Monday, June 28, 2010

feeling grateful and blessed, and darn excited about the state of things…

A few weeks ago I felt a little like I was living alone in my creative bubble, but after a couple of conversations with some crafty friends, I’m feeling happily ensconced in a circle of creative friends with plans stewing on the back burner. It’s sort of funny how life happens that way. Here I was, sorta feeling a little sorry for my lonesome crafty self, thinking alack, alas, I have no crafty friends.


But life and the universe have a way of reminding you that if you ask for it, eventually, you will find it.


I’m a little nervous to admit that before I really know for sure that it’s fully there for me (cause it’s all sorta tentative and nebulous at the moment and I don’t want to jinx myself) but I promised myself that I would make more effort to share my enthusiasms as they came…..


So I’m excited. Between having another crafty friend who wants to check out this new local sewing cafĂ© and potentially try her hand at a craft fair with me in the fall, and another friend who wants to try a block printing linens venture and try selling them at a market in the Eastern Townships… things are starting to shape up into something unexpected. And wonderful!

And all it took was me starting to admit it, put it out there, and talk about it with people who are already in my life.


Who knew? Here I was, wishing for creative crafty friends, which duh, I have in abundance, and now, block printing, paper folding, and business card making… oh my!


And frankly, it’s all kinda exciting! That’s right, I’m excited.

Friday, June 25, 2010

reasons why teachers are the worst students

People are people and sometimes teachers are the absolute WORST students!

Sitting in the midst of a disabilities conference, with various audience members typing away on their laptops—access for all, after all! But a quick glance around the room reveals that many of them are not actually typing up lecture notes. Oh no. Emailing, solitaire, msn, iPhone texting, and facebook are all up and being actively used.

The irony of this of course, is that these people are all the ones that have to listen to faculty or deal with students using their laptops in class to avoid/ignore the lecture in question.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

the tale of java the dog visiting the termie

I was reading this blog post called: I'm not going to chase that dog around the bar (no link because it's in no way related to where I'm going with this...) and was reminded of a rather humourous anecdote from a long time ago.

We once had this dog, Java, who was a mix of a sheltie-terrier. She was a lovely dog. But she was a little high strung. One night, during what I believe was Bathtub Weekend in Nanaimo, she panicked at the noise caused by the fireworks and darted off. My parents weren't aware that she was gone, thinking that she was safely fenced into our back yard. And then, ironies of all ironies, they received a phone call from a local pub saying that our dog had wandered into the pub. Said pub was about 8 blocks away.

Why do I know the distance you ask? Because this pub in question was my favourite college haunt and I'd stumbled home many a night from there.

Yup, it's true, my lovely, high strung family dog, hot on my trail, wandered into none other than the Termie, now known as the Cambie.

Damn I miss that dog!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

making my own stamped business cards

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Ignoring the minor flaws (lines, red marks, yellow paint, blurred lines, etc), which do you prefer?

The bird, or the flower?

Another look? Another colour?

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Again, ignore the extra smudges, excess ink, etc..

Oh, and in case you haven’t figured it out… I’m preparing for the holiday season… in hopes of bringing one of my cranes in a bottle to a home near you!

Final option:

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Tuesday, June 22, 2010

recycled art idea

Since I’ve been learning more about the world of art and such, I’ve started to really notice how toxic and expensive art products can be. I’m really curious about recycled art because of this and so when I heard about the idea of using used dryer sheets in mixed media art, I was instantly intrigued.

So I went searching for things that others have done:
Dryer sheets! This artist used a stencil and painted on old dryer sheets!

Dryer sheet bookmarks with lace and dryer sheets

Dryer sheet mobile (isn’t it lovely?)

I’m going to have to steal some dryer sheets from my mother-in-law. Who knew that my crunchy ways would get in the way of art?!

Monday, June 21, 2010

lotus tree: the title


magnificent tree in Avesbury UK: photo source


If any of you out there are anything like me, you do some of your best thinking while driving. Unfortunately, if you’re also like me, you forget because you can’t write it down! (sometimes I think I should buy a tape recorder in order to circumvent this problem—but I expect it probably wouldn’t really help… I’d just realize my ideas aren’t as great as I remember them being).


Anyways, this morning I was thinking about blogging and all the unwritten blog posts I have outlined on scraps of paper, floating around somewhere in various journals, boxes, etc (you get the idea).


A while back, I made a shift in focus in blogging that I feel was rather pronounced (which I think those who have been with me since the beginning will have definitely noticed).  At the same time I made the move to more scheduled posting, which changed the way I thought about blogging and introduced me to the idea of loosely themed days in blogging. For example, I rarely blog on the weekends now, and on Mondays I try to keep my posts inline with a more spiritual, inspirational based theme. If you ever notice the tags, you’ll notice that most of my recent Monday posts are dubbed “metta mondays.”  For those of you unaware of what metta means, it translates loosely into the concept of loving kindness and universal love. It’s a concept that I took from my time studying yoga (I really need to start yoga again…) that was actually quite life changing for me. The idea we need to take the same loving kindness used to approach each pose in yoga (notice what we love and avoid and approach them with the same openness) and then move outward and apply the same openness to our everyday lives was a profound shift in focus for me. It wasn’t a new concept by any means, but at that time in my life I was very receptive to it and it’s been something that I’ve carried with me ever since, though I am far from mastering it!


Anyways, as I was driving this morning (and maybe talking out loud to myself a little bit) I was thinking about these metta posts of mine and various moments in life when I have felt most balanced and inspired by nature. There are two places in the world (yes the world) that have, amongst many others, really marked me for life. Those 2 places actually motivated the title of this blog.


The first is seen in the photo above. The trees that you see in this picture, in Avesbury, England, are the most beautiful combination of trees that I have ever seen. There have been other trees that have come close, but the trees at Avesbury have stayed with me since I visited them many years ago. The history and magic of nature, laid bare by the exposed roots, just brings history to life for me and reminds me how interconnected we are with nature. When I was there, I just wanted to curl up in the trees for hours, writing and reading and soaking up the history and energy of the place. Of the 2, Stonehenge and Avesbury, Avesbury will always be more sacred to me because there were no barriers, no intrusion between you and the space itself. (though perhaps, had I been able to stand between the ruins of Stonehenge, I may have felt differently).


The other moment that informed this blog is undocumented. While I was traveling through India, I visited Sarnath (the famous Deer Park just outside of Varanasi (or Benares or Kashi, depending on which name you prefer, where Buddha gave his first speech). There were a great many moments in that day that were very memorable but this one moment, for all it’s simplicity, was what struck me most. I was in the garden just outside of the main site and I saw my first lotus flower in India. Now, a lotus flower in itself isn’t really that unusual in India, but there are certain things for me that really drive home that I’m in a country, for example, in Amsterdam it was the bicycles, not the windmills, that did it and in India, it was the lotus flower that did it, not the Taj Mahal. And so, being the intrepid photographer and traveller that I am, I went to take a pictures (can we say click happy much?). But what happened in that moment? My batteries died. So the moment, in all it’s significance was lost to time and memory. And there was something that struck me as perfect about that. That the lotus flower, which was rose out of the muck of a rather less than perfect pond, was only ever going to be recalled through my imperfect recollections and that I’d never really be able to fully share the experience and what it meant to me in that moment, fully with others.


imageMy lotus looked something like this, but this isn’t it, not really,

even though it’s really a lotus from Sarnath! Photo source 


As a literature student, writing about memory, history and culture in Indian sonnets at the time, this was huge for me. The little theory monkey in me was awash with insights and comments, and so, in the middle of one of the Buddha’s most significant locations, yours truly had her own little theoretical and philosophical insights…. could it be any more a propos than that? Ok, now I’m making light of it, but really, honestly, it was one of the moments that I most cherish in my trip full of so many amazing memories.


So I combined the 2: lotus tree and that was that. But being a literary student, I particularly love the added symbolism that exists in the combination, the fact that it also pays homage to the fact that I’m originally from the west coast, oft dubbed the land of the lotus-eaters, and the idea that the magnolia tree, which we had in our front yard of the house I grew up in, is often considered to be a form of the this mythical plant. What more could a west coast hippie, artsy lit geek girl like myself, ever want in a title? Really?


Given that I made this blog more about crafts than anything else, and the fact that there is a guest house in France with the same name, I added the crafts… you know, to avoid confusion…


Phew… that’s a lot of writing, and my paint happy self is a little out of practice with the long writing. In short, metta, lotuses, and trees, are all combined to remind me to remember to write from those moments of transformation and balance. Which is what I’m all about these days. Yup, it’s true! Who knew?

Sunday, June 20, 2010

here’s what i’ve been up too lately…

I know that I haven’t been writing as much lately, but there’s a good reason… I’ve been very busy painting up a storm.

Wanna see?

Yeah, I know you do…

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Oh but wait, there’s more…

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coasters (which I’m not too thrilled with, but they’re made… I might add another element to them before sealing them up, we’ll see)



and shadow boxes:

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bubbles and backgrounds that remind me of the Haindl tarot, which I love

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And then, of course because I love my ladies so much, a combo of a lady and the bubble-licious background:

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As you can see, I’ve been busy lately. It’s a weird shift for me, going from writing all the time to painting, but I think it’s a good break. In fact, Paul has tentatively agreed to let me paint a big painting for our bedroom. I can’t wait to paint something larger than 10x10. So exciting!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

learning new art techniques

image june 2010 088
Detail of Art Journal painting by Julie Fei-Fan Balzer detail of recent attempts by yours truly to master the technique used in the eyes done by the artist on the left.


I’ve mentioned before that I’m still new at this whole world of art and there is a pretty steep learning curve going on for yours truly.


When I like something that catches my eye, I try it out for size. Many of the techniques I’ve been playing with have been adaptations of things I see in other’s work. Here, as seen above, is my attempts at playing with an eye technique that I thought made for stunning eyes.


Now obviously, as I have mentioned before, I think it’s important to know when to draw the line between what is copying for instructional purposes and downright plagiarism of someone else’s style/work. The question is, how do you know when you’ve crossed said line? Is my work, which is so directly inspired by hers, plagiarism? Is it far enough from the original? Would it matter to anyone in the long run if I used it?


Here’s the thing: I feel like if I’m asking these questions then the answer is yes. I cannot take this new skill and market it as my own at this point. Until I manage to work it into my own style and make it mine, the line, although hazy (after all my version of the eyes is still different) hasn’t really become mine yet. 


But I’m working on it…

Friday, June 11, 2010

the requisite squam post

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welcome to squam lake. isn’t it lovely and zen?

this post is a long time coming because i’ve been chewing on the experience since getting home.

first up: block printing with lizzy house

so i originally took this course knowing very little about lizzy and partially because i didn’t want to take 2 courses with the same teacher. it seemed like it would be interesting, so i thought why not.

i’m really glad that i did. she was an endearing and lovely teacher and a fun project. i really enjoyed making my own prints and designs. and really, all the new stamps i can make… woo hoo… yeah, i’m totally stoked about it!

look ma, no hands:

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and look, it’s exciting, my prints are famous. see 1, 2 & 3!

and not to be forgotten, my totally clueless dork moment in which i really reveal myself as not being a serious knitter. in my block printer class i was sharing a table with casey from ravelry and innocently asked him how he started working there, only to be told that he and his wife were the ones who built the site. yeah. open mouth, insert foot! to be fair, he was modest and gracious about it. but yeah, total knitting luddite over here!

next up was book in a day with christine mason miller and marisa haedike. both ladies were so sweet and nurturing and enthusiastic. anything goes was their motto for the class: you asked, they said yes. christine had prepared little welcome cards with affirmations inside. mine read: you are a treasure. it was sweet and probably exactly what i needed to hear at that moment, so fitting. yeah… i’m a fan of the daily inspiration cards… i admit it. 

doesn’t my classroom look amazing? i met a fellow montrealer in the class, i think we were the only ones there so it was great that we actually met.

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here’s 2 pics of one of my books, and then a random assortment of the beautiful books that my classmates created.  it was really amazing to see all the ideas that everyone came up with. honestly, i was awed by what others managed to come up with by the end of the day. i felt like a real slouch for not doing nearly as much as many others did with their books (as in crazy great ideas and beautiful images on the inside pages of their books as well as the outer book itself). but don’t you worry, i got ideas people… big ideas…

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next up, my cabin, you know, before i forget…

i’m officially a fan of rocking chairs now. yup, it’s a fact. sitting on our screened porch, with a glass of wine, good company and the beautiful surroundings… it was so relaxing.  speaking of which, i had lovely roommates, it was fun to stay with them. in fact, we were joking that we might have been the only 3 non-knitters in the entire camp. not true, but there were a lot of passionate knitters there. i’m awed by their mad skills, really. amazing knitted creations abounded about camp!

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every night there was some sort of cafe/performance. from the hilarious talk by stephanie pearl-mcphee, who had me laughing so hard i was crying—even though i was stressed and sitting in the front row, waiting in fear of being outted as a non-knitter… do a few scarves count?, to the lovely story telling of my final teacher, jen lee

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the poor woman was crazy sick from allergies, yet she managed to valiantly pull through and create a very intimate story telling class as my last course. we sat by a cozy fire, listened to each others stories and had a mellow morning. it was a lovely way to end my workshop before going off to swim, write, and take pictures on saturday afternoon.

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overall it was a lovely, zen workshop. the teachers were all super approachable and friendly. the space was gorgeous and all the people there incredibly warm and welcoming.

would i go back? probably, but maybe not to the spring session which focuses so much on knitting and fabric. i think that maybe the fall session would be more up my alley.

all in all, i’m really glad i went, even if my car nearly died on the drive home. (yes, lucy has been in the shop on and off now for a couple of days…. first the engine, then the car alarm) all i can say is thank god that quebec roads are so bumpy, they really helped mask the weird engine thingy! but she’s all better now, i’m settled back in, and have gotten my bearings again.

it’s hard you know, coming back to reality after being so relaxed in the woods!

ps. did i mention that i saw a real live wild turkey on my drive home? yeah, it was humongous! crazy!!!!

Friday, June 4, 2010

green themes

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Recent adventures in Marya-land: mini golf!

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Nature walks (with so much dandelion fluff it looks like snow)!

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Paul, being typical Paul

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8x10 canvas work in progress.

Come to think of it, there’s a lot of green going on in this post. Hmmm… interesting.

Now that I’ve painted a couple of things on canvas I have to admit that I think I prefer the wood block canvas over the actual canvas. (Of course I would like the wood… it’s more expensive… I always go for the more expensive option…. go figure, it’s an uncanny knack of mine). The reasons why I like wood more: Canvas takes longer to dry, absorbs the paint more (so you use more, even with gesso) and is more springy.

Thursday, June 3, 2010


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6x6 canvas mixed media

I wanted to create something simple, reminiscent of golden Buddha statues. In the background you might notice that there is music and a postcard underneath the face. I love the way they peep through. I can’t stand the lips, too big, and the nose is so so.

This painting is on canvas, instead of wood, and although I enjoyed playing with both, I’m still not sure which I prefer. For mixed media, because of the layers of paper I used underneath, the canvas was a bit more challenging to use because of the give in the fabric while glue the papers underneath. I had to work a lot harder to get air bubbles out and counter the ripple effects caused by the paint, water, and fabric.

On the other hand, canvas is a cheaper medium and lighter weight.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

nurture hope

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Even in the darkest hours, nurture hope.

I received some sad and distressing news recently (I'm fine, we're fine, don't worry) but it was news that really shook me up. I felt myself sort of sink into sadness, wondering about the state of the world we live in and all the sad stories I've witnessed in my lifetime. I've mentioned before that my parents were foster parents, so I've seen a lot of sad stories in my time, from a very young age. That said, I'm thankful for the life lessons that came my way through my parents' fostering. I've met amazing people, learned a lot about human nature, and best of all, gained 2 brothers through it. My life was altered beyond imagination from the moment that the first group of kids came to stay with us. I am in awe of what some children can live through and survive, emerging to become amazing individuals despite of all the challenges that life has thrown them.

Somewhere along the line, I've come up with this theory, that inspite of how much nurture plays into our development, there is something intrinsically linked to our natures that determine our maleability and resiliency. Kids that have lived completely sheltered lives with loving parents can emerge more fucked up than ever imagined, while kids that should be the most messed up, are resilient go-getters who are actively engaged in living their lives and making the world a better place. Yes, having a messed up background (be it rich or poor) increases the chances of going astray, but really, there seems to be no rhyme or reason sometimes to these things.

I don't come from a pretty place (literally and metaphorically speaking though even my hometown has its hidden beauties that I miss dearly) and I've seen a lot of messed up things in my life. Yet, inspite of all that, I know how incredibly lucky I have been in life. I tow the line between a sheltered privileged life and the dark world that I've witnessed, just enough to know how much darker it can really be out there without it simply being based on what books, movies, and media tell me. I went from almost being a suicidal High School drop out, to having a master's degree and a career in Education (oh the ironies: from hating school to teaching)! I can relate to the kids that come in and have so much on their plate that they don't care and can't see the point behind education. They are the kids I love working with most because when/if I get the chance to help them make that switch, it's an awe inspiring moment. I love their light bulb moments because I know what mine felt like and how it changed everything.(Just writing that brings tears to my eyes, you have no's so amazing). And it reminds me that we should never give up hope. Because regardless of our challenges, someone else is always facing something worse. And regardless of how frustrating it can seem, everyone has something to offer and the potential of a lightbulb moment is only a flick of a switch away.

Lately I find myself contemplating these ideas a lot. I think it's so important to remember that spark of goodness in everyone and to fight to bring it out. I know, such a little Pollyanna over here, aren't I? Again with the ironies, everyone thinks I'm all miss snarky when really I'm a closeted eternal optimist who can't understand why we can't just all get along!

As I play with paint, drawing ladies and backgrounds, I find myself drawn to affirmations, reminders to embrace joy and love, to celebrate what is good. Yet, when I was painting this lady, I was filled with these dark questions and contemplations, thinking about the darkness that seems to be everywhere we turn. I felt overwhelmed by all the sadness around me and didn't expect to come up with such an optimistic message.

But there you have it: even in the darkest hours, nurture hope. Exactly the words I needed to hear most.

Once I had this phrase in mind, I decided that the painting needed to nurture abundance too... so all the leaves and flowers were added to remind me/us that hope grows into abundance when nurtured. Without going all lit geek and analyzing what my little playing with paint project represents, I can't help but wanting to share this one more thing: even without intending it, I also noticed once I added the element of abundance into the scene, that my lady could be perceived as pregnant... literally giving birth to hope. Sometimes playing with paint amazes me. It really does. Just to get all spiritual on ya: it really feels a little like a moment of bliss filled synchronicity, straight from the source.

On that note, I'm off to play with paint at Squam! I've scheduled a few posts while I'm away but yup, I'm outta here until Sunday! Yay!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

green thought in a green shade: painting an ode to Marvell

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6x6" wood board painting with acrylics, fabric, paper

Andrew Marvell wrote in The Garden:
Meanwhile the mind, from pleasure less,
Withdraws into its happiness :
The mind, that ocean where each kind
Does straight its own resemblance find ;
Yet it creates, transcending these,
Far other worlds, and other seas ;
Annihilating all that's made
To a green thought in a green shade.
I’ve always been puzzled and intrigued by this idea of a green thought in a green shade. I’ve studied this poem many times in my life and while I understand the rest of the poem, this particular line is an enigma to me. And yet, this stanza, out of all the poem (which is basically about god creating the garden) draws me the most.  So I took a few of the verbs from those lines, combined with the last line of the stanza, and added it to my thoughtful green lady.

Find, create, transcend. I couldn’t think of words that are more fitting to this time in my life. Just as I am seeking to nurture hope in my darkest hours, I am also trying to find my way, create a new path, and transcend (to where and what remains to be seen).

This was the first time I've ever painted on a wood board canvas and it was fun. I've only ever really played with paint on a surface other than paper. Next up, an actual canvas surface. I'm excited. It's like I'm a real painter now! Woo hoo! Ok, yeah, yeah, I'm a dork who is way to excited by her playing with paint time. (I can't bring myself to calling it just painting or being an artist cause I don't want to jinx myself and enrage the gods and artsy muses with my lack of humility and daring... ). Maybe I should preface every painting/creation I make with a prefatory apology for daring to create and think that my humble art worthy of your consideration like English Renaissance writers before the rise of Humanism?

If I go back to what Elizabeth Gilbert said about art in her TED talk and consider artistic inspiration as being something that is given to us as a gift from the gods as opposed to our own, perhaps then I should be thinking of the artistic process as something I should be expressing gratitude for and seeing as not entirely my own but rather, in part, a gift given to me from that divine something out there (whatever you want to call it) :

Sometimes I think that because we live in a very individualistic society, we tend to view our creations as being entirely our own, and with that comes the double edged sword: our successes are our own, but so to are our failures. We cannot fully claim our successes without being narcissistic and full of ego, nor can we admit failure without shame attached to it (instead of seeing each failure as the essaye that it is, which can lead to success later, after all for every success there are a 100 failures before it).

I know, I know. I'm totally intellectualizing creativity. But it's something that I spend a great deal of time thinking about these days. (Shocker, I know...)


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