The Benefit Of Shifting Focus & Rest


I have to admit. I've been feeling rotten for more than a month. I've thought that I was fighting a virus , but kept plugging away without much thought about it.  The virus - or whatever it is-  finally caught up with me last weekend and I have been home sick for a couple of days. I have so many things to do, finish up some loose ends (so to speak) on gifts, wrap them - and did I mention mail them! Late again I am! I have ATC's and PC's to make and mail. A lot of things I should be doing.

I've realized, as I've rested, that my life has been filled a lot with things that I have committed to and it isn't that those things aren't fun, but I have not done much of anything simply for my own pleasure in a long time. Over the weekend, through emails, my friend, Sarah Ann Smith, mentioned that she was taking an online Watercolor Lettering Class from Val Web. Hummmmm thought I .. now that sounds like it's right up my alley.

You've probably guessed already that I went ahead and signed up for this class. Did I have the money for it? No. Should I have signed up? Probably not. Am I relaxing into it? Yes! It's just what I needed . It's just for me - not for the other things I have committed to, or for anyone else who has expectations for me. This was a good 'dose of creative medicine' for me. The people in the class all appear to be rather advanced watercolorists - either that or I am more than woefully below par! It's great  to be able to have people to admire and emulate! Classes are like stepping stones for me and, if I don't overdo them, they add to my creative tool box. I find the more I learn the more I have to bring to the table when I  create something in mixed media or textile art.

I love watercolors and have been using them for some time; without any schooling and only 'book' learning, this will be the first 'class' I've taken & it pairs watercolors with letters/typography/calligraphy which are also things that I love.

I'm wayyyyy behind the class work, coming into this class that began in November, I am 5 lessons behind already! Access goes until March though, so I should be able to catch up.

I made my way through Lesson 1 yesterday, and one of the techniques that Val uses is draw these 'pebble' letters as shown above. The simple directions utilized a regular 8.5" X 11" but I used a 4" X 6" size (it fit onto the journal page I was using for practice). The lesson was about brush control, and I found that working in this format really did provide a great exercise in brush control and watercolor use. I used Daniel Smith Mayan Blue Dark and Mayan Yellow (I must have been thinking about this coming Friday when I selected the colors!) You can see where I overworked the watercolors, and I have not added any white to the letters or decorations that might have made it look somewhat nicer. 

I am impressed thus far with Val's teaching style. Learning something valuable after one lesson is wonderful! I find the class format to be similar in presentation to the wonderful photography classes that I take from Kim Klassen. A combination of exercises and videos. If you like watercolor art do yourself a favor and have a look at  Val Webb's class offerings - there's another class that I have my eye on about herbs!

I have decided that I may need to more carefully consider what things I commit to in the coming year so that I can build in some time for a project that is simply about fun and relaxation - just for me - and with no expectations. I may concentrate on watercolor use since it's something that I do really enjoy and I could use some more 'learning'!  Lack of rest seems to be a big issue for me. 

Exhaustion is a real enemy for those of us who are plagued with fibromyaliga (plus the other pesky issues that I have). We all develop health issues - I'm grateful that mine are what they are. It could be so very much worse! I tend to work and play with focus and determination, but I need to remember that down time, sleep, rest and playful art are not luxuries - but necessary if I am to remain healthy. 

Tiger Lily ATC's in Vintage Kimono Silk

This month's theme over at Arts In The Cards was 'Tiger Lily'. This has to be one of most favorite color schemes, but I wasn't sure how I wanted to present it. Should it be on paper or cloth? Stitched or painted? What was it I wanted to say about a Tiger Lily?

I seldom have the whole picture of what I want to do with a postcard, ATC, painting or art quilt. I may have the seed of an idea in my head, but generally I let the tools that are right in front of me guide me - the tools and colors tend to make my artistic decisions for me.

I was rooting about in my collection of vintage Kimono Silks when I spied this amazing piece of silk. I had been hoarding it for some years, but had never gotten around to making an art quilt or piece of clothing with it. I decided that it needed to be liberated, and thus, I hoped, appreciated. It became my simple rendition of 'Tiger Lily'. 

Kimono  silk, a bit of stitching, some faceted beads and a feather. I found some feathers in the yard one day and I promised the poor bird that had, presumably, given it's life to leave these feathers, that I would use it's plumage to make something pretty. I hope this begins to fulfill that promise I made! The bird had left me only clean, pristine feathers - perhaps it was a baby that tried to wing it too early in it's brief life?
I wanted a slightly more literal iteration of 'Tiger Lily' for the back, and came up with this design for the back. I appreciate making my ATC's for this group every month (it's nearly 3 years now!)  because it ensures that even when life gets hectic I can do something every month that soothes my artistic soul!

When I Think I Haven't Been Busy ....

This was one of the very few mornings this month that included a glimpse of the sun - and at that the sun did not last long into the daytime hours!

When I think that I haven't produced anything I tend to think about where all of my time went.

That happened to me today, as I checked in here. I was amazed to see how long it has been since I have posted anything! One would think that I had fallen over a cliff or something. At first I thought that it must have been an extraordinarily slow month or that, somehow, I had not managed to use any of my time creatively; that I had had the ultimate of fallow month perhaps. Then as I reviewed where I'd been and what I'd been up doing I realized that I had been doing things all along. I suppose that I had no thought that any of it, at the time, was 'bloggable'.
I've been painting with both acrylics and watercolors - and each painting brings me closer to loving the process more and more. It's like magic to see where each piece ultimately takes me!
Finding myself with a dearth of spendable cash this year I have made many of my gifts, and that is where much of time has gone. Because there are gifts involved I have not been able to post some of them here - so there has work been done that hasn't yet become blog appropriate I suppose! Not yet at least!

I've been knitting a lot - as I do every evening! How could something that I did not know how to do 10 years ago have become so much a part of my daily life?!
I made this lovely long scarf - perhaps for myself or perhaps someone else - I'm not certain yet. It's from a pattern called Magrathea by Martina Behm knit in Malabrigo sock yarn in the Marte (#121) colorway - purchased at my fabulous LYS - Island Wools. The original pattern calls for another bit of open lace work on the bottom which I decided was just a bit too much lace for me - so I truncated the design and am happy with the results. It's a long, wrapable, scarf design that I really like. 
Whipped Shea Butter - a luxury cream !

I've taken some time to make some selections of cold process soap recipes. Also on the hand made list  have been a selection of lotion bars, hand creams and lip balms. It had been awhile since I'd made soaps so I purchased am updated list of supplies and used up what had been on hand.

One of favorites is whipped shea butter. It made, primarily, of shea butter of course, with a couple of other beneficial oils mixed in. It's been the answer to my own dry skin woes. I'm waiting for another shipment of shea butter now so that I can make enough to give for the holidays


I made hard lotion bars that are the perfect gift to anyone with hard working hands; stitcher, knitter, gardener - you get the idea!
Luxury hard lotion bars. Good for what ails your hands!
These lotion bars are harder than hand cream and made to be  more of a barrier protection. I use them all of time and decided that rather than spend so much money I could make them myself. I've tried a couple of 'recipes' thus far and find they are both good. I'll be auditioning other formulas as time goes by until I uncover the secret to the perfect combination of hand loving ingredients.
Lip balms for winter chapped smiles
I gave making lip balm a try - and found that it was easy to do. I'd thought that filling the tubes would be a challenge, but it turned out to be easy-peasy, and the lip balm seems as good, if not better, to me as anything I buy. I added very, very little flavor, and DH asked me why it didn't have any flavor?! I guess I buy lip balm to work well and seldom give flavoring too much thought, but perhaps I should in future batches! The pink color really does not show up at all when you use it (so it's okay for DH to use) and comes from the smallest pinch possible of Cellini red pigment. One lucky thing is that we have a nearly local supplier of all things soap and body care supplies. They, of course, on the mainland for once in a blue moon I can order and not have to pay the most postage and take the longest amount of time to receive my supplies! Brambleberry is an excellent source for inspirations and supplies !
One of several batches of cold process soaps.
 This one is made from coconut oil, shea & mango butters.
One of my "stand-by" CP soap recipes came out oddly for the first time ever. When I went to cut into bars it wasn't cutting up smoothly. I think I should have added more water to the original batch, but because of this mistake, I was able to try something I'd never done before - a process called "re-batching".  Essentially, you grate up the soap that you have made and then use a crock pot to "re-batch" or melt it down again and, for this batch, I added the extra water that I thought was needed. The process worked well and gave the soap - which has an ample amount of calendula flowers in it- a more interesting texture and creamy orange-yellow color.

The soaps all have to cure for awhile longer. I should have made them earlier in November to have the fully ready for the holidays- but I think I will still be able to use some for small gifts.

KOGIN SASHIKO

Above: One of my first attempts used as a birthday card for a friend made using 16 count Aida In August,  Susan Briscoe , published her book...