Sunday, March 17, 2013

Altered Couture returns

 I'm sure you've all had an experience watching an event- a sports event, a play, a concert, a show of some sort...and you think to yourself, "Oh how I wish I was up there/in there/doing that!"  Well, in the audience at the Altered Couture Fashion Show in 2011 with my friend Brigid, I thought just that. Making fashions out of recycled items? Helloooo! That's my gig!
 You can see my posts about the show here and here. I met Susan Perrine that evening. Thank you to Susie (and to facebook) who told me about this year's show.  And the theme this year couldn't be a better fit: Packaging.

So here I am with my supplies: about 15 jute coffee sacks, and about a dozen plastic coffee bags.  I'm holding an empty cup, having just come from Coffee By Design (I can't go down Washington Ave in Portland without grabbing a cuppa). I had to submit this photo to the show organizer. Now I've got 9 days to finish my fashion item before I hit the runway on Thursday, April 4th. My plan is just to keep a caffeine buzz going all week. Rebel blend by Coffee by Design.  Drop me a word of encouragement here and tell me YOUR favorite brew.

Monday, January 7, 2013

When the urge to craft becomes URGENT

During my holiday crafting frenzy I picked up an issue of MaryJanes Farm Magazine and wanted to make the wreath on the cover.  Classic Kate: putting down the umpteen things she *should* be doing and instead following a crafting urge that immediately seems vital and important.  The ingredients were what attracted me: recycled stuff used in a unique way.  Unique, you ask? How unique is it if you are following something on a magazine cover? You've got me there.  I rarely come up with anything new myself but try to give ample credit to all sources.

 I knew I had lots of coffee sacks. (Thanks Paul from Bohemian Coffee Roasters) A request for the necessary "Box frame" to just three of my flower growing/wreath making friends yielded not one but TWO of the frames I needed. (Thanks Betsy Steen and Leslie Anderson).

  I added some wire to make the openings smaller.

Then stripped the coffee sacks and started loopin' and pokin' it in and around. MaryJane's Magazine people had offered very little in the way of instructions so I made it up.

 I thought it needed a bow, but I wanted to keep the "look" rustic and funky.


 A walk with my dog through the craft supplies store known as East Bowdoinham farmland yielded what I wanted...

                      Rusty metal!

I got out my tin snips.
 It was just pliable enough to bend with a gloved hand. FYI, my tetanus shot is up to date.
                                                   Now that's what I was going for.

What's a wreath without berries? Hooray for the button collection I found at the B.of O.  Hot glue and wire turned them into berries.  ( I lost patience after just a few. See urgency noted above)

The seemingly complete wreath hung on my door through the days leading up to Christmas. Then Santa brought me the perfect centerpiece, a small bird made by  the supertalented Steve Ciembroniewicz: school principal by day, artist and crafter by night. Santa must have shopped at Steve's family's "Dos Pollitos" booth at the Bowdoinham Holiday Festival craft fair. Smartypants Santa.
                                                Happy New Year and Happy Recycling.

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.