Saturday, May 31, 2008

Tres Libros: Book Reviews for Vintage Indie

Although I've only pictured one cover, here's a link (by clicking the headline above) to a review of three Mexican Hacienda style decorating books in my "Off the Shelf" column for Vintage Indie It's a great blog and Web site, so check out the other posts. Owner Gabreial Wyatt also has a great review of The Ruby Pear tea room in Noblesville, IN.

Friday, May 30, 2008

What Have I Gotten Myself Into?

Here are some pics of pages from myself and other artists and of the collating process of the fat books I volunteered to bind and distribute for two groups: ZNE Artists and Poets and Arte Du Blythe

I talked about the Blythe book here It is progressing nicely. After all of the pages have arrived, the books will be wire bound and within, a full set of pages between handmade covers returned to each participant. So, that's 392 pages to collate plus covers! The final books also include embellishments, beads, yarn, fibers etc for the spine, pages and covers, so it has been quite a project for everyone- not to mention everyone who wished to participate created 28 or more original pages. That was a daunting task in itself. But as you will soon see when the finished book is shown in a future post, it will have been well worth it.

Why is it called a 'fat book'? The books are a chunky four inches by four inches square and each page is very textural. Embellishments to the edges may dangle off, raise up, etc., making the book a three-dimensional piece of amazement.

Even more exciting is the fact that one book will be auctioned off to benefit A Place to Bark, a no-kill animal rescue facility in Tennessee run by the very capable Bernie Berlin, herself a published artist.
I will be taking a class from Bernie in August in California at and plan to ask Bernie to sign the book for the lucky auction winner. Watch for more info right here about that auction.

The ZNE Artists and Poets book is a collection of self-portraits from nine artists, plus handmade covers of Mulberry paper by Laurie Blau-Marshall, Washington, of Living Out Loud; Cathy Minerva of Georgia and also embellishments by Stacey Merrill and Jodi Barone of Vines,, the group moderator. Allison Berringer of and Hope/Harvestorm also created group logos or blog buttons that are featured in the book.

So, as you can see, it was truly a collaborative effort. That explains why I was glad to spend tonight in my kitchen with 535 four inch squares spread all over everywhere during the collating process! I'll probably be seeing them in my sleep.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

And now a word from my other blogs...

Just in case you never tire of reading my ramblings, I thought I'd offer a concise list of my latest postings, since it has been a busy little weekend at the keyboard. I've posted another Blythe-it-Yourself (BIY) tutorial on the ZNE Dollz blog at and I also referenced the reason behind that project on my own doll blog at I also wrote a profile of ZNE member and doll artist David H. Everett, which will be up tomorrow night, May 28, on ZNE Dollz. Check out his work; there will be lots of pictures.

Next, over at ZNE Artists and Poets, where we are just about done with our self-portrait hand-made books, I added the latest collaborative poetry effort at It needs some artwork yet, but that will be coming. Scroll on down for some other wonderful art and collaborative poetry efforts from our members. I nepostically (is that a word? uh oh, spellcheck says no) added a photo of my late mother from the 1940s for one of our mothers' day posts.

Finally, I am back in the swing of the "Off the Shelf" reviews for, having just reviewed three Mexican hacienda style design books. Not sure when the review will be posted, but if you click on "Off the Shelf" in the listing of topics on the left, it will take you to an organized list of all my reviews.

Lastly, but not viewable anywhere (yet), I wrote three pieces dealing with Marie Antoinette this weekend for a MA collaborative some of us from The Faerie Zine preparing and hope to self-publish in soft cover. Watch for details here. Besides artwork that we all have contributed, I wrote an historical piece as well as review of the Sofia Coppola movie and a mini-Marie costume tutorial.

Good thing I type fast and love it. Otherwise, I would have had no weekend left for all the other things, both art and family, that I did. Hope you had a fulfilling long weekend, too.

Monday, May 26, 2008

I Love a Parade

I love a parade. Or a prom. Or the best of both: a promenade. Maybe that explains my fascination with the circus. Or maybe it explains why I like to trot out all my artwork on this here blog in chronological fashion, sort of a daily diary of dids. I think it is also why I like to thrive on chaos to borrow a vintage business term. Unexpected company? Cool! Staying up late to play board games and chat? Great! Cram as much as possible into every day? Is there any other way?
That's why I loved the sparkly T my friend Jen showed up in today. It said something like "Love this day." Okay, I did love the shirt; I just can't remember exactly how it was phrased, but something like Carpe Diem. So, carpe I did, enough to capture a family photo of the Fretzes who came calling: Jen, Andy, Gwenyth and Winnie the dog. Winnie is much less hyper than her puppy days and much less hyper than similar-sized-and-breed neighbors Ellie and Gracie, who would knock me over if I were blocking them from a bone, branch or bug.
Today was the Memorial Day parade- a Leesburg tradition of tractors, fire engines, bikes, veterans in vintage cars, local kids on patriotic bikes, but not a single band nor horse. Wonder if the parade committee has any openings?
Meanwhile, I also packaged up the apron I made for Sharrena of Brighton, England for our vintage apron swap. It is a black and yellow number with ball fringe and a large crocheted flower. I also finished 30 original trading-card-sized prom dresses for the Itty Bitty Book Club vintage prom dress book page swap. I had fun recalling the bohemian things I wore in high school, the peasant dresses, hippy girl stuff, sueded fringe handbags, wood platform shoes, over the knee boots, mini skirts (but of course), bell bottom beat-up jeans, flip flops- I mean haven't styles changed at all in the last 30 years? I guess maybe prom dresses are a little less demure, but other than that, I think I could fit right in. I wonder why my son didn't ask me to be a chaperone? Hmmmpf!

Sunday, May 25, 2008

A Final Word on The Circus

I cannot believe after all my "I Now Love the Circus" rants I forgot to upload my finished circus pages! I made 28 5" x 5" all-original front-and-back pages for The Faerie Zine's Circus Fat Book page swap, hosted by Lisa Kettell It was possibly the fastest 28 pages have ever come together, and I was kind of bummed when they were done-and especially that I ran out of vintage supplies. But, I had just the right amount to do the pages. Some have removeable ringmaster tags; some have vintage tickets and popcorn bags, as you can see. Each one is different and as colorful as possible. I can hardly wait to get this book back, although it will likely be August before I see the finished product.

Marie Antoinette & Art: Birds of a Feather

So this is what I assigned myself this weekend: 1. Go to library and read up on Marie Antoinette. Sometimes it's just fun to look at 'real' books instead of Googling everything. Yes, 'Google' is accepted as a verb. It was added to the world's dictionary, incredibly, a few years ago. Write article. 2. Watch 'Marie Antoinette' DVD. 3. Do 15 original 5 x 5 bird pages for The Faerie Zine, hosted by Lisa Kettell of 4. Complete Blythe costume for Cyndi of for The Blythe Costume Swap, also hosted by Lisa of The Faerie Zine. 5. Finish apron for Sharrena and mail to England. This is for The Vintage Apron Swap.
I have a few more projects and book page sets after this, and if I can just get them done, I'll have my summer free to do whatever art I want, plus enjoy going to my art and Blythe events, like Castle in the Meadow, Michigan Blythe Meet, ZNE Convenzione and Art and Soul Portland, without worrying about deadlines.
Nevermind that two of said books are coming to me to be assembled, punched, bound, embellished, packaged and mailed, to as far away as Canada and Israel to name a couple. The deadline is Tuesday for pages to get to me, so I am hoping my mailbox will be overstuffed Tuesday. Otherwise, it is wait, wait, wait on everyone's part.
As for the costume and apron swaps, I have no idea what possessed me to sign up. I must have been in an art and swapping frenzy, because I don't even sew! Yep, I signed up to sew a costume for a Blythe doll, and all I can do is sew (roughly) by hand. Oh sure, I have a sewing machine. But, it cost $10.95 and was intended for sewing on paper, which I can barely do without making a mess, tangling the thread, breaking a needle, cursing, jamming the machine and quitting.
Fortunately, the art muses smiled upon me, because as it turns out, my costume partner does not even own a Blythe and apparently has no urgent plans to do so. She said she would be happy with a piece of art to display. So the 7" Marie Antoinette costume IS Blythe-sized, but it does not come off the mannequin. It was made with no sewing by me and is assembled with straight pins and other smoke and mirrors. It includes vintage velvet millinery flowers and leaves, a vintage cameo from an earring, lace, brocade, wire and more.
Same story on the apron-no sewing for me. I bought a vintage apron at 'Pieces' in Valparaiso, IN where there were gazillions from which to choose, and then I scored some vintage ball fringe trim and had my favorite repair-shop seamstress sew it on for me. This is not laziness; this is wanting the thing to turn out decently for the recipient.
The bird pages were a lot of fun, and did involve sewing by me. I attached a dozen button eyes and wings with embroidery floss. The birds are from Artgirlz, and I got them and the felt flowers at Art & Soul Hampton earlier this month. For the backgrounds, I pulled out Bernie Berlin's Artist Trading Card Workshop and used her watercolor background technique on paper towels and/or wet wipes: kinda like tie-dyeing without any tying. It was a little messy but fun. Then I found some twigs outside and wired them on under beaded felt flowers. The stamping of the word 'fly' and the stamped backs I did while watching the 'Marie Antoinette' DVD.
Although the DVD cover describes her as "history's favorite villainess," the movie emphasis is surely on the 'favorite' part as she is portrayed sympathetically and fabulously by Kirsten Dunst. The movie is not deep and ends well before the nasty imprisonment part which led, as we all know, to the guillotine.
The movie does touch on her difficult relationship with her young groom, Louis XVI, and her heartbreaks of motherhood. In fact, three of four of Marie's children died before the age of 10. Although one son did outlive her, he died mysteriously at age 10 and only one child, Marie Therese, lived on into adulthood. It was allegedly more than 30 years after her mother's execution that the daughter finally received the letter her mother had written to her from her cell.
It is no wonder the entire story remains intriquing, enchanting and even romantic some 200 years later. Marie was very well documented to have been only 14 when she was married off to the prince (before even meeting him). He was only 15 himself and terribly shy. Marie had to leave everything behind in Austria when she was transported to France for the wedding celebration. Within a few short years, she and her young husband became the country's rulers, and due to a political mess they inherited but knew nothing about, they also became the symbols for excess, tyranny and failed government. And for anyone who doesn't know the end to the story, they were both be-headed in their 30's in 1793.
But, watch the movie if you want to avoid (mostly) the doom and gloom part. The Sofia Coppola film is a tribute to the haute couture of the period, and the eye candy is titillating. It adds to the fairytale side of the story. The jarring rock music from the present doesn't even seem out of place at all, which may be the point. Marie was just a girl, maybe a material girl; but she was born into the royal life, and it didn't turn out so well for her in the end.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Come Here, My Little Pretties

This little collection of treasures found its way into my car and home from a road trip. I would say I have no idea why I bought two turquoise flowered hats, a doorknob, two 1945 children's large picture books, a (not pictured) chicken wire cloche (garden cloche, not hat cloche) and a paper mache doll's head with a very bad hair day. But, I do have an idea. In fact, I have several ideas for these little goodies. For starters, the big hat will get a fish on it. No, not a real fish. Yep, that's me peeking out from under said hat. I'm not much for true self-portraits, and besides, the little hat didn't model as well. The little hat - I'm sure there is a word for a little brooch of a hat - is going to get deconstructed for its millinery flowers and velvet leaves. The doorknob goes on top of a dress form/paper mache bust figure, and the children's books get deconstructed also- for The Faerie Zine's dollhouse fat book. Sounds like a weekend coming up.
And a final thought, why can't life have happy endings like Grey's Anatomy? And how shallow is it to measure one's life against fiction?

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

And Another Cute Baby Contender

Miss Gwenyth Fretz of 10 weeks gives a shout out to the blog world and fellow cute baby Isaac Gwen, daughter of friend Jen (and okay, Andy had something to do with it), models yet another crocheted hat creation by me. I mean who can resist making stuff for cute babies? Gwen's mom has exquisite good taste in many areas, and occasionally we get together and play with our paper crafts, vintage finds, cooking experiments or whatever.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Some New Art & A Little More Circus

Although I have a gazillion specific projects due, from book reviews to hand-made book pages, I just wanted to play last night. Okay, so my idea of playing on Friday night is staying home in the basement and maybe getting pizza delivered. But, it also means getting paint all over and making art. I figured I'd better try some techniques from Art & Soul before I unlearn them. So "Fashion Victim" was created on an 11 x 14 canvas out of acrylic paint, magazine collage, marker and beeswax a la Anne Grgich. The entire canvas is covered with bits of paper before painting and making into something else. Oh yeah, the entire canvas is also covered with glue, lots of glue. That is her technique, in fact, to make an color-washed "ice rink" to move around the papers by mixing coffee with cream and PVA glue. You can use the glue to protect images you want to keep, and then paint or collage over the rest. Then the glue dries clear, and voila! There are your images again.
The 8 x 10 painted canvas is called "Spring in My Soul." I just love bright colors and wanted to try a sponging technique as well as granular gel medium to make the flowering trees. The garden stroller might be me; haven't decided. Her dress is paint, collage, charcoal, gel pen, tissue paper, beeswax and a piece of a vintage earring. I can't explain it. I just like it.
The next art adventure, making circus book pages, had to wait until today. Some more circus ephemera arrived in the mail, including more vintage popcorn bags and tickets- enough to make 28 all-original 5" x 5" book pages for The Faerine Zine's circus book. I took a break in the middle of those to inspect my outside flowers and take some pictures. Have to find a suitable spot for some outdoor prom pictures tonight. Must plan ahead, as 17-year-old boys are not patient.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Circus, Circus, Even More Circus News!

This beautiful, soft-cover, perfect-bound book-magazine is now available from the lovely Imaginator Lisa Kettell at her website and blog or Naturally, I would have to call to your attention the headline at the bottom middle proclaiming my "circus exploration."
Besides my article, you can expect: artwork by Stef Morgante, Donna Howard and The Two Pixies; articles on Rudolph Valentino, The Romance of Paris, Moulin Rouge and Other Follies; the Victorians of Cape May, pirates of the Atlantic, Peeps: A Candy Sensation; Port Fairy, Australia; Southern Belles; Creole Style; Cupcakes: the New Dessert Rage; The Secrets of Marie Antoinette, Part One; Mermaids and Seaside Pageants; and a free China Doll Collage Sheet for your projects. My article was inspired after researching and writing the circus post of May 11, just below this one. If, like me, you didn't get your fill of circus as a child, you'll want to order this zine!
Meanwhile, coincidentally (cue the "Twilight Zone" music if you are old enough), the same day I wrote the post I learned on the 11 p.m. news that the International Circus Hall of Fame had barely escaped severe fire damage.
According to the Web site for Channel 21 WPTA in Fort Wayne, IN., "An historic building in Peru, Indiana was in jeopardy after flames engulfed an adjacent structure. Grant Home Furnishings in Peru caught fire just before 5:30 Saturday evening. The store is located on Broadway downtown next to the historic Circus City Festival Arena. People were evacuated safely from both injuries reported.The north wall of the circus building has sustained some damage. Circus operators are assessing that damage to see if the first performance can go on as planned in July." The news continued to say that volunteers started to rally immediately to repair the circus quarters. Thank goodness!

Saturday, May 10, 2008

My Life Really is A Circus

Never has my blog banner been more appropriate! Although I haven't run off and joined yet, it does seem as if my life has been revolving around the circus lately. The most exciting news, of which I am just a teeny tiny part, is that art friend Lisa Kettel is having her art book, Art Circus, published by Quarry Books (see cover above). It has a real ISBN number 1592534872 and ISBN-13 978-1592534876 and can be found on Amazon! I think she's arrived. Did I mention a piece of my art is in the book? I didn't? Well, I AM IN THE BOOK!
I've been published a few times before: poetry, crochet (editing) and a small piece of artwork in Never Forgotten, published unexpectedly by ZNE, but THIS is the big deal. I was invited by Lisa to be in the book, which was an incredible opportunity, and I created a piece of art specifically for Lisa for the book and as a gift to her. What is it, you ask? You'll just have to BUY THE BOOK!
I did not know at the time the book would be called Art Circus, although coincidentally, Lisa started a handmade/non-published book of original art in her Flickr group, The Faerie Zine, that is also circus-related.
Since I had signed up for that, which entails creating 28 original pages, front and back, 5" x 5", I started looking for circus ephemera. This led me to vendor night at Art & Soul in Hampton, VA recently where I scored some collage sheets, a vintage ad and some old and colorful popcorn bags (shown above).
Today I happened to find in an antique mall a coffee table circus book that I thought I would cut up for collage materials since it was not old or valuable. However, I started reading and was just sucked in, and now I could never cut it up! I had forgotten all about Indiana's colorful history with the circus! The city of Peru (pronounced Pee-roo), about 45 minutes south of my home, has long been known as Circus City USA and is now home to the International Circus Hall of Fame. the authors interviewed descendants of a number of circus families and performers who had their heyday in the late 1800s. I also discovered the book was published by the Indiana Historical Society.
According to the book, at one point Peru, IN boasted three thousand acres for circus winter quarters, five full circuses which together were larger than the Ringling Brothers' enterprise, 500 employees and a calliope manufacturing firm. More than 50 elephants were kept over the winters in Peru as well as other exotic animals. Other fascinating information can be found at the Circus Hall of Fame Web site,
The book also details the evolution of circus travel from foot (known as 'mud shows') to rail (the most successful) and now truck. I also learned there was a large circus company in Rochester, IN, even closer to home. Having been a writer at the local newspaper for several years, I have no idea how I did not know this!
In truth, the circus has never interested me until now. I also shied away from county fairs, amusement parks and the like, viewing them, due to lack of understanding, as dirty and dangerous. Clowns never really interested me as a child, but nor did they frighten me, thank goodness. In fact, I think I found them "creepier" as an adult. That has changed somewhat, after learning of the necessary training and education required to be a true clown that two different business colleagues, Tom Morrical and Pam Griffin, have gone through for their after-hours craft. It is most definitely a skill, with particular protocols.
And so, while I can hardly wait to get my hands on Art Circus, I think I might also be paying a visit to Circus City Days in Peru this year, July 12-19, see for info. Ladies and gentlemen, c'mon down!

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Ike and the Hat Show

This is Isaac Zygmunt Kil, 5-month-old son of my former co-worker and currently the cutest baby on the planet. However, as you can see in the top photo, Ike does not think much of my crocheting and perhaps the ear-flap hat is a little tight. So, I present Exhibit No. 2, Happy Ike, who clearly prefers his cotton cap as evidenced by this photo from his Multi-Hat Photo Shoot, done by his sweet mom.

Monday, May 5, 2008

And now a word from Art & Soul

Soooo happily exhausted am I from my 1,600 mile/4-day art retreat at Art & Soul, Hampton, VA., that I thought I'd let my pictures do the talking. I figure they're worth about 15,000 words.