18 Nov

Show and tell: new-ish projects

A few things I made that I never got around to posting…


First exercise in Playing with Color: make your own, unique color wheel.


The Wall: an accordion “book” of graffiti made in Ingrid Dijiker’s class.


Type trash: wastebasket covered with type samples, magazine clippings, and pages from discarded books.


Card holders and table cards made for my niece”s wedding. (This photo included in a list of 15 ideas for a book-inspired wedding.)

More to come.

13 Nov

Messing around with color

red1Don’t you love it when you get outside yourself… lose track of time and space…quiet the inner dialogue…and just be?

That’s what happened this week when I opened a book that’s been sitting on my shelf for years— playing with color, by Richard Mehl—and started doing his “graphic experiments for exploring design color principles.”

Doing is the key word here. You don’t really read the book; you do it. And anyone can (that means you—and your mother, daughter, grandson, neighbor, barista—anyone).

red5The first exercises, for example, require just cutting and arranging colored squares on a grid, like those you see here. And doing that is teaching me a lot more about color than any of the daunting books on color theory (which make my eyes glaze over and my brain shut down).

So why did it take me so long to get around to this? Because you need something before you start: Color-Aid color swatches. I actually ordered a small set (2″x3″) right after I bought the book, but by the time it came, I was already onto something else.


Too bad for me, because these swatches are a fabulous tool, not just for this project, but for anything that has to do with color. There are 314 cards in the full set, and each one identifies its hue (color), shade (color plus black), tint (color plus white), and other distinctions I don’t pretend to understand. There are 17 levels in the grayscale alone!

red3Turns out the universe knew what it was doing, because now is the perfect time to get into this. After all, you don’t need a thumb to punch squares, arrange them, and lose yourself.

In fact, you don’t need anything. You just have to show up. Kind of like life.

06 Nov

I’d like to write a cheerful post

princesswbBut I’d be lying.

Two things are happening in my life right now, and either one would be enough to make me seriously crabby. But both at once? #@%$!!!

First, I have a cast on my right hand—thumb, to be accurate—and I can’t do anything. By “anything,” I mean wash my hair, drive a car or button my shirt, not to mention write or draw.

At the same time, my house is a wreck. Literally. Sam is redoing the ceiling in Samantha’s room, which means that all her stuff is on the landing, sheetrock is in the living room, and sawdust is everywhere. In other words, chaos.

It’s tough on an order freak like me.

But as usual, there is a gift in the midst of the darkness. This time, the gift is my daughter. Samantha is basically living in my room, which could have been a disaster, but has turned out to be a blessing.

We’re getting to know each other in a new way—a way that is more reciprocal, more compatible, and more fun. If we can keep moving in this direction, it’s worth all the rest.

28 Oct

The NC state fair and me

chaircloseupThis year, the state fair felt like a slide show of my life. Image after image, each reminding me of years past.

Put them in chronological order and you get a brief history of me.

  • 1974: Richard Sands, my first husband and the reason I moved here, couldn’t get enough of the Italian sausages.
  • 1978: Larry Shirley played a lot of games (and spent a lot of money) to win me a stuffed bear.
  • 1980: Jim Johnson and a group of friends insisted on Al’s french fries, one of the best tastes at the fair.
  • 1982: On my first date with Sam, we rode the Ferris wheel and got our handwriting analyzed.
  • 1983: Sam and I celebrated our “anniversary,” a few days before our wedding.
  • 1992: Ben and Samantha rode the kiddie roller coaster at least 10 times in a row.
  • 1997: The kids panned for gems as long as we’d let them.
  • 2004: Samantha’s drawing won an award and hung in the education building.
  • 2007: Sam and I toured the exhibits—everything from the largest pumpkin to the best decorated cakes.
  • 2014: We spent most of our time at the flower and garden show, where I saw the huge chair (above) and other photo ops (below).


You gotta love the fair.

21 Oct

Reuse, recycle, recover

couch1If a piece of furniture has “good bones,” you should recover it, my mother told me. Turns out to be one of the things I actually listened to.

So in the 42 years I’ve had this couch, I’ve covered it in everything from red ultra suede to fat denim stripes, a southwestern  design, and a yellowish pattern. (And those are just the ones I remember.)

This time, I searched for a navy and white fabric, something crisp to match the new quilt I love. But navy—the real navy, so dark it’s almost black—is  not in style at the moment.ticking

Then I remembered that every time I recovered this furniture, my mother said, “I like mattress ticking.”

She was right, as usual. Not only is this the least expensive covering ever, it’s also our favorite.

Thanks, Mom.


12 Oct

I’m FINE, thank you.

finefinalWhat does “fine” mean?

Usually, it’s as close as you can get to speaking without saying anything. Someone asks how you are, you assume it’s a formality, so you give the generic answer: “fine.”

But context and tone can dramatically change the meaning. Like when my son asks me how I’m doing and I say, “Fine. Thanks for asking,” because I’m delighted that he cares. Or when I’m recovering from a crisis and tell a friend, “I’m fine”—and we both know that’s way better than yesterday.

Then there’s the “fine!” I say to my husband when we’re fighting. That one word expresses a world of meaning: “You are so obstinate, impossible, wrong! There’s no point in trying to talk to you! Forget I ever said anything! I give up!”

I am definitely not fine today. The roofers are at our house, pounding on my head, Samantha’s ceiling is leaking, and I’ve got to have surgery on my hand—again.

You could say I’m FINE, though, if you use Ruth Zardo’s definition. Ruth is a seriously crabby old woman and famous poet in Louise Penny’s mystery series. In her world, FINE means “Fucked-up, Insecure, Neurotic, and Egotistical.”

How poetic. Or in this case, honest.

05 Oct

The most fun since finger painting

alcinkwebActually, “painting” with alcohol inks is a lot like finger painting. You don’t need to know anything to do it, you can get spectacular results with little effort, and it’s totally fun.

That’s what I learned in just  a few hours with Cathy Taylor, the alcohol ink maven and author of Pigments of Your Imagination: Create with Alcohol Inks, due out soon. Cathy showed us how to apply alcohol inks using high powered tools—such as straws, Q-tips, and paper towels.

The example above was made by dropping blobs of ink onto the paper. That’s it. The ink and the paper do the rest, producing delicious colors and unexpected forms.


The second example is made from just one color of Ranger ink (slate), dropped, blown across the paper, and held up to create drips. I love these patterns and colors in themselves, but you can create more representational art too, like the landscape below.


Anyone can do this. I promise. Your kids, grandchildren, neighbors—even you.

Note:  If you’re interested, you can get the Ranger inks at  local craft stores like Michael’s; Jaquard Piñata inks and Yupo paper at Jerry’s Artarama or Joann’s. 

26 Sep

What makes you think you know better?

unsolicited-advice-for-invisible-illnessUnsolicited advice isn’t about helping someone: it’s about bolstering one’s own ego. No wonder it’s almost always useless— if not actually harmful.

Ben, my grown son, is getting a lot of that right now, and it’s driving him crazy.

People he barely knows are calling to let him know why he shouldn’t have had his gall bladder removed in the first place; how his diet caused the problem; or what he should eat now.

Did anyone stop to think they might not know anything about it?

I doubt it. They certainly didn’t when I was struggling to raise Ben. Everyone had advice for me: eliminate sugar, dairy, or eggs; add vitamin X, Y or Z; get him acupuncture, reiki, or craniosacral therapy; and of course, discipline him this way or that.unsolicitedadvice

No one suggested back then that he might be autistic.

Just like none of Ben’s self-appointed advisors consider that he might have an abnormality in his gall bladder. No one except his doctor, that is.

So, here’s my unsolicited advice. When someone you care about is facing a tough time, don’t judge, don’t pontificate, and don’t give advice unless asked.

Instead, try listening—deep listening, the kind that’s about the person speaking, not you. The kind that could actually be a help.

23 Sep

J is for Juliana


I love books, words, letters, and using up stuff I’ve collected. That’s what makes this tiny book necklace a perfect project for me.

What I don’t love is repeating myself. Once I’ve made something, I’m done. Like the craftsman who charged $400 for the first dining room chair – and $1,000 apiece for the others.

So I’m happily surprised that I can stand to make more than one of these books. In fact, I like producing them.

Why? While the form is the same, each necklace is different.  Each is a puzzle put together from pieces of alphabet books, old magazines, scrapbook paper, flash cards, dictionaries, and whatever else I come across.

The alphabet necklace is the result of creative collaboration – one of the best highs on earth. It started with a project in Making Mini Books (a useful guide for anyone who’s interested). Then I put my own spin on it, Lynda loved it, and now she’s going to sell some in her booth at Inspirations.

But you can easily make your own, and if you’re interested, let me know. I’d be glad to share the instructions and photos of the process. Or better yet, come make one in my studio.

Enjoy yours Juliana – you totally deserve it.



12 Sep

Real life, real messy, real me


People tell you to “be yourself” like that’s the easiest thing in the world. But at age 64, I’m just beginning to get the hang of it.

I wonder, is everyone else born with a  clear identity and the guts to live it? Or do most people go around lying a lot? I kind of hope it’s the latter, because otherwise I’m even odder than I thought.

My life is not like the Facebook posts I see. It’s messy, confusing, challenging (and pretty great, actually). I’m full of hope and despair, joy and anger, gratitude and pity, clarity and fog…and a few threads that hold the whole thing together.

To be honest, I seem to learn the same lessons over and over. And over. I know, because I’ve been keeping a journal on and off since I was 18 (that’s a lot of years, not to mention journals). While I don’t look back at them often, I do it enough to see the recurring doubts and fears – as well as dreams and accomplishments.

One of the recent conflicts is this blog. I wonder why I’m doing it or if anyone cares, and I struggle with the technical side of things. Until now, that is. Now I’ve got Teresa Williams on my side, helping me recreate debzweb, reconsider its value, and return with new energy and enthusiasm.

So here we go again. Real life, real messy, real me.