28 November 2011

string art holiday greetings

string art holiday cards

Hello and a belated, but happy, Monday! Today has been crazy busy with sick punklings and long to do lists, but I wanted to drop in and share one of my handmade 'traditions' of the annual winter holiday season... Also known as 'symmography', I remember these crazy geometric creations on many of my parents friends walls as a child. It was a huge craft trend at the time and although my parents didn't have any themselves, I do remember getting a Spirograph kit which simulated many of these string patterns and using it for hours on end. Brainstorming ideas for my holiday cards that could be sent not too expensively through the international mail (which is code for 'flat' and 'minimal'), inspiration struck with the notion of some simple handwoven designs using this remembered craft from my childhood...

string art holiday cards

"String art, or pin and thread art, is characterized by an arrangement of colored thread strung between points to form abstract geometric patterns or representational designs such as a ship's sails, sometimes with other artist material comprising the remainder of the work. Thread, wire, or string is wound around a grid of nails hammered into a velvet-covered wooden board. Though straight lines are formed by the string, the slightly different angles and metric positions at which strings intersect may give the appearance of Bézier curves (and often construct actual quadratic Bézier curves). Other forms of string art include Spirelli, which is used for cardmaking and scrapbooking, and curve stitching, in which string is stitched through holes.

"String art has its origins in the 'curve stitch' activities invented by Mary Everest Boole at the end of the 19th Century to make mathematical ideas more accessible to children. It was popularised as a decorative craft in the late 1960s through kits and books."
- Wikipedia

string art holiday cards

With the deadline to get all long-distance international post in the mail by tomorrow, these greetings will be winging their way to friends and family overseas very soon...

If you've forgotten the how, Threadbanger's Decor it Yourself handy video by Meg Allan Cole will give you the basics of this simple but highly effective art form. For a modern typographic interpretation, take a look at Chris's Man Made DIY... awesome! XOXO, Bex


// you may also enjoy //
:: easy handmade winter gift wrap
:: messy painted valentine trinket box

22 November 2011

sew wild with alisa burke

sew wild alisa burke

While I am a seamstress, I am a complete novice when it comes to quilting and free-motion stitching of any sort. As a huge fan, follower and student of Alisa Burke’s, I was already growing an interest in exploring that avenue for creative expression. So with the release of her latest book, Sew Wild, I was naturally quite excited to take a closer look.

In my usual, thrifty way, I was hoping to be able to see a copy first hand before deciding whether or not to add it to my craft book library. I was therefore very pleased when my mom persuaded her local quilter’s guild to acquire a copy for their group reference library and borrow it for a while. And I am glad they did...

sew wild alisa burke

Presented in Alisa’s signature messy and unconventional style, Sew Wild is all about creating with free-motion stitch and mixed media. Opening with chapters on materials, tools, colour, pattern and inspiration, two-thirds of the book is devoted to sharing her processes of creating unique surface designs and stitching techniques. A final chapter pulls everything together with 12 simple sewing projects. The bonus DVD provides a visual demonstration of many of the techniques illustrated, along with an extra bonus project.

Aimed at both the beginner and seasoned pro, Sew Wild hopes to inspire the reader to look at fabric, alternative materials and sewing in a different way, removing the fear that often surrounds the craft. Sew Wild is all about experimentation, embracing mistakes and play. While there is little technical or traditional information provided, there are lots of simple concepts and techniques that anyone can do and apply to their mixed-media projects.

sew wild alisa burke

Although I would tend to agree with my mom (an experienced art quilter) that there was nothing radically ground-breaking provided in Sew Wild, we were both intrigued to try out her technique for low-tech screen-printing. This said, as a fan of Alisa Burke’s style and creative philosophy, Sew Wild is a great reference source for her many techniques and methods, and a nice non-digital alternative to her blog, DVD and e-classes. Plus it’s more portable even than a laptop!

The projects were a good demonstration of how the various techniques could be combined and applied in new ways to popular classics. I could certainly see myself interpreting them in my own way, free-motion stitches included or no. Lastly, the DVD demonstrations by Alisa were a nice companion to the printed step-by-steps of the book, providing the reader with an alternative viewpoint of the techniques shown.

sew wild alisa burke

So will I be putting Sew Wild on my wish list and adding it to my permanent craft library this Christmas? Well, as an aficionado of Alisa’s, I would say yes for the reference it provides. As a beginner to the world of quilting and free-motion stitching, I would also agree for its’ easy, accessible approach to the subject. Finally, for the more experienced, more traditional quilter wanting to stretch their creative wings, I would also say yes. With Sew Wild as an encouraging reference by my side, I feel all the more confident to try out some free-motion, wild, go-for-it, sewing techniques in my own mixed-media surface designs. After all it’s only fabric!

Since releasing her book, Sew Wild, Alisa has added two new e-classes to her portfolio that delve more deeply into topics covered by the book for those wishing to further their skills: Beneath the Surface for more surface design techniques, and Free Motion Graffiti on more in-depth messy stitching techniques. Sew Wild!


// you may also like //
:: snap shot delight
:: alchemy arts, recycling is chic



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19 November 2011

of winter flora + delicious beverages

winter garden florawinter garden florawinter garden florawinter garden florawinter garden flora
It's been a fun and busy week for me this week. In addition to replenishing my little boutique, I have been having fun updating my 'about' page and Flavors.me hub for the winter season. Feels good to cross things off my list!

For my artist date this week my goal was to treat myself to a homemade pumpkin spice latte, a la Starbucks. After much searching for 'the best' home version, I chose to follow The Kitchn's recipe with the minor adjustment of going half milk and half whipping cream (oh yes!). For complete indulgence (and trust me, not something I will do every time) I just had to top it off with squirty cream and a sprinkle of PSL spices. The result was really delicious! I think that unless I actually do a taste test, comparing like for like, I would say that this completely mirrors the 'real' thing *grin!* The other half of my 'date' was a spontaneous notion to wander the garden seeking texture and colour among the winter flora of my garden, listening to the quiet shush of the snow falling around me... It was so peaceful and I found many treasures that were right under my nose. I am glad I found them. Thank you, artist date. xo, B

13 November 2011

artist's way reflections

Where do creative ideas come from? How come some people seem to have a seemingly endless stream of them, while others struggle to grasp just one? And can't we all tap into that?

I am just about at the half-way mark through the process of The Artist's Way and these ideas and notions are really coming out of the woodwork of late. The serendipitous connections that are flowing to me are each a piece of the puzzle as I navigate a new understanding and moments of 'Ah!'...

One key piece of that puzzle came to me this week by way of my dear creative friend Diane of The Dew Drop Inn, who has herself been through the process of The Artist's Way. This talk by Elizabeth Gilbert was most fitting to this week's topics for reflection and reinforced the connections of some other ideas that have been explored in the literature I have read previously...


Thank you, Diane (and Elizabeth)!

So yes, this concept of 'genius', or 'daemon' as I prefer... That's kind of neat and in many ways reminds me of a similar concept explored by Philip Pullman: that of the daemon as manifest soul outside of a person.


{ Lady with an Ermine, by da Vinci }

What made me connect these two was the possibility of the truth posed by Julia Cameron in her book: that ideas for creative manifestation are all around us, we just have to be open to receiving them and choose to accept them when they are offered. The more open we are to receiving these creative notions the more ideas come to us. Interestingly, serendipitously even, Elsie also touched on this topic earlier this week. Like Alice, we just have to be willing to fall down the rabbit hole...

My last thread to this, and returning to the idea of 'daemon', is that in order that our creative consort continues to come up with the goods, we have to feed that inspiration pipeline with experiences, images, play and mischief (for indeed they are childlike), and artist dates. Daily creative warm-ups and first-thing-in-the-morning pages clear our minds of the mental junk that distracts us artistically and get our juices flowing for the greater work.

Fun, and serendipitous, story: In searching for some ideas for my own artist dates the suggestion of making a stop-motion short film was proposed in a long list of suggestions. I thought nothing more of it until browsing back through blog posts in my reader and Valerie Parizeault's post at 'Oh My Handmade Goodness' jumped to my attention. So now of course, I am intrigued *hehe*

Does the concept of the possibility that creativity comes from outside of ourselves resonate with you? Does it lift the pressure of being 'source'? What of serendipity? Have you experienced moments of synchronicity? Do you accept them as part of a 'plan' or brush them off as coincidence?

Lots of questions I know for a Sunday, but I'm just bouncing ideas around over here. It's all pieces of the puzzle, you know. Just pieces of the puzzle... Thank you :)

07 November 2011

mademoiselle blythe

I am super, super excited to be able to share something a little different with you today. For the longest while I have been umm-ing and ahh-ing about this, but for one reason or another I have not been able to quieten the inner critic. Now, however (and blame it on the freshly emerging me care of a certain lady and her book *grin*) I have decided that it would be just lovely to have a some guests over at Ginger Urchin every once in a while for a cup of virtual tea and some conversation. Nothing too terribly serious, but highlighting those friends across the ether who inspire me in a myriad of ways...

Therefore I am diving straight in today with one of my closest 'dolly' friends, Fanny Zara (aka Mademoiselle Blythe). Fanny is one of those soul friends that you feel you have known forever, though I think we must have only met at the beginning of 2010 through the 52 Weeks of Blythe project. She is a kindred spirit, being fellow Canadian immigrant, creative, mom, blogger and Blythe fan. Arriving on the Blythe scene in 2009, Fanny quickly became known for her beautiful family of dollies which she shared through her many gorgeous photos, and fascinating, must-read, interviews at her blog, Blythe Doll Fashions... Anyhoot, without further ado, please enjoy!
mademoiselle blythe{ self-portrait of Fanny Zara, aka Mademoiselle Blythe }

Welcome, and thank you for stopping by Fanny! Could you please tell us a little about yourself?
Hello! Well, I live in the countryside near Montreal, Canada, in a French speaking province. I was born and raised in France, but left Paris 8 years ago to follow my husband, who has always wanted to live in Canada. We have two children; a 5 year old boy and a 4 year old girl. The whole family is both French and Canadian. I have had many different jobs, from teacher and runway dresser to project manager; my current one is an administrative job in one of the largest international accounting and professional services firms.

How did you first get into Blythe, and what it is that you enjoy most about collecting them?
My Dad was a fashion designer and a painter. I guess that is the main reason why I studied history of art at the school of the Louvre Museum and why I have always been attracted to art, artists, creativity, uniqueness, style, fashion, design… After having children, I started to look for information about arts and crafts for them and discovered many talented crafters through blogs and Etsy. I liked to read Hillary Lang’s blog, Wee Wonderfuls, and she blogged once about her ADG Blythe doll. I got interested right away and started my research. I wanted to know everything about that doll and it took me quite a long time: I never thought there would be so much info online about Blythe! It took me 6 months to buy my first Blythe as I wanted to know everything first to help me make up my mind. In retrospect, I also think that I would have loved to work in the fashion industry as an artistic director or photo stylist, but because Blythe allows me to do it, I don’t even dream about it anymore. Naturally, what I enjoy the most is dressing them up, mixing and matching designer clothes and accessories… exactly the way I do it for myself. When I am happy with an outfit, I also love going outdoors to take photos because it is the only quiet and serene moment I have in my life these days, and I need it!

blythe kenner petite neo{ Fanny's current Blythe family consists of 4 petites, 3 Kenners and 7 customs }

I notice that your collection consists of either Kenner’s or customs, what draws you to these particular incarnations of Blythe over others, and was it always so?
My first Blythe dolls were stock and after seeing so many pictures of beautiful customs, I wanted my girls to be customized too. I also usually prefer matte faces rather than shiny stock dolls on pictures. After having my first custom doll, I was hooked. It is so wonderful to have a unique doll and customs really have their own style and personality. I would love to have at least one Blythe from all the customizers I admire but my budget is way too limited unfortunately. Regarding Kenners, I was first curious to understand what all the fuss was about them. I also loved all their pictures on Flickr. I know that some people are not able to bond with them, but it was not true in my case. I loved the first one right away and never stopped wanting more! They do have a special glow and I love the fact that they are all different because they all had a different life before being with us.

You recently played host to ‘Amelia’, one of three Travelling Blythes for 2011. Can you tell us a little about her adventures and what you liked most about your time with her?
I wish I could have done more with her. She stayed for just 2 weeks and of course, I took her to my favourite places in the woods nearby. I was also very happy to be able to take her to Montreal and have a mini meet with April (aka. ElasticCamel) and Corina (aka. TreacleMineRoad). She is very different from my other girls. They look like little girls while Amelia looks more like a self-confident woman. It was fun to style her differently. She is beautiful and I was happy to enjoy a G*Baby custom for the first time.
amelia travelling blythe 2011{ Amelia models rainbow-coloured 'Lunitas' and 'Parasol Doll' knitwear }

Your photographs are always so beautifully executed; you obviously have a great eye for styling and composition. What is your background in photography? Do you have any tips or tricks that you could share?
Thank you for your compliment! Actually, I don’t have any background in photography. I am just trying to do my best with a basic camera. To tell you the truth, I have to take many, many pictures to select 1 or 2. Then, the selected ones need a lot of editing. I use Picnik a lot and I am starting to learn how to use Photoshop. I have the feeling that my studies in history of art help me a lot when it comes to selecting pictures and improving them, but sometimes I come back with 100 pictures and I am not happy with them. I delete the whole batch and go out again to take new ones. When I started to share my Blythe pictures on Flickr, someone recommended avoiding using flash, even with poor lighting. That was the best tip ever for me and my only trick is Picnik!

fanny zara mademoiselle blythe{ Fanny prepares her model for the perfect shot }

A big part of the Blythe community and hobby is supporting handmade designers. As handmade goods are by their nature a luxury rather than a necessity, what suggestions would you give someone in using that knowledge to brand and market their creative business?
One of my first jobs after school was in the brand strategy field, so your question makes me smile. The more Blythe is popular, the more designers arrive on the market and that market is still quite limited. I think that the best way is differentiation. If you have you own style, different, special and recognizable, that will help you start. Then, if you are able to take lovely pictures of your designs, I am pretty sure you will be successful! It sounds simple, but according to what I have observed in our dolly community these past two years, I can tell you, it works.
Nous sommes deux soeurs jumelles{ handmade designs by 'Eurotrash' and 'Bambina Carabina' modelled by two of Fanny's Kenner girls }

I understand you started your blog as part of an overall online personal branding process. What made you decide to start a blog on Blythe in particular?
My partner! You are right; my blog has something to do with personal branding. As my partner at the time was an expert in personal branding and online reputation, he definitely advised me to start my own blog about Blythe. I made a little bit of research and found out that there was no blog that was really “general”. They were all quite specific and almost always linked to selling some products. I had nothing to sell but I was looking for a way to exist in the Blythe community, so blogging sounded the best idea. I quickly found out that I loved it.

What sparked your initial idea of running a series of interviews on your blog? Do you have any particularly memorable ones that leap to mind?
It’s always easier and motivating to do what you like the most. I like artists and I love to know more about them, how they started, what inspires them, etc. I guess that I was not the only one who loved to read about them; the most memorable is always the next one I have in mind!

jodie dolls interview{ screenshot taken from a recent interview on the 'Mademoiselle Blythe' blog }

Congratulations again on reaching the blogging milestone of your 100th post! During your experience as blogger, what have you discovered through the process of blogging?
Blogging is time consuming… a lot of time when you want to do it in a professional way because it involves research and reflection. It also brings a lot of joy when people let me know that they like my blog entries. It always makes me very happy when I know that what I do is useful, at least for one human being on earth!

mademoiselle blythe{ busy at work in the little office nook where Fanny blogs as Mademoiselle Blythe }

As a busy mom, employee, blogger and hobbyist; what secrets have you discovered in balancing all that you do?
Actually, I still haven’t found any miracle recipe. It’s hard to find time for everything and everyone, so I just sleep less than I should, and I definitely don’t recommend that!

Thanks so much Fanny for visiting with me today! Before you go I'd love to know; what is your favourite sweet treat?
French macaroons! Thank you very much for having me, this was so much fun to do!
{ photograph from Trekkerjen by Jennifer Bruce }

Mademoiselle Blythe Elsewhere
Blog | Facebook | Flickr | Twitter

xo, Beka ©

04 November 2011

fifth element diva


{ the Diva Plavalaguna from Luc Besson's film 'The Fifth Element' }

Just a little something to stimulate the senses this Friday... The first time I saw and heard this, it sent chills through me. I was enraptured with the beauty and magic of this experience. When I discovered later that the reactions shown by the audience were not rehearsed but were truly genuine, it thrilled me once more to know that these familiar on-screen personas had been equally touched. It made them more real to me, somehow... Originally released in 1997, The Fifth Element has shown little signs of age over a decade later. I loved it's Metropolis-style cityscape that incorporated overtones of Bladerunner's grungy future vision of Los Angeles. The plethora of costumes (some 954 in total) produced by Jean-Paul Gautier (and his team I'm guessing) were delightful in their often humorous take on fashion of the future (Ruby Rhod and Zorg's 'minders' come immediately to mind). This film was, and still is, a feast for the senses. Have a wonderful weekend, friends!