Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Taking A Chance...

Nothing like an upcoming juried show to get in gear and create something that's been floating around my brain for awhile! This time, I wanted to make an Asbury Park themed painting that looked like the board walk Chance card from the Monopoly game.

And, of course, since it's Asbury... I had to give my favorite guy Tillie his props! It took me like 11 different drawings, but I finally got him looking happily dapper!

After adding him to my existing drawing, it's time to make a transfer... the old fashioned way, with pencil. Hurry, the light is fading!!

Transfer is  in place and now it's time to trace really hard. I don't know if you mixed media artists out there have this same problem... but I find it difficult to work on a canvas.... well... because there's a hole in the back! So I put a stack of magazines underneath the area I'm working on and it makes things much easier!

Now the tricky part... to paint this entire 16" x 20" canvas without rubbing off any of the pencil lines!!

Whew! Four or five hours later (that precision work gives me a neck ache), and I am totally ecstatic with the outcome! Let's hope he gets in the show.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Shop Spotlight: Red for Valentines Day...

Looking for a hand made gift this Valentine's Day? I thought I'd showcase some of my very own reddish creations, all available in my Etsy shop...

Step right up for this one-of-a-kind mixed media assemblage — a tribute to my favorite carnival game!

Check out this gorgeous ruby red necklace, upcycled from a couple of vintage brooches and a heart charm.

Looking for something a little more fun and whimsical? How about one of my custom Tillie Knock Down Dolls? Each one is numbered and signed by be for the ultimate in carnival collectibles. This little guy is number 69 (and no! I didn't pick that one on purpose!!).

Know someone who loves to sew for the holidays? This jingle thimble necklace has all sorts of re-purposed sewing notions!

Wish you were somewhere over the rainbow? This pair of "original" ruby slippers was made from a pair of vintage pumps and like a gazillion faux gemstones! A great gift for that Oz fan in your life.

And that's just the red stuff. I've got tons of collages, assemblages, jewelry, dolls, carnival themed stuff and more... in every color of the rainbow. So check out my Yesterday's Trash Art Shop and buy handmade this holiday!

~Michelle xoxo

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Thoughtful Thursdays: A Cup of Tea?

One of my favorite rides as a youngster was the teacup ride. I loved to grab that center wheel and spin it as fast as I could. Standing in line, I would even wipe my tiny hands on my clothes several times... so they'd be nice and dry for the perfect grip! My main goal was to spin out of control, as fast as I could... walking off all dizzy and disoriented. Hmmm... that sounds an awful lot like some parties in my college and young adult years. Could this ride be considered underage drinking? Okay... back to my point... that is if there was a point. Ummm... errr... uhhhh... oh yeah...

Spinning out of control!

How many of you out there feel that life is just passing by way too fast? I know I do. Sheesh... it was just "Happy New Year!" and now it's almost the end of January. And as much as I loved spinning out of control as a child, it doesn't really have the appeal it once did now that I am an adult. So let's just take a deep breath here (go ahead... 4 counts in.... 4 counts out) and relax for a moment.

Grab a cup of tea or your favorite beverage and just love every minute of the preparation. Don't just think of it as a means to an end.... enjoy the whole process. Gathering your supplies. Grabbing your favorite mug. Collecting all the ingredients, utensils, appliances and such. Watch that water boil. It won't take long, but it will feel like an eternity. Pour your beverage. Then sit down somewhere nice and comfy and sip....


Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Circus Sideshow Dolls Come to Life...

Step right up and meet our sideshow freaks from left to right... Tallulah Belle, our very happy, very friendly, very hairy, Bearded Lady. Then there's Cheri, our French Forest Fairy come to life from the pages of an actual fairy tale! Maggie our resident bird girl loves shiny objects... in fact, that's how she got her name... because she's like a Magpie! Our little Queen of the Sea is Jewel... although we tease her and call her Kitty, because her last boyfriend was a Catfish!

See how they all came to life — in this short video I made of my daily progress — from plain paper clay dolls to the painted, dressed up and embellished sideshow characters that they are today.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Thoughtful Thursdays: Why "Yesterday's Trash"?

For today's installment of Thoughtful Thursdays, I thought I'd tell you the story of how I came to have a handmade art business called... Yesterday's Trash. Well... you see... I always loved picking up things off the ground, finding random discardia, perusing vintage treasures at the flea markets and spending lots of time in antique stores. I always went for the oddball stuff or broken down things that no one else wanted. Those items called out to me way more than the collectible stuff. I often wondered... why do those things appeal to me?

And then one day I was reading my own artist's statement, only this was more than a year after I penned it. When I originally wrote the statement... obviously I wrote it about my art. How I like to take these objects people thought weren't important, polish them up, bring them back out into the sunlight, and say... See! Look how special this really is! However... when I read it this time, I realized that it was clearly about me! About who I am as a person. And then, the random name I had chosen oh, so long ago made perfect sense.

I realized that I felt like Yesterday's Trash! Lots of experiences in my childhood days made me feel like a piece of garbage. Like I was useless and not worth anything. And at that moment, I became acutely aware that — over my lifetime — I had picked myself out of the trash, polished myself up, brought myself back out into the sunlight and said... See! Look how special she really is! 

And that's my story of Yesterday's Trash. The End.
...just kidding... this is only The Beginning!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

On My Worktable...

Well, no matter what I do, my worktable keeps ending up like this! I've tried to clean it up. In fact, right after this, I put every single tube and jar of paint — as well as my palettes, paper towels and brushes — away in their appropriate cabinets and drawers!! And in 10 minutes... it looks like this all over again!

I guess all that means is I'm really excited about these new circus sideshow-inspired art dolls I've been working on lately. Too excited to clean up after every color change. I mean... the eyes alone were a combination of 14 different colors... Sheesh!

But they're all coming along nicely, now that most of the painting is done. Dressing them up is the fun part....

And well... that's a whole other mess!

Monday, January 16, 2012

Join Me For Some Folk Art Fun...

Sunday, March 25th
Creativity By-the-Sea, Ocean Grove, NJ

Take a stroll with me down to the boardwalk... or the circus.... or the carnival.... as you learn how to age and everyday items like wood, plastic, clay, fabric, paper and more. Bring back memories of those fun arcade games as you create a whimsical, folk art style, dimensional shadowbox from the ground up using vintage and everyday items. Starting with an unfinished wood box that you'll paint and decorate — you'll learn easy techniques for making new things look old. These are methods that you'll be able to use time and time again on your own future projects.

For information and registration, check out the Creativity By-the-Sea website and sign up to come play with me!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Thoughtful Thursdays: Organizing!

I'm kind of a weird artist in that I loooove to be organized. It brings me great pleasure to know where everything is, whenever I need it, or perhaps any time inspiration strikes! My methods may seem like madness to some, but on the contrary... they keep me from going mad!

Some things I categorize by type... like this here is my "plastic things" drawer. These are the kinds of things I like to root around in. Ahhhh.... just forming my hand into the shape of an upturned rake and sifting through it all. Yeah, baby! I also have drawers for metal things, paper things, craft things and nature's things. Oh... and doll parts, game pieces, wooden stuff... you get the idea.

Then there's the crossover stuff... the "sorted for sifting" stuff. Like these buttons. I'll typically need a button based on its color, so I've divided them up into ROY (red, orange, yellow) and GBV (green, blue, violet), as well as entire jars of white, black, silver and gold. Whenever I'm ready, I'll dump them out into a bead tray and do that sifting thing I love so much!

After years of using items for projects, when I gather enough of the same thing.... they get their own category... and if they're lucky, they get their own drawer... and then they get separated by color. Hmmmm... looks like someone's got a pink ribbon fetish. Not a bad thing. Ha! But this is only the half of it (the neat half). I've got an entire tub full of loose ribbons, fibers and trims I collected over the years (that's another post!).

And when I have lots and lots of something... well, they get their own cabinet! Like my rubber stamp collection. I need everything out in the open, easy and quick to see and identify. This CD storage unit with it's adjustable shelves was the perfect solution. Purchased at the unpainted furniture store for extra savings!

So those are just a few ways I stay organized... by type, by color, and by item. What are your favorite ways to stay organized?

Tuesday, January 10, 2012


For a long time now, I've been creating works that are... well... kind of sweet and pretty and colorful (a.k.a. pink!). And I think it's time to work on some pieces that relate more to the sad and difficult emotions I've been experiencing of late. They need to come out and manifest themselves into wonderful pieces of art too!

This piece I'm working on now is called Wounded. She's kind of a statement about how I felt growing up as a child. Having moved around a lot, I was always the target of bullies and mean girls in the new neighborhood. It left me feeling kind of wounded.... even to this day. I'm going to paint a target on her belly to drive home that point, and make some kind of woodsy assemblage to put her in. She's still sad, but happy to have made it through the forest.... almost unscathed.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Thoughtful Thursdays: A Look Back!

This Christmas and New Year brought some absolutely gorgeous, early Spring-like weather to the New Jersey coast. Being grateful sometimes makes you think of why you are. So I thought you might enjoy a look back at my blog post from right about this time last year...

Well, I'd love to say that as a work-at-home artist, I am diligently working away on this Monday. But I would be fibbing. I am actually still in my pajamas... I mean, who is going to come to my door today? In fact... being the tiniest town within the Township of Neptune, Ocean Grove is always the last to have their streets plowed. And the likes of this snow is something else. Perhaps they'll get to us around Wednesday?

Here's a few highlights from the neighborhood. Although they are all taken from inside my house as I can only open the door this much right now...
This is our neighbor's house... what you see here is her front door and the clothes line! There is no working back door! Good thing she is away visiting her son!

View from the front porch...

Duuuuude... where's my car?

Neighbor's house directly across the street. Check out the snowdrift on the right side of the house!

Good thing it's plastic "wicker" furniture...

Winds still whipping the snow around...

Various neighbors digging out. We're going to wait until the plows come through though.

Whew! What a difference a year makes!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Depression Hurts. Art Heals.

I thought post-Holidays might be a good time to let you all in on something... I suffer from Depression. In fact, I've suffered from Depression on and off for most of my life. Only this time it's more like Depression with a side of Anxiety, and it's getting a little harder to hide this from you each day. It's like... pssst... your mood is showing. I'm feeling a little broken, and there isn't any glue that seems to be able to hold me together at the moment.

If you've never experienced Depression... it's kind of like death warmed over. You have this body you inhabit... but it feels pretty much empty. Like a shell with no insides. You know you are the owner of this residence... but nobody's home. And to make things worse, you don't have access to any of your feelings! It's difficult to smile, laugh, talk, cry, love, or even just to get out of bed every morning. You don't feel like doing anything... not even the things that once brought you the greatest amount of joy. You couldn't care less, but not by choice. Depression is knowing what it's like to have an amazing life, and not being able to find it amazing any longer.

The good news is, that I'm learning to cope with Depression while I simultaneously research and reflect upon why I am so prone to it. And through it all... I've had my art. When I'm making something — or even just playing around — time seems to slip away. Emotions sometimes eke out onto the canvas. Connections are made between my thoughts and what I'm creating. Then, just for a moment... all seems right with the world. You may have noticed my works vary from the sticky sweet to the more darkly macabre. Those are all the parts of me spilling out before you. I embrace each and every aspect of who I am and that's been the main reason I've gotten through all this. Being able to let my emotions out via art has kept me going. And hey, I've got lots of interesting stuff to show for it!

But the reason I'm sharing this very personal information is twofold. First, because it's getting harder to pretend I'm okay... and second, because I know there are more of you out there suffering, and I want you to know that you're not alone. I want to help. So today, I'm going to share some of the strategies that have helped me throughout the years and in my present life. Here goes...

Be Nice To Yourself. I'm sure I speak for many when I say that sometimes I get so mad that I'm Depressed! I say things to myself like, "What's wrong with you?", "Why are you like this?", "Why won't this go away?" etc, etc. And I want you to cut it out right now. Let's say a 10-year-old child came up to you and said, "I don't feel right. I feel sad all the time." Would you yell at them? Would you chastise them? Of course not! You are that little 10-year-old, filled with hurt and pain. So make sure your self-talk reflects that.

Fake It 'Til You Make It. Formerly just a playful saying my friends had so they could get through rehab, get out and buy some booze or weed (yeah, you know who you are!), this phrase holds very true for people with Depression. You see, most of us wait around for inspiration or motivation to come. But guess what? It doesn't work that way. First you have to do the things you want to do, and then the motivation to do them may follow. I say may because it doesn't work all the time, hence the discouragement and desire to wait around. But I am telling you this is the only way it works. So don't give up. The feelings will come, and they will come more often the more you try. So, fake it 'til you make it!

Do Something Body-centric. We don't really think about it, but Depression isn't out there (points to world), it's in here (points to self). It's a feeeeeeling. And where do feelings take place? That's right... in the body! So we need to take time to do something nice that involves the body... whatever that is for you. I like taking a hot bubblebath. You could also go for a walk, do yoga, meditate, exercise (I know - I don't do that either, ha!), go swing on the porch swing, have a warm beverage, get a massage, play fetch with the dog, dance. You get the idea. Try and do something at least once a week, if not more often. Attention... it does a body good!

Dedicate Time Each Day to Your Mental Health. Let's say you fell and wrenched your shoulder, and the doctor said you need one hour of physical therapy each day for it to heal. You'd do it, right? But what about Depression and Mental Health? I recommend spending a minimum of an hour a day on your Mental Health. We have to be proactive about this. You can't sit around waiting for the Depression to just go away on its own. So let's do something about it. You can meditate. Pray. Listen to relaxation CDs. Make your own affirmations, and use them! Sit quietly in the garden. Make a list of things you are grateful for each day (even if it's just that you made it through the day).... gratitude rocks! Do some soul searching. Make a list of things you want to change. Find books on those. Listen to your favorite music. Research depression. Get spiritual. Get philsophical. Get going! Make your head work for you.

Investigate! You would be surprised how much you don't know about depression. There are so many facets of it: mental, scientific, energy, spiritual, cellular, and then some! You can read books on depression or self-help. Find a book or an author that speaks to you. We all like to be "talked to" in a certain way and so not all books will impact you... keep reading until you find the right one(s).The internet is also a huge resource right at your fingertips. Although, I recommend sticking to actual studies and professional articles, while staying away from the threads of depressed people answering other depressed people's questions... yikes! Those people need a doctor the most!

Watch a Movie. Sometimes when you're depressed it's hard to feel your feelings. Like when you're feeling the blahs and know that even if Funniest Home Videos came on... you wouldn't crack a smile. That's when you break out... the sad movies! Yes, you heard me. You know the ones that make you bawl your eyes out (especially at the end). Some of my faves are Steel Magnolias, Mask (with Cher, not Jim Carrey!), and Forrest Gump. Here's why.... When you're depressed, feeling any emotion is a good thing. And it usually loosens you up for a few extras to come trickling out. Especially once those waterworks start. Don't be afraid of feeling sad emotions... they're a part of you too! This is a sad time. So go ahead... get your favorite movies, a box of tissues, and have yourself a good cry!

Surround Yourself With People Who Understand. Depression is one of the most misunderstood medical afflictions in the world. And unfortunately it could be the people closest to you who really don't get it. A parent, your best friend, maybe even your spouse. So, don't make them your sounding board. Don't make them the ones you want to make you feel better... because they can't. They're not equipped. But this isn't forever... just for now. For now, surround yourself with the people who do understand and who are good listeners. How can you tell the difference? After a conversation with that person, do you come away feeling better... or worse? Your reserves are very low right now, you don't need to use them up trying to convince people that you're sick. They'll be there when you're ready.

Get a Psychologist. Psychiatrists can dispense medication. Psychologists cannot.. and that's why I prefer them. Because they give you the tools to learn how to cope with life, not medication to cure your symptoms (not that I am against meds, see below!). Having the right tools allows you to see the world from a different perspective, and that's what we're looking for here. It's my personal experience, but every Psychiatrist I've been to just threw a prescription at me and had very little to teach me about how or why I feel this way. So skip the extra College Degree and save yourself the heartache.

Find a GOOD Psychologist. It's like buying that little black dress (or for men, the perfect tool set). You wouldn't just go to one store and pick up one black dress and just take it home... never! You'd have to try it on, see how it looks. Is it ugly? Uncomfortable? Not so flattering? Too long? Too short? Poor fit? It's the same with a Psychologist.... you have to really, really, really like them. You need a good "fit". If for any reason you don't connect, find someone else and don't feel embarrassed. When I look for a therapist, I call and ask them a bunch of random questions I already know the answers to — just to see how they respond — and that gives me an idea of how they would talk to me in a session. So many people stop therapy because they didn't like the first person they went to. Shop around!

Should I Medicate? Although I am all for finding the cause rather than fixing the symptoms (of anything), taking antidepressant medication is a viable short term solution. With Depression, there are certain receptors in the brain that are not doing their job properly, and medication can help with that. Now beware... not every medication works the same for everyone because of our individual chemistry. So, you may have to try several different medications before you find the one that works for you. Also know that you may feel worse before you feel better. If anything doesn't feel right, talk to your doctor. And yes, your regular doctor can prescribe antidepressants for you! Yay, no co-pays! But seriously, I have used antidepressants in the past and they have worked wonders for me. Currently, they don't because my body chemistry is different. It's a crap shoot, but go ahead and roll the dice!

Find Your Thing. Mine is art, but you need to find your thing... whatever that is. Find some kind of hobby that — even if it doesn't bring you joy at the moment — you don't mind doing. Maybe its journaling, or knitting, or collecting rocks, or painting, or organizing, or writing letters. Perhaps you like baking, or cooking, or gardening, playing word games, or ironing. No matter how weird or strange some of these things sound... there are things that soothe our brains. Find what works for you and fake it 'til you make it!

So, thanks for listening and for being here with me... all of you. Your words and support have kept me going through these tough times. And I hope that my experiences shared here today can help those of you out there going through something similar. You are not alone!

Michelle xoxo

P.S. If you or someone you know suffers from Depression... I encourage you to pass this on.