Vintage Cards and Christmas Shortbread

This art journal page evolved over a couple of happy hours crafting in my studio, listening to Christmas songs. The focal point is a Christmas card from my vintage card collection. The card was sent from a father in Italy to his daughter in New Zealand during the Second World War. During a time that was so fraught with heartbreak, with many families being separated from their loved ones, it must have been so special for that little girl to receive a Christmas card from her father from all those miles away across the ocean, and to know that he was all right. It makes me feel blessed to be surrounded by all my family at Christmas time.

To make the page, I painted and stencilled a background, then layered the card with Christmas sheet music, festive papers, fabric, lace and ribbon, finally adding a few little embellishments.

I love doing Christmas baking – homemade mince pies, Christmas cake, and Christmas cookies are enjoyed by all at this time of the year. This is my great-grandmother’s shortbread recipe. I add spices, orange zest, and cranberries at Christmas time to give it a festive touch.

Christmas Cranberry Shortbread

225g butter or non-dairy spread
125g icing sugar
zest of 1 orange
½ cup cranberries
375g flour
25g cornflour
1 teaspoon mixed spice

Cream the butter and icing sugar.  Stir in the orange zest and cranberries. Add sifted flour, cornflour, and spice and mix. Knead well. Roll out the dough ¼ inch to ½ inch thick. Cut into shapes. Prick with a fork to stop the dough from rising. (I forgot to do this, but they still turned out nice.) Bake at 160° C for 30 minutes. (I cook on fan bake so that the bottoms of the shortbread don’t burn.) Cool on a wire rack. Enjoy!

From our place to yours, Merry Christmas!

 

 

Growing Wild

For this collaged journal page I painted and stencilled the background, then added photos of my garden, images and words cut from magazines, washi tapes, and pressed flowers.

I love to cut words from magazines and junk mail and save them to use in art projects. I look for words that speak to me. Sometimes I will add one or two words to a journal page, other times I will arrange random words into a poem.

I have had a plain wooden box sitting in my studio for ages, and decided it would be perfect for storing my words. I painted it and then chose some of the words to create a poem on the lid.

I love how a few random words, some scrappy images, and a little imagination can bring nature to life on the page.

 

Written in the Stars

I have always had an interest in astrology; not in reading generic horoscopes in papers or magazines, but in the scientific aspect of mapping the planets and stars in the sky at the exact time we are born into this life. I love the idea that the position of the planets might have an influence on shaping our personality and our life path – our personal star map to help guide us through our life journey, while allowing our own free will and self-awareness to help us make choices along the way.

A couple of years ago, I saw that one of my favourite mixed-media artists, Suzi Blu, and her friend Courtney were offering astrological birth chart readings. I had always been aware that my personality was vastly different to that typical of my star sign and, curious to learn more about it, I signed up for a reading. I provided my exact time, date, and place of birth, and a couple of weeks later I received a PDF chart and a recorded in-depth explanation of the signs and personal interpretation of how it all related to my life. So much of it made perfect sense. Without knowing me, they were able to pinpoint my personality exactly and I was able to make sense of that which had always puzzled me. They also validated that I was on the right path with what I had chosen to do with my life, but suggested that my soul’s purpose was to delve deeper into my emotions, talk about uncomfortable things, and to write deeply things that are meaningful to me.

I am very fortunate to have had a good life with wonderful family and friends, a happy upbringing, and a happy marriage. The one thing I have struggled with over the years is social anxiety, which at times has led to crippling panic attacks, and in the past made school and work situations unhappy places to be.

After the reading I thought about what Suzi and Courtney had said and, soon after, I began writing ‘The Air that I Breathe.’ Although written as a fictional novel, this was a story with which I had a deep personal connection and could write from a heartfelt place of experience and emotion, a story that touched on my own personal experiences with social anxiety and panic attacks. But rather than dwell on the negative aspects, I wanted it to be a story of how we can create our own life path by choosing to live an authentic life and build a life around the things that allow us to feel happy and fulfilled. We shouldn’t be defined by our fears, our weaknesses and imperfections, but rather we should choose to shine a light on all that is good in our lives, on our strengths, our talents and capabilities, and on all that we have to offer others.

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Social anxiety is only a small part of my life now. I have created a life around the things and the people who make me happy, a life that is full and rewarding. I haven’t had a panic attack in a long time. I know the triggers, I do my best to avoid those situations, and knowing I can choose to avoid them makes all the difference in the world to my personal wellbeing.

If it were not for that birth chart reading, ‘The Air that I Breathe’ would probably never have been written. I guess you could say that its creation was ‘written in the stars.’

This art journal page depicts my star sign, Aries. I had a lot of fun painting it, with bursts of colour denoting moments of creation in the universe. Actually, they were blobs of paint that I peeled from my pallete paper the next day and stuck to the page. I thought they added a unique element to the painting.

Poppies and Bumblebees

A beautiful symbol of spring, there are poppies in gardens everywhere around here at the moment. This painting was inspired by photos of poppies taken in our garden a couple of years ago. I created layers on the canvas with tissue paper, scrapbook papers, acrylic paints, inks, and a honeycomb stencil, then painted the poppies, seed heads, and bumblebees with acrylic paints. The bumblebees were fun to paint. I think they help to add movement and life to the painting.

In the language of flowers, the poppy is associated with faith, remembrance, and consolation. The red poppy has come to symbolize the sacrifice of those who laid down their lives during the two world wars. According to folklore, if you sniff a poppy three times a day it will bring you luck. I have yet to test this!

 

Journal of Inspiration

I love looking through magazines for inspiration. Some of my favourites are Somerset Studio, Somerset Art Journaling, Sew Somerset, and Daphne’s Diary. I also love reading gardening magazines and the Australian Country Craft magazines. I am very lucky to have a wonderful mum who also loves to read magazines and passes them on to me after she has finished with them. Once I have read the magazines (often several times), I pull out pages with crafts or recipes that I would like to try, home decor, botanical art, poems, or pictures that make me feel happy. I also take out pages and cut out words that I can use in my collage. After that, what is left goes in the recycling.

Recently I decided to take the folder of inspirational pages I had pulled from the magazines and make them into a big journal of things that I love. To make the journal I took one of my magazines and removed all the pages from it that I didn’t want to keep, leaving a half inch border along the spine of each page. Then I took my stash of inspirational pages and glued them onto the half-inch tabs, while others I attached with my favourite washi tapes.

Some pages I glued back to back, covering up the sides I didn’t want to keep. On other pages I made mini collages, or used paint and washi tape to cover up parts I didn’t want.

I made a pocket on one of the pages to hold some of my vintage greeting cards.

I decorated the cover using gesso, acrylic paints, inks, paint pens, and washi tapes, and I added some fibers and beads down the side.

My journal is a big book of inspiration that I can take out and look through when I want to relax. And the good thing is I can keep adding pages to the journal – the bulkier the better!

Freedom art journal page

I recently discovered the poetry of Erin Hanson after coming across this inspirational quote on the internet and searching to find out who wrote it. I bought one of Erin’s books, The Poetic Underground Reverie, and just love her charming poems, which are emotive, relatable, and often hold a touch of whimsy. She has an amazing way with words and an incredibly deep and sensitive insight into human emotions.

The Poetic Undergound

I knew when I began this journal page that I wanted it to be bright and colourful, and for the wings to be made from pressed flowers.I gathered together a selection of papers, paints, and inks in my chosen colour palette and began planning the page.I added pieces of old lace, raffia, and washi tape, and typed the poem on my vintage style typewriter that Nick gave me for Christmas a couple of years ago. After spending so much time on the computer typing my novels, it is fun to use the typewriter for crafty things and to have my studio as a technology-free space where I can relax and unwind.Lastly, I sorted through my stash of pressed flowers and chose some ferns and feverfew and dried heather buds for the wings, and to embellish the pages.

This page reminds me that it is okay to take chances and that you never know where that leap of faith might take you.

Larkspur art journal page

I love purple and blue flowers, and larkspurs are one of my favourites. In the language of flowers, larkspurs signify lightness and levity. They also have magical connections to health and protection.

Larkspur

For the journal page I used paints and inks, washi tape, corrugated cardboard, a stencil, cutout butterflies, a pressed larkspur flower, larkspur seeds, rust-dyed fabrics, a white pen, and impasto gel medium.

Larkspurs self-seed in our garden and come up every spring in myriad colours of blues, purples and pinks. Their soft, feathery foliage is pretty, too.

At the moment, with the end of summer and herbs starting to die off, my studio has become a drying room with bunches of bergamot, lemon balm, and basil hanging from the rafters to dry for use in the winter.

Dawn – a mixed media painting

Dawn is one of my favourite times of the day, waking to the sounds of birdsong, watching the sun rise to light the morning sky in vibrant bursts of colour as the world shifts slowly from darkness to light.

At the beginning of the day, anything is possible.

I found this piece of music in an old music book, and it made me think of a dawn chorus, of birds awakening and greeting the new day with joy and optimism.

For the background I used the page from the old book of piano music, paint, and stencils. Then I added images from scrapbook papers, dried flora, and fibers. Lastly, I painted the three birds onto  paper, cut them out, and glued them onto the painting. I wasn’t brave enough to paint the birds directly onto the canvas in case I ruined it. Painting them onto paper first meant that I could start over if I wasn’t happy with them.

A kingfisher, a heron, and a tomtit, ready to embrace the new day.

Little Book of Ancestors

I recently took Laly Mille’s online class, Little Book of Whispers, a beautiful class in which she teaches you how to make a mixed media artist book connecting to the whispers of your soul. I chose to make my book into a little book of ancestors.

I embellished the pages with scraps of vintage lace and doilies, ribbons, buttons, and sewing ephemera, many of which belonged to my ancestors. I also used vintage greeting cards from my collection, Victorian decoupage scraps, pressed flowers from my garden, pages from old music books, fabric, and pieces of broken jewellery.

Between the covers of this little book lie the whispers of my ancestors.

To learn more about Laly Mille’s class, Little Book of Whispers, click here. The class is only available to join at certain times of the year, but you can get on the wait list to learn when the next class is open for registration. I urge you to take a look at her website www.lalymille.com where you will find lots of beautiful mixed media art and inspiration.

The House in Wattle Lane, the second book in my Wattle Lane series, also delves into ancestry and connecting to whispers of the past.

When 29-year-old Neave Hamlin is made redundant from her job in the city, she decides to return to the small town of Kerrigan to consider her future and to reconnect with her estranged father and half-siblings. However, she soon learns that being part of a family is not always easy as she struggles to cope with the emotional dramas of her 14-year-old, half-sister, Lily, who insists that the old family home is haunted, and a less than welcoming stepmother.

After attending a heritage scrapbooking class, Neave is inspired to learn more about the lives of her ancestors. While searching for the truth behind a dark family secret, she discovers that sometimes unearthing the past can shine a light on the future.

The House in Wattle Lane includes recipes.

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Scrappy Cupcake Angels, book one in the Wattle Lane novels, introduces you to some of the other characters who live in the small New Zealand town of Kerrigan, several of whom also make an appearance in The House in Wattle Lane.

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Keep Your Face To The Sunshine

Pictures of sunflowers always make me feel cheerful and remind me that summer is on its way (at least, here in the Southern hemisphere). Even in winter, the sight of a sunflower image can lift the spirits and conjure up feelings of warmth and happiness.

I made this small mixed-media canvas using papers from Rosie’s Studio handmade paper scrap pack. The quote and the sunflower images are from Graphic 45’s Time to Flourish collection. I used acrylic paints and inks, and added a piece of burlap and a small metal trinket.

Here are some close-up views.

Have a sunshine-filled day!

Books by my Favourite Mixed-Media Artists

 

As a book lover and a crafter, I have quite a large collection of art and craft books on my bookshelves. I love browsing through them. Each one provides me with inspiration for my own craft projects, as well as teaching me new techniques. These are a few books by my favourite mixed-media artists.

Mixed-Media Girls with Suzi Blu: Drawing, Painting, and Fanciful Adornments From Start to Finish

Mixed-Media Girls

www.suzibluart.com

Suzi Blu was the first mixed-media artist I ever discovered. I fell in love with her charming mixed-media girls and her gypsy boho style of art. When her book came out I immediately bought it, keen to learn her techniques and to see more of her lovely creations. It was her book that provided inspiration for my first foray into the world of mixed-media art. She also introduced me to the wonderful world of art journaling. I took one of her art journaling courses and discovered a whole new way of expressing myself creatively. She has many videos on YouTube and offers lots of courses on her website.

Mixed-Media Girls with Suzi Blu includes instructions for drawing and shading a pretty face and folk art body, lots of step by step projects, and a gallery of artwork by her students. It also comes with a bonus DVD on which Suzi guides you through drawing, painting, and finishing one of her mixed-media girls, presented in her fun, quirky style.

Creative Girl: Mixed Media Techniques for an Artful Life by Danielle Donaldson

Creative Girl

danielledonaldson.com

This is the book that began my love of watercolour painting. Danielle Donaldson paints lovely whimsical watercolour illustrations and her distinctive style of art includes a range of mixed-media elements. Her book teaches basic watercolour techniques and fun ways to incorporate mixed-media elements such as stitching, collage, and layering, into your projects to tell visual stories. At the back of the book there is a small gallery of some of Danielle’s work.

Collage Couture: Techniques for Creating Fashionable Art by Julie Nutting

Collage Couture

julienuttingdesigns.blogspot.com

As a young child I loved playing with paper dolls and was so excited whenever I received a new one for my birthday or Christmas. I would spend hours cutting out the clothes, folding the paper tabs over the cardboard dolls, and making up stories for them to act out. I still have all of the paper dolls from my childhood and take them out every now and then when I am feeling nostalgic! Naturally I was thrilled to discover Julie Nutting’s two books, Collage Couture: Techniques  for Creating Fashionable Art, and Collage Couture Studio Paper Dolls. It was a chance for me to rediscover those magical childhood memories, and to combine two of my favourite things, paper dolls and pretty scrapbook papers.

Collage Couture: Techniques for Creating Fashionable Art teaches you how to sketch fashion figures and create stylish dresses  from patterned papers, and it has step-by-step projects for creating mixed-media backgrounds for the dolls. Great fun!

Collage Couture Studio Paper Dolls: Design, Collage, Cut & Play by Julie Nutting

Collage Couture Studio Paper Dolls

Collage Couture Studio Paper Dolls has five paper dolls from around the world, each with their own little story and a page of clothes in their own style, which can be photocopied or scanned and cut out.  There is also a template for designing your own paper doll, and step-by-step projects for building mixed-media backgrounds and settings for the dolls.

Taking Flight: Inspiration & Techniques to give your Creative Spirit Wings
by Kelly Rae Roberts

Taking Flight: Inspiration & Techniques to Give Your Creative Spirit Wings

www.kellyraeroberts.com

It was through this book that I first discovered Kelly Rae Roberts. In Taking Flight, Kelly Rae shares her personal journey towards becoming a full-time artist and inspires you to rediscover your dreams and live a more creative life. She shows you through step-by-step projects how to create mixed-media backgrounds, using collage and other techniques, and how to draw and paint faces. As well as teaching through her own recognizable style, the book also includes techniques from contributing artists, which Kelly Rae incorporates into her projects. At the end of each chapter is an interview with the contributing artist.

Layered, Tattered & Stitched: A Fabric Art Workshop by Ruth Rae

Layered, Tattered & Stitched: A Fabric Art Workshop

ruthrae.blogspot.com

As well as having a love of scrapbook papers and embellishments, I also adore fabrics, lace, beads and buttons. This book indulges my love of all those things. Layered, tattered & Stitched: A Fabric Art Workshop by Ruth Rae is full of inspiring small projects with step-by-step instructions for making fabric cards, books, journals and albums, art dolls, wall art, and much, much more. The book explores a range of sewing techniques combined with collage, photo transfers, dyeing and staining fabric, using wire, and more. At the back of the book there are pattern templates for some of the projects. A lovely book for anyone interested in fabric art.

In my studio

My small studio in our garden warms quickly once the sun comes out and it is a pleasure to go out there on these cold winter days and lose myself in creative bliss.

I painted a couple more watercolour flowers for my garden journal, but after a few days my flower a day project gave way to some mixed-media painting on canvases. I will definitely be painting more watercolour flowers in the spring when our garden starts blooming with the seeds we saved and planted from last year – poppies, larkspur, snapdragons and foxgloves.

cornflowers

busy lizzies

Although I enjoy trying new things, I always seem to return to mixed-media. I just love being able to combine all my favourite things – paints and inks and scrapbook papers and fibres and fabrics and embellishments and collage and texture – together in one piece.

butterfly

Last weekend I went to a local fair where crafters were selling their unwanted supplies at bargain prices. I got some lovely fabrics, fibres, tapes, a broken string of beads and a mini kraft album, all for next to nothing. I think the fair was a great idea to give crafters a chance to have a clear out of their stash. One man’s trash is definitely another man’s treasure!

This month I signed up for Kelly Rae Unscripted with Kelly Rae Roberts. It is weekly painting videos of Kelly Rae painting in her studio. Each video is between one and three hours long and is unedited, showing her painting process from beginning to end as she creates a new mixed-media piece each week. She has a wonderful studio space in an old repurposed high school in Portland, Oregon. Sometimes she has her English bulldog, Lulu Butter Butter Bean, in the studio with her, and sometimes she has a guest painting alongside her. The videos are fun to watch. I am learning a lot of different techniques and getting loads of inspiration. Click here to learn more about Kelly Rae Unscripted, and here for Kelly Rae’s website.

Kelly Rae Roberts

For those of you who are wondering about my next book, there is also lots of writing going on. An update about that soon.

Wildflower Meadow

I hope all the mums out there had a lovely Mother’s Day on Sunday. It was a beautiful autumn day here, continuing our run of amazing autumn weather.

I made my mum this mixed-media picture using watercolour and inking techniques from Jane Betteridge’s book Watercolours Unleashed. After the background was dry, I added pressed flowers and leaves from my garden, and a few butterflies cut from scrapbook paper.

wildflower meadow

Jane Betteridge does the most beautiful watercolour painting, using nature as her inspiration. I was so pleased to have discovered her book. You can see her lovely work on her website at www.janebetteridge.com.

Look For The Magic

This art journal page reminds me to look for the magic in the everyday (or night). A full moon surrounded by swirls of violet cloud, a garden bathed in moonglow, the brilliant light from a distant star, the changing colours of the seasons as trees shed their leaves and plants lie dormant, then a new cycle of growth begins all over again. The feelings of comfort and belonging inspired by a little cottage; a sense of home, of occupying my own little place in the universe.

Look for the Magic

Beach Wall Hanging

This little wall hanging was inspired by a recent visit to Waimarama Beach. I rummaged around in my stash of fabrics for blues and golds to accent the colours in the photograph. I sewed them onto a burlap background with wavy lines of stitching, then sewed on strips of ribbon and trim, and added some buttons and some driftwood and shells from the beach. Hanging from the bottom are vintage tassels I found at a recent antiques fair.

beach wall hanging

Finn had a wonderful time chasing his toy, then burying it in the sand. He even found a playmate. Although he loves to swim in the river, he has always been a little hesitant about going into the ocean. But on this day he was happy to follow Nick into the water, and to retrieve his toy from the shallow waves.

Patchwork Paper Hearts

I love making patchwork. There is something satisfying about cutting up pieces of fabric or paper and joining them back together to make something new. Patchwork quilts fill me with joy, pretty fabrics joined together to make lovely, functional pieces. Pretty scrapbook papers fill with me with just as much joy, and collaging these paper hearts was a good way of using up some scraps I had left over from other projects.

I began by tearing random shapes from the scrapbook papers. I glued them all onto a sheet of paper with mod podge, then glued little pieces of ribbon and fibres on top.

After the glue had dried, I turned the collaged paper over and drew random shaped hearts on the back.

I cut out the hearts and arranged them on a page in my art journal, on which I had already painted a background with watercolour paints and added a strip of paper lace. I wrote sentiments onto paper, cut out the words, inked the edges and added them to my page.

 

Valentine’s Art Journal Page

Amore

I have had this wonderful vintage postcard in my collection for a while now and thought it would be perfect to use on a Valentine’s Day project. I began by layering and handstitching together pretty fabrics and lace as a frame for the postcard. For the background I did some stenciling, inked around the edges of the page, then added some washi tape, buttons, ribbon and paper hearts. A little tag with a sentiment and a tiny paperclip finished it off.

Halloween Mixed-media Art Journal Page

A Visit From The Ancestors

Halloween mixed-media art journal page

This page in my art journal was made using scrapbook papers, fabrics, chalk, paper lace, and a metal embellishment.
A while ago I was given some quilt fabrics. There were several black pieces with designs of silver stars and swirls, and were perfect for including in this project.

The All Hallow’s Eve scrapbook paper is from Graphic 45’s Time to Flourish collection.

The ancestor pictures are from Kaisercraft’s Betsy’s Couture collection.

The picture of the haunted house is from The Graphics Fairy, which is a great resource for free vintage images, crafting ideas and tutorials.

I love that in my art journal I can tell a story in pictures rather than words.

Keepsakes Box

I often keep cardboard boxes that things have come in, thinking that they might be useful for storage. This one was a particularly nice, sturdy box.

After having it sit around for quite some time, I decided to embellish it and use it as a keepsakes box.
I decorated it with scrapbook papers, die cuts, fabric trims, buttons, and inspirational phrases.

Now I have a lovely box for my keepsakes.

keepsakes box