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Friday, March 20, 2015

How I Made My First Supervised Art Journal Page

This is what resulted from a recent Art Journaling workshop.  We attendees were each given a section of player piano paper (Remember those?) the instructor had picked up at a local antique shop, with which to build our pages.  I wondered if I could do something creative- in public.

*(I used the extra paper as a stencil for some background design, pushing paint into the slots and circles.  Pouncing with a sponge or paper towel would have given sharper results, I realized afterwards.)

The lyrics on my piece, printed in blue capital letters from bottom to top on the right side, read "TAKE MY LIPS I WANT TO LOSE THEM."  At first I envisioned a "Lips-" themed page until a vintage advertisement became the focal point.  Funny how art projects, like novels-in-progress, sometimes take on a life of their own.

Combining red and purple paints, I spread them across my blank journal page for a background, then added black circles and slashes *.  I cut out and saved the words from the excess music paper for later use.

A pile of hand-made papers in the center of the table caught my attention.  Ripping strips of a solid burgundy piece I fashioned a rough frame for my page.  Burgundy and green textured/dyed paper squares cut into triangles fit nicely along the edge of the page.

I glued in all of the cut-out words from the extra music paper, knowing I would probably have to add words of my own to come up with a coherent message.

The instructor offered me a rubber-stamped image (Never refuse free art stuff!) which immediately found it's place bottom-center.  I used a black Sharpie pen to fill in some of the player piano paper slots and dots, adding penned dots along the triangle edge pieces.

This is what I took home with me from the workshop.

Later, I pressed small square ink pads onto the paper triangles.  Two fish images emerged (see image below, top right edge), an unexpected, happy result.   I filled in the rubber-stamped flower image with water color pencils

With a fine-line blue permanent I supplemented the text, doing my best to mimic the font already there.

It turned out much different than I could have envisioned.  Just one thing strikes me as odd:  the boy in the vintage advertisement seems to resemble someone notorious in the current news...  Maybe it's just my imagination.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Make-It-Yourself Laundry Detergent

I never thought I'd post a tutorial, but as I was making up a large batch of laundry detergent this afternoon, the thought occurred to me to take pictures.  It was fun!  Incidentally, I've discovered a tricky incentive to clean the kitchen:  use parts of it for staging photographs!

Okay, maaaaybe I have way too much time on my hands, but you've heard the saying:  "Time you enjoy wasting isn't wasted time."  (Not original to me, sorry.)  So, one thing lead to another, and here it is.

Although I have modified the ingredients and the instructions, I can't take credit for inventing the recipe.  Others similar to this may be found on the Tip Nut site.

I also can't vouch for the safety of the ingredients, but I will tell you that after years of using it, this detergent has never caused rashes or asthma.  I'm not a dermatologist or a chemist, but I do look for ways to keep additives, especially perfumes* and colorants, out of the house.  I am convinced that this is a thrifty alternative to commercially-produced detergents (with the benefit of knowing what goes into it) and maybe you will think so too.

(Scroll to bottom of post to read WARNING.)


Tap Water
2 Cups Powdered Washing Soda
2 Cups Powdered Laundry Booster
1 bar brown Fels Naptha Soap (found in laundry aisle)
(Essential Oils for Scent- Optional*)


Tray or Platter
Large, Long Stainless Steel Spoon
Large Stainless Steel Kettle
5-Gallon Pail or Bucket
Large Spouted Measuring Glass, or Jar 
5 - 6 Empty Plastic Jugs With Caps for Storage

These are the three ingredients I start with.  As you may note, the Arm & Hammer product pictured here is NOT pure Powdered Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda.  I couldn't find it at the store and made a substitute just this once... It seemed to work just fine.  I called Arm & Hammer customer service and they assured me that their 55-ounce Super Washing Soda (tall yellow/orange box) is available locally if I keep looking for it.

Heat up 2 - 4 quarts of tap water to boiling in kettle on stove

Have a (clean empty) 5-gallon frosting bucket (from a bakery!) or pail handy.  Fill half-full of warm tap water.

Shredding the Fels Naptha soap onto a plate, platter or tray is the hardest part, but it's good exercise.  (OH, did I say "exercise?" Can't hurt, might help- just keep your knuckles away from the grater!) Looks like extra sharp cheddar cheese.  Isn't.  Trust me on this.

Pour grated Fels Naptha soap into boiling water, reduce heat or turn heat off.  Stir frequently with stainless steel spoon until soap melts.

Meanwhile, measure out 2 Cups Powdered Washing Soda and 2 Cups Powdered Laundry detergent onto platter or tray.

Grated Fels Naptha Soap is melted and all stirred in.  It looks like thick cream of chicken soup.  Isn't. Trust me on this.

Using the long-handled metal spoon, stir the melted Fels Naptha Soap mixture into the warm tap water in the bucket, adding more water if you like but not too full.  I like to get the most volume for my efforts.  You still have to stir it from time to time as this recipe does congeal a bit like curdled custard.  (Why does every description turn into a food comparison?  Maybe because SOAP and SOUP are so close.  Hmmmmm)

I let this sit for an hour or two.  When the bucket's contents are cool enough to work with, use a large spouted measuring glass or a jar to transfer the liquid soap into empty laundry detergent jugs. (I've found that plastic milk jugs don't hold up long-term.) You only need 1/4 - 1/2 cup of this mix for normal loads.   Do shake the jug well before pouring your home-made laundry detergent into the washing machine while the water is running, okay?

WARNING:  (I know you won't have this problem, but just in case)  Once or twice I accidentally spilled a little of the finished laundry detergent mixture on some linoleum floor tiles.  It cleaned those areas so well, I had to clean the rest of the floor to match.  (Or at least I should have,...)

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

It's A Bird, It's...

Yesterday I thought I heard children playing nearby, but I saw no one.  Then I happened to look up:  two large white birds flew overhead.  After some research online, I'm quite sure it was a pair of Trumpeter Swans on their way north.  That's the first sighting for me- exciting!

Art Journaling

While awaiting some area workshops, I decided to experiment with collage, rubber stamp backgrounds, acrylic paints and watercolors.  These are recent art journal pages and one older one.

Moving Experience?

During five months of summer/autumn company (six family members from out of state), I had minimal accessibility to my craft room.  Art supplies began infiltrating the dining room and subtly multiplying.  Winter saw not only the fields covered with snow, but the table covered with projects. 

With the prompt of emergent flower buds pushing up through the cold ground, it seemed like time to relocate materials and project pieces back to the craft room.  A big undertaking, it looks daunting at this point.  I feel a little sad to be vacating the hub of the household. 

But it is also exciting because I will probably find some missing things during the re-organizing, finally be able to dispose of bits and pieces no longer relevant, and set up more efficiently to continue creating the mail-art which I have come to love.  I will be quite relieved to have everything in one location, the dedicated space.

As a dear friend often states, "It's all good."  (Yes, I've unplugged the Christmas lights.)  Spring is coming- yay!

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Late Winter Thoughts

I'm a little embarrassed to admit that I still have my Christmas tree up, decorations and lights and all. Perhaps it's partly to make up for completely missing Christmas last year due to traveling out of state to help an ailing family member.  I am not ready to pack the lights away.  The Christmas corner always seems so dark once emptied of it's sparkle and shine...  

But with the hours of daylight lengthening, it is time to prepare for spring, whether it be one, two or three months down the road.   Viewing art exhibits at my nearby Alma Mater has brightened the cold white months.  I took these pictures on one such jaunt.

Searching for a quilt shop took me off the beaten path into a little town tucked away by a lake.  This abandoned storefront caught my eye.  I wonder if it used to be a diner?  I would have named it "The Brass Peacock" for its metal filigree panel across the front window.

Besides making collage postcards and gelatin plate prints, I am starting to experiment with watercolors, and want to become more comfortable using stencils as well.  Upcoming Art Journaling workshops ought to jump start my creativity, yes?  One can hope...