Sunday 30 June 2013

ARC - At Swim 2 Birds

I can't believe it's already the end of June and time for the Artful Reading Club hosted by the highly creative. Darcy. Please click here for more details of this opportunity to catch up on books that you had lying about and always intended to get down off the shelf, and then to create and share art inspired by them and see what other readers and artists have been discovering on their book-shelves. I had planned to read Flan O'Brien's 'At Swim Two Birds' for years and I was expecting to be impressed. Well, it's certainly a clever book, sometimes a funny one, though I'm sure I don't get half the jokes, but it's a book that makes me feel 'locked out'. Some books just draw you in: it might be from page one: you find yourself  believing in the characters and caring passionately about what happens to them. Then there are books where you feel that someone somewhere, possibly many someones are loving this and participating in a party to which you are not invited: you gaze on from the sidelines or from the street outside and you feel very lonely indeed. For me this is 'At Swim Two Birds'. It's beautifully written and it plays cleverly with the idea of the writer as puppet-master, but I found myself longing for characters that I could believe in and empathize with and - although I could admire the writer's wit, skill and imagination - not to mention his erudition - I had to really force myself to read to the end. So many people love this novel I am beginning to wonder if it's something lacking in me that I just couldn't feel totally absorbed by it. I can see its merits, but 'At Swim Two Birds' is not a novel I would wholeheartedly recommend. I wondered desperately how I was going to create anything inspired by a novel that made me feel inadequate. Then I thought about the role of the writer as puppet master and this little piece grew out of that thought.
 O'Brien's novel contains stories within stories; he plays with intertwined plots that sometimes dove-tail into each other and characters that rebel against authors who condemn them to act out plots over which they are supposed not to have any control. I thought about Punch and Judy on the beach when I was a child: poor Judy and the baby always doomed to be whacked by Mr P's stick and Mr Punch having to go through the same routine of whacking everyone in sight. Although it was such a violent show, I loved the colour and the miniature world of the puppets. I had a little pewter Punch, but because he had articulated limbs that made him very floppy and difficult to display, I'd never been sure what to do with him. I decided on painting this hand shrine from Retro Art Gallery with Paper Artsy Fresco paints and turning it into the hand of the writer/puppet-master and a home for my little Punch figure. This was quite a difficult piece to photograph with all the tiny details. Please click on the photos, if you would like to see it the images more clearly.
 He holds Mr Punch's tiny world in the palm of his hand. The die in the tiny hand represent the power the puppet-master has over the lives of his characters, he throws the dice and their fate is set. All the tiny minis are from Retro Cafe Art Gallery.
 'Swim Two Birds' is a place in the novel, where Sweeney, a mad Irish king flutters from tree to tree like a bird. I have played with the idea of two in my piece: two birds, of course, but also two die each showing the number 2; two butterflies and two gems in the palm of the tiny hand.
The cycle of life is represented by the moon on the hand's index finger and a little sun painted inside Mr Punch's mini-house. A Lynne Perrella stamp on shrink plastic with a Glossy Accents glaze represents Judy/female characters in Mr Punch's life.
The female characters, if they can be called that, in this novel are very much sidelined - we hear a little about them, never really from them. Maybe this also affected my enjoyment of this novel. I could see the influence of James Joyce on O'Brien who often parodies Ulysses but regrettably there is no Molly Bloom in this novel! As I read on, I did come to gain pleasure from the language and the sheer quirkiness of it, but I still felt I needed more - perhaps I've come to rely too heavily on empathizing with characters and lost my fascination for the experimental!
I thoroughly enjoyed creating my puppet-master's hand, though. I can display this and remember the thoughts I had as I created it about stories, character and story-tellers. This - and the novel, I suppose - did make me think about what I go to novels for and how much power the writer/creator has over his creation. Ultimately, though, it is the reader's recognition of the world he or she creates that matters. Thank you for stopping by listening to my ramblings and looking at my art. I am now off to explore other reviews and art work, always such a pleasure!

Friday 28 June 2013

Two Tags for Joy!

Darcy has been creating some truly amazing projects at Paper Artsy this week. Click here and prepare to be astounded and inspired! I've loved every one and I just wish I could soar to the heights and meet every single challenge! But with the kitchen makeover there's neither the time nor the space! Never mind, I made some Washi tape, which I'm really pleased with - it's on the right of this journal page!
  And, with all the chaos at home, I decided to spend a couple of hours just enjoying myself and to create a couple of playful tags inspired by the collage, pop-up people from Darcy's journal spread .

I took a handful of Paper Artsy stamped images that I had left over from other projects and some scraps of paper from a Tim Holtz pad of background paper I'd almost used up and stamped some more Paper Artsy Vintage and Lynne Perrella images on these scraps. I had two sheets of cardboard packaging that looked as if it might distress well. I die-cut two tags from this. I had so little time and not much space so I didn't take any step by step pictures, but I simply sponged my card with French Roast , Bora Bora, Butternut and South Pacific. I tore parts of the tags to expose the corrugated under-layer and applied Treasure Gold White Fire to these. I really liked this effect.
 I then stamped with Butternut Fresco and South Pacific, using a script stamp. Using a Tim Holtz die, I made a top and bottom for my tags that gave them the look of an ancient column, as the corrugated card had reminded me of this.
Now for the fun of creating my own characters! This lady's feet are not feet at all - they are part of the background of an Ink and the Dog 'Wings' stamp, but the shapes just said 'feet' to me! Her hand is the tip of a Tim Holtz tattered pine-cone sprig of foliage! I can't tell you the fun I had creating these in my little corner cut off for a bit from Kitchen muddle!

I added gems, gold wings and trim, some details and a sentiment edged with UTEE gold and I felt that my ladies were a couple of ancient deities or mythological creatures!

 Did she hatch from that egg?
 Thanks Darcy, for inspiring such a fun project! And, of course, for giving me lots of inspiration for the future!

Thursday 27 June 2013

Alpha/Dictionary Challenge - Magpie Ballet

It's been a hectic few days in Magpieheaven, as we're having a new kitchen! It's been difficult finding a tiny space to create in all the confusion, but over at the Craft Barn it's the letter 'B' in the Alpha/Dictionary Challenge - click here to find out more - and I just had to participate. It's such fun to create art and think about a word and all its interpretations. This time I am creating an unashamedly self-indulgent journal spread - 'B is for Ballet'! Somehow, being a bit of a magpie myself, my birdie cousins have fluttered into the picture, so maybe it's 'B' for birds too! Anyway, ballerinas and birds seem to float effortlessly and gracefully on air!
Doing this page took me back to my childhood when I was crazy about Ballet and had every Ballet annual and story published, I think! I never had a lesson and I expect I would have been rubbish at it, but I secretly dreamed of being a Prima Ballerina!!! Oh, dear, how girlie! And to relax from all the kitchen chaos I've created a couple of very 'dancey' pages indeed!
Quite a few of my crafting friends have been making their own Washi tape lately, so I created some to go with my pages - Frescos on masking tape with some stencilling and Lynne Perrella stamps on top.
I used a Tim Holtz die-cut, Grunge Paste and Treasure gold to make the costumes on dress-forms on this page, using the die both as a cut-out and as a stencil for the floating background dress-forms.
My secret journal message is in a little pocket and says 'Her feet had wings'. I also used part of Tim Holtz bird-cage die for the hoop on the dress-form in this close-up. The page is a mix of hand-painting using Paper Artsy Frescos, collage using stamped Paper Artsy images and Cafe Retro Art Gallery collage images and TH die-cuts with Grunge Paste and Treasure Gold White Fire for dimension.
I really enjoyed myself, imagining that I was designing costumes for some new Bird Ballet and thinking about how sometimes happiness does give us wings and turn us into the greatest dancers!
If you click on the pictures you can see in a little more detail! Thank you so much for stopping by for my 'B' for Ballet and indulging me. I just felt like I needed to escape for a bit!

Wednesday 26 June 2013

WOYWW - Kitchen Makeover!

Hello Everyone stopping by Magpieheaven, whether it's by chance, or because you're from Julia's WOYWW. If you are puzzled then just click here to discover the best bloghop for linking crafters across continents and creating great friendships. Thanks, Julia, for all you do. Welcome to my kind followers and to Darnell who dropped by last week and joined the little band. It's a great privilege to have you along with the other lovely people who have joined. Happy Birthday to Helen who was my first follower; have a great, creative birthday! Well, things are in chaos right! The ice fairies seem to have our fridge under control and it should be arriving today! Our dear friend, Kevin who is doing the kitchen for us has removed one cupboard and the kitchen now looks like a building site! Here is a picture of the living-room looking not as chaotic as the rest of the nest: I'm hiding in my corner of the table and crafting as best I can between trotting round to the neighbours with the contents of our fridge, which they're kindly taking care of!
Last week so many kind people left all sorts of brilliant comments about storage and alternatives to working in competition with the pepper and salt pots - even using the salt for dying and painting - if you can't beat the condiments, add them to your craft! My favourite idea was from Australia and called Buffet and Hutch! For now I'm going to have to make do with clearing away each day, as there is hardly room to rest a pin anywhere in the house at the moment. My dream is my very own playhouse, a little like Darnell's. I can't use our tiny conservatory, as it's full of kitchen stuff! Anyway, here is my table today! I'm trying not to get out too much stuff, as clearing up today is going be quite a challenge; but I'm going to have to get out my Fresco paints in a minute and then ...!
There's some masking tape because I'm making Washi tape. First Dianne, my magpie cousin made some beautiful tapes and then Darcy over at Paper Artsy made some lovely ones too for the PA Challenge and I have to give it a go! I'm been working on a little puppet booth, which you can see resting on blank pages in my journal! I may add the toadstool and the playing cards to an assemblage including Mr P. Here is a detail of Mr Punch in his little house.
Next week I hope I shall be able to show you what I did with him! I am determined to craft on, whatever happens in the kitchen; but this makeover is slowing everything down so I'm not sure how far I'll get with anything! I hope I shall be able to see as many work-benches as possible today, as I have come to need my shot of WOYWW! Meanwhile, have a lovely, creative week; thanks so much for stopping by the chaos and look out for green, fairy-crafted fridges, home-made Washi tape (but probably nowhere to store it) and The Adventures of Mr Punch - here next week! Fingers crossed for all those things!

Saturday 22 June 2013

Take Flight with a Magpie!

Over at Country View Crafts, a great online supplier of craft goodies, the theme for their challenge this month is die-cuts and I should like to enter this wooden box. Click here to find out more about the Country View Crafts Challenge. I'd had this Ikea box for years just waiting to be decorated. Why not use it to create storage for my craft papers and collage sheets? I hope it will stimulate my imagination every time I take it down from the shelf! I painted a layer of Paper Artsy Baltic Blue, Crackle Glazed with Paper Artsy Crackle Glaze and then - when it was quite dry - painted over with Bora Bora, Mermaid and Beach-hut, blended. I used Grunge Paste through a Crafters' Workshop Harlequin stencil. The die-cuts on this side are a Spell-binders Frame, tickets, label and inner frame all cut from chipboard and decorated with Grunge Paste, Paper Artsy paints and Treasure Gold, White Fire. I used a variety of techniques with the Grunge Paste: stamping into it with script stamps,squeezing it through gauze and shaping it with a palette knife - generally experimented and enjoyed myself. I stamped the die-cut label with the words 'Take Flight' from a Paper Artsy 'Ink and the Dog' stamp, as I hope this is what my imagination will do when I use my box!
 The embossed, card butterflies are from the same stamp set and I wanted to give the impression of them ready to take flight from my creation. Please click on the photos to see clearer images; the silvery frame  has script stamped into the Grunge.
Here is a close up of one of my images (Paper Artsy, Lynne Perrella) stamped on the die cuts and painted with Frescos. I added Glossy Accents for further dimension
This view of my 'box of delights' shows a variety of die-cuts. A Tim Holtz tag die stamped with a Paper Artsy Mini of a pair of Pierrots; a Spell-binders label with a key-hole cut in the middle with a Tim Holtz tattered pine-cone rose peeping out and a Tim Holtz book-plate with a dictionary definition of the word 'tag' and two die-cuts of baubles that up until now I had only used on Christmas cards (!) stamped with clock-faces with little clock parts and gems added.
Here is a close-up of the back, showing script stamped in Snowflake Fresco paint and the butterflies. The tag is cut from chipboard, painted with Frescos and Treasure Gold White Fire and stamped with Black Archival Ink; it is edged with punched out paper lace painted with Mermaid and Blood Orange.
And here is the detail of the rose and tag label. The rose is die-cut from card painted on one side with Fresco Blood Orange and on the other Mermaid and the petals are tipped with Treasure Gold.

On the other side I used a die-cut frame as a stencil and pushed Grunge Paste through to create a textured frame.
 There are also Paper Artsy die-cut birds with Tim Holtz wings - a combination of two different die-cut birds painted with Frescos, textured with Grunge Paste and accented with Treasure Gold.
I added some Grunge Paste swirls, more butterflies and Grunge Paste harlequin stencils. Below is a detail from the front of the box of a die-cut frame, Grunge-pasted with a harlequin shaped gem at the centre.
Thank you, Country View Crafts for encouraging me to get out those die-cuts and create for myself a box of delights! It was such fun making it! And thank those of you who have stopped by Magpieheaven today. Please call again soon!


Thursday 20 June 2013

Blue Heaven

I really wanted to make a lovely little tag-book like Carol created over at Paper Artsy - click here - this week - I will do too, one day. I've wanted to have a go at making my own books and journals for ages - BUT...Well, time just ran away with me, and I thought I'd have so much now my students are on holiday! I started making some storage for Magpieheaven and that project totally took over. Then I needed to make a little gift for a friend and - wow - Carol came up with a gorgeous canvas for her second project. I found a mini-canvas - just 12cm by 16cm - and easel I had. I wish I could have given mine feet like Carol's (the ones on the canvas - not the ones on the end of Carol's legs, you understand!) but it had to be posted a long way away and it did have its little easel to stand on. My challenge was to make this wonderful idea of Carol's work in miniature. I used Grunge Paste through a stencil to create a raised background. That ledger stencil Carol used is great, but I didn't have time to order it, so used this flower one from Crafters Workshop.
I also painted some Paper Artsy Smoothy card with Frescos in South Pacific, Beach Hut and Vintage Lace, the colours I intended to use on my canvas. When the Grunge Paste was dry I gave it a coat of Concrete as a background. I also made a shrink plastic version of the lady I was going to feature in triplicate on my canvas and coloured her with alcohol inks; glazed her with Glossy Accents and embellished her with a few gems and Treasure Gold edging.

Now this is such a coincidence, my cat Daisy wanted to join in too; she so wanted to be like Carol's moggy! She refused to let me photograph the evidence of her poking her little pink nose in and ran off to beg my son for a second breakfast! Here she is back again and washing her tummy! It's OK she actually didn't manage to use her paws as a paintbrush! I think the sun was shining through raindrops on the window and made this effect of spots everywhere - it really wasn't Daisy getting paint on everything!
Trying to ignore Daisy, I painted my canvas with my chosen Fresco colours: Baltic Blue round the edges, blending with water, as Carol had done into South Pacific and Mermaid. When this was dry I applied some Treasure Gold to the flowers with a tapered paper stump (Carol had used a dried out pen with Gilders' Paste, I think.) I then stuck on my stamped images with Dresden wings and crowns in place of the crackled ones on Carol's. I didn't have die-cut wings small enough to fit such a mini-canvas unfortunately, as I love CG and take any opportunity to use it!
I embossed 'Namaste' in black sparkle embossing powder onto some acetate as a greeting banner across the left-hand corner of the canvas. I also stuck some tiny gems into the centres of the grunge flowers.
I hope my friend isn't taking a look at the Paper Artsy blog, as this will spoil her surprise! But I wanted to post my blog to say 'Thank You' to Carol for the inspiration she has given this week with her lovely projects.

Wednesday 19 June 2013

WOYWW - Everything but the kitchen sink!

Hello and welcome to Magpieheaven on this WOYWW! Thank you to my new followers for joining me. Thank you so much too, Julia, who makes it possible to link up with 'craft-addicts' all over the world. Click here to find out just how much fun it is! Last week I was working on my key plaque for the new kitchen. Some of the lovely visitors to the Magpie's Nest said they would like to see it installed so here we are! We must now invest in some proper key-rings for our spare keys instead of those pieces of string! It's no good pretending they're meant to be the latest in Grunge (see Julia's previous post on the topic of Grunge!) At the moment the key plaque is not residing in the kitchen, but over the mirror in the hall.
This is because there's not much progress on the kitchen yet; we're waiting for a green fridge! These are apparently very rare and created far away in Slovenia - by a magical band of ice fairies who appear only to those who really believe in them (?) Well, it is manufactured in Slovenia and I'm not sure that I believe it's ever going to materialize!
 My table is what you might call busy - or a mess, if you're being frank! Somehow, I seem to have spread my activities right across the living-room! How does that happen? And it all has to be cleared away before tea-time!
Now as far as I'm concerned Magpieheaven is the cosiest place to be but storage is a problem! There are four of us in one rather small nest and , although we are not large, even for magpies, we each seem to accumulate vast hoards of 'stuff'. I have decided something must be done. I can no longer cram everything into the one little cupboard in the living-room, so in the spirit of 'If life gives you lemons...' I'm going to make some storage for my materials that can stand on a unit and - hopefully - looks nice while taking care of my stash! I'm die-cutting lots of chipboard shapes to go on these storage boxes I bought from Ikea ages ago and always planned to decorate. Fresco paints and Grunge Paste seem to work well on them. Watch this space to see how I get on with this project!

Before you start wondering, I don't use pepper and salt in my crafting - they're still on the table from last night! I must move them before I carry on.  And there are my little purple-handled scissors - will I lose them before the day is out? Many, many thanks to all those kind visitors who stopped by Magpieheaven last week. It was wonderful saying 'Hello' to so many interesting people from here, there and everywhere - as well as those who are beginning to feel like old friends. Do hope you can stop by again this week. I'm off now to see what you've been up to! Happy Creating!

Saturday 15 June 2013

WOYWW - Work in Progress!

Hello everyone and welcome to this week's  WOYWW at Magpieheaven! If you want to find out what I'm chatting on about then click HERE. Yes, thanks to Bella, I now know how to link without quoting the whole URL! It's a slow progress for a bird-brain, but I'm learning! Well, this week I'm still in the conservatory (I haven't been imprisoned there all week, you understand) and the house die-cut is progressing. I have decided to stick it to a piece of hardboard and turn it into a plaque for the family to keep their keys on. I plan to drill four holes and attach hooks once it's painted.
Magpieheaven is to have a new kitchen - pause for feathers to flutter in great excitement! In honour of this event, instead of the hooks on the side of the cupboard door, I've decided to get crafting something to match the colour scheme planned for the new heart of the Magpie's Nest! As you may guess it's going to be green with a little gold here and there - well, Magpies must have bling! I plan to crackle the background; you can just see the Little Black Dress and Smoked Paprika for this.
 Here is a close-up of the little book-plate and butterfly embellishment that I'm going to have over on the left of the plaque. So more next time of this work in progress!
And here, resting on the material for our new bedroom curtains - lots of changes planned for Magpieheaven - are the beautiful ATCs I received from my new crafting friends: a gorgeous little envelope and time themed card from Voodoo Vixen aka Annette West; a Lynne Perrella image I adore from Neet aka Anita Hickson; Krisha's lovely vibrant flower; Lunch Lady Jan's really pretty creation; Julia's little bird; Annie aka Wipso's beautiful needle-crafted piece and Kezzy's warmly coloured, beautifully stitched and crocheted card - love them all! As always click on the pictures for more detail Toni Burrows and I have now exchanged addresses and plan to swap too. Thank you so much for dropping by today. I'm off to visit some other desks now - have a great creative day!


Friday 14 June 2013

Red, Text and Embellishment - here goes!

There just weren't enough hours in the day to dream with the Dragons last time, as it was a hectic race to help my students with some last minute revision before their exams! Now I've a little more time so I'm trying out Helen's recipe of Red, Book Pages/Text and Embellishment. If you would like the details of the TIO Dragons Dream challenge just click here. I decided to explore Medieval text for my tag. I love illuminated books so I distressed some old Christmas wrap with illuminations and some Gothic text on it, using Distress Inks, Aged Mahogany and Walnut Stain. These I pasted onto some die-cut page dividers. Here are the bits and pieces in the early stages, which included a Sizzix Tim Holtz tag die painted with Paper Artsy Frescos in Pumpkin Soup, Butternut, Vintage Lace, London Bus and lots of Blood Orange.
I stamped this with a beautiful Paper Artsy, Lynne Perrella medieval lady who  has some text around her too. I painted some of the detail on her with Frescos: Beach Hut and Zesty Zing and stamped some Tudor style text along the top right, using Aged Mahogany; I later added more of this random stamping without a block to create an irregular, aged effect. You can also see a scrap of distressed seam binder coloured with Aged Mahogany; the Tim Holtz sentiment stamp I planned to use and a Tim Holtz tattered pine cone cut from some painted card that I planned to make into my embellishment.

I then edged my tag with some Aged Mahogany. I added the foliage from the TH tattered pine cone, decorated the pine cone rose with some Treasure Gold White Fire and then the fun part - if you're a bit of a pyromaniac ! I singed some grey gauze which I also coloured with Aged Mahogany and some white gauze with embroidered feathers with my heat gun: I was ve-ry careful not to singe my feathers. This is a technique I saw used by Darcy Wilkinson when she guested at Paper Artsy and I've been dying to try it out. These distressed fabrics have been used to trim around the rose and along the edge of the tag. If you click on the images you can see in more detail, but here is a close-up of the singed gauze to show you what I mean.
I embossed a fern in sparkly red and added this Tim Holtz sentiment to my red text illumination tag, along with some tiny punched out leaves, covered in White Fire.

Thank you, Dragons for giving me this opportunity to dream along with you! I missed playing along so much last time. Now I'm off to look at the other lovely tags created in response to this recipe.

Thursday 13 June 2013

Keys in the Magpie's Nest!

This week France Papillon over at Paper Artsy has been inspirational. Please click here to find out more! I was eager to play along with her and to create another entry for the Country View Crafts Die-cuts Challenge - more of that here! As well as providing great challenges Country View Crafts are an excellent source of all kinds of crafting materials online. So here is what I would like to share for these two challenges. I love creating journal pages and canvases; but this time France inspired me to make something that could be used, like her mini chest of drawers or her potion rack. We are to have a new kitchen (hurrah!) so I decided to make a distressed plaque to store our door keys there, using some die-cuts and some of the techniques and materials France had  wowed us with over at Paper Artsy!
I began with a Tim Holtz die-cut of little houses cut from chipboard, which I decorated with some tiny clock parts; painted with Paper Artsy Frescos in Hyde Park and Beach Hut and Hey Pesto and embellished with gems. The lady in the corner is stamped in Archival from a Lynne Perrella plate. I used a little Grunge Paste through a stencil of chicken wire over on the right hand house.
My next element is a book-plate from a Tim Holtz tag die; Grunge Pasted and then painted with Hyde Park and Snowflake and rubbed with Treasure Gold.. The butterfly is some embossed wings from a Paper Artsy plate with an old fairy light as a body and some little gems. The ladies are LP again, coloured with Frescos.
Here is an ordinary little label I decided to add; painted and Treasure Golded (not sure that's a verb, but it ought to be) with a leaf punched out that I then used as a stencil for a single Treasure Gold leaf on the little house die - I like to get the maximum use out  of everything! .
And here are my elements all laid out on a piece of fibre-board for the base. I decided to save those Prima buttons for something else in the end. Next step was to sand down my fibre-board, smoothing and rounding the edges. 
Now the fun begins! I crackle-glazed a thin layer over Little Black Dress and then painted over when dry with Pumpkin Soup. I then applied Grunge Paste through a flower stencil to the corners of my fibre-board and when it was dry brushed it with a selection of Treasure Golds: Spanish Topaz, White Fire and Green Amber! I drilled four holes for my hooks to fit in and fixed some picture hooks to the back and there it was - a key holder to go with my new kitchen! I am so excited that the heart of Magpieheaven will have something made by me in it! Now all that's left are days of disruption, despair and ruffled feathers as we clamber over rubble to cook! But it will all be worth it in the end, won't it?
As always, if you click on the images you can see a little more detail, especially the effect of the Treasure Gold, which - along with Grunge Paste - I now find I can't live without. Thank you France for all the inspiration this week, Thank you Country View Crafts for inspiring me to get out those die-cuts and Thank you for stopping by and looking in the Magpie's Nest today! I should like to enter this for the Paper Artsy Draw and The Country View Crafts Challenge - Die-cuts.