Sunday, July 31, 2011

Four Letter Words: Book

Give me a good book to read and I'll stay out of your way till I finish reading it.

As a young child, the bookstore was THE place to go for me. While dolls and little porcelain tea sets caught my eye, books really made me go crazy.  I remember wandering along the aisles, gazing up at the shiny hardbound covers wondering what kind of world I would step into once I opened them.  At 11, I read Alice in Wonderland three times while I lay in bed in the hospital after an operation for a ruptured appendix.  I carried a dog-eared copy of To Kill a Mockingbird in my school bag when I was 13 - and pretended it was the first time I read it in my senior year in high school when it was given as assigned reading.  My all-time favorite childhood Christmas gift was from an aunt -- two thick volumes of ghost stories that were read from cover to cover numerous times and which I handed down to my daughter who seems to have inherited my love for the written word. And when I have money to spend, I never end up buying that lovely dress I had been eyeing for weeks -- I always seem to end up buying  a good, fat, book.

Writing is also something I enjoy so I have in my possession all manner of blank journals and notebooks - some have entries in them, others have my sketches. The handmade ones are my favorite, especially the leather bound ones.  So it was no surprise to me when I hooked up with two handmade book makers at the last art fair I was in.  Seeing their work inspired me to make my own little versions of handmade books - the kind I can wear.

This one was made from leather which I distressed myself by giving it a few swipes with some sandpaper and rubbing in some dark brown acrylic paint.  I cut up a few pages of an old book and attached them to make little pages by sewing them into the spine with a dark brown leather cord.  The same cord was cut long enough so that you could wrap it around the book and tie it up in front.  Of course, I couldn't leave out the beads so a delicate dangle of tiny, tiny, round jasper beads and gold stone beads were strung together and attached to the spine where the cord peeked through.  Here is another look

 I enjoyed making this first little one so much I decided to make another one, this time with some purple suede leather.  I distressed it a bit with sandpaper and got the look I was aiming for. What do you think?

This wee one had blank pages in it, cut up from one of my watercolor pads.  I thought I wanted one that I could write little things in -- like spells. LOL. The dangles were made of brass spacers, majorica pearls and the tiny round jasper, moonstone and gold stone beads. Like the first one, this little book is attached to an antiqued copper chain.

Of course a book isn't a book if you can't open it, so this one opens up just like the first one -

Two of my favorite things in one --- handmade books and handmade jewelry.  Now, I can't wait to wear these babies when I go out.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

The Water Baby

I long to be near water.  Sand squishing through my toes, the sun on my face.  Wild wind turning my hair into an unruly tangle of black.

Summer came and went and I didn’t even go near the ocean.  I had plans – oh boy,  did I have plans.  But daily concerns kept me from turning these plans into reality. And I am all dried up – I need to be near water.

The monsoons have started so that pushes my plans back a few more weeks, or even months.  But I will get to the ocean somehow.  And when I do, I will dive headlong into the white water that splashes along the shore, and walk on the sand each day I am there searching for treasures that the deep has left for me.  I will feel the sun on my face and let it leave its warm glow so that I can still feel it on my skin when the evenings grow cold.  And I will sit still, so still, close to the water’s edge and listen to the secrets the waves spill out.  They are secrets for me and me alone – little truths that will carry me far, tiny whispers containing clues to where I should walk to next, what I should say, what I should create. 

In the meantime I will have this

Three strands of the ocean’s tears around my wrist to remind me that my good friend misses me and calls to me and wonders if I forgot.  I didn’t forget.  It’s taking me a while to get there – but I'll see you soon.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Christmas in July - Happening Now!

I have a co-worker who, each time December rolls round, wishes that Christmas happened everyday. I like Christmas but having it everyday? Well, I don't think my waistline would like that. Not to mention my wallet.

But having an early Christmas is quite a treat don't you think? And that's exactly what Artfire had in mind when it launched it's annual Christmas in July event.  Where else can you find well-made, beautiful and unique handmade pieces like these

Stunning Necklace from Austin Leigh Designs

Rhinestone Cufflinks from YourTime

Aventurine Earrings from Artistikat
And it's not just jewelry.  We've got journals and bookmarks

As a journal junkie, these pieces from Modern Marbling are waking my want monster
Yummy soaps and bath products
Yummy Patchouli Honey Handmade Soap from Forget Me Not Soap Shop
Luscious Goat's Milk Blackberry Sage Shampoo Bar from Mr. Guru's Soapery
And of course, not only do we have handmade, we've got vintage!

Large roomy vintage purse from Born Too Late Vintage
Smokey Amethyst Vintage Vase with White Florals from  Refined Vintage
Just looking at all these is already quite a treat for me! And I'm sure you'll find something you like among the hundreds of items on sale now at Artfire.  Artfire members are really going crazy giving away gifts with your purchase, discounts, coupons and other deals that it really is beginning to look a lot like Christmas.

Check back often - I'll be posting more awesome Artfire deals all month long! Can't wait to see them? Then drop by Artfire today and see all the great items being offered.

With shopping this easy and fun, I don't think my wallet would have any problem with having Christmas everyday.   Now, to find a way to solve the problem with the waistline. 

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Gossip I Like

No one I know wants to be talked about - especially if the talking is going on behind their back.

But being mentioned in this article on Entrepreneur Philippines Online is the kind of gossip I like.

Look, they even put up a photo of one of my rings

Did I scream? Of course I did -- the neighbors can testify to that.  And I think my sons think I'm cool for turning all those cartwheels out of sheer joy. LOL

And here I was thinking I was invisible. :-)

Sunday, May 29, 2011

The Ship Captain's Wife

I met her many years ago - a young woman grieving over the loss of her husband.  A large wave had caused the cargo ship he was in to flip over and bodies of his shipmates had been recovered already.  We were called to help her find out if he had passed on or if he was lost somewhere, adrift at sea, stranded, waiting for rescue.

I remember the little crib that sat in her living room, her 3-month old son sleeping quietly in it, unaware that his mother was slowly shattering to pieces as each day without news went by.  Her daughter played with her dolls under the stairs, directing a make-believe play where the prince returns to his princess after having been given up for dead.

She had looked at us with such hope, and we had searched our souls for words to tell her that it was going to be alright.  The others who were with me said things that made her smile. I merely sipped my coffee and watched the baby sleep.

I could not feel him. Well, I did actually but only because he seemed to want to say something but I knew he was no longer here. I sipped my coffee slowly, I tried to find the words. They did not come.

Years later I received a text message from her. That she was still waiting, that she had not lost hope.  She told me about her daughter and her son and how they were growing up without their father.  She told me she still cries now and then but the moments between the crying fits have become longer and she feared that she was beginning to forget.  She said she could not stand seeing the ocean, but that she had taken many trips to its shores, listening to the waves for news.

That was many years ago.

She was who I had in mind when I finally finished this piece.

I had been working on it for some months now and for some strange reason I could never quite finish it.  I would start, then stop and start and stop and stash it away someplace and forget.  Then I would come across it and start working on it again.  But each time I would tear it up and put it away -- somehow it felt that it wasn't saying what I wanted to say.

And then the memory of her sitting across me from that dining room table, the glow of a small lamp hanging from overhead casting a shadow on her young, pained face, her voice eagerly asking us of news, returned.  I suddenly realized why I was making this piece and who it was for.

I wonder if she still sits and waits and hopes. And if she has found peace with the ocean and its turquoise and blue depths.   I ask myself if she still cries, her tears falling down her cheeks like pearls.  I also wonder if she will, forever, shroud herself in grief or if she has finally, after so long, learned to live again and be happy.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Four Letter Words: Pink

First blush
A baby's lips
A single rose, though silent

By  Sovereign Sea

Of hope and life, of birth and beginnings

By Pigtail Creations
The tips of clouds in the early morning

By Sages Cupboard

A little girl's Sunday dress
With matching shoes and bow

By Nature and Zen

Come a few years, those lips will be tinted with a sweet pink glow
And a single rose will be offered

Still silent, but it  speaks
Of love's first blush, and promises to keep

By Entwined Vines

Thursday, March 17, 2011

My Kind of X

In an almost forgotten corner of a popular shopping hub in Cubao, Metro Manila, sits a group of shops that seem to exist in a world of their own.   This location used to be a popular place to buy shoes in the 70s back when it was called the Marikina Shoe Expo and it was where the top brand shoes made in Marikina (whose workmanship can rival those made in Italy some say) were sold.  My mom and dad would take my brother and I there at the start of each school year when we were kids to get our school shoes and to pick up a few pairs for themselves as well.   It was THE place to get bespoke footwear and leatherwear at that time. 

I had all but thought that this section of Cubao had been torn down when the spanking new malls around it were built in the mid-80s and 90s.  I would pass it now and then on my way to work  and all I could see that was left of it were a few shops with almost nothing in their windows – the bespoke, handcrafted shoes and bags were gone, their day in the sun usurped by mass produced faux leather shoes imported from China, Taiwan and Korea.   

In recent years though this place has experienced a rebirth, transforming itself from the rickety, seedy-looking place it had become to a vibrant, fun shopping mecca for lovers of handmade and vintage.  Now known as Cubao-eXpo, the former shops now house a quirky assortment of art galleries, restaurants,  vintage and antique shops, shops selling holistic products, shops selling old, rare books, one of a kind handmade wearable art, repurposed furniture, handmade jewelry and clothes by upcoming designers.  This non-descript row of shops is frequented by artists, fashion designers, interior decorators and even movie stars to get first dibs on quality handmade and one of a kind apparel and hard to find vintage items. 

I could spend hours just going from shop to shop.  But of course, the shoe lover that I am I quickly spied this little shop called Beadlady that sold handmade, handpainted shoes!  There was a whole rack of them and you can even ask the artist to customize a pair for you.

This pair with the peacocks on them are my favourite

There was a whole wall of handpainted wooden bangles in this shop as well    I’m loving the ones in shades of blue -

And even handpainted canvass totes.  To one corner of the photo below you can see a rack displaying handmade earrings 

And don’t you just love this little shopfront display?

I picked up my first batch of polymer clay from this store.  I honestly don’t know what to do with it yet, but it will certainly be a topic for a blog post soon I’m sure.

Then it was time to go troll the vintage shops. 

I found old glassware

Old books and vinyl records -

Wouldn’t it be cool to get this large, red coin-operated phone rewired so it can function as a phone again?  And do you see that little sewing machine in the background?  The shopowner said it can actually sew small items.  Such a pity I can't sew!

Of course, I would never pass up taking a peek at the latest treasure trove of vintage jewelry –

I am loving that pearl brooch! And that blue enameled daisy pin. And oh – look at that  lovely bouquet with the pink rhinestones, I want that too.  Okay – maybe I should just carry the entire case out the shop door. LOL.

And then my daughter spied this pair of dolls. It was the day after the big Japan quake and seeing them up on the shelf made me think of all the little Japanese children and their families who were affected by this terrible tragedy.  

Definitely not the end of this post.  There’s a part two coming where I will show you the art gallery, the place that still makes bespoke shoes (my son’s school shoes are made there – just following tradition I guess) and the inside of a lovely Italian restaurant owned by a retired Italian paparazzi (for real!).

In the meantime, I’ll leave you with this photo of Danica, my daughter’s friend, taken while the two of them were browsing  in one of the shops that sold all sorts of curiosities from all over the world.  I think this photo says it all about the quirky, happy, free spirited vibe of this place.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Try Something New: Making Faces

A few months ago, I purchased a roll of plaster tape from an art supply store.  I had been wanting to make plaster casts for the longest time and I had been wanting to try out a technique I found in Kelly Rae Roberts book, Taking Flight,  where she makes a plaster cast heart pendant and embellishes it with paint and glitter. Of course, I came up with so many reasons not to go out and find that store that carries it (and later on, when I did go get it, I got surprising answers and solutions to my silly fears)  – I don’t know where it is (Google maps and my uncanny ability to find my way in a maze helped me out), it might be too expensive (the whole roll cost me less than USD2.00!),  they probably won’t have it in stock when I get there so why even bother (the lady told me they never run out of it), I don’t think I can find the space to work on something involving this material (I used the kitchen sink for like 10 minutes – and no one even noticed!).

The roll is about 6 inches wide and (at least that’s what the lady at the counter said) about 10 yards long.  You cut it up in strips, get it wet (but not too wet) and lay it on the item you want to use as a mold.  I salvaged two headless Barbie dolls and two forlorn looking doll heads (that unfortunately did not match the headless bodies) from my 7-year old niece's stash and used these.  An ample amount of petroleum jelly helped keep the plaster tape from sticking to the mold (for this one I used  a blonde Princess Barbie head) and a small shot glass provided me with just enough water to get the plaster wet.  

Three minutes and a short  “conversation” with one of the shih tzu twins later, I peeled the damp plaster off the Princess Barbie head and this is what I got: 

That did it – I was addicted.  I scrounged around my supply shelves and found a silicone mold for art doll faces.  I had tried using this before with  air dry clay (see previous post) and ended up with just a weird looking lump of clay with a protrusion in the middle that I suspect is a nose.  I figured I would try this one more time and used the silicone molds.  Well, as you can see, the nose is definitely not the only prominent feature: 

Of course I can’t stop at just popping out boring white faces from molds so I thought I’d give Princess Barbie a new persona.  I don't think Ken will recognize her now.  And the art doll faces did look a little better after a few swipes of acrylic paint and some soft pastels.

I'm thinking of doing something with these over the week-end.  Maybe incorporate them into a mixed media piece. 

And in case you’re wondering why I tried this out months AFTER I finally got the plaster tape, well, as you may have guessed, there were a million (imagined) obstacles that kept me from trying this – all of which evaporated once I set my mind to doing it.  

I think Nike's really got something there. 

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Gaelic Forge

I just had to go look at it again -- one more time, this beautiful blue glass bead peeking at me from under its copper veil.

Blue Sphere Glass Pendant

There's something mystical about it. It's like staring right through the soul of a star.  I have never been so moved by a handmade piece until this.  Nor have I been more obsessed by a piece of jewelry!

Gaelic Forge is responsible for this.  Everything in this new Artfire shop looks like they were unearthed from an ancient site. 

Celtic Sea Glass Copper Pendant

And the manner by which these are made makes the "ancient" feel of these beautiful pieces stronger.  Inspired by Celtic design and lore, all the pieces are hand-forged from copper and the lovely patinas on the pieces are produced using methods of old. No paint is used to make the lovely colors on these distinctive jewelry -- just the natural reaction of metal to the elements, hastened by Gaelic Forge's own secret process.

Peened Celtic Nickel Earrings with a Flame Patina

Celtic Hand-Forged Copper Earrings, Flame Patina
While inspiration for the jewelry made by Gaelic Forge may come from days long gone, the pieces are very versatile and will go with that Renaissance gown  that you so carefully made based on a sketch of a lady's finery of long ago (and will wear with aplomb to an upcoming Renaissance Faire!) or with a more contemporary, more urban outfit. 

Copper Pendant with Green Verdigris
To me, many of the pieces are representative of the  processes of life, death and rebirth - a never-ending, upward spinning spiral.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Shanghai Tai

Nope, it's not the name of what I'm drinking right now. 

What it is though is a lovely shop on Artfire owned by Roxanne,  an award-winning artist who creates quality, one-of-a-kind jewelry with an Asian flavor.  Why Asian flavor? Well, she lived in Asia for a time and that was where her interest in making jewelry was developed. She says it all started with pearls -- yup, those pearls get you all the time!

Roxanne has several techniques for jewelry-making up her creative sleeve - she's into wire-wrapping, metal working, glass fusing and also works with precious metal clay. 

Take a look at some of the pretties in her shop

Faith Pendant in Fine Silver

Lovely Dichroic Pendant with Retro Flowers

And let's not forget, some choice pieces for Valentine's Day

Copper Heart Earrings   

Rice Pearl Bracelet

There are also some pieces with a cool vibe

Peace Sign Pendant

And these little Pagoda Earrings are just soooo cute!

Shanghai Tai offers a wide range of pieces in different styles so I'm sure there will be something there that you will fall in love with.  Personally, I can't keep my eyes off those earrings!  She creates pieces for the blushing bride too -- so now we know where to go after that pearl bracelet is unwrapped on Valentine's Day, right ladies? And there's a whole section in her shop that's just full of pieces with a heart-theme.

Roxanne insists she's still a "work-in-progress" and is deep in the hunt for her signature style.  Looking at all these pretties, I can definitely say her signature is:  AMAZING.
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