Sunday, May 27, 2012

Another month bites the dust

Can you believe that the month of May is almost done?  That makes me sad in some ways as I do enjoy the spring weather.  But, it is more truthful to say, that any month in which I can escape outdoors without a jacket or sweater is a month to be savoured.  So, I will not allow myself to be sad that the month is coming to a close, but will celebrate that a few more months of lovely weather will follow.

May was a good month for - a  me in terms of getting things done or learning new techniques.  The kumihimo braiding was something that I had wanted to try for a long time and now that I have mastered the basic steps, I find myself braiding at any and all hours of the day when I just need to sit down and refocus my mind for a bit.  I found a few balls of crochet cotton in a bin in the studio and have set them aside to try on the loom in the upcoming week.  One ball is a glittery gold colour which I think could be turned into an interesting braid to wear around the neck once a suitable pendant is found for it.  I have a package of black lacquered bamboo tiles, about an inch long and half of an inch wide, that could become a pendant once I either paint a pattern or decoupage an interesting decal onto.  When I am out and about, I tend to look through sewing/craft departments and often find interesting bits such as the tiles.  One of my most recent finds was in a discount bin containing discontinued items - a small package of ladybug buttons.  Looking at these now, I can picture them being sewn onto a flat braid, likely a black one with hints of red peeking through.  I suspect that this is going to be my next project on the braiding loom.

My mind seemed to be on overload for the better part of the past week and I have made a lot of notes to follow up on with more than a few projects on the horizon.  Looking at one particular web site that I enjoy,, I found that Marisa has added some wonderful neon accents to her product line.  Washi tape, stickers, paper tags along with a few other items found their way into my cart and I am looking forward to playing with these pieces and adding them to some collage ideas that have been percolating in my mind.  Marisa writes a fun blog that you would definitely enjoy, especially the ones put up on Mondays entitled "Monday Eye Candy."  Pictures of different paper crafts and such are put up for all to enjoy and will definitely make you smile.  Having a look at the blog will certainly entice you into her web shoppe and I can pretty much guarantee that you will be wanting to pick up on some of the lovely washi tape.  I suppose I mention that because that is one item I am always drawn to admire and most times to buy a few rolls.  Adding the tape to cards, envelopes, loot bags and such is an easy way to bring them up to the next level and to colour coordinate these items to a particular theme.  If you see something you like, best be quick about ordering them as they fly off of the shelves! The nice thing about overindulging in the goodies from Omiyage is that they are calorie free and will not go to waste whilst waiting for you to decide which project you want to use them in first.  But, do use them!  How sad to buy these items and not put them to good use as soon as possible.

Now, what else has been percolating in my busy little mind?  Percolating may not be the most wisely chosen word since I found myself making a lot of coffee over the past week.  But, maybe that was why I made so many notes to follow up on!  I am starting a project that I may have alluded to previously, a new journal with larger paintings or collages to follow based on the journal pages.  Since I am progressing using Suzi Blu's book, "Mixed Media Girls," the idea of doing a journal containing pages of children, faeries and other majickal creatures has again crept into my conscious mind.  Suzi's book is a wonderful guide on how to achieve the winsome child faces that I hope to draw.  Her idea of basing your proportions using graph paper is spot on and I now keep a book of graph paper nearby so that I can practise at a moment's notice.  I still need to work on the body proportions, but feel that the work on the first page of my journal will commence soon.  I am working on selecting colours, patterns, and other elements to make it special.  The subject will be a little girl dressed to the nines in all her faerie splendour, complete with the requisite wings, trying her best to turn the family feline into an elephant.  Molly Cat has informed me that she will not pose for this particular piece, feeling that it is below her dignity.  I will just have to make do with pictures of Molly in her various poses in order to capture the correct posture of the sleeping cat I see flopped out on the chair.  As soon as I complete this piece I will share it with you so you will have an idea of where my mind flits to when it escapes a mundane afternoon in the flat.

May was a good month in which I managed to finish reading a few books.  Friends brought me over a copy of "Fifty Shades of Grey" which I plan to start later today.  I also have a few other books loaded on the e-reader and am anxious to start.  A few pertain to the art of writing and an equal number will hopefully teach me some new techniques to try in the studio.  So, it would appear that June will be a month of learning again.  But, every month should be one in which we learn new things.

With just a few days left in May, I still want to enjoy each one of them rather than just dash into another month without a thought.  I will make notes regarding which books I should keep handy to refer back to for artistic tutoring and I also need to make notes on which balcony plants need to be replanted.  I did not get around to replanting the rosemary and must do that this week to ensure that I have a good crop to put away for the winter months.  The geraniums are blooming nicely, but I have yet to go out and pick up the pansies that I really would like to see sitting on the outdoor table just outside the slider doors.  If the weather is nice and I have the scooter charged up, I just might make my way to a vendor on Monday that I know to have a nice selection of plants.  Getting my treasures home could be a bit tricky, but I will make sure that I bring a few bungee cords to tie a flat down to the cart on the front of the scooter.  Surely, if I drive slowly, carefully, a flat of assorted plants will survive the short ride home.  Then, it will be back to the shoppes to pick up another bag of soil and a few more pots to provide homes for the plants.

With all of these activities/ideas floating around, I wonder if I will accomplish all of them?  I really hope to do so in order to make the most of each day.  The prospects of colourful plants on the balcony, journal pages to complete, and cords to be braided, all call out to me saying that I need to complete this first rather than something else.  Just so much temptation and only so many hours in each day and I hardly know where to begin.  But, as with any journey, it all begins with one step.  What step will you begin with this week?  I would love to hear from you about what you are beginning or finishing, if that be the case.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Making progress slowly, but steadily!

Another week has passed by and I have to wonder where all that time went.  Is it not strange that those days, with untold potential, could race by at the speed of sound and leave so little done behind?  I try to make the most of each day as best I can.  Some days, moving around is difficult, so any tasks requiring me to walk for more than a few moments or to stand too long, will be left to deal with at another time.  This past week was one in which I managed to capture some extra time to read, practise drawing, work on braiding as well as deal with the day to day activities that demand my attention.  So, the week was a success in a manner of speaking.

I am watching my little garden develop slowly, but surely.  From what I am seeing, the rosemary plants will need to be replanted as I obviously did not get enough water to them.  This time I will plant the seeds in larger pots which will hold the moisture longer.  The parsley is off to a good start and I should have a fairly generous crop of different types of basil.  No sign of flowers as yet so I might break down and buy a few pots of pansies to lend some colour amongst all the greenery.  One the tomatoes get going I can look forward to splashes of red on the balcony.  Hopefully the naughty little birds that come to perch on the railing mind their manners and leave my crops along.  But, just in case, I have my water squirting bottle handy to reinforce my rule of leaving my crops alone.  Sounds mean, but in another flat, I had some creature toss my plants about, taking them right out of the soil.  I never caught that thief at work, sadly.  So that little garden did not end happily.

The books on my night stand are growing each day as I delve into different artistic pursuits.  Suzi Blu's book "Mixed Media Girls" is definitely a favourite go to book already.  She has such a nice way of giving you the information in stages to help you to build up the skills necessary to draw your own version of how you envision a character to appear.  One of the best tips that I have learned this week is that balancing the positioning of the eyes is key to making your character look realistic.  So, Suzi's advice is to use graph paper to work on and practise placing eyes in the correct position.  My thought at this time is also to practise the different looks depending on how low the eye lid is placed.  It is amazing how just a slight difference in where the eye lid is can totally take your character from appearing bright and eager to slow and contemplative.

"Mixed Media Girls" comes along with an instructional DVD with Suzi giving some lessons on making your mixed media girls along with some great tips on how to achieve some great looks with your mixed media pieces.  Covering the final piece with beeswax will seal and take care of the edges that might otherwise detract from the look.  The warm wax is spread across the canvas and settles around all the edges of material that you may have glued to your piece. Once the wax is dry, you buff it up with a soft cloth and the effect is that of giving a softer look, almost ethereal to your piece.  I am all up for that!  So, this week will be spent in the studio working on my mixed media girls.  And, thanks to Suzi, I have a project in mind that I will share with you once I actually get down to working on it.  For now, I need to perfect my drawing skills and get face proportions figured out.  But, I think with this book beside me, the skills I have not been able to develop just might have a chance to allow me to put together some quirky little ladies.

Of course the kumihimo braiding is still a force to be reckoned with in my life.  I have become addicted to it and I now automatically keep the loom ready to go with the warps in place so that should I sit down to watch the news on television or listen to some music, I can start making another braid.  I tried making one out of one quarter inch ribbon and it turned out very nicely if I do say so myself.  I am going to get some end caps made to finish off the braid and add a pendant to my newest necklace.  Two other braids that I made were done with embroidery floss which makes for a much finer piece of cord.  Truthfully, even though the embroidery floss takes much longer to work up into a braid, I still prefer working with it because of the end result.  The fineness of the braid just is more feminine, dainty and I can envision sewing a few strategic pearls to accent a delicate pendant at the focal point.   Kumihimo is definitely a skill to master if you want to work on something without having to follow a scripted pattern.  Once you get into the rhythm of working with the warps, auto pilot goes on and the braid just happens.  You can be having a zen moment and be totally relaxed by the time you finish with your session.  My problem is, I do not want to stop and have actually spent an entire afternoon working on one of the braids.  Like I said, this is addictive, so be warned if you decide to give it a try.  I still have not mastered adding beads to the warp threads, but I will get to that point.  I think I just need to focus on the braids for a bit, see how the square loom produces a flat cord.  Plus, I hope to try the round loom with sixteen bobbins which should prove interesting.  I picked up an extra pack of bobbins for this reason and will let you know how that little project turns out.  I suspect that once I get into the rhythm of moving the threads and turning the loom just slightly to make my way to the next pair, I will be able to produce braids that should be somewhat thicker, but still maintain their daintiness.  Again, this is something I need to do in order to figure out how it all works together in the scheme of things.  You know, the worst thing to happen would be for me to not like the look of the braid.  That does not deter me from trying since I would still be learning whilst working on the project.  As long as you learn something from what you are doing, you are not wasting time.  

A few friends will be dropping by later in the week.  They were supposed to come last week, but a death of friends father had them traveling in the opposite direction to attend the services.  So, brownies, cookies and something else, not yet determined will be baked off mid week.  I suspect there will be chocolate brownies along with butterscotch ones since one of the lads coming has a particular fondness for that particular variety.  The main thing is that I will spend some time with three of the people I love the most in the world.  We have been friends for thirteen years and just seem to know when the other needs to hear from one of us.  So I will be spending an evening with three of the people I love the most in the world.  Here is hoping that we are still getting together over platters of brownies in another thirteen years.
I hope you have an equally satisfying week!  Take some time to learn a new skill, plant some flowers or read a good book.  Anything that gives you some personal satisfaction and relaxes you would be perfect to get you to your zen place.

Sincerely,  Rutheemac

Sunday, May 13, 2012

What are you reading this week?

 I have to admit, I am totally addicted to reading and cannot leave my flat without bringing either a hard copy or my e-reader to keep me busy whilst waiting for an appointment or sipping a coffee at a kiosk.  Reading is so much more than a luxurious way to spend my time, in fact I cannot think of going through a day without spending an hour or two curled up enjoying some form of a book. 

Although I enjoy good fiction, lately I have found myself reading two well written books pertaining to business.  Arlene Dickinson's "Persuasion" and Robert Herjavic's "Driven" are both loaded on my e-reader.  Both authors are panelists on the Canadian version of Dragon's Den and prove themselves to be adept as authors and business leaders.  I have finished "Persuasion" and found the book to be a very personal account of Ms Dickinson's ascent into becoming one of the top CEO's in Canada, her company Venture Communications being a leader in coming to the aid of companies needing assistance in turning their image around.  Whilst I am just over half way through Herjavic's "Driven," I can see that this is a book that I will likely go back to reread again and again.  While he writes about how his early life as a young child arriving in Canada from Croatia, he transitions his story into an outline on starting up and running a successful business.  Both books provide a lot of life lessons that will be beneficial even for those not planning to start up their own business and I can definitely say that both books are top reads meriting five star ratings.

Moving on through the books spread out on my coffee table/night stand, I am also working my way through "Braiding with Beads on the Kumihimo Disk" (Karen DeSousa),  "Doodles Unleashed" (Traci Bautista) and "Mixed Media Girls (Suzi Blu).  I am hoping that the first book will help me learn the beading techniques and patience required to work tiny seed beads into some jewelry that I am trying to produce.  Yes, I am still deeply intrigued with Japanese braiding and whilst I have a long way to go before I would deem myself proficient in the art, I have to confess that even though I have torn apart several braids to rework them, I am not disheartened. The braiding involves a fair amount of concentration, but at the same time seems to make me relax.  The dancing bobbins of thread attract the attention of one very lively little kitten who desperately would love to capture and run away with one.  So far, I have managed to keep Molly Cat from tearing apart any of my work in progress, but keeping tabs on completed braids is proving to be a chore.  For some reason, Molly loves to play with the completed braids, tossing them into the air, catching them and I suspect she is pretending that they are little critters needing to be banished from our little home.  No damage has been done and I have to admit, I do laugh at her antics which only encourages her to be even more naughty.  Regardless, I will work my way through the book and hopefully be adding beads to my braids successfully within the next while.

I have acquired a square kumihimo loom which produces a flat braid as opposed to the round braids that make their way off of the round loom.  I guess that makes sense when you think about it, but then, I have never used a loom before and this art form is new to me and anything could result from the continuous moving of the warp threads.  Please note that "warp" is referring to the threads and not to the speed at which I am producing the braid.  I have been using embroidery floss to make the braids and this makes for a very finely woven braid, very appealing I have to admit.  I am not one who is drawn to chunky jewelry, but that could change once I try something different.  Finding some coarser crochet cotton left over from another project, I suspect that I will give this a try to see what kind of braid results.  Any time spent working on this and learning is time well spent to my way of thinking.  My line of thought being that as long as I am learning something, the time I spend "playing" is really adult education of some sort.

The other two books are hopefully going to help me in my quest to learn how to draw with better accuracy whilst still encouraging me allow the free spirited artist within to just "go for it" and have fun.  Traci Bautista and I seem to be cut from the same cloth in that we both find art tools in every room of the flat.  The pattern of paper towelling can be transferred onto card stock, plastic lids from different jars can be inked to make circles on wrapping paper, and straws, stir sticks and skewers can all be used to scratch patterns on your mixed media pieces.  "Doodles Unleashed" provides a lot of ideas without telling you how to make a piece of art.  The prompts are there for just that reason, to give you an idea to try something different just to see how "your" piece of art develops.  You learn to save those odd bits of paper, thread, and crayons and pull them out in front of you to see just what you might come up with on any particular day.  The point is to have fun with your art, not to set out to make a predetermined piece that everyone else might also make.  Take some basic guidelines, and just let your piece develop the way you see it and with the colours that you feel like working with.  That is my kind of art!

But, I still would like to learn to to draw faces of a somewhat realistic nature but still have a certain whimsical charm to them.  Just to be clear, I am not aiming for the clown like faces sporting dunce caps on them, I find these just a tad too over the top.  I enjoy simple faces that have a natural but doll like look if that makes sense.  I am not trying to draw or paint portraits, just to give the idea of a face without too much emphasis on detail.  Express emotion, have some realistic qualities, but at the same time be fun and allow me to personalize them according to how I feel on that particular moment.  "Mixed Media Girls" encourages you to find the look that is authentic to your style of art and make interesting mixed pieces that incorporate all mediums to come up with textured art that appeals to you visually and emotionally.

Sounds like quite a lot on the go right now and yes, it is.  But, I love being challenged, tempted and eager to get moving every day.  Reading has that capability about it.  Amazing how powerful the written word can be and where it can take you if you let it.  What books are you reading and where are they leading you?  Will you try a new recipe this week or think about putting pen to paper to build a start up plan for a business?  Take time to read for at least an hour each day, whether it is fiction, an autobiography or whatever appeals to you.  It really is time well spent and you never know where your journey might take you.  You know, we might even cross paths!  Now, that would be fun and possibly dangerous in the best of ways.

Have a wonderful week and take some time for yourself to curl up with a good book.  I promise you, it will be time well spent!

Sincerely,   Rutheemac

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Moving along at my own pace

How can a week have gone by already?  Every Sunday I sit back and make plans for the upcoming week only to find that I rarely work past the halfway mark on said list.  I find that terribly frustrating in some ways and in other ways feel that this seems to be the way my life runs.  Always a step or two behind where I had hoped that I would find myself when I do a little mental check of how the week is progressing.

I had hoped to finish reading "Persuasion" but that did not happen.  I have made good progress through the book and am thoroughly enjoying it.  My e-reader tells me that I have read just over 80% of the book and with that in mind, I expect that I will reach the end by Tuesday or so.  I make no promises on that as I know that my plans can change without notice, on just a whim.   The e-reader seems to keep tabs on my reading habits and sends me messages every so often, just to make sure that I am aware of how my reading habits relate to my day to day life.  I tend to do most of my reading between 10 p.m. and 2 a.m.  My reading periods tend to range between 1 to 1.5 hours though I have read for over the 2 hour stretch on a few occasions.  When those magic moments occur, I receive a little message saying "Gee, you must really enjoy this book!  You have been reading for over 2 hours."  I suppose that these little messages are meant to encourage you to read even more and they do.  I have to admit that I look forward to these little e-notes and find it amusing that a little machine takes such an interest in my reading habits.  How sad is that!  Needing validation from my e-reader that I am putting my time to good use.  This seems to be a sign of the times, we need to know that we are not wasting our time.  But, what determines if something is a waste of time?

Admittedly, I do not like to think that I waste time.  Making the most of each day is something I strive for, but truthfully, what I consider to be a good use of time may not be the best in the view of others.  If you do not find yourself drawn to the pursuit of art in its many forms, then you would find my playing with coloured inks, paints, Japanese papers and other mediums to be a colossal misuse of the afternoon and early evening hours.  I find that I can lose myself whilst working on different colour intensities and enjoy the time I spend working on these in combination with other colours.  Reading books on drawing techniques and practicing in hopes of becoming a better artist seems like time well spent to me.  And, I can share these thoughts with you since you are following on my journey, whereas if I were to share these thoughts with others, I would find that they get that glassy eyed look signalling that they have mentally checked out for a bit.  I am careful when I am out with others that I try not to get into long discussions of what art forms I find interesting at that moment in time. 

My interests vary each day according to what I may have read online, heard about on the radio or caught a glimpse of in a magazine.  I am still deep into learning about braiding, a Japanese art form known as kumihimo and spent a lot of time trying a few braids over the past few days.  One in particular took over 8 hours to complete and is about 16 inches in length.  Yes, that was a long time to spend on one piece, but when you take into consideration that I was working with embroidery thread, you can well imagine how fine the resulting braid is, meaning that it is not a chunky braid, but a slender one with the colours entwining throughout the rope.  I learned how to whip the ends of the braid so that a end cap can be attached allowing the piece to be made into a necklace or bracelet.  Making an end cap out of 18 gauge wire is on this week's agenda as is learning to work beads onto the braid.  I did try with some beads that I had on hand, but realize that I need to start off using smaller seed beads in order to learn the technique.  I will persevere with the hopes of making a few pieces of jewelry to add colour to my wardrobe as well as to make a gift for a friend who is moving away shortly. 

Today is a day that I have set aside to do some cooking a la Julie Anne Rhodes' PCApproch.  Armed with her menu plan, grocery list and instructions, I have pulled together a few recipes to cook up today and freeze so that dinner can be on the table in minutes when I finally clue in to that rumbling feeling in my stomach.  Seafood risotto, cashew creamed soup, chicken breasts stuffed with herbed goat cheese and a wonderful orzo spinach salad are in the planning stages in my kitchen and will be portioned out and frozen later today.  A marinated salad of mixed vegetables will also be accomplished before the end of the day which comes in handy for the mid afternoon munchies that hit me regularly each day.  Far better to plan ahead and have a container of these waiting for me in the fridge than to make a piece of toast with peanut butter.  I have a love of bread that I need to curb and I am hoping that if I make up a container of vegetables that still have some crunch left in them, that I might get past the craving for carbs. 

Julie Anne (@JulieAnneRhodes on Twitter) mentioned in her blog that giving a membership to her site for a Mother's Day gift would be wonderful for all mums.  I am thinking that a membership would be a lovely gift for new mums who find getting meals on the table along with all the activities involved with taking care of a new little person, to be a bit daunting.  This time of year finds us looking for bridal shower gifts, wedding gifts and so on.  How nice would it be to open up a package to find a new piece of equipment for the kitchen along with a membership to PCA?  Knowing that many new couples like to spend time in the kitchen together, giving them the gift of weekly menus along with the recipes provides them with the tools that will enable them to eat healthy meals on a daily basis without the need to do a major cooking spree every single day.  Take a look at Julie Anne's site at to read about the Personal Chef Approach to cooking and how you can purchase a membership for yourself or as a gift for someone in your life.  I can vouch for the cost saving using this approach to cooking!

Another friend, Jodi, has a wonderful Etsy site that you might want to take a look at if you are looking for a Mother's Day gift.  Mother's Day in North America is on Sunday, May 13 and Jodi can arrange to ship your gift.  She makes the most unique jewelry and I am quite certain that you will find more than one piece that would be perfect for your mum.  Check out Jodi's shoppe at to find something lovely and different.  I find myself going back to the site often to see what is new and get ideas for what might be interesting to wear.  I met Jodi through Julie Anne's web site and we tweet back and forth regularly sharing thoughts on what we are cooking.  You see, everything revolves around food, or so it seems.   

So, that is how this past week played out and how this week is starting off.  I think that spending a few hours in the kitchen will put me in a zen spot mentally and allow me to mellow out as well as put some ready to heat meals in my freezer.  That will allow for more studio time and hopefully, some finished pieces to put up for you to see.  I am moving along at my own pace and whilst it would be nice to move forward a bit more quickly, I am content that as long as I am working on something, that my time is well spent.

Have a wonderful week!

Sincerely,   Rutheemac