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!

Friday Night Card-Making "Sparkly Eyes"

I had a Fabulous Weekend! Once again I am reminded of how blessed I am to have such wonderful friends and family!

Friday night was our monthly Scrap Happy Ones Together (SHOT) Scrapbooking Meetup at my place. We had about 18 ladies turn out. It was potluck and that was some good eatin', let me tell you! Not only are the ladies in SHOT amazing and talented scrapbookers, they are some of the dang finest cooks around! This month's theme was "St. Patrick's/Irish". We had everything from homemade lasagna (with spinach, of course!), pistachio fruit salad, to Wisconsin Sushi (pickles rolled in cream cheese and corned beef--surprisingly yummy!) and Corned Beef and Cabbage pizza. Yeah, I'd never heard of Irish Pizza either, but it was good.

Amazingly, I also managed to get some work done. Usually at the SHOT crops, as the organizer, I don't always get much done. Not only do I enjoy chatting and goofing off with the others, but by the time everyone gets there and settles into work, I'm too pooped to drag all my stuff out of my studio to do any work! This time, however, I wanted to re-purpose a few greeting cards I'd come across in my stash. I've been sorting through my stacks and stacks of stuff in preparation for our annual SHOT Scrapbooking and Craft Yard sale. I have so much good stuff I know I'll never use. I can't stand to part with it unless I know it will go to someone who really wants to use it! So, I had come across some old greeting cards that had little bears or something over-the-top cute like that on them. I'd also saved a few sheets of 5x7 paper from the Scrapbook a Day calendar I'd received as a Christmas gift. I knew I could add a few vintage images and vintage lace to make something simple but unique.

I was able to complete 3 sets of 6 Birthday Cards. I love to send a personal birthday greeting, but had gotten behind due to the fact that I was out of hand-made cards! It's been on my "to-do" list for a long time, now, but if you're anything like me, your "to-do" list seems to keep getting longer, no matter how many items you cross off! I was very happy with these cards. Though they are pretty simple, it's okay. Sometimes QUANTITY is what is needed. I can't always afford to spend 2-3 hours on just ONE card. But, it's still important to me to send a card that is SOMEWHAT crafty.

What's funny about the last two here is that once again I had Mr. Kirky's sing-songy-voice in my head, "There's no such thing as a mess-up!" I accidentally blemished the face of the birthday girl pictured here with a water droplet. The photo ink bled a little bit, but I was too busy/lazy to go print out another. So, I thought that I'd just make a little "mask" for her. My crop buddy suggested that I use her mini-butterfly punch for the mask shape. What a clever idea! I did so, used an exacto knife to cut out eyeholes, and then covered with german glass glitter. How lovely she turned out! I'm tempted to go back and do five more mini-masks for the remaining cards.

Speaking of card-making, a few weeks ago my family came into town for a cousin's wedding. The afternoon of the reception, after carefully wrapping the jumbo-size pancake griddle, I retreated to my studio for a few minutes to create a card to accompany. Because my Mom and my Grandma came in to "chat" with me while I worked (how do I concentrate?!), I was literally just "throwing" stuff together. I created this card in no more than 15 minutes, and was happily rewarded with how it turned out okay! Mom, obviously impressed with my ability to "whip something up" told me to make her a card, too! Apparently, she had completely forgotten to get a gift for the lovely couple. Now I would "save the day" by making a card she could stick some cash in. (Either she was truly impressed, or just too darn unwilling to get back in the car after the long drive here to go buy one!) See, that's the funny thing about doing something halfway decently well. People just love to get your "help"! :)

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

St. Patrick's Day

I always dress up Chance for each holiday! We don't have children to torture, so Chance gets the brunt of it, poor thing!

St. Patrick's Day was Tuesday 17, March this year. You know what that means. Everyone felt that was free license to party from Friday 13 through Tuesday. I'm sure there was plenty o' green beer flowing throughout the country. But, as you know, I don't drink, so I had to find other ways to celebrate the Irish!

Which got me thinking. What exactly is St. Patrick's Day all about anyway? All many of us know is that it's another "holiday" that has been commercialized into trivial trinket-buying and another opportunity to "eat, drink, and be merry." I decided to actually learn a little bit more about St. Patrick's day and its origins and meaning. After reading multiple articles on, here is a very brief synopsis:

St. Patrick was a boy, who at 16 was captured in his homeland of Wales and taken as a slave to Ireland, where he remained in captivity for 6 years. Later, after returning to his family, he had a self-proclaimed vision, which inspired his return to the people of Ireland as a Christian missionary. The remainder of his life appears to have been in evangelic service to the Irish, concluding with his death, which most believe to have been March 17, 460 A.D. Ergo, the date of St. Patrick's day we now celebrate. "Legend also credits Patrick with teaching the Irish about the concept of the Trinity by showing people the shamrock, a 3-leaved clover, using it to highlight the Christian belief of 'three divine persons in the one God'..." Modern day celebrations include wearing green which most likely "...gained its prominence through the phrase 'the wearing of the green' meaning to wear a shamrock on one's clothing." Many US cities, as well as those throughout the world, participate in multi-day celebrations and parades. Increasingly more employ green dyes or other measures to demonstrate their respect for St. Patrick and his example of Christianity and missionary work. Chicago, Illinois is famous for dyeing their river green and even the White House's fountain water was dyed green this year to commemorate the occassion.

Still, the question remains unanswered, "Why do we pinch someone if not wearing green on St. Patrick's Day?" Though no one has an official answer, it is generally believed that it's to remind the offender (not wearing green) to honor the Emerald Isle (moniker for Ireland). (Pictures and info courtesy of

There you go. Now I understand what St. Patrick's Day is about and I can really get behind a holiday that celebrates Christian service!

This year I was lucky enough to hang with friends at Lochran's Pub in downtown Frisco for a large part of the afternoon on Saturday the 14th. The chips (fried potatoes) were great and the entertainment festive! They had different bands come and play both traditional folk and more modern Irish rock music. Additionally, there was a group of Irish dancers who performed many different Irish dances (think Riverdance with Michael Flatley.) Two of the performers (a little boy and girl) couldn't have been over 6 years old, and were cute as buttons! Still, they did much better dancing than I could ever attempt to do! Most of all, though, I just enjoyed hanging with my true-Irish-blood friend, Kathy, and her awesome mom, Mary! What a riot those two are! Great fun!

Here's a picture I made Lloyd take wearing Chance's hat. I told him I wasn't going to put it on my blog. Ha Ha! Sucker! This will be a test to see if he actually reads my blog! The laugh's on you, buddy!

Sunday, March 22, 2009


I've been wanting to post about my first Estate Sale adventure for a couple of weeks now! But darn it all, between sleeping, creating, visiting with friends, and the occasional cleaning (and I use the term "cleaning" lightly), I just haven't had a chance!

Being so excited about this new-found passion for altered art, I decided that I needed to accumulate some vintage items to work with (Yeah, I need to "acquire" more stuff like a fat kid needs more cake!) And then it hit me: Estate Sales! Yippee!

I went to my trusty friend Google and within minutes had discovered 2 Estate Sales happening the next day in Dallas! While one promised to be "The Big One" and was my first stop, the second was WAY more intriguing.

The first house was just your normal everyday 2 story brick suburban home in Plano. I wondered "who had died"? Interestingly enough, I discovered that the lady who owned the home (and all it's overflowing contents within) had not passed away at all. According to the estate seller, she was just tired of this home and all her stuff. Decided she wanted to move and "start over again". She couldn't be bothered with selling all her stuff so had hired the Estate Sellers. The closets were full with brand new clothes with tags; there was even a bedroom upstairs where one whole wall was covered floor to ceiling with shoe boxes full of never worn or hardly worn pairs of shoes; the garage was packed with Christmas decor that had never been opened! There were 4 bedrooms, two living areas, 3 baths, a dining room, study, and garage full to the hilt with "stuff" that one single woman had accumulated. It was sensory overload! I had difficulty wrapping my head around the life this woman had lead. I can only imagine that she must have felt lonely and buying all these "things" helped stave off the emptiness.

Because most of the items at this home were not "vintage" or "antique", I only found a few pieces of "junk" jewelry that I could use for altered artwork.

Here are the pieces I found tucked away in an old drawer at the back.

I am most excited about this little "spoon ring" above! I've wanted one of these for a long time. I remember, as a little girl, always looking at the one my Grandma Carey wore and thinking how cool it was! Getting this whole little bag of goodies was great fun. Other than that, though, the only other thing I picked up was a gold-plated serving set from Sheffield (which needs major polish work!)

After this Estate Sale (which was my very first ever), I was kind of bummed. I had envisioned it to be different, somehow. The other sale I had mapped out was much further down in Dallas. Because of this first experience, I was talking myself out of venturing down to the other sale. But then, I thought, "No. I've made a plan to go to these two sales today, and that's what I'm going to do. Just because this one was a bust doesn't mean the other will be!" Boy, am I glad that I talked myself into going! I found many, many cherished treasures!

Gorgeous Hand-Embroidered Vintage Linens!

A Lovely Yellow Hand-Embroidered Vintage Pillowcase

Look! A Hand-Embroidered Napkin with my first initial!

Vintage Creme Tablecloth in Beautiful Condition

Vintage White Tablecloth in Pristine Condition

Sheer Vintage Scarves!

What a Find! This Vintage Geoffrey Beene COLLECTORS scarf!

More Vintage Linens, Pillowcases, and Doilies!

Love This Precious Little Children's Pillowcase

Look at the Little Angel Cherub Print! Soooo Sweet!

Speaking of things for little children...I found this tiny little infant dress at the back of the closet! It was handmade and was likely the baby dress of the deceased.

This pintucking in front is all hand-stitched! What patience and precision!

The Back.

More hand-gathering at the arms.

Notice even the tiniest detail--the pleating under the arm to allow full movement.

I also found not just one....but count 'em....FIVE adorable vintage hand-sewn aprons!
Red and White Gingham Check with Ric-a-rac edging!

Pocket Closeup

Cute "V" Apron with pockets!

Adorable pattern!

Loving this sheer white with blue flowers one!

Pocket in contrasting blue floral pattern.

Sheer makes it dainty!

There's always room for a pretty RED apron!

Welcome SPRING with this wonderful edging done around the flowers!

And this....this hostessing apron. Perfect for a dinner party!

When showing my Mom, can you believe what she said? *BLUSH* "Yes. I remember these! Can't you just see a young bride serving dinner to her new husband wearing this and nothing else?!" Oh my goodness, Mom! Please tell me that was just an IDEA...not an actual "memory" you just shared! :)

I found these tiny little ceramic birds. They were mixed in with a few other tiny little HOLLAND MOLD pieces (collectors items) so I snatched them up. For those of you who know me, I love miniature things, and these are just so adorable!

I also discovered two mini tea sets! Oh, how lovely! The first is a light robin's egg blue color with a white cameo on the tea pot and tiny white roses as the lid handles.

The second may very well be my FAVORITE find all day! It's an actual Blue Willow collectors tea set that is as tiny as can be! So dainty and devine!

I also found this little silver plated coaster set with filigree-style etching!

Some sweet vintage stationery still in the robin's egg blue box!

And here are the beautiful and authentic vintage pieces of jewelry I grabbed up before anyone else could! I won't even tell you the price I paid for them! I will treasure them!

And I hit the motherlode with one of the items I went out seeking: Vintage Lace! I got unbelievable yards and yards of these pretties!

As I continued to gather up these mulitple treasures, the ladies administering the estate sale started a "stack" for me at the front. One very helpful lady asked me, "Oh. You must be a dealer?!" It gave me pause. It was with a mix of both pride and new-found certainty that I responded, "Oh, no. I'm an artist!" This singular moment was a turning point in my life. It is the first time I have ever verbally referred to myself as an "artist". Though I've done artistic things my whole life, I never felt that I was actually worthy, if you will, of the title "artist". I'm coming to understand, however, that art is not something that can be categorized very simply into titles such as painter, sculptor, musician, etc. Artists are those who are attempting to live life through an everyday expression of creativity. I am doing that, and thereby qualify as an ARTIST.


The listing for this sale had advertised, "Couple lived in this home for over 40 years..." I figured if they'd lived there over 40 years, SURELY I'd find SOMETHING worthwhile. I couldn't have been more pleased! Walking into that home was like walking back 30 years. From the decor to the "old people" smell that permeated, every one of my senses was carried into a past era. I spent 3 hours looking in every nook and cranny of that home for some unseen treasure. I was rewarded again and again for my diligence. Where others idly rummaged and passed by with a cursory glance, I spent time to "feel" what was there. It was a life-changing experience for me.

Where I had been looking for items, I found feelings. As I pulled out pair after pair of white long and short-sleeved gloves, I envisioned a woman in the 60's attending the infamous Dallas parade where Kennedy was shot. Finding a small pill-box hat with netting and flowers only further confirmed my vision. As I stood in this woman's room, amongst all her jewelry, handkerchiefs, and even underclothes, I couldn't process all the emotions that were stirring within. It took me days to process what I was feeling! I can't even now adequately describe everything I felt. But I do know this: I felt like I was intruding. I felt somewhat ashamed. Here I was, (amongst many others), sifting through this woman's belongings, casually discarding whatever I didn't "want". How callous! This poor lady hadn't even been deceased more than a few days and already we were rifling through her slips and underthings laid out on a makeshift plywoodboard table. A woman of such decorum would be mortified to have such a thing happen!

It's different when you go to an antique shop. Everything has been taken from the owner's home and put into a nice, neutral spot. Going to an estate sale of the recently departed is not at all what I had expected. The very ESSENCE of the deceased lingers pervasively. Though her body is gone, her spirit is still very much attached to those items and the home she dwelt in for over 40 years.

The scents and tactile objects reminded me SO much of my granmother who passed away just a few years ago. These are REAL people...who lived a REAL life. These are their THINGS. But, at the same time, I feel the odd paradox there: they are just THINGS. The person is gone, and these things that she spent her whole life accumulating mean nothing. In fact, they mean so little to even her children, that they have opted to sell them to the general public. It feels simultaneously tragic and sobering, nonetheless.

I spend too much time collecting "things": nice furniture, pretty dishes, special clothing. In the end, my things will end up on a makeshift plywood table in the garage, too, won't they? The general public will rifle through my slips and underclothing and discard them as things of naught. And, rightfully so. For after all, they are just things. Things don't matter. It's the people we've loved and the memories we've created that matter.

That's why we, as artists, work so hard to preserve these memories. We speak for those who have passed. Our voices mingle with theirs crying out from the dust, speaking what their voices have left unsaid through our work. Our art is more than just a bunch of pretty little objects put together. Through it, we seek to give tangibility to the nuances that are so difficult to capture and convey. It's a legacy of those who have gone before to remind those in the present and those to come of the intimacy of life lived: feelings and emotions and relationships, which mean everything.