Grove Park Inn, here I come!

I am delighted to announce that I get to once again be part of the glorious Grove Park Inn Conference coming up Feb. 19-21, 2016. If you are not familiar with this event, and you are a lover of all things Craftsman, Prairie Style, Mission or simply – the Arts and Crafts Movement, you need to go to this website – http://www.arts-craftsconference.com/ and check it out. It is the 29th year this conference has been held and it still holds the crown for events related to the Arts & Crafts period. This year I will be conducting two hands-on workshops and will set up a display in the Great Hall featuring stenciling from the Arts & Crafts Movement. Hope to see you there!

 

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Marvelous Monarchs

Monarchs on Meadow Blazingstar

Monarchs on Meadow Blazingstar

What started out as a simple hobby escalated into a wonderful adventure and opened all sorts of new doors for Amy Miller, founder of Trimbelle River Studio. Since 2012, she has raised and released over 2000 monarch butterflies on her 27 acres near Ellsworth, Wisconsin. From May through September, she spends time educating others about the monarch plight at numerous events held at garden centers, schools, libraries, parks and assorted businesses across the area. While interviewing with Mary Ellen Polson for an article on decorated walls for the Winter 2015 issue of Arts & Crafts Homes magazine, they started talking about the butterflies. This discussion ended as a full page write up on Amy and her monarchs on page 14 of  the 2015 Winter issue. She is now creating The Monarch Project, a program designed to educate, advocate and give back to the community through art therapy projects that build confidence and empower those in need. Her new website – monarchprojects.com is just starting to develop, so bookmark it and keep an eye out for future developments. (And there just might be a new monarch stencil in the works as well…)

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Alice’s Wonderland – A Stenciled Looking Glass

I had the privilege of working with some very nice clients and among other things, they took some photos of me working. I usually forget about this aspect of the job, but when I got the photos, it seemed the perfect way to share this unique job with you.

Stenciling a mirror frame can be a bit of a challenge, making all the pieces fit together and come out right. Using the right design and a few layout tricks can make it easier.

Notice the little pieces of blue masking tape all over the mirror frame. By using the registration marks (little triangles cut into the corners of the stencil plate for alignment purposes) to layout the stencil before you start applying the paint, you can figure out how the stencil is going to fit without going completely bonkers. Using a geometric stencil like the one I am using here, often allow you simpler ways to adjust the design so it will fit – like adding an extra square section or only using half of the rectangle portion. Experimenting on paper is a good way to figure out how to adapt the design as well.


Starting with the corner images, the full length of the stencil repeat or plate can be used in either direction, simplifying the process. The center has been marked on all sides of the mirror so that it will be easy to see the symmetry of the layout where the design need to be adjusted.

Wipe down the stencil plate so it is nice and clean when you are ready to rework the design to make it fit. I will often cut the stencil into smaller, more manageable pieces when it comes time to do this, which sometimes sacrifices the stencil. By stenciling all the easiest areas first, even if I need to touch up an area, I find it is more convenient to work with smaller pieces in tighter areas and so I am willing to offer my stencil plate to the decorative painting gods.

The finished project done in only one color – iridescent silver. Not what most people first think of when they hear the word Stenciling.

If you look closely at the center points on each side, you will notice how the design was adapted to fit on the mirror – the top and bottom have just a piece of the rectangular portion of the design. The sides have an extra square portion added. This isn’t brain surgery, just a little math, and if that ain’t your forte, practice your layout on paper first. After all, it is just a coat of paint, worst case scenario you repaint or touch up a little, but with a little thinking ahead, you won’t have to do either.

This particular stencil from my line is called Caito – it is 2.75 H x 14.5 L and runs $32.50. But guess what? It is currently not on my website. Hey, if enough people request it, I’ll put it back on the site, but for now it is only for Alice and her occasional looking glass endeavors.

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When to say “Yes”

Ahhhh… the other side of the coin. (last blog – When to say “No”) So, what do you say “yes” to? I have already let slip my little secret, I do not have a problem saying yes, it is so easy for me! I say yes to everything – sure I can do that, no problem, never mind that there are not enough hours in the day to complete everything on my list, sure I can squeeze in just one more thing… and so I have been working on it, this learning to say “no” thing. Almost to a fault.

Recently I had this opportunity fall into my lap. At first glance my knee jerk reaction was to scoff at it and deem it impossible. But as I mentioned in my last post, I do believe I can do pretty much anything I set my mind to and gradually the little hamster started cranking up the wheel and my mind began flinging possibilities at me. After all, just what would a little brainstorming hurt? What at first glance seemed ridiculous, suddenly became more serendipitous. A questioning email here, a phone call there and soon these weird scattered pieces of the puzzle miraculously began putting themselves together. What do you say when the evidence profoundly starts beating you over the head, attempting to pound into your stubborn brain that this IS something that you should do? Perhaps you should say yes. (Unless of course you are standing on the dock, contemplating a jump into the tempting cool waters, but you can’t swim, time to pause!)

I did not take all this hamster hurling, puzzle assembly lightly. I kept questioning if I should go through with it or not, analyzing the various costs I would encounter – not just financially, but physically as well. Every time I debated within myself, another little bit of serendipity would come skipping by and offer me a simpler solution. In the end I began to believe that this was bigger than me and if I let this opportunity go I would regret it. What was Providence trying to tell me? I guess I will find out.

If you are on the dock and you can’t swim, will you jump? Or will you seek what you need so that you can take the plunge? Don’t let fear be a deterrent to enjoying life. Let it guide you, rather than send you running like a dog with its tail between its legs, missing out on some juicy bone because of assumptions.

And so I ended up saying yes when originally I thought no. I am open to what lies ahead and feel confident in my decision, because it feels right. All the serendipity could not be denied. Gee I like that word – serendipity, it’s a much better word than coincidence – serendipity, serendipity, serendipity. I like it even better when I can feel it in my life. How about you? When life starts to pull unexpectedly together, are you paying attention to what is going on? What are you saying more - yes or no?

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When to say “No”

Who or what do you say “No” to? The begging dog, the butter licking cat – these are the easy ones. Are you a stoic Norwegian, like my ancestors, who found it easy to deny themselves? Been married forever, so the poor spouse suffers? Or are you like me, who has trouble saying “No” to just about anyone or thing?

Oh I have gotten better. Age and my body have finally kicked me around a bit, forcing me to realize that, as much as I sometimes believe I am superhuman and capable of just about anything, there is a point of meltdown, kind of like a stencil goddess Chernobyl.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I do believe I am capable of just about anything I set my mind to. That’s what gets me in trouble. I have a tendency to bite off more than I can chew. My to-do lists are usually over exaggerated and my creative mind has a tendency to work in a spiraling motion, distracting itself from the task at hand. Some head doctor would probably label me with some kind of behavior, but I’m quite aware of how my mind works. Well, to a point anyway. My husband has one of those straight as an arrow mind sets. He plans on chopping wood, he goes out and chops away until the pile is done. Me on the other hand, I would go out, start chopping and notice an empty flower pot sitting by the wood pile and start thinking about the perfect plant to go in that pot and then before you know it, I would be wandering off to plant it up. My creative mind is always working. It is not a bad thing, I just need to remind myself to focus sometimes. And in turn, I need to remind myself that it is OK to say “No” sometimes.

So here I sit with a dilemma before me. An opportunity that looks quite golden, but may be just cheap brass underneath. The frustrating part is that I believe everything happens for a reason, that things are not just coincidences, although I do like the word serendipity. A chance meeting, the right set of circumstances, people come and go, opportunities come and go in your life, teaching you things along the way. Providence provides, we choose whether or not to follow.

Sometimes we jump spontaneously into the line of traffic, feeling invincible like a Whitetail deer. Believe me, it isn’t always the best idea. When there is more at stake than dry clothes, sometimes it is better to take a moment to think before jumping off the dock. I’m not sure why this recent supposed ‘golden’ opportunity was presented before me, but when I take a couple moments to weigh the costs and benefits, it tarnishes a bit. Perhaps the real purpose was to just get me to realize that sometimes I need to say “No” to the grand scheme, that maybe there is some wonderful opportunity lurking here in a miniature way. Maybe this time around, I need to put the tights and cape back in the closet. Well, after they have dried, after all I am a very good swimmer and I don’t have to say “No” to everything, especially if it involves a bit of fun.

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A Fresh Start…

The beginning of a New Year is always so invigorating, especially when the wind is whipping frosty snow crystals up your nostrils like today. Everything seems fresh and full of possibilities, untainted by life’s disappointments. It’s a time to feel bold, adventurous, invincible. A time to not be afraid to try something new and have a little fun. A time to let go of the past and anticipate the future.

I happen to be a perfectionist. It is something I battle all the time. I get so hung up with things having to be just right that I can take forever to accomplish something. Not everything mind you, I seem to be getting better at letting things ride once in a while. I believe it is a combination of goofy genetics and learned behavior, so I figure I stand at least a shot of improving. I have a big challenge coming up this next weekend when I am having family over for a post holiday celebration. They usually spend the night and my house is not up to par. They have graciously offered not to stay over, but I am trying to look at this as an opportunity to accomplish two things – get rid of more of the moving boxes and not worry if I’ll pass the white glove test. I don’t have to be perfect, I would rather enjoy their company. This year ‘Let It Go’ will be one of my mantras…

So what are you going to do this year? Now that the holidays are out of the way, it is the perfect time to plot out a stencil project. Freshen up the bathroom or dress up a table with a runner. Or simply take one of my upcoming workshops and let your imagination have a little fun. Don’t let it scare you, it’s just a coat of paint.

Remember to enjoy life and all it’s simple little pleasures this year. If nothing else, remember that. Life really is too short to worry or to be a perfectionist.

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Ta-Da

The new site is almost ready to launch. I cannot truly express what an accomplishment this is for me. After two years of being tossed about like a beanbag, I surprisingly grew a bit of new anatomy and decided to take on this challenge by myself. This baby is all mine and for someone who prefers to play with art rather than technical web crap, I am quite pleased. Dumbfounded by the amount of time it has taken to assemble all these pages, photoshop and crop images and link this and that, I opted to finally launch my brainchild, albeit a bit premature, and watch it grow into something even better as time goes by. My, I could almost break into song…

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