Meanderings in Creativity

I haven’t posted much on our blog for quite some time. My excuse is that I had to find out how to use the new blog editor on the website, and wouldn’t you know, it really wasn’t that difficult, once I finally , finally stopped procrastinating and dived in. Don’t you just love those youtube tutorials? Not posting doesn’t mean I haven’t been up to something in the meantime. No really.

If you check out my Pinterest boards, you’ll find I’m a great fan of Pinterest. Lots of boards and pins. I love it because I can visually bookmark things I find on the net and very often I also discover things that I may never have found any other way. So, I have been meandering and poking about in new areas of media to use.

I’ve always been quite interested in collage and have posted a bit of my paper collage work in the past. But, I’ve also done a bit of quilting and sewing in the past too and have quite a few bags of fabric stashed in various closets. Most of my fabric is in the form of old shirts I find at Thrift stores, a really thrifty way of collecting fabric for projects, by the way. One of my discoveries on Pinterest was “free motion sewing”. Now that’s a cool “rabbit hole” to wander down. I have discovered that you can actually, on some machines, put the “feed dogs” down and draw with thread. Too cool for an artist….so I treated myself to a sewing machine that has that ability. It’s not too fancy, not got all the bells and whistles that the expensive computerized machines have, but it has just enough to have some fun and hey, why not?

One of my first forays into free motion was creating jewelry with fabric. It started in the form of making a couple of cuffs from some lovely shiny bits and pieces in sort of a Boho style. The first one shown here, is just as I was piecing together the bits and stitching them in place… And the second image below shows it as finished piece.

Floral Fabric Collage Cuff by Helen Bushell, summerhouseart.com
Floral Fabric Collage Cuff by Helen Bushell, summerhouseart.com

The next was a bit more jazzy and abstract, with bits of gold netting and lovely jewel tones again. I had a bit of fun playing with the zig zag on both as well.

Abstract Fabric Collage Cuff by Helen Bushell, summerhouseart.com

My next attempt was a necklace and cuff on beach theme. Most of the fabric came from a thrifty find of a men’s shirt with a Japanese fishing theme. The button on the cuff and the little dangling jewels on the necklace are actually little bits of beach pottery that we found on the beach in Sidney. A big thanks to Will for drilling holes in these little fiddly bits pottery for me. And did I mention he also created the driftwood hanger and the cording too?

"Beach" Free Motion Fabric collage Cuff and Necklace by Helen Bushell, summerhouseart.com

Still meandering and having fun, I then wandered off into taking my paper collage investigations and applying them to creating collage with fabric instead. That’s coming up next….

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Time for New Paper Collages in Vintage Frames

Paper collage Helen Bushell, summerhouseart.com

I like to say that artists are not hoarders, we are collectors with a plan. So while everyone else is recycling all the paper that makes its way into the home, we tend to pick through it and save some savory bits for future use. For instance, I might like the color of an envelope from a birthday card, or the texture on the inside of an envelope from the bank, or the color in a bit of junk mail that made it past the sign on the mailbox and put them aside. Or sometimes we’ve saved some cool mags found at garage sales. So it all gets tucked away, more or less in an organized manner for later use. As I say, we have a plan….

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Upcycling to Create a New Boho Daybed

Before: the old couch summerhouseart.com

Ah, Before and After. This is the story of an old hide-a-bed couch being replaced with an up-cycled Daybed very thriftily made and done up in Boho style.

After: New Daybed summerhouseart.com

 The old couch, with its unbleached cotton cover hiding stains, old age, many, many years of wear, not to mention large shreddy bits made by long gone cats, just had to go! It just so happened that we had most of the components for a new daybed, stored in the basement, waiting to be transformed. Something much more comfy and better looking than a lumpy, old hide-a-bed. We’d just been waiting for a little time to tackle it.

First, had to get the old couch hauled away by a company that would make sure it all got recycled. We had the rails of an old Ikea single bed, missing the slats. Not sure, but I think they may have been used for some other project. We had a couple of substantial wooden chair or couch arms that one of our sons had found years ago and brought home.

Will, stapling the slats made from pallets, summerhouseart.com

We had saved the two foam seat cushions from the old couch to make new back cushions from. We cut those in half with an old electric carving knife and made four cushions from them.

Old foam seats now backs for new daybed, summerhouseart.com

Will, in the mean time had ingeniously figured out a way to attach the arms of the chair to the rails of the bed. And like so many people these days…. he recycled some pallets into slats for the bed. The only new thing we ended up getting was the actual foam mattress. An Eco foam mattress, so no off-gassing etc.

The aforementioned unbleached cotton cover was sewn into “new” covers for the foam. And the material from a thrift shop duvet cover became new covers for the cushions.

And finally, a chance to get creative with all my fabric stash, collected from garage sales and thrift shops. Chaos while deciding on the fabrics I’d use.

Fabric chaos, deciding on fabrics for new pillows, summerhouseart.com

Lovely new pillows, in the Boho Style.

2 new Pillows for the Boho Daybed, summerhouseart.com

Love how the fabric looks with an iris.

Iris with new pillow fabric, summerhouseart.com

And tah dah! New daybed! We love it! Finally a place for napping where you can actually stretch right out and really relax. Makes a nice couch too.

New Daybed, summerhouseart.com

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Not Another Christmas Tree! No, Something Much More Fun!

Christmas Chandelier, summerhouseart.com

Last year, as an alternative to the ubiquitous tree, we decorated a bamboo birdcage with rather nice results. And this year, we again pondered whether or not to get the tree out… or do something else. And once again,we unanimously decided not to do another tree for Christmas.

We like to do something different now and then, for instance, this year, we didn’t even unpack our collection of over 100 Santas.

I’d been seeing the occasional decorated chandelier on Pinterest and it brought to mind a chandelier that we’d picked up in a free box at a garage sale a few years ago.

Christmas Chandelier, summerhouseart.com

It had been languishing in large basket in the greenhouse ever since. It didn’t work, since it needed rewiring, but I could see it dripping with little lights and way too many decorations.

Christmas Chandelier, closeup, summerhouseart.com

Not to mention a rather nice collection of crystals that I’d been collecting. Of course, they took a bit of searching for, but eventually I found one batch in a drawer in the kitchen and found more in a dish in the studio.

Christmas Chandelier, summerhouseart.com

Then loads of colorful beads. And jewel colored baubles.

Almost everything has been found at thrift stores or garage sales. But, amazingly, I found I needed even more beads! Thank goodness, just in time, I got an email announcing that all the Christmas decor was on sale for 50% off at the Thrift Store. We wasted no time getting there and found a wonderful long string of LED lights for the entry way for $5 as well as more bags of beads for only $4.  As I’m always saying, the world is an abundant place, especially if you like 2nd hand.

The  chandelier is definitely over-the-top, just the way I like it!  And it looks lovely to us in the day time…

Christmas Chandelier, summerhouseart.com

as well as the night…

Christmas Chandelier, daytime, summerhouseart.com
We had such a good time taking photos of it, that I just had to share.

Christmas Chandelier, summerhouseart.com

 

Christmas Chandelier, summerhouseart.com

One thing we did notice, when we were trying to take photos, is that it takes a while to stop swaying, once disturbed. So, probably, just as well, that we no longer have a cat. Can you imagine how much temptation this would be for a cat? Oh, I don’t even want to think about it!
Christmas Chandelier, summerhouseart.com

Hope you are having just as much fun decorating your place for the Holidays!

 

 

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The Rescue of the Little Magazine Stand

I wish I had a “before” photo of this little magazine stand. Somehow, when I decided to start on it, taking photos was not on my mind. The table started out as a piece of furniture found at a garage sale, one of those projects people start, don’t finish and want to get out site.

 

The sides that held the magazines were missing, the table itself was stripped, badly. And there it sat, sort of forlorn really, almost waiting for a new start. We talk these days about “rescue dogs”, but that day I felt like I needed to rescue this little table. So I brought it home.

Magazine Table with mosaic top

The first thing I decided it needed was a mosaic on the top.  And luckily, Will made it so easy by routing out most of top to create an area to put mosaic in, so that it would be flush with the top.  I chose happy colors for the mosaic. 

Mosaic top detail

The next problem was to create new sides for holding the magazines. We looked up the styles, we pondered, we threw some ideas around, but none seemed to work.     Then one day I just happened to notice an old wall display shelf, one of those odd ones with little turned spindles between the shelves and we basically cut in half and created two whole new sides for the little table.

Side view

In fact the holes that the spindles went through originally, were added to, to become a design element of circles which we carried on with the round wooden feet, made from wooden balls found at a lumber store.

mosaic table with red drawer

Then it was just a matter of choosing colors. Black with punchy little red round feet just struck me as the answer. Which led to the little red balls on the ends of the new spindles to carry on the theme.

All in all, it has been rescued, reborn and re-created. It looks so much happier than that forlorn little table in the driveway. It almost needs a name. Will says, “How about CoCo? That’s sort of a round and happy name.” So CoCo it is. Now that it’s been rescued, it really needs a new home.  It’s now on our new shop on Diggit.

mosaic table front view

 

 

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The Story of the Little Green Night Table

Almost everything creative that we do has some connection to recycling. My mosaics are made from recycled or as Will likes to say “upcycled” dishes and ornaments.

Will uses a lot of collage in his work using all sorts of found ephemera from old photos to just bits and pieces. We live this great life of searching for good used “stuff” to re-use, for our art, for our home and almost everything else. And now we are doing something with furniture. Such was the case with this little night table, found ages ago, waiting for an idea, a vision, of what it was to become.

I happened to say to Will, sort of offhandedly actually, “Why don’t you paint something on the front?” and walked away.

green-cabinet-beforewm

When I came back this is the abstract that he’d painted. We both loved it and then I sort of picked up the colors and finished it off.  

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It’s a little different, with a more contemporary feel.   I like the fact that the inside of the drawer is this lovely bright orange. The painting is done in such a way that it’ll gradually age and get that shabby artsy look.

 

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This little table got us excited about doing lots more…. and somehow we started to find more and more bits and pieces of old furniture to work on. We’ve actually been stockpiling it I’m afraid to say. And as we can get to each piece, we’ve been having some creative fun renewing them.

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A Slow Procession of Elephants in our Foyer

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We have a HUGE collection of elephant ornaments. Oh, my, what dust collectors, you might say. Oh pooh, dust is not important. I don’t care about dust that much. I care about having something to rest my gaze on that makes me appreciate beauty.

OK, once in while I clean them all off, washing them carefully, enjoying the feel of them under my fingertips, with their smooth humps along their backs and their lovely curving trunks.

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And sometimes, as we rush past them with arms full of groceries, shucking off our shoes at the door, we might not notice them at all. But they are waiting for us, in their slow procession as they make their way, in a contented and yet dignified fashion, around the shelf in our entry . They are patient, they can wait for us to appreciate them.

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I’ve never counted how many are in our herd. I’ve got them grouped in little clans or families. The Indian elephants, proud in their lush decoration. The silly and fun grouped together for a giggle. The browns and the blacks. The ones in glazed ceramic, (of course we have a pink elephant), the stone carved ones.

Ostensibly they are all Bill’s collection. The first elephant, the little stone one on the right below, was bought, by me, from a lady in our old Calgary neighbourhood. Her basement was perpetually set up for a monthly garage sail. The myriad of stock came from elderly people who had moved into seniors residences. It was a little service she did for them to sell their pieces of extraneous possessions that they no longer had room for. This little elephant, of carved stone, was marked in neat handwriting on a tag, only as “very old”, with a price of $6.  The large one in light wood behind it, with the little parcel/pillow on it’s back is another fave.

1st-elephantwm

Since then we have both collected and added to our burgeoning collection. None is expensive, all are second hand. You may think that some are sort of sorry looking with their tusks missing, or a little gouge here or there. But it doesn’t matter much to us. Bill may replace some missing tusks with toothpicks now and then, but generally, we just enjoy them for what they are, little sculptures.

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ivorywm

Each sculpture has been made, I always think, patiently and lovingly by an unknown artist, giving us the gift of his or her interpretation of this beautiful and graceful animal. And maybe a lot were made for the tourist trade but each is hand done, hand carved by someone on a hot and dusty day somewhere far away. Each one a little different from the last, each one with just a bit of the artist caught in its form or painted glaze. And I am grateful for their patient talent and feel just a bit guilty at the low price I have paid for their art.

pink-elephantwm

Many of our elephants were gifts. Maybe for Father’s Day, or Christmas or a birthday, hardly any opportunity goes by to without adding another elephant to this very accommodating herd.

And as your eye has followed our little herd as it makes its way, you may have noticed a sort of confused looking giraffe that found itself in the wrong group. Or maybe you saw the tiniest little pig along for the trek. I don’t know why, they just seemed to want to be in the group too. The elephants didn’t seem to mind.

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Oh and as for that silly superstition that elephants trunks must be up for good luck… well, all those silly things are made up by someone. No basis in fact ( or fiction). So I choose to make up my own superstitions (or stupid-stitions as I like to say) and have decreed that all elephants are lucky, no matter which way their trunks are waving.

Hope you enjoy them as much as we do…

Of course, this is not our only collection.  We’ve also got a Heart box collection.  Will this collecting ever end?  I hope not, too much fun altogether.

metal-cornerwm

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More Thoughts on a Green and Abundant Christmas

The other day I wrote about my abundant Christmas Music collection, almost all found used at garage sales and thrift stores. To me there is just no reason not to have it all when it comes to Christmas, especially when there is an abundance of everything available second hand. It’s guilt free Christmas, it’s recycled, it’s green and hey it’s fun.

Most of our ornaments and decor are recycled goodies. Every now and then I find some great things that I just can’t wait to use, something in an old fashioned box, something just a little bit different. I just loved these little ball bobbles still in their original box with the little Santa and sleigh, so small and cute.

tiny-balls

And I had just the right little tree in mind for them! Perfect!

bonsai-wballs

And then there were these wonderful drop ornaments, all in colors that I love, old and maybe collectible and definitely a bit “used”.

drop-ornaments

They fit right in with the old old ornaments from the 40’s or 50’s that were passed on to us from Will’s parents years ago.

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You can just see on the left one of the ornaments that Will and I adorned with gold leaf and gold paint years ago.

treeornaments

But all is not used. I do make exceptions to the recycled/used rule. And, as you may have surmised, I don’t like rules much anyway. Last year I found these wonderful ornaments at a sale in January. The colors were perfect with my big orange globe ornament with the glitter circles that I found at a garage sale one summer. It all looks great on the garland (yup it’s used too).

garland

Will took one of the green glitter balls and strung it on a curly red ribbon from our paper umbrella light shade. I like it so much I think I just might leave it there after Christmas.

lit-umbrella

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Some thoughts on a Green and Abundant Christmas

geneautry

Way back in April when I started this blog I wrote about abundance in a recession. And today, thinking about Christmas, my fave time of year, I’m reminded of abundance. Our Christmases are full of abundance! As I always love to say the world is an abundant place as long as you like second hand.

Just the other day I was again reminded of groups of people taking a pledge not to buy anything new for a year. And I even looked at a few web sites and blogs about it. And although I applaud the enthusiasm, I also noted how difficult they made it for themselves. No bending allowed on the pledge. And it seemed as though the pledge was abandoned after the year was up in a few cases. Everyone tired of the sacrifice, maybe?

This is just not the way we approach it. What started as way to survive tough times as students in the 60’s and to get us through other bouts of tough economic times, has now become a way of life. But it’s really not difficult for us, it’s fun and easy. I really believe that anything we do to be a little greener is helpful. So every effort counts. If we absolutely need to get something new, and after trying to find it used, well ok, buy it. No guilt. But this is so offset with all that we buy used, we feel ok with it. And anyway, part of our plan is to buy new stuff from artists and others who produce hand made and original when we can, as well.

Which brings me to Christmas. The cost of Christmas, the news is full of it, credit cards maxed, too many presents, worry over money and all that that entails. But why not resolve to have some of your Christmas recycled and reused?

So I thought as well as sharing my obviously “abundant” collection of thrift store, garage sale Santas I’d also share some of the other things we have in abundance for the season. And one of the best is music. We have a huge collection of music mostly because we still have our turntable, and our tape deck as well as a couple of used CD players. So we can buy all the good old stuff and now we’ve amassed a pretty eclectic and funky collection of Christmas music. At the top of this post is a great selection from Johnny Mathis, Nat King Cole and Gene Autry, all actually a gift from our great friend Hart.  Don’t you just love that Gene Autry album cover? And as I bake for Christmas I love to play the oldies from my childhood like Perry Como, Bing Crosby which we heard always for Christmas. Would you believe most of these records and tapes we bought for anywhere from 25cents to just over $2?

comocsby

How much more eclectic can you get than this selection of Loreena McKennet  “a Winter Garden”, “A Very Special Christmas” which has the most wonderful piece by Sting, “Gabriel’s Message”,   The Masterworks Dinner Album and even Connie Francis who has “Christmas in My Heart”?

connief-tapes

And we’ve got some odd stuff too that we’ve found over the years like “A Reggae Christmas”. Always good to listen to while baking Christmas goodies.

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And then for those classical moments we’ve got Luciano Pavarotti with a boys choir with my favourite Panis Angelicus. A real treasure found at the local second hand store was Christmas in Venice, full of just gorgeous classical favourites.

pavartti

We always find CD’s when we’re out garage sailing and all of our collection is used. And then there are the ones I’ve collected just for fun like “Christmas at Liberace’s”, Or the “Doris Day Christmas Album”. Then a real fave is Boney M Christmas Album with Feliz Navidad to really get dancin’. So far my all time fave CD is World Christmas which has not only the Gypsy Kings on it, and Deep Forest but also Papa Wemba and Mono Cinelu.

boneym-tape1

So what am I saying here really? Christmas can be about abundance with out spending lots of money. And boy have we got an abundance of music! And it’s all used, recycled and we’re feelin’ green too.

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Room to Create

The other day I looked into my studio and thought what a mess! I’ve been working on a couple of things that are taking some time. And with being busy with so many other things I’ve let it get just a little too messy.

stacksoplates
Stacks of plates

Now, I can live with messy but when it gets to “knee deep’, I know I need to do something. Just put a few things away, take out garbage, sweep up. Now I’ve got surfaces to work on again. Ah, bliss.

buddhas
Bountiful Buddhas

My studio is filled to the brim. I like to say it’s abundant. It’s full of ornaments, lots and lots of dishes usually organized by color or pattern, lots of houseplants. Best of all, I have music. All kinds of music from Music of World to jazz to old rock to opera. We have a huge collection of music what with the hundreds of old LP’s to the all the tapes and CD’s Will and I have found and collected from garage sales and thrifting. I tend to need music to work by. If I can’t understand the words, that’s ok too, it allows my thoughts to roam.

Recycled salad containers make great storage
Recycled salad containers make great storage

When I have mosaic students,I tell them there are no rules, but of course I have just a couple. You absolutely need a place to work. And you need music to work by. I’m lucky with a room in the house dedicated to being a studio. I can make a mess and then close the door. Of course our house is sort of a studio everywhere. Sometimes I might sculpt a small piece or string a new bracelet of found beads while watching TV or a movie on the living room couch. So of course the coffee table is covered with a bag of clay, a board with a sculpture on it and boxes of beads. We don’t designate a particular area. The dining room has our office and computer equipment in it as well as another desk for Will to work on collage pieces.

Bits and pieces
Bits and pieces

Our ultimate dream is to live in a huge studio. A great generous space to work in with a area for eating, sleeping and the necessities of living tucked into one area of the space. I am always shocked by home designs. Homes are designed it seems, to sit and do nothing. You see home plans with living rooms and family rooms. Builders and designers never seem to make room for creative pursuits. These days if you factor in the cost of square footage on your mortgage or rent as the case may be, it seems that you really should be looking at how well your home will work for you or allow you to work preferably on something creative.

It’s important to me to find a space somewhere to work in. I think too often it’s easy to say what you need is not important, but to me happiness is something that comes from being creative. If I’m happy so is everyone else, trust me. The same goes for Will and Eric. We all need to be creative to be happy. So we decided that happiness is more important than having a guest room or a dining room. And we tend to use pretty well every room in the place to create in.

Ornaments waiting to be placed in a mosaic
Ornaments waiting to be placed in a mosaic

Some of my students have gotten really creative making a space to work. One lived in a tiny basement suite, with two small dogs. She made her coffee table into her studio work table. To avoid bits of broken dishes littering the rugs creating a hazard for the pups, she broke all her dishes inside a box, so no shards could fly around the rug. Another, created a space in a garage, in front of a window and brought in a CD player. A good friend, who had wanted to write a book with the words floating around in her head for ages, got the idea to put her computer in a closet and create a writing space. The book was written in weeks!

It takes a bit of creativity to make a work space sometimes or just a rethinking of what you want your home to be. A place to sit or a place to get happy and creative in.

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