Saturday, April 28, 2012

"In dreams, we enter a world that is entirely our own."

 ***If you don't care for "crafting" and/or things related to Harry Potter, you might not like this posting and just wanted to forewarn you about it.***

In keeping with my goal to live "a life more creative," I present to you my next creative endeavor/crafted project in my efforts for gifting of the handmade sort.

My new favorite thing is to dream up packaged gift sets that stretch a cohesive theme to its absolute limits. I will come up with one element of the gift and then just spin that and stretch it in as many different directions as I possibly can. For this gift idea, I took inspiration from the amazing collective that is the Harry Potter series.

This gift is for another individual very close to me (and I am hoping they don't stumble upon this before I am finally able to deliver it to them) and this person is one seriously diehard Harry Potter fan. I started with the idea to crochet them a baby hat - amigurumi-style - in the likeness of Hedwig (Harry's owl).  I free-form crocheted it complete with ear flaps and long ties for under the chin. I stylized it a little by making ears that were adorned with cute black bows (do owls even have ears? Whatever. Like I said - I stylized it.) I could probably make it again if I wanted to but since I don't have a pattern, the hat is probably very much an original in and of itself for the most part. I added another crocheted piece - a scarf in the colors of Gryffindor house - and sized it for specifically for a baby in their first year. I readily expect that it won't probably be used/worn and I don't care since this whole set is mostly for novelty and gifty-ness anyway. The third item of the set is a child-sized wand made to resemble Hermione's wand. It was sculpted out of Sculpey clay with an aluminum knitting needle core and it's a little bit longer than a pencil. The fourth (and final) part of the set is something I didn't make and "outsourced" by way of Etsy only because I calculated out the cost of making it and figured it was cheaper to just buy it - a teeny-tiny Hogwarts acceptance letter!! The design is that for an American Girl-type doll but I also felt like it would be just the right size for a (novelty version) Hogwarts acceptance letter.

The final part of the gift set was something I really mulled over for a while. I wanted to package it up in a way that continued to play upon the Harry Potter theme but I just wasn't sure how/what I could do exactly that wouldn't make it too big to ship via regular postal snail mail. I liked the idea of putting it in a mini suitcase (of sorts) or trunk - like the idea that it could be carried right onto the Hogwarts Express or something and ultimately act as a conversation and functional storage element that could be kept around. When I did research on that option though I discovered it would be quite costly - both to purchase it (because I didn't want to deal with making it) and to ship it.

I must have walked around art and craft stores for upwards of 8-10 hours (that's what I do when I am brainstorming hardcore and trying to get a part of a creative venture right). Literally, I walked the aisles and brainstormed. Eventually I stumbled upon the idea of a book safe/hollow book and thought, "Hmm... I could do a faux spell book or textbook that otherwise could be a Hogwarts required text..." I sort of liked the idea but kind of hated it because of a myriad of reasons but was mostly centered around my own discomfort (even if it was just for novelty) of giving someone a spell book and not a Bible - I strongly adhere myself to a life inspired of and by scripture as much as possible.

Eventually, I was able to brainstorm my way to doing the fake book idea but using the inspiration of the fictional story within the Harry Potter books themselves of "The Tales of Beedle the Bard." It seemed exactly the perfect way to take things and I loved that it was not something of divination or magic and also something that specifically connected with Hermione. I looked up pictures of what the book looked like in the movie, etc. etc. etc. and then set to work trying to make it. Long story even longer? I totally had a craft fail moment that I don't even want to gratify with a picture. Just trust me. It was BAD.

I ended up having to buy a second hollow book and walked the aisles of Michaels and AC Moore (yet again!) until I found myself in the scrapbooking aisles (a department of art stores I generally hate to deal with because they never cease to overwhelm me with options). I brainstormed materials that seemed like they would make sense for creating the different elements of the book and then looked very specifically for them and also aimed to keep them within a strict color palette that I originally didn't even consider so that this time around it would match the child's nursery where everything might end up being displayed. After finding individual decorative scrapbook pages and some pre-fab stickers, I was finally able to get it all together enough to create the Harry Potter-inspired book safe you see below. I'm pretty content with how it came out and can only complain about how hasty I ended up being toward the end which will require me to fix it a little bit before I can actually send it up because I got a little sloppy toward the end of the assembly of all of the elements.

Was able to find corrugated paper that really imitated/suggest that their were real pages! Cool, eh?

The lettering is from a letter decal set and the tree is actually a low-profile three dimensional tree sticker/embellishment intended for scrapbooking in some way. I think it works well despite the fact that the movie version of the book is actually supposed to be a stump rather than a full tree.

So, that's that!!! I really like this gift set and though I don't know that I would ever recreate it for someone else, I did enjoy (for the most part) the challenge of both culling together the ideas that made it all come together as well as making them. Yay for being two for two in my endeavor to live and GIVE more creatively.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Pack it up, pack it in, let [it] begin...

Though it might seem a little off topic to entitle this posting with some House of Pain lyrics, it's actually not too off base since our first day of sculpting with packing tape in the 3D class has actually yielded some slight discomfort (that could be considered painful to some).

While it has been both fun, amusing, and challenging for all of the folks NOT being wrapped in saran wrap and then packing take the young folks who served as the models for the sculptures themselves? Some of them might have mentioned feeling like their circulation was being slightly cut off. *shrug* We are tortured artists as much as the best of them, right?

Here are just two snaps I put on instagram (username dreampraycreate if you want to "follow"). I am surprised I could get these pictures because honestly? I was laughing pretty hard during the whole process.

Most of the groups have not started because they have not filled out their worksheet/packets properly yet but starting some of the groups today really helped to motivate everyone else to do what they needed to do in order to get started tomorrow on the pre-wrapping and then wrapping/sculpting with the tape.

I suspect this project will go maybe a week of class time so I should have some good solid pictures of student work within the next two weeks! Yay!!!

Friday, April 13, 2012

The evolution of a self-portrait

Today I am home sick because of a surprise case of pink eye. *grrrrrrrrr* -_-

My battle with pink seems to be never-ending and I cannot stand it for all types of reasons that I don't even care to go into right now because it will only make me mad.

Anyway, today I am doing my best to just try not to itch or touch my eyes in any way as well as catch up and finish some projects that are time sensitive. One of those projects? Clean up and organize my hard drives. *pfffffffttttttt*

Something kind of amusing that I have come across in this process is a very small collective of self-portraits I've used on the web since 2001 to represent my visual likeness.  Mostly they have been featured on my bio page of my photography site.  The very first one I ever used (that I would have liked to include) is no where to be found. Probably better that it happened that way since it was the ultimate of fauxtography mistakes all culminating in one piece.  It was duo-toned, vignetted with white, had a softened focus, etc. etc. etc. What can I say? I was learning and still am learning. Anyway.

Below are the only three images that I have used for bio pic purposes. As it happens, I do my best staying behind the camera and lens if ever I can help. I don't know. I just don't much like being photographed. Still? I know that photographs of individuals are important. And so? I present to you three images that I have used in the past in order to represent myself...

This one I took in the mirror before everyone was doing it for social networking purposes  right before I went to shoot one of my first weddings as a second shooter. It was taken somewhere between 2002 and 2005. That's a long amount of time but honestly? I don't remember when it was taken. 

Another mirror self-portrait. There's my trusty camera on my trusty bracket system that I accidentally broke at that very wedding I was shooting. #facepalm  Luckily, I always make friends with all of the vendors and service folks wherever I am shooting and one of the maintenance guys at the country club where this wedding was came to my rescue and jerry-rigged my bracket in a way that permanently affixed my dedicated flash on its mount with the cord but whatever. It was a good solid fix that is still actually like that even today - though I don't use my bracket anymore.

And here is my current bio self-portrait. I know, I know... another mirror shot.  Perhaps I am ridiculously obsessed with having control over the camera but as it stands? If I have to be photographed, I prefer to be the one to do it. I guess that's the reason for all of my pictures being mirror shots. Anyway, I took this one a little more than a year ago and I feel like it's still as reasonably representational as a self-portraits could be. I'm growing my hair out so I'm hoping by next Fall I will be ready to do the next mirror shot to update things. Who knows.

So, that's kind of interesting. At least, to me.

I should probably get myself in a decent state to go to the doctor's office and get this pink eye issue worked out. Hope you all in the blogosphere are doing well and have a terrific weekend doing all that you do.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

From the archives to the auction block...

Per tradition for this time of year, it's time for the annual big fundraising event for my school. It's Spring Spectacular time!!!

A huge part of the event aside from the eating, drinking, and being merry is the silent auction. Every year the event coordinators come to the art department asking for donations of student work.

This technicolor giraffe painting has been a permanent favorite and source of inspiration for all who have spent time in the art room. Many of those folks might be sad that it is headed to the auction but I say this to them: Go to the auction and BID ON IT!!! It will be yours forever then and you can carry it wherever you please so you always have it! 
Not sure if this is from this year or last year but this is a project the other art teacher does almost every year with her classes.  The goal for the students is to play with tangible texture as much as with color gradations.

No clue what student/class did this but it has a distinctive Peter Max vibe to it if you ask me. It's an acrylic painting on a canvas panel. Anything related to the water, sailing/boating, nautical-themes are big around here because of the school's proximity to the water that promotes such a culture as that.

It pains me to get send this to the auction (along with the next three). These are HUGE pieces down on boards that are almost 5 feet by 5 feet. They were made by a student from the class of 2008 and they are AMAZING in person. They are mixed media and the student worked all year on this collective/themed-set. They have been sitting in art storage for way too long and we pulled them out last year about this time in an effort to get them hung in the athletics building. EVERYONE seemed to be happy about the idea. And then? It was axed! *WHATEV* 

Material used on this giant baseball was gauze for the surface of the ball and then felt for the stitching.

I believe the surface of this volleyball and the patterning of it was created from plaster. Not sure though. (Plaster is a big thing we use around these parts so it's a pretty safe assumption to make.)

This one is my FAVORITE of all of them. Excuse the poor quality of the picture. See the texture of the basketball? THOSE ARE INDIVIDUAL BBs that were adhered to the giant piece of board and then painted!!!!! I KNOW, RIGHT?!!!! I don't even want to think about how long it took the student to put those BBs on there one-by-one. But I'll tell you what - it was SOOOOOO worth his effort because it looks amazing in person and truly captures the real texture of a basketball.

So yeah. In about a week and a half or so, these are all up for grabs (or rather bids) to help make the annual fund of the school a LITTLE bit better, bigger, and healthier to keep the private school I work at afloat.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

An Unintended brief intermission

Things of late...
  • I'm drafting this post on my brand spankin' new Macbook pro! I've been a PC gal all my life but after the increasing occurrence of the blue screen event on my desktop and a work-issued laptop that is easily going that way too, I figured it was time to just jump ship to Apple already. So here I am!
  • ...And I'm still very much getting used to this whole business of now being a mac user. I picked it up yesterday late afternoon and spent the better part of today trying to customize it to make it functional for my intents and purposes. My student aide had a grand ol' time laughing at me as I called myself a "grandpa" who was trying to figure out "this new fangled technology."  Why did I not call myself a grandma instead? Your guess is as good as mine. 
  • I just got a bit of a windfall of freelance/business inquiries: a bar mitzvah/event to photograph and a painting party for some spritely three year olds. I have two weddings coming up in the next two months as well. It's looking like my business(es) are just about open for business that is otherwise known as a summer of leisure to too many others.
  • I am trying my best to not get bit by the spring fever/senioritis bug that is circulating about (probably) every high school's senior class. On one hand I'm just ready to be done. Spring break and then Easter break was such a terrible tease. There is pretty much nothing left but a looooooooooooooong stretch of full weeks of school until memorial day weekend and then I'm pretty much done anyway.
  • My seniors are all getting ready to head for the hills and I cannot tell you how much I am doing to mentally prepare myself for this. This is my third year at this school and I have never felt such a great personal connection with any of the other classes as I have with this one. I seriously love my seniors of 2012. They have been amazing in SO many ways. I don't want them to graduate. Seriously. 
  • Despite all of my silly and stupid woes there is a lot that I have within the next month and a half until school is dun-zo. I have lesson ideas with finished student work that I will be posting (hopefully in a timely manner) and some really cool "events" that I will be partaking in and photographing so that they, too, can be featured here on the blog.
So that's that. 

Sorry, no pictures or interesting words of incite or amusement! But if you really want pictures, I am officially on Instagram and my username is dreampraycreate if you want to see some of the latest snaps I have posted. I'm averaging at least two per day of things falling into the following two categories: art and my family (mainly my kid). 

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Prom is in the air...

One of my favorite times of the school year is prom. It's always so exciting to see my students get really excited about this anxiously anticipated event and hear the hushed conversations about "will she/he or won't she/he?" regarding prom pairings.

Per tradition at my school, the young men always work hard to devise exciting, unique, creative, and unexpected ways to ask the young ladies to be their dates. This applies even for those intending to ask on the grounds of going as "just friends." Every year there are always a few standouts that really the rest of the "proposals" off the map but it's still fun to watch the guys really do their best to be as chivalrous as possible with their efforts.

This year one of my student aides (an advanced art student who I have had in almost every semester in some capacity of teaching) had a bit of a dilemma with deciding who and how he wanted to go about with the whole business of prom. I have had an ongoing inside joke with him that he needs to start using the expression "bomb dot com" more often. I mention the phrase itself within conversation at least three times a week. At this point he just laughs at me and says it back but I still have wanted him to really make it one of his signature phrases because, come on! It is AWESOME!!!!

With prom fast approaching and (as of yesterday) him still without solid plans for who he would take, he finally came in this morning at first period and said, "I got it!!! I KNOW WHO I WANT TO ASK!!!!!" As it turned out, that individual was another advanced art student who is really sharp, funny - just an all around great girl. And me being me? I pushed an idea that would draw upon the bomb dot com joke that we have been throwing back and forth.

In a little more than an hour of working together fervently to get things together, I'm delighted to present to all of you the work of art that my student and I made for his prom proposal...

Can you tell what it is? It's a triplet of faux dynamite sticks (fashioned from a random cardboard roll that was laying about the art studio classroom and would have just been thrown away) bound together with some painters tape and then a giant note with the big question.

I have yet to hear whether or not the answer to the question is yay or nay but I just happened to be walking through the hallway when the girl opened her locker, saw it, and pulled it out and from what I observed? She was both amused and delighted with the "gift."

I love my job. Seriously. Perhaps I should change my job title to Art Teacher and Matchmaker extraordinaire.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

A life more creative

 It's occurred to me in recent weeks that while I spend my career encouraging creativity and creation by and for others, I do very little in the way "practice what you preach."



And honestly? I kind of don't have a very good reason for this fact other than the fact that my life, my time, my overall efforts that I have to do exert on a regular basis, well... it's pretty much all "spoken for" and that leaves me with little to nothing.

As it has happened, I've recently been visiting some health practitioners in order to complete some diagnostic testing in an effort to put names (officially) to some very challenging issues I've had of late. One of the results that has come up with that I need to do a lot better job with "self care." Basically: I do a great job taking care of everything and everyone and I am rarely (or rather never) a priority. *shrug*

Well, all of that being said, I'm really working on doing a better job with self-care. It was suggested to me that I do yoga but I've tried that at least half a dozen times and it just doesn't work. What does work? Invoking divine inspiration that doesn't just drive me to create but throttles me forth into the realms of creativity and creation.

My challenge with getting into this mode of making things is that I have a hard time with it mostly because I struggle with the whole thing of art vs. crafts. While I definitely appreciate crafting, I much prefer to do things that are much closer to art. As I believe, it's heavily debated that the area that separates those two realms is pretty grey and hard to define where one ends and the other starts. This alone keeps me from either finishing things or even starting to make them in the first place. Lame-O, eh? I think so.

If it's not painfully obvious enough, I typically suffer from "paralysis by analysis." I'm so in my own head most of the time that I have been and always will be my own stumbling block, obstacle, and worst enemy. (I know right! Who would have *thunk* it?!!)

This past weekend I got it in me to just get over all of this. I mean, who cares if what I'm doing is technically an art or a craft? WHO CARES??!!!! Because the fact of the matter remains is this: when I am being creative and actually creating things, I am less stressed, feel more active in my faith, happier, and just plain more balanced overall. And this is where I need to be in order to be a better artist, art teacher, wife, mother, daughter, HUMAN BEING, etc. *fist pump of resolve*

Friday of last week was one of my first times in way too long that I gathered some real inspiration and got off my duff and made some things. Both of them were elements of a gift for someone I am close to who is having a really difficult time right now.

The first item is a corked bottle with the Emily Dickinson quote "Hope is that thing with feathers that perches in your soul..." written on the outside. Contained inside the bottle is a white feather hand stamped with letters that spell out the word "hope" and it rests on a bed of fine sand and the most beautiful gold glitter. I made it to symbolize the whole idea of some much needed bottled up hope that can sit wherever it ought to and be a constant reminder for someone that really needs it.

The second item is a piece of jewelry that is meant to symbolize a family that exists despite the odds that have been presented against it. It's meant to illustrate a mother's love and her fervent protection over the precious and beautiful blessings in her life that are her much loved children. I used beads and wire wrapping to be a nest of eggs and then a mod-style charm/necklace embellishment for the mother bird who is gently flying in to check on her nest. All of the pieces are carefully attached to a sterling silver chain-link necklace.

To be absolutely honest, I have been a terrible crafter in the past. I've done things that are nothing less than tired with played out cliches and symbols and it always happens that I realize this not even half way through the process and that steals both my momentum and joy for even finishing making any of them. With the above items though? I feel like it's the first time in m life that I have crafted things that are carefully thought through, put together, and infused with meaning. This is such a first for me.

All too often, people say to me, "I would love to see your house! I bet it's REALLY cool because artists MUST have really beautiful lives and living spaces." That's so far from the truth for me and I'm realizing that I need to do something about that. I need to live and breathe what I preach to my students, clients, and people I share my life with. It's not right otherwise and it makes me a hypocrite of the artist I call myself. I gotta stop and this past weekend is the beginning of that.

I know I'm going to get it wrong but I feel like at least I'm aware of it now and willing to admit what a problem it is. I'm pledging here (so there is some accountability, if you will)  to live a life more creative than what I have been doing - which is to say a LOT more creative since my life has been decidely devoid of creativity and creation. I'm going to do more of the dreaming, praying, and CREATING that I always should have been doing from the beginning so that this blog more closely adheres to all that I believe. Take this as my word and take this that I mean it.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Highlight of my Spring Break

Last week happened to be my turn for Spring Break and while I spent most of my time off doing things I'd rather not - like dealing with doctor's appointments that I have not wanted to take time from work to attend to - I also did manage to do one thing of serious joy. I actually got to spend the day in downtown DC gallery hopping with my little girl and one of my brilliant senior student artists!

The goal of the trip was many-fold...

  • He needed to do a "site visit" for a graduation requirement called the senior practicum that requires all of the graduating seniors to explore an area of interest for the year leading up to their matriculation. Because he is completely awesome and overachieving as a student artist, he picked color theory as the focus of his senior practicum!!! (If I am not conveying my excitement and pride for him well enough let me just say it outright: I AM INCREDIBLY PROUD AND EXCITED FOR HIM!!!!!!!!!!) Anyway, a portion of his practicum is to do a project so our trip to visit the galleries was meant to inform some of the design and orchestration factors of what he will be doing. (BTW - more on his project because it is AWESOME and I will definitely be featuring it on this here blog when it is finally unveiled) We were specifically looking to do some research on Installation art exhibits!
  • I needed to do a gallery visit anyway for this art research project I am doing for a class I am taking right now. I would have just as well taken a gallery day anyway during my spring break but it worked out well that I had to do it. 
  • Gallery hopping and a day in the city meant that I could spend copious time with my kid (she is a real mama's girl) as well as expose her to more visual art! She is a budding artist and at any given time she is immersed in a project (of her own dictation and inspiration) at her table in her playroom.
  • I am always hankering to go to Teaism and a day in the city definitely allowed for a trip to get a yummy bento box and a sweet finish of real mochi. 
I'm delighted to say our trip was an incredible time and adventure and we (me, my student artist, and my daughter) were able to hit everything on our goal list! We visited the National Gallery of Art, the National Gallery of Art's Sculpture garden, and the Smithsonian's Hirshorn Museum.

The big winner of the day for all of us was the Hirshorn because it was the only place that had installation art and there were plenty of exhibits that allowed us to interact with them without getting yelled at - something that happened more times than I care to admit because of my lively almost-four year old daughter. #facepalm (Eh... I'm over it now that I'm sitting comfortably on my couch at home and she is being easily entertained with the latest Strawberry Shortcake movie.)

All of the below pictures are from our visit to the Hirshorn.

Our favorite exhibit of all was the Suprasensorial that specifically highlighted Latin visual artists and focused on bodies of work that fell into the categories of light, color, and space. When we first stepped out of the elevator we walked right into a big room illuminated by fluorescent lights in this formation. I love how it came out even in this camera phone shot...

The next exhibit took up a whole room filled with individual foam mattresses and pillows with projections (like the below) on a pair of opposing walls while a sound reel of Hendrix (I think?) played for soundtrack purposes. It was very "trippy," relaxing, and I easily would have laid down on any of the mattresses and fallen asleep were it not for the fact that I was there with my kid and a student and also had I not been thinking about how gross/unclean those mattresses probably are from everybody else who might have laid down on them before me (and done whatever I might not even want to think about - yikes! - on top of them!).

The next room was the ULTIMATE!!! I don't have a great shot of the whole exhibit but it was basically a room almost filled from floor to ceiling with these lengths of blue plastic tubing that you could walk through, around, and/or stand inside of. My kid had a grand ol' time doing it and got a little too lively so much that I was calling her name so much and ordering her to calm down that I'm pretty sure everyone there knew our names and was wanting us to leave ASAP. *shrug*

The next room required all who entered to don cloth shoe covers to preserve the white floors and walls. When you went in you were bathed in lighting of different colors and my kid (of course) holed up in the pink portion of the exhibit and then started going crazy and trying to run around. I KNOW. Don't even make me explain more of all of THAT.

The last room had this really cool lighting set up that reflected off of the below structure/sculpture and created a bit of a disco ball effect in the whole room. It was neat but *shrug* not entirely original or amusing since it was (like I said) so much like what you experience from a disco ball. Truth be told, I am very much a fan of disco balls but since it created such an effect, I couldn't help to be less than dazzled by such an idea that wasn't all that original. 

And that's it for my spring break gallery hopping day!  While I definitely could have gotten more out of doing such a day without my spritely child in tow, I don't think it was a total wash to have her along for the day. I believe my student artist and I were able to have the conversations we needed to have still and also my student was able to see me in a different light - something I feel like any student should be able to see of a teacher and their life away from school. Next gallery trip is one I believe I will probably take without my kid though.
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