Wednesday, April 30, 2008

an April road trip

This past weekend I took my peeps to visit Nana and Papa in Pennsylvania. Since the older two had Friday off and Dad did not, the trip consisted of one mommy and three kids. We had a great trip there and a wonderful weekend. In the photo above, little Nora is helping pot a tree from Nana's garden to take back home with us.
Cara and I attended a baby shower on Saturday. They had the cutest place settings (to left) with the napkins bundled and tied with little pea pods made out of actual leaves and string wire. At this point, everything was going smoothly. I caught myself thinking how it was no big deal to drive seven hours solo with my little darlings.

Then early Sunday morning reality hit (as it often does) with a 2:00am wake up call...approximately 5 hours before I planned to start loading suitcases and children back into the van for the return trip. Brendan came to my room teary-eyed whimpering about how he had thrown up. I thought I must be dreaming. Everyone was healthy and happy when they were tucked into bed only hours earlier. A quick check of his sleeping area confirmed that indeed Brendan was sick...really sick. The rest of the night consisted of me holding Brendan and clutching "the bucket". Precious sleep was eluding the only driver.

The next morning—despite the worried looks from my parents—I packed up the van including premonitory buckets, bags, crackers and bottled water. We made it about 2 miles before Brendan was at it again. I dumped his bucket, cleaned and reloaded the cargo. Drive. Repeat. Drive. Repeat. Drive. Repeat. Then little Nora announced that she too was getting "car sick." I presumed her words were a call for attention...surely she didn't want to be left out of the fun. Unfortunately, Nora WAS getting sick. Minutes later "it" was everywhere with big sister Cara screaming "eeeeeewwwww". Two hours into my seven hour car trip and the puke is flying. I lost count of how many times. We were officially the Barfmobile leaving a little path from PA to OH like Hansel and Gretel, except with "tossed" bread crumbs. Then as we were approaching home base I started feeling it...not sure if it was because of the two red bulls, one diet coke and huge travel mug of coffee that I had been slugging to keep myself awake or from cleaning out too many buckets. Regardless, I never actually got sick and we made it home safely.

The good news is the stomach bug didn't last long and everyone is feeling much better now. We also have a tree to plant...a little piece of life that reminds us of the happy memories we shared over the weekend...not so much about that return van ride.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Night Owl

If you were wondering, here's what you can do with 190 sugar free and regular Red Bull cans, 90 hours of free time, electricity and just a touch of eccentricity.

My piece "Night Owl" has been accepted into the 2008 Houston Red Bull Art of Can exhibition. This is the second time I've done this. "Rooster for Ransom" was part of the AOC Chicago show last November (hmmmm..I might have a thing for birds?!?) The owl stands approximately three feet tall. "Night Owl" is a tribute to artists and the inspiration that we seek. "Inspiration" whether it be in the form of travel, people, music, fine art, nature, books, etc. is represented by the lit can that the owl is holding. An artist "drinks it in". Then inspiration is processed, filtered and something entirely new comes back out that is unique to that individual artist (the owl eyes represent this through their light.) The artistic process is a remarkable one with inspiration being the key in putting out work that is fresh and different.

And speaking of light...I did it. I figured out a way to incorporate this element into my art in a safe way that will not (I promise) burn down Houston. The owl was the perfect vehicle to do this with eyes that entrance and often seem disproportionate to their body. The mystical intelligence that surrounds an owl was inspiration for me. The bedtime books around here consisted of owl story after owl story as I did my preliminary research when beginning to create my own whimsical owl.

Aluminium or metal is a fantastic, versatile medium to work with. Here you can see the different textures that came from the same aluminium cans. I hammered, twisted and bent pieces to form the bark on the tree stump. In contrast, the feathers and claws incorporate pieces that make texture by the way they are cut, bent and layered. Only minor wounds were suffered throughout this process mended by lots of Snoopy band aids and kisses from my three year old.

The Houston Red Bull Art of Can exhibition is taking place this summer from July 11th-25th at the Houston Galleria. I've seen peeks of several pieces that have also been accepted into this show and I can guarantee you it will be nothing short of amazing. Check it out if you get the chance. If you can't see it in person, the pieces are currently being photographed and will be online in the next month or so at

Monday, April 21, 2008

Cheers to Houston

This weekend I was happy to hear that my sculpture made it into the Houston Red Bull Art of Can exhibition taking place this summer from July 11th-25th. So today I'm serving Chambulls (champagne + red bull) to celebrate...clink...we toasted! Tomorrow I'll show you exactly what I've been creating for the past few months..well no, I can't right now...I have a glass in my hand. ; )

Friday, April 18, 2008

Keep the Fire Lit

I wrapped up the three-week collage workshop I've been taking last night. I managed to come out with two finished pieces. "Keep the Fire Lit" (above) is a gift for my aunt for her birthday next week. I used a baby picture from 1949...she was 14 months old. For this piece, I applied a combination of techniques from class including sealing the entire canvas with a final layer of beeswax. The beeswax added another layer of interest and played along quite well with my birthday candle theme.

One easy method of transfer that can be used in collage is the tape transfer method. This is something that I'm sure I played around with as a child—sticking tape to things...peeling the back memory is fuzzy, but there's a glimmer of recognition. I utilized this very simple, inexpensive method for much of the transparent type you see on this piece and "Learning to Fly" from the last post. Here's how:

Tape Transfer Method

1) Tape over the image or words you want to transfer with clear packaging tape or contact paper. Printed images from magazines, books, newspapers, etc. transfer best. I also used ink jet printouts from my computer which transferred, but the effect was more subtle (like the name "Rita" bottom right hand corner). Experiment!

2) Smooth out any air bubbles between the tape and the image with a scrapper.

3) Wet the back of the paper (non-taped side). Begin to lightly scrub the paper away with your fingertips. You may need to add more water and let it soak for a minute or two depending on how heavy the paper you are transferring from is. The print will stick like magic leaving a transparent image on the tape. Tah Dah!

4) Attach the tape transfer with matte medium to your art. Here I transferred a recipe from a vintage cookbook I picked up at a yard sale. I used another recipe from the same cookbook in "Keep the Fire Lit" (upper left hand corner.)

Now I need to do some "transferring" of the 10 patiently-waiting-in-the-driveway mulch bags to my flower beds. Have a great weekend : )

Monday, April 14, 2008

Learning to Fly

I've been taking a collage workshop at a local art gallery for the last few weeks. It's been too long since I've taken any sort of class and it reminds me how much I enjoy doing so. Sure it's tough committing to several week nights out. Design jobs and kid's schedules need to be juggled, my husband needs to be free to be home with the kids and I have to overcome the guilt involved with doing something just for me (actually that's the easy part ; ). Being among other creative people in a forced art-making environment is invaluable. And if I learn even one new technique from the entire workshop I've reached my goal. (BTW goal reached and surpassed!)

The inspiration for the piece above came from the real bird feathers I found in my instructor's box of scraps. One thing led to another. As the piece evolved, so did a metaphor for making the space in my busy life to take this course. You have to give up a little, to gain more. It's how we learn to fly.

My last class is this Thursday night. I'm hoping to pull off one more finished piece which I'll share soon. I'm also making it a priority to squeeze more workshops and retreats into my overbooked calendar. It's so worth it.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

the Official Lunch Survey

Almost every school day my third grader asks if I'll put a note in her lunch box. While I love that she wants a momlunchnote, it's hard for my early morning brain to come up with something original to write...and something that may or may not be shared with a table full of classmates. Usually, I'll write how I hope she's having a good day, studying hard and not causing too much drama. I also might add something that I plan to do while she's at school. Kind of boring stuff to write in lunchnote after lunchnote. Recently, I had this survey brainstorm to get Cara talking back about what was up with her—yes, I am soooooo tricky ; ) . I rolled up my survey (pictured unrolled above) with a fun ribbon and included a colored pencil for her to complete while she munched.

The survey was a huge success. Not only was I providing an interesting "momlunchnote alternative", but (the best part) I was getting some insider information as to what was going on at school that day. I know I'm not the only Mom who hears the "boring...nothing" response when you ask how school was and what happened at school. This idea catches the kid midday and in a fun way providing at least one interesting lunch survey result to talk about after school. I was privy-ed with some informative and funny answers as to to the happenings of Cara's third grade day. Of course I plan to save these past surveys and insert new survey opportunities in future lunches. As soon as the other two can read and write well enough, they'll find surveys too.

As the "additional comments" line above states Cara had a pretty fun time letting me know about her day (I love the exclamatory heart!) And here's a little gift from me to on the survey at top of post, save to your desktop and print out for your kiddos (no mass distribution without my permission please). Let me know how it works at your house. And remember not to tell them that this survey is not all about the lunch!

Friday, April 4, 2008

Spring sprouts

These little lily sprouts represent my present projects that need a bit more water, sun and time to bloom. I've been chugging along with a mix of work that keeps me far from bored and thinking how lucky I am to be able to create—and get paid to do it. Let's not talk about the actual garden. It's a war zone out there with last summer being sooooo not kind. I have many many fatalities to deal with. And there's that family of moles that had a great time partying out front. A stroll across the lawn could lead to a broken ankle and a lawsuit (don't get any ideas.)

Yes, there is much to be dealt with. The sprouts remind me. And so will the 10 bags of mulch coming this weekend from the school sale. For now, I'm both happy and amazed to see life out there in so many different shades of green.