A Tale of a Tail

Would you like another example of how art saved the day?  I will tell you a story.

First off, this is my hairy girl.  Her name is Adie, and she’s an old lady.  She’s a 10-year old lovable Boston terrier, who unfortunately is beginning to fall apart a bit.

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When we first got her, she was weensy.  She weighed two pounds and could fit in your hand.  She came to us with an ear infection and worms, and had to be medicated, but after some time, she was happy and healthy.

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Our other dog, a boxer named Scout, became her adopted big sister, and–despite being three times her size–was VERY gentle with her, and always let her think she was the boss.

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Adie loved me from the moment I first held her, and the love was completely mutual.  She always has to be near me… she follows me from room to room, and especially now that she’s older and prone to seizures (thankfully, meds keep them at bay), she’s constantly by my side and underfoot wherever I go.

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She’s a funny sleeper…

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…she sits like an old man…

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…and because she’s my little roomba, sniffing around the kitchen, she ALWAYS has something on her snooter.

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She’s an absolutely silly, sweet, and stinky girl (in every sense of the word–aside from having a Napoleon complex, she also has extraordinarily pungent gas).

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But recently, we were told that a little lump on her nubby tail was cancerous.  As a Boston terrier, she barely has a tail ANYway, but now we were told her entire nubby tail  needed to be completely removed as soon as possible.

And it’s ironic–my husband just retired from the Army, and suddenly everything breaks down:  our AC needed repair, my car tires needed replaced, the dog needs surgery, and one thing after another needed our immediate financial attention.  We have some money in savings, but it’s allotted in preparation to get us through his retirement, until the next step of his career.  There was no question in my mind that we’d pay for the surgery–both my dogs are family, and if they need it, they need it.  But I cringed at our finances taking this kind of hit.

And then my husband half-jokingly suggested I have an art sale.  I actually thought it was worth a shot.  I have tons of artwork that is just sitting in my house, buried in sketchbooks or folders, waiting to be loved, and if people liked it, maybe I could raise some money for her surgery!  I took several pieces out, took photographs of everything, and put it up in my shop.  I even decided there were a few of the collaborations from when Myla was age 4 that I was willing to part with (I VERY rarely part with those!).

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I made sure that there was nothing I would be sad over losing.  I made sure it was all artwork that I love, but I don’t have a deep emotional attachment to.  I chose things I thought people might like.  When I made my sale stack, there were a couple I decided “nope, I think I need to keep that one.” …It was all for a good cause, and all done with absolute love.  I put a post up, and crossed my fingers.

Within a few hours, I was amazed at how many sales we made!  The amazing comments that came in, all the wonderful well-wishes, all the kind words from people, it was all so overwhelming in the very best way.  Even those who couldn’t buy were happy to share on their own pages to spread the word–something I never expected.  We were all smiles over here, let me tell you.

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By the end of the evening, with everyone’s amazing support, we made more than enough to pay for Adie’s tail removal!  She’s got an appointment for May 1st, and I’ll be sure to update my pages on how she’s doing.  Hopefully it’ll be a smooth job, they’ll get all the cancer, and she’ll be better off for it.

So thank you, all of you who helped by buying or sharing!  Thank you for all your kind words and thoughts.  Art saved the day, and you all made it happen, and I am very grateful for it!

I’ll keep you all posted.  Fingers crossed!

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How Art Saved My Sanity (and I didn’t even realize it)

Open on the beginning of a long story.  The scene:  There is darkness.  Times are tough.  For two years, there is turmoil upon our small family.  Thankfully, no one is terribly ill or dying, but events have thrust themselves upon our happy little lives like a terrible monster.  Not something between us, but something UPON us…we are worried.  We are upset.  We feel miserable and unsure of what will happen, and what the state of our future will be.  We are in limbo for a long time like this….and there is NOTHING I can do about it.

Hopefully, the vague terms to protect my family’s privacy don’t distract from the telling of the tale.  Because really, the details are not important.  What is important is that for a very long time, my family was standing on a high cliff with very unstable cracks beneath it, like one of those cartoons where at any moment, the ground falls out from underneath them, leaving nothing but a poof of smoke behind.

I was helpless, and there was nothing I could do but maintain.  I kept the house functioning the best I could.  I tried to do fun things to get our minds off of the struggle.  I put my energy into doing fun things with our daughter, so that she wouldn’t feel the worry that consumed the adults.  I kept a brave face.  I duct-taped our household together the best I could, and kept on going.

My husband found my stoicism odd.  He worried that I was repressing my feelings.  I didn’t THINK I was…I felt like I was doing okay, handling things the best I could.

I drew a lot in my sketchbook.  Looking back, there were a lot of monsters, a lot of trying to make friends with monsters as they climbed all over you.  I didn’t realize it at the time…

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Then I found myself picking up a craft I hadn’t touched in ages:  the embroideries.  You know the ones?  I did a post on them a couple of weeks ago…

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They were fun because they were a challenge–what can I fit in the space of these tiny Dandelyne hoops?  I found myself bringing them EVERYWHERE.  Any free moment I had.  Dropping Myla off at school, waiting for her teacher?  Bring the ‘broideries.  Five minutes in the doctor’s office waiting room?  Bring the ‘broideries.  On hold on the phone?  Bring the ‘broideries.  The kid is brushing her teeth?  Bring the ‘broideries.

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I found myself thinking, “Wow, Mica.  You’re kind of sort of obsessed with these silly things…”  I was doing one after another, not stopping to think, just making happy little things that made me smile, all in the space of a few inches.  It was like my eyes couldn’t see past my hands.  It was like my hands were going and going and going and I couldn’t stop them, and all I could do is sit back and watch them go.  It was fun, but I also sensed something a little deeper behind it all.

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And then a word floated to the surface of my mind, and kept popping up at odd times:  Catharsis.

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Although there was nothing deeply introspective about Chewbacca or Yoda or a bumblebee, I realized that controlling these tiny little spaces gave me a huge sort of relief.  Like, actual PHYSICAL relief.  It was like I could breathe.  It was like life support that was helping my lungs keep moving.  Like, okay–maybe I can’t control what’s going on around me, but I can control this tiny space and make something lovely in it.  And it’s not overwhelming.  And I consumed that feeling of accomplishment like a junk food junkie, after each one was finished.

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It wasn’t so much WHAT I was doing (although that was an additional fun challenge, and still makes me smile), but the process.

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I was savoring that feeling of accomplishment over and over and over again.  Here were these silly little embroideries, but they were part of making me feel better.  I couldn’t DO anything about our situation, so I gave myself the surrogate feeling of accomplishment in these tiny ‘broideries.

AND THEN WE GOT GOOD NEWS.  Again, the details are not important.  It could be anything.  The important thing is, the news was good.  Our family was better.  Finally, after such a long struggle, we were through the other side, and the outcome was wonderful.  We were off on a new adventure, but the ground was reinforced and stable.  Things had turned out for the best, and we were going to be okay.

..And there was much rejoicing.

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We could breathe again, we could laugh, and things were going to finally–FINALLY–be okay.  I felt the obsessiveness sort of slide away, and while I’m still doing the embroideries for fun, I don’t feel that same furious obsession that I felt before.

Listen, it’s a strange thing.  And it seems silly.  But it’s funny how these things that you love have a way of taking over when you feel like you can’t deal.  They go on autopilot; they say “hang on, I’ll take care of this,” and they get you through it.  For me, it was art and these silly little embroideries, and I didn’t even realize it until it was over.  I wish I could tell it “thank you.”  The best I could do to show my gratitude was reward it with a couple of pairs of cute scissors…

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If I were another person, it might be books.  Or cooking.  Or painting, or dancing, or filmmaking, or animation or whatever.  What do you have that gets you through?  What do you do that lets you breathe, that gives you that feeling of relief?

Whatever it is, nurture it, and with luck, it’ll get you past the storm, through the dark forest, across the cliffs–safe and sound, with only a few bumps and bruises to show for it.

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DIY Pin Art Display

Enamel pins are kind of a big deal these days, aren’t they?   They’re so cute and cool.  And aaaaall the kids are collecting them.  Displaying them is a whole OTHER deal.

I’ve seen banners, hanging fabric, pennants, and other ways to show of a lovely collection.  A common theme is corkboard.  I took the quick simple way out a while back, and grabbed the adhesive corkboard squares you find in office supply stores….which lasted a few short months before they all came crashing down in shambles…pins1My friend Aletta came up with a suggestion:  what if we DREW a background for them?  The best part:  it was fun and easy to make, and I could do it with the daughter!

I got a couple of embroidery canvases (it’s made to stitch through, so the fabric is a little softer than regular painting canvas, but those would probably work too), and some Sharpie markers.pins2We started by taking a couple of pins that sort of went together, and drawing backgrounds behind them.pins3If I started this project having some fun, it was nothing compared to the fun the kid had.  Myla is age seven and tells stories as she draws, so this project was PERFECT for her imagination.  She’d grab a pin and start doodling, telling stories as she went–adding characters, sceneries, and battles between pins.pins5

pins4It didn’t take long before we had filled our three canvases up…pins6And we ended up with some fun, funky little canvas displays…Mine looking a bit like a Keith Haring comic book …pins12And Myla’s turning out pretty cool as well…pins11Later, we decided they needed a little color, and Myla gave me permission to add to them all.  I didn’t want to take too much away from the pins or the drawings, so very light washes of acrylic paint seemed to really bring everything together.pins14And voila–DIY pin displays!  Ready to hang right on the wall!  And if you feel like wearing a pin for a day, just take it off the canvas and put it back on when you’re done!pins15Here’s a better look at them, one by one:  Myla’s first one was a tree scene with most everyone hiding in the trees from Casper (who is famous, because there is a camera taking photos of him), and a random arm holding Audrey 2 over everyone…pins18Her next one features Immortan Joe and the “blood bag” Mad Max (see–he’s hanging from the ceiling?) fighting, and two starry-eyed monsters stealing eggos and threatening a very passive, jet-pack flying stormtrooper.  At the bottom, a lunch lady chases the running dishes, as the cats all jump on a trampoline, and beetles climb all over a building full of people.

Like ya do.pins16And mine has a skelecorn and magic floating arctic wolf protecting the land from an alien invasion, a strong-arm with tattoos,  a very worried arctic fox stressing over tree-climbers, and and Pee-Wee unwittingly driving into a city being attacked by Audrey 2, the Thing, and Godzilla.  Yikes!pins17And there you have it!  Easy to do…fun for you AND for a kid…looks pretty on the wall, and yet still super functional!pins19So go out and give it a try!  Or tell me about your DIY pin display ideas–what do you do to enjoy your pin collection?feature image

(Our pin collection featured here:  anxiety wolf by Namoi Romero , pinup Dale Cooper by Emma Munger, the Thing by Annie Frenzel,  chubby Stormtrooper, Spiderman, and Casper unmasked by Alex Solis), windup bird by Bleu Louise, Godzilla and box cat by Noosh Studios, sloth, hedgehog, and Nessie by BoyGirlParty, alien-head girl by Julie Filipenko, clean plate club by Mab Graves, Immortan Joe and Mad Max by Pinhead Company,  tiny bat, mama otter with baby, and ray gun by LuxCups Creative, bunny-bat and broken-hearted otter by Flat Bonnie, coleoptera beetles by Dianafloresblazquez,  Dark Crystal by Zen Monkey Studios, arctic wolf face by Monica Knighton, starry-eyed monsters by BeATrashCat, skelecorn and wicked black cat by Bbllowwn, and a few others that were either gifts or that I can’t seem to recall…)

My Monster Book of Monsters

Hey did I ever tell you about the time I turned my day planner (yes, I still use a really real paper book day planner) into the Monster book of Monsters?  I’ve been meaning to show it to you for a while…

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I was sorting through my day planner one day and decided, “you know what?  I probably really need to turn this into that.”  And I did.  And it didn’t take very long!  Its removable, and I can replace the day planner with a small sketchbook if I want.

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It’s incredibly wonky and terribly made, but it works, and it makes me smile.  I started by laying my book open flat on the fabric, cut a big rectangle to size, and sewed the little pockets to the ends, even adding a little side pocket for pens and post-its.   After the pockets were sewn on and flipped, I sewed the fringed tentacles straight to it (thankfully, the stitches are fairly well-hidden because of the fur).

And see that piece of white cardboard on the left hand inside, in the photo above?  I’ll explain that in a moment…

I sculpted lil teeth and gums from Sculpey, heated them up, and glued them straight on.  I didn’t do a bottom set because I wanted it to still be functional, and that just wouldn’t work because I’m right-handed and those teeth would totally get in my way.

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So that white piece of cardboard on the inside I mentioned earlier?  That’s sort of the wonky key holding the top part of the “head” together.  There are probably a dozen better ways to do this, but I just cut a curved section out of the top fur, added some stuffing, glued another piece of fabric that I attached some glass doll monster eyes to, and closed it all up on the underside with the cardboard.  It’s wonky, but it works.  The book slides on top of the wonky cardboard, and everything stays together (fingers crossed).

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I sewed a quick little “tongue” bookmark, which holds my place on the calendar section.

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And there you go!  My favorite projects are not only fun, but FUNCTIONAL…so having something that I can actually use AND that makes me smile is pretty much a happy project for me, all around.

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Technically, it should have the bottom teeth and a belt to close it, of course, but again–I needed it to be FUNCTIONAL, and anything that hinders the function isn’t gonna work.

Finally, I used gold paint on some pleather-like material, and cut it out around the letters, gluing it to the top.  And BOOM!  There’s my Monster book of Monsters day planner!

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It reminded me of the homemade paper bag book covers I used to make for my textbooks ages ago (because that’s what we did a million years ago).  But this was on a much fuzzier scale, of course… ❤

All The Small Things

Last week, I posted about my new tiny obsessions–how they started out as simple fun and have evolved into a frantic therapy of sorts…a calming way to deal with the chaos around me.And they’ve been extremely  therapeutic. I may not be able to control what’s going on, but I can do my best to control this tiny space…

(I’ve been protecting myself from custom orders–I’m just enjoying doing whatever suits my fancy, and it feels good. But as it’s the process more than the end result, I thought I’d gather whatever I have available and release them in a shop drop on April 2nd. So keep an eye out in my Etsy shop for that!)As I’ve had a wicked case o’ the ‘broideries lately, it’d be fairly unusual for the kid not to have noticed.  So she asked me the other day, “hey mom, can I try?”  

I had tried to teach her basic hand sewing before, but it didn’t hold her interest.  And yet now, she was asking to join in on her own, because of my interest.

I started by letting her sketch something small with pens (a tiny drawing of Finn and Jake and Fiona and Cake from Adventure Time), and then she added some stitching to embellish it.It held her attention…and it ended up lovely!  Sure, she made a few mistakes. Sure, I had to stop and help her a lot, despite being mentally tangled in my own work.  And sure, she sometimes stitched over instead of under, meaning I had to completely undo and rethread her needle.  But the look of pride when she’d finished?  So worth it.She started a second piece, of Fern and Finn from Adventure Time…I didn’t give her a plastic kid’s safety needle, she’s learning on the real one.  She’s using the same fabric I’d use, and the same hoops. Although I didn’t have very many of the nice tiny hoops to frame them in (as they were ordered  from Dandelyne online), and although I hoard them greedily for myself, I went ahead and sacrificed a couple for her to use.

Most often, I have to be the “authority figure.”  I’m MOM.  I have distractions, I have things to do, worries to worry.  In short, I’m busy.  The time I take to craft and make art is like fuel to me–I have to fill it up to be able to do the day to day things I need to do.  And a little crafting goes a long way.But giving her the respect I’d give any other artist is fundamental. Taking a few moments to really share with her the things I love to do makes her feel important. It makes her feel included.

And it makes her proud.A few days later, she made me a special mockingbird with my name on it.  She was focused and careful and took her time.  Maybe it’s not something she’d take further, but I think the fact that I didn’t just dismiss her helps build her confidence, and let’s her know she’s capable of doing a great many things.  

I remember being a kid, interested in something a grownup was doing, and being sort of dismissed and told to go play.  I remember getting the feeling that, “well that must be something I’m not capable of doing, I guess,” and even in adulthood I’d hesitate to try.  But I’d like Myla to be able to try things and decide that for herself.  A few days later, her Papa–while busy with his own projects–gave her some scraps of wood and a real hammer and nails, a little bit of instruction, and let her create.  That’s all it takes!She ended the day happily singing me a little song: ” I, I, I love that you love to do the things I love to doooo…”

So give them the good supplies! Let them try the real things!  Show them how, and see where they take it.  It only takes a little time and attention…

Sometimes I need a reminder myself:  Its the small things that mean a lot. ❤❤❤

Tiny Wands

Sometimes I go through phases, where I furiously draw….or sculpt…or sew.  But lately, it’s embroidery, and I’ve been pretty hardcore into embroidery lately (“hardcore embroidery” being a phrase that makes me giggle).

As with any new craft obsession, I jumped in with both feet, full-in, when I first started.  I got a couple of little books on stitches, and practiced those.  I watched stitch tutorials on YouTube.  And then I just sort of “winged” the rest.

Usually, it’s been these large pieces, based around my parallel obsession with the wizarding world and Harry Potter characters…

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But then I discovered tiny embroidery, and have been going at it full-force…

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I found these tiny little blank hoops from a site called Dandelyne, and that got the ball rolling.  Functional art?  I am TOTALLY okay with that.

And since I’d consider myself an intermediate embroiderer, I thought I’d share my wonky setup with you.

It all starts with this totally awesome little travel bag, which I found by chance at our local craft store.  I like it because I can quickly shove everything in there and take it with me wherever we go.

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It opens up to several little compartments, with places to hold my stitch guidebooks, needles, scissors, thread, and anything else I might need.

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WHOAH.  Wait, did you get a good look at that?  I’ll zoom in for you, in case you somehow overlooked it:

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Yep, since I taught myself, I am TERRIBLE at organizing my thread.  I tried those long plastic binder pieces above, and they end up tangled.  I tried putting them on the little keychain tabs, and they end up tangled.  And often, as I’m working with a particular color, I just end up shoving it in this little zippered pouch, tangled for all eternity.

Finally, I’ve tried this other method, which is a little binder:

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And I think it seems to work the best?  Maybe?  I haven’t found an easy way to separate the strands (the embroidery thread I buy comes in strands made up of 6 strings, and since I am sewing tiny things, I often only want to use one string, for detail.  So when I’m getting ready to start a new project, I painstakingly separate them (with a mild amount of swearing) and shove them into little pouches in this strand binder I found in the embroidery section of our local craft store.  That’s the best I can do.

(Do you know an easy way around this?  Should I be embroidering with special thread instead of embroidery floss?  This can’t be the best way of doing things, I’m sure…)

Anyway, as for tools, that little travel case is awesome, because I can carry all the goods:  a leather thimble for tough fabric, little beads (since I often like to add texture), a seam ripper, and a few little books on simple stitches (believe it or not, they come in handy quite often).

embroidery5I just discovered this little blue fabric marker that I can draw with, and when I want my lines gone, I just wet it, and it disappears!  So cool (unless you’re making small sketch corrections, as it’ll take forever to dry the fabric so you can draw over it again).  Another useful tool is next to it, in the photo above:  a little metal threader, for threading problems.  I have trouble threading metallic threads (they’re very wobbly and they fray), and that tool’s saved me from throwing my project across the room in anger more than once.

I show you this wonky setup to demonstrate that I don’t really know what I’m doing.  Meaning, I’m not some super experienced expert who’s been doing this for ages and has all the answers.  I’m learning, and there is always more to learn.  If you’re into something, you can learn a bit about it, and jump in, like I did.

The world’s at your fingertips–literally, on the device from which you’re reading this!  Look up some videos about the hobby you’re interested in–it doesn’t have to be embroidery, it could be ANYthing.  Check out some hashtags and see what other people are doing.  I’m pretty willing to bet you can do it too, or that it might inspire you to do something similar in your own way.

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When I asked Myla what she’d want on one, she immediately requested Fiona and Cake, from Adventure Time (our current favorite show).

And if you try it, and you’ve given it your best, and it’s just not working out, don’t consider it a loss; it might just not be your time!  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve tried needlefelting with disastrous results.  Doesn’t mean I’ll never try it again, it’s just not my thing right now, and that’s okay.  Maybe some day I’ll get it, maybe some day I won’t.  But I TRIED.

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I’ve actually wondered why this embroidery is such a thing for me right now.  I sometimes find myself FURIOUSLY “IN” to something.  Sometimes it doesn’t last long.  I do it til I just don’t feel like doing it anymore.  Right now, this is what I feel like doing.  I’ve tried drawing recently, and it doesn’t come out right, which happens sometimes, and is a sign that my brain doesn’t WANT to do that right now.  Right now, it wants to poke things with a tiny magic wand, and that’s okay.

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You’ve got to follow whatever you’re into–it helps you get through things.  For me, I think it comes from a tendency to want to control some very out-of-control situations we’ve been going through.  I might not be able to control what’s going on in our lives, but I can control this little tiny space, and that’s okay, too.

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I’ve been asked if I’d sell them, and I’ve decided I will, but I’m going to just sew what I like.  I wish I was the type of person who could do the same design again and again, or that thrived on custom orders, but I’m just not.  I can handle it a bit, and sometimes I really can do it.  But with these, it just feels good to do what I like, and let the chips fall where they may.

So that’s where I am at the moment…holding a tiny wand with my head down, furiously stabbing a little piece of fabric, unable to control the world, but trying my best to manage this tiny space.  Sure, it’s a little obsessive.  Sure, it’d be more productive if my obsession involved housekeeping or making lucrative stock picks or something useful.  

But it’s been making me feel better, and that’s definitely okay.  ❤

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Taking Time for a Doodle

Sometimes I just have to stop whatever I’m working on and doodle with the kid.  It doesn’t matter WHAT I doodle, she’ll turn it into something fun.  In this case, I started with a simple little head with a helmet–I wanted her to decided: is it underwater or in outer space?  Of course, I always have a few preconceived ideas floating around in my head, but I gently wave those away–because I want to see where she takes it.drawing-1

She very rarely stops to think too deeply about it.  She picks up a pen and starts drawing, like she already knows what she’s going to do.

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She decides quite confidently that it’s in outer space, and she starts telling a story as she draws (which I’ll tell to you at the end)…

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I like to listen and watch her as she tells these stories, because if I don’t pay attention, I’ll completely miss the magic of them, and looking back at it, it won’t make any sense at all.  So I listen.  I ask questions, and watch the story unfold.

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She wanted things painted certain colors, so I got out the watercolors.  Not the kid ones, the nice ones, so I can teach her how to use them the right way.  She wants it to look “old fashioned,” with only a few colors.

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She wants me to finish it by adding more details later, and color the rest “like it’s from a long time ago.”

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And this is how it looks so far…

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And here is the story that belongs to it:  These dragons are blowing a protective force field around the robot woman.  They each have special powers.  They are a team of good guys, and there are bad guys outside the bubble, but they can’t get in…and if they try, the powerful one that looks like a bird will vaporize it immediately.  There are some at the bottom, who have been attacked with arrows.  It would usually be sad, except that they are evil, so you are supposed to be glad, only because it means you are safe.  Each of the good dragons has a weakness, but it’s protected.  The robot woman herself is protecting a litter of alien cats in her chestplate, and it has feeding tubes to feed them.  The “boss cat” is a good guy, and has a powerful foot to attack bad guys, and he has joined in the fight.  It looks like they’re going to win the battle.

I still have to do my part, which sort of ties it all together. But I’m always happy with it at this stage, just because I could never in my entire imagination come up with a story like that.  It’s amazing what you learn when you really listen to a kid unleash her imagination…

So I’ll keep you posted on it!

Fantastic Beasties

A friend and I were having a discussion about why I’ve been so wizard-obsessed lately.  Yes, we recently went on our dream vacation to Harry Potter World in Orlando, Florida (we need a do-over, btw), and yes, I’ve been re-reading all of the books (on audio), and we’ve been flipping through the special edition illustrated book.  And yes, Myla and I both LOVED Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.  So perhaps all of those things happening at once is why I’ve been inspired artistically.  But in talking with my friend, I think it might also be a lovely distraction from some difficult times we’ve been going through lately.

We got these lovely wands from Ollivander’s when we were at Harry Potter World…

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(That’s mine on the left, which (according to Ollivander’s) represents “persistence and renewal…boundless energy…and a habit of burning the candle at both ends,”  and Myla’s on the right, which is for someone who “delights in helping others…and uses their powerful imagination and resourceful nature to make their dreams come true…”  which seemed to fit us both quite well.)

Recently, I drew a little wizard portrait of her, and she surrounded it with funny creatures and pranks from the Weasley twins…but she was most tickled that I included her skull wand…

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In any case, I’m still wizarding-obsessed, and that’s OKAY.  I mean, my birthday was the 5th and look what my sister’s gift card got me:

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It’s Newt Scamander’s suitcase wallet/purse, from Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find them!  I absolutely love it, and I just happened to have a tiny niffler keychain to go along with it, which makes me smile.

If you’re not familiar, the movie takes place in America, MANY years before Harry Potter.  Newt Scamander is a wizard interested in the study of magical creatures, and has a suitcase sanctuary (MUCH bigger on the inside), where he keeps all of his creatures in their own little habitats.

Myla is such a fan of magical creatures, she added them to this drawing I did of Newt:

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Would you believe that she even built her own suitcase full of magical beasts?

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(The “MR,” she says, stands for “muggle ready”–a setting on the suitcase (according to the movie) that will allow humans to see just a plain suitcase inside with no beasties…)

This girl is a wiz with paper, and makes the most wonderful things, most of which don’t translate well to photos, as they’re so perfectly 3-d, and often require some sort of action to make them work.  In this case, however, the suitcase is a little “tube” in which she stuffed all her magical beasts…

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There’s a niffler, a murtlap, thunderbird, occamy, and sweeping evil.  (If you’re not familiar, all you really need to know is that they’re unusual magical creatures…)

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Her creativity is impressive, and quite a fantastic thing to be able to witness.

While the normal world goes round, I’ll remain in the deep end, up to my nose in wizarding things, surrounded by lovely beasties.  It’s nice to have a place to step away to when the regular world gets you down….

So enjoy your happy place, and all the lovely things in it!

Noticing the Little Things

The world can be a frustrating place.  Sometimes, it’s all you can do to keep from yelling to no one at the top of your lungs…ARRRG.jpg

I’ll be honest, there are a LOT of things going on in the world right now that I am NOT okay with.  And I’m NOT going to advise others to just pretend they don’t exist, because there are a great many things that need action at the moment.  But it can all be overwhelming sometimes, and you need to find ways to protect your own mental stability.

It can be tempting to just curl up in a ball, huddling in the corner, crying…but you’ve got to fight for yourself.  Thank goodness for a fighting spirit–it’s what keeps me going lots of the time.

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My mom used to say, “if it helps to worry about something, if it helps give you a good idea for a solution, then worry.  If it doesn’t , then just let it go.”  Whether your struggles are literal or perceived, you can’t let things overwhelm you forever…

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You can take some moments to yourself to relax and strengthen up.  Feel bad a bit, allow yourself to cry and rest up….but then you’ve got to take a deep breath, huddle up, strap on your armor, and dive in…

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(Little animation created by Myla from the Goldie Blox app)

When things get like this, I try to focus on taking joy in little things.

Like new perspectives…like chilling on the ground, or on the floor with the kiddo…

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I read once that to keep yourself in the here and now, and to REALLY feel gratitude, start with your own senses, especially your breathing, because if you’re breathing (and I’m assuming we all are), you’re still alive…Don’t think about what’s GOING to happen, what COULD happen, what MIGHT happen.  Think about what is happening right NOW.  You’re breathing, for starters.  You’re alive.

There’s joy in watching someone do something they’re passionate about.  Any kind of art, any singing, any play, any museum…myla drawing.jpg

Trying new things helps.  I have found myself lost (which I realize is a funny oxymoron) in the world of embroidery lately, and I can’t stop at the moment.  It’s all I want to do, creatively speaking.  I’ve dabbled in it before, but now I’ve found new challenges, new things in it to explore, so I guess I’ll keep doing that for a while, until I don’t feel like doing it anymore.  And when I don’t feel like doing it anymore, it’ll be okay–I’ll do something else.

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I have been finding a great appreciation for things that make me smile, things that make me laugh.

Like doggo and pupper memes.

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And there are even snake ones!

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(For some reason, these CRACK me up, and no one else seems to get it.)

Doing projects with Myla usually helps.  When I am feeling down, I sometimes set up a project or a posterboard for us to draw on when she gets home from school.  No matter what’s going on, it nearly ALWAYS makes me feel better.   (Did you know she even included a cutout project in the book we made together?  You can get one too!)

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It’s a bit symbiotic, because I get to live in the mindset of a child again with her, and she gets to spend time doing something we both love.

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(Beautiful photo by the lovely Molly Thrasher)

Cuddling up is also a good option.  “Cuddling up” is simply grabbing a soft cozy blanket, getting your favorite stuffed animals (yes, even if you’re a grownup) and plopping yourself in front of a good movie on the couch.

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(I may be a bit biased, but our fuzzy blankets from S6 are my FAVORITE…)

And since I can’t JUST sit and watch a movie, I like to multitask by grabbing a sketchbook with the monkey while she cuddles up with me.

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It’s VERY important to keep fighting for your own sanity–if you’re still trying, then you’re still alive.  But it’s also okay to relax a bit, take care of yourself, and take some comfort in the little things.

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And don’t push it to the side!  Don’t disregard it as unimportant.  Don’t ignore that little voice that tells you NEED little things.  That voice is important.

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Nothing lasts forever.  This is true for good things AND bad things.  The bad things will pass…but the good ones will, too–so appreciate all the little things in your life that make you smile.  Appreciate the fact that you’re here RIGHT NOW and you’re breathing.

And you can even try to find some small appreciation for the unpleasant things, because they’re also there for a reason, even if it’s just to make you better appreciate the good.

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And, as I always say, if you’re looking around, and things seem so bleak that you CAN’T seem to find any good things, then BE the good thing.  Do something nice, say a friendly thing, hold a door, help a stranger.  Put yourself aside for a moment, and give someone else a hand.  It helps.

Make something, even if nobody sees it but you.  Because while you’re doing all this for your own self-preservation, you’re also putting some good out there in the world, and goodness knows we could all use a little more o’ that.  ❤

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(Lovely words by Shel Silverstein)

 

 

 

Dumblebroidery

Yes, that’s a word I just made up:  Dumblebroidery.

I swear I’m not strictly a Harry Potter blog, so I apologize if Potter’s not your thing….but I can’t say I haven’t been reignited in my love for all things wizarding by our trip to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter mid-December, as well as by the fact that I’m rereading all of the books from scratch by listening to them on Audible, so I can “read” while I craft.

Between the beetles I love to paint, the Stuff Myla Says, the Dream Creepers, and the other random doodles I do, I sometimes like to try my hand at embroidery.

I’ve done several hand- and machine-stitched portraits on paper, but “real” embroidery has often eluded me.  I have been known to lack a great deal of patience, and swear under my breath a lot when my threads get tangled.  But (as I frequently do), I still had a sudden urge to embroider a Dumbledore one day last week, and immediately set to work.

Thankfully, as I have dabbled in nearly every craft imaginable, I had some embroidery tools on hand from a forgotten project long ago.

First, I gathered some photos of Dumbledore from online.  Although I was working mainly from movie Dumbledore #2 (Michael Gambon), I also wanted to include a hint of Dumbledore # 1 (Richard Harris), as well as the descriptions of the professor from the books.

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I started with some plain muslin I had lying around, and did a very rough sketch with pen (I hear they make disappearing ink pens for such tasks, but I didn’t have one at the time, so I just did my thang), and started stitching with the threads I had.

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Some people have described it as “painting with thread,” which seems fairly accurate, as I went about shading it as I would a sketched portrait.

One of my favorite things is to embellish with beads and metal jumpers, so I had a lot of fun adding those details to his beard as soon as I possibly could.

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It soon became apparent that I didn’t have enough variations of colored thread to contour his face, so after a quick trip to the craft store, I was able to get a wider variety for shading and highlights.

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I wasn’t going for realism, but a more illustrated approach.  I wanted him to have lots of hands, one of them holding the Elder Wand, with some beads to accentuate the gnarled wood bumps in his wand.

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I’m no pro with embroidery by any means, but whenever I start working with a new medium, I like to research it a little.  People tell me this is called “crewel” thread?  Just the simple thread from any old embroidery store (are their fancier threads?  I’m sure there must be, and now I’m curious…), and each is made up of 6 threads, so I split them in half by hand (another process which causes some occasional swearing), and used 3 thread strands at a time.

A good tool to have on hand has been a laminated embroidery card with directions for a few basic fun stitches, which I found in the embroidery section of WalMart ages ago.  So aside from a few basic stitches, I tried to pay attention to the direction of the thread to accentuate whatever part I was working on (like trying to keep the lines in his collar going in one direction to avoid attracting attention from elsewhere).

People reminded me about his half-moon glasses, which are mentioned in the book SEVERAL times when describing him (although Albus #2 rarely seemed to wear them in the movie).  So I got a little metallic thread, and added his spectacles.

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The “magic” above was a simple chain stitch, with a few clear and metal beads sewn in.  Next was finishing his beard, and working on the second set of hands…

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And finally, the finished Dumbledore!  I’m still not sure I like the hands floating randomly like that (I may paint a background, or add some more “magic” lines around them).  I think it’d work really well in a drawing, but in an embroidery piece, it doesn’t translate as well…

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I wasn’t quite sure what to do with him next, though, and I got several great suggestions online, such as making a pillow, displaying him in an embroidery hoop, and turning him into a patch.  But then someone suggested an embellished frame, and another posted a link to this:

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…which I promptly picked up on Etsy for around $20 and it’s sized just perfectly for him.  Woohoo!  Another reader–a former framer–suggested pinning the piece to foam core before mounting it, and another suggested sculpting additions to the frame, BOTH of which I’m going to try, and you can be sure I’ll post it when I do!

For now, since Dumbledore’s done, I’ve started my next one:  Luna Lovegood, which I plan on placing by our entryway, along with the phrase, “Weirdos Welcome.”  I have a Snape in the works (in my mind), and even a Newt Scamander (from Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them) with his case.  Maybe I’ll get to them all before running out of steam.  For now, I’ll keep doing them for as long as they’re fun.  I can’t wait!

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