Thursday, April 28, 2011

Thoughtful Thursdays: Good Times... Boardwalk & Carnival Fun!

As a child, I grew up in and around the New Jersey shore, which is strewn with miles and miles of boardwalks and home to several small town and county carnivals throughout the warmer months. It was just such an exciting day when I knew we were going to play arcade games, go on rides until we were sick in our bellies, and eat yummy, yummy food that is so bad for you! Those happy memories still inspire my work today!

The Fat Cats games—also known as Circus Punks or Knock-Down Dolls—were way too hard for a little girl. But that didn't stop me from trying! Although, when I realized that the dolls were on very strong hinges that barely budged and quickly righted themselves again... I knew it was a lost cause!

However, all was not lost! As my fondness for aged-looking printed textiles, whimsical circus colors and faux fur led me to make my own versions of these adorable arcade-style Knock Down Dolls!

And Skee-Ball! Another of my favorites! I could stand there for hours just rolling that wooden ball up the ramp and listening to the clickety-click of my tickets being delivered right at my very feet! I'll let you in on a little secret... Shhhhh... come a little closer.... if you "bank" the ball off the side of the dividers, it will lauch a little more gently into the target... so it doesn't bounce back down into the 10 point section!

Skee-Ball inspired the focal point of this funky and charm-ing necklace which is actually a piece of thick window glass from the Casino building on the boardwalk of Asbury Park, NJ! I adhered a vintage postcard featuring a Skee-Ball Arcade from Ocean Grove (the town next door!) behind the glass just for fun!

And let's not forget about all that crappy (I mean sinfully delicious) food that they serve at the local fairs, carnivals and the boardwalk! Sugary cotton candy, caramel apples, ice cream, funnel cakes, pizza, french fries, hot dogs... oh so yummy! My all-time favorite was always (and still is) the cotton candy. So light and fluffy and sugary... and pink! It had to be pink! By the time I was done my fingers looked like 5 little pink-haired troll dolls! Although I eat much less cotton candy now than as a child (my Dr. thanks me!), I have not been able to escape its pull in my artwork!

What are some of your favorite childhood memories or places to visit and do you still honor those traditions in your life in some way today?

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Answers To Your Questions... Revealed!

Last week you got to ask the questions, and today I'm going to answer them for you. Thanks so much to all who participated! Your questions were not only thoughtful but extremely thought-provoking! So, let's see what what makes this art chick tick...

Thredz wants to know... Do you dream of helping a family clean out grandma's attic? And they say, "this is junk, you can have whatever you want."?

Well thredz, I think you are inside my dreams because you've hit the nail on the head! I love going through other people's "junk" and when they let me have it for free, well... those are some of the happiest moments of my life! Not just because I love other people's discarded items, but because they trust me with these wonderful family "heirlooms". Even though they say it's junk, I think they still like the items... they just don't know what to do with them. But they believe that I do... and that means a lot to me.

Another reader wants to know... Where do you find the unique pieces you use for your artwork? Do you have a favorite spot?

I get the stuff I use in my art from several different places, including antique stores, yard sales, flea markets, rummage sales, and I even pick stuff up off the ground, take it out of the trash, and do a little dumpster diving! Because my price point tends to be between $1 and $5, my favorite place is a flea market that's about 15 minutes down the road, called Collingwood Auction. Their outdoor section has tables full of fabulous "junk" with a great variety and selection of merchandise. Several of the vendors even have $1 boxes! And it's open Friday Saturday and Sunday! How lucky am I?

Claudine Hellmuth said.... Hey! I love this piece in your Etsy shop. Can you explain more about your mold-making process? 

To make this clown embellishment, I used a plastic clown mold purchased at a local warehouse sale. I made the clown out of Paper Clay—which I love working with because it air dries in 24 hours and can be sanded, painted, even stained! First I guess how much clay it's going to take, then roll it into a nice tight ball. For this guy I actually make a little "offshoot" of clay for his nose, then press the clay into the mold—I mean really press it in there! I squish it into all the corners and crevices, and up onto the sides. The clay doesn't need to have a solid back, so as long as the entire piece is about 1/4" thick, you'll be fine. When I think it's done (I say think because you can't see what it looks like from the front when you're using a mold!), I'll trim the excess clay from the back with a flexible clay cutting tool. I leave it in the mold until it's totally dry. Then pop it out!
When these molds come out, sometimes they're not so pretty. There may be parts missing or cracks in the clay from not pressing it into the mold hard enough. But for the way I'm going to use it—an old timey vintage look—it works just fine. After I put the paint on and a light wash of brown acrylic to give it an aged look, the cracks and mistakes really add to the weather-worn look!

Teresa asks... What kind of music do you listen to? And how do you feel it relates to your art? Or does it?

Interesting! This one really made me think. I love all kinds of music from 50's Motown to 60's Woostock music... and then there's 70's rock and roll... 80's bubblegum music... 90's Seattle grunge and the "pop tart" hits of today! My taste in music really reflects my taste in art, as in... I can't choose just one! I like working on dolls, collage, assemblage, jewelry, fashion items, etc! In addition, I have many different styles of art, including... whimsical, folk, retro, vintage, a little demented, and more! See what I mean? And sometimes music—a particular song, actually—will influence a piece of art as well! When all is said in done, music is the soundtrack of my life... and as every moment changes and the plot thickens there's a perfect song for every scene!

mIzZ(hONeY)bEe would love to know... What gets your creative juices flowing and what do you do when you're creativity seems to be on hold?

Wow! I didn't realize how hard this question would be to answer until I actually had to think about it! Hmmmmm. I believe a large part of the inspiration for my art comes from actual objects... meaning the "junk" I hunt and collect! I'll usually look at something and either know exactly how I'll use it, or know that I love it so much I have to have it. If I know exactly how I'll use it, I may start on the intended project the next day. Or it may sit until I can no longer contain my enthusiasm and must work on it at all costs! If I don't know how I'll use the object, it kind of gets filed in the back of my brain until I find another object that can utilize the first object and then... voilà! When neither of those processes are in place, and I'm feeling totally uninspired... I'll sort through all my junk and organize it. Inevitably I will run across an object I already had that makes me think of something I'd like to work on!

Kim—who is always interested in an artists inspirations, influences, and processes—had the question... When starting a new piece of art, is it mostly/all created in your head before you physically make it?

My particular way of creating art is rather organic, unfolding as I go along. I usually know the first few steps and then take it from there. Like for my conjoined folk art twins... I knew I would make the body out of muslin, add movable arms, create the heads with paper clay and use died wool for the hair. Everything else evolved on it's own. Like, I wasn't sure if I would make clothes for them, or paint them on. I didn't even know that Tillie's brother would be named Willie or that they'd be holding balloons, or that the twins would end up in a shadowbox filled with Christmas tree lights!  It's funny, because I always refer to myself as a "recovering perfectionist" but the unpredictability of "how is this piece going to turn out... and where will it take me?" really appeals to me when it comes to art. I think it's practice for life.... because no matter how often we try to control the outcome of a situation, it's going to turn out how it turns out. So why not play along?

And, Steph wants to know... Are you making any fun new projects for summer?

As a matter of fact Steph, I have some new ideas swirling in my head! One of them involves a fun combination of cotton candy art and jewelry! Another project has to do with a vintage gumball machine and one of my favorite subjects... Tillie! And I might even make some more sideshow banners! But regardless of what I end up working on, I have come to the conclusion that I like to create several different types of art. So, rather than trying to stick to just one discipline (collage, dolls, jewelry, etc.) I am going to stick to a theme instead. That way I can satisfy the many facets of my creative urges! So in the very near future... carnival, circus and boardwalk-themed projects are what you'll be seeing more of. For now!

Thanks again to everyone who posed a question for me! This was tons of fun to do. And just so you know... I am here to answer your questions anytime! xoxox

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Happy Easter To All My Peeps...

Hi Everybody! Just wanted to pop in to say I hope you have a wonderful Easter and that it is filled with soft, gooey marshmallow. Only kidding! I hope it's filled with close family, wonderful friends and good times. Have a happy holiday!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Thoughtful Thursdays: You! Go Ahead... Ask!

I have to tell you that a huge inspiration in my artwork... one that keeps me going... is all of you! That's right... you! All of you lovely people that stop by my blog... and leave encouraging comments... and share your own thoughts on the topic of the day. So I'd just like to say...

Thank you!

And... I'm going to open up the forum to all of you. Yup, that's right. You! Ask me anything you like by posting a comment here... and I'll answer it in next Tuesday's blog post. Maybe you want to know the story behind a certain piece of art... or how I get my creative juices flowing... or what I do when I can't! Perhaps you want the answers to something totally un-art-related... like you just have to know what kind of car I drive... or what I eat for breakfast. No matter what it is... the questions are yours.

So, go ahead... ask!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Miles and Miles and Miles of Smiles...

Heyyyyy... what's going on in there? I wanna see! I wanna see! I wanna see! Well, my little Tillie Knock Down Doll friend... it's...

....time to make more Tillies! And Michelle has been hard at work, silk screening and hand painting each and every one of them. Then finding the perfect matching vintage textiles and old canvas bags to re-purpose for the backs of all these one-of-a-kind, arcade-style dolls.

Hand trimming lots and lots of faux fur pieces and pairing them up with each doll is a big part of the process too. Pinning and sewing come next and that's what's going on this week. Michelle said that's the hardest part and that mom is going to help with some of the pinning.... yay!

But I do know that Michelle loves every step of the process when it comes to making each Knock Down Doll as unique and authentic as possible. Just like the old boardwalk and carnival game versions. She gets lost in all the tiny little details. I can barely get her attention to stop for a moment and get a bite to eat sometimes! Can you imagine? Forgetting to eat because you're making art!

But something tells me she's been doing this for way too long. Not sure what it is. But something tells me...

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Thoughtful Thursdays: The Color Pink!

Ahhhh... the color pink. So pretty. So girly. So whimsical. So happy and flirty. It's my favorite color in the whole Universe, and it definitely inspires what I do in my artwork... in an almost amusing way!

You see... for awhile, practically everything I made was pink. I tried to get away from it, but I just kept going back to it. A little soft pastel pretty pink here...

 A little in-your-face, bright magenta there...

Or a spot of pink... even for hair!

I don't know what it is about pink. I guess it's like a favorite old blanket or that perfectly worn-in pair of shoes. On those days that you just want things to be a little more relaxed and go just right... you turn to your good old comfy stuff, and just sink right in. I know whenever I have trouble with a project, I add a little pink... and I know everything's going to be alright!

What's your favorite color and how does it inspire you?

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Always Room For Improvement...

My creativity the past couple weeks has been directed toward some other tasks... namely my website and Etsy shop. I did a grand sweep of changes, including updates to my home page... making it more visually pleasing and easier to navigate. I updated the bio a little bit to better reflect my current direction.

I updated lots of pages and even added new ones... like this Custom Jewelry page. This is so people know that I can create a special piece of jewelry using their own personal stuff!

I've also been adding some new items to my Etsy shop like a few more custom made Knock Down Dolls and my original framed Collages.

And... taking tons and tons of photos to bring a more cohesive look to the different categories of my shop. Not just for the new items I add, but for much of the existing items as well. Whew! But as always (for me at least), everything is a work in progress. But I'm happy with the improvements so far.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Thoughtful Thursdays: Furry, Four-Legged Friends!

If you've ever had a feline friend or a canine companion... you know what it's like to have unconditional love. And who doesn't want that? But for an artist, having a furry, four-legged friend can also be a source of creative inspiration! Here is my muse I like to call Juliet...

She loves to help me put the laundry away. Hmmmm... may have to wash those sweaters again!

We also enjoy hanging out on the upstairs deck, watching birds and bugs fly by. I have to keep an eye on her because she likes to sneak through the banister to the neighbor's porch. Bad kitty! But so cute. Okay... you're forgiven.

Kitties also make great artists assistants! Paper... they'll sit on it. Brushes... they'll bat them around. Jars of paint... oh, they make great toys because they ROLLLLLL!

They love to surprise you in so many special ways. Oh, my goodness! What have we here? A kitty IN the laundry basket.

And after a hard day's work... they are right there to let you know what a great job you've done. Don't they just look so adorable doing it!

Do you have any pets that inspire you? Do tell...

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Photos, Photos, Photos...

Recently I had been given some tips on how to increase my sales on Etsy... and one of those ways was to make my photos "Etsy front page worthy". Now, I think my photos are pretty darn good... but alas... they do not look like the photos that are put on the front page. And because my pieces are all very different, my main photos all tend to be a little different as well.

So, after a little bit (okay, alot) of research on Etsy photos of upcycled, vintage, mixed media jewelry... I had myself a little photo shoot. (P.S. I left out some of the more embarrassing ones!)

I really like the texture of this one, but for some of my pieces... they don't show up as well and the texture interferes with the jewelry.

Open books or having vintage handwritten letters are popular backgrounds on Etsy also. But, I think it might be hard to get every photo to look the same, with the book at the same angle each time. Especially when I don't shoot all my jewelry at once!

I really love how this one came out. But again, getting the angle of the books just right... and the angle of the photograph just right... could end up looking kind of messy when they're all together in my shop.

My mom had this really unique candle stand. Just the kind of texture and color I was looking for. So I did an entire photoshoot for almost all of my jewelry using this prop. Many of the photos turned out great... but others... eh... so-so. I'm finding it hard to maintain my own vision, but yet make the photos Etsy-worthy so I get the exposure. I guess I'll be testing out more photography options, but for now I hope my shop looks a little more cohesive?

Let me know if you have any ideas or suggestions!

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Hey... You've Got Trash!

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