My New Love – Encaustic Painting

I just got back from another wonderful class at John C. Campbell Folk School – this time it was encaustic painting. Now, I am not a painter, per se. My only 2D art endeavors are collage and making my own papers for collage, book arts, etc. But this looked like an interesting class, and even better, my sister was also interested. So she flew in from Texas and we took the class together.

For those who are not familiar, encaustic painting is an ancient technique that uses paint made from a mixture of wax, pigment, and resin. You melt that and apply it to your surface, then use a heat gun (or propane torch, for the brave and experienced!) and melt it to varying degrees of liquidity depending on the effect you want to create. It allows for layering, surface texture, image transfer, use of oil paint, India and alcohol inks, and even embedding objects in the wax. Everything you know about color mixing and composition comes into play, with the addition of the chaotic flow of melted wax. It is completely entrancing.

As a beginner, of course what I am creating right now is clumsy (at best). But I am enchanted enough that I’m willing to keep playing with it and learning more. I’m finding lots of inspiration on Pinterest. And my guiding light right now is Ira Glass’s advice to beginners, about being willing to keep producing “bad” work and accept that it will take a while before my skills match my taste.

So I’ve committed to doing some encaustic something every day now, in those morning art hours that I talked about earlier in the year. I kind of got away from that for a while, but I’m back. Today’s picture is of a piece created by our instructor, Brian Dunning, that he made to illustrate many of the techniques we learned last week. I was so inspired by it, and love it so much, that I bought it from him.

Balloon Girl Encaustic Painting by Brian Dunning

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Two Hours a Day – Who Knew?

My new schedule of “no electronics in the morning, 2-3 hours making art first thing” is successful beyond anything I expected!

By having this time every day, I am able to give myself permission to do just so much, then stop, knowing I can pick up again the next day. This is incredibly freeing. Not getting distracted by Facebook or email or a book or the news means I get started on creative ventures early, and by midday I’ve accomplished enough to feel satisfied. I can happily move on to other things.

Paper Dyed with India Ink

Papers Dyed with India Ink

Paper beads and a quote by Sir Francis Bacon printed then dyed

Paper beads and a quote by Sir Francis Bacon printed then dyed

This week I’ve done more dyeing of paper with India ink, and started making paper beads with the results. I like these very much and while I’m making them I’m thinking about ways to use them.

I’ve also found that when I print with my ink-jet printer on mixed-media paper, the results are waterproof! That paper can be dyed, glued, etc. without bleeding.


Which opens up a whole other universe of possibility, because now my digital art skills can come into play. My first project will be a set of Inspiration Cards printed, dyed, and collaged to paper cloth. Yes, I am stealing like an artist (thank you Austin Kleon) with this idea – inspired by a project idea in Stitch Alchemy by Kelli Perkins.

I think I have to delve into paper folding soon too, especially to make pop-up shapes. It’s just all too much fun. Cheers until next time.

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Paper Arts in the New Year

Happy New Year, everyone!

In this new year, I am focusing on how to spend the right amount of time making art every day. Too little, and I feel like I’ve missed out as time whips by. Too much, and I feel burned out and end up skipping other things I really need to do. Here’s what I’m trying right now: in the morning, at breakfast, I no longer look at Facebook or the news. Instead, I spend time with one of my art books getting inspired. Then I go into my studio (which I am trying hard to keep as a phone- and tablet-free area in the morning) and play around with art stuff. Meditate. Journal. I stop at lunch and then spend the afternoon exercising, spinning, reading, cooking. whatever. NOT art. This schedule is definitely a work in progress but it’s going in the right direction.

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I’m really getting into paper arts right now. This week’s projects include folding paper into squares and strips, and dying them with India ink, as well as making more paper cloth to use as a substrate for mixed media work. It’s been fun using things I’ve learned about color in my classes at USC. These two examples of folded paper are each dyed with complementary colors (opposite on the color wheel).

Paper folded and dyed with India Ink

Paper folded and dyed with India Ink

Paper Cloth with Dyed-paper add-ins and alcohol ink drops

Paper Cloth with Dyed-paper add-ins and alcohol ink drops

The great thing about India ink is that once it dries, it’s waterproof, so you can use dyed paper in other wet applications and it won’t bleed. I cut up one of my less favorite dying experiments and added it to one of my new paper cloths pieces, and I like the way it came out. The dots in that one are alcohol ink just dripped on.

In another piece of paper cloth, I added India ink to the glue used to make the paper cloth in order to get color added right up front. I used violet first, then added in some blue to make blue-violet and used that as well for a two-tone look. Then I dripped some yellow alcohol ink to add to the visual interest. I learned something there – the dripper top to that bottle is wider than the one I used for the other piece, so the dots are MUCH bigger and I had less control over the result. But it will be fine as I work more with it after it dries.

Paper cloth with India Ink added to the glue

Paper cloth with India Ink added to the glue and yellow alcohol ink drops

Here’s a secret about me: I’m terrible about keeping track of what I do. Working intuitively is great, but if I don’t write it down or take pictures it’s really frustrating later when I try to remember how I did something. So part of my New Year plan is to make notes for myself AND use this blog to do just that – provide updates and pictures about the various stages of projects as I work on them. Stay tuned!

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Ending Another Year

They just fly by so quickly, don’t they? It’s been 6 months already since my surgery that I talked about in my last post. I have healed well, although I still have pretty gnarly-looking incisions. Apparently it will be another six months before THOSE are calmed down. But life is essentially back to normal in every other way, and I am very happy with the results.

I’ve taken some very interesting classes this late summer and fall, mainly focusing on paper and book arts. I’m enjoying that very much and will be learning and doing more with that. Today’s picture is of a hand-bound journal that I just finished. Next project: luminaria of some sort from my fabulous newly-acquired book “Paper Illuminated” by Helen Hiebert.

Hand-Bound Journal

Hand-Bound Journal

Cheers and wishes for the happiest of holiday seasons for all as we wind down into winter.

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The Years of Lightening Up

Some of you will remember that my mother died just over two years ago, and that has prompted a huge evaluation of my life and honoring of my own mortality. If I have (with luck) a third of my life left to go, what am I doing with that precious time???

I am grateful that I no longer have to go to a job – retirement is sweet, indeed. And leaves me full luminous days for my own passions. Three times, now, since my mother died, I have walked through Inanna’s Descent and each time I have been transformed. “Lighten Up” has been a repeated theme – possessions, activities, attitudes, relationships, and this year literal physical changes. My aging body no longer tolerates lactose, cruciferous vegetables, and more (I’m still figuring some of that out). As a result of having to change what I eat, I’ve lost several pounds without effort. I’m also very ready to alleviate the load on my back and shoulders by having breast reduction surgery – scheduled for June. And out of sheer vanity I’m having brachioplasty at the same time – no more bat wings.

Collage PapersPart of lightening up in attitude is taking a more playful approach to, well, as many things as I can. And allowing myself No Excuses for procrastination, especially towards my creative processes. I’m learning new skills and having fun. I’ve been trying my hand at Art Journaling, which includes glue and watercolors and no rules, just a box to play in. As a 60+ student at U of SC I’m taking Color and Composition this term, and I have gained a whole new comfort level with acrylic paint, use of color, and mixing my own colors. Last weekend, I saw an ad for a mixed-media collage class to make Tiny Tattered Houses with Jennifer Chamberlin at The Maker Beehive, signed up, and really enjoyed it. Today’s pictures are of some of the collage papers I made for that. Now that I’m vaccinated (2nd shot next Wed) I’m taking three different classes at John C Campbell Folk School later this year.

Collage Papers And I have no idea how to wrap this up. It is not the post that I intended to write, but it’s the one that happened. I’m just going to stop and let this be.

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Spinning Samples

One of the challenges in spinning for a specific project is getting the yarn I want. Part of this is getting the correct diameter in a consistent way from start to finish, so that my final plied yarn comes out the way I need for it to. The way to get that consistent diameter is having a sample to compare against as I go.

I’m getting ready to start a new secret project for my fiber guild and for that I needed to create a guide sample for the spinning part of it. Since I was in sample mode, I decided to go ahead and create three samples for this specific fiber, which is a yummy Polwarth/Silk blend from Essential Fiber. I buy from her regularly, and having these samples will make my life easier in the future.

Disclaimer: there are a number of different charts out there describing the WPI for various yarn weights. I use this one: Purl Two Together Yarn Weight Chart.

The first sample is for fingering weight yarn, which came out about 16.5 WPI (wraps per inch). This is on the light side for fingering, but lets me know I can have some leeway in going slightly thicker if I want and still end up with fingering yarn.

The second sample is for sport weight yarn, at 13 WPI. Sport yarn is typically 12-13 WPI, so this is right on the money.

The third sample is for DK weight yarn, and also came out perfect at 11 WPI.

For record-keeping purposes, I created cards with the fiber information, WPI, weight & length of the plied sample, and my version of grist: grams per yard. I taped each sample to its corresponding card so they stay together.

So I’m all set now for this secret project as well as all my future projects with this fiber blend from this dyer.

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Creative Play for the New Year

Paper cloth project-in-progress

Color and texture are my primary loves in all my creative endeavors. So I was completely captivated a while back when I ran across a little book called Stitch Alchemy: Combining Fabric + Paper for Mixed Media Arts by Kelli Perkins.

I’m not really much for sewing, but there are many other galvanizing techniques in here that are really inspiring. So over the last couple of weeks I’ve cut muslin, made the glue mix, and started slathering things together. Adding further fun, my Cayce Arts Guild buddy Renea Eshleman introduced me to gel printing…so some of my paper cloth includes prints that I made while volunteering at the CAG Holiday Market. I have incorporated spinning fibers in another.

The work-in-progess in today’s photo is plain white tissue paper glued to undyed muslin, then gel printed on my new very own gel print plate with teal, daffodil yellow, and copper acrylic paints, then stamped with several designs, then today sponged with dark blue acrylic paint mixed with glazing medium for that translucent effect. There will be more layers to come!

The cool thing about paper cloth is that it’s quite sturdy, and suitable for many purposes (book arts, art quilts, jewelry, cards, bookmarks, etc.). I’m already planning jewelry projects that use it, so you will see more about this over the coming months.

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Wow. 2020.

Copper and Glass Earrings

It’s been quite the year, hasn’t it? I realize that I’m seriously behind here so this will be a catch-up post. And I promise I’ll do better in the future.

I already posted about the Quarantine Lace Shawl – I haven’t finished it but I’m still working on it. A couple of rows a day is about my limit because it is so very demanding.

I’ve been spinning a LOT since I’m home pretty much all the time. My favorite dyer, Nancy at Chasing Rainbows Dyeworks, retired this year. Good for her, bad for me. I bought out all of her remaining inventory, including random stuff she found as she was winding everything down. Today’s fiber photos are of what I’ve spun during this quarantine from that incredible stash. Plus the two knitted things I’ve completed so far out of that spinning.

Quarantine Spinning

I’m still taking classes at USC here in Columbia, all online of course. I took Fundamentals of Art in summer school, and English 102 Rhetoric and Composition this fall. I really enjoyed both. In the English class, we took a topic for research, crafted an argumentative essay, and then made that into a multimodal public turn. My topic was using Tarot as a tool for gaining personal insight. If you are interested in seeing my public turn, it’s at

I am a member of the Cayce Arts Guild, and I have a number of items in our Holiday Market that’s going on right now (until the weekend before Christmas). It’s been a long time since I took part in a show, and it feels good. In addition to my usual silver chains, I have fun copper and glass earrings and pendants for sale.


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What Knitting Lace is Teaching Me

I decided last week to knit a lace shawl. Because, you know, quarantine!

Here are the things I’m learning in the process:

1) I must not wait until the end of an entire repeat to count my stitches. Having to go back more than about 10 or 12 stitches to fix an error is just asking for trouble.

2) I am allowed to put stitch markers wherever I like instead of (only) between each pattern repeat.

3) Yarn-overs were invented by a trickster god who laughs hysterically every time a knitter misses one or drops one by accident.

4) “Total focus” is just the starting point for the level of concentration required for success in this endeavor.

5) At the rate I’m progressing, we will be past the third or fourth wave of the pandemic by the time I’m done. But it will be lovely.

Until next time!

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The Class Project

I’m a student now at the University of South Carolina, because I’m retired and have time AND, more importantly, people 60+ can take classes for no tuition.

Last term I took a 3-D Design class, which was fun because we made different kinds of sculptures (wire, wood, and mixed media). This term I’m taking Jewelry Making. You might be asking yourself why I would do that? The truth is there are always new things to learn.

There are all levels of students in this class. We more advanced students were given the first assignment of finding someone who inspires us, and choosing a project based on that inspiration that uses skills we already possess. This served several purposes, I think. The professor gets a feel for what each of us can already do and it got us into the mode of looking around for inspiration and making that idea our own. And provided the opportunity to fumble around in the studio there and figure out where everything is. Which is like cooking in someone else’s kitchen – you KNOW whatever it is you’re looking for has got to be there, but where?????

The artist that I chose as my inspiration was Maggie Joynt. Her work is amazing – here is a link to her Flikr account. I used etched brass, sterling silver, and copper wire to make my pendant. The stone is astrophyllite, which really complements the colors of the metals. Techniques: fabrication, etching, and patina. The chain in the photo is one that I had already made.

Astrophyllite, Sterling Silver, and Brass Pendant

Astrophyllite, Sterling Silver, and Brass Pendant

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