Wednesday, December 12, 2012

12 Days of Recycled Crafting

You know you haven't blogged in a while when you can't remember your blog's password...  oh well.   Nevertheless I'm back for the season of recycled/upcycled crafting. This time of year it's as if I have a fever of crafting. It wakes me in the night, it distracts me from other tasks, and I seek the company of other afflicted crafters.  I was invited into just such a group last Friday night when Amy Decker had a group of StampinUp hostesses to her home for a lovely party, complete with food, sweets and projects! The first project is modeled here by "WoWo". (Such a willing model!)
It is made from beautiful StampinUp designer paper affixed to a washer. So simple I just had to rush home and make more.

I dug through the tool bin and came up with three washers: one new and two used.  Fine by me. Recycle, Baby!  I cut the circles, inside and out, from pretty paper.  Then I glued the paper onto the washers and sanded off any excess.

  I barely let them dry before I added a coating of my new favorite product: Mod Podge Dimensional Magic. (Seems the fever causes both impulsivity and impatience)  It seals, coats, and leaves a shiny raised surface.  I used it last month to make the scrabble tile necklaces for the library sale.                                                                   

Here's a close-up of the final product, after two coats were applied.  I touched up the edges of the rusty washer with silver marker later.

Stick with me over the next week or so for more feverish recycled crafting. And be sure to leave a post and tell me if you are symptomatic.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Shadows of my childhood reading

This week I was invited to be the featured artist in the "Lunch with an Artist" series at the SpinOff Studio in Hallowell.  My friend Manon Whittlesey, who is on the staff there, asked me to join them for lunch, a brief discussion of my art, and a hands-on workshop of my choice.  I chose to teach them about shadowboxes made from books.  I was inspired by the fun I had in creating this piece for the Treasures from the Library Attic Show 2 years ago.

 Bonus: Manon said they had a source for free cigar boxes that the artists could use for frames.

Preparing for the lunch date, I knew it was the right time to cut into my extra special, water-stained copy of The Snowy Day, by Ezra Jack Keats that I found at the Barn of Opportunity last year. 
 This is a book that I remember so vividly from my childhood.  Flipping through it is intensely evocative for me. Every image brings me back.  It was perfect to use as an example of shadow box illustrations for the artists at SpinOff.

 I found a suitable frame at GoodWill and started cutting and gluing.  I was pleased at the result.  Even had enough paper with the 4 endpages to cover the frame itself.

I added a touch of Olena's glitter glue inside the glass to represent the snow lying off Peter's snow suit.

On to another favorite find. We Were Tired of Living in a House, by Liesel Moak Skorpen.

This is another book from my childhood.  I think I must have fantasized for hours when I was little about joining these characters as they "packed [their] bag with sweaters and socks and scarlet leaves and gold..."

When I approached the shadowbox project for this book, I thought about how I might go beyond the book illustration and create a new place (background) for the children(foreground) to move to when their raft and their tree house and their cave didn't work out.  But where?  The Barn of Opportunity brought me the answer I needed with a 2011 calendar featuring the "Wonders of the World".  The children could now pack up their sweaters and socks and move to...

Machu Picchu, of course!

(Another dismantled shadow frame from GoodWill)

Thank goodness that the children decided that Machu Picchu was a bit drafty and they liked their house best.

Just like I remembered.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Welding at Snow Farm

I just spent an amazing 3Day weekend at a craft school called 
Snow Farm in Williamsburg, Massachusetts. Andy's cousin Karen Totman is the Director there, and I've wanted to visit for a very long time.  I took a welding class taught by Alison Safford. I lucked out- a great teacher and a very inspiring group of 4 fellow students.  A huge "thank you" to my in-laws who just knew that a weekend away to craft, and eat, and craft some more, was a perfect Christmas gift to me. A bonus was that my mom came too.  Creative people, beautiful grounds, great food which I neither cooked nor cleaned up, crafting for 12 hours a day, and hangin' with my mom?... pinch me, I'm dreaming.

I hope these picture capture the essence of it all.

 On the first day I turned this...

into this...

 and on the second day I turned this...


                                                                          into this:

While secretly pretending I was Jennifer Beals, in Flashdance.


Alison, my teacher. She braises, she welds, she torches. She makes art.

while his brother Dave made a horse's head...

Pete, from R.I. made an amazing Dragonfly table

...and a horse's rear!

You'll see and hear more about my recycled iron trellis, because I am adding some old glass bottlenecks before I consider it complete.  Stay tuned for some better pictures of it, too.

Oh.  If you are wondering how I kept cool during the weekend's heat, while welding, you'll have to check out my profile picture on Facebook. 

And if you missed the early 80's, you won't get it at all.  Your loss.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Island of Opportunity?

My family is very blessed.  We were able to have a week away during school vacation to go to a glorious place called Maho Bay on the island of St. John, US Virgin Islands.  Our days were filled with hiking and snorkeling and eating and drinking. Truly paradise. I could write on and on of the joys of Maho Bay Tent Camps, but today I will just tell you about one aspect of their "Trash to Treasures" recycled art program.  I was so excited to discover that they had begun making cement counter tops, as I am dreaming and scheming of doing that myself here at home. 
Dan, a staff-person at Maho, was generous and friendly and tolerant of my taking pictures all week as he made a custom counter top for the art gallery at Maho.  Maybe Dan is Maho's version of David Berry?  He was just as tolerant and friendly. Here he is scraping labels off of blue wine bottles for use in his counter top.

At Maho, they look for ways to use the glass bottles that come from their restaurant.  Recycling on an island is both difficult and costly, so Maho has found ways to reuse their own glass. The counter tops are just the latest product.  The primary use has been in the glass-blowing program. In addition to the recycled bottles that will go into the counter top, Dan is able to use pretty glass cast-offs from the artists in the glass-blowing studio: shapes, canes and other pretty things.

 Here is Ginger, from the Art Gallery, arranging the glass pieces that will become the design in her gallery's counter top.  The blue mold edges are foam and the bottom of the mold is stainless, with lots of wax on top to allow the cement to release when its done.

Dan measures out the glass.
...and mixes it in with Portland Cement and a few other key ingredients that you can find at Fishstone supply.  He uses loose fiberglass fibers and a fiberglass netting to lay in to the mix that offers stability for the final product without excess weight and thickness. There are pounds and pounds of crushed bottles in each piece.

When it's dry and complete, it is amazingly thin and light.
Here is my friend Maria looking at the dried counter before Dan has ground off the extra cement (no pictures of that, as we were off snorkeling when it happened.)

The grinding and buffing exposes all those beautiful glass shapes and colors. 
 The counter was installed at the Gallery the week after we were there.  The folks at Maho blogged about it here.  Please surf around their website to see the other ways that they reuse, recycle and upcycle their waste. See a beautiful sink that Dan made of cement and glass here.

Looking at these other table tops has my mind reeling about the bottles and glass that I might work into my counter tops at home. For now... I'll focus on the sand between my toes and the warmth of Maho.  My last note has got to be a note of thanks to my pal Julie back in Maine who, with her husband Cam, made and installed their own cement counter tops with stones and glass and even trilobites, and got me dreaming about this whole mess.  Here is a shot of Julie's kitchen. You should see her bathrooms! Drooool.
Please comment, friends.  Anyone out there made their own? Care to share your experience?

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Thrifty Fashion Fridays

You'll notice on my right hand sidebar, a new feature called Thrifty Fashion Fridays. It is the brainchild of my friend, Susan Tuttle. Susan and I have been collaborating and inspiring one another for a long time.  She and I bartered when she helped me create my blog's banner (if I remember correctly, I made her a pie?).  Now her love of thrift and fashion come together in this weekly project. Find out more on her blog:  and read her post for Friday, March 9th. I know I will want to participate, and I am hoping that by putting the button here on my blog I will encourage you to participate too. Or at least sneak a peak?  I think I will need to take it up a notch with my thrifted fashions. The XXL down jacket that I pulled from Bin #2 last winter, cinched so elegantly with Bristol's dog leash, paired with Bean boots and topped with my handknit cowl may not be the type of outfit Susan has in mind. Will the riches of the Barn of Opportunity let me build a worthy outfit, complete with accessories?  I'll have fun trying.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Barter Starter and Starter Barter

Maybe it is Dr. Seuss' birthday last Friday that has me in such a rhyming mood.  I simply could not resist the title of my blog post. Here's what it is all about.

I had a lovely shopping experience at Shift the other day and came home with a book of recipes for making my own cleaning supplies.  I want to create a class for the Long Branch School on that topic.  The owner of the store was friendly and helpful and interested in my project.  But the real jolt of joy came at the check out when I read a flyer taped to the counter...Join us for the first annual BARTER FAIR.  Oh, how very, very great.  1st annual? They are hoping to have others? So this would make the first one the barter starter.   Here is the description from the Shift website.

Brunswick Barter Market, Coordinated by Merrymeeting Permaculture and Transition

March 10th, Saturday
Time: 3:00-5:00
Please join us for our new, monthly Brunswick Barter Market swap event! Barter Markets are free and open to all, and anything can be brought to trade: preserved and fresh food, handmade items, seeds and plants, books, tools, your time or skills — whatever it is you’d like to share with others and exchange for things you need or want! Inspired by the Portland Trading Post events facilitated by Portland Maine Permaculture, the guidelines are the same, namely:
  • No cash changes hands
  • Don’t start the swapping until everyone’s there and has a chance to look around at what’s on offer.
  • You can swap with someone or simply “gift” things to each other without taking a return item. Your choice.
  • Make sure you’ve found a home for all your stuff before you leave (or take home what hasn’t been gifted).
  • If you bring a food item with multiple ingredients, please label.
The idea is to create a space that exists outside the cash economy, practice non-monetized exchange, circulate surplus within our community, and have a gosh-darned good time doing it. Even if you think you have nothing to offer, feel free to come and check it out! The more people, the better!  Keep your eyes out for more details on the Merrymeeting Permaculture and Transition Meetup site.

 I really hope to check it out after I close the library on Saturday.  If anyone plans to go, will you comment here?  All that made me think about the most excellent barter of my own a few weeks back.  Teaching rag rug making at the Long Branch School, my students were talking about fabric that they would use to continue weaving  the rugs that they started in the class. 

A student asked if perhaps I would like to barter for some of the fabric scraps that I had. 
"Sure!  What's your currency?"  I asked.  
"Well, do you like bread?"  Heck ya.
"Do you like Sourdough bread?" Indeed I do.  So we met a week later and traded fabric for home baked bread.  We both felt like we got the good end of the deal -  the sign of a good barter.  The kicker?  She added a pint of sourdough starter, which I have wanted to try baking with for a long time. So there it was, the ultimate Starter Barter. 

I'm enjoying trying to bake all sorts of breads with it.  If you might like to experience a bit of heaven on earth, try baking the Sourdough Carrot Cake from King Arthur Flour Cookbook.  I'm off to have a slice right about now.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Plastic with your latte?

A snowy Thursday is keeping me away from the Barn.  Grumble. Time to blog.

Back in December I had it in my head to make stuff out of discarded gift cards.  How many of you received one of these at holiday time? I did!  With no shame, I asked the people at the local Starbucks if they might hold on to the otherwise discarded cards when customers use up their card's balance.  They said "sure", inspired perhaps, by the mini notebook I showed them, made from two cards? This photo shows just a portion of the cards they collected for me in a few short weeks.  That's a lot of plastic.

Say what you want about Starbucks. They save their grounds for me in the springtime for my compost.  And you will agree that they have some great artists who design their cards.

This is my favorite.
Holiday themes abound.

So over Christmas vacation I hauled my newly acquired plastic pretties along with jewelry-making supplies on a visit to our pals in New Hampshire. You remember my young pal Talia from an April post? She is always up for a craft with me.  She jumped right into it, and within an hour she was sportin' some cool Starbucks earrings.

A Google images search, and a Pinterest search showed me oodles of creative folks making stuff from these pieces of plastic. Here are a few of my favorites.

Pick up something called a Pick Punch and make a ton of these beauties for your next jam session.
Bryan Berg, known as the Cardstacker, built a city skyline in celebration of Earth Day, from 22,000 recycled gift cards (although he usually stacks playing cards). 
  If you go to his site you'll see an entire hotel room that he created from hotel key cards.  

 Back to the realm of realistically-try-this-yourself, you might want to try making your own fancy paperclips or bookmarks by following the tutorial at Instructables.  I found them not easy to cut with an x-acto knife and I'm too lazy to get out my Dremel drill right now.
An etsy artist named Kim Baldwin at Lifeaccessories made this nice bracelet out of my favorite Starbucks card.  Swoon.
So, you've read THIS far down in a very long post, and you shall be rewarded.

 In  honor of my 1st Blogiversary, I will make a tiny notebook out of 2 recycled gift cards for each of you who leave me a message here on my blog. No, not on Facebook. No, not via email, but right here on the Barn of Opportunity comment log. Please celebrate the Barn of Opportunity by joining me in my first giveaway. While supplies last... which should be around my 2nd Blogiversary!