Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Haad uut aastat!!

That's "Happy New Year!" in Estonian.

They must have just three seasons in Estonia because he's dressed for winter, she's dressed for spring and the kitty looks like he's ready for summer.

Meeeeee tooo.

Happy New Year everybody!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Modern art made by two Modern girls

Years ago there were two little girls who lived up the street who every once in a while would come to my door and sell me...well, anything they could quickly find. Usually they were selling coloring book pages, but sometimes it would be something like pine cones (um, collected from my front yard, I wasn't supposed to know that). 

I always bought everything they had with the change I had on hand. After a while I was getting a little suspicious of the drawings I was getting because one time I asked which one of them drew the picture they were selling and neither one would take credit for it. I have a feeling they were picking up discarded drawings from school, their other sister, or friend's houses and then bringing them to me to sell because I bought a lot. Ha ha ha. One day I asked these two little entrepreneurs what they were going to do with all this money they were getting. They both piped up, "We're saving our money to buy convertibles."

They moved out of the neighborhood years ago (and they probably have their convertibles by now) but before they left, they made this drawing on posterboard for me. Well, I think they drew it..... least their names are on it. And I didn't have to pay for it. Ha ha ha.

They have some interesting imagery. Lots of eyeball or eye related shapes...

Kitties (they knew I liked cats but when Violet saw them coming, she would flatten herself to the ground and hide under the car)...

Ying Yangs (three of them!)...

The earth wearing an "equator belt"...

But no flowers (I just assumed all girls added flowers, well, I do, they're easy to draw). Instead they drew some interesting geometric shapes and cross sections...

Those girls were silly. It was always confusing figuring out who was who because one of them, the younger one, had one major growth spurt over the year and was soon a head taller than her older sister. I wonder what silliness those two are up to these days...and what kind of convertible cars they ended up driving.

In the spirit of the new year coming...

Monday, December 29, 2008

Victorian art made by a Victorian girl

This is the second in a series of six collages  I own that a little girl made in the mid to late 1800s. 

I'm not sure exactly when they were made but not earlier than 1853 (because of the date on the maps from a geography book or atlas that were used as the backing pieces).

This is the map on the back of this particular piece. Click on the image if you want to see it in more detail.

Based on what the woman is wearing, she's probably from the 1870s. If she was wearing something from the 1850s, it would have been a hoop skirt sticking out equally from all sides. In the 1870s, skirts got flatter in the front and fuller in the back because of the use of bustles. 

I'm mystified how women did anything in hoop skirts. No wonder they had to have servants to raise the children, clean the house...basically have other people do absolutely everything for them, including getting dressed. I don't even know how they sat down or what happened if they got caught in a wind gust. If you had to spend your day in a hoop skirt, would you see anyone under the age of five if they were in the same room with you? This kid is on good behavior because her mom can actually see her and if she wanted to, she could actually reach out and touch her. Hoop skirts are just bizarre, not that bustles aren't too.

The Sears-Roebuck catalog became available in 1894 but I'm not sure if these little black and white cutouts are from that or something else (perhaps a newspaper?). That's something I still have to research.

But until I figure out exactly when these collages were created, it's still fun to look at the details. This cornice of pleated paper is impressive. It must have been pretty when it was first made because the blue paper that was used is very thick and heavily pigmented with a mat blue.

The bed pillows are "embroidered" with the initials "M" and "F." 

This little compote (or calling card receiver?) on the blue table may or may not have come from a Sears-Roebuck catalog. If it did, that would date these collages to almost the end of the 19th century. I just have a feeling they were made earlier than that, based on the fashions alone. By the time I get to the sixth collage in this collection, I hope to have them dated with a time period I'm confident is close to accurate. :-)

Click on the images if you want to see them bigger. There's a lot of detail in these collages but unfortunately I lost some of it when scanning because of the multiple thicknesses of paper. :-/

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Different Opinions On Men and Things

This print dated December 24, 1794 is another Laurie & Whittle hand-colored print. I'm drawn to anything antique that has a sense of humor to it. The attitudes of these two women is very modern, they may as well be on a modern day greeting card. :-)

In October, spaced a few days apart, I got to see two very successful bloggers talk (but not so much about men, more about things). Stephanie Pearl-McPhee, aka The Yarnharlot and Heather Armstrong, aka Dooce. You get very familiar with people and their blogs, you think you get to know them pretty well, so I was surprised to hear Stephanie's voice because it was a lot lower than what I expected and that Heather woman? She is tall, TALL. 

I like to hear stories about how people got to where they are. Ages ago I had a boyfriend who was a devotee of Guru Maharaj Ji (this was the 70s) and I liked to attend Satsang with him because I liked to hear the stories about how people turned themselves around and finally found their direction (by the way, I am not religious in any form or way, ever, but that doesn't mean my friends can't be). 

Listening to these two women talk about how they got to where they are now was the familiar story of focusing. And maybe being backed into a corner and having to figure out something. And maybe just general stubbornness. :-) Or any combination of the above.

Stephanie lost her job at a hospital in Toronto because of the SARS panic, her husband lost his job in the music industry related to the same panic. What to do, what to do? She decided that the only thing she was qualified to do was write and what she was passionate about was knitting so she just hauled herself to a publisher with a book proposal. It certainly shouldn't have worked out but seven books later?...she definitely found a niche and a voice for a lot of fellow knitters.

Heather lost her job because she blogged about where she worked...a little too honestly, even though it was probably all true and very funny. She was compelled to write so she then chose to write about her family instead. Well, that did not go over too well with her family. At all. But compelled she was to keep writing. She learned that if you write about your work situation, you could lose your job, write honestly about your family, you could make them really mad at you, write about becoming a mother and how that changes everything about you (while still retaining her murderous wit), there was an audience. You just have to be aware that you are visible to a lot of people and to be responsible for what you say. Which she is now, not that she has compromised anything about her humor.

When you listen to people talk about their lives in front of an audience, there is usually something in the back of your mind you're waiting to hear (at least that's how it is with me). Two people can hear one person's lecture and be mystified by each other's interpretation of what was just said. I'm always drawn to creative journeys of people but in October, I was in a major creative slump. Nothing interesting was happening with what I was drawing or what I was writing on the blog and I was getting really frustrated with myself. I couldn't get anywhere. That was my state of mind when I heard Heather talk. Someone asked her if she ever had writer's block and how she handled it. Heather said that when writer's block happens, and it does, she has written long enough to know that it will last two weeks. She just has to keep writing while she waits for the block to pass. And you know, she was right. I really appreciated her simple answer to something that causes me so much frustration. Just wait two weeks, everything will change.

If you haven't read either of these two people, check them out. They are FUNNY. And remember to check out the "Daily Chuck" on Dooce because that dog is the most patient dog on earth. :-)

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas ornaments

I have collected a lot of honeycomb paper ornaments over the years. A lot. Since this year's tree is a small one, I hung only the tiny delicate ones-the Japanese lantern ornaments. The tallest ones are about 2 inches tall.

I have one set that is colored.

And an identical set in white.

They're very delicate and pretty.

And since I can't resist a bird with a personality EVER, I must have about fifty of these little guys. 

And quite a few of these glitter birds too (looks like this guy is not too used to flying though).

And to finish the tree off, a set of deco era bridge tallys. I keep meaning to collect more of these things because they do look pretty hanging from a tree. Perhaps I should keep that in mind for next year's tree(s). :-)

Christmas inspiration

When I draw animals, they're usually very helpful and thoughtful animals. They put on their work socks and get right in there to help with whatever needs some helping.

My inspiration for such sweet behavior?

Oh, this would not be it. Yesterday Violet stayed in her pajamas all day and wouldn't get out of bed.

So the tree decorating was done just by me. And while I was retrieving ornaments from godknowswhere upstairs, my neighbor's security alarm went off. I knew he was visiting relatives for the day so I ran over to check on the house but saw no one.........but the front door was open. I called the police and apparently there was a quick break-in (the thief was in and out before the alarm went off a minute later!). So I decorated my tree in between going out and talking to the police officers and later my neighbor who had to leave his family north of the river and return home to attend to a broken door frame. The thief ran off with some presents that my neighbor and his girlfriend had just opened before they left to visit his folks. My neighbor seemed pretty calm about it though... he's probably getting used to these break-ins (last year the thieves used his back door). Lovely neighborhood I live in. 

I don't think he liked the "man purse" he got from his girlfriend anyway. That was one of the things stolen and my neighbor seemed kind of glad it was gone. And maybe some other guy might be receiving it as a "Christmas gift" today and kind of wishing he never got it either.

Anyway, ladies and gentleman, I present to you the Christmas crime tree because that's all I could think about in the twenty minutes it took to decorate it. But I got it done fast. When you know the police are going to be at your door soon and for who knows how long, inspiration hits you faster than enjoying the mood of  sitting around drinking coffee and staring at your passed out cat in the sunshine.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

More "More is More" mosaics

The little drawing was made by Jen Kostecki of her grey cheek parakeet Jackson. The frame is made of glass, small bits of mirrored glass, buttons, beads and a place card holder in the shape of a...goose?

It's hard to take a clear photo through glass, in a dark room and leaning over a birdcage with someone's beak letting you know they don't appreciate the intrusion over their airspace. This is the best I could do to get a good closeup of little Jack's portrait.

This is another Cathy Law collaged paper kitty. The frame is made of glass, buttons, beads, wire and one metal washer. The silvery looking glass was made by painting the reverse side with silver paint. 

I think this handsome kitty looks like a Chinese emperor in my overly embellished frame. 

There are a lot of celluloid buttons and beads used in this piece that are situated very close to metal. I've been lucky that after more than ten years, the celluloid has not crumbled into nothingness. If you have ever opened an old fruitcake tin filled with buttons and found a lot of crumbs at the bottom and some mystifying loose metal button shanks, those crumbs used to be celluloid buttons. Even if it's a glass jar, if you store celluloid buttons with metal buttons in something airtight, a chemical reaction takes place between the celluloid and metal causing both to disintegrate...mostly the celluloid. If you have some forgotten old buttons sitting somewhere, you might want to remove the celluloid ones and store them somewhere away from metal and not in something airtight. They need to breathe.

As always, click on the images if you want to see them in more detail.

Two examples of "More is More"

These two little mosaic frames are about 6 by 6 inches and are made of glass, a broken mirror, buttons (some stacked on top of other buttons), tumbled glass, and some extra things like a pair of ceramic shoes, a chandelier prism, an old rhinestone elephant pin with a broken clasp and some little plastic elephant charms.

I collect a lot of things (lusterware, honeycomb paper, hand-colored prints for example) but I also collect things just because of their color. One of my favorite colors to collect is "tango orange." It was a color popular in the 20s and 30s. It's a very intense, can't your take your eyes off it, reddish orange. It's probably one of those colors that was made with uranium. I don't care, I still adore it.

Inside these two frames are two little pieces of art from friends. The cut paper kitty in the top frame was done by Cathy Law (who has no flaw) and the one on the bottom? Well....I know I did the color. I had tested a red I was mixing (this was done in the pre-digital age) on a 3x5 and when I came back to my desk, I think a Mr. Dick Daniels  had dropped by to add some linework while I was away. :-) 

Monday, December 22, 2008

Things that get done (or started) when you procrastinate

I earnestly set out to thoroughly clean the house over the weekend so I would have some place to put the tree. In the past I have had two live trees and one crazy pink Martha Stewart tree but looks like the Martha will probably be the only one I put up this year because there is too much big stuff to get out of the way for one, let alone two big trees (even though I buy the Charlie Brown ones). So, when I know I have to do something, the procrastinating starts and usually something else unplanned gets done.

I've had these brackets for years and years and years. I kept meaning to put them up over the kitchen window but always stalled because of the chipping paint which almost certainly contains lead. Oh heck with it, I still know my multiplication tables, up they went yesterday. 

Years ago I had added some vintage buttons (made with chips of shell in the resin so that they sparkle). I think I have a drawer full of the things. All lime green (one of my favorite colors). Why add the buttons to something that was already pretty ornate to begin with? I think it was one of my theme years. More about that later.

The iron brackets are now hung over the kitchen window but now I have to buy some wood and sand it, prime it and paint it and add molding and put it on the brackets so that I have a shelf. Then buy a dowel and do the same sanding, priming, painting thing and make some finials and make some curtains and make something to hang between the two curtains because I'd like to block out my neighbors' many visits to their bathroom. Why would anyone design a house so that one person's kitchen window looks directly across the driveway to their neighbor's bathroom window? I think the light goes on and off over there every 20 minutes. Jeez. 

But wait, I had to spackle some Stella damage on the woodwork of the window so I'm going to have to sand and prime and paint without opening the window because if I do it today, it's like 0 degrees outdoors. So maybe in two weeks I think I'll have something to show off. If this project was on the HGTV channel, I'm sure it would have been done in thirty minutes while someone was eating a sandwich. I wish I lived in the reality of those reality shows sometimes.

Okay, the theme years. Years ago I gave up on New Year's resolutions and decided to go with theme years instead. Just concentrate on one thing you want to do or accomplish. When I added those buttons to the brackets, it was probably my "More is more" year. I had recently learned how to mosaic and I could not get enough of it. That's the perfect art form for someone who collects a lot of pretty but tiny useless stuff. I got to hear Judy Onofrio talk about her work around that time and took something she said and added it to my theme year's title. Someone asked her how she knew when she had enough things collected to start a project (This woman has so much stuff, she was actually donated the basement space in a shopping mall to store it!). This was her answer, "Enough is not enough. Once you have enough, you're just getting started." That quote really stuck in my head. So my theme for my embellishment/mosaic year was "More is more. Less is a bore. Enough is not enough. Once you have enough, you're just getting started."  I did a lot of mosaic work that year and it was FUN. 

I've had other theme years that weren't that exciting because they were things I should be doing (lose weight, get organized, etc.), not things I wanted to do. I just remembered another theme year- "100% Girl." Ha ha ha. I felt I needed to improve my percentage because I could care less about chocolate, I hate shopping, and I never quite learned the concept of accessorizing or how to apply makeup. So that was another failed theme year. I might have gone up a percentage point at the end of the year though. Ha ha ha.

It's almost Christmas and I've already skipped ahead to the new year. Okay, time to hunker down and concentrate on getting a tree up, any tree up before December 25. I grew up in a house where the tradition was that you did not see the Christmas tree until Christmas morning. It was magical and spectacular to see the tree, the presents, the full stockings, and all the things that Santa brought too. When I got older, I kind of questioned the why as to why the tree went up so late. My dad said it was an Irish tradition. I think possibly because he could get a good deal on a tree on Christmas Eve too, if not free. I think his tradition kind of works for procrastination too. Ha ha ha. Anyway, I still have a couple days before I really need to have that tree up so if any of you are wondering why I'm even thinking of putting up a tree at this point, that's the tradition in my family, for whatever reason. :-)

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Still thinking about that raccoon...

It's 5 degrees outside. Brrrr. But yesterday it was above freezing and the snow melted enough so that I could identify the animal tracks in the backyard. Once the fluffiness of the several inches of old snow started melting, I could see the foot impressions left when they originally compacted the snow in the ground. I saw lots and lots of telltale little handprints...a lot! It was raccoon craziness all over the perimeter of the yard. There were prints leading to and leaving the elm...tracks indicating that some time was spent under the deck...but absolutely no raccoon footprints on the steps leading up the deck, or any footprints on the deck. Who knows if I'll ever see Freddie again. If those tracks came from Freddie, he's listened to his momma who told him to stay off the deck. And he definitely has.......he just has been everywhere else in my backyard. 

Anyway, the little guy is still in my thoughts, as well as raccoons in general.  This week I learned of another person (where I work) who grew up with a raccoon. 

This raccoon came to live with the family when he was a baby and was this person's brother's favorite pet growing up. Her brother spent a lot of time with the raccoon which she thinks is why this raccoon was so gentle for all of its life. The raccoon liked to sit on the back of her brother's shoulders and rest his chin on her brother's head when they went walking. The kids would take the raccoon to the creek and let him catch crayfish. They would also walk with him to the local stores. It seemed like that raccoon went everywhere those kids went. Their dad built a large fenced pen around some trees in the backyard and put several doghouses in the trees for this raccoon. But when it got cold in the winter, her brother would bring the raccoon into the house at night and it would sleep at the foot of his bed. Bandit was a very, very smart and gentle raccoon that lived over twenty years with that family. When her brother left home to go to college, she inherited the raccoon who then lived with her. The person who told me this story obviously loved that raccoon very much. She said that Bandit's hands were the most amazing things to feel and that she liked to take the paws and hold them against her face because they were so soft. 

I thought that was such a sweet story but, she had another one(!). 

Her father took a three week painting workshop in the Catskills a long time ago and since he wanted as much time as he could get to paint, he set up a painting tent to continue his painting at night. While he was painting one night, he felt a tug on his paintbrush and when he looked down, it was a young raccoon who had grabbed it. He gave the raccoon whatever was leftover from an earlier snack and so started the visits every night when he was painting. Every night the raccoon would return and tug on his paintbrush to let him know he was there and then her father would give him some food which he would carry away to his siblings who were less bold.

I just love stories like that. I don't expect Freddie to move in but it would be nice to know that he's still out there and is safe. 

Here's a picture of little Freddie taken over a month ago when he was waiting for the "food lady" to notice him and bring him something good to eat...on a plate, of course.

And a close-up of his face with an odd expression because he was trying to avoid the flash of my camera.

Miss that little dude. I keep saying that but I still mean it.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Not all honeycomb paper is pretty and sweet, some of it is...


This is Frilly Fran. I am not sure why she has a mustache or why her name is Fran. All I know is that Robert D. Tritt takes credit for it and it was made in Carlisle, PA. He was born in 1908 and lived in Cumberland, PA in the 1930 census. That's as far as I got with trying to figure out the story of how and why this thing came to be.

There are two identical cardboard sides to this toy and when you open it up there are three honeycomb garlands attached to both sides. The object of the toy is to maneuver the two cardboard "handles" to get as many honeycomb shape variations possible. 

For example, when you put the two right sides of the handles together, you get this (ignore Violet in the background, I tried to)...

Another variation...


And another...

Violet is carefully making contact... 

...and was allowed only one or two seconds of investigation because tissue paper and cats do not mix. I used to sew and every cat that has ever lived with me always tried to help when I needed to pin the tissue pattern to the fabric. Errrrgh. Violet's one of those cats that likes to pull out the pins too.
Just a couple taps and Frilly Fran went back into a drawer, safe from investigative paws and beaks.