Wednesday, 31 December 2014

2014 Annual Review of my Art

The third of three posts for today, and the second of two review posts, as there was too much for a single post! WARNING: Long post, picture rich!

WOYWW visitors, please scroll down to the first post for today.

Working in my New ARTHaven

My new ARTHaven is proving to be a total delight and joy to work in. I love this room. I am surrounded by all my materials and equipment, organised how I want it, and the layout is so conducive to mixed media work, with each work zone flowing freely into the others. It is wonderful to be able to have my sewing machine out permanently, and have easy access to everything. I tend to use the main work zone most of the time, which doubles as a paper art and mixed media station, and I can easily bring materials out as required.

03 Gen View

Recycled Mini-Album

The main project of the year was the creation of my recycled mini-album, a gift for our niece, all about her grandfather (my father) who died almost exactly a year ago. It took me eight months to complete. The book itself was made from scratch, entirely from recycled materials – the cover from a dried milk carton and the pages from recycled Christmas cards. For the non-recycled materials and embellishments (e.g. metal hardware for the cover, thread for stitching the signatures, etc. etc.) I used only materials that were already in my stash, and with the exception of paints and gel mediums etc., it hasn’t cost me a penny to make! The discipline of using only recycled materials was great fun and gave a tremendous sense of achievement.

33 Cover with Embellishments

The pages were decorated with mixed media techniques with many different materials being used, from crumpled tissue paper to fruit net and Polyfilla (joint compound). I used acrylic paints and gel mediums, Perfect Pearls (mica powders), rubber stamping, Zentangle, collage, stencilling… Not only was this tremendous fun, but it also increased my knowledge base in the use of many materials, and was an adventure in mixed media.

035 Sun Sea and Sand

037 Scotland Title Page

061 Tigers Title Page

071 The Great Outdoors Blurred

083 Clocks Title Page

I enjoyed the feature I made of the borders, which were consistently black and white throughout, emphasising the carefully graded page sizes within each signature so that the borders became layered and compound as you turned each page. (For full details of the construction of the book, and embellishment of the pages, please see my blog archive in the left-hand side bar under “Recycled Mini-Album.”)

Card Making

Throughout the year I had to make the usual collection of cards. I am considering myself less and less a card maker and I don’t want to be type-cast as one, but they need to be done. Part of my problem is that I seem incapable of making “simple” cards and each one involved a huge investment of time as I want to make each one a completed art piece, and then I feel demoralised by the thought that if you take any piece of art and place it on a piece of folded card with a sentiment on it, it immediately becomes ephemeral, and I can’t escape the thought that its ultimate destination will be the waste paper bin when the birthday cards come down!

Here is a selection of some of my better efforts during the year (not in chronological order). For all the following items please click on the links for further information.

A house moving card. This was an original drawing in waterproof pen with colour added in the form of distress inks.

06 Envelope and Card

“Bejewelled” card. Background created with acrylic paint spattering and the application of sparkles, sequins and gems. Applied butterfly cut-outs.

18 Finished Card and Envelope

Thank-you card for the teacher of our soap making course – rubber stamping, inking, glass bead gel medium, printed photos cut out and applied.

08 Finished Card

Also for the same teacher, this time for the felt-making course, a mixed media card with pop-up inside, involving many techniques and materials and taking several days to complete.

46 Finished Card and Envelope

37 Completed Card Inside

A bereavement card for a Christian family.

13 Finished Card - Overlay

With the front overlay turned back:

14 Finished Card - Overlay Turned Back

Another mixed media card.

23 Finished Card

Birthday card for a bee-keeper.

13 Finished Card

A tag for a honey and lemon cold remedy:

07 Finished Tag

I acquired some Stampin’ Up equipment and made a few cards using this – these first are using the Mosaic Madness set.

First card:

Mosaic Madness Birthday Card 1

Second card:

01 Finished Card

Using the Six-sided Sampler set, I made this new home card:

25 Finished Card

Teabag Art and Zentangle

Throughout the year I have been collecting used teabags and drying them out for use in teabag art, which is something I am hoping to work on next year. For this year, I took watercolour paper and laid out the drying teabags on this, and they left beautiful and unique marks which I used as the foundation for art.

21 Teabag Drying Paper

To begin with I have been concentrating on adding Zentangle art to these marks, using a fine sepia pen – this is very fine work for which I sometimes need to resort to a magnifier. I have done a number of abstract  designs, picking out the natural creases and “holes” in the imprint.

32 2nd Row of Teabag Stain Zentangles

Taking this a bit further, I created a few cards, sometimes using the marks left by drying round tea bags. I made a small landscape for one of these, adding some colour in the form of distress inks.

Zentangle Teabag Stain Thank You Card 2

Zentangle Teabag Stain Thank You Card Devon Hills

Apart from this, I haven’t done a great deal of Zentangle this year, but I made this card for my hubby for Valentine’s day.

Valentine Card 2014

Other teabag art was mostly experimental, colouring with inks, stamping, etc.

08 Teabags Coloured with Distress Inks

11 Teabags with Rubber Stamping

I was hoping to add some machine embroidery and start joining the teabags together but it was then that I discovered that my old sewing machine was irreparably broken and that had to be put on hold for the time being.

Miscellaneous Projects

Other projects included an altered pizza box:

02 Box Closed

This mixed media project included the use of ripped corrugated cardboard and iridescent gel medium, together with applied images and text, acrylic paints and marker pens.

I did some experiments with different materials such as Tyvek and other meltable fabrics. This was a card I made, with a piece of melted nappy liner painted with acrylics. The texture was amazing, and it is a shame that the photo doesn’t do the colour justice, as the mixed browns were emphasised with the addition of gold gilding wax.

03 Finished Card

When we were away on holiday I came across some stuff called puff binder, and purchased a small quantity – it is very expensive so I experimented with different materials to see if I could make some myself, not very successfully, but the results could be used in similar ways.

02 Puff Binder and DIY Samples

Backgrounds, Scratch Papers and Masterboards

I spent one morning creating alcohol ink backgrounds on the back of solar panels fliers that we picked up at the county show (never throw anything out lol!).

13 All the Backgrounds

During the course of the year I created a number of backgrounds and useful papers by cleaning off brushes and stamps and mopping up, and saving the results. I made quite a few from kitchen paper used for cleaning up, trying to keep the colour schemes coherent as I worked on other projects. The advantage of these is that their layers can be split apart and you get more backgrounds for your bucks that way.

Black and Blue Kitchen Paper

Red and Yellow Kitchen Paper

No matter that sometimes holes appear – if the layers become stuck together with dried acrylic paint, it just adds to the distressed look!

Some background sheets maturing nicely!

Three Kitchen Papers Maturing Nicely

I also made some interesting “scratch” papers – large sheets of paper or card used for cleaning off brushes and using up left-over bits of paint.

A blue one, where I emphasised circles and swirls.

Blue Swirls 1

This is what this one developed into:

Blue Swirls 2

Another one, mostly black and white, again emphasising my favourite circles motif.

Circles Scratch Paper 1

A mixed colour one using a striped theme. This one also includes metallic acrylic paint.


These scratch papers are A3 in size.

I also made some masterboards (the same sort of thing, but created deliberately from scratch). With this first one I got a bit carried away and could have stopped earlier, when it was already looking pretty good. The end result is a very dark circles pattern, and with all the embossing resist it has a slightly waxy feel to it.

18 Finished Masterboard

This one is a seaside-themed one with shell rubber stamping.

08 Finished Masterboard

Again, the masterboards are A3 in size. They were created with a view to cutting them up and using the pieces as backgrounds in projects, but so far I haven’t cut any of these sheets up (masterboards or scratch papers) because I like them as they are, and they are also extremely useful as photographic backgrounds!


I have been working on and off on a major knitting project which I am ashamed to admit that I started two years ago! My excuse for taking so long over it is that we did move house in the middle of it… It is now finished, in the nick of time before the end of the year. Nice to have at least one UFO (UnFinished Object) done and dusted!

21 Finished Jumper


I got my dyeing equipment out again after many years:

01 Dyeing Equipment

and produced these browns for the knitting project:

Chestnut Brown - 2 Shades

For the felt making course (see below), I dyed some Merino rovings, but this wasn’t terribly satisfactory as however careful I was, the dyeing process tended to start the felting process, so I ultimately abandoned this and managed to source some ready-dyed rovings at a good price on Ebay, which also saved a lot of work.

Orange and Browns for Felt Class

I also did some experiments with dyeing from avocado stones and skins, which produce a lovely pinky-beige tone.

07 Materials Dried

As I develop my textile art skills further, this is an area I shall definitely be pursuing.

Felt Making

In the autumn I took part in two short evening courses. The first was on felt-making, and I was able to produce several interesting pieces, only one of which I have so far finished (I consider the others to be test pieces, learning the different techniques). The finished piece is a hair clip, using the poppies we made in the wet felted flowers class.

12 Finished Hair Clip

These are some of the unfinished pieces, the first being a wet-felted picture of poppies, which I am in the process of embellishing with some needle felting.

02 Poppy Centres and Petals

My second picture, which also requires some further work:

10 My Finished Piece

My nuno felted piece – one end of a scarf.

12 Nuno Felting

Soap Making

Before Christmas I attended the second course, this time on soap making, and have since been making soaps at home. Here are the natural soaps I made in one of the classes:

04 Three Natural Soaps

Honey soap that I made at home:

12 Wrapped Soaps

Other soaps made at home:

12 Soaps Wrapped and Labelled

10 Lavender Soap Wrapped

11 Lavender Soap with Label

All packaged up and ready to go:

Honey Soaps

Christmas Basket for Margaret 02 Side View

In the course we also made bath bombs and bath melts, which is probably not something I shall do again.

Since completing this course, I have joined the Soap Makers’ Forum online, and am on the mailing list for Soap Queen, and am learning a great deal from both of these sites. I shall definitely be pursuing soap making in the future, and it is neatly combined with other techniques too, because many of my skills can be employed in creating attractive packaging.

Notable Purchases for my ARTHaven During the Year

Kitty Squad stamp – from Stampotique. I have yet to unmount this stamp and remount it on E-Z Mount Foam – it will be a useful stamp, especially when I cut the kitties apart.

Darkroom Door Alphabet Medley stamp set – another very useful rubber stamp with a useful alphabet style for mixed media work.

Stampin’ Up stamp, stencil and punch sets, and some useful sentiment stamps. See posts above for details.

Various other miscellaneous stamps, stencils and embellishments.

Felt-making and soap-making supplies so I can continue this at home, having completed the courses.

Envelope punch board – the first envelope making board I’ve ever used that actually works (at least for me)! I have discovered lots of other things online that you can do with this, which will be fun to explore.

A trawl round the charity shops provided me with some great textiles for the altered clothing I want to tackle next year.

Plans for the Coming Year

Sheba, my Cougar cutting machine, has remained in the corner unused all year, I am afraid. As you can see, there has been a great deal else to do, and from my previous post you will see that we have been dealing with other issues in our life too, so it has taken a back seat for now. I would very much like to get going with it again, but it has been so long that I think I shall need to start again as a beginner, and one of the things putting me off starting again is the fear that I will need to invest a great deal of time in it, at the expense of other things. There are things I do need to use it for, though, so hopefully in the coming year this will become a priority.

Now that the mini-album is complete, I can return to the other album I started about Dad at the beginning of the year. This is an ongoing project, as is my Fine Art album which I started a couple of years back, and my small art journal. I should like to work further on all these books. I also want to get much more into book making in general, and explore different bindings, and make small books which take much less time than the major project of this year.

I am also drawn to working more with textiles. I have some charity shop stash to make up into upcycled clothing which is an area which interests me greatly. I also have a half-tester over the bed which requires drapes to be made, and the old four-poster drapes can be adapted and added to. This will involve using the sewing machine, and also quite a bit of hand embroidery, which is another area which has been neglected over the past many years and which I should like to return to soon.

I also have another knitting project waiting in the wings – another unravelling and remaking job!

The teabag art is also a major area of work. Over the past months I have accumulated a huge number of used teabags which can now be emptied and used as the basis of art work, and made up into projects.

I also want to get more video work done. This is very time consuming, but very enjoyable and creative.

In my ARTHaven I have a lot of equipment and materials which have not even been used yet, and during the coming year it would be nice to be able to put that right!

Who knows what the coming year will bring? I am hoping that health-wise and stress-wise, it will be better than the one just past, and that I shall have more opportunity, and more energy, to spend doing what I love best, being creative in my beautiful studio, with a clear conscience, and that I may continue to be stimulated by fresh ideas for design, and unusual ways of combining my beloved mixed media materials.

Thank you to all my faithful followers and visitors who have been with me throughout the year, and for all your lovely comments which were so encouraging and appreciative. A happy New Year to you all, and here’s hoping for a creative and productive year ahead.

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