Recently I responded to a photography challenge from
Of course, the BLUE is what caught my eye but the whole thing inspired me to write up the short version of a wonderful art experience I had a few years back.
My long-time friend invited me to join a yearlong project, along with seven artists. (Please notice I did not say seven other artists, as I am maybe an interesting craft person, at best. But I was honored to be in the company of these true artists!!)
The project was rotating Altered Books.
An altered book is a form of mixed media artwork that changes a book from its original form into a different form, altering its appearance and/or meaning. Wikipedia
This was our assignment. Choose a color theme. And then find a book to “alter”…. meaning just that…a book to change in any way you want.
We informed each other of our chosen colors (blue, red, green, orange, pink, brown, purple, yellow) and set off on our 12 month journey with each other.
Our procedure was to start our own book, work on it for a month or so, and then mail or take it to the next person on the list. Then they would work on our book, in our color, and we would work on the book we received, using that color. The process is brilliant because you are thinking about all your co-artists throughout the year, watching for. and gathering, ideas and supplies for each of the others’ color themed books. (It was cool that our particular group also knew each other so the ideas we had for each book could have personal meaning, as well as working in that person’s color.)
After a month or so, working with the new color, we would mail or take that book to the next person in our rotation, and so on until we had each worked on every other book.
The thing I loved most was as each new book arrived, it was like opening a birthday gift. Discovering the current month’s color and seeing what the last person had done with it was so exciting. And of course, as we neared the end, we got to see the project almost completed, with many different interpretations of that color and of each person’s style of “altering”.
Sometimes the words on particular pages were used as a focus for the altering.
Other times, it was the actual structure of the book (pages glued together and cut out in shapes).
And there were even some very clever “pop-outs” so when you turned a page, something surprising would happen.
Since BEADS and BUTTONS are my primary craft addiction, I used a lot of those. But because we were emailing like crazy, sharing tips and checking in, we were learning new techniques from each other along the way (photo transferring, different washes, newly discovered glues, cool sticker sources, Exacto knife methods, etc.).
With each book we signed, left a book mark, or in some way identified our contribution.
We didn’t return the last book we worked on to its owner. Instead, we brought it to a gathering on a previously planned weekend. We met at a cabin on Hood Canal, so we could open our own books in front of each other. Every book got hours of attention, each page turned, a new gift! We got to talk about what we had done and why, how we had altered, what each color meant to us, etc.
And of course, this was a celebration, so there was food and wine and music too!!!
All in all, it was a memorable experience, one I would love to do again in my life. What a fun way it would be to get to know other Bloggers!
I just had another great idea! What if we did a rotating altered photo album. I know, I know, it would be easier online but what if we each found an actual photo album or scrap book, each picked a theme, (trees, babies, sunsets, politics, whatever!!) and then rotated our albums, sharing our own photography in that theme.
Think of the great coffee table book we could each end up with!
OK you win some and you lose some. I get that. But it is so much harder to lose when you have been absolutely convinced that THIS time, it would be a WINNER for SURE!!
I believe that my duties as a grandmother are specifically limited. I do NOT get to “parent” my two amazing grandsons. Julius, who is 13 and Luca, 10 (for another week) depend on me to be that other adult in their lives that has the luxury of coming closer to unconditional love than either of their parents do. Even though they live with their father in my home, I do not have to crack the “do your homework” or “clean your room” whips. That’s their Dad’s job.
My self-imposed duties are clear to me though. I get to love them. I get to watch out for their safety. And my favorite, I get to teach them stuff, especially about our family’s history and traditions…
At Christmas time, it is not part of my job to be the one to give the “big” present each year. Again, that’s my son’s place and I never want to compete or even accidentally outshine him with his boys.
So I go for obscure, non-traditional gifts (no video games) and whenever possible, non-material. Gifts from Gramma are unexpected (sometimes unwanted) and always a bit weird. That’s OK with me. And I know some will land and some will fail! But most will be remembered.
3 years ago, I made each a personal (Shutterfly) photo book of their lives so far. I think it got about a C+/B- grade from the boys.
2 years ago, I made them personalized “treasure boxes”. (They’ve always liked that concept). These boxes contained charms and totems and stickers that represented events in their lives. Each box also had a tiny tablet and mini pencil so they could guess, and then write down, what each token in and on their box signified. There was a prize for whoever guessed the most symbols. (Hey, do I know how to harness sibling rivalry or what??)
Last year, I gave them (all of us really) a family outing to a very cool local place. Maybe you have something like this in your area. It’s called the Boarding House. I have to admit I have some pretty strong judgments about how inundated our children are these days with all things electronic and technical…especially the whole video gaming addiction…so when I discovered the Boarding House, I was thrilled. It is a store/restaurant that sells almost every “board game” ever invented…not a single electronic game in the place! You can even go in and pick some games to try out at your table while enjoying a damn good meal. (Think the highest class “tavern food” EVER!)
This gift was NOT a hit because when they opened it, they had no idea what it was. They could not even grasp the concept of a game store without their coveted new video games for sale. (not an addiction, my ass!) It took 10 months for them to finally be willing to use their hefty Gramma gift certificate for dinner and games at the Boarding House. I’d say, eventually, this gift earned approximately a B-…but it was like pulling teeth.
This year, I thought I might finally earn an “A”. Oh well, best laid plans and all.
My son likes to expose the boys to a variety of different and special experiences in their lives. Wild and different restaurants. And last year, he bought them 3 piece suits and took them to the SYMPHONY!
Remember I said it was my self-imposed duty to teach them about Family Traditions? So, I combined my son’s determination to expose them to new things, and my childhood (and then Michael’s) tradition of weird food in our Christmas stockings, to provide a Christmas morning experience like no other. I knew it would be a HIT!! The boys love all the survival-type tv shows, especially when eating gross stuff is involved. So I did a lot of googling, shopped around, prepared a breakfast table, with a specific food challenge for each! (No crickets or ants involved…we are a Bug Household after all!) see
Here’s what they arrived to find for breakfast.
The deal was, they had to read the research I printed about their given fruit, take at least one bite and then go back to the printed material to find a clue for a treasure hunt to their real present. A gift card to their favorite place to shop hidden around the house.
Great idea, eh? Expose them to something new. Teach them something old. I was so sure….
I think I earned maybe a D- !!
Oh well. The hidden $50 Amazon cards went some distance to save the day…
EXPLANATION to follow on Talking Thursday (I just made that up!)
With Zen Bead Embroidery, there is a ton of fairly relaxing (if you do it right) work, but it can sometimes leave you with just a pile of confusing colors and patterns.
Often, the “Frame” is what turns it into a piece of art…
I have to say that I loved doing the embroidery above but when it came to framing, I was clueless and had to go to professionals for help.
I was really happy with how they framed my pieces. (Please forgive the photography. That was definitely NOT professional.)
When my son was about 20, he picked up an old Porsche to rebuild. He worked on it for years, including finally finishing major parts of the body work while it was parked in his grandmother’s driveway. She forgot it was there, drove into her driveway late one night and totalled the car. He is 43 now and has hauled it around with him to every place he has lived…Nebraska, Arizona, and several places in Washington state.
At one point, in support of his project, I told him that though I didn’t much want to work on the car with him, I had a supportive parallel project going that was just about as time consuming, so I challenged him….a race to the finish line.
I won and I gave him MY project a few years ago.
That car now lives HERE at my home, along with my son and his two sons. He plans on the three of them finishing it together. I really hope so as now it has become a symbolic “principle” of the whole thing.
But I am thinking maybe I start a new parallel project and re-challenge him. What do you think?
Made with beads and my son’s great-grandmother’s mostly glass buttons.
I Live with SIX MEN!! Among them they have NINE CARS, two motorcycles, and five bicycles. There are piles and rooms and sections of my house and property that are filled with house-painting equipment, construction and carpentry tools, classic cars “projects” and giant workout equipment. This is how they would spend every weekend…
I don’t consider myself a sexist (in favor of either gender) but I cannot think of a female equivalent to the HUGE Mustang (Ford) Car Show I attended this last weekend, at least nothing with comparable sound effects! (I mean really! I needed EARPLUGS!! Every open hood meant these competitive THUNDEROUS revs! Would you need earplugs for a Quilting Show??)
So recently, to do some hormone balancing in my home (this is different than feng shui) I went into the only room in the house that is still completely MINE, my Group Therapy room and office.
I’ve had to do a lot of downsizing to make room for the newest male arrivals to my home (my son and his two sons), and in my culling, have come across a lot of saved bits and pieces from my Mom, Aunt, Great Aunts, Grandmother and Great Grandmother. So I took old lace tablecloths and made a backdrop to which I attached (with tiny white painted safety pins) all that feminine energy!
I can now sit in my pink swivel chair and look at the history of the women in my family through their hats, their hankies, their doilies, aprons, and their fabric, lace and ribbons.
My friend Michelle loves her grandchildren and builds/creates these amazing EDIBLE Holiday decorations!!! The Numbers of jelly beans, mini-marshmallows, gum drops, peppermints and gummy worms are uncountable!!
I inherited this amazing treasure a few years back and all I could think about is how much TIME it must have taken for someone to carve the “thousand faces of Buddha” into this walnut shell. The patience…the dedication…the talent…what an amazing person he or she must have been!
And then, I woke up this morning red-faced, realizing I am also that person.
In the last 20 years, for my closest 5 people, I made a “once-in-a-lifetime, just-because-I-love-you” hand-crafted gift. Each craft project took me a lot of TIME.
Here are some samples:
For my best friend-who loves giraffes and is an official Giraffe Project Hero, I made this. It took me about 3 years. It is made with Zen Beaded Embroidery and contains turquoise, copper, shells, assorted beads and several of my grandmother’s old glass buttons.
Next, my “adopted” sister, Lenore’s mother died leaving her these old jewelry boxes with lots of broken bits and pieces from her Mom’s life. Nothing wearable or worth repairing but Lenore didn’t want to let them go. So she gave them to me to play with.
I grabbed the Tacky Glue and did this. Now they sit on the Lenore’s bookshelf as reminders of her Mom.
And this one took the longest. My son has been restoring a classic Porsche…for 20 years! It went to college with him. It has lived, in process, at his Dad’s, my house, his house, his grandmother’s house, etc.
One time, he had almost finished it and someone actually crashed into it in the driveway, leaving it virtually totaled.
It’s a matter of principal now. He is determined to complete this endless project.
So to support him (I’m no good with a wrench) I made this. It took me about as long as he’s been working on the car and is made entirely of my grandmother’s glass and shell buttons, and my old Hippie Beads. It is all stitched except for the white background buttons. In an effort to finish in my lifetime, I finally cheated and grabbed that Tacky glue again.
Time…I wouldn’t trade a minute of it!