Sweets From my Sweetie

My new doctor scheduled me to have my blood sugar tested last week. Bad timing, right after Valentine’s Day, when my sweetheart outdid himself by making me two batches of truffles AND macaroons! As a gift last year I gave him some flower-shaped candy molds (now is that a self-serving present, or what?), and he used them to make me these amazing chocolate truffles.

George's trufflesThe macaroons are equally luscious. If we can manage to keep from eating them all, he’s going to cover them with chocolate. Overkill, you say? I think not.

George's macaroons I’ll try to get him to reveal his recipes, though I think each batch of truffles is “one of a kind,” with him adding ingredients that strike his fancy at the moment, and I’m not sure whether he keeps track!

Say Hello to Barbie! Exhibit at the El Cerrito Library

There’s a really fun new exhibit in the front showcase of the El Cerrito Library, at 6510 Stockton Ave.
Barbie Show

Barbie exhibit, design and photograph by Christina Van Horn

Who would have thought that the accomplished writer and editor, Christina Van Horn, whose impressive journalistic creds include working for the Boston Globe, the Associated Press and several information technology magazines, still treasures her Barbie dolls?

Barbie Show

Barbie Show, photograph by Christina Van Horn

Actually, if you know Christina at all, you might have guessed. She has a winning, playful nature and her creativity ranges far beyond her writing.  Christina’s website, CVH Color / Design, shows her amazing design sense.
Barbie exhibit, design and photograph by Christina Van Horn

Barbie exhibit, design and photograph by Christina Van Horn

She even constructed and sewed the sumptuous bed and bedding, in which ‘middle-aged’ Barbie lies, reading – with a cat on her lap.
Barbie Show, photograph by Christina Van Horn

Barbie Show, photograph by Christina Van Horn

Bathing suit Barbie, photograph by Christina Van Horn

Bathing suit Barbie, photograph by Christina Van Horn

Christina describes Barbie’s history, and discusses her impact, including citing controversies, which, she notes, often involve parodies of Barbie and her ‘lifestyles.’  Christina’s exhibit is a loving tribute to an icon, a playful and creative reminder for us to reach back to that part of ourselves that we may have packed away when we put our toys and dolls aside. What was your favorite toy or doll as a child? Do you still have it?

Get motivated: set yourself a deadline

I teach a class about selling artwork online, and one aspect of the subject that I think about a lot is how to help people get themselves moving.  I believe that a lot of artists and crafters probably wonder how in the world they can get started selling online. Even taking a step back from selling, do you often think you should be more productive with your art? Ever feel guilty about not painting enough, or about leaving so many photographs unprinted, or not submitting your work to magazines or to galleries?

I guess this interests me because I often need help getting myself motivated. One of the methods that works best for me is to set a deadline. Self-imposed deadlines with no accountability (“I will design a scarf this weekend”) don’t work as well for me as external ones, where not finishing a piece is not an option. When I find myself stuck creatively, I get myself moving by signing up to participate in a new show at my local gallery, by entering an art swap or contest, by agreeing to donate a piece to a charity I support … you get the idea.  How do you get yourself working? Have you ever missed a deadline that you had committed to?

Here’s what I’ve been working on, thanks to a deadline I’m under to put up a display in the front case at my local library. The display will be at the El Cerrito Library from June  2nd (eek, that’s only a week away!) through mid-July. I want to show people how to attract butterflies to their gardens, so one focus of the display will be my photos of the life cycle of some local butterflies.  From my hundreds of photos of butterflies that George and I have raised and released, I made several photo collages of them from egg to emerged butterfly.  This is the one for the caterpillar stage of the monarch butterfly:

Monarch butterfly caterpillars

Monarch butterfly caterpillars

And here’s the collage I made of the chrysalis stage for anise swallowtail butterflies:

Anise swallowtail butterfly chrysalises

Anise swallowtail butterfly chrysalises

I’ll include information about what kinds of plants people can use in their gardens to attract butterflies and provide food for the caterpillars.  Oh, of course I’ll be showing some of the artwork I’ve made from my butterfly photos, and I hope to get motivated to make some more pieces just for the display!

Is there a Patch in your town?

What is a Patch, you say?  If you haven’t yet heard of this spreading phenomenon, Patches are online newspapers and gathering places that are popping up in cities around the country.  Patch says that they’re a “local source for news, events, business listings, and discussion.”  To see where the Patch nearest you is, go to http://Patch.com

My local Patch is the El Cerrito Patch

And luckily for me, my city’s Patch has a wonderful reporter, Christina Van Horn, aka Madame Hat – who writes beautifully and has boundless enthusiasm for many subjects that are dear to my heart: art, animals, gardening, libraries …

Christina is responsible for the daily column called the “Daily 5,” where she finds an amazing variety of things to do or see each day, in or around El Cerrito.  Christina also recently started a weekly column, “El Cerrito Art Seen” where every Monday she writes an insightful, in-depth profile of an El Cerrito artist.  I was honored to be the subject of Christina’s Art column this past week, which she titled “Photography is Her Kaleidoscopic Muse.

Patch article

What a thrill!  First, it was so fun just meeting Christina and speaking with her.  But I was impressed with how she really “got” my work and the motivation behind what I’m trying to do with my nature photographs and artwork.  I won’t quote the whole thing here, but her intro concisely summarized what usually takes me a whole lot more words to express:

“For artist Heidi Rand, the wellspring of her art is photography, fueled by two passions: making art useful and nature’s beauty, which is dependent on conserving wildlife.

That’s a tall order to fill, but Rand’s studio is chock-a-block full of art pieces and crafts that all bear the stamp of her passion and her unique mixed-media approach to art.”

Christina also included some great photos that she took in my studio.  She wanted to highlight the shoes that I had made from my designs through zazzle.com:

And unlike print newspapers, because Patch is online I was able to add a photo about the mandala banners that I designed for the El Cerrito Fourth of July celebration, which Christina had mentioned in the article.  And that leads me to my next point … some marketing tips for you!  Join your local Patch. Use it to get the word out about your artwork (or whatever you’re doing).   You can list your business for free.  Here’s the entry I made for Garden Delights Arts & Crafts:

Add your own photos and videos to your entry —

List your events.  I listed the art workshops that I teach locally, and you can list any sales you’ll be participating in.  You can make announcements and participate in ongoing discussions.  I first got involved in Patch by making comments on articles and some discussions. You can also advertise or offer coupons on your local Patch.  And don’t forget to reach out to other Patches that are near your city, because you can participate and add listings to those as well.

With the internet we often focus exclusively on the large world out there — it’s one of the wonderful things about the web, meeting people and learning about things that are far away … but don’t forget that your neighbors may share many common interests with you, other than your zip code!

Garden Delights Arts and Crafts Open Studio!

I’ve been happily scrambling to get my messy workroom presentable for my holiday Open Studio and Gift Sale.  And amazingly, it was pretty much all in place by the time the first visitor showed up!  My friend Pam always comes on my first day, and gets her pick of the calendars that I print using my images.  She took most of the calendars I had made, I’ll need to do some printing tonight.  There was a lull after she left, so I kept busy taking photographs of the spruced-up studio.

This is the view when you come in the door:

The card rack is to the right.  You can see some of my framed mandala prints hanging to the left above.  The table to the left is in the middle of the room.  This is what’s on that table:

My mixed-media doll “Wings” is in the center.  Pet collars to the left (kitty collars hanging from the Lars stuffed animal).  My fabric-covered light switch plates are displayed in front of the doll.  This is a closeup of the pet collars display:

Just to your left inside the door is a shelving rack:

The top shelf has a night light, a transparency print in a frame and one of my fabric vases.  The second shelf down has a display of ornaments, including glass balls with mandalas and other designs printed on backlight film or transparencies, along with a dusting of glitter, some mandala sachet ornaments with pearl hangers, and my stuffed animal ornaments – some with squeaky toys inside!

In the photo above you can see what’s past the center table along the back wall — a hanging display with several of my purses, t-shirts, scarves, and baby onesies.  To the left, a rack with a fabric vase, my bowties, mixed-media handmade books, my Kaleidoscopes book, some coffee mugs I ordered from my Zazzle store, and a tile box.

Above is a closeup of that rack.  The piece at the bottom is an accordian of watercolor paper, with four of my abstract collages printed on lutradur and mounted.  I strung pearls across the top and bottom.  The bowties are jauntily hung just above that piece, on a jewelry bust.

The table above is to the right just past the card rack.  From left to right: purses, wooden postcards, fabric bowl, buttons, fabric vases, fabric postcards, and some night lights.  I love to use vintage pieces as displays.  On this table I’m using two old silverware boxes, sturdy wooden boxes lined with velvet.

To the back wall again, above is a display of the different kinds of boxes that I make.  First, the blue – I printed my mandala of a blue girl rose onto fabric,  quilted it and placed it into the recessed top of a wooden box.  The box to the left of that is one of my favorite tiles.  It’s a kaleidoscope design in rich deep browns, very craftsman style.  I make most of my own work, but some things I do have printed professionally.  This is one of the tiles that I have Tony at Changeyourart make to use as the tops of wooden boxes that I get at Aftosa.  The two small tiles in front of the blue girl rose box are ones that I made myself using lazertran on tumbled marble tile.  It’s a hard technique to master, and I often end up scrapping my creations, but I love how these mandalas turned out.  To the left of those tiles are some glass slide pins I made using my photos printed on velvet fine art paper or canvas, and encased in microscope slides that I outlined with copper tape.  Behind the brown tile box are two more boxes I made using lazertran.  The front one is a kaleidoscoped photo of a calla lily, and behind that is my kaleidoscope design of a fern arching.  For that box, I encased the top edges with copper metal.  To the left  is another tile box of my Lisianthus Flower design. Finally, the box at the far left is one of my favorite pieces.  I used the double exposure photograph that I took of myself and adhered it to the box using a heat transfer.  I embossed some copper and used the strips at the top and bottom edges.  I also made a dangle from pearls and glass beads, and with metal brads on mesh spelled out “treasure”.  Inside the box, I printed the same double exposure image onto silk and used batting to make it a soft pad on the inside top.

Past the boxes is more jewelry.  I have some hanging displays for earrings and bracelets.  Before I began my photo arts work, I used to make jewelry from pearls and beads, and I still love to do that.  The vintage jewelry box at the front right holds my lutradur butterfly earrings.  I take the photos of butterflies that my husband and I raise and release, and print my designs from the photos onto lutradur that I’ve coated with Digital Grounds.

Next a view of the other side of the middle table.  At left, a pile of my tote bags, which I make by printing my images onto fabric and sewing them onto the totes.  I used to make them with iron-ons, but I much prefer the fabric.  Most of them I back with batting and then do some free-motion quilting.  To the right is another vintage jewelry box that I’ve piled with my original design fabric jewelry.  There are fabric bracelets with snaps and buttons, sachet-lets, and my sculptural braided fabric bracelets.

Turn around to see a plush pile of my pillows:

Next, a view of my barely disguised supply shelves.  I don’t really try to turn it into a display, I usually just put some of my work in front of the supplies:

And finally, I covered our washing machine with a delightful vintage fabric, and used it to show off a variety of things:

The soaps that my husband George makes are displayed in front and in the basket at the top left.  He makes the most wonderful soap from natural ingredients using an assortment of molds.  His most popular is the mold of a curled-up sleeping kitty, and close favorites are a butterfly and hummingbird.   He makes a variety of soaps, both cold process and melted.  To the right is a basket of sachets that I make from my fabric, which I fill with heavenly lavender flower buds (and some with rose buds).  The backs of the sachets are gauze, so you can see the flowers.  Behind the sachets is a  basket with catnip bags.  I use the strongest catnip I’ve found, Cosmic brand, and put various fun animals photos printed onto fabric on the front.  When I do Open Studio the cats are forbidden from coming down here, because they’d make a beeline for the catnip bag display and wreck the merchandise (yes, I know this from experience).

Tomorrow if I get a lull I’ll take you on a tour of the art that’s hanging on the walls … Come on by to see it yourself if you’re in the Bay Area!

Today’s Best Award on Zazzle – my honeybee design necktie!

Whee-ha! I’ve posted before about zazzle, but it has been quite awhile since I wrote about it.  I put things up there once in awhile, when I have a new design I usually add a few things on zazzle — a card or print,

Zazzle orchid print

Zazzle orchid print

some funky sneakers, a bumper sticker with some hard-hitting message:

Zazzle bumper sticker

Zazzle bumper sticker

Back in 2008, shortly after I started posting my work on zazzle, I won a “Today’s Best Award” (TBA in zazzle lingo) for sneakers that I designed using my photo of a zebra’s stripes:

Zazzle zebra sneakers

Zazzle zebra sneakers

Now, zazzle doesn’t tell you when you get a TBA, you have to either check the TBA list every day (which I stopped doing long ago), or you may find out if some kind soul leaves you a “Congratulations for your TBA!” message.  Well, guess what? I got one of those today (thanks again JuJuGarden)!

So, first the story behind the piece that won. This is the photograph I started out with: I shot it  through the window of a top bar beehive, of some busy honey bees working hard:

Honey bees in hive

Honey bees in hive

I took an element of this photograph, and started making different kaleidoscopic designs using my favorite software program, Kaleider (I’ve written posts about Kaleider, just click on the tag at the right for Kaleider to bring them up, and you can check out the software at this link).  I made several designs that I really liked, and this was one of the ones I loved most:

Honeybee kaleidoscope

Honeybee kaleidoscope

Next, I did a repetition technique (I’m going to be teaching this on CraftEdu, so email me if you’re interested in that class).  I took the repetition design and uploaded it to zazzle.  The only thing I’ve had time to make so far from it was a necktie, and that won a TBA award!!

Zazzle TBA, honeybee design necktie

Zazzle TBA, honeybee design necktie

I’m donating 10% of everything sold on my zazzle shop through the end of July to the fund to help rebuild the Berkeley-East Bay Humane Society after their fire, so if you’re thinking of buying anything — now’s the time!

Demise of a gallery

This is for local readers, my loyal local patrons and friends who have taken the time to come see my work at the local art gallery, or to visit me when I was working there.  If you’re not from around here (Northern California) or just not interested in the topic, then you’ll stop reading, or push on for a cautionary tale. 

For a bit less than a year I’ve been working on Saturdays at a gallery in El Cerrito.  The space is beautiful, well-lighted, with creative displays and a great variety of artwork and crafts.  It’s owned by the family of an artist who used to have only his work in the gallery, but generously opened the space up to other artists less than 2 years ago.  Unfortunately, I didn’t know about the gallery until after the holidays last year, so I couldn’t take part in what was a successful holiday season for them.  Shortly after that, though, I started working every Saturday (on top of my full time job).  Even though it was hard giving up my Saturdays I wanted to see how my things sold, and I really looked forward to this year’s holiday season.  I also looked forward all week to going into the gallery — if people came in to buy art, that was fantastic.  If they came in to look around and chat (or not), that was wonderful too.   And if no one came in, I got my work done.  Since most of the work I do involves the use of a computer, printer, sewing machine or other large equipment, it was always a challenge to plan what I would work on, and make sure everything I needed fit into the box that I carried back and forth every week.

Most lately I had been using the time to coat lutradur or metal sheets with Golden Paints’ digital grounds (see my articles on that product).  I also took advantage of the great natural lighting in the gallery to take photographs of my work.

The few of us who worked there were volunteers, who in exchange for our time got a larger percentage of any of our work that sold.  That was great for me for several months, but when the economy tanked, sales dried up.  Lately only a few people were even coming into the gallery on Saturdays (usually the busiest day of the week).  I was committed to staying, though, and thought that my work, often popular as gifts, would do okay during the holidays.   Well you know what I’m going to say next.  The gallery is now closed.  The artist whose family owns it couldn’t keep it open through the holidays.  He’s evidently thinking of getting an artist or two in there with him to pay rent.  I hope that works out – we need all the venues for art we can get!