Before the day is over, just wanted to say - thanks for all the wonderful messages on facebook, and for all the cards, gifts, texts, and calls from friends. It's been a fun birthday - started out with coffee this morning with mom! She was visiting for Fallon's graduation. We visited my roses to see if there was a sign from Shannon. With many about to bloom, two stood out. One for her, one for me. Below is mom in the garden - the original rose bush is nearly twice as tall as her. Ok, she is pint-size, but the roses are also enormous. Another few days of sunshine and we will have dozens of roses.
On Saturday Fallon graduated from Raritan Valley Community College. She moving on the Rutgers in the Fall - studying Art History. It was a grand day, and so special to celebrate her achievement. We gave mom a tour of the new campus she'll be at soon. Well, not so new - Rutgers marked their 250th anniversary this year. *tosses confetti for Fallon*
As April approached I had a grand plan to blog each week under theme of autism awareness. Turns out the month got away from me. Here we are on the last day already. It's been busy, but oh so fulfilling. Thank you to our friends who have supported our new shop. 73 sales is pretty good for our launch month. We also had two commissions - just mailed the second one off today. I had a meeting with our DVR counselor this week. That's a state appointed person who tracks your progress in securing a job - she had referred us to two different agencies to assist with the process. As you know, after three years with no prospects we decided to go out on our own and build a business. She was very kind and went to bat for us with her supervisor to see if they could support us in any way - thanks, but we don't need anything. We got this. While I appreciated her effort, it ended up being a frustrating experience. Because I couldn't supply her with a tax ID and financial reports they regard our enterprise as a hobby, not employment,and have earmarked his file as a non-success. I left the meeting feeling deflated because they don't get it. Profit is not a goal. It's Purpose we are after. And Purpose we created. And Purpose fills our days and brings satisfaction and happiness. Who cares what the files say, we are doing it our way.
On launch day Sam received a bouquet of roses from our friend Janet - a sweet lady I only know through this blog and our email conversations. Thank you Janet - not only for making April 1st a very special day, but you've introduced us to a really fabulous enterprise: Roses for Autism. If you ever want to send roses, this is the place. Visit the site to learn more about their exceptional staff, HERE.
Just after Sam's birthday, he participated in a talent/fashion show at our high school with his peers. It was the most amazing evening seeing these special kids parade across the stage, and sing, and dance. Sam had a display of his cards with two other entrepreneurs; a friend who makes candles and air fresheners, and another artist who paints and illustrates. Super fun night and utterly heartwarming.
As I mentioned, in addition to painting cards, we were commissioned by friends to create special packages. Veering from our usual routine was something Sam took in stride but he can't wait to get back to painting next week. He whizzes through the labeling and packaging because he knows that once that is done he can get back to the easel.
Tomorrow is May. I remember making May Day offerings out of construction paper and filling with leftover Easter grass and a handful of treats to leave at the door of friends. Ring the bell, hang a surprise on the doorknob, and run! It was a tradition in my neighborhood that we continued with our kids. Anyone else do May Day cones or baskets?
The May/June Somerset Studio has arrived! If you subscribe you may have it by now - hits the shelves around May 1st. My column is about using up items from my stash, and venturing into stitching. I really loved working on this fabric book and have finished additional pages which I will show you sometime soon. You'll recognize that my topographical interest made its way onto a spread, of course! My friends Lynne and Mary Beth have colorful fun articles for their columns - be sure to get a copy.
It's a big day here. Sam is 24! Tomorrow he will join a community of friends and former classmates in a talent + fashion show at our high school. Sam's painted cards will be on display as a 'talented entrepreneur'. It's been so much fun watching these kids practice the 'runway'. After lunch out with his girlfriend Brianna we go the final dress rehearsal for the big show. It's going to be an action packed weekend. Lots of favorite memories in the collage below. Can't believe ~ 24!
Thanks to all of you who have shared your enthusiasm for his new enterprise of Painting with Purpose and the launch of his Etsy shop. We sold out and restocked the shop twice, and have been busy painting and folding more. Super fun!
SAM AND I HAVE BEEN BUSY!
We are excited to launch this new venture together, and are making our announcement today,
the beginning of Autism Awareness month.
SPECIAL NEEDS is a phrase that has a double meaning. Yes, Sam has 'special needs' in the way most people think. He has autism. But don't we all have special needs? Rather than shy away from the term we are embracing it to remind us that sometimes you just need a little something special. We hope you like our offerings and will choose to purchase when you want a card to send a personal message.
PAINTING WITH PURPOSE: Our goal is not to make profit but to cover our costs, and more importantly, give us a daily purpose. Our products may not be perfect, but that's the beauty of being handmade with heart. We will be donating a portion of our profit to make a difference in the lives of families who are affected by autism.
CREATING OUR OWN DESTINY: After years of working with agencies trying to find appropriate employment we've decided to create our own destiny with the self-imposed ambition to have a daily purpose. Painting with Purpose has become one of our mantras. Sam loves to sit at the easel and paint piles of paper everyday. Painting, cutting, sorting, counting, labeling, packaging and mailing will be a fun way to insert productive activity into our day.
RIPPLE EFFECT: (And the secret behind our logo) We hope that our choice to open this shop will have a ripple effect and inspire others to do something similar. If you know of a family that is also trying to gain employment for their adult child with special needs maybe you could suggest they find an item that could be handmade and sold too. When there isn't a clear path of what to do after graduation, this could be a worthwhile endeavor. I welcome any questions on how to get launched.
See our brand new shop, HERE.
As I mentioned here on the blog, a little while ago I had an epiphany. It wasn't a lightning bolt idea, it had actually been simmering for some time. After meeting with our sixth job coach in nearly three years, with grand hopes of finding appropriate job placement for Sam, it was becoming clear that we needed to invent our own plan for daily purpose. Sam has great skills and has had some work experience, but the applications and interviews were going nowhere. We couldn't even secure a regular volunteer position.
My first vision was to come up with a project that Sam could manage on his own, giving him a routine and a schedule - something that he loves. I purchased a die-cut machine with the intention that he could make sets of gift tags and sell them on Etsy. I buy tags from there all the time so it made sense. The endeavor would be a chance for him to be productive, and see results. Cut, sort, count, package. We began. Then, to explain better what we were doing this for, I pulled out some painted cards Sam had made back in middle school with his class. His teacher, Mrs. Reiss, had her husband make the boys some tabletop easels, and they painted papers which were made into card sets. The boys sold the cards from a table at school events, and even had a display at the church holiday bazaar. As I was reminding Sam about the handpainted cards he got really excited, and it was a *sign* we needed to drop the die-cut tags and focus on painting. So painting it is - and eventually we may circle back to tags, but we also have a few more project plans that will debut later in the year. Sam has purpose. Mom and Dad are proud. Family is supportive, and cheering, and tolerant of the dining room take-over during the painting sessions (he paints 30-40 sheets at a time!).
A few photos from 2007 when Sam's class was selling cards. Thanks to my friend Maureen Reiss, and the other teachers who got the boys started with the process of painting with purpose. Who knew this would become a daily focus? Awesome.
And a re-cap of our adventure - it's only just begun! Thanks for sharing your enthusiasm with us. It's made the process really fun!
Ready to ship! See HERE.
EDIT (June): See my story in Somerset Studio (July/August) HERE
Here are some of the sample tags I've made with the new Ink Pad stencils, along with brief descriptions. These are just pigment ink pads + stencils.
TIP: if you use wedge make-up sponges, cut off the hard edge so you don't get 'lines' when dabbing off the ink onto your tag.
I've never been one to pick a Word of the Year. However, a few weeks ago I had an epiphany, and that came with a word. PURPOSE. I've launched a mission that has kept us busy here at home. I will reveal the details soon, with a few teasers as it gets closer. It's one of those ideas that was lingering around in the corner of my mind and I wasn't sure it could work, but once I started saying it out loud and sharing the plan with loved ones it became something real, something tangible, something do-able.
First, you stretch your way of thinking to consider all possibilities, no matter how far-fetched. Then you reign it in and determine what can be accomplished in reality. You weigh pros and cons, do some research, and begin to visualize a successful outcome. You gather the supplies you need, set up a schedule, and jump in.
As a sign that we are on a mission, I scored a handsome Word of the Year Rock + Amulet from my friend Kim Mailhot (aka The Rock Fairy) who makes and sells these in her Etsy shop HERE. Isn't she a clever one? This hangs over our work table and reminds us that what we do is important.
I'm so excited to finally be able to share this news - the first four in a series of New York stencils, exclusively for The Ink Pad. Shop online at their newly launched site....it's only a few minutes old. Congrats Anna and Barbara!!
The March/April issue of Somerset Studio just arrived. I am thrilled for my friend Anna who is on the cover and inside with the Artist Profile - her signature work is lovely and unique. Since the theme is Mail Art my column features art made with security envelopes, and then I segued into using postage stamps. If you've been following my blog you know I love these security paper patterns, found on the inside of the dreaded bills. I've been collecting and cataloging for years - now I can't stop making stuff with them.
See my other posts using security envelopes last year.
Recently scored from Etsy - an origami ball geniusly folded by FANSHEFOLDS
There are patterns here I don't have!! Maybe it would be fun to show you my collection and if you have a pattern I don't have we could trade!!
Yes, we are ready for the big game. Graham has the menu planned and good smells are coming from the kitchen. My neighbor Emma came over to make Valentines. This year I taught her about dry embossing. We did it the real way, with brass stencils, a lightbox, and a stylus tool. After one I knew she'd be antsy because it takes alot of handpower and patience to complete. So then I introduced her to embossing folders and the short-cut for embossing. We will ran our die-cut hearts through the hand-cranked pasta machine (typically used for polymer clay - I've never made pasta). She finished a dozen in no time and then we moved on to addressing and decorating envelopes. Assignments are finished so we will open some of the Girl Scout cookies she delivered.
A reminder of using embossing folders with a pasta machine from 2011. Such a fun and fast way to get texture!
I can't recall where I picked up my first fragrance from Ineke. It may have been from Anthropologie. I was first drawn to the package, then was sold on the scent. When I was down to the very last drop I went searching for a replacement, and landed at Ineke.com Suddenly everything looked tempting so I was thrilled by the opportunity to order the sampler sets. What a treat it was when they arrived! The two sets are packaged so handsomely, with glorious graphics and details. I ended up with another bottle of my favorite: Scarlet Larkspur. Curious? Visit the website. Be sure to stay long enough for each graphic to scroll - there are about 6 images per scent. The descriptions of the 'notes' are delicious, and as an experienced sample sniffer I can tell you that each one is a champ.
I purposely pair new fragrances with new projects. It's a little trick that assists the subliminal to retrieve the verve and enthusiasm first felt upon initiation of the process. When I'm ready to revisit or continue I take a little whiff and I'm transported. You know it works. You have memories that are associated with smells. Why not use that knowledge to help you in the studio?
I said it last year, and have advocated for the same concept several years before that....making a TaDa list is way more fun than a ToDo list. Of course they go hand-in-hand. However, I'm much more about celebrating the past year as motivation for the upcoming year, rather than fussing over what didn't get done or what is still left to begin.
I'm not one for making resolutions at the beginning of the year. My philosophy is that I'd much rather reflect on the past year and recognize all I have done. I find that to be empowering and motivating. Each January I have a ritual of making a Ta-Da list. I start with the end of December and work my way back to the first of the year, making notes of everything that I can remember doing during the year. It is easier to start with the most recent self-imposed assignments. (I'm not always good about maintaining To-Do lists during the year, but I have been known to keep them month-by-month.) Eventually I recall a full list of achievements, missions, chores, and projects that leaves me feeling really good. Sure, there are always things left on my To-Do list....there is always more to do, and ideas that are still in-process. However, when you move items from your To-Do list to your Ta-Da list you celebrate what you've completed - that's much more affirming than worrying about the tasks ahead, or announcing an official pledge to make changes with the turn of the calendar page. Maybe you could start 2016 by patting yourself on the back for all the work you completed in 2015, from art projects to self-improvement, then carry forward the positive energy into the brand new year.
Make a Ta-Da list, because it's way more fun than a To-Do list!
Download printable lists here -
I hope that however you handle the turning of the page to 2016 that it is a wonderful year filled with blessings, love, friendship, and creativity.
If you're thinking you could use a little boost to get you rolling in January, the offer of $5 off the Creative JumpStart event in January ends at 11:59 EST 12/31. Visit http://nathaliesstudio.com/cjs to sign up and use the code CJS2016.
The January/February issue of Somerset Studio has arrived. If you've taken the Compose Yourself workshop with me then you've tried the exercise I illustrate and describe in my column. I first learned of it back in grade school - didn't know the term for it until a few years ago. Notan - the Japanese word for dark/light harmony. (I could insert a HIM reference here, as they have an album called Dark Light, but I will refrain.) You can see I used my chess stencil again. The full set of stencils/masks will be released in January.
Compose Yourself is on my schedule in 2016. It will be offered through Pratt School of Continuing and Professional Studies on February 13. Registration is open. CALL 855.551.7727 or follow link to register: HERE (type in Michelle Ward, using caps as shown)
Here is a sampling of my Pratt workshops this Spring. Visit my WORKSHOPS page for full descriptions and schedule.
And don't forget - if you plan on joining Creative JumpStart the $45 fee is good through 12/31. It will be $50 after that. Visit Nathalie's site HERE for all the details. My first video will be included!! HCIT?
Who would ever expect that December would permit and extended season for spray paint in NJ? We've been lucky with the unseasonably mild weather, so I took advantage. If you follow me on facebook you've already seen the facelift to our coffee table. It was time for a sprucing up with a change of palette to coordinate with our revised colors in the living room. First painted in 2007, the composition included many of my favorite stencils from that time. Since then I've designed over 100 stencils for Green Pepper Press and Stencil Girl Products. My intention with the do-over was to use the new stuff, but it ended up taking a turn and I went with some hand-cut chess stencils+masks from 2008 as the focus, with multiple size checkerboards, alphabets, and my damask patterns as "noise". After revisiting the chess stencils I've decided I will be releasing them in a smaller size in January. Stay tuned!
I admit it was hard to say goodbye to the old table top, but I had a great time spray painting the new one, and I'm pleased with the results. You can see my post about the 2007 version HERE. Below are the before and after views:
And some close-ups, plus a view of my outdoor work space, near the rose garden. I finish the surface with acrylic spray varnish, and a glass top.
I cut these chess pieces stencil/mask sets in three sizes back in 2008. Loved using in my journals and for art-making. HERE is an archived blog post illustrating how the chess theme has been one of my favorites.
I'm going to be getting the chess stencils and masks into production soon - to be released in January. There will be coordinating checkerboards too! They won't be as large as the ones I used on my table, but they will be fun to work with on all kinds of surfaces. Can't wait!!
I'm excited to announce that I'll be participating as an artist in 5th annual Creative JumpStart (CJS) 2016, hosted by Nathalie Kalbach. If you're not familiar with CJS, it's a one-of-a-kind online event to kick your creativity into high gear in January 2016. Nathalie has extended an invitation to me for several years and I always declined as I'm not a video girl. So how cool is this? I made my first one!!
Learn techniques, discover new materials, and connect with artists and crafters.
Throughout January participants get 25 downloadable videos from 24 featured artists. I'm proud to be one of those artists, called “JumpStarters.” See for yourself:
Head on over to Nathalie's site to sign up and for more details:
You get 25 videos for just $45 (USD) for a limited time if you sign up before December 31, 2015 at 11:59 pm (EST)! After that the fee will be $50.
But wait – it gets better: as my valued reader, you’ll get $5 extra off today. Just use this coupon code during checkout:
*This is a limited offer valid from 10:00 am Dec 4, 2015 to 11:59 pm EST on Dec 11, 2015.
So what are you waiting for? Sign up here nathaliesstudio.com/cjs, and apply the coupon code during check out process.
Chime in below if you have any questions or if you want to share your enthusiasm for jumping along with us.
What an honor to be invited to participate as a Guest Artist for The Documented Life Project. These girls have been inspiring artists for almost two years with their wonderful art and generous weekly challenge site. When Roben-Marie sent my assignment back in January I was thrilled. Stamps, Stencils & Masks are right up my alley. Not only do I love using retail products, but I also love to custom make all of these tools for making art. I have tutorials on both Stamp Carving and Stencil Cutting if the process is new to you or you want a refresher.
A few words about process....I love to work spontaneously, with no plan, no agenda. But I also love thinking about a project in specific detail, especially if I have an assignment. I make notes and some sketches, and try to discern what I want to express, or more importantly, what is channeling into my thoughts after being prompted with a subject. I love being immersed in the pre-project-thought-process as you give consideration to all the ways your ideas could be manifested. Here are my notes from January:
Last week I revisited the prompts, handcarved stamp and tapestry, and still found myself focused on a mental visual of the things I jotted down earlier in the year. Tapestry > foliage > trees > leaves > Autumn.
This is what I imagine when I think Tapestry. Woven, worn, rich. Lots of color, but a subtle range.
A word that kept repeating itself in my notes - Autumn. A strong influence - we are in full Fall colors here.... although most leaves are now on the ground. I am drawn in by the vibrant colors....especially the reds. I have a favorite quote that I think I will include. We'll see.
So how to interpret this through my own filters, with my own style? Make a few color selections and build a palette, then draw a few things that could be transferred to soft block and carved. Then start painting and see what happens.
The tree I carved is 4" with alot of intricate details so there may be an issue getting a good imprint on a page that has already been layered with gesso and acrylic. Going into this I knew that I wouldn't attempt to stamp the entire tree directly on the page. Through an experience of working on a project with a large (12" x 12") carving, I stumbled upon a trick that I like to rely on when applying an image to a page. Pre-paint loose paper (I used gessoed tissue paper) then stamp with black paint onto several sheets (paint on paint is better than ink on paint). Cut up all the "good" portions and splice together to recreate the image. It's like a paper quilt and makes the composition more interesting. Here is the piece where I learned my lesson of layering, 12" square framed collage painting made from a carved stamp:
My plan was to be tapestry-like but I ended up more quilt-like. This is a good example of how you can take inspiration from a prompt and have some loose intentions, then let the piece begin to work itself out while you are in-process.
I really admire these girls for launching their challenge site in 2014, then beginning again with weekly prompts for 2015. Having hosted my own monthly challenge site for six years I know how much work it is AND I know how much it means to get feedback. It's validating and encouraging. So be sure to chime in when you visit their site and offer your kind words.
Again, here is the link to The Documented Life Project: Art to the 5th Stop by and see what magic the hostesses have conjured up for this week's prompt.