Office Work

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Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.  ~Confucius

Seriously, have you gotten your subscription to Uppercase! Magazine, yet?  It’s one of my favorite things to discover in my mailbox!  This graphically rich, whimsical, and all-around cornucopia of all things art-related never fails to make me smile.  I’ve had such a blast responding to their calls for submission.  In issue #18, I was lucky enough to have a piece published in their Handsome Ransom feature. That one was so much fun to create!

This time, the challenge was a call for letterforms and alphabets made with office supplies.  I went out onto my back deck and took some photos of my three vintage staplers in configurations no one had ever imagined before!  The result was unique, and my submission was printed right up-front in the feature.  I love the challenges – they give me an excuse to flex my creative skills.  Thanks Uppercase!

notion004This recent issue is another visual feast. I love the artist profiles, the interesting feature stories, and of course, the snippets of creative and curious things to look at.

#19 cover previewHappy Reading and Happy Working!

Handsome Ransom

More Books, More Crafts, More Miscellaneous

“The universe is made of stories, not of atoms.”
Muriel Rukeyser

One of my favorite magazines is UPPERCASE Magazine, a quarterly publication printed in Calgary.  I had the opportunity to meet editor / publisher / designer, Janine Vangool when I attended a conference in St. Paul two  years ago.  I fell in love with the eclectic mix of articles and photography, and I wait anxiously for it to arrive in my mailbox each season. It’s such a work of art, that I can’t bear to part with any of my issues, and I can’t imagine it not being on paper.  It just wouldn’t be the same in a digital format.  (There’s the traditionalist in me coming forward!)  Here is a brief description of UPPERCASE from their website:

UPPERCASE publishes books and magazines for the creative and curious: products that spark the imagination and inspire creativity…Our books profile up-and-coming artists or explore emerging trends in design and creativity….A playful exploration of creativity, an affinity for vintage ephemera, and a love of typography are some elements common to many of our publications.”
UPPERCASE-18-COVER-this-one
Last spring, I noticed a “call for participation”  – a challenge if you will- to submit something for their collage-themed issue.  They called it the “Handsome Ransom” project, and they wanted readers to come up with a creation using cut-up words and letters in a “ransom note” style.  I just couldn’t resist trying my hand at something fun like this.  After all, I’ve been a huge fan of collage over the years and have made a few found poems using cut words from magazines.  I’ve always found it very enjoyable, as it combines my love of words with visual creativity. (I also can’t resist a good challenge!)  So, I spent my spring break this year working on my “masterpiece.”  Imagine my surprise when I returned from vacation yesterday to find my issue of UPPERCASE waiting for me.  I eagerly thumbed through it and voila’, there it was, my version of a “Handsome Ransom.”  I used a page from a falling apart novel, and words from a vintage copy of the Saturday Evening Post to spread a message that I hold dear to my heart…  I hope you like it!
 
 
2013-07-22_0758A big thank you to Janine Vangool and UPPERCASE Magazine for printing my creation.  It was a ton of fun to make, and I hope others will enjoy it!  In the meantime, head over to the website at UPPERCASE, and subscribe to this inspiring and visually stimulating publication.  If you appreciate art, words, photography and interesting bits-and-pieces of this-and-that…. if you have an affinity for nostalgia and appreciate traditional ways of doing things… you will love UPPERCASE!
 
 
 

“Inspired Ideas” Spring Issue – It’s Here!

More Books, More Crafts

No winter lasts forever; no spring skips its turn.  ~Hal Borland

covernoshadowI loved working on the spring issue of Amy Powers’ Inspired Ideas.  Once again, I helped edit the articles and wrote several book reviews.  This issue includes several more book reviews for craft titles as well as three amazing fiction titles. This time I chose three novels with a flower “theme.”  All of them are very different, but very good!  Isn’t this the perfect time of year to settle in a sunny window and crack open a good book?bookclub

My favorite non-fiction book review this go-around was a fantastic little book by Lilla Rogers called I Just Like to Make Things.  This book is just a treasure-trove of advice and inspiration for those of us who want to maximize our creativity.  It’s especially for those who want to turn their creative passion into a career.  Pick up a copy soon.  You won’t be disappointed!lillarogersbookHowever, it’s really the crafts that make Amy’s publication so special.  Each unique craft idea is full of cheer and whimsy.  You’ll have a hard time deciding which project to try first!  To be honest, Amy’s bird nests are at the top of my list, as well as the sweet little Easter cloches designed by Ashlee Parkashleecloche2 nests

If you’re in the mood to bust some of the stashes in your craft closet, head on over and check out all of the great ideas in this issue.  It’s quite an amazing deal for so much loveliness!  Be sure to stop back by and let me know if you read one of the recommended books or whip up something special for spring!

Happy crafting and happy reading!

“The Art of Reading” with Mitzi Curi

The Art of Reading

“Our admiration of the antique is not admiration of the old, but of the natural.
-Ralph Waldo Emerson

Today I am so excited to introduce you to a wonderfully creative lady with an eye for all things vintage.  Her blogs showcase an endless array of time-worn treasures that take me back to yesteryear, and her ideas for using found objects in craft projects are simple and delightful! One of my favorite posts of Mitzi’s was a recent one in which she highlighted many of the trends and items that became popular in the 1970’s (a very inspiring decade!) I am a huge fan of antique malls and consignment shops.  When I don’t have time to go shopping in my real life, I can get a little “fix” by visiting Mitzi’s blog. She takes the most wonderful pictures of the best booths in the business!  I’m also anxious to try one of her recent craft projects…. Aren’t these decoupaged plates adorable?

And really, have you ever seen anything so cool and classy?  This amazing necklace is made from vintage wallpaper and can be found at her Etsy shop.  I love it!

Name:  Mitzi Curi

Blogs: www.mitzismiscellany.com  AND www.mitzimadeit.com

Etsy Shop:  www.mitziscollectibles.etsy.com

What creativity do you share with the world:  I’m an antique dealer specializing in affordable wares that can be used to add vintage style to home interiors.  I feel antiques are the ultimate way to “go green” and avoid buying poorly made furniture and home décor from the superstores.  I enjoy crafting with vintage materials and up-cycling pitiful old objects that might otherwise be thrown away.  My passion for my vintage world shines through in every blog post!

  •  Book OR e-reader? Books
  •  Buy OR lend from the library?  Buy
  • Hardcover OR paperback?  No preference.
  • One book at a time OR several?  Several.
  • Skip ahead and read the last page OR be patient and wait?  Be patient.
  • Bookmark or fold over the page corner?  Bookmark.
  • Abandon a bad book OR stick with it no matter what?  Abandon.  Time is precious around here!
  • Laugh OR cry?  Laugh!

How do you acquire the books you read?  Bookstore.

How do you choose the books you read?  Often through a book review in a newspaper or magazine.

Do you have a book that you love so much that you re-read it periodically?            I used to read Gone with the Wind nearly every spring.  I loved the romance of it, plus the historical aspect.

Do you have a childhood favorite?   Starting around third grade, I began reading biographies of famous women such as Amelia Earhart, Eleanor Roosevelt, Helen Keller and Annie Sullivan.  I think these books inspired me because they told of women who overcame hardships and difficulties in their lives to become successful adults.

Who have been your reading role models, mentors, or companions over the years?  My whole family reads a lot, especially my brother, who also writes.  In fact, he is currently writing a book on art pottery that should be published within a year.

Do you have a favorite genre or genres?  I have always loved non-fiction, biographies and autobiographies.  I love learning about how people lived long ago.  It kind of fits with being an antique dealer.

Do you have a favorite author or authors?    Lady Antonia Fraser.  She’s written several books on “royals” that I’ve enjoyed, such as The Six Wives of Henry VIII.

Here are my top ten favorite books of all time:

  • Helen Keller:  A Life by Dorothy Hermann
  • In the Heart of the Sea by Nathaniel Philbrick
  • The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
  • Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
  • The Lady in the Lake by Raymond Chandler
  •  The Six Wives of Henry VIII by Lady Antonia Fraser
  •  Edie by Jean Stein
  • No One Here Gets Out Alive by Jerry Hopkins and Danny Sugarman
  •  The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  •  Bright Lights, Big City by Jay McInerney

How do you fit reading into your busy life?  It’s getting harder and harder the busier I get.  I find myself reading more magazines than books, I’m sorry to say!

Do you have any books that are special keepsakes?   If a book is given to me as a gift, I keep it forever.

Okay, I’ll admit it, I have actually read……. “Vox” by Nicholson Baker.

Reading is important to me because….It keeps your mind sharp, you can acquire new information, and it gives you something to talk about with others.

I love to display my books…. I display some of my older books in an antique “barrister’s bookcase”.

 If I could step into the setting of a book, and experience it first-hand, it would be…The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald.  I love the era, the fashions, the decadence of the roaring twenties!

One of the most memorable characters I can recall is….Scarlet O’Hara, of course!

This is what I remember about learning to read…. I don’t remember learning to read, it seemed to just happen.  I feel bad for kids that struggle so much with reading.  It must be so frustrating!

Thank you Mitzi for sharing your reading “history” with us!

Book Review: “Craft Activism” By Joan Tapper and photography by Gale Zucker

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“We make to provide.  We make to give.  We make to share.  We make because we love.  Making is marketable, it’s “green,” it’s local.  And when the fad passes, we will still be making.  Because making things by hand has never stopped, and it will never disappear.” –Craft Activism (Foreward.)

The increased popularity of handmade is touching all age and economic groups. Young and old… at home and abroad…  People are turning to craft to create beautiful and meaningful items.  For some, it’s a way to express themselves creatively, as well as connect with others.  However, for some, crafting is used to make statements and promote change within their communities.

Craft Activism pays a joyous tribute to this growing movement.  In this fantastic new book, many talented artists reflect on their passions, provide insight in what motivates them, and encourage others to find their creative voice.  Their message seems to be, “Take something you love to make, and let it touch others in a more meaningful way.”

This book will give you ideas, it will provide you with inspiration, and it will challenge you to try something new.  Why not use your talent to think a little more “green”, beautify your community, join a group of like-minded folks, pay tribute to your past or make a statement about what matters to you?

Get a copy of this book to find out a little more about:

  • Knit Bombing (or crochet!) … See an amazing bench-warmer pattern by the Jafagirls!
  • How to connect with the women of our past… After all, aprons and Granny Squares are back and here to stay!
  • Organize a craft night… Make a Bella Brooklyn house-dress (so cute with skinny jeans and boots!)
  • Get excited about helping a cause… and support the The Red Scarf Project.
  • Protect the earth… and make vibrant art from plastic bags.
  • Ravelry!… This is one great online hub of crafty-connectedness!

This is a book that I will be turning to again and again.  It perfectly honors the grassroots movement that has become a crafting revolution.  It provides a generous amount of practical ideas along with a dose of sentimental tribute to those who have paved the “crafty- highway” for us.

Check out the Craft Activism website at: http://www.craftactivism.com/

Book Review: “Decorate” by Holly Becker and Joanna Copestick

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“Your home should tell the story of who you are, and be a collection of what you love brought together under one roof.”  Nate Berkus

Rooms That Tell a Story:

I have always been captivated by design books. Just like going on home tours, or glancing in an open window while driving by, reading books like Decorate lets me peer, if only briefly, into the world, and stories, of others.  Pick up this amazing new book and find yourself transported into some of the most visually interesting and inspiring rooms you have seen in a long while.  Decorate is a visual feast of the kinds of rooms we want to live-in today. The author, Holly Becker, is the creator of the enormously popular design website Decor8.  Gone are the matchy-match furniture groupings from the local furniture store.  Gone are the impersonal, super-modern, sterile rooms that represent “status”.  This book brings to our attention the inspirational designs of those who recognize our need to tell a story with our homes.

Here are  my “Take-Away’s” from the book:

Take-Away #1:  First of all, I love that the rooms look specifically “undecorated” and more amassed over time with meaningful objects.  I am in awe of the current trend toward purposeful mixing of patterns and layering textures.  In one room, a pastel floral watercolor painting hangs next to a mount of deer antlers; which is  flanked by a geometrically patterned, Victorian-inspired sofa; all of which is accompanied by a modern, clean-lined coffee table.  The message is:  There really are no rules!  A quote from the book that communicates this idea:  “Enjoy the hunt—it’s worth waiting for something special… and you’re bound to find other bits along the way.” – Emily Chalmers (inside cover)

Take Away #2:  How liberating it is that you can mix all of the following in a very beautiful and visually interesting room: architectural salvage, flea-market finds, family heirlooms, your daughter’s crayola drawing, high-end pieces mixed with thrift store finds…All of which embrace the patina of objects that have had a story.  “Decorating is an extension of your personal style.  Finding your decorating style depends on knowing what you love at a gut level.” –Carrie McCarthy, author

Take Away #3: From reading this book, I have determined that my style leans toward “Flea Market Style”  I absolutely swoon for things like clocks taken from warehouses, industrial metal shelving units, collections of vases and old advertising signs.  Love, love, love this section of the book!  I also identify with the section: “Eclectic Style.”   It is amazing to me that modern decorating will let you pair your parents’ cast-off lounge chairs (recovered, of course) from 1970 with a funky bohemian wall hanging and your grandmother’s needlepoint pillows.  Toss in some bright shiny metallic vases and anything else you have collected over the years and suddenly you have a room that sparks conversation!  This kind of decorating lets you tell a story and honor your past as well as your present.  Thank you, Holly Becker, for showing us that we can fill our rooms with affordable, sentimental items and that we don’t have to go to an expensive furniture store and buy an entire room at once!

Take Away #4:  If you’re reading this, perhaps you know I’m a huge fan of books.  For reading, for decorating, for crafts…. for everything.  Decorate is filled with pictures of rooms in many different styles, but something I notice is that most of the rooms contain BOOKS. On tables, piled high, stuffed on shelves… The message is clear, books are the staple that completes a room’s story!   On page 97,  I am inspired by the picture of books…. the combination of colors and the mood it inspires. It says,  “Vintage books with distinctive dust jackets are delightful objects in their own right, whether used for reading, displaying, or as sosurces of inspiration for decorating.”  I couldn’t agree more!

Without a doubt, I have been coveting this book since I got to hear Holly’s keynote at The Creative Connection Event in St. Paul. Her presentation was my favorite of the weekend, and when I returned from Minnesota, I blogged about my favorite quotes of the weekend; one of which was from Holly (You can check out this post here.)  All of her books were sold-out, so I was very disappointed that I couldn’t get a signed copy.  However,  at the end of the weekend, I had the opportunity to meet Holly, and she couldn’t have been more lovely and down-to-earth… just like her book!

My First Article….Thank You Mary Jane!

More Books, More Crafts, More Miscellaneous

There are thousands of thoughts lying within a man that he does not know till he takes up the pen and writes.  ~William Makepeace Thackeray

In addition to reading and crafting, I particularly enjoy writing.  In earning my college degrees, I’ve written more research papers than I can even count.  However, lately I’ve had the urge to “flex” my writing skills and try some new genres.  I was thrilled when the editors at Mary Jane’s Farm asked me to write an article for their January/February issue.  I had the opportunity to interview an accomplished quilter, Jennifer Rodriguez, of All Things Belle.  My article tells her story and encourages readers to try their hand at paper-piece quilting.  I hope you will check out her blog as well as her Etsy store and perhaps try one of her quilt cards.  They are a miniature work of art and a little package love that anyone would be honored to receive. The magazine is a lovely mix of organic and green living ideas, crafting, recipes and personal essays.  I didn’t realize that the magazine had hit stores until I saw it on the rack at the grocery store this evening. ( I absolutely adore the cover! Isn’t it gorgeous?)  I can’t describe how thrilling it was to see my article in print, and I hope it is the first of many more writing opportunities to come.

If you’re visiting my blog today as a result of seeing my article in Mary Jane’s Farm, I hope you’ll come back to get a sneak peek of the latest books I’m reading, as well as my latest crafty endeavors.

True Grit – for the creative book club!

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“They tell me you are a man with true grit.”  -Mattie Ross, True Grit

Okay, is your book club like mine, and ready to try something unique, different, and not the typical “chick-lit?”  Look no further than True Grit by Charles Portis. This book has had a surge of popularity since the recent movie was released, but if you didn’t see the movie, and even if you did, this is a book not to be missed.  I can’t stress how thoroughly enjoyable it is!  My initial reaction was that it was easy to read, adventurous, and surprisingly funny.  Mattie Ross has to be one of the spunkiest, well-spoken and utterly fearless heroines in literature.  Another bonus of this book is that it’s relatively “tame” when it comes to content and language, and when you’re done, the feeling is that you’ve read something of a classic filled with good old-fashioned Americana. You would be surprised at how many people read this book when it was published in 1967 and describe it as one of their all-time favorites.  Get your book club to think outside the box and choose this book for its next read.  You will have tons of fun talking about Mattie and her unbelievable sense of justice, as well as Rooster and how completely un-refined, yet compulsively likeable, he is.  If you are a structured book club who follows a more rigid discussion format, there are lots of online discussion lists for this book.  One question to ask each guest:  “When in your life did you have to display, “True Grit?”  If you’re like my book club, you let the talking happen, and enjoy the food!

How do you get creative?

1.  Serve your guests hot coffee and if you can, get some old-fashioned blue enamelware dishes that look like you’re sitting around a campfire.

2.  Recipe ideas:  Grits! Chicken dumplings, cornbread and candied bacon.

3.  Use red bandanas for napkins to further enhance the “western” theme.

4.  The rooster motif can also be used in a creative way, as the main character is named Rooster.  Maybe include a rooster image on an invitation, or on handmade coasters.

5.  Can you find some horse decorations or imagery for decorations?  This would be appropriate, as Mattie and the men ride across the countryside in search of the outlaw Tom Chaney.  I found this one on Etsy (http://www.etsy.com/shop/ManateesToyBox?ref=seller_info)

6.  Spurs and rope figure predominantly in the book.  Use these as charms and/or decorations.

7.  Do you want to send your guests home with a favor?  How about a red bandana tied with rope-like string and filled with individually wrapped taffy, as that is one of the ingredients in Rooster’s pack when they embarked on their mission.  Embellish it with a U.S. Marshall charm. I found this cute little one on amazon.com.

8.  Find some empty whisky bottles and set them on the table filled with wildflowers.

Girl in Translation by Jean Kwok

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“I was born with a talent. Not for dance, or comedy, or anything so delightful.  I’ve always had a knack for school.”   — Kim, Girl in Translation

My book club just finished reading Girl in Translation by Jean Kwok.  In a nutshell, it was a hit. Sometimes we read a book, talk about it for five minutes, and then get sidetracked into other conversation.  However, this book had us talking.  This story of a young girl and her mother coming to the United States from China to seek a better life, is thought-provoking in the irony of what they actually encounter.  I don’t come from a part of the country that encounters many immigrants, nor do we see the kind of poverty that large cities do, so the conditions that this young girl faces are shocking.  So, you probably realize that Kim is not coming to the America she and her mother envision.  They endure hardship beyond measure, and one cannot help but be slightly remorseful for the luxuries we take for granted each day.  However, the story runs its course in a way that makes the reader realize that the American dream still exists for Kim, in that she eventually overcomes the oppression of her youth, takes advantage of the kindness of good people, and uses her natural talents to ultimately shine.  This is a quick read, but it will open your eyes and make you wonder why you ever complain about anything in your comfortable little life.  If you are going to choose this book for your reading group here are some ideas for bringing the book to your group:

1.  Serve hot tea and won-ton soup, both are featured in the novel.

2. Decorate the table with Chinese inspired china, tray and/or linens.

3.  As a favor for your guests, give them a Kuan Yin charm which can be purchased inexpensively from online bead stores.  In the novel, Matt wears this necklace every day. In the Chinese culture and the Buddhist culture, The Kuan Yin is known to bring health and good fortune to anyone who carries it. The novel says, “The Kuan Yin was carved with a multitude of arms, each hand holding a different tool.  People call her the goddess with an infinite number of arms to help all those in need.” (174) However in the end, Matt ends up giving his necklace to Kim as a way to pass this protection on to her.  Or you can use images of the Kuan Yin to make small notecards or  bookmarks for your guests.  (The image of this Kuan Yin is from:  http://store03.prostores.com/servlet/themonkeyking/the-1913/JADE-KWAN-YIN-THOUSAND/Detail)

Perfectly Pumpkin

More Crafts, More Decorating, More Nature, More Treasures

“I would rather sit on a pumpkin, and have it all to myself, than be crowded on a velvet cushion.”   -Henry David Thoreau 

I’ve had a lot of fun lately, enjoying some fruitful thrifting, some bountiful fall blooms in the garden, and some happy crafting for Halloween.  First of all, let me say that two years ago, when I toted home a small Chinese Lantern plant from my farmer’s market, I had no idea that it would spread so eagerly.  I has literally taken over my front flower garden.  So, what’s a crafty girl to do?  Find a way to use them for fun fall decorating, and to make cute decorations to give away! I found this cute idea in the Martha Stewart magazine for turning Chinese Lantern pods into small pumpkin favors.  I’ve also had some exceptional luck at the thrift store lately.  The orange pot in the background is McCoy (I’m kind of a pottery snob!) and the pumpkin is a vintage Haeger planter.  I found these things just hiding among all of the other Halloween “crappity-crap.” (thanks for the term, Dottie Angel, it’s perfect!)  Fall decorating is my favorite, and I only wish the season wasn’t so short.  Right now I’m pressing some leaves for another crafty idea I saw on Martha’s website… I’ll be sure to share the results.