Wednesday, May 13, 2009

April Showers Bring May Flowers

We just had our spring ATC swap! From my title here, you can see I went with the simple, "April Showers Bring May Flowers" notion. I've always loved the whole Mayday tradition. I remember as a little girl in elementary school making May baskets out of construction paper, filling them with live flowers (most likely dandelions and wild morning glories) and secretly hanging them on our neighbor's door handle (Mrs. Campbell) to find later. I always felt so proud to have created something pretty that I was absolutely convinced would bring utter delight to the receipient!

Here are a few pictures of the ATC I created to share:

I found this image of the little girl making the little boy hold the umbrella over her in the rain just TOO ADORABLE to pass up! So like something I would do! There were actually quite a few layers that went into making the front side of this ATC, though one can't readily tell from looking at it here. Of specific note, however is the fact that this is MY handwriting on vellum behind the image. I also learned how to create rain in Photoshop and added the falling rain to the image here. I was quite pleased with myself, I must admit!

And the backside--early 20th Century children wrapping the Maypole:

I made little MayDay Baskets out of satin heart boxes I had snagged on clearance months ago for 25 cents (I just KNEW I could use them for something!). I distressed them with varying shades of ink to have that blush look. I sewed handles out of scrap paper and crepe paper. The handles were a little large for the tiny heart baskets, but I didn't have time to go back and re-do them! Oh well. Live and learn. I placed vintage roses inside the baskets to mimic fresh flowers one would normally place in a MayDay Basket.

As always, I was incredibly impressed with the ATCs I received from my swap partners, and fellow Cackling Poultry with Guns gals (CPGs). Just when I think I've done some pretty decent work, I see theirs and start asking myself why they continue to let me play with them?

Here's Donna's:

Donna never ceases to amaze me with her unique style. I am always excited to see what she will surprise us with! I LOVE LOVE LOVE her take on "April". What else for this southern MS girl than Mardi Gras?!? How perfect! I love this image!

Donna explained that the goldish looking fabric underneath the masked face is a piece of a vintage handkerchief she found while on vacation a few weeks ago in Florida. She was so sweet to bring us all back several beautiful hankies and tatted doilies. I just love it when people think of me while they're away on vacation! I don't know if it's because I'm narcissistic, I like gifts, or what. But, I will openly admit that I love little gifts! It doesn't really even matter what it is. I just love the idea that someone was thinking of me and wanted to please me with a small gesture. I guess it makes me feel valued. What can I's my Love Language.

Next up was Nina's ATC:

Nina always has such a way with placement and her work has a natural beauty.

I love how she wound the vintage seam binding around the edge of the card which, along with the tulle and crown, give it a 3-dimensional element of texture.

Nina's beautiful ATC was presented in her version of a MayDay Basket: a vintage tussie. How cute is that?! She made these wonderful little cones and adorned them with velvet ribbon, vintage sheet music, and filled with shredded pink "grass"!

And last, but of course certainly anything but least, was Alisa's presentation!

She, too, totally got into the spring theme! Her ATCs came presented to each of us in our own little "tub o' garden". She even fashioned her own ATC scrolling wire card holders to stick into the "earth".

The front of her ATC has this ornate black and white scrolling garden gate look, complete with a miniature (or as my brother, Connon, likes to say, "Shetland"--he thinks anything miniature should just be called "Shetland". He even thinks "little people"/midgets should be refered to as Shetland people) lock.

A peek inside...I could hardly wait to see what was behind that little hinged "door"!

Inside was nothing to disappoint! Each of our ATCs had a unique Fairy poem inside. Keeping with the purple flowers in my "tub o' garden", my Fairy and accompanying flowers were all purple. The Canterbury Bell Fairy poem reads:

Bells that ring from ancient towers
Canterbury Bells
Give their name to summer flowers
Canterbury Bells!
Do the flower-fairies playing
know what these bells are saying?
Fairy in your purple hat,
Little fairy, tell us that!

Isn't that wonderful? I love being the purple-hatted fairy girl (one step closer to the Red Hat Society!)

Alisa spent great time and effort in hand-stitching all these beads and flowers and vintage seam binding into this lovely floral creation. I'm always amazed at the detail-work she puts into her creations. I couldn't have been more thrilled to receive this piece!

I love artist trading card night. It's always so fun. Next month we are forgoing ATCs and instead doing a coin roll album collaboration. I saw the idea here and presented it to the group as something we might do. Luckily they all agreed. We'll have to see how it all comes out...but knowing these gals, it will be lovely!

Stubby Little Pencil

I've been a busy little bee! Seems like "stuff" just piles up so quickly. I can't imagine how people with full-time careers AND children manage to get so much done. I've always marvelled at the capacity some women seem to have to do EVERYTHING! A few years ago, I came to the sad, but true, conclusion that I simply am not one of those women. I am so limited by my own personal challenges and handicaps, that at times I can be overwhelmed to the point of paralyzation.

Though I don't always remember the lesson as well as I would like, I often reflect on a principle I learned several years ago by reading a book by a Japanese-American woman I greatly admire, Cheiko Okazaki. I've always loved her writings, as hers is the elegant, yet rare voice of both brutal honesty and enthusiastic optimism. In one of her addresses to the women in church, Cheiko talks about her years growing up as a Japanese woman in a primarily Caucasion society, where she often felt like she didn't quite fit. She explains that as she grew, and came to understand her purpose in life, she became a champion for differences!

She said, "...look around...Do you see women of different ages, races, or different backgrounds...Of different educational, marital, and professional experiences? Women with children? Women without children? Women of vigorous health and those who are limited by chronic illness or handicaps? Rejoice in the diversity of our sisterhood! It is the diversity of colors in a spectrum that makes a rainbow."

She further explained that no matter what our specific individual circumstances, we can each have a profound impact on the lives of those around us. She explains, "Do not feel that your gift is insignificant. Mother Teresa says, 'I’m a little pencil in the hands of God. He does the thinking. He does the writing. He does everything—and it’s really hard-—sometimes it’s a broken pencil. He has to sharpen it a little more. But be a little instrument in His hands so that He can use you anytime, anywhere. We have only to say Yes to Him'.”

When I am feeling a bit discouraged because I can't seem to accomplish all the things I set out to do (or rarely even half of them), I try to remember Cheiko's (and Mother Teresa's) wisdom. I envision myself as a pencil...albeit a fat, stubby, chewed on, worn-down eraserless pencil. I try to remind myself that I don't have to be perfect to do something. I can give a part of me. All I need do is say YES.

Whether or not one shares my Christian philosophy is irrelevant. While I personally believe that while in God's service, He will magnify us to be more capable than we would normally be, the principle is equally true for nonbelievers. Whether we are saying "YES" to God or simply "YES" to ourselves, we become stronger in the act of doing. Instead of holding back our gifts (creativity) because we fear they may not be good enough, or well-received, or whatever the case may be; instead, we must move forward with courage. We have to trust that our best efforts WILL matter. We will believe that our unique gifts DO make a difference in our own lives and in the lives of others. We commit ourselves to sharing our gifts, talents, or simple acts of service. We have faith (or even the tiniest bit of hope) that in so doing, we will be filled with personal purpose. The spectrum of our collective rainbow will shine brighter, bringing joy to those within its arching reach.