Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Paper Sculpture

If you're like me, your inspirations come in waves. When I admitted to myself (after 4 intense years) that digital art wasn't doing it for me anymore, I went through a fairly scary dry spell, but lately, the waves have been crashing on shore so constantly that I'm making lists of inspirations, lest I forget some of them. How do I know when it's a worthwhile inspiration? I forget to breathe. That, and my heart beats faster, and sometimes I get tears in my eyes. Sounds like a religious experience, doesn't it? It is, sort of. When we create something from within, we're connected as though with an umbilical cord with El Shaddai, The Great I Am, Cosmic Consciousness, or whatever you choose to call It. Anyway, it's a rush, and it makes me happy and gives me a reason to get up in the morning, to wake up expectantly with plans already milling around in my scattered little brain for my current art victim.

I was working happily on the project I thought would come next in this blog when I went rummaging in a supply/storage closet and came across 2 paper lamps I'd bought years ago at Pier 1. One of them got damaged when visitors were rough-housing in the living room (nobody ever admitted to the crime; I guess it jumped off and impaled itself on the table corner), and I liked the lamps too much to throw them away. They're useless as a light source, but they give off such a soft, golden glow. How could I not love them? People talk a lot these days about repurposing objects. I like that term. It's good for the planet, and it speaks to the reverence for the stuff we bring into our lives.

A few years ago, I began doing paper sculpture. I didn't know that was the name for it. Actually, I thought I'd invented something when I began cutting shapes from paper and gluing them together. Then I saw online that artists had been doing it for a long time, even making a living from it. So much for my invention. I did several ambitious pieces, one of them being a 4-foot picture of peacocks in a tree, all white. I never was satisfied with it, but Jim made a frame for it, and it hung on the wall for a while. Then I decided I couldn't take it anymore, but I'd spent hundreds of hours cutting out those feathers, and I couldn't throw them away. Do we see a pattern forming here? So I stripped them from the backboard and stuffed them into a couple of Wal-Mart sacks and stuck them in the closet. Here's a detail of the feathers, and the image at the top is a shot of an iris watercolor/paper sculpture that hangs in the hallway.

So, there were the lamps and the feathers, waiting to be repurposed, together; Breathe, Cat, just breathe.....I abandoned the other project for the moment and began feverishly gluing feathers to lamps, making sure to cover the damaged spot. It took about an hour, and I could hardly wait till dark to see the full impact of my new lamps! Well, I'm in love with them. They're not really repurposed; they're still lamps but with a new attitude. Hard to do them justice in photos.

'Scuse me now, I started yet another project yesterday, and it's the kind that involves the house, and Jim will be impatient with me till I get it finished and everything back to normal. He likes my art, just not the messy part between inspiration and ta-daaah!

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Essentially Repellent

This one is for Belinda because we were talking about the problems we have in the mid-south with biting bugs in summer, and she asked for my essential oils insect repellent recipe. Where commercial repellents have side effects and smell yucky, essential oils have health benefits and smell like the best of nature. It's a no brainer.

Some of us simply attract bugs! When I was a child, we roamed the fields and woods, picnicked alongside gurgling streams, waded through waist high sage grass to get to the swimming hole, and I can't ever remember getting bitten by ticks, chiggers or mosquitoes. These days, they'll crawl, fly or hop past a dozen people to get to me, and when I'm bitten, it's red and itchy for days. Global warming? I dunno, but they never bite Jim. I resent him deeply for that. He says it's because I don't drink enough alcohol. I tell him it's because I'm so sweet, dang it! Anyway, I'll digress here and tell you my favorite remedy for insect bites: Wipe the inside of a banana peel on the bite. It works better than Benedryl, and you get to eat the banana. When we're out of bananas, I have pieces of frozen banana peel in the freezer. It works just as well.

If you're new to essential oils, buy the good stuff online or in your health food store, but when you find a display where all the oils are the same price, walk on by. They may smell nice, but they're mostly filler because true essential oil prices within a brand can vary from $4.95 to 50 bucks or more, depending on how rare or expensive they are to produce. They are the essence of plants, flowers, berries, seeds, bark, rhizome, resin, peels and roots. Store the bottles tightly capped in a cool, dark place, and they'll last a long time. The uses are infinite. I believe they were the first medicines and are capable of making our bodies and homes healthier. (I think I've already shared with you my using Tea Tree Oil for dust mites and Oil of Cloves for ants.) I love nice perfume, but I don't wear it in summer because it attracts insects. Instead, I wear a dab of my favorite oils.

Many essential oils repel insects, and you can learn about them with a little research. The ones I've used in this recipe are simply some of my favorites.

Lavender Oil.....If I could have only one essential oil, it would be lavender. It's used in perfumes, is calming, anti-depressant, treats skin problems, is anti-microbial, anti-inflammatory, is used for burns, migraines, muscle cramps, digestion, asthma, allergies, menstrual cramps, and insect repellent. I have a diffuser pad where I can drop a few drops of Lavender Oil and plug it into an outlet in my bedroom; it fills the room with tranquility.

Cedarwood Oil.....Of course we know cedar keeps moths away, but among its many other uses are tonics for muscles, skin, digestion and brain disorders, also an expectorant, insecticide, fungicide, and sedative qualities.

Lemon Balm Oil (Citronella)...... has traditionally been employed against bronchial inflammation, earache, fever, flatulence, headaches, high blood pressure, influenza, mood disorders, palpitations, toothache and vomiting. A tea made from Lemon balm leaves is said to soothe menstrual cramps and helps relieve PMS. Researchers have found that using lemon balm also improved memory and lengthened attention span in individuals suffering from Alzheimer's disease. This effect may be due to its content of antioxidants, which are thought to protect body cells from damage caused by a chemical process called oxidation. And a few plants in your flower bed repels insects.

Orange Oil .....Gives relief from anxiety, anger, depression, inflammation, is a detoxifier, and boosts immunity, and insects avoid prolonged exposure to it.

Rosemary Oil.....has been a symbol for remembrance since ancient times. Aside from the fact that I love the smell of this herb and have a huge bush about 4 feet wide just outside my back steps, it's excellent in cooking, relieves muscle pain, is calming, lowers blood pressure and inflammation and treats wounds. Sometimes when I'm walking past it, I break off a long stem and rub it on my arms and legs just because I enjoy being enveloped in its scent. Oh yes, and bugs don't care for it.

Sandalwood Oil.......This is the most expensive essential oil I own. At Rose Mountain Herbs, 1/4 oz costs $42, but it's an awesome scent, found in many of my favorite perfumes, and it's all the good stuff, like antiseptic, deodorant, tonic, memory booster, etc. You'll notice bugs don't like anything antiseptic.

Patchouli Oil......I'm probably more drawn to this one simply as a scent than any other. There's a site called Basenotes, where I've learned tons about why we're attracted to certain scents. When I plugged in all my favorite perfumes from throughout my life, Patchouli was a common denominator in most of them. It's also a fungicide, insecticide, anti-inflammatory, tonic, etc.

So, take a small bottle, preferably one that has a pump, and fill it to within an inch from the top with a good oil. You can use Sweet Almond Oil or even a high grade olive oil. Now begin to experiment with quantities of your essential oils. Start with a dozen drops of each. Let your nose be your guide; you inherently know what's good for you, if your trust the process. Shake well before each use. I apply it to my arms and legs when I'm finished showering, wiping it on my wet skin and then letting myself air dry. Some of the scents evaporate before others. I notice the Patchouli lasts longest on me.

I wore this to my uncle's cookout on Memorial Day. It was a typically humid, sticky summer day, and everyone there was getting stung repeatedly by those dratted little sweat bees. I never even had one light on me. Proof enough. Let me know if you make your own repellent and if you come up with any new additions. The possibilities are endless................. Oh, and one more thing, I don't use commercial repellents on Marley. Some of the most popular ones have proven to be lethal to small dogs. When he gets his weekly bath, I put a few drops of essential oil, usually Patchouli, into his rinse water, and he's protected and smells a little like Jim does when he's wearing Polo.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Mosaic Dulcimer

Well, it's finished; it took about 3 weeks, beginning with cutting my tiles from sheets of stained glass. I cut about 90% of the tiles in this project. I like to do that because the finished piece seems more like mine than when I buy them precut. As you'll see, the tiles for the back of the dulcimer are, shall we say, untraditional? My way of doing mosaics appeals to me, mostly because it challenges me to make do.

I grew up poor, nothing wrong with that, and mostly I'm glad I didn't have the proverbial silver spoon in my mouth. We were country poor, and by that I mean we had food, shelter and clothing, and most everyone around us was poor, too, so we didn't consciously know it or dwell on it. A few people in town, like C. C. Pierson, who owned the hardware store, roller rink, furniture store, and movie theater were considered rich, but by today's standards I think even C.C. wasn't that well off.

Back then, nobody ever thought of having the government support them, and we knew that we only could have what our parents provided with their hard work. That's a good thing to grow up knowing, and another thing, probably the most valuable lesson that my mother taught me was how to make do with what's at hand. She's creative that way, and if she wanted a flower bed out front, she gathered rocks and a sack of concrete and went to work building one. She sewed most of my clothes, and I'd walk down to the mercantile store and buy 3 yards of colorful fabric for $1.00 and a 35 cent Butterick pattern, dream up my own version of it, and she'd sew me an outfit as pretty as any in the J.C. Penny catalog. Once a friend gave her a long, wool coat, and though it fit her well, and she didn't have a long coat, she took it apart, cut it down, and gave it to me. I thought it was beautiful. And that's the feeling I get from creating with mosaic tiles. Here's how I did this one:

I used a glass cutter, grinder, snips and breaking tool, sand paper, alcohol, tweezers, glue, marking pen, and grout. I'd had the dulcimer for 30 years and thought it looked nice on the mantle but didn't have any remorse at taking it out to the shop and prepping it by roughing it up with sand paper. There are several ways of laying out and applying tiles; my way is to experiment with small sections and then glue them down.

The only part I don't like is the grout. It's messy and ugly, and once it's applied, it looks as if my jewels got stuck in mud, which is exactly what has happened.
Grout is meant to be a drab background for the sparkly treasures, but I experiemented this time and applied an acrylic, pearlized wash over it; I love the look, just enough of a sheen to compliment my sparkly tiles.

Actually, I was pleased with the whole thing, after I created some faux frets and added new strings.

Oh yeah, and here's the hypertufa leaf I made a while back. I painted it after the 28 day wait for it to finish drying. Waiting is the hardest part. And now I'm off on a couple of new artsy crafty adventures; I'll share them with you when they're finished. Have a happy, creative day!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Dog Days of Summer

Hey, guess what! Oh, you'll never get it. Sawyer came to visit me! And he brought Ian and Josh and Nan. And guess what else.......Do I have to tell you everything? He wouldn't play with me. What's with dogs? This summer I've had Haven, Buffy, Bella, and Sawyer over for some romping fun in the backyard, and they're all amazing, beautiful dogs...............that do not play with me! There I am, doing all the friendly, tail wagging doggie stuff, like sniffing their butts and sharing my water and toys and food, and nuttin!

It's okay, not like I'm complainin' or anything. I just loved their smells and getting to know what dogs are like, and when each of them left, I ran from one door to the other, thinking maybe, just maybe, they'd come back. Mom says it's because I'm still a kid, and they're grown, except for Buffy, and she was real shy and hid behind her daddy.

Other than that, I'm spending most of these summer days inside with Moose, Turtle and Mickey. They're always ready to play. After the sun goes down, mom takes me outside for a while, and I run around like crazy and talk to other dogs barking in the distance. Oh yeah, and I got a Rabies vaccination! Mom didn't want me to have it; she said where am I gonna get rabies, and her friend Lu, who is a retired nurse, said the shots are hard on little dogs like me because they give us the same dose as they do to big dogs. But you know dad, everything by the book, so there we were, waiting in Dr. Mann's office with dogs whose heads are bigger than I am. It hurt pretty bad, and my right leg swelled up, and I'm still limping a little (nearly 2 weeks later), but I'll be okay, and mom said that was absolutely the last one!

That's about it, 'cept that my hair is shorter; Mom had visions of floor-length, silky hair and a topknot but decided it's not practical for a Shih Tzu in Arkansas summer heat, so when she brushes me everyday, she also trims me with scissors. (I just go to the groomer for a sanitary trim, ear check, anal glands, and nail trim.) Did you know that Shih Tzu hair is like human hair and never stops growing? She can experiment with longer hair when the weather cools off, but hey, I'm cute no matter what. Well, I'll see ya later, and if you happen to have a small dog that might play with me, c'mon over! High-5!!