? It's always a nice surprise. Good logic, huh?

My real "presentation" were these little birds nest I made for my ATCs to rest in. I'd seen the idea in a recent magazine (though I can't for the life of me remember which! Sorry!) They're constructed from plain kraft paper run through the shredder. You staple the ends, then kind of twist them and then staple them into a cirlce shape. It's not as easy as it might initially seem, and it took me some practice to get them to resemble a nest. I added Tim Holtz distressed embossing powder to give some texture. I didn't realize that the distress embossing powder doesn't smooth out like other embossing powders when heated. It does melt, which allows it to stick to the paper surface, but leaves a real a fine sandpaper. It wasn't what I had planned on, but turned out to be better than my idea! I used Gesso and a small amount of robbin's egg blue acryllic paint to whitewash the tiny paper mache eggs. I love how the Gesso didn't take away from the natural speckledy look of the paper mache.

We met at Lavender House Tea Room in downtown McKinney. I had not been to this venue before and was very pleasantly surprised. Walking in, you are greated by great lighting (crystal chandeliers), chic tableware (black linens and toile tableskirts), and lovely "live" piano music. Okay, someone had to point out to me the fact that no one was actually playing the black baby grand (it was one of those modern-day player pianos), but that didn't stop me from thoroughly enjoying the "Phantom of the Opera" theme song and other goodies.

With red roses adorning the table tops, and small white tealights glowing in small but elegant crystal vases, I was ready for a fabulous "froo froo" lunch with my best girlfriends!

Though the tea room was crowded with a Bridal Shower, a Red Hats Society gathering, and a Birthday luncheon, our waitstaff was courteous and attentive. As we were waiting on one member of our party to arrive, we were offered a small appetizer of carrot/bran muffin top. They were both soft and tasty, and took the edge off our hunger! The salad course was well-received, as we each enjoyed our individually selected house-made dressings. The Parmesan Vinagrette I had selected was well-blended and perfectly complimented the freshness of my salad. The warm crescent wrapped chicken dish was delightful! The crust was just the right balance of flaky and tender and could easily be cut into with one's fork. The chicken mix inside included mushrooms, some sort of cream and cheese mixture, and fully cooked and cubed chicken breast. This is just my sort of dish and I don't mind admitting that I ate every crumb on my plate!

With lunch finished, we could hardly wait to begin "swapping"! Donna first presented her ATCs. Now, it should be noted that Donna has had a killer week at work. They are closing out their fiscal year, and she has worked nights and weekends, with only the occasional break for any type of social activity. We were fortunate she could even get away this weekend to gather with us. Incidentally, Donna had stayed up until 5am Friday night/Saturday am to complete her ATCs in time for the exchange. I couldn't have been more thrilled with how they came out. Donna, being a woman from the south (Louisiana--the Bayou state) had no trouble coming up with a concept for "March". It didn't even occur to any of the rest of us, but to Donna, March = Mardis Gras!

She created these amazing little pieces, complete with crackle medium, embossed masks with peacock feathers, and tiny little Mardis Gras beads! Thankfully, she didn't make any of us show us our TA-TAs to get our "beads"! She had a clever idea for her presentation. Another part of her heritage is the King's Cake, in which someone finds a tiny plastic "baby Jesus" in his piece of cake. This person, according to Wikipedia, "has various privileges and obligations (such as buying the cake for next year's celebration)." Donna purchased 3 cupcakes from Celebrity Cafe & Bakery, with Yellow, Green, or Purple frosting (Mardis Gras colors). She then hid a tiny plastic baby Jesus trinket in one of the boxes, and presented us each with a cupcake and our ATC. Our gorgeous Nina was the winner!

Then we took a break for dessert! All I can say is DELICIOUS! I had this amazingly creamy lemon cheesecake with berries dish; donna the chocolate cheesecake, and Alisa the lemon tart. They were all great!

After inhaling, er, I mean politely nibbling on very small bites of dessert, it was time for Nina's ATCs. See, the thing about Nina is this: You want to hate her because not only is she gorgeous, funny, AND nice, but she's also amazingly talented! Funny thing is that she undersells herself and her abilities. There's no way anyone could hate Nina because she's just so fabulous, though she doesn't see it the way we all do!

I'm always so impressed with the things she comes up with. I love the way she imprinted the fleur de lis in the pink paint, and then "dusted" a brown pigment across everything. (I'm quite certain that doesn't aptly explain what she's done here, but you'd have to ask her!) The effect she has created is one of old, but elegant, not at all unlike the French romantic style she prefers.

Inside her envelope, she has adhered her ATC with vintage creme seam binding.

Upon untying the ribbon, one discoveres this wonderful little gal! I love how the "ideas" are flowing from her mind!

Not fully having recovered from Nina's brilliance, we moved on to Alisa's gifts.

Alisa's ATC Package Front

Alisa's ATC Package Back

Now, as I've stated before, Alisa is kind-of our little ringleader in this group. It is she that inspired us all to start along this "altered art" path, and it is she who has continued to encourage our growth and lead us along to bigger and better things! So, as one might guess, in some ways (though not consciously) we probably have higher expectations for Alisa. Though clearly not fair, it's a good thing she ALWAYS DELIVERS! I couldn't have been more thrilled with Alisa's presentation. In the format of a miniature book, she did a front "cover", as well as a back.

Within, one finds a "fold-out" of Lewis Carroll's 1865 classic Alice in Wonderland's Tea Party!

I can't believe both the cleverness and patience necessary to create this mini-book! Alisa knows how I love all things mini! I love how she also used paper from one of DCWV's newer stacks, "Garden Party". This, coupled with lunch at a real tea room, and her lemon tart for dessert, couldn't be more congruent!

The ladies had their "tea" served in beautiful china cups, and we relaxed and chatted for a bit longer!

After a WONDERFUL time at lunch, we went to Smitten (an AMAZING store of vintage art and decor). Was having a wonderful time browsing (aka "dreaming") when a gal I had said hello to asked me where I got my magazine. I was carrying around the newly released issue of Sommerset Life. I pointed to a "tub" up by the register and walked her over there to show her. She picked up her copy, and next thing I knew, I overheard her telling her husband, "This is the one I'm in!" Me being the non-shy person I am said, "Oh! You're in this magazine?" She said, "Not this one, though I have been in others." Then she pointed to the back cover, which is advertising an upcoming Sommerset special issue, Marie Antoinette. I said, "Oh really?! Wow! You're going to be in Marie Antoinette?!" From there we introduced ourselves. Imagine my surprise at having encountered Ann-Denise Anderson of Whim And Fancy Designs! Not only is she an amazing craftress (she is widely known as the Crepe Paper Queen), but she is also going to be the instructor for a class that we four signed up for at Paper Cowgirl in June! I quickly called over Alisa, Nina, and Donna to let them know who had been "discovered" right there in Smitten! What a delight to have met a fellow Paper Cowgirl and mixed media artist! Since this chance encounter, Ann-Denise has graciously emailed us to let us know how much she enjoyed meeting her, as did we her!

It was a wonderful time shared with friends both old and new!


  1. You have the most fun, Cheryl. Wow.

    What an incredible blessing to have friends like these....

  2. Can you just imagine what those "red hat" ladies would have thought, if Donna HAD made us show our Ta-Tas, in order to receive our ATCs.

    I had a fabulous day with all of you, as always!

  3. Hey Cheryl!

    So glad to have found your blog..I am now a faithful follower! :)