Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Taking a Little Blogcation...

Whew! This kitty kat needs a little Blogcation! After Hurricane Sandy kicked our butt, catching up with my workload while simultaneously trying to get house repairs done, search for a (good) full time job, and get ready for the Holidays is quite a set of tasks to accomplish!

Needless to say, I haven't had much time left over for art (or cleaning or food shopping for that matter!), and so there's not much to show or tell. Rather than bore you with the everyday goings-on of the non-creative part of my life, I'm just going to take a little time away from this blog... get some important things done... replenish my soul... reconnect with family... and take some time to reflect. And what better time to reflect than the end of a very long year!

I'll be back in a short while, and until then... stay creative, have fun and take some time for yourselves as well!

Michelle xoxo

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

If You Make That Face... You'll Get Stuck That Way!

Yup, that's what mom used to tell me... if you keep making that face... you're going to get stuck that way! And she was right. Once I started making these old-fashioned-looking rag dolls back in May, I couldn't get them out of my head.

I had a few little souls sitting by my sewing machine for months, and I finally got a chance to start the process of bringing them to life.

Picking out the buttons for eyes and noses is one of my favorite... and quite difficult tasks (believe it or not!).

There are so many combinations I could choose that eventually I just have to stop myself and say... these will work!

Sometimes I find some really cool buttons (like this flower one here) and use them to add some whimsy to my doll. I also like to use more "floppy" buttons for the nose, as they make the funny face funner!

And sometimes I don't use any buttons at all. This little Japanese Shogun girl just "happened" when a few scraps of fabric were piled together. I love it when stuff like that happens!

I have lots more work to do on these modern vintage rag dolls, but I can't wait to get started. I leave them laying on my dining room table so they can remind me not to wait so long this time!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Cyber Monday Sale!

After an incredible discount-focused weekend at these big box stores, I have to ask myself, "How can a small art business compete with such low prices on mass-produced goods?" This is how — I don't. I have to look at it like this... they can't compete with me! I'm unique, friendly, real, approachable, honest, flexible... and everything in my shop was made by me... with Love!

So I invite you to shop this Cyber Monday, but also to shop hand made. Shop my shop. Hey, I'm not afraid of shameless self promotion! And, just because I like you... I'm offering 25% everything in my Yesterday's Trash Etsy Shop — now through Friday, December 2nd at 5pm EST. Just enter the code CYBERMONDAY when you check out. You'll find lots of unique items made from vintage, found and everyday items including...

Rag Dolls! Like these fun and whimsical 3-tiered cakes!

Uncommon Jewelry! Made from vintage items, interesting finds, and antique pieces and parts... like this Carousel Necklace using an upcycled pin, vintage bracelets and 1960's Asbury Park boardwalk tickets!

Tons of Carnival & Circus Fun stuff! Including arcade-inspired Knock-Down Dolls and Assemblages.

Mixed Media Art! Including shadowbox-framed collages and some really weird and interesting stuff too!

Prints! The newest addition to my shop... prints of my original art. Lots of fun and whimsical pieces to choose from. 

And then there's the token holiday stuff like Kitschy Ornaments for your wacky relatives and some Holiday Home Décor items too.

So skip the malls, don't fuss over parking, avoid the crowds... and be a Cyber Shopper. Shop loud. Shop proud. Shop in your underwear if you like, because I can't see you! And... Thanks!

Visit my Etsy Shop!


Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Going With The Flow...

Recently, I took Flora Bowley's online class... Bloom True. The basis of the course was to take "a groundbreaking and transformational approach to painting (and living) that celebrates intuition, connects body, mind and spirit and allows unique and expressive paintings to emerge naturally and authentically." Much easier said than done!

The first thing we had to do was... let go! Creating layers and layers and layers of color. Alternating warms and cools... not worrying about the end result... just paint strokes and mark-making. Whatever felt good in the moment. It was tough... but I went with it.

Then it was more layers. Layers upon layers. Alternating with the warms and cools again. Still trying to keep the end result out of my brain. Still hard! But I went with it.

Then it was time to add contrast to my canvasses using blacks and whites. Ooooh, I'm liking that.

But now... is it too much? Darn it! So I went back to making layers and layers and layers and layers. And eventually it was time to find some imagery and do some masking. Still with no preconceived images in mind.... these are what my 2 canvasses turned into...

The funniest thing is that I can't even tell you what canvas came from what original because there were so many different layers that I mindlessly created without really paying attention! And the coolest thing was that I learned to let go a little bit more. Just a little!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Sandy Kicked Our Butt!

I've been absent for quite awhile because Hurricane Sandy swooped in and devastated parts of New Jersey! But, wow! We made it. We’re safe. We’re so, so, so, very lucky! Hurricane Sandy hit the New Jersey shore on Monday, October 29th and she was relentless. I’m sure many of you saw the destruction she caused on TV. It’s really heartbreaking. 

this gazebo is from the OTHER side of the lake!!
I live 3 blocks from the shore and 2 blocks from a lake and the Atlantic Ocean actually came up to our front steps!

I had some damage to the third floor studio. . . an entire piece of wall caved in during the height of the storm! 

It was me bracing myself against it at the height of the storm with 60mph winds, while I tried to drag a dresser over to keep it from completely caving in! Then we found a neighbor to help us batten down the hatches and as he was putting the last screw in.... Poof! The electricity went out. And stayed out for 11 days. Yes, 11 days. It was cold. I was cranky. It was a whole new world. An Amish life. It was like indoor camping. Not only that but our cellphone towers were knocked out. So there was no way to communicate with friends and loved ones for quite a few days. 

We're back up and running now and I'm trying to catch up on 2 weeks worth of life, work and sleep! I could tell you all the stories I heard, but I'm sure you all saw more than me on the television (that we were without for nearly 2 weeks!). So I'll just let the pictures tell most of the story of our little square mile that is Ocean Grove... which was lucky!

Neighbor's gigantic that did not hit our house!!

Lots of fish on the streets and sidewalks.

End of pier and fishing house gone!

This is a few blocks in from the beach.

And so is this!

Bulldozers piled all the sand from the roads back up before the Nor'Easter hit last week!

The boardwalk actually has so many peaks and valleys now... that it looks like a roller coaster. But the funny thing about the shore and the people that live here is that they were walking on it like nothing ever happened. We're just like that. We live at the shore. These things happen. We stay strong and we rebuild. We work together and help each other. Neighbors helping neighbors. And that's the beauty that comes out of something like this. Amen!

Monday, October 29, 2012

Oh, Sandy!

In case you hadn't heard... there's like this little storm brewing off the eastern United States. Her name is Hurricane Sandy and she's heading right for New Jersey and is expected to land sometime later this evening! Although we've been feeling the effects since early Saturday.

I happen to live in central New Jersey... 3 blocks from the Atlantic Ocean and 2 blocks from a local lake. And so this morning, my mom and I took a ride down to the beach to check out the morning high tide situation. I was pleased to see that the waves weren't even as high as they were on Sunday around 4:00pm.

...and that the ocean's edge had not even reached the boardwalk yet. This is good. But the relentless waves and wind were still making their presence known to our tiny little fishing pier.

My family and I have chosen to stay. If there are any water surges, they aren't like tidal waves that overtake the streets... it's more like a creeping water level you can see or react to in plenty of time. If we lose power, I'd rather be in my dark house than a dark hotel room. My 2 kitties agree!

I'll be posting more as the storm progresses. You can follow me on Twitter or check out what's happening on my Facebook page. For everyone in the path of this storm... stay safe and stay smart!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Hunting & Gathering...Sideshow Style!

Lately, a lot of my time has been spent scouring the help wanted ads in the newspaper, as well as the many, many, many online sources that are available these days (did I say many?). And boy... has finding a job changed a LOT since I was searching in 2004! The process is so anonymous... very impersonal... and kind of confounding. You click a button. Press send. Apply to a blind e-mail. You don't send anything through the mail. And you don't hear back from anyone. It's like a black hole. That's why I'm trying my best to get myself out there. Go to job fairs. Talk to anyone who will listen! And get some real face time and make some real connections.

Well, a funny thing happened while I was vending at the Ocean Grove Harvest Festival recently. A gentleman came into my booth and asked me who made these Crustacea Banners. I told him that I painted the original 3 foot by 4 foot piece and made mini banner prints of it. He shared with me that he used to paint sideshow banners for a living!! While he told me a little more about his foray into the circus sideshow job, I attempted to pick my jaw up off the ground and stop drooling. He commented on my style and said that it was "right on" with the original style of banners (can I pass out now?)! I laughed and confessed that my painting skills were limited, but since the old style was a little primitive, I felt like I could take it on... even though my background is in graphic design.

"Graphic design?" he asked. I explained that before I did the art thing full time I was a graphic designer, and that I'm actually looking for a full time job. Well, it turns out that he is the Design Director for the Asbury Park Press — our local newspaper! And they were looking for designers!! And I had actually handed in my resume to the Press at a recent job fair!!! And now I have a direct contact. How cool is that? So we exchanged e-mails and he asked for some samples. Of course I had to do something to stand out, paired with a little reminder of how we met. So I made a little sack using some muslin and a banner remnant, distressed it, filled it with graphic design samples, and hand delivered it to the Asbury Park Press. Now that's the way I like to apply for a job!

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Prints Now Available...

Well, I finally photographed a bunch of my original whimsically weird art and had prints made, which are now available in a special section of my Etsy Shop! Seeing them all together was quite exciting and I plan to be painting more and more as the Fall season turns to Winter. I hope you enjoy looking at them as much as I enjoyed painting them. Happy browsing!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Let's Go On Safari...

I'm so excited to introduce a logo I designed for Art & Soul Mixed-Media Retreats and their 2013 On Safari theme! When Glenny Moir asked me to create the logo for next year's theme... I was ecstatic. That little hamster wheel in my brain started going a mile a minute. What should I do? Maybe a Survivor themed logo... Outwit, Outcraft, Outlast? Maybe an animal print logo... like a zebra or a cheetah? But when it came down to the actual design, I ended up just gathering as many jungle and safari images that struck my fancy until the ultimate idea came to fruition.

Playing around with the mixed-media theme, I thought it would be fun to silhouette a bunch of animals that you'd see on a safari... using the many types of papers, fabrics and ephemera I love to use in my own collage work! So I searched through my own papers, books and even random pieces of fabric to find just the right look for each animal. After creating a pleasing composition for the animals it was time to design the logo for the theme.

I knew I wanted to use the Acadia Tree and once I had that in place, everything else just seemed to fall together. Even when I'm doing graphic design, my process seems to be very organic. I get inspired by the serendipity of the moment... and I just go with it. For example, using the tree as the '1' in 2013 just kind of popped into my brain... just like having the giraffe eating the '&' just kind of happened. So I ended up with the perfect combination of clever and whimsy, and I must say...

I'm wild about it!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Everything New is Old Again

Everything new is old again. One of my favorite backwards sayings. Believe it or not, I'm actually an old fashioned kind of girl. I like to take things slow... take my time... savor the moment. Not all this rush-rush-rush we have today. So I like to surround myself with things that remind me of a simpler time. Antiques, collectibles and, well... junk. The older-looking the better I like it. But I can't always find what I'm looking for. Either the items are out of my price range, smell a little funky, or just too rare to obtain.

And that's when the fun starts! I get to take something new and make it look old and dirty and dusty and unkempt and disheveled and like it's been kept in Grandma's attic (or perhaps basement) for decades! Such is the case with my most recent acquisition... a dress form.

Before and After
I searched high and low for an antique dress form to use as a model for my jewelry making. But, alas, there were none that met my criteria. So I gave in and ordered a new version, with the intention of transforming it into something vintage. And that, I did. Over the course of a few days, I dyed it with tea, aged it with espresso and spritzed it with a watery mix of Van Dyke Brown acrylic paint... letting it drip dry in the sun (although I think I scared the mailman once or twice when I left it in the alleyway!). I sanded it, stamped on it, and went back over it way too many times! I even took an old page from a math book and added it to the neck (I thought it looked like a measurement chart. And of course I had to distress that as well.

Sometimes it's just the simplest of details...

Look at those beautiful, decades-old looking discolorations...

 Every diva needs a pair of wings...

Sticking my neck out...
Why 42? Because I'm 42!
All-in-all this was one of my favorite projects to do. I love aging things just right because it's impossible! Huh? That's right, these techniques are so unpredictable that you never know how they'll turn out, and you are just going to have to course correct. Kind of like life...

Photos: All photos by Michelle Bernard, with the exception of: Original Dress Form picture courtesy of

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Drawing from Nature...

Over the weekend, I decided to get out of the house and go immerse myself in Nature for a bit. So I took a little trip to a local park and brought my sketchbook so I could practice drawing... from Nature. Other than a single class in college (with a not-so-great teacher), I don't think I've ever sketched something that was right in front of me. And so it was time to be brave! I really enjoyed myself and was impressed with the results (pats self on back).

And I just loved being back in a natural setting on such a warm, sunny, Fall day... that I left a little something behind to express my gratitude.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

That's Affirmative...

In today's hurry-up-get-it-done-and-on-to-the-next-thing world, we often forget to pause and reflect on what is really important in our lives. I know that I am totally guilty of flitting from one task to the next, barely even taking a breath in-between. And my brain? Forgetaboutit! It's going a million miles a minute processing what I have to do, what order to get it done in, times the amout of days I don't have to get it done in... sheesh! Is it any wonder we're all stressed out?

So I took some of that oh-so-elusive time and made myself a few reminders. I wanted them to be a little more special than a note taped to my bathroom mirror, or an index card near the kitchen sink. So I found some corrugated cardboard boxes, cut them into rectangles and painted them with acrylics... each one having it's own personality for the affirmation it was boasting. I've placed them all around my house and they really do work. Go figure! Now that's affirmative.