Category Archives: making things

my secret identity revealed!

Another of Paul’s creations showed up in my inbox this morning…

It’s true!  I’m an auror! Tonks and I go way back.

I know some of you won’t be surprised about this, but to the few who are, watch out.  I’ll be checking to see if you are naughty or nice.  (And if you have no idea what I’m talking about, go read/watch Harry Potter for heaven’s sake!)

beautiful, inspiring, mysterious book sculptures

Ten gorgeous, whimsical, surprising sculptures made out of books and words were given this year to various libraries in Scotland, all anonymously. The beautiful pieces were left in nooks and windows and corners, to be found by librarians sometimes days later. Here are some teaser images….

This one has all kinds of tiny details, from the words floating in the cup of tea, “Nothing beats a nice cup of tea (or coffee) and a really good BOOK”, to the words in the teabag, “by leaves we live,” and more.

Part of a larger piece, a wing made of thousands of exquisitely crafted feathers.

A baby dragon, hatching out of a book egg!

I just love this whole story, the generosity of spirit, the playfulness. In a world full of self-promotion and “look at me!” to give such lovelies anonymously seems, well, kind of wonderful.  At the same time I sort of hope the artist comes to light. I’d like to know more about this person, see more of her work, give her some joy back. I guess she’s getting that, though, privately, with all the press the pieces have gotten.

Read the whole story with lots and lots of photos of all ten pieces.  Really, go read it!  We read it this morning over breakfast and it made us all happy.  What a gift.

carroll lassiter’s beautiful landscapes

My aunt, Carroll Lassiter, is a wonderful painter.  For the last few years she has been focusing on gorgeous landscapes of rural Eastern North Carolina, the kinds of places that feel like my inner homeland, not chosen, but the land I was born into.  She does what is called “Plein Aire” painting, which means “open air” and refers to packing up your easel and paints and going out into the landscape to paint, rather than painting in a studio.  I feel like she is capturing a landscape that is disappearing.  There are fewer and fewer of the old barns still standing every year, and more and more of the farmland gets turned into developments.  Did I mention how much I just love her work?

This Sunday Carroll had a show—the photos I got aren’t great (glare was a problem) but look at these lovely images!  Somehow she manages to get that quiet, inward feeling of the land around here, fields, distant trees, country roads, the falling-down barns….

This next one had just sold.  Carroll has done several versions of this field, fall, winter, and this one, Spring.  It’s a huge painting, maybe three feet across.

These paintings strike me personally—landscapes I have seen all my life and so have hardly even noticed them—except whatever is a part of your life in that daily, background, way becomes a part of you.  I didn’t notice it happening, but these scenes are inside of me.  I reckon they are for Carroll, too.

This corn painting is one of my favorites, so sunny and summery and happy.  My Granddaddy, Carroll’s father, had corn fields out back that looked just exactly like this.  That corn tasted so sweet….

This next one is huge, maybe four feet wide, full of massive, storm-brewing sky….

Clary sage fields outside the town where my Grandma lives and where Carroll grew up….

These are tiny, maybe six inches wide, less without the frames….

This one sold while we were there.  I’m happy, of course, for Carroll to sell her work, but I’m sad for every painting I won’t get to see anymore!  This is of an intersection I drive through every week.  I’ve stopped to pick the wild cornflowers at this corner for probably twenty years….

Sophie came with me, while Paul and Luc stayed home to play Lego Star Wars.  Sophie is quite the painter, herself, and I’m always interested to see how she learns by looking at how other artists do what they do….

This was Sophie’s favorite, another tiny painting, maybe seven inches across.

Carroll is one of the kindest and most gracious people I know.  I think that comes through in her paintings.

Here she is at work:

You can see Carroll’s own website here.

rubyfish rejects

Not really rejects, more…skimming off the top.  You might recall that despite opening our Rubyfish etsy shop, Sophie and I occasionally have a hard time putting the things we make up for sale. We have a tendency to, um, keep half of what we make, snatching it away before it can be listed.  One might think we don’t make much, but really, we’re just greedy.  I thought I’d post a few pictures of items that didn’t make it to the shop…

Here’s a moss green tank with a black lotus stamp that I snagged.

Omg!  My hands are on backwards!  On, no, wait a minute: it’s just reverse namaste.  Plus the little turquoise bracelet Sophie made me for Mother’s Day.  I love this tank, v-neck, super light weight, extra long.

Oh, look at this gorgeous sunflower dress:

We were inspire by a friend’s skirt, but when we were making it, we thought we had totally messed it up—and then it came out great!  That, by the way, is a classic tie-dye experience. We have definite plans to recreate this one for Rubyfish and have been considering some stamp options.  Maybe a grass hopper somewhere along the hem?

Here is a spiral tie-dye we did special request for a family member.  Hi David!  We were trying to match your blue-green eyes…

Here is another use of our lotus stamp.  This shirt was actually Luc’s design.  “I want the fuschia to come up to here on the arms [carefully saws at upper arm] and a fuschia lotus on a black chest.  Can you do that?”

Sophie says, “Yes!”

We’ve really got to make more things and add to our inventory, but it’s so hard to let them go…

sophie’s twilight forest dress

Sophie and I walk Henry through our bit of forest every night.  Lately, the fireflies have been out.  It’s quite magical.  The other day Sophie got inspired to make a twilight firefly dress.  And so we did.

Here is her first design drawing.

The crayon colors are her plan for the dress.  The writing is me, putting down some ideas for dye colors to achieve the result she wants.  We also talked about how to fold/scrunch the dress to get a tree-like effect in the dye pattern.

Then we got out a white dress blank, soaked it in soda ash, made up squirt bottles of dye, scrunched and folded the wet dress, and applied the colors.

Here is the dyed dress:

Next, we started thinking about stamps.  On our next Henry walk, we picked several examples of ferns.  We did rubbings and tracings and drawings from these, until we came up with two designs we liked.  Then we transferred these onto carving block, and carved them out.

Here is Sophie doing some carving.  This kind of block is super-soft.  Very safe for little fingers—you aren’t likely to slip and poke your eye out.

Here are the three final stamps we made for our twilight forest dress.

Isn’t the firefly stamp cute?  Sophie drew the design for that, and I carved it.  It can take dozens of drawings before we pick one we like, but this one came pretty quickly. Here are some of Sophie’s trial drawings and a few test stamps:

Once the stamps are done, we mixed up fabric paint, did some practice runs, and got to stamping.  After we put on the initial stamp pattern, we go back in with a brush and add other colors, such as the gold on the firefly’s bum, or clean up an image if it didn’t come out as clearly as we would like.

Here is the final Twilight Forest dress:

Sophie was very pleased with how it came out!

I think we plan to put this dress up for sale in our Rubyfish shop.  Any thoughts on how much we should charge?  I need to get our tech department (we’ve outsourced it to India) (not) to list it, plus do a post here to announce our grand opening.  We just have a few things to sell, no big plans for world domination through an international fashion empire.  Mostly it’s just fun to make things together.

Art is everywhere!

doing crazy things in the name of art, again

We went to a nearby music festival for Easter, something I love to do, all the artists and musicians and bliss ninnies and neo-hippies and happy people having a good time… It was a gorgeous day, bright after much rain, making the festival grounds, a large farm with huge trees, a total mud slick, and people everywhere were walking barefoot, squishing the mud through their toes, and smiling. I ate a cinnamon roll as big as my head, Paul and the kids ate one of everything, Sophie pawed through racks and racks of tie-dyed clothes, Luc ran wild with a ruler/sword popping bubbles, it was hilarious.

They call it a music festival, and there are tons of fabulous bands, and dancing people in all directions, but while the bands are playing, the festival goers, the kids especially, do tons of other kinds of art.


Giant bubbles!  Didn’t think bubbles could be art? (Spongebob knows better.)  But here, look at these bubbles Sophie made with a giant bubble maker she braided and assembled in the crafts tent…

Improvisational bubble dancing!

Painting umbrellas!  While a couple of twenty-somethings did this cool rhythm beside her on those twangy mouth harp thingies.

Hooping!  Wish I had gotten Luc in this shot, he is right beside me…

And, of course, a music festival standby, body adornment.  Check out Luc’s cool dragon!  He was super specific with the lovely painter about what he wanted, and she added the face part spur of the moment because he was sitting so still.

This last shot is a great one of my most successful creative project to date.


rubyfish swims slowly upstream

Some of you may recall that Sophie, 7, and I have had plans to open an Etsy shop named Rubyfish where we will sell some of our hand-dyed, hand-stamped, hand-painted clothes. It may seem as though nothing has happened with that, but no. We have been busily (sort of) working behind the scenes, getting ready for a grand opening. No really, we have! We have our logo, our header, we have our federal tax ID number, and we have been dyeing stuff like crazy. Such little worker bees we are!

However. We keep deciding to, ahem, keep our goodies. Like the hot pink “love” panties (stamped with a red heart and hand-painted “love” in white) that I pocketed, or the black so-called “ninja pants” (gold hand-carved stamp of “dragon” in ancient Chinese) that Sophie started wearing. Or the olive dyed, super soft tank-top with a cool black hand-carved lotus stamp on the upper back (I claimed that one). Or the dyed turquoise t-shirt with a stamped and hand-painted green-and-gold dragonfly on the chest (Sophie snagged that the other day, and I can’t blame her, she looks terrific in it). I would take pictures of all these lovelies for you, but they are all in the wash. Because we can’t stop wearing them.

I mentioned this to Sophie this morning and she shrugged and said, “Well, at least it means we like our own art.”

That kid is so smart.

pirate panty prototype process

A while back I went looking for a pair of panties that had a pirate skull and crossbones on them and I couldn’t find the right pair.  So Sophie and I decided to make some.  And maybe sell them on Etsy.  Because…why not?  Anyway, we’ve become connoisseurs of skull and crossbones now, and have drawn hundreds of them.  Here is our table after an afternoon spent drawing and carving pirates.

It takes a lot of pirate drawings to find one you really like!  We finally went with this one that Sophie drew:

See the ‘yar’ underneath?  Hee hee.

Here is the stamp used on a pair of panties.  We stamped with Lumiere fabric paint and hand painted on the gold tooth.

That flower looking thing is another stamp.  I carved that one, a kind of henna lotus design.  Maybe for a tank top?

It is remarkably fun to wear a pair of pirate panties.  Even if the day is wearing on me, I know that underneath, I’m a take no prisoners kind of gal!  Yo ho ho!  Give me some rum!  And every time I go to pee, I see them and they make me laugh.

We’ve also done a pair of cupcake panties that say ‘bite me.’  I need to get some pictures of those.


artarama extravaganza

I received a Jerry’s Artarama catalog in the mail the other day, not the little flyer ones but the real deal, the 3/4 inch thick one, the one that has every art supply product known to man and woman, and then some.  You may have heard me say that Sophie and I have been making clothes with the idea of opening a small Etsy shop.  Well, as I spent several hours turning the pages of Jerry’s catalog, oogling the endless arrays of paints, screenprinting supplies, fancy papers, brushes—GAH it was total art supply porn and I had to regularly wipe the pages down to clean off my drool—I realized there is some old visual-artist part of me that I thought I had long ago buried or lost, but there she is, stirring in her sleep.  Sophie’s little Etsy shop plan has, apparently, disturbed the slumber of said buried artist person.

Watch out.

Did I mention that I was a studio art major my first time around in college?  It was about a million years ago.  I was doing studio art because I was looking for something on the short list of ‘majors’ (as if life, or even professional life, could be summed up by that absurd list), looking for something  I liked enough to spend several years studying in college (because everyone went to college), but something that wasn’t writing.  Because writing was impractical and therefore I had given up on it as a path for me.

So I chose studio art because that, obviously, is so much more feasible a career choice. [face/palm]

I dropped out of that round of college when I realized how absurd this replacement-strategy was.  But never-the-less, I loved my art classes, drawing, painting, design…

The most frustratingly painful thing about art school, however, was the incredibly expensive art supplies.  There may have been some hypothetical shoplifting, just to get the raw basics to attend class.  Hypothetically. Hey, I was living on about $500 a month back then.  Paint was impossibly alluring and impossibly PRICEY.  I was desperate.  All the cool kids were doing it.  I didn’t inhale.

Anyway, there’s about a quarter-inch worth of Jerry’s catalog devoted to various brands of paints, acrylics, oils, pigment powders, sticks, mediums, oh my god.  My old addiction to office supplies, I now comprehend, was really a sublimated desire for art supplies, demoted to a more practical, less expensive incarnation of itself.  Ball points instead of hand-rolled pastels.  Printer paper instead of sumi-e.  Post-its instead of pallet knives.

I’ve always bought the kids good quality art supplies—not that crap they pass off to kids under such brands as Roseart or Crayola.  Crayola does a decent crayon, but that’s it, the rest of it is shite.  If you ask me. Sophie and Luc have stacks of very nice colored pencils, papers, pastels, paints, scissors, supplies, whatever.  I replace as piles get low and they know not the pain of running out.  I do this in part for my own inner kid—I used to hoard my supplies, never using them because they were so rare.  I felt unable to produce something fine enough to warrant their actual use, so they stayed pristine, like a shrine to possibility.  It’s too sad!  So I buy Sophie and Luc supplies by the box load, which they use freely, and it makes me happy.

But never for myself, I realize, turning the pages of Jerry’s catalog.

The reason I received the catalog is because we’ve been buying stamping supplies.  I’ve made lino prints before, but the stuff they have now for carving stamps is just lovely, super soft rubbery blocks that don’t crumble, and the inks for fabric are endless!  Sophie and I have been carving away, designing little images and carving them up, learning as we go, making pages of prints of each, fine-tuning.  It’s so fun to enter her mind because she has none of my hang-ups about Art.  She just wants to make stuff and she dives in.  And I’ve got a slightly bigger art supply budget then I did when I was nineteen and in college, so we get to indulge a bit.  We’ve tried a couple types of carving blocks, gotten a brayer and two sets of carving tools, fabric paints in several colors.  Some gel retarder. (Why do I feel so guilty?)

I know, I know, I’m coat-tailing on Sophie’s art.  It’s not for me, it’s for her.

Okay, it’s for us.

If you find me naked, rolling around on catalog pages all torn free and scattered about the yurt, you’ll know I’ve gone over the deep end.