Whimsical and Homespun Art Creations with a Little Rural Living Thrown In

Monday, December 26, 2011

How Does The Christmas Cactus Know?

I noticed a solitary bud on my Christmas Cactus a few weeks ago.  Then, I was so busy this past week that it went unobserved sitting on my front room table.  Look at what I found this morning!  It must have been open these last few days welcoming Christmas Eve and Christmas Day... This glorious plant has definitely taught me to slow down or risk missing life's little wonders...

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Stihl Chainsaw Christmas Tree with Matching Skirt

I enjoy my trees and holiday collections at Christmas time.  My son has a tree that holds his train ornament collection, which has now spilled to the floor around the base.  I have my Rankin and Bass Rudolph and mini Shiney Brite tree, along with the main tree that houses my large Shiney Brites and hand made heirlooms.  But oddly enough, my hubby has never had his own theme tree.  Gee Whiz... even the cat has her personal photo ornament on the large tree!  I am happy to announce that this year my hubby finally can admire his own personal tree... *sigh*

Of course, the overall theme had to be Stihl Chainsaws!  He is lucky that I picked up a ceramic mold years ago that had a chainsaw in it.  I poured 12 of them and painted them to resemble an old roll bar version of his beloved brand.  Touching isn't it? LOL ;)   After promising him this tree two years ago, I was determined that this year was to be the year of completion.  Monday marked that goal being met with the creation of the tree skirt in the "oh to familiar" orange, black, and white colors!  

I created the star with foil wrappers saved from holiday mini Reese cups.  They are my hubby's favorite candy along with York Peppermint Patties, which would have worked equally as well --if I would have had some of the outer discards.  Next year though, I will buy and save the foils from the fall themed mini Reese cups.  The fall tones should look more fitting with the colors of the chainsaws.  I think the current little star is darling for this year's tree and will migrate to another display next fall. :)   

I purchased some orange led lights at Halloween, and it works perfectly to enhance the theme and color scheme of the tree!

My hubby smiles when he looks at his addition to the Christmas display.  The tree is 3 1/2 feet tall and works well with the ceramic ornaments.  I hope that my hubby doesn't want to add his collection of saw ornaments next year, because a larger tree would be needed, and I am running out of space! ;)

Friday, December 9, 2011

SBS Challenge ~ Finally Caught Up!

Can you believe it??  I am finally caught up with the group on the Skill Builder Challenge.  Sheesh!  For a minute, I was beginning to wonder if I would get here.  Keep in mind while looking at these, I am a newbie to this art.  Some are not as pretty as others! ;)

Block #12 was posted as "House and Tree".  It was an improv block.  Definitely not one of my favorites.  If I was going to attempt this again, it would be created using a paper piecing method.  (Listen to me throwing out that quilting jargon like an old pro! LOL)

Block # 14 was a "Crazy Quilt" block.  Just when I thought the last one was not my favorite...;)  I was never fond of the idea of a crazy quilt.  After finishing this one and messing around with the specialty stitches on my machine finally, I could see creating this one again and going a little "crazy" with it... using embellishments, different types of materials, and specialty embroidery.  It was interesting  to work with sewing this block on a foundation.  I struggled a little bit with the concept at first.  This block was definitely a learning experience and gave me some future ideas.  It even made me open my mind to possibilities of what could be created using the crazy quilt method.

Block #15 was the "Diamond Dash".  This was part of the paper piecing lessons.  The squares with the triangles were all paper pieced for practice.  I just LOVE paper piecing.  It gives the blocks a clean look.  This block was a pleasure to create.  It was simple yet elegant. :) 

Block #17 was "Starry Night"... Makes me think of Vincent Van Gogh. ;)  This paper piecing was a little more involved.  Isn't this one beautiful?  It is definitely one of my favorites, and not just because of the correlation with a great artist! LOL  The colors work so well together.  The shapes, lines and hidden patterns just make a wonderful overall composition.

Block #18 was the "Circle of Geese" block.  This was the last of the paper piecing series.  Do you suppose the mention of geese put me into a tail spin? LOL  If I was inclined to do this over, I would take away the outside purple piece (turning it fushia)  and change the center four triangles into purple to make a star.  Aaah... live and learn!  Don't know how I messed this up... But hey, there are no mistakes in quilting... Just different points of view and interpretation!  Are you all buying into this? LOL

Block #19, and the most current block, "Orange Windows".   This is the first block in the applique series.   It was my very first attempt at a machine applique, and the first time using a specialty stitch.  I have always loved the feather stitch and happily used it on this block.  "Orange Windows" was so much  fun to do and assembled fast.  It is amazing at how involved the finished block looks for the minor amount of time that went into it.  My hubby really liked this one and "Starry Night".  I thoroughly enjoyed stitching around the appliques, and the design on the back is just as neat and clean as the front.  Applique never interested me in the least  until now.  I think there is a good chance that I am hooked on another technique! :)

Those are all the blocks to date... Whew!   Leah has gone on a trip so it will be another week before a new block is posted.  I feel a little deflated-- ending on such a high note with nothing in the works.  I'll have to go browse through some of the cool quilting blogs and do some dreaming! ;)

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Hunting Season... Primitive Deer Mount!

It is deer hunting season in Northern Illinois.  The weekend brought the echoing sound of shots in the distance, and deer hanging from the branches of local trees.  Although my son loves target shooting, he hasn't gotten involved in hunting deer, yet.  Well... not the four legged kind anyways. ;)

"What inspired this work of creative expression", you ask?  Let me see... A few weeks ago, my hubby had the crew out on a smaller tree removal job.  As they came back and were unloading equipment, I spied my son's friend carrying a piece of wood that he had pulled from the back of the chip truck.  When he was close enough to the window for me to see, I yelled to him that he had a nice deer head.  He smiled and looked back at my son and said, "Your Mom got it!"  It was an amazing natural resemblance to a deer mount.  They set it on the back patio, and I forgot all about it. 

The days that followed brought strange sounds from my son's workshop in the basement.  My hubby found me in my studio area one night and told me that I had to check out what the kid was up to... And this is what I saw.   

Farmer boy has been saving these antlers for the longest time.   I am not really sure how in the world he got them mounted so sturdily on the bust, and the wooden ears are just perfect.   I love it!  It is so primitive and makes me smile.  The barn board plaque allows it to fit in so well with my rustic pieces that I have been collecting.  If I have a separate studio in the near future, this guy is going to be on the wall for sure! :)

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Mini Snowman Gourds ~ Ready for the Holiday!

I have spent the week catching up on a few orders and getting these little mini snowman gourds dressed!   It was fun to make wee little hats and scarves.  They are all now snug and warm in their upcycled cashmere sweater hats and scarves.  Top of the line trimmings for these little dudes! ;)

The first snowman completed stands 8 1/2 inches tall (including his hat).  His soft fuzzy stocking cap and scarf matches the little gingerbread girl's Butter Pecan background perfectly.  His mittens are a lightened version of Olive Moss that complements his earthy tones.   

The smallest of the mini gourd snowmen has the boldest of colors!  This little bundle of winter joy stands 6 1/4 inches tall (including his hat).  A soft repurposed burgundy cashmere sweater hat and scarf complement his Holly Green mittens.   A big statement in a very small package! :)

The tallest of the trio is donned in the softest of winter colors.  He stands 8 1/4 inches tall (including his hat).  Two different recycled cashmere sweaters were used to make his attire:  one in a soft Medium Blue and the other of light Ecru with a Sage Green tint.  To coordinate with his light colored apparel, I made his mittens Medium Brown with Butter Pecan highlights.  This one may not be entirely finished...  As I look at him, the brushes may come back out and give him some snowflakes in the sky around the woolly lamb.  Snowflakes would give a little extra magic to the Christmas scene! :)

These little snowmen were so much fun to work on.  There are about a half a dozen more of their brothers waiting for paint... and quite a few larger ones, too!   These little guys should be making their appearance in my Etsy store sometime this weekend. I'm not sure how many more will get completed for before the Holiday... But, I look forward to adding to my inventory after the first of the year.  Can you believe it?  2012 is not that far away! 

Monday, November 28, 2011

The Farmer's Attic ~ Gift

When I was floating about on the Internet during the Old Fashioned Christmas Craft Show, I signed up for a wonderful calendar giveaway from Lucy at The Farmer's AtticAnd guess what??  I won!!  Look at the splendid photography. *sigh*  And when you peek inside, it only gets better! :)  It looks fantastic  in my kitchen.  Let's face it...  2012 is just around the corner. ;)

I want to thank Lucy for kicking off my Holiday Season with her package of joy.  (The little book added to the reason for the season, too!)  So if you would like to see some of Lucy's wonderful items, click on the blog link above.  Her team Old Farmhouse Gatherings is having a sale on Etsy right now!  You'll find the participating team names in her blog post.   And while your visiting Etsy, type PAFA  or MHA into the search engine to find some more hard working teams merchandise.  Etsy has some terrific sellers and loads of handcrafted merchandise to create a wonderful homespun Christmas. :)

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Making Mini Gourd Snowmen ~ Continued

Tonight my Christmas decorating has been put on hold, and I am working on my mini Snowman gourds.  As you can see, they have their art but are without apparel! ;)  They will be making the trek upstairs to check out the felted wool sweater selection.  There are going to be some tiny hats and scarves to create!  Then, they will be whisked back down to be fitted for their mache bases.  

It has been strange to be work on such little bellies and a fun challenge to find smaller line drawings. With great thanks to Renee Mullins' designs, the tallest gourd received a warm sheep on his belly.   The woolly sheep worked so well on the big gourd that I decided to try it on the tiniest of all my snowmen! :) (It is always a challenge to reuse a pattern, since I do not like to repeat the same colors.)   The little guy stands about 5 1/2 inches tall without his stem.  The sheep reduced to fit his little belly... looks absolutely darling. :)  I am not sure this snowman will get a mache base.  If he does, it will only be for height, since he is a pretty sturdy sitter.  

Sticking with Renee Mullins' designs, I put a wonderful little gingerbread on the middle sized gourd.  Renee's Gingers are so much fun to paint!   They are warm and festive.  This close up composition works so well with the size of the belly.   I can't wait to find a sweater ensemble to coordinate with it! :) 

I am also putting the wire hangers on a few ornaments for my Etsy Store.  My "First Christmas Stocking" sold, and I am listing another green one and created a second one in red.  The lighting in my house is terrible at night, so they will have to wait to be listed until tomorrow.  Hopefully, my mini gourd's will be ready to go for the big shopping weekend! ;)

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Thrifty Find ~ A Spinnable, Liftable, Wonderful Paint Caddy!

I would love to call this item a wonderful gift, but it was more like a necessity.  I love working on art in both graphite and paint.  Although my graphite work had been put on the back burner in order to stock my Etsy store, I have been slowly stealing a few hours here and there this week back at the drafting table.  Well... that's if I could find the table.  It was loaded down with acrylic paints.  Aaaargh!  And worse than that, they have to be taken off the table and some go into craft drawers while others go into a big plastic store bag.   So when a painting project needs to be worked on, I spend most of my time digging out the necessary colors.  Talk about a waste of time! :(  Take it from me... Lack of organization can kill motivation!

This struggle over space has plagued me for about a year.   The problem was always  forgotten about, until the need to do a switch between the two art forms arose.  Then, it would drive me up the wall!  Lucky for me, there was a craft site that had some wooden paint boxes that I stumbled across while looking for tole books.  This set my mind to thinking about my space and storage dilemma.  After quite a bit of searching on the Internet,  I could not find a solution that made me happy and was within my budget.  So with that hopeless feeling in my heart, my last attempt was to search eBay... where this sweet little item presented itself.  Yay!

This rack (which I believe is made by Provo) spins completely around, can be picked up and moved by its handle, and holds 160 bottles of 2 oz. paint!  Yippee! :)  No more bag to trip over on the floor.  No more struggling with heavy bins filled to the top.  No more digging... and all of my paints at my fingertips with colors easily seen!  * insert celestial music here* ;)

So here is my little life saver.  After being a ceramic artist for over 20 years, I have a love for their acrylic lines.  So, on one side is my old comfortable stand by colors.  With the row and a half that they didn't fill, my special acrylic additives had a place to go. :)  What a thrill it was to pull all my paints out and organize them!

Then came my craft paints.  I have grown very fond of many of these colors but dreaded digging through the bag  to find them.  Now look at them?  It makes the colors so easy to view.  Another bonus was getting a good look at my inventory.  There were a few colors that needed to be replaced! 

I was able to do some work on my graphite drawing last night and did NOT need to clean my table.  Got up this morning and worked on my mini gourds... jumped back and forth with my paint brands with a simple spin of the rack.  What can I say?  I am in heaven! :)

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

My New Addition ~ Little Gingerbread Girl from Olde Crow Mercantile

Yes, the squeals of joy that you heard today were coming from a small town in Illinois.  Look what arrived for me in the mail from Olde Crow Mercantile!!  It was my purchase from an online craft show that Wanda aka Olde Crow Mercantile participated in.  Oooow... and look a surprise customer appreciation package! 

How about that tissue paper?  Aren't the crows awesome?!?  I didn't want to ruin the beauty of the packages with their wonderful twine, but I just couldn't wait to see the little Gingerbread girl waiting for me!!

Okay one more moment of suspense! ;)  See this little packet.  It holds the Olde Crow Mercantile business card... turn it over... and look at the paper crows!!  How cool is that?? :)

Drum roll please as I introduce the newest member to the family, this is my molasses sweetened little girl whose name is appropriately been christened Ginger. :)  I wish my blog friends could have a chance to hold this bundle of holiday joy.  She has wee prim arms and legs.  Oddly enough, I was never a dolly girly girl... definitely a tomboy... but I do love prim rag dolls.  She is just  perfect and even has threads in the back to hang her.  Although I would never do that !  There is a vintage child's oak chair with her name on it. :)

See the prim sack next to her with the greens and prim berries?  Wanda sent that along with her, and they will never be apart!  The craftsmanship of these two wonderful pieces makes me so proud to be a customer of the homespun arts (as I old fashionly call it!).  I vow to do my best to purchase as much as I can from these wonderful artisans that I have met at craft shows, in blog land, and on Etsy.  Plus, I just love getting packages in the mail.  Who doesn't? ;)

***Now to show my Christmas giving spirit, I am going to share a coveted secret with my readers.  Do you see that little snow person on my side blog with the double tasselled hat?  Cute as a bug isn't she?  If you click on her picture and leave a comment, you will have a chance at winning her from Olde Crow Mercantile.  Oh how I wish the name drawn will be mine!  But I will not be selfish, so I am letting you know to get your comments in by the 18th of November.  The winner will most certainly be a lucky person! :)  Plus...Yes, there is more.  Olde Crow Mercantile still has her items up for sale here.   So if you would like to do a little online shopping, check out her wonderful items! :) ***

Of course, my nosey Mewbie had to check out the newest girl to the family.  She really was taking a strong liking to the crow tissue paper.  I told her to beat it, or I would send her with return postage to Olde Crow Mercantile! LOL

What?  That ungrateful Cat! LOL ;)

Thursday, November 10, 2011

PAFA Winter Wonderland Giveaway ~ Hand Painted Wooden Christmas Ornaments

The Etsy Team -- Primitive and Folk Artists (PAFA) is hosting a Winter Wonderland Giveaway.  If you are interested at a chance to win some fabulous Christmas decorations, this is the giveaway to enter.  You do not need to be a blogger to participate.  Just leave a comment with your email address!  One lucky participant is going to win ALL the handcrafted items that are available.  CAN YOU BELIEVE IT??  Talk about getting a Christmas present early!  So... what are you waiting for??  Click HERE.  :)

I donated a trio of wooden Christmas ornaments as part of the giveaway.  Here are some of the extras that will be making their way to my Etsy Store.   If one my followers would like to purchase any of these ornaments now, just send me an email for price list. :)   All of these ornaments can be personalized with a name and year if desired!

This snugly snowman  has a place for a photo of your favorite someone.

How about a warm snowman greeting?

And here is something for the teddy bear collectors out there.  This darling little bear is holding a star that can have a special someone's picture placed on the center!

This little bear reminds us all to sing the praises of the season. :)

Anyone celebrating a first Christmas?  This sock will proudly display the photo of the new baby in your household.

I just love gingerbread men... This little guy would look darling displaying a picture of that special little one!

Mini snowman sled anyone? ;)

I have to throw in a recycled piece.  This rolling pin recipe card holder has been decorated with an original design of mine.  It makes looking at those recipe cards a little easier during the holidays! :)

Remember this teddy bear sled?  I will be listing him on my Pumpkin Hollow Flea Market blog for anyone who might want to add him to their Christmas decor. :) 

Thanks to the wintry weather that we received yesterday, we have a light snow on the ground.  My teeth will surely be chattering as I haul some hay to the rabbit hutch this afternoon!  But the fun will come after chores are finished... I get to sit down with my paints and a large cup of hot chocolate... Aaaah!! 

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Vintage Sled with Hand Painted Snowman and Gingerbread House

How about a apple pie from a jar and a nice cup of hot green tea to kick off the morning?  I know... So much for watching my calories, but I will make up for it on the treadmill later. ;)   My quiet morning moment was spent with my mind conjuring up a list of things to do for the day.  Now that I have a few more days of the week open, my work schedule is made up by yours truly.  And let me tell you, my boss is a demanding one! ;) 

First job of the day was to get some photos of my newest creation.  This is a vintage children's sled with a snowman tole painted on it.  The design was inspired by a line drawing from Jamie Mills - Price (another one of my tole favorite artists).   I can't help but alter the drawings a little to fit my personality (the little building was originally a birdhouse), and the fact that I LOVE gingerbread houses! ;)  Plus after years of working with ceramics, I like to put my own eyes on my pieces.  It gives a sense of familiarity to the little being looking back at me. :)

This is one of my smaller sleds measuring 32 1/2 inches tall.  I left as much of the sled original as possible.  The metal and runners are rusty with a little bit of their original red paint.  The painted image is only on the top side of the seat, so the original wood is exposed from the back.  I could see some pine tree bough accents added to this sled, but due to shipping weight and box size, I decided to leave that detail to the new owner.

The image on the sled is approximately 21 inches tall.  I filled every bit of the wood space with the painted scene.  It made it a little challenging with the size of the sled, but it looks sooo cute!

I made a matching coffee stained hand tag for gift giving.  The snowman on the tag was colored with washed out acrylics to give it a watercolor appearance.

A close up of his darling face! :)

I really could have went crazy with the details on this gingerbread house.  They have always fascinated me.  My favorite holiday show is the gingerbread house competitions on the Food Channel.

I really love working on vintage sleds and have made it an option to do custom ones on my Etsy store.  Past customer's have really enjoyed the new life that it gives to their children's old playthings, and it really adds a wonderful touch to their wintry decorations. :)

Now, I am off to put a few coats of varnish on a vintage Santa sled.  There are some new wooden Christmas ornaments that need their photos taken.  Then,  I need to get painting on some little gourds... Better get movin'! :)

Monday, November 7, 2011

SBS Challenge ~ Block #11 Beacon Light & #16 Minnesota

I finished a few more blocks in my attempt to catch up in the Skills Builder Challenge.  The first picture is of block #11 Beacon Light.  It was an interesting block that was composed  of miscellaneous pieces of fabric being sewn together to make the fabric for the star.  So many Seams!!   The middle was taken from the center of a messed up flying geese block. ;)  This block went smoothly - except now, I can see that I could have taken another swipe with the iron before photographing it!! LOL  You'll have to take my word that it does lay flat on the seams. :)

When I was creating the fabric for this star, I didn't take into consideration that there was white in the colored collage pieces.  It made the pattern look funny upon completion.  I thought that I would have a little fun with this learning experience, so I broke out the fabric paints and turned those pieces yellow and green... Just practicing here! ;)  It really bumped up the color and made me wish that there were more places to put green.  The boost of color gave it a kaleidoscope effect that I really like and makes the block look a lot more interesting.    

My second and more subdued block was #16 Minnesota.  I threw in a few calico prints that I had thrifted recently.  And please do not think that I am color blind and partially crazy (maybe just a little!),  these blocks are most definitely not going into a quilt together.  I have thrown color caution out the window for a whole quilt and have decided to concentrate on individual blocks and my skills.  Did I hear you all let out a sigh of relief?? LOL  

So back to the block,  the challenge on this one was to paper piece the center and middle strips.  Paper piecing is a blast!  I really do like freedom of creating  a shape and constructing a precise shape from the lines.  The images could be limitless, the details endless, and hardly any math involved--Yay!! ...  Can you hear the gears in my head just spinning? ;)

I believe that there are only three blocks left to complete to be caught up in the challenge -- one more will added Friday.  Two more weeks to get caught up with the group!! :)

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Recipe for Strawberry Rhubarb Freezer Jam

A few weeks ago, my rhubarb plants finally collapsed to the ground for the year - the frost from the night before did them in.  They have had the longest growing season that I have ever witnessed.  There are bags upon bags of rhubarb cut into chunks and stored in the deep freeze for this winter's desserts. The over abundance of rhubarb lead me to trying out an old freezer jam recipe.  It is simple, quick, and no canning required! ;)

Strawberry Rhubarb Freezer Jam

10 c.            Fresh Rhubarb Chunked
2 c.              White Sugar
1  (20 oz)     Can Crushed Pineapple
1   (6 oz)      Box Strawberry Jello

In a deep pan, combine the Rhubarb, Sugar, and Crushed Pineapple- bring to a boil using medium heat while stirring constantly.  Keep stirring and cooking for another 20 minutes until the Rhubarb is tender.  Remove from heat and add Strawberry Flavored Jello.  Tada...That's it! 

I placed the cooked jam in a big Ziploc plastic tub and set it in the refrigerator overnight.  The next day, I filled 7 half pint Ziploc plastic tubs, placed the lids on, and popped them into the freezer.  The photo below is my little bit that was left over for sampling. 

I must say, I was a little skeptical about this recipe, since I am not a huge fan of pineapple... But this jam was absolutely delicious.  The flavor closely resembled  cranberry sauce.  I absolutely LOVE cranberry sauce but am not a fan of the after taste that taints the taste buds - Not the case with this jam.  I was amazed by the flavor when sampled straight from the tub, and it was even better on toast! :) 

Friday, November 4, 2011

Thrifty Find ?? ~ Rusty Minneapolis Moline Z Antique Tractor ;)

Here it comes... the next Minni Z into the fold.   As you can see by the leaves on the trees, this Minni Moline arrived at our house at the end of September.  I know, I am late on posting this!  But as the guys were working on it last night, it dawned on me that I had forgot to put it up on the blog.  Just to busy trying to do too many things at once and forgetting half of what I am suppose to be doing! ;)

I am waiting to see what will leave out of my backyard to make more room...Hmmmm....

Have no fear, it is suspended with the chain from the wench! ;)  This beauty didn't come home in running order.   The last month has been spent in disassemble mode.  A list has been formulated, and the guys will be leaving on a parts road trip to find out how much it will cost to get this old machine in working order.  

My Farmer boy has decided that he will probably let this one leave the fold.  Depending on the cost of parts, he will either get it running or sell it as is.  Could this be true??  The possibility of actually letting one go???LOL  

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Primitive Painted Sugar Mold for Two Candles with Sheep and Snowman

I have been wanting to work on some primitive designs.  After digging through my storage shelves, I found a few small boxes and opened one up to find a sugar mold that holds two candle cups.  I bought these new from a wood craft supplier.  Definitely not antique... But then, you wouldn't catch me painting on a vintage one either! ;)   I love the option of putting a design on each side.  At first, it almost had a Halloween and Christmas design.  But then, I decided to go with a more prim holiday side and a winter scene.

Don't you just love primitive sheep?  The more loaded down with wool the better! LOL  Earth tones are my favorite color palette, and it suits this woolly guy well.  The side of the sugar mold is 4 3/4 x 6 1/2 inches and this design fills it up nicely. 

The other side of the sugar mold was perfect for this prim snowman.   I made the background subtle so that the snowman stands out well as the central focus.  Aah... Those shimmery nights with the ground covered in a blanket of snow will be arriving in Northern Illinois soon!   Brrrr!!

After all the painting was finished, the corners were roughed up with a sander.  I like the wood showing with the earth tones.  For my first sugar mold, I am very happy with the results and look forward to making more.  This item will be going into my Etsy store later this week, after I get some better pics. :)