Wednesday, December 22, 2010

A Card For You

I would have loved to send each of you a card this year, but since I didn't, I'll share it here. 

Wishing you all lots of love, rest, and joy in the coming days

Friday, December 17, 2010

Book Trees Tutorial

We've been making a few new holiday decorations to replace the ones we lost, and these are my new favorite—trees made from old books. Here's how to do it:

Start with a paperback book and tear off the cover as well as any paper on the binding. You can make your tree as tall or short as you want, but be sure to keep the bottom of it flat, by not cutting the bottom edge of the book. This way, your tree will stand up and be sturdy. Draw your tree with a marker.

With a craft knife, begin cutting away the pages along the marker line.

You don't need to bear down too hard, just cut away a few at a time, until you have gone through the thickness of the book.

You can color the edges of the tree or leave them white. If you want to add some color, hold the book closed tightly with your hand, and press an ink pad onto the book. Crayon or marker would work just as well. (Do not use paint, as the pages will stick together once the paint is dry)

Now, the fun part—fan all the pages out. This may take a few minutes, and you might have to work on a few places where the pages want to hold together. Use a paper clip to fasten the front and back pages together. (note: There is a chance the binding will crack (as you can see in the photo below, tree in the foreground). If it does, just handle the tree gingerly. Isn't likely to break off all the way)

These are so easy to make, why stop at trees? Snowmen, Santas, and so many other shapes could be made...

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Why I Had An Art Attack

My booth at SoWa
Something didn't feel right. Fidgeting in my bed, I tossed and turned. My breathing was rapid, my toes were twitching, and my belly was churning. I had just returned home from the most successful weekend ever of selling my jewelry. Shoppers showed up in droves, I got to meet lots of sweet customers in person, and hear many kind words about my work. So why did I have such an uneasy feeling?

I finally got out of bed and, without making a conscious decision, grabbed my sketchbook and started drawing. Ideas poured out of me—some were influenced by all the beautiful things I had seen over the weekend, others were my own concepts, born from the renewed motivation I had just gained. In essence, I was having some sort of art attack. A physical reaction to my stirred soul. An actual burst of artistic energy.

I was a vendor at the 7th annual SoWa Holiday Market this weekend. Eighty artists and independent designers, including a good handful of jewelers—every one of them talented, friendly, supportive, and creative. Neither shoppers nor makers could roam the aisles without being tempted and stimulated.

Being counted among so much talent and energy made me humble. I left bursting—with the ideas that swirled madly in my head, with gratitude for the extra income earned, and with a sense of connection to a community of people I can learn so much from.

Here's a shout out to some of my amazing SoWa neighbors:
Gorgeous neck pieces made from vintage ties at Lillian Asterfeld
Adorable felt items and hand spun yarns at Migration Goods
Bold jewelry from Amy Casher
Ceramic and wood creations by Firewood Furniture
Sewn goodness from Fisherman's Daughter

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The Great Christmas Caper

How does a family lose a giant box full of Christmas decorations?
Well, I'm not really sure, but we did.

I don't imagine it's an easy thing to do. I mean, a giant blue rectangular storage bin doesn't just get swept under the rug. All I do know is that it's gone. Our little treasure trove of every Christmas tree decoration we owned, every light, garland, you get the picture...

This leaves us with a tree that looks like this:

And it means have some serious making to do (as if we are not already doing some serious making?)

So we started with some of the classics—popcorn string and paper garland—and the tree is already starting to take shape. I bought some lights, and a kind friend is dropping off some unwanted ornaments tomorrow.

Although I am disappointed by the loss of some very special ornaments—some that the kids made when they were tiny, and others that were brought back from far away places— I am really enjoying the ornament-making frenzy we have begun. Each day when the girls get home from school, we start a new project. Before long, it will look a lot like Christmas again in our home. 

And the mystery of the disappearing bin? I think I figured out. I suspect it was mistakenly carted off by the charity that picks up our donations. That's what I get for being lazy and putting the Christmas bin in the front porch instead of back in the basement where it belongs. humph. 

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Yay! A Giveaway!

AND THE WINNER IS...Erin, at Tiny Twist Creative. Yay!

First things first: I'm having a sale. Take 15% off everything in my shop through December 10th. Just use coupon code EDEC10 at checkout.

Now to the giveaway: I'm offering up a feather bookmark to one lucky winner!

sterling silver feather bookmark

To enter to win, just leave a comment here. For more chances to win, you can "like" AG Ambroult on Facebook, tweet about this giveaway, or mention the giveaway on your blog. (Be sure and stop back here to let me know you've mentioned it in other places) 
I'll announce the winner here on Wednesday, Dec 8th. Good luck! 
Speaking of giveaways, there's a fabulous one going on over at the Rhythm of the Home blog. Click over for a chance to win one of the many incredible offerings. 

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Handmade Holiday Ideas

In the spirit of handmade holidays, I thought I'd share some of the things we have made for our kids over the past few years. Most of them are super easy and quick to make:

Rubber Band Board. It doesn't get an easier—nails, a piece of wood, and a bunch of rubber bands. May I suggest getting a bit more creative than we did, and painting the wood before banging in the nails? Your kids will get all kinds of artsy with this.

The ubiquitous puppet show theater. I made this about four years ago and the girls still play with it. I totally winged this, as I have no sewing abilities whatsoever, and it has still not fallen apart. A tension rod, a couple of dowels, and bunch of fabric. Voila!

Amigurumi Star Wars figures—an easy home run. The crocheted characters went pretty quickly, but this project has the added tasks of sewing the hair and clothes for them. Well worth it.

We have given personalized plate/mug sets to many kids for many occasions. I found a box of plain white plates/mug sets at a thrift store and painted them to the child's preference, but the picture above shows the ones the girls painted themselves. You could gift a set that you have painted especially for someone, or give them some plain tableware and a set of special paint to go with it, as a u-paint-it kit. (note: the paint is non-toxic, permanent, and dishwasher safe.)

How about home-made snuggies for all your kids' favorite stuffed animals? I made these for a birthday gift last year and they were a hit. As an added bonus, you will crack up every time you see them.

Hope you can take a few ideas away from this post. Happy making!

I'll gladly answer any questions you have about any of these projects. Just leave it in the comments. 

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

23 Projects in 32 Days

Seems all I have completed so far is the list. The rest will happen, I suppose, by December 25th. Hmm.

I'm choosing to ignore the fact that it also happens to be the busy season, jewelry-wise. Double hmm.

(deep breaths...)

It's List-it Tuesday

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Artful Stones

When I read GardenMama's blog post announcing an artful stone swap, I believe my response was, "I'm In! I'm In!" She asked us to specify what medium we would be using with our stone and, of course, I said silver. At the time I had no idea what, exactly, I would be doing or how I would be doing it, but the thought of shiny silver wire on rough, muted stone had me giddy (as only a "metals" nerd like myself could be).   

I started with stones we had collected over the summer. Some came from rocky beaches along Boston Harbor, others from the south coast of Cape Cod. 

Because this swap was in memory of a friend of GardenMama's, she asked the participants to include a positive word on each stone. I knew for certain I would be using the word try on some of the stones. Angela at Peach Coglo, had recently written about the word try, and it really struck me. It's so simple and obvious—a challenge or a nudge. Encouragement or belief. A tiny reminder to give it a go.

The words feel,  live, and enjoy decorated the other stones. 

I sent my five stones on their way to my swap partners and waited for mine in return. For the next few days, getting the mail was an exciting endeavor. (It was!) I'll show you the treasures I received in return soon.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Craft Show Hangover

Whew. Another show over and done with. I did the fabulous hand-made artisan show, Craftopia, yesterday and oh, how I love these events. It's like going to a party, that lasts from early in the morning until dinner time, where I see old friends that I only see at these shows. We catch up, share experiences, and commiserate about all things craft.

Look what I saw:

That shirt says, "I went to a craft show and all I got was this lousy, hand dyed, organic, independently designed, hand silk screened t-shirt." Does it get any more clever than that? (awesomeness by HeatherJeanie)

And look what I got:

This delightful stained-glass bunting by Dasken Designs. The best part? We did a trade. Uh, huh that's right.
(The cloudy sky is not doing it justice, but in the sunshine it is spectacular.)

Look what I drooled over:

The whimsical illustrations of SepiaLepus

And look who was my neighbor:

I got to adore the little shirts and plushies by Hilary all day long.

I leave the shows feeling equally inspired and tired. Sometimes I'm frustrated, other times there's a spring in my step. With each show I cross off the list, I breathe a little easier and feel a little lighter—but only until I set my sights to the next one. At this time of year, there's no lag between obligations until mid-December, so it's on to the next one I go!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Nana's Portfolio

The special piece I mentioned in my previous post about handmade books is a portfolio of my grandmother's artwork. When she passed away, we cleaned out her apartment and found her portfolio stashed away in the back of a closet. It was full of pieces she had completed when she studied fashion in art school in the early 1930s.

I was smitten, and touched, and amazed by every one of them. Each piece had visible brush strokes and pencil marks made by the hand of my grandmother. Her name was carefully lettered at the top of each page, and some even had grades scribbled on the bottom—A+, of course. Go Nana! 

These papers were big. They measured 14"x20" so, though I marveled at them for a while, they eventually ended up stashed in a closet once again . Last year I decided these pieces of family history needed to be liberated, and I had the idea to make mini portfolios. I scanned the art (and tiled and scanned some more), and shrunk the images to fit in small books. I made three of them and gave one each to my father, my aunt, and my sister.

I'm kicking myself for not making one for my own family at the time but I will make one someday, so that my girls can flip through and see their great-grandmother's art whenever they please.

Her pictures are glamorous and sleek, with a graphic quality that is so very reflective of that time.

I have always been curious to know what, exactly, the assignments were. Check out this sailor pattern. Looks like a textile pattern to me, and I am tempted to put an order in with Spoonflower. Imagine custom fabric arriving at my doorstep, designed by my very own Nana, some 70 years ago? 
Oh, the possibilities...

Friday, November 5, 2010

Handmade Books

It's interesting, how I came to learn how to make books. I was taking an oil painting class for fun when I found out I was pregnant with my first babe. I withdrew from the class, in a effort to not cause birth defects to the baby-to-be, but the school, not thrilled about giving me a refund for the class, suggested I pick a different class instead. I chose bookmaking because it was the only one that worked with my schedule. To my surprise, I loved every minute of it.

Over the years, my bookmaking phases have come and gone, but whenever I do get up the gumption to make a few, they are always for giving. They make such great gifts because they are easily customized to the age/gender/preferences of the recipient. This year, I am making a bunch of small sketch books for the kids on my holiday list (like the green and brown book). There may be a few for the grownups, too, because I love that floral paper and have the urge to use it. It makes me think of Florence, though I have never been there.

Last year, I made a few as gifts (pictured below). One was bound full of musical notation paper for "A," the other is a very precious portfolio of artwork worth sharing in its own post (coming soon)

I had originally planned on doing a handmade book tutorial, but after remembering just how many steps are involved, I decided otherwise. Here are a few links for you instead:
Make your own Moleskine-like book
Make your own journal
Bind with a Japanese binding (which is pictured in the books I made)
How to make a sketch book
A great list of resources (books and online) here 

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

List It Tuesday

I've been meaning to do this for a few weeks now, but Tuesdays keep sneaking up on me. Aimee over at Artsyville is hosting a "List It Tuesday," where once a week she's posting a list of...anything, and we're invited to join in.

I guess I was a little grumpy this morning.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Questioning Sanity

It was a jumble of the last two things I do each night before I go to bed—feed the cat, and run the dishwasher. The thoughts in my head must have crossed, because I poured cat food in the dishwasher detergent holder.

Oh, we laughed, shook our heads, and took pictures, but deep down I was a little concerned, and seriously questioning my sanity. That night I posted this as my Facebook status: "Just poured cat food into the dishwasher detergent holder. Aaaaand with that, my multitasking days are over."

Well guess what? You wouldn't believe how many people responded with tales of the funny things they have done. Cereal in the fridge, remote control in the freezer, a soup pot returned to the cabinet with soup still in it, liquid dish soap in the dishwasher (resulting in suds all over the kitchen), and a telephone in the refrigerator—each response made me laugh harder. And feel better about my own senior moment. 

Now I know I'm not alone in my brainless endeavors (whew). Would you join the fun, and tell us some of the silly things you have done? I think a good chuckle is a fine way to start off the week, before our thoughts get all jumbled up again.  

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

He Lost His Ring

Actually, he lost it last spring.

We thought for certain it had fallen into the depths of his piano, during a tuning session. We looked into the bowels of that complicated instrument. No ring.

We thought for sure it was in his workshop, having fallen into a pile of wood shavings after he removed it for tool-gripping comfort. We swept and sifted. No ring.

We figured it must be in our bedroom, dropped down behind the nightstand or his dresser. We searched and rummaged. No ring.

I decided I'd make him a new one, and quick, lest some unknowing lady try to catch his eye, believing him to be single. Still no ring.

Nearly two seasons have passed by sans ring. Next week, we will celebrate 11 years since the first time I put a ring on his finger, and I didn't want our anniversary to sneak by without a replacement. So last night, I finished his new wedding band and slipped it on his finger. Finally, a ring.

"The A Ring" is now listed in my shop.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

How We Live Creatively

Almost exactly seven years ago, we found ourselves with a toddler, another baby on the way, a newly-purchased fixer upper, and very little income. It was time to get creative.

The mounting needs of our house and growing family was a turning point for us. Armed with time and a willingness to learn, we eventually shaped our lives and our home to fit who we are. Without realizing it, creatively solving everyday problems became a way of life for us.

How We Live Creatively As Homeowners:
Over the years, we have worn many hats. "A" has learned the ins and outs of plumbing, and become the resident electrician. He taught himself appliance repair, fixing our dryer and dishwasher by taking them apart and observing how they work, then finding the defect. He replaced our roof, completely renovated the kitchen, plastered a few new ceilings, and installed crown molding. (Of course, his trade is carpentry, so he did not walk blindly into many of the home-improvement projects he tackled.) He has also built many pieces of furniture in our house, the majority of which was made from scrap material left over from jobs.

 Me? I learned how to sew roman shades, refinish furniture, and install a thermostat. I became the household painting extraordinaire, furniture rearranger, and declutterer. I managed to repair our quilt, and rigged up a funky shower curtain to help with our weirdly-shaped bathroom situation.

We have made our home into a place that reflects us, not worrying too much how things will effect the resale value someday down the road.

How We Live Creatively As Parents:
We have all become teachers to one another. Informal art lessons as well as silly doodle time are regular occurrences, and art and craft supplies abound. At-home piano lessons give way to intense jam sessions with a recorder. Classical music plays on shuffle between U2, Pink Floyd, and Bob Marley.

There is nothing better than good ol' fashioned outside play, or a couple of crayons and a sketch book. A visit to the library, a walk to the playground, or a quick soccer game usually keep our girls engaged. We have multiple toy boxes full of toys, but they have languished, losing out to rowdy spy games with their neighbor friends. The girls have embraced their inner MacGyvers with their inventions and gadgets, and Daniel Boones, running free and plotting adventures, as kids should.

Our house is full of books—quite possibly, too many. Children's books, grown-up books, glossy picture books, a selection of the classics, and craft books for all ages and skill levels. So many books means there is always one within arms reach, to leaf through, pour over, or get lost in.

How We Live Creatively In General:
There are so many resources and opportunities now, which makes creative living quite easy. Anybody willing and able can learn a DIY method of doing just about any task these days. With the help of  books and online video tutorials, "A" has repaired our cars time and again, and we have even learned to fix our own tools. 

Creativity in the kitchen is something we all have to face at one time or another and, like most of you,  I have pulled-off some epic meals and snacks made from random pantry items. 

A little ingenuity goes a long way. Freecycle and Craigslist  are scoured regularly, and odd needs are fashioned from re purposed items. We barter, and trade services when we can. We search for information online, and call experienced friends for advice (or even better, for help). 

We have failed many times. Fixing the digital camera (friends, please do not attempt this at home) or figuring out where, exactly, the water dripping into our bedroom was coming from were forays we were not successful in. Sometimes we are victorious in our efforts, other times not so much.

We have also gone without, and learned to be grateful for what we do have. After all, it is times like these when living creatively—through creative problem solving—matters most.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Thinking, Feeling...

Thoughts and feelings—sometimes coming at you in rapid-fire fashion, sometimes welling up slowly and eventually crashing down. I suppose it's the variety of ideas and emotions that spices up our days, for better or for worse. Here's a catalog of what's been spinning in my head and heart over the past week.

I am...
Curious, about the unknown story of these vintage chandelier beads from Buenos Aires. Loving their substantial weight and cold, smooth touch. They were sent to me by a friend, who commissioned a few necklaces to be made from them, and kindly offered up the remainder of them for me to play around with. Or as she put it, "get all artsy on their arses."

Relieved, to have found a new home for Han Solo, our very loud rooster. We visited him the other day on the farm, and it turns out he is now King of the Ducks. There were about a half-dozen ducks following him around!

Autumn-ishfor obvious reasons.

Acorn top by "A," crochet acorn pattern here
Concerned (hopeful, helpless), for a classmate of my girls, who was just diagnosed with Leukemia.

Happy, to see the rustic simplicity of this garland by Daisychestnut

Grateful, that even though my husband was recently laid off, I have lots of orders, and can contribute financially to this household.

Proud, of a ring I recently finished, that was unlike any I had ever made.

And you?

Friday, September 24, 2010

Wedding Boxes

Over the past month, "A" and I have been collaborating on a set of boxes for a friend's wedding. These five mahogany boxes are gifts for the groomsmen, each one bearing the recipient's initials.

All of the boxes were cut from a single chunk (that's a technical term) of wood, so if lined up in a row the grain would run from end to end.

Sterling silver wire letters were soldered onto brass and oxidized for an antique feeling. The plaques were then riveted onto the lid with silver tubing. The lids slide off, revealing a burgundy felt-lined bottom.

We also included a surprise gift for the bride and groom—a box with their names and a special spot for each of them to keep their wedding band. 

I love collaborating with "A." (remember the eight box?) We spend so much time in our shops individually, and projects like this find us visiting each other, bouncing ideas around, and keeping each other's eyes on the deadline (something I could always use help with).

Wishing Toni and Drew many years of happiness together!

(It's killing me to have a finished project, and only and old point-and-click camera to shoot it with. Sorry for the less-than-fabulous photos. Camera, come back!)

Monday, September 20, 2010

The Damage

I spent yesterday at an arts market that is typically a great event for me, sales-wise, and a source of income I have grown to depend on. Six hours of chatting with potential customers and a delightful neighboring card maker, I loaded out of the show with exactly $42 in my pocket. 
Result: A long, frustrating day that was made bearable only through good conversation and new friends made
Hourly wage for the day, including set up and break down: $4.60

I pulled out my sewing machine determined to get an early start on holiday gifts, only to find the machine has some serious problems and needed to go to the shop.
Result: In the shop
Price for repair: $50

I finished a good handful of new pieces, set them up for a photo shoot, so I could share these new designs with the world, and get them listed in my shop. But when I tried to take the pictures? "err 99," camera completely out of commission.
Result: In the shop
Price for repair: $210

I have a shipment of materials arriving this afternoon, a white board with a list of enough orders to keep me busy this week, and a two-day arts festival to get ready for next weekend.
Result: In the shop
Spending my days working with my own two hands, making my own hours, and having the flexibility to be there when my kids need me: Priceless.

Until the camera returns, all shiny and like-new, I will be including old photos in my posts, or none at all. Bear with me...

Friday, September 17, 2010

Questions Answered

In the previous post, I invited you to ask any questions you had about me. Today, the answers.

Valarie asked to see more pictures of me, but after pouring over LOTS of family photos, I realized that I am always the photographer, not the subject. As a result, there are very few of me. Of the photos I am in, I'm always wearing sunglasses. I had no idea I wore them so much.

Emily had a few questions:
What is your favorite moment of the day? Easy. Picking the girls up at school. They both run to me as fast as they can and crash into me with a full-force hug. I actually have to brace myself! It seems like they have grown a bit each day, too, which makes me sad/happy/proud/amazed. 
What are your favorite materials to work with? Well, of course, I do love metal. I wish I could work with gold a little more often. It is really an experience to behold. There's something about the ancient-ness (I made up a new word!) of it that makes me feel like I've been let in on a secret thousands of years old. 
I have to add that I love painting as well. Acrylics do for now, but someday when I have the dream studio (ha!) I will paint with oils again. 
How old do you feel? Are you an old soul or a young soul? Hmn. I never thought about this, but I would have to say that it really depends on the day and the people I am surrounded by. I will admit to more and more gray hairs popping up each month, which I am not particularly a fan of. I suppose this serves to remind me that I'm no spring chicken anymore. Or am I? 
What is your favorite book/movie/song? One book? Impossible for me to name just one. I'll mention a few of my all-time favorites, though: East of Eden, The Poisonwood Bible, To Kill a Mockingbird.
I don't think I have a favorite movie, and my favorite song is Blue Sky by the Allman Brothers. I have some very strong, special memories associated with that song and each and every time I heard it, I am transported back to those times and places. 

Nicola asked:
How old were you when you married? I was 25, the old man was 23. Heh. 
What is your schooling background? I went to public school through high school, then attended Colorado State University, where I got a Bachelor of Fine Arts. 
Do you want more kids? Yes, but no. Does that make sense? We have decided our family is complete as it is, but if my heart overtook my brain on this matter, there would be many more little Ambroults.