Yesterday marked this year's autumn solstice, and the day before that we finished combining, making it one full month of harvest for us.
I've been enjoying the return of Light Jacket Season, as my sister calls it, though this week we are back to 30C+ temperatures. I really love autumn -the smells and colours, the end of a long summer of hard work, the promise of walks in the fresh air and cozy evenings in the house. Now that Julie is a bit older and beginning to understand things, I've been trying to create meaningful experiences for her. One book I read, Heaven on Earth by Sharifa Oppenheimer, suggests celebrating seasonal festivals, allowing children to see how they are connected to something bigger than themselves, something continuous and meaningful. So, with this solstice, we've started a little celebration for the changing seasons.
Using a basic grapevine wreath as our starting point, Julie and I created a seasonal centrepiece for our kitchen table. We went on a walk around our yard and collected things that would look nice around a lit candle: rose hips, yellow poplar leaves, and dried sunflowers. We did a short dance outside (mainly because Julie likes to spin in circles) to welcome the new season, and decorated the house with an autumn wreath. For supper that night, we used a cloth tablecloth, and lit the candle in the middle of our centrepiece. It was a simple celebration, but a lot of fun, and definitely handmade.
This past weekend I got to be praised about my artwork, which is something I don't mind one little bit. Every year, I enter five artworks in the open show at our local art gallery -I like to create and it's a good opportunity and all that. They hang your artwork and bring in adjudicators to tell you what you did well and how you can improve. The first couple years I entered some pencil crayon drawings and paintings, but starting up New Leaf has given me a new perspective on making art and I've wandered into the fabric scene. For the open show over Christmas, I entered these wall hangings:
I've always been drawn to layers of texture. I love building up layers with paint or paper and now I've discovered the beauty of working with fabric to create touchable texture. During the summer of 2010 my eyes were drawn to the varying shades of greens on the side of the roads, along with the bright contrasting yellows. So that's how these hangings came to be.
I had about a month's notice for this past open show, so in May I was busily trying to create my five pieces. Thankfully, inspiration was not lacking. Spring brings out a vibrancy of different greens in the pastures around my farm. I wanted to capture the repetition as well as the subtle changes in the hills, grasses and plants. Summer is such a fleeting season in Saskatchewan and the bright greens of June and July are quickly forgotten under the snow. I want to create a reminder of lush and rainy seasons and to expose understated beauty in unexpected places.
I wasn't expecting much from the adjudication on the weekend, because I had been to the art gallery about a month ago and hadn't seen my artworks. I thought maybe they'd disliked them and decided not to hang them. I showed up a little early to my appointment, surprised to see no one else there but the gallery's receptionist. Apparently my artwork was hanging in a different gallery, and of course, this is where the adjudications were taking place. I raced over just in time and was treated with a wonderfully positive talk with the artist-adjudicator. He told me my work is unique and focused, consistent and well-designed, an excellent personal interpretation. I left glowing with delight, which was a nice change from the somewhat cranky state I'd arrived in. I feel like I've found a medium that I love to work with, and it's gratifying to have others appreciate it and encourage me along. Thanks for the inspiration, New Leaf.
Like I mentioned in my last post, I've been absent from New Leaf the past while, but not at all from the making scene. Having the cutest daughter in the world makes me want to give her everything I possible can, and I figure if I make it, it doesn't really count as spoiling her, right?
One of Julie's current interests includes having little people (an odd assortment of creatures from In The Night Garden, Duplo, Smurfs...) to put to bed, feed, make each other kiss, etc. One evening, by the light of the TV, I used some fabric and two-by-four scraps to create a few pieces of furniture to inspire her play. I didn't do any sewing at all (oh! except for the little pillow which I stitched to the bed by hand), which is sometimes a nice switch. The staple gun did all the work I needed -I folded fabric around corners (stuffed a little poly-fil in the bed for a mattress) and stapled it all in place, then attached felt to the bottoms to cover up the fabric edges. I think it took me about an hour from start to finish and the furniture is one of her favourite things these days.
Here are some felt creations I made. The doll (Lola) is from my own brains, just felt pieces cut out, stuffed with poly-fill, and sewed up with the machine. The frog I made from The Cuter Book by Aranzi Aronzo -a gift from my sister. The book is full of (you guessed it) cute little toys to hand sew with felt: chains of monkeys, the alphabet with eyes, stacking turtles, flowered snakes...and ideas of what to do with them (attach them to bags, cards, etc).
The colourful fish shown below, I also made with inspiration from a book: Creative Play for your Toddler. I haven't quite finished the project yet -there are little magnets sewn into the nose of each fish and I need to find a strong magnet to add to the end of a little fishing pole so Julie can go fishing with these little beauties. I really enjoyed this book. I made a felt ball from here a while ago, and more recently, the ribbon wands, the red felt crown and the cape (though I really adapted these last two quite a bit) (modelled below by a giant giraffe). Not only does it give lots of theory and insight into toddler play, it has pages and pages of step-by-step instructions for making imaginative and play-inspiring toys yourself.
Here's the little beauty herself! I hang a lot of laundry outside in the summer -nothing beats that smell of wind and sunshine in your clothes and sheets. A few years ago, my grandma gave me her old clothespin apron; basically it's a pocket that ties around your waist, making it easy to grab clothespins while you are busily hanging clothes. I bought (yet another!) project book last summer -One Yard Wonders. Flipping through it again recently, I noticed a pattern for a clothespin apron. Since Julie loves doing whatever Mommy or Daddy do lately, I knew she'd enjoy having her own version of what I have. I modified the pattern a bit to fit Julie's skinny waist -I love the colourful fabric scraps I used! My own plain canvas apron is truly dowdy in comparison.
Julie loves stealing clothespins from my apron to stuff into her own pocket so she can hand them to me as needed.
That about covers the experiments I've been creating, though I'd like to make her a few more things yet. A doll, maybe, and a sling to carry it around. Oven mitts to wear while she "helps" me cook. And this playtent from 2 little hooligans:
Hopefully some of these projects inspire you to create something for your toddler! I know Julie loves having things that I've spent time making for her ("Mommy made it!").
I got a note from a fellow maker the other day, sharing about a project he and his wife are working on and the whole idea really struck me as interesting and innovative, and thought I'd share!
Harlan and his wife originally created their weebee blocks for their own son; after seeing how much he liked them and how they were awesome for his learning, they made them for other kids, who also loved them.
I love the simple and attractive designs on these blocks -I know my own daughter would love them and would easily recognize the common pictures.
What I love most about this project is that they are being funded by Kickstarter. According to their website, Kickstarter is " the largest funding platform for creative projects in the world." Regular people like you and me, who have a love of the handmade and want to support the creative process, can pledge money to all sorts of projects: music, film, art, technology, design, food, publishing and more. I love how the project creators keep total control over their work, but also how they can only go ahead if they reach their funding goals. It seems like an awesome way for people without a lot of cash but with great ideas to have a chance to share their creations with the world.
Have a look at Harlan's project, and if you like what you see, you can pledge some money towards the project and helping him and his wife start this exciting new project.
Take a look at the project here.
Throughout school and university, and into my work life as a teacher, I always dreaded deadlines, stressing about getting assignments and lessons completed long before the due date, yet putting things off until the last minute despite the stress that ensued. I would have thought that working for myself would rid the need for deadlines. Over the past year I haven't really bothered with them much, except for occasionally rushing to get some things completed for a big trade show or completing a custom order. However, last month I noticed that there were stacks and stacks of notebooks in various stages of assembly, all strewn across my workspace. After working here and there on these notebooks, I finally decided to set myself a due date for which to complete the half-notebooks that were cluttering my space. I gave myself a week to accomplish this, and found that instead of being sidetracked by Facebook, or thinking up some new idea of something I'd like to create, I would actually work on the notebooks whenever I had a chance, knowing that I had a clear time limit. By Friday, I had completed all I had set out to do and was able to tidy up my workspace and think of which project I wanted to start next. I've given myself a new project for this week, with another Friday deadline. After learning how to make awesome envelopes, I've sort gone overboard and made hundreds. Inspired by the designs, I've been creating matching notecards and putting them into sets with mailing stickers and a self-designed wrap-around label. Friday will hopefully arrive with neat stacks of packaged envelope/notecard/label sets... Now to get off the computer and get to WORK!
Maria & Cecelia
Check here for current promotions, events, & inspiring brainwaves.