I'm travelling into a new way of working, a new country, a new language, and a new hobby which I'm passionate about. Come with me for some of the journey...

Saturday 30 April 2016

Saying Goodbye...

Hello all.  I'm here with mixed feelings today... It's with a sad heart that I am saying farewell to my fellow team members at Country View Crafts - both the Challenge site and the Projects blog.  Life has simply become too busy and complicated to be able to give the DT work the attention it deserves.

On the other hand, I'm deeply sensible of the privilege and excitement of the work and travel still to come in this adventurous year, so I really can't complain.  If you hop over to the Country View Crafts Projects blog to take a look at my farewell journalling pages, I think you'll get that sense of positive anticipation.

It's been fantastic seeing the amazing projects entered into the challenges each month and, as always, I'm deeply grateful for all your wonderful support and comments both on the CVC blogs and here.  I know I've been pretty absent from Craftyblogland lately, but that doesn't mean I don't read every single one with great pleasure.

You'll see from the sneak peek that there's a favourite film star of mine involved in the pages, and I hope you'll be able to hop over to see the rest, but for today I'll leave her with the last word (and if you want to hear how it should be delivered, it's right here - at the one minute mark if you don't want to watch the whole clip, but I do recommend it!).

"You're Norma Desmond.  You used to be in silent pictures.  You used to be big."
"I am big.  It's the pictures that got small."
From Sunset Boulevard by Billy Wilder and Charles Brackett

Wednesday 27 April 2016

Spring in my Step

There's certainly a spring in my step - I'm making the most of my last week in New York City, walking everywhere, exploring and savouring.  Spring is in full swing in this city, and the bright green leaves and blossoms line the streets as well as filling the parks.  So it's high time for some more springtime inspiration from me for Monika's lovely Spring theme at Country View Challenges.

I made these long ago, before my trip to China, and I think I was still on the "backgrounds" kick from the month before, as that's definitely my favourite thing about these two springtime tags!

In another boost to my not-resolution to make sure I use the hoarded stash crowding my craft space, I've finally inked up the gorgeous floral background stamp from the Dots and Floral set.

While I was at it, I tried it two different ways...

First of all, I did some wrinkle-free distress technique using Distress Paints.  I think there's Antique Linen, Mowed Lawn and Broken China on the mat here.

And here are the scrumptious results of repeated smooshing, spritzing, drying and dabbing.

Then on one I tried to stamp the florals in white pigment ink, but had my usual fail as far as that goes (just never enough coverage for my liking, but I'm always hopeful)...

.... so I quickly grabbed some Vanilla White embossing powder and slung that over the still wet ink.

There's more texture than there would have been with just ink, so I'm happy with that.  The florals stamp is for the "negative space", so my blossoms are revealed with the lovely paints underneath.

Then for the second tag I thought I'd go for a version where the negative space was darker than the blossoms, and preferably sky-coloured.

So I used Archival French Ultramarine, and I think the results are really pretty.  And pretty is fine by me in spring... that's what spring should be!

So there were my backgrounds, and I was really happy with them - and slightly reluctant to cover them up very much.

I dug out a couple of wooden hearts, part of a set picked up in the Christmas sale at The Range...

... and grabbed some deliciously delicate pre-cut spring flowers.

Now this is more hoard-clearing, so I can't be certain any longer where I got them from, but they make me happy!

There are also some lace and torn book page fragments from the stash (somehow, it's not getting any emptier in the craft room though).

And lace and twine toppers too...

And what would springtime be without some butterflies?

I used the Tim Holtz punch to make these, and they're ready to flutter away fearlessly, living in the moment... 

... as recommended by the Small Talk stickers of course!

I hope you like this pair of tags, and that you'll be inspired to come and play along at Country View Challenges.  You've got just a few days left, and we'd love to see your Spring creations.  Happy Crafting all!

It's spring fever.  That is what the name of it is.  And when you've got it, you want - oh, you don't know what it is you do want, but it just fairly makes your heart ache, you want it so!
From Tom Sawyer, Detective by Mark Twain

I'd like to enter these tags in Anything Spring at the Southern Ridge Trading Company
And the Love To Create Challenge Blog is looking for Anything Creative/Mixed Media as usual

Sunday 24 April 2016

Encore - I am...

Encore Posts
Projects which made their first appearances elsewhere for Design Team duties or Guest Designer opportunities, but which only had a sneak peek here, are being gathered together in the pages of my virtual scrapbook while I'm away.  Please don't feel that you have to comment all over again!

Okay, I said we had lots of new things in a row - I'm glad you enjoyed my Trash to Treasure guest spot for Stamps & Stencils, and there is another new project up next - but I decided to squeeze in an extra Encore for fun.  As the page says, "I am..."

Well, "I am..." celebrating my birthday today in New York - and I've had a wonderful time visiting the Brooklyn Botanic Garden where the Cherry Blossoms were just hitting their peak.

There's also a huge collection of lilacs, which have always been my birthday flower, so I was pretty much in heaven - and here are just a couple of quick glimpses for you.

There's just a week left to go in my stay here, so it seemed appropriate to share this page which began its life in New York when I was working here in 2014.  Here's what I wrote when I posted it at the Artistic Stamper Creative Blog in November of that year...

Hello all, Alison (butterfly) here with a journal page for you today.

This one started a while back when I was in New York with only limited supplies.  I got as far as having all the texture in place and a sharp monochromatic look.  But then it got a bit stuck, wondering where to go next.

Then the new Distress Stain Sprays appeared, and suddenly the game was on!  Faded Jeans and Vintage Photo and we're away.  I'll show you some close-ups of my favourite bits as I let you in on the steps I took to get here.

I started with strips of tissue tape across the page and added crackle paste in various areas.

I spread it quite thinly so that the crackle would be very fine.

The large heart was created with a hand-torn stencil shape, through which I first spread texture paste and then added a coat of crackle once that was dry.  I wanted a really thick, dimensional look, and that's what I got.

I embedded the pen nibs before the crackle heart had set, so no need for glue.

This was the point at which things ground to a halt.  However, once I knew there was spraying in the offing I gave the whole thing a wash of Fresco paint in Chalk.  It's part of one of the JOFY Limited Edition sets.  As well as muting the tape, it gives a lovely warm base colour.

In order to really add depth to the crackles of the heart, I splodged Black Soot Distress Stain over it, then wiped it back, leaving it just in the cracks.  Then I let loose with the two chosen Distress Stain Sprays.  It's such a delight finally to have sprays in the Distress colours without having to tip my Distress Stains into spritzers.  Perfectly possible, yes, but fiddly and always with the risk I'd knock the lidless stain over and lose it all!!

I added some of the fabulous Katy Leitch splodges and blots from the Messy Art plate, stamped in Coffee Archival.

And I used the I am... stamp from the Journalling Words #5 set on a Chalk-washed tag also stamped in Coffee Archival.

It wasn't quite popping enough, so I drew around the edges with a PITT pen and used an embossing ink pen to fill in the letters, followed by clear embossing powder to give it a hint of shine.

As you can see, I also used Treasure Gold to add a touch of warmth and glamour.  It also helps to highlight all that texture.

So there you have it.  I am... rather happy with this one.  It pleases me, and I'm looking forward to lots more Distress spritzing!

Thanks so much for stopping by today.  It's always lovely to hear what you think.

I hope you're having a lovely Sunday, whatever you're up to, and I wish you all a wonderful week.  I'm happy to say I should have plenty of spare time to enjoy my last week in New York - many things on my to-do list, and I'm looking forward to them all.  See you soon!

I am happy being what I am.
Paul Theroux

Thursday 21 April 2016

Trash to Industrial Treasure

Hello all!  I hope you had a good time wandering around Central Park with me - the blossom and leaves are even better now, so I'll have to get some more photos at some point.  But now on to a new project...  I'm excited and very honoured to be a guest over at Stamps and Stencils today.  I'm a huge fan of the challenge and the brilliant Design Team there, and I was thrilled when they picked my Flourishing Florals as their Splatter, Spritz and Smoosh winner.

That piece was about as "girly" as I get - full of flowers and flourishes.  It wasn't a conscious decision, but my guest creation for Autumn's wonderful Trash to Treasure theme ended up going in almost completely the opposite direction, with a masculine industrial look.

There are some basic making-of details over at Stamps and Stencils, so I won't bore you with those all over again.  Let me just take you on a quick tour of the Philbric Electric Company.  Oh, and I will let you in on the secrets of the trash which I've turned to (I hope) treasure.

It started with me grabbing some things from my "bound-to-come-in-useful-bits-and-bobs" basket, where I stash old containers and packaging and other bits and bobs which I haven't been able to bring myself to throw out.

On this occasion, I pulled out the lid of a wooden Camembert box and some used lightbulbs.  I laid them onto a 6x6 canvas and let my imagination go wandering.

I figured the cheese lid would make a good frame for a photo, and I quite quickly decided that it would be more fun with the lid the other way up. Plus it gave me lots of fun surfaces to play on.

With the lightbulbs to guide me, I selected one of the Found Relatives who seemed to have good industrial magnate credentials.

He's Jeremiah Philbric, the founder of the Philbric Electric Company - one of those canny individuals who spotted the immense potential of this new source of power, and invested early.

In the early days he was a hands-on industrialist, driving the company forward and working hard to persuade the public that there was no danger in electrification, showing them how their lives would change if they allowed electric light into their houses.  He became an expert in the art of persuasion and advertisement.

Once electricity had become an accepted part of people's lives, the company diversified... the advertisement puffs off the all the gadgets and contraptions you didn't even know you needed!

But the invention which remains at the heart of the transformation wrought by the development of electricity is the lightbulb... casting light and casting out the shadows.

Jeremiah still remembers his first time watching an electric bulb lighting up - and that excitement means he wants to keep up with all the latest developments.  These days he still keeps an eye on activities in his factories and warehouses...

... but most of the work is now left to his loyal and capable staff.  The whole operation works like clockwork.

That's an electrically powered clock, though, obviously, not an old-fashioned key-wound one!

Jeremiah turned his own life around from humble beginnings to become a respected captain of industry... a sort of turning of "trash to treasure", an echo of the challenge theme which kicked the whole thing off.

I had an absolute ball creating this recycled canvas - and my thanks go to Sue and the team at Stamps and Stencils for inviting me along to play this month.

I hope this has added to the inspiration the DT offered up earlier this month.  If you didn't see them, do check out their amazing projects here.  And don't forget if you want to know more about how I made this, you can find that out over at Stamps and Stencils too.

For now, I'll leave you to rummage in your own bits-and-bobs baskets and maybe you'll be turning some trash to treasure soon.  Happy Crafting all!

Electricity is really just organised lightning.
George Carlin

Soon now, the faint tinkling of a broken filament will become another sound of another century.
From Brilliant: The Evolution of Artificial Light by Jane Brox

I'd like to enter this at Mixed Media Mojo, where they're looking for Recycling with a Twist of Metal
And at Mixed Media World the theme is Get in Gear - plenty of gears here!
And for a mixed media hatrick - the Mixed Media Monthly challenge is Dimension, so I'd like to play along there too
Over at Frilly and Funkie they are celebrating Earth Day with a recycling challenge - It's Not Easy Being Green

Tuesday 19 April 2016

Sunday Morning in Central Park

Hello all!  Well, the reason for all these Encore posts lately is that I'm travelling for work again, and I feel so lucky to be back in New York.  We're in the midst of a flurry of new creations at the moment - I hope you caught my Fossil Fish over at PaperArtsy - so I thought I'd throw in some travelling photos while I'm at it too.

I'll fill you in on some of my adventures in Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong at some point when I've got a bit more time, and New York will definitely need some more attention (I know, sorry... how lucky am I?!), but I don't want to become a travelogue, so I'll try to space it out over the next couple of months.

For now, I wanted to share the wonderful time I had rambling around Central Park a couple of Sunday mornings ago (it was the 10th April, but I've not had much time for post-writing).  I had to be at the theatre for midday that day, but it was such a glorious spring morning that I couldn't let it go to waste.

I think I mentioned in my 2014 A View of New York post my huge admiration for the vision and ambition shown by the planners of Manhattan's grid in 1811, when the city population was comparatively tiny, and all living just on the southernmost tip of the island.

But, as the plan was put into practice and their brilliantly-conceived grid started to fill up, they realised they hadn't allowed for enough green space, enough democratic space for all New Yorkers to gather, and so they altered their plans.

Some of the gridblocks intended for buildings would instead be preserved as parkland.

Yes, there were some necessary evictions from the sparsely populated area of city-owned land which they selected for their Central Park... 

... but what a statement of intent to take such a vast area of what could have been hugely profitable business or residential land and turn it into a park, with free entry for all.

And what a park!  With such vistas, and beautifully thought-out landscaping...  On top of the huge earth-moving, the lake-digging, and the planting involved, Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux, whose design won the the 1858 competition, included no fewer than 36 bridges, each one different.

And it's wonderful to be here in springtime too - it's just going to get lovelier over the next couple of weeks...

... though the blossom is already pretty special.  Forgive me, I can't resist a bit of blossom!


There's art in the park too - plenty of it.  I was only there for a couple of hours, so saw only the tiniest portion of the whole park and the sculptural treasures it offers, but I delighted in this wonderful bronze of Alice at the Mad Hatter's Tea Party.

You have to grab your photo quickly if you want the sculpture to take centre stage - people like to sit on those mushrooms to have their photos taken.

As well as art and sculpture, there are formal sports areas, softball pitches and tennis courts, restaurants and cafes, paddling ponds and boating lakes (and a model boat lake, look!) as well as a large reservoir (with a 1.58 mile running track around it), bridle paths for horses, miles of trails to walk, playgrounds for children - not to mention the zoo and the famous horse-drawn coaches seen in so many films and television programmes.

Okay, but a park is a park, so what makes this one so special?  Of course part of the excitement is in the juxtaposition of rural and urban - gleaming steel soaring above the trees in places...

... or when some of the more ornate buildings appear from amongst the tree tops...

... the extraordinary architectural fantasies seeming like fairytale castles hidden in the depths of a vast magical forest.

But it's also about the sheer scale of the place (it is 2.5 miles long, and more than half a mile wide, making a more than six-mile perimeter).  As you can see from these photos, even on a sunny spring morning (okay, it was cold!), you can easily escape the crowds if you want to.

And I think what I find particularly special is the fact that, as well as the obviously landscaped vistas, the manicured lawns and well-kept sports grounds, they also tried to create areas to echo the wild, rugged landscape of Manhattan before the city existed.

It's perfectly possible to get properly lost and find yourself in a rural wilderness, especially in the wonderfully rugged Ramble, where the rocky paths and wild scrubland make it hard to comprehend that you are actually in the middle of one of the busiest cities on earth.

Just look and listen to this little video clip... the centre of New York?  Really?!  (I've not tried uploading a video before, so I hope it works for you.)

The Ramble is also one of the most-visited birdwatching sites in the United States, and I saw some amazing birds - a Northern Cardinal who sat and sang to me for a while (here's my very poor photo of him, but all Tim Holtz fans know what a cardinal looks like!); a startlingly electric blue Blue Jay with flashes of white; some beautiful dark birds whose heads gleamed blue-green in the sunlight (it seems they must have been Common Grackles, but there's nothing common about them in real life, I promise you).

There are lots and lots of these orange-chested American Robins, busy with their springtime courtships.  And there was also what I think was a Bay-breasted Warbler - though there are several yellowish warblers, so it could have been one of the others.   I'm no expert, by the way... I looked them all up afterwards on this fantastic photo database of Central Park Birds.  I can see I shall have to go back to spot some more!

Because they deal with such a lot of people, the birds are mostly pretty unperturbed at the approach of a human, so they'll sit still and stay put so that you can get much closer than you might expect.  The same goes for the squirrels, of course, who - if you so much as chirrup at them - will come over to see if you've any food on offer!

And, for me, probably the biggest draw of all is that there are some simply magnificent trees...

I hope you've enjoyed this tour of just a small part of Central Park.  The weather is being very typically April at the moment, but if we get some more fine days, I will definitely be spending some more time there.  I hope that by the time I come home at the beginning of May the trees will be turning a bit greener - that vivid fresh green of early spring leaves is one of my favourite things in the world.

As I said, there are a couple more new projects on their way here at Words and Pictures, but for now I'll wish you happy crafting and see you soon!

I have all my life been considering distant effects and sacrificing immediate success and applause to that of the future.  In laying out Central Park we determined to think of no result to be realised in less than forty years.
Frederick Law Olmsted (one of the two designers of Central Park)

The great white pear tree dropped with dew from leaves
And blossom, under heavens of happy blue.
From Songs with Preludes by Jean Ingelow