Gifts of Christmas Past

I feel so lucky to belong to 2 different art groups – both with very generous, supportive artists that I can call my friends. The ages, life experiences and skill levels of these women vary greatly but we enjoy getting together once a month to show what we are working on, fulfill a challenge or learn a new craft.  There are times where all we do is laugh and talk and eat. We’ve helped each other through sickness and health, happy and sad times. I’ve learned so much from them and they have helped me in my quest to become a better artist.

Every Christmas we have a gift exchange. The main rule is that it must be handmade. I have been able to dig up photos of almost all the gifts that I have made for the various members over the years; so I thought that it would be fun to reminisce about them in today’s post.

img_20161215_092846.jpgThis year’s Christmas gift to Beth was a paper cut shadow box. I had never made one before but studied pictures and You Tube postings and it worked out pretty well. My only problem was not planning enough space so I wasn’t able to light the display from behind and make it into a lightbox as well. Beth loves vintage campers so I added a bit of color on the cutout camper, along with some stickle icicles and a wreath on the door. Even without the back lighting, I think it turned out well.

img_20151208_121659.jpgI made an earlier version of a diorama 2 years earlier for Cathwren, using plaster bandage wrap to cover a handmade box and to clump along the bottom of the box to create snow. I added a miniature fence, wreath, tree and cardinal into the scene, as well as some snowflakes and a label with a seasonal sentiment. I did a little distressing, added a little blue acrylic paint and glued on metal feet so it could stand.





Lynn received a set of matchbox ornaments that I had a lot of fun making. I found some plain white matchboxes at Hobby Lobby, then carefully took the lid apart so to punch a hole in the cover. I glued it back together and got the glitter treatment on the outside. Old, vintage christmas cards, were miniturized and glued inside as part of the background. Then the main figures were  cut out again,  and glued with pop up glue dots to give them dimension. Some of the cards didn’t have enough background to cover the whole inside so I added Christmas washi tape instead. A little thread loop at the top and some danglies at the bottom and they were ready for wrapping.



I had a difficult time trying to decide what to make for Rhea’s gift. Like most of my art friends,  Rhea dabbles in a lot of different crafts but she seems to have a real flair with assemblage. I decided to make some fancy paper feathers using a heavy white scrap paper printed with white designs. White on white… A few of them got the glitter treatment to make them even fancier. I figured that she could use them in one of her assemblage pieces. They turned out better that I expected;  the white on white look was very classy and elegant.


Chris received a wreath from me; simply made from a wreath form, old book pages, some strong tea and a hot glue gun. I cut the leaf shapes free-handed (no pattern), soaked them in a tea solution to age them and glued them on to the wreath form. Even though it was simple to make it really did take a long time to arrange and glue down all those leaves. It ended up looking so nice that I made another one for my sister.



The very first year I participated in the gift exchange, I made an Asian influenced lantern for Lori.  I used 3 types of handmade paper, skewers,some embossed brass vintaj shapes and cord (the gold braided cord was unraveled to create a loose feathery look). The lantern was a little wobbly all-in-all but not too bad a try for someone new to paper crafts and mixed media.



I ended up making gifts for Brit on 3 different years. The copper-worked box (above) was made last year and I finished it so late that I ended up taking a photo of the outside and inside cover at the restaurant where we partied just so I could have a record of the work. The photos came out a little blurred. The box, when I bought it, had a mirror in the center. I removed the mirror and created 2 copper-embossed plates. The outside cover was an image of a fanciful cat (Brit loves cats) and the inside cover had the initial B. The box is designed so that if she wants to switch the covers around, she can. I aged the metal with Jax patina, then burnished the top so the patina was left in the debossed areas.


An earlier gift given to Brit was a decorated cigar box, using metal duct tape  and a variety of metal-working tools in order to give it an industrial, steampunk look. The cover included chipboard letters, a couple of  different kinds of needlepoint canvas, copper foil tape, a vintage photo, a few cogs and black acrylic paint to age the duct tape. The inside was embellished with more Victorian beauties, copper foil tape, an old key and distressed scrapbook paper. I tore a few holes in the paper and glued down some old book pages underneath to age it even more.



The first gift I made for Brit was a pencil/marker pouch using about 6 plastic grocery bags ironed together to create a durable plastic fabric. I painted the inside of the outermost layer and added snippets of colored plastic  within the layers before ironing. Once the bags were all fused together, it was a simple matter to sew the pouch. There were also enough leftovers to create a brooch.

I think that you can tell by looking at these different gifts made over several years, that I like to explore and try new things; and that I have the most awesome friends that really challenge me,  stretch my skills and help me to grow as an artist. Their encouragement and positive feedback motivates me to do my very best. I couldn’t ask for anything more.

As Tiny Tim would say:”God bless us, every one!”

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Getting Away – Altered Book Round Robin

Christmas is in the air so I decided to show off my altered book round robin project with a holiday theme. Chris had decided on her book theme as “Getaway” but when I got her book in December I thought that the one place I would want to be at Christmas is home, with friends and family together. I used my favorite holiday song “Home for the Holidays” and created a little village on the pages of her book.img_20160406_182530.jpg

All the houses are dark except the small blue one. It is bright with warm lights, a decorated tree and a wreath. Over the door it says Home Sweet Home.


The houses were painted, cut out and glued on to the scene; white paint for snow was sponge-dabbed on the ground and roofs of all the houses. I also included some hand-carved snowflake stamps and stickle dots for a bit of shine.


I hadn’t planned it, but when it was completed, I took a look and decided that I must have been inspired by Dr. Seuss’ Whoville from The Grinch who Stole Christmas. Most appropriate for the season.

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Altered Book Round Robin pt 2

Letting Go

Letting go was the theme for Jeme’s book. I did a more literal interpretation and encouraged her to “sail away” from it all. I love the water and waves and wanted to do a watery theme. It was my first try at an altered book and looking back at it now, I can see that it is a little primitive.wpid-img_20151011_113303.jpg


Still, I had a lot of fun creating the page and looked forward to next month’s altered book.

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Altered Book Round Robin pt 1

My art group decided to do an altered book round robin.Each person would pick a theme and find a book for altering, as well as do a 2 page spread as an example in her own book. Then each month we would pass the book we had to the next person in line (in alphabetical order) and do a spread in their book, using the theme they chose. We had ten members interested, so at the end of 10 months we would get our own books back filled with a page from everyone.

My book was actually a Smash Book published by K&Company that my sister gave me a year or 2 previously.  The pages seemed thicker and stronger than the pages of a real book, the better to take the gluing and painting that would be done on it, and the spiral binding was designed to handle the thickness of added materials glued on. Since I knew that I would never use it as it was originally intended, I felt it would work perfectly for the altered book project.

I decided that my theme would be called wishes and dreams. I thought that it was broad enough for all sorts of interpretations and hoped that my art friends could create all sorts of fantastical worlds on the pages.

IMG_20150803_085312217    My cover page (I decided to wait and create the actual cover when I got my finished book back).

The sample spread was a simple collage. I printed and cut out 2 Mucha girls, then glued them back to back on a clear acetate sheet. I then created 1 page with a butterfly theme and the other page using a bird theme along with the proper wings. The acetate page could be flipped to the left and the girl would have butterfly wings – flipped to the right and she had bird wings.


The 2 separated pages showing the acetate on both sides, first on the left, then right so the girl has her wings in place.

IMG_20150803_085617This photo shows the whole spread, with the acetate on the right side, the butterfly wings are alone and waiting.

It wasn’t like anything I had ever done before, but I was excited and looking forward to working in everybody’s book each month, not to mention getting my book back after 10 months with a little piece of art from my friends.

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Altered Books

After several years of wanting to work on altered books, I’ve finally had the opportunity to create one!

I made my first altered book last spring as a part of an exhibition at the Kalamazoo Book Arts Center. A staff person there, who is also a part of one of the art groups I belong to, came to a meeting and asked if we would consider contributing to the exhibition. Many of the women in the group had 6 or 7 altered books that had been completed over the years, but I hadn’t any. I thought that this would be a great opportunity to at least try an altered book so I enthusiastically signed up for the project.

I really enjoyed the process of working on the book, and really felt proud to have my book displayed alongside my much more experienced artist friends.


I used an old Reader’s Digest condensed reader book and titled the project “Water”. I then gathered lots of vintage illustrations and filled the glued down pages with all sorts of ocean creatures. I added a pet store treasure chest in the cut out part of the book, glued down sand for the ocean floor and used some real shells to finish it off.


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When I get more time, Id like to do more altered books, perhaps an “Earth” and a “Wind” to go with the “Water”.

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Back in Business Again

I think I can safely say that 2013 was a very trying year for me. Even blogging was an effort so without really meaning to, I ended up taking a year off from writing and took fewer photos. Now we have a new year to look forward to, and I’m ready to start again.

Let’s start the New Year off with a box that I’ve just completed. I bought the box from Hobby Lobby a year ago. It had an interesting design and an asian look to it, reminding me of a cricket cage.

I hung onto it until this August. One of the art groups I belonged to decided to get together and try a project using chalk paint. It seemed the ideal time to try the new paint and cover the box. I did not like the end result at all. The color selection was limited so I chose a sky blue and a dark wax to cover and age the piece. Blue was the wrong choice. I kept thinking of it as Chinese looking box and that it should be a dark red, not sky blue.

The box sat on a shelf until November when I discovered Inka Gold. It is a creamy type paint with bits of mica for shine and is applied with a clean rag or your fingers. You just buff it after applying to create a sheen. No wax, no varnish – and it comes in several colors, including a bright red. It smells a bit like shoe polish, but is much softer.


After I sanded off the wax from my previous attempt, I applied the red. Loved it! The slats in the box really took a long time but well worth it. I replaced the cheap clasp closing the lid with a nicer one, added some legs and corner bits from Tim Holz and lined the inside with some Graphic 45 paper.





Now I wish that I had taken some before shots, to compare with the end result and final piece. I guess I hated my first attempt so much that I just couldn’t take a picture.

Side note: I just started taking an online class called Creative Jumpstart( ) and as part of the class, we were asked to show and tell something from one of the Luminarte products. I already loved their twinkling h20s and silks, but had no idea they also produced Inka Gold as well. Guess I can add that to my list of favorite products.

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A Charm-ing Valentine’s Day

 One of my goals for this year is to not just pin craft ideas on Pinterest, but to actually use them as inspiration and create my own crafty things based on the pins. Almost immediately after I made this resolution,  one of the art groups I belong to, came up with a similar challenge to make something inspired by something found on Pinterest. It sounded like a good time to start working towards the goal.

The original Pinterest pin, from , made from paperclay, painted, aged and made into jewelry.

My hearts were also from paperclay, but ornament rather than jewelry sized. I painted and aged them, but didn’t really like how they looked, so I rubbed a little gold ink over them as an accent.



A variety of stamps and stencils created the impressions in the clay, and I painted them in luscious watermelon and raspberry wine colors of Luminarte Silks acrylic paint. 

I was also participating in a valentine charm swap, and since I’m not very adept at working with beads and wire, came up with 3 fairly simple charms. 



I bought the components at the local craft store, glued in a bit from an old book page and added a hand-painted heart using the Luminarte Silks painted on tissue paper. There is mica in the pots of color, creating a shimmer to whatever you paint.

After the first simple charms were made, it gave me the confidence to make some little heart charms from my stash of paperclay. I painted them purple with a slash of Celadon green then decided I wanted to add a dangle bead at the bottom. I was willing to make the dangle myself, but found some cute ones at the craft store in the perfect color so I decided to use them instead.



I do think that the purple came out too garish, and I would have re-done them if I could, but these were to be mailed out and I was beginning to run out of time.

Two charms were the limit, then I read an article in one of my craft magazines about using a die cut machine to cut aluminum, such as soda cans. I really wanted to try out this technique and made a third charm to mail out with the other 2.



I cut out off the top and bottom of a couple of diet coke cans and used the smallest die I happened to have: butterflies. The die cut machine did a great job, leaving a slight bevel in the metal so the edges were not sharp. I added another little dangle and even though they were too big for the actual charm swap, I included them as an added bonus.

I tend to worry too much about wrapping wire for jewelry, and because it’s not something I do very often, it takes me hours to complete a project. Because most of the wiring was already done, I could enjoy the creative process and try out some new techniques.

addendum: I’m currently taking an online class called Creative Jumpstart at and they are doing a show and tell with Luminarte products so I’ve decided to show off my Luminarte Silks charms. My favorite go-to paints is either the twinkling H20s or the Silks. I love the zing that the mica in the paints give.

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