Monday, December 24, 2012

Happy Holidays!

Joy to the Modern Family!
I could just post the above picture, wish you happiness and move on to the next holiday task....
No, that's too easy. I want to share a couple more things. My Playmobil manger and three Playmobil advent calendars (yes, three!) had been lost for years. it drove me crazy that I couldn't find them. Then, when I moved all my junk from my mom's attic a month ago - I found all sorts of forgotten treasures, including the Playmobils.

Lilah and I set them ALL up on the dining table - four scenes in a row. There was Santa's Workshop, the Christmas Market, and the Heavenly Bakery. Everyday she opened a few boxes and set up the characters and objects in their respective scenes.

Here are the three advent calendar sets, in the back, with the calendars in the front.
As the days passed, I started noticing that characters were migrating from one scene to another. Angels were trading wings with elves and cats... and then those mischievous penguins hopped out of their boxes...

"Uh... Mary? Where's the baby?"

I will post a picture when all the scenes are completed. Should be interesting...

On a different tangent, you may have seen, on the internet, the amazing snow tangles created by Simon Beck? OMG those are so incredible. But, seriously? The whole point of Zentangle is to simplify so that anyone can create beautiful designs. But thanks to Simon, we are all desiring our own snow tangles, right? Here is a video of Lilah showing you how to create your own snow-tangles. This is the FUN, relaxing, stress free way...

Now, I will wish you HAPPY HOLIDAYS! And I hope this New Year will be more Zen and less Tangle for everyone. ;-D

Thursday, December 20, 2012

A little photo tour of The BeeHive!

Zoooooom!!! That's time whooshing past us! I had planned to just tell you about my ideas for the new studio space.... but then I realized you were probably wondering what I have been doing for the past month. And I was kind of shocked that it has actually been a month! Although I still feel like hiding in my studio and puttering for the rest of the winter, when I'm in The BeeHive - I actually feel like talking to people... and I start getting really excited about all the possibilities! The space keeps changing, but this seems like a great time to take you on a little tour and show off some of those possibilities. Come on!

We won't dwell on the past, but just to put things in perspective, this is the sign that was on the door exactly one year ago. :-( It was really sad, but it was also a wonderful feeling to get to play Santa. We gave away so much stuff before Christmas, but even so, it took a few months to pack up all the remaining inventory and clean out the place.

In the process of cleaning out the store room and the attic, I found some cool stuff - the best being the front and back of our A-frame display. The display was actually a "house" from a childrens' bookstore in Concord that closed when we first moved up here. Dan Hamilton put it back together for me and built new side walls. He even added carpeting. Lilah's dolls would tell you it is very plush. But no shoes are allowed in the house!

I painted it with purple chalkboard paint and let Lilah and her friend, Danny, go at it with chalk markers. Sooner or later (I'm guessing later) I will paint the trim and the hearts too. I did wash the windows...

Here's Dan putting together a super cool wooden door from India that I found in a junk shop in Bar Harbor, ME. That's the back, you should see the front!

 Since there is nothing like a deadline to motivate me to action, I decided to do an Open Studio on Dec. 8th when the whole town had a Holiday Shopping Tour. Even with the deadline, I was still floundering until Jacque showed up and actually started moving stuff. We resorted to the ages old tactic of "shove everything unnecessary into the other room and hide it with a curtain". Fabulous trick. Of course, everything is still in that room, but the studio looked great. Her son, Danny is in Kindergarten with my daughter so we brought them both back to the studio to "help"- which always seems to involve a lesson from Lilah on how to draw Lilah Beans....

This is part of the classroom. The neat part. Although this table is currently covered by a Playmobil zoo... if I turned around I would fall over all the "stuff" we shoved into this space for the Open Studio. On the far wall, you can see half my Accucut die collection. I have two die cutters and a bunch of other cool art-toys. Yes, you too can come play in my studio!

 Beyond the classroom is my inner sanctum - actually, this is Bumblebat - where I do all my Etsy orders. The amazing painted cabinet (I used to paint furniture) features two characters from my old stamp company (Bartholomew's Ink), Edgar with his raven, and the Baroness with her cat Gus.

Going back out to the front shop/studio space, there is a little "lounge" area with comfy chairs and a K-cup machine - since I don't know how to make coffee, you can make it yourself. There is a giant Zentangle on lokta paper on the wall. Sets the mood, no?

Yes, that brown chair needs painting. It has been waiting 20 years for me to "get to it". It will wait a bit longer.

I did paint the old (Personal Stamp Exchange!) display - purple, of course - to hold all my Anachronistic Castle stamps. I am still trying to decide if I am going to restart this stamp company. maybe if I have some free time...

And here is the Art Bar for demos, face painting, shrink plastic... this is my favorite spot. Notice the little bookcase shrouded in black? This technique of hiding things behind curtains could become a crutch. Sooner or later I will have to actually clean all this stuff up!

These big tables would be good to spread out your projects, take a class (a clean one, like Zentangle), or have a meeting, or birthday party...

The green theater chairs in front of the giant chalk board are from a closed theater in Concord, NH. The giant Munny (Meg) on the cabinet is for inspiration, not for sale, but the books are for sale. There is definitely a lot of inspiration around here.

The "plan" is to have the studio open, starting in January, every Friday from 3-9pm. There is a little shop area, so you can buy some supplies or books, but most of the space is dedicated to "creative community". You can hang out and chat, work on your own projects, get inspiration, or take a class. I'm working on my own schedule of workshops, but I'd like to find lots of other artists to come share their expertise and passions. We'll see what happens! If you'd like to know more about what happens at The BeeHive, please go to and put your name on the mailing list. I'll add events and classes to the site as I get them, so be sure to check back.

And please, if you know anyone creative in the New England area, pass the site's link on to them.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Random Acts of Shopping

How'd you do? Credit card maxed out yet? Well, there's still time, most of the "deals" expire at midnight, right? I admit I bought too much too. But I am proud that I did NOT venture out to shop on Friday. Well... I did walk next door with my son to the Country Cobwebs. Hey! They had hot apple cider and ginger snaps. And I was with my son, so it's family time... and shopping local.

My sister's family was visiting and we played pictionary on my wall. And ate too much cheesecake.

The uni-brow Lilah Bean ate too much turkey! (See the pile of bones?)

And when we could pry the three teenage boys off of Minecraft, they were super helpful and moved all my boxes from storage in my mom's attic (she's moving).... into my mudroom!

Oh-oh. It didn't look like quite that many boxes when they were in the giant attic! I had hoped they'd be mostly old receipts from my stamp company - like the first box I opened- and then I could just recycle them. Nope. Guess what they were? My TOY collection! About 50 boxes of action figures, in their packaging. Everything from Coneheads, to Star Trek, to Inspector Gadget. And don't snort, but there are at least ten boxes filled with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles! And yes - I DO have the Ray Filet with color change. And I have a talking Venom, a talking Buzz Lightyear, and I'm not sure if Jack Skelton talks...

I was up til 2 am last night trying to sort out the bodies. Now what!? Selling them off on line will be a full-time job. But I do need my mudroom back soon.

So, in honor of consumerism, collectible-itis, my daughter Lilah's birthday, and my cat Lilo (see note below), I am having a Free Shipping Sale on my Etsy site. Until Wednesday night (November 28th), all US orders over $75 will ship free. Use the code: LILOSHIP. You will need to enter in the code in the promo box during checkout or it won't be applied.

What's up with Lilo? (That's actually, "Lilo Bean JellyBean") She is famous for her role in Zentangle for Kids. Well, seems that her URIs are actually a tumor. That might be TMI, but she's in a lot of pain, slurping pregnisone, and there isn't anything that can be done to help her. She's had a really good life, but it is cruel not to let her move on to Kitty Heaven. So she'll climb that Stairway tomorrow. I'm too much of a coward to take her in to the vet, but my mom promised she'd hold her hand. My RAK is to not prolong her suffering for my own benefit. And also, not to ruin the holidays for my kids. I'll start crying if I don't distract myself soon. Yep, she's my fur-kid. So I'm going to blow off anymore work tonight. Put on my pjs and watch TV until very late. Lilo will curl up under my knees and purr and purr. And THAT will be my memory of this fabulous feline.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Random Acts of Tangling...

I had mentioned in my last post how - seeing the rocks on the beach gave me the urge to tangle a few and put them back for someone else to find. Random Acts of Tangling. I know there are all kinds of groups doing similar things with trading cards, stuffies, guerilla art... it got me thinking though...

Maybe it's the time of year, the approaching holidays, the lack of sunlight, colds, the constant flood of donation requests, renewal reminders, the unending lawyer bills, the ever increasing vet bills... but I am feeling a bit on the edge of insanity! I keep reminding myself that this is supposed to be a wonderful, magical time of year. But I just don't feel it. I want to NOT focus on the expense and the commercial aspects, but that laundry list above is focused on money. I want to take a step away... what would Zentangle do? Seems kind of corny, but... what would happen if I did take a step back, squint at it, look for patterns... can I break it down into steps? I'll let you know if I figure out how to deconstruct this tangled mess!

Last night, my daughter and I watched a cute, animated version of Yes, Virginia (there is a Santa Claus) on Netflix. It was a good reminder that  - whether or not you will admit to "believing" in Santa, or fairies, or magic, or anything, really - the point is actually "hope". The movie points out that everyone has a chance to "be" Santa Claus by giving hope to someone else. Sometimes, all it takes is a change of outlook. It's not about giving the right coffeemaker, or the latest gadget or toy. The right gift is often a show of support, the right words, or maybe even NOT saying something. Like that quote, I don't know who said it, "Would you rather be right, or kind?"

I think that what depresses me so much about the holidays is the presents. If I think of it like a logic problem... if someone likes you, they buy you a present. If they really value you, or love you, they buy you something expensive, or lots of presents. So then the opposite it true too, right? For the last few years... more than I care to admit... I have been buying my own presents. Birthdays, Christmas... even Anniversaries. I always get gifts that I want. But what's the point? I remember feeling very disappointed, even as a kid. That something was missing. A point. And if gifts are meant to represent hope, rather than your own value, maybe they shouldn't be opened?

When I was a kid, Christmas was in December. The END of December. There were Christmas sales at school, advent workshops, lots of hoopla, but not until December. We put the tree up the first day of the holiday vacation. My grandmother and I would mix up an enormous bowl of gingerbread and spend an entire day rolling and cutting little "poopsies" (gingerbread people). Those cookies were an Estonian recipe - they were crispy and spicey and so delicious! We'd take plates of them to all our neighbors. The happiness on their faces was contagious.  On Christmas Eve, I felt the magic at church. The music, the candles, my friends... the happiness made me want to burst! The pews were so full because everyone had family visiting. And after church, I'd watch the swarms of people heading off to dinner and parties and I wanted to be one of those kids with a huge family! We'd go home to eat cookies and Christmas sausage... me, my sister, brother, grandmother and mom. I remember resenting my tiny family! Now, my family is even smaller. And last Christmas, my kids were with their father and my mom with friends... Christmas for one, truly sucks.

Like Ebenezer Scrooge, I've been shown a bunch of variations, and I know I want things to be different, but I don't know what new traditions or people I can adopt. I know for sure that spending an entire month, or TWO months! - preparing for one day - is a recipe for disappointment. No one holiday could possibly live up to all that hoopla and marketing!

There's a great video from The Story of Stuff folks - Tis the Season to Get Trampled. They are suggesting we stay HOME the day after Thanksgiving and DO SOMETHING with our family members instead of running out for bargain shopping. Their slogan is "Buy Nothing. Do Something." Choose Family Over Frenzy. So I decided NOT to do an Open Studio that weekend. I'm going to hang out with my kids and my sister and her family. Just say no. It's a start.

Then I want to start noticing other ways that I can integrate the whole random acts thing into my life. Because THAT's what feels good to me. And I will start paying more attention to the random acts of kindness that others hand to ME. I admit I get so "stressed" that I wouldn't even notice if all my dreams came true. Wait a minute! I think they have! Darn, I missed it! It's probably all on Facebook.  Point is - when I'm rushing through McDonald's and the server says "Ohmigosh! I love your coat!" That's a RAK - I should acknowledge that the compliment not only means I have good taste (or something), but I DO have a warm, fuzzy, purple coat that makes me feel good. Gratitude. I have what I need. When my daughter's teacher says she is doing really well and not acting out in class anymore. That's not just relief I feel that my kid is not the one throwing rocks. Not just an absence of embarrassment, but a feeling of gratitude. I am proud of my kid, yes, but also grateful that I HAVE this amazing kid.

So this week is Thanksgiving. It's not Black Friday or Cyber Monday or whatever. It's Thanksgiving. It's a reminder that I have SOOOOO many things to really feel grateful about. You try it out too - if you are feeling stressed about the crowd coming to your house? Picture the alternative. Then find a way to appreciate each person and what they are contributing to your life.

I'm curious to know what Random Acts of Kindness you have received? What about RAKs that you DO for others? Wouldn't it be cool to have a Signature Act of Kindness? (A SAK?) That would make us like super-heros - a special power! As an example: when we go to the grocery store and my daughter is feeling a little sad, she has this magical way of cheering herself up. She looks for a woman who is shopping alone and who looks sad too. Then Lilah walks right up to her and smiles a huge smile, "Hi, I'm Lilah, I'm 5!" And she just stands there smiling until the woman smiles back. She runs back to me and says "She smiled. She'll be OK." That's quite a super-power.

And here's a weird thought... if you could make a wishlist of RAKs, what would you most like to receive from others? What would make your day?

Thursday, November 15, 2012

UNTangle Retreat Pics

I found Lilah Bean on the beach! Her hair is a big shell, body and flippers are rocks, ladder is part of a lobster trap. Mini Bean is made from shrink plastic.
After months of planning, it is amazing how fast the actual event blows by! UNTangle, the Holiday Edition, was a great success. We kept this one small and that meant we all got to know each other a bit better, plus there was elbow room to work on tangley projects.
The hotel made cupcakes to celebrate Terry's birthday. They included bottles of chocolate sauce so we could tangle them ourselves! Sweet!
Half our group
Our basic tiles - just to make sure everybody has a good foundation... before we start breaking the rules!
Jenny, who owns a shop on Mount Desert Isle, brought laser cut snowflakes for us to tangle.
Linda adds a bit of bling to her snowflake.
Along the Marginal Way.
I have an urge to tangle a bunch of rocks and return them to the beach... Random Acts of Tangling...
The view from my window. Low-ish tide.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Infectious Tangling

Perhaps "addictive" is less intimidating a word? Now that I have internet back again, I need to catch up the blog posts...

First - I had a wonderful visit from Carolyn Boatman and her husband, Ian. Carolyn, who lives in Bermuda, was "infected" with Zentangle by her daughter, who lives in England. (Sounds like the beginning of a logic problem!) She emailed me to ask if they could visit my studio while vacationing in New Hampshire. Of course! I just had to figure out how to keep my daughter out of the way for a few hours... well, that failed completely. She must have some crazy radar that pulls her in... "Oooo guests in MY studio!" Carolyn had mentioned she had some questions she wanted to ask me about Zentangle. I have no idea what they were... Carolyn, if you remember, go ahead and post them in the comments! But I can rest easy knowing that both Carolyn AND Ian have a complete understanding of the intricacies of drawing proper Lilah Beans. And Lilah Beans with five o'clock shadows...

I'm seriously going to get my kids Certified... I'm just afraid Lilah would take over the conference...

Second - this weekend was the 2nd Annual CZT Retreat in Tilton, NH. Ten completely addicted CZTs in one room. This retreat was hosted by Bette Abdu and she did a bang up job pulling it all together.
Bette Abdu - (and Bette's car decals will be for sale soon!)
The retreat was at The Black Swan Inn, an historic gem (with ghosts and secret panels...). Bette hosts Tea and Tangle events at the Inn - the info is on her Facebook page - if you'd like to experience it for yourself.
The proprietress, Cheryl, is rather eccentric...
The Inn is covered with carved panels and textures everywhere. It made my job a breeze on Friday when I had the task of teaching printmaking with Zentangles. Our "warm-up" project was making impressions of textures using foam blocks.

Aha, shoes have patterns too...
I figured we'd spend maybe a half hour on this? Mmhm... did I mention even the door hinges were covered in intricate details? We did foam block textures almost til lunch time!

Prints of textures
Prints of textures on wood, then tangled
I'm not going to tell you what we did AFTER lunch - you have to come to a retreat to find out for yourself. Oh? Yes - just so happens there is a retreat next week! There are a couple of spots still open if you would like a  chance to hang out with a select group of Zentangle fanatics. ;-D

Here are a few more shots...

My new sneakers, tangled up
Pumpkin, the other owner of the Inn. Or, as I nicknamed him... The Great Pumpkin. He was huge! And purred like a lion.
Uh-oh... Pumpkins don't belong in trees. Especially trees with skinny branches.
Pumpkin a la toilet paper tube...
raspberry cheesecake encrusted with white chocolate... mmhm... our meals were prepared by a pastry chef named Paris.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

How to Create a Sand Zendala (Mandala)

Awhile back I mentioned that I had created a sand mandala as a way for our church members to celebrate our interim pastor. The Reverend Donoghue had mentioned sand mandalas a few times as examples of how joy can be found in the process rather than in the finished work. He explained how monks would spend hours... days even... placing each colored grain of sand in intricate, meditative patterns. And when they finished, the art was swept or blown away. It seemed fitting that we, as a church, create one to show that... well, that we had been paying attention.

• I used a large (about 2 feet by 2 feet - or so) piece of masonite. Foam board could work too. Use a material that is very smooth, but not static-y.

• Tracing around large round objects or stencils would be the easiest way to create the basic circles, but I couldn't find anything that big in my studio. so I did it the old-fashioned way. Using a long ruler, I marked the centers of each edge of the board, then connected those dots to find the center of the board itself. I measured out intervals along each axis where I wanted my circles to be. ie: 4" and 6".

• Placing one end of the ruler on the center dot, I slowly rotated it, like the large hand on a clock, marking 4" and 6" with a dot each, at one o'clock, 2o'clock, etc. all the way around. Then I sketched in the circles (in pencil) by connecting all the 4" dots. then all the 6" dots.

• Since I wanted this piece to be symmetrical, I lightly sketched in the basic shapes of the tangles. Normally, when doing a large Zentangle, a mural or such, I don't use any guides - I just draw.

• I used black and white Sharpie oil-based markers to draw in all the tangles, then filled the larger shapes with black and white acrylic paint. I ended up using white gesso to get better coverage over the brown board. I was careful to keep all the brush strokes very smooth (so the sand wouldn't catch on them). Since some of the church council members had expressed their doubts about doing something "artistic" :-) I wanted to prove that this was easy and satisfying and anyone could do it. So I created the mandala on the board as if it were a template - like a coloring book or paint-by-number. I put the suggested colors down and all they would have to do was fill it in. (See the last picture with the Rev. holding the painted board)

• I put the colored sand into squeeze bottles (technically, "pour" bottle), but I also put extra sand into small food storage containers with plastic spoons. A few people felt more comfortable using a spoon - like sprinkling sugar onto cereal - it's a familiar motion.

• It took a bit of coaxing to get people to give it a try. The kids dove right in, which gave the adults the confidence to try too. The kids got SO confident, they started adding their own touches and embellishments! Notice the hearts on the corners? 

• An older women used black sand to draw lines between the flower petals and then the kids used that idea to embellish the embellishments.

• One little boy discovered the side of the spoon worked very well as a "noodger"... it could push stray sand back into place or create an even line. Clever!

• When it was complete - in true Zentangle fashion - any blips and bloops, spills and differences in technique - all blended into the overall design. It looked so beautiful! Everyone stood around looking very pleased with themselves.

• We carried it out to the parking lot where the Rev. tossed it into the wind. Not a single bit of sand remained to show what we had made - and yet we were all laughing and smiling.

• And, of course, the Reverend has the mandala board and extra sand so he can create another sand mandala in the future. I know he works with soldiers returned from war, so I am hoping it might help to introduce them to the idea of tangling.

I really love seeing the application of the Zentangle method with other, more tactile materials (blog post about shaving cream). It fascinates me how the mindfulness and creative confidence can transfer to other mediums besides pen and ink. AND how easily people accept it and dive in when they feel they recognize something about it... "I've been doodling all my life," or "pouring the sand is like decorating a cake"... has anyone else tried any unusual materials for tangling?


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