Tuesday, February 26, 2008

...on a wing and a prayer...

"Leaf Mates," is in California this morning along with three of my other botanical collages, at the request of Ryan Garrett Fine Art Consulting. They asked me to overnight them a sample of my work for a presentation they are giving today for a client opening up a new Montage Hotel in Park City, Utah.

I was initially caught off guard but essentially very honored by their request, and I'm hopeful that something good will come out of it. At the very least, I've learned how important it is to be ready to talk about your art, as well as write about your art in a moment's notice. Gratefully this is something that was already on my radar screen, thanks to what I've been learning from Alyson Stanfield's new book, I'd rather be in the Studio.

I wish I could be a fly on the wall at that presentation today. I would love to know what the consultants are saying about my work (are they using my words?) how they are presenting it, and what the initial reaction of their client will be.

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Thursday, February 21, 2008

to blend or not to blend... question and answer

Hi Elizabeth:
Could you please answer a question for me. I have been surfing the web for information regarding paper-making. The one thing they all have in common is using a blender. I'd like to know if a food processor could be used instead. If not.....why a blender?? Just curious!!! I know you sell a paper-making kit which I may purchasing a little later.

Thank-you......... Val

Hi Val, Thanks for writing!

You know, I’m not sure! I don’t know that much about food processors – I only use mine for making bread dough or pesto. I do know that blenders are capable of “liquefying” just about anything, and for paper making you need enough power to separate and isolate each and every fiber so that it can be suspended in liquid. I don’t know if food processors are powerful enough for that.

On a more practical side, food processors can be quite expensive, and adequate blenders can be found for less than $20.00 at discount stores, or for even less at Goodwill, rummage sales, etc.

I would recommend getting a hold of an inexpensive blender, and using it only for paper making (it’s hard to get a blender really clean after making paper in it). Once you try paper making you’re sure to get hooked, and having a blender dedicated to paper making will be well worth your investment.

Speaking of making paper, my paper making kits have been out of stock for a number of weeks, because the man who was hand crafting the wooden frames used for the mold and deckles was unable to continue. Recently I've been able to obtain a limited number, so thankfully my paper making kits are back in stock for the time being. (Note: you might have to hit the "refresh" button in order to get rid of the "out of stock" message on my website)

I'm still looking for a skillful retired woodworker to hire, so if you know of anyone in south east Wisconsin or north east Illinois please let me know!

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Monday, February 18, 2008

Q & A: How to use PPA with large flowers

This weekend Lucy emailed me with the following questions:
1. After you put a dot of perfect paper adhesive on the back of the pressed flower to position it on the card the rest of the petals are loose. When you are done with flower placement how do you actually paint the product over the loose petals without tearing them?
2. I envision that when painted on a large flower the flower becomes fixed to the product on top but not to the card. The larger the flower, the less of it will be fixed to the card. Is the product so strong that even if only painted on top of the flower (that is not affixed to the card) that the flower will not break or tear when the card is bent?

Lucy, I am always quite generous when applying perfect paper adhesive to the backs of flowers. Generally I place a dot in the center, and then outline the entire flower, including each and every petal with PPA. In the case of a wide flower like this pansy, I also radiate outwards from the center as well. If I was using a large petaled flower, such as a cosmos, I would outline each petal with PPA, and then I'd also "zig zag" it down the center of each petal. In the picture above I applied the PPA with the small 1 oz bottle, but for larger flowers, or even ferns, you might find it easier to paint it on with a small brush.

When applying perfect paper adhesive to flowers used in framed art it's not quite as crucial to glue the flowers down so meticulously, but when using them for cards, those poor flowers will be going through a war, so to speak. However, I have found that if the flowers are well adhered, and then another coat of PPA is applied to the top of the flowers and greens, they will withstand their trip through the postal system, and be able to tolerate normal flexing and bending of the card. For best results, let freshly adhered pressed flowers dry thoroughly before applying the top coat with a soft brush. Remember, the top coat should be a thin coat- if you see white when you're applying it your using too much.

Thank you for your questions, Lucy - I hope I answered them adequately. Please let me know if you have any others!

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Thursday, February 14, 2008

A new blog and a bargain

My fellow art friend Bonnielyn recently started a new blog, called Oceancolors. She's an avid diver, and translates the wonders of what she sees during her dives into brilliant watercolor and oil paintings.

I think you'll like her blog - it captures her passion for both the beauty of the ocean and her love of expressing that beauty. And, if you're in the Chicago area you can check her out at booth # 1011 at the Rosemont during the "Our World Underwater" scuba diving trade show this weekend.

And, speaking of people of passion, Elisabeth Sheldon wrote a book called "Time and the Gardener" that I have had my eye on for quite some time. She wrote it at the age of 85, and basically it's a collection of 14 years worth of essays that gracefully reveal her vast knowledge and deep passion for plants of all kinds. The list price of this book is $25.00 (276 pages) but get this - it's on sale at PineTree Garden Seeds for only $5.98!!! Better get there fast.

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Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Unusual plant

I'm sure you know by now that I have a passion for plants. I am especially fond of plants that I can press and use in my art, and I'm also partial to plants that taste wonderful - especially herbs.

But once in awhile, I am drawn to seemingly useless plants, plants that are unusual and special in their own right - the kind of plant that God might have created to show us that he has a sense of humor.

Here's such a plant, and it's called Tillandsia bulbosa. It's big (10" wide and tall) and it just sits in that glass cup and with it's wild arms scattering in every direction. If you look closely, you might see that it's beginning to turn red in the center - that means it's getting ready to bloom at some point. As an air plant, all it requires is regular watering (rain water is best) and light - no soil of any kind.
I'll take another picture for you when it's in bloom. Airplants tend to grow very slowly, so it might take awhile!

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Friday, February 08, 2008

Flowers in heaven

Here's an interesting close up of one of the pictures currently hanging at the Genoa City Library.

For this piece I used a very thin piece of my handmade paper which was applied to a piece of black archival foam board with Perfect Paper Adhesive. The handmade paper was so thin that the PPA bled through, and at first I panicked, but then I ended up loving the unexpected "cosmic" effect.

Will there be flowers in heaven? I think so. We know there will be at least two big trees (Revelation 22:2), and flowers were actually one of God's favorite art subjects. When he gave instructions to Bezalel and Ohliab, the two artists he handpicked and empowered to create the items in Israel's tabernacle, flowers (and palm leaves) were among God's most requested decorations. You can read more about it starting in Exodus 31.

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Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Paper making with Keith Green

I love handmade paper - I use handmade paper in my art and for my cards, I sell paper making kits, and I even teach paper making. But here's a little known secret about me - sometimes I find that paper making can be a bit dull. Especially when I'm behind, and have a lot of paper to make to fill my orders.

Today has been different - I've been making paper with Keith Green. I had forgotten all about him, but since my husband gave me with an ipod this Christmas (bless him), I've delved back into the music of my past, and it's been such a treat. Once I had kids, my musical world shrunk down to Veggie Tales, Sesame Street, and Kid's Praise (thankfully they never got into Barney). I had set my CD's tapes and albums aside, and basically forgot about them until I received a 4 gigabyte ipod that needed filling.

Keith Green was a radical Christian musician from the late 70's who never pulled any punches. His lyrics were convicting, very honest, and even a bit sarcastic at times. His songs were not "sugar coated," like Christian music often is. Listening to his music while I was working today was really uplifting - almost like being at a mini retreat. I had forgotten the power music sometimes has.

Want to find out more about Keith Green? Listen to samples of his music here and read about his life here.

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Monday, February 04, 2008

Earlier this morning I drove through sleet and slush to hang a small exhibit of my art at the Genoa city Library. Joanne, a member of the Genoa City Friends of the library had invited me to be their February/March featured artist.

To the left, is a close up of one of the pictures in my exhibit - a large pressed bee balm flower on handmade paper, which I "floated" in a 11"x14" shadow box frame. I haven't done anything quite like that before, and I really like the effect.

The Genoa City Library is located on 126 Freeman Street, right off of Main Street. They are open from 10:00-7:00 Monday and Wednesday, from 9:00-5:00 Tuesday and Friday, and on Saturday from 9:00-3:00.


Friday, February 01, 2008

Interview with Jennie Beecroft - Part 2

Here's the completion of my online interview with Jennie Beecroft, the designer and manufacturer of the Microfleur microwave flower press.

Today's responses are especially interesting from a "home business" point of view, as we get to see how Jennie ran with her passion and took her idea (along with and her husbands design) and marketed it into a product with international appeal and demand.

Elizabeth: How did the creation of the Microfleur come about? How did the conception of your idea turn into an internationally sold product? Were there hurdles you had to overcome?

Jennie: On our return to Australia we were looking at whether we would buy a business or join the work force. As I mentioned earlier Bob (my husband) designed Microfleur for me so we eventually decided to market it. After at least 6 months of research and testing we came up with the product you see today. We also needed a name - micro (for microwave) and fleur (French for flower) was the final choice. Then came the logo, User guide, packaging, etc. Originally we only had the small press and we launched it at a large Craft Fair in early 1995. Luckily Microfleur was one of the few items to be shown on local television the first night of the show, and the rest, as they say, is history. During the year we had so many requests for a larger Microfleur that we launched the MAX early in 1996.

Friends of ours had visitors staying from USA who were very taken with Microfleur and asked to be our USA distributors - as we were novices in the international scene and felt comfortable with these people we agreed and early in 1996 went to our first HIA show in Las Vegas.

Getting into the European market was a lot harder - we attended several trade shows in Europe and England as well as retail shows in England. The demand was there but getting the European supplier to take on a product from Australia was quite difficult. We found we needed to attend the shows for at least 3 years before we were taken seriously. I guess we had to prove we were there for the long term and able to sustain exhibiting at the shows.
We also had to have the guide translated into the many European languages and get interpreters to help out on the stand.

When we first started we were working out of one side of our garage and Bob and I doing most of the assembly by hand. As we grew we moved into a rented factory and Bob designed box folders and felt slicers (so we could get the correct thickness of felt) and we needed to hire a casual to help with the packaging.

Also, we had found that most of our retails buyers were first time flower pressers and wanted to know how or what to use their flowers on - so I wrote the Project book which has helped to sell the press.

Elizabeth: Are there any innovations to the Microfleur or other pressed flower products in the works?

Jennie: No not at this stage, we have looked at specific glues and sealers but there are so many on the market, now, that do the job that it seemed unnecessary.

Elizabeth: Any parting comments?

Jennie: I guess I would suggest that people try anything and everything. And I am often amazed at the uses customers come up with, and some of the designs and pictures are beautiful.

Thanks again for sharing with us Jennie! Your story is an interesting one.
If you are interested in learning more about using the Microfleur, here is a tutorial on How to press Crocus flowers in the microfleur.

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