Monday, 31 December 2012

Out with the Old and In with the New

Well, folks, here is my usual end-of-year blog summary. (How many times do you have to do something for it to become a tradition? Lol!) Be prepared – it’s quite long, and contains lots of photos.

It’s been quite a year Chez Shosh, especially on the family front, with the main event being the sudden illness of my Dad and his subsequent move to residential care, and getting Mum settled into living on her own – my hubby has been totally awesome throughout and I don’t know what we’d have done without him. This all took quite a toll on my health and I’ve had a pretty rough few months, although I have managed to be creative when possible! The year didn’t start off that well health-wise either so I’ve been fairly limited in what I’ve been able to do.

It is now about a year since we put my parents’ house on the market and still it hasn’t sold, although the last couple to view it are very enthusiastic and I am sure they will buy it if they can sell their own house. Meantime we’ve found somewhere very suitable for us all, if someone else doesn’t buy it before we’re in a position to move.

My hubby retires in under 18 months’ time and in preparation for our eventual move, I have been downsizing, and my ARTHaven is now slightly leaner and meaner (although you wouldn’t think so to look at it!) – it is still not organised how I want, and is a bit frustrating to work in, but when we move, I shall design it from scratch and get it exactly as I need it to be.

Work in progress:

Creative-wise, the first big change was the arrival of Sheba, my Black Cat Cougar cutting machine which I got before Christmas last year, and finally opened up and installed on New Year’s Day. Because of health problems I haven’t used it as much as I would have liked, so I am still at the basic cutting stage when I’d hoped to be far more advanced by this stage, but with the help of the excellent forum for machine owners, I have had so much help and support, and it’s all there for me when I eventually do get going on more advanced techniques. Meantime, I have achieved something I never thought I’d manage in a month of Sundays and that is to get to grips with the Great Vector Drawing Monster Inkscape!! What’s even more amazing is that I have been converted from an Inkscape hater to an Inkscape lover! My friends on the Thyme Machines forum are responsible for this and I’m very grateful to them for all their help.

Some of my most successful projects using Sheba this year have been my 3-D Silver Butterflies:

and stencil-cutting – this latter has been very useful in my mixed media and acrylic painting, etc.

One of my greatest creative adventures this year has been the discovery of Zentangle. Almost overnight I became totally hooked on this art form, and it is absolutely ideal for me because on days when I feel well enough to be creative but not well enough to sit at my work desk, I can do this from the comfort of the recliner. From my earliest attempts:

to my Zentangle-Inspired Art:

this has to be the Most Fun Ever – and as the year comes to a close, I am happy to say that I have now designed my very first pattern!

Another new venture for me this year has been albums. I have long been attracted by the idea of creating one, and I now have several on the go – I started an art journal in October, in which I have so far only completed three pages, but it is an ongoing project to be added to when I feel like it.

I also started a Fine Art album in May, with pages depicting my favourite paintings from the history of Western European art. I’ve only completed two pages so far, but again, it’s an ongoing project.

In November I started my Tattered Time Mini-Album dedicated to the life of my Dad, so that I will have an enduring keepsake to remind me of all his achievements and his beautiful character when the time comes for him to depart this life. So far I have only completed the first page, dedicated to his ancestry.

The final album I’ve started isn’t really an album at all yet, because I am waiting for the ring binder and ATC-pouch pages to arrive! This album is a revamp of my original Zentangle album which is becoming too full to be manageable, so I’ve decided to redraw all my patterns onto ATCs and bind them in a more flexible manner which also allows me to see them all at a glance. Here are some of the ATCs ready to be filed once the pages and binder arrive. Each one has step-out instructions on the back.

My work during the course of the year has developed more towards a mixed media trend, and on the whole I’m doing much less card making, making cards only as a matter of necessity for family birthdays etc. Hand-made cards take so much effort, but for many recipients, there is not much difference between a hand-made one and one from a famous chain of card shops, and both kinds end up in the bin soon after the event. Make a piece of art with a folded back and a greeting on the inside and it seems to become instantly ephemeral and I prefer my work to be longer-lasting. This year, fortunately, we didn’t have any important family events like last year which was full of them, making huge demands of my creativity! I did make quite a few cards during the year, though – here is a sample of the more interesting ones.

One mixed media piece I made during the year was a small altered papier mache box.

I used overlaid tissue paper scraps with gel medium, yarn, Friendly Plastic castings from silicone moulds I’d made, air-dry clay pebbles, gilding flakes, etc. I also started another mixed media project entitled “Choc-a-Bloc” from a chocolate box insert but this hasn’t progressed further than the basic stage as yet.

I hope to make further progress on this next year, and perhaps develop this idea further.

Digital art took up some of my time this year too – I created some useful backgrounds from photos I took of an oil painting, and then manipulated them in Serif PhotoPlus, my digital photo editing software. Here is one of them being used to display some Zentangle ATCs for my album. (This is another of my own designs.)

I also had some fun manipulating photos of everyday objects.

In addition to this, I also completely revamped my blog background (not a job I’m in a hurry to repeat as it was a horrendous exercise!!) and I now feel that it better expresses who I am, incorporating various aspects of my work.

A great acquisition this year was a set of Dylusions ink sprays which have to be the most fun thing to use! Intense colours, unpredictable results, endless possibilities… I decided to kill two birds with one stone and use flower pieces cut on Sheba as masks, thus creating interesting backgrounds and at the same time colouring the pieces ready for assembly into 3-D flowers.

I made a special card using these inks, with butterflies cut on Sheba.

Other new materials acquired: I also greatly increased my stock of Perfect Pearls, and together with my alcohol inks, made a couple of palettes so that I could paint with these media and have more control over them.

Other materials and equipment I acquired during the year were a Rolls-Royce of a glue gun, a new heat gun, matting and layering rulers, a gorgeous set of Derwent Inktense pencils from my hubby for my birthday, for Zentangle-Inspired Art, and some new stamps, from Ryn’s designs and also a selection of background stamps.

My knitting enjoyed a revival this year. I have been clearing things out, including a lot of clothes I no longer wear, and decided to unravel some favourites and knit them up so that they fit me again! Despite my best intentions, not a single one has been ready to wear for this winter, but here’s the progress I’ve made so far.

This year, WOYWW celebrated its third anniversary and had an ATC swap to mark the event, and I acquired a beautiful collection of these miniature works of art from other members of the group, from all around the world, each unique and precious. I made a selection of Zentangle ATCs to swap. (I know – I did promise to do a post about this swap – I did a draft post some while ago, and hope to upload it soon, long after the event, but never mind!!) Instead of an ATC swap, I swapped flowers with Judy in Australia – she has my paper ones and I have her fabric ones!

This year was my first experience of swaps, and actually holding someone’s art in your hand really draws you closer to that person, even if you have never met, and I have made new friends online. I feel well established in the online creative community now and have derived so much joy from my blog – and I know that my loyal followers have too, which gives me a great deal of pleasure. Thank you all for your support and encouragement over the past year. Special thanks to all of you who sent me special gifts and cards to help me get through some difficult times. These are all treasured and I appreciate your kindness so much.

I must make mention of a couple of new friends I’ve made this year – at the risk of offending others I leave out, for which I apologise – one is Jennibellie, who I have nicknamed the Recycling Queen – I was overjoyed to find her first on Youtube and then on her blog as she’s such an inspiration and such fun, and also Ryn Tanaka who designs such fabulous art stamps, and I’ve really enjoyed our ongoing correspondence. The joys of the Internet – no problem having contact with friends in Canada, or anywhere else in the world for that matter!

What a wonderful year it has been for Great Britain! The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, the Olympics and Paralympics, and now the news of a new Royal baby on the way… Despite the atrocious weather we have had most of the year, it has been a notable year in so many ways, nationally and personally. Let us all look forward to next year and to all the opportunities it will bring, to be creative, to give joy and encouragement to others, and to bear our problems and sorrows with fortitude and cheerfulness. A very Happy New Year to you all!

Sunday, 30 December 2012

Zentangles–My First Pattern: Y-Ful Power

I have just designed my first zentangle pattern! My iPod cover is decorated with an attractive pattern based on a Y shape, and I’ve scratched my head over this, trying to work out how it is generated, but without success.

iPod Cover

This pattern, with variations, crops up quite frequently if you keep your eyes open, and I think it makes an excellent fill. I recently came across this:

which is a somewhat simpler version of the interlocking Y shape, and I thought I might be able to deconstruct it, which I have now done, and I have called it “Y-Ful Power” which is a pun on “Eiffel Tower” and also includes the letter “Y”, being a trefoil design. (I have now edited this step-out, to remove the need to erase any construction grid once the pattern is finished.)

Y-Ful Power Step-Out Ed

Here are some variations on the theme.

Y-Ful Power Variations 72 dpi

I love the three-dimensional nature of this pattern, which is emphasised by the shading. It will be a useful fill, and lends itself well to many variations and opportunities for further embellishment. Enjoy!

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

More Downsizing in my ARTHaven

My large black shelving unit is gradually diminishing in size! Some while ago I dismantled one section, having downsized the stuff quite a bit, and got rid of a lot of rubbish and things I no longer need. I more or less cleared the second section in time for this week’s WOYWW.

Today Wonderwoman, my home help, helped me clear the stuff off the top of this double unit so that I could remove the top. She is going to have two sections to store things in her chalet, and will need the double-width top shelf for those, and I needed to put a single-width shelf to complete the single unit.

I had not really intended to do anything further after she had gone, but I couldn’t resist clearing the shelves and demolishing the superfluous unit! Then, of course, I got further tempted, and removed the books from the bookcase so that I could move it up into its new position across the end of the now single shelving unit, and then replaced the books again. After this I was bushed! This is what it looks like now.

Everything I want to keep is now so crammed into the remaining section that it isn’t that easy to access. When I create a new ARTHaven when we move house, some of this stuff will be distributed around the room in the different work zones I intend to create, which will release more space to store things that are at present cluttering up the rest of the room, and even other rooms in the house!

Some of the stuff which was originally on top of the unit, and the remaining boxes from the second section are now taking up space on the floor!

The box in the front right of the picture is crammed with all my dyeing and batik stuff. This needs some serious sorting and re-organising. Eventually I hope to have an old kitchen sink with cupboards underneath to hold all my “wet” craft stuff like dyeing things. Propped up against the pile of stuff beyond is a cork board with dyed wool samples pinned to it. I did this many years ago, and each sample has a label on it giving the proportions of each dye to create that particular shade. I am really keen to start doing this again once I have the facilities – the colours are gorgeous, and using this method, I can duplicate any shade I want. The dyed wools will be used for knitting and crochet, and mixed media projects, and I will also be able to dye wool and silk tops for felting and other techniques.

Until we move, I shall keep this stuff stacked up in boxes. I have also unearthed a great deal of paperwork, most of which is in the ring binders you can see stacked on top of the remaining large shelf unit. I have got to go through all of this and intend archiving a lot of it digitally, and I expect quite a bit can now be disposed of.

The downsizing of my ARTHaven is going well, and I feel very positive about getting things reduced to an amount suitable for moving when the time comes. I can’t wait to start creating a new space from scratch, and getting properly organised for the first time since I started all this!


Another Wednesday, another opportunity for a worldwide mega-snoop at everybody’s work desk to see what we are all up to, and how tidy or otherwise we are! Click on the WOYWW link in my sidebar to go to Julia’s blog and find out how to join in the fun.

Not a lot has gone on on my desk this week. As it stands now, on the right at the front are a few more zentangles on ATC-sized cards ready for filing in my new album – I’ll do another post about this when I’ve drawn a few more.

Centre stage is the Reverend Ernest Bear. I made him for my hubby for our first Christmas, when we were engaged, in 1985. I was horrified to notice the other day that the felt on his paws has completely worn through, so he’s going to the Bear Hospital for some plastic surgery – you can see the material for the skin grafts on the right. He’s having beige paws with little red patches sewn on with a bit of embroidery, which will go nicely with his braces. I notice that his clothes are also quite grubby and due for a wash, so it’s Makeover Time for One Small Bear.

On the left is my Tattered Time album, with absolutely no progress having been made all week. I have got my final small circle punch, though – it arrived from Amazon yesterday morning, so I’ll be able to get on again soon.

Actually this is the reason for such a lack of progress on the art front this week:

I had another marathon clearing session and have almost completely cleared the second of the 3 sections of my huge shelving unit – the first section I cleared a while back, and it’s been demolished. Once section 2 is empty, it will also be taken apart, and these 2 sections I am giving to Wonderwoman, my home help, for storage in her chalet. I am afraid I was a bit stupid doing as much as I did in one session but I got a bit carried away, and it’s taken me most of the week to get over it! I’ve spent most of the time since on the recliner, and have only managed to do a few zentangles, and type up a letter or two to send to friends for Christmas. Duh. I don’t think I will ever learn… Still, I do feel very satisfied with the results of my labours, but now it’s even more of a sweat getting at things as they are all crammed tightly into section 3 of the unit! The floor of my ARTHaven is still quite a mess, and it’s got to be cleared before Wonderwoman arrives this afternoon…

Have a happy WOYWW, everyone, and a great week ahead, full of inspiration and creativity!

Saturday, 15 December 2012

New Zentangle Album

After washing my hair, having a bath, curling my hair, changing the sheets on the bed and putting the washing on, I’d more or less run out of energy, so decided to relax this afternoon and draw some zentangles. My original zentangle album, which is a hardback book with plain sheets of paper in it, is filling up now, and as I add more tangles, it is becoming increasingly difficult to find the patterns I want, which means a frustrating waste of time when I want to be creating! Some weeks ago, I was wondering what to do about this, and considered a card index system with a single pattern on each card, but that would still involve a lot of searching, and then I came across Sandy Hunter’s wonderful idea. Thank you Sandy!

She uses coin pages, but I thought these might be a bit small, so I opted for ATC-size, which is good because I already have a few clear pages for storing ATCs in a ring binder, and know I can easily get more of these. I decided to draw the finished tangle on the front, and the step-outs and/or variations on the back, and if there was too much, then I’d cut a piece of card double the width of an ATC and fold it in half, so it would still fit in the pocket, and could be easily removed for access to the inside part.

The advantage of this type of storage is that every tangle on a page will be visible at a glance, and the step-outs would be accessible, too, without removing the card from the pocket. Sandy stores hers alphabetically according to the name of the tangle, which is fine if you know the names of all of them and know what to look for, but I don’t think that would work for me, so I am intending to file mine according to category, e.g. fills, borders, stand-alone designs, linear designs, etc., and not alphabetically within those categories, because it would be a bore to have to re-arrange them whenever I added a new one. For me, it’s not the name of the tangle that’s important, but what it looks like, and what I want to use it for.

I shall decorate an ordinary office ring binder with a zentangle cover. If my collection expands beyond a single binder, it will be easy to start Volume 2, but I think it would take a very long time to fill one whole album!

I shall still keep my original album because it will be useful for sketching new tangles in, and practising drawing them, and when I am happy with them, they can be re-drawn on the cards and filed. Also, I’ve got quite attached to the original album and wouldn’t want to get rid of it!

Today I started drawing the ATC-sized tangles, and so far I have done 9. This is also giving me the opportunity to re-draw them better than I did the first time. Each card is double sided. This is what I have done so far.

Here is the complete set of 9.

Zentangles x9

These two pictures are straight photographs, with the cards laid on one of my scratch papers, mostly covered with black acrylic paint!

Here are the cards in detail. This time I scanned each card, and edited them in Serif PhotoPlus, and then the pictures were created in Serif PagePlus, adding the text and background. (The background was one that I created from a series of close-up photos of an old oil painting my parents had, and messing about in PhotoPlus, changing the colours – great fun!!) I’ve paired the photos side by side, front and back of each card. You can see that I have added the name of the designer of each pattern. (Note: For copyright reasons, I have removed the images giving the step-out instructions. To find out how to draw them, please click on the Tangle Patterns link in my sidebar, and search for the particular pattern on that site.)


Featherfall Front

Verdigoh Front

Lilypads Front

Brayd Front

Cadent Front

Cadent Variations Front

(Unfortunately on the back of the Cadent Variations card, I lost the plot on the last one – it was so random that I got totally confused and it ended up looking like a dropped box of chocolates!! The top one isn’t that brilliant either…)

Cubine Front

Chainging Front

Not sure when I’ll do any more. This is the sort of project I can pick up when I feel like doing something not too energetic, when I’m not up to sitting at my desk.

The Grater Light

A couple of nights ago I was just “putting the kitchen to bed” and noticed an intriguing reflection from my cheese grater onto a brown paper bag behind it on the worktop. I just had to run for my camera!

Close up:

Gorgeous, isn’t it! I love the 3-D effect from the second, fainter reflection. (This might be worth tracing into Inkscape and cutting as two layers… Possibilities, possibilities…) I decided to work on it, using Serif PhotoPlus (my excellent photo editing software) and after cloning out the paper bag crease, and increasing the contrast using the Levels tool, it looked like this:

I then decided to have some fun with it. First, I experimented with changing the colour, using the Colour Balance tool.

Experimenting with some of the filters, I came up with the following. The Kaleidoscope filter yielded this fascinating result – it reminds me of microscopic marine plankton, and the circular shape emphasises this effect, I think.

The Polar Co-ordinates filter produced this:

and finally, the Twirl filter:

If we keep our eyes open, there is beauty to be found everywhere, even in the most mundane settings, and with a bit of imagination, it’s amazing the paths we can be taken down. I am thrilled with the organic, fluid properties of this image of a reflection from an ordinary, everyday object.

With a bit of manipulation in a photo editor, even gash photos that might be consigned to the recycle bin can be redeemed! Amazing backgrounds can be created, and infinite variety can be applied to a single image. There is no limit to where your imagination can take you, given a bit of free rein, a spare half hour or so, and some decent software. Happy playing!!

Wednesday, 12 December 2012


Well, Wednesdays wend their way round the weekly calendar like whisked whitening don’t they… how’s that for a bit of wobbly wordplay? To find out what all those W’s mean, click on the WOYWW link in my sidebar, which will Take You To Our Leader the wonderful Julia who hosts the weekly desk-snooping extravaganza where we all delight in how messy and creative (or otherwise!) we all are.

Not a lot to show on my actual desk this week, after I’d finished my friend’s birthday card. There are some swirls I cut with Sheba, my Black Cat Cougar cutting machine (details in my sidebar of this wonderful machine), some of which I used on her card. Also my ongoing Tattered Time album – not too much done on that since last week except that I’ve pretty well finished page 1, apart from all the other stuff I’ve decided to add. I think that’s going to be the story of this album – it will never be finished as I will keep thinking of more things to put in it!

In the ice cream tub are the sentiments I made for the album. Under the swirls you can see the initial sketches I made for designing some file tabs (see below), sheets of planning notes for the album, and various pieces of the papers I am using in the album. Top left, you will see the beautiful little pincushion that Lunch Lady Jan sent me when we did our ATC swap a few months ago – thanks Jan – you can see it’s in constant use! One of those thick hat pins is just right for unbunging my Scotch Quick Dry Adhesive, for example. On the left you can see my mess of rulers all mixed up with paper scraps – now my hubby’s bought me that nice piece of guttering, I really must get on with making my ruler holder! The rulers drive me nuuuts.

The other thing I’ve done this week is to design a couple of file tabs in Inkscape, which will be cut and used in the album. They will be useful to add to tags and photo mats etc. which need to be pulled out. You can get a punch that makes them, but I haven’t got it, and anyway, I thought it would be fun to design some of my own, in different styles. The first one is a semi-circular one which will fit nicely into a semi-circle cut in the pouch or page edge.

The second one is a simple, plain tab such as you might find on office files.

I am planning to design some further shapes, too, including ones incorporating gearwheels (for this project) and also maybe some butterflies and flowers. The tag and pouch I showed you last time is finished, but so far I haven’t cut any of these shapes. Once I am satisfied that they cut out and function as expected, the files will be uploaded to my Skydrive ready for free download for anyone who wants to use them. For someone who was initially terrified of Inkscape and disgusted at its non-user-friendliness, I am now a complete convert, and like many such converts, I am quite evangelical in my enthusiasm for this extraordinary piece of software that is soooo powerful and has endless features that I have barely began to explore, and what’s more, It’s FREE! There are loads of helps online in the form of Youtube tutorials etc. but first and foremost I am grateful to the experts on the Thyme Machines forum (the forum for my cutting machine) who really got me going on it.

Have a great week everyone, and I hope you all manage to survive the weather here in the UK, or wherever else you might be.

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