Back from a week in the wilds of Washington

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I woke up Sunday morning to a temperature of 38F and a herd of elk lurking around the cluster of farm building where I was staying. It was the last day of the Spring 2017 Gaian Soul retreat, held this time at Cedar Springs Lodge and Farm, Skagit County, Washington, just south of the Canadian border.

The theme of the retreat was Tarot and Talismans. I taught talisman-making techniques, including beeswax applications on clay and fiber, and rolled paper/fiber/wax bead techniques. My dear friend, Joanna Powell Colbert, infused these techniques with mystery, magic and spiritual intent through her teaching of the Tarot. It was a perfect fit. We were all thrilled with the results.

I kept wanting to post pictures to SHARDS all of last week, but the internet connection was slow out there, so I just put a bunch of them into this video to share with you:

Tarot and Talismans from Lyn Belisle on Vimeo.

I also put up a page on my website for the retreat participants with links to the supplies that we used in the workshop, and you are welcome to take a look, too!

Click this Tarot and Talisman link.

Making the beads was such a success that I want to offer it as a separate workshop at my studio later this summer. The talismans took quite a while to complete – three days of fairly steady work, but you can make several dozen spectacular beeswax, fiber and paper beads in an afternoon. Stay tuned.

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I hitched a ride with my friend Lisa Sanger Blinn from SeaTac airport to the Cedar Springs Farm, which is about a two hour drive. We visited the town of LaConner both coming and going. It has great galleries, restaurants and shops. The Calico Cupboard Cafe and Bakery is fantastic. And all around La Conner, we saw acres of daffodils that are being harvested for commercial florists. Most were not in bloom yet, but some were – spectacular!

And, yes, they grow in boggy soil. There were also fields of swans and snow geese.

Thanks to Lisa for showing me the sights – for a Houston girl who works at Rice University, she sure knows her way around the Pacific Northwest!

And more special thanks to Joanna Colbert Powell and the Gaian Soul circle of women for inviting me back to teach the talisman workshop – it was a wonderful week!

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The pleasures and possibilities of paper

My artist friend Mary Ann Johnson came by yesterday and, among other things, we talked about our mutual love for beautiful paper. Mary Ann has been making books for a long time and has a fabulous collection of artisan papers which she shared with us at the Lotus Book workshop. Here are some of the books she’s made.

Handpainted accordion book by Mary Ann Johnson

Handpainted accordion book by Mary Ann Johnson

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Coptic bound book by Mary Ann Johnson

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Handpainted accordion book by Mary Ann Johnson

We both agreed that one of the best online shops to find great paper is Hollanders. It’s a bookbinding store that offers over 2000 kinds of decorative paper – check out these beauties:

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I showed Mary Ann an experiment I’ve been doing with paper beads as part of my planning for an upcoming Wax and Fiber Talisman workshop at the Gaian Soul retreat. After I’ve rolled the beads, I coat them with beeswax. It gives a wonderful luster and smoothness and makes them look almost like ancient cocoons.

Rolled paper bead

Rolled paper bead

Coating with beeswax

Coating with beeswax

Waxed and unwaxed paper beads

Waxed and unwaxed paper beads

Playing with paper has infinite possibilities – go to Hollanders website and get inspired. Another great site is Mulberry Papers and More. And if you’re in San Antonio, Herweck’s has a good selection, as well.

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Little collages, lots of possibilities

I’m so excited! Studio C Gallery at the Art Center of Corpus Christi invited me to show my work there. They requested some of my journals, which makes me happy because those are truly mixed-media work, plus I love hand-made books. It occurred to me that a 5×7′ journal is the perfect size for the 5×7″ collages that I routinely demonstrate in my workshops. So it was natural to create small collages for the journal covers.

I used a combination of tissue, wax, ribbon, beads, wombats (actually no wombats) and I was pleased with the results. Here are some photos of six of these. I am creating the journals in a numbered series of ten, each with a title.

Journal inside front cover with title and number

Journal inside front cover with title and number

"Elizabeth"

“Elizabeth”

"Pearl Reflection"

“Pearl Reflection”

"Pensive Mercy"

“Pensive Mercy”

"Renaissance Dreams"

“Renaissance Dreams”

"Shell Spinner"

“Shell Spinner”

"Winter Bay"

“Winter Bay”

It’s kinda cool that you get an original collage and a journal in the same little package! Functional art, for sure.

This past Sunday, I had a Wax and Tissue workshop at the little studio, and we created more of these 5×7″ mixed media/beeswax collages.

As always, the work was fantastic. Jo Etta Jupe, who teaches papermaking at the Southwest School of Art,  commented that everyone’s pieces were authentic reflections of their personal style and vision. How true – take a look!

If you find yourself in need of an enjoyable small project, try some of these 5×7″ mixed-media collages. They lend themselves to all kinds of possibilities, including journal covers!

The weekend approaches – get out there and enjoy it. Oh, and if you’re in San Antonio, drop by the San Antonio Art League & Museum on Sunday afternoon for the opening of the Collegiate student exhibit. I got a sneak preview yesterday, and it is a strong show that will generate a lot of lively conversation!!

collegiate copy

 

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What do you have to say to yourself?

That was the question in yesterday’s workshop at the studio called “Postcards to Myself.”

It’s a new workshop, one that I designed to see if we, as artists, create unconscious messages to ourselves as we work on art pieces that combine random images and text. The small works that were produced were amazingly lyrical, and many did seem to have meaningful messages.

The project itself was done in seven stages on an 11×14″ sheet of archival matboard.

  • Stage One – images and objects
  • Stage Two – veiling
  • Stage Three – vintage text chosen randomly
  • Stage four – enhancement and alteration
  • Stage five – selection
  • Stage six – wax or acrylic medium
  • Stage Seven – interpretation

When the collage layers were complete, 4×6″ post-card size areas were selected with transparent plexiglass rectangles. Those were cut out, and then finished either with beeswax or acrylic mat medium. We even wrote notes to ourselves on the backs of our “postcards.”

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In the example above, this postcard-size section from the larger work shows faces from two different cultures and contains words such as “separate,” “restrain,” and “ruin.” It sounds like a trailer for a mini-drama! And yet it’s a completely coincidental juxtaposition within the larger collage.

We had such fun and learned so much from this project. I’ll definitely repeat it, and will probably create an eBook with with a list of materials and instructions. In the meantime, please enjoy the video from “Postcards to Myself.”

By the way, the first prototype postcard I did included text that said “eat one’s words” – so I was very careful about what I said during our critique!

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Whiter Shades of Pale – playing in the no-color zone

Lesta Frank has a ray gun – she brought it to our all-day Whiter Shades of Pale workshop yesterday, and when anyone “called color” on another person (like, they were reaching for some red paint), they got blasted with flashing lights and wild beeps. It was pretty funny!

The whole day was a delight, as a matter of fact. In the morning, we made beautiful pale papers under Lesta’s expert tutelage – ecru, ivory, palest gold and silver – all breathtaking. A favorite was the string-embedded paper.

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In the afternoon, we used those papers to create stunning assemblage/collages with the hand-embellished paper and found objects tied into our canvases.

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Lesta’s collage

The video from the workshop is just pure eye-candy. It’s astonishing how much richness and variety can come from such a a limited color palette. Limiting the color choices allows you to concentrate on texture and composition.

Pale colors and textures are so wonderfully nostalgic that I thought I’d treat you to the original inspiration, the song called “A Whiter Shade of Pale” which won a Grammy for Procol Harum in (gulp) 1967. The video looks so sweet and goofy – very non-MTV. But boy, does it bring back memories!

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Pale and painterly papers

A collection of pale papers by Lyn and Lesta

A collection of pale papers by Lyn and Lesta

Lesta Frank and I are teaching a workshop this month called Whiter Shades of Pale. Recently we got together at my studio to play with surface design of all kinds and create papers that have subtle painterly textures and intriguing variations of the palest tints.

The workshop has been sold out for a while, but I thought you might like to see some of the results from our pre-workshop experiments.

The first idea, below, is so simple – you just do a reverse stamp onto tan kraft paper (like a shopping bag) using a white stamp pad or white acrylic paint soaked into a damp piece of felt. Another variation we did was to roll white acrylic paint onto a textured placemat and print the design onto the tan paper.

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Below, tissue paper has been painted with clear acrylic matte medium, which causes the paper to wrinkle a bit, and then it was sprayed with walnut ink. It’s almost like tinted glass!

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This is one of my favorites. Lesta stenciled white acrylic paint onto deli paper using a small paint roller, and after it was dry, soaked it briefly in strong coffee to “age” it.

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This is an easy “cheater-ly” way (below) to make multiples of subtle designs for ready-made custom collage paper. We just lay various pale papers on a scanner, scanned them in to the computer, and then printed out 8.5″x11″ composite-designed papers. Lesta tinted the face on the example below with Portfolio oil pastels.

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Cheesecloth can be used in so many ways to add interest to collages with pale papers. You can Gesso it and let is dry, then cut it into fragments. You can use Gold Gesso as well. You can also add it as a layer over textures, then paint over it with light tints of acrylic paint.

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Finally, don’t forget that you can lighten images with your printer using MS Word – here’s a Renaissance face with its contrast decreased, printed on a plain piece of inkjet paper and mounted to matboard. I punched holes and will attach this to a collage as one of the final layers – hmm, and maybe cover it partially with tissue?

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If you want to play around with pale papers, here are some materials you might want to try.

I hope you have a chance to use some of these ideas – you can make just a few pale papers and collage little 3×5″ creations for cards. Or whatever – pale is pretty!

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So much to show, so much to tell . . .

Saturday’s Show and Tell was one of the best – everything from Fairy Houses to paper-making to poetry. Michelle Belto‘s demonstration of how easy it is to make your own paper was a real eye-opener for those who’d never tried this process.

Her system is ingenious and can be done in a small space. Michelle will be teaching this method in an upcoming Artful Gathering class, but we got a Sneak Preview yesterday!

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There were lots of other fantastic S&T-ers, including the always-amazing Vicky Siptak, who showed a Fairy House that she had made for her granddaughter. It’s weatherproof to keep the fairies snug and warm in the garden, and it has its own guardian dragon. And our poets, Tom Schall and Harold Rodinsky, graced us with their eloquence. Take a look at the video:

For my own Show and Tell, I needed to share, sadly, that my space in Carousel Court will be closing at the end of October. There are several reasons for this, including the fact that my lease is up.

But I will continue having workshops (mixed media and pottery) and other gatherings in my new space soon – more to come on that. If you’ve been with me for five years or so, you’ll remember those workshops at my home studio and how much fun they were. Sometimes change is energizing, and the Studio (and SHARDS) will live on!

Wise One (detail) by Linda Rael

In the meantime, September is filled with workshops and shows, including the show that Linda Rael and I are having on September 9th and 10th. It’s called EARTHWORKS, and all of the pieces in this two-day show are inspired by natural materials. Please join us!

earthworks copy

In the next SHARDS post, I’ll show you some techniques that Lesta Frank and I developed last week while we were working on ideas for our Whiter Shades of Pale workshop. The September 17th workshop is full, but there will be another session offered in early October – stay tuned!

light angel

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Kintsugi and Boro – fusion and inspiration

Celebrating the imperfect, the time-worn, and the re-invented resonates deeply with me, probably because I am a combination of all of those things. That’s why the Japanese arts of Boro and Kintsugi are so appealing. Boro, a Japanese word meaning “tattered rags,” describes lovingly patched and repaired cotton bedding and clothing used much longer than the normal expected life cycle.

Boro is enjoying a revival among fiber artists who treasure its indigo blue color and melange of textures and subtle patterns. In fact, the Fiber Artists of San Antonio are offering a Boro workshop taught by Mary Ruth Smith in July.

A Japanese houshold Boro textile

Linked to Boro by concept is Kintsugi, meaning “mended with gold.” It refers particularly to the Japanese method for repairing broken ceramics with a special lacquer mixed with gold, silver, or platinum.

The Kintsugi process usually results in something more beautiful than the original.

The Kintsugi process usually results in something more beautiful than the original.

Both Boro and Kintsugi are interwoven with the philosophy of wabi-sabi, which means “to find beauty in broken things or old things. ” See why I like this stuff so much?

So today at the Studio, I was putting away materials from our Citrasolve and altered paper collage workshop, and I started thinking about torn paper scraps (Boro) mended with gold (Kintsugi). I printed out the word “kintsugi” and began arranging Boro-like tatters of paper (they would probably have been dumped in the trash) onto 8×10″ pieces of archival mat board.

Then, inspired by the gold veins of Kintsugi, I “mended” the spaces between the scraps with gold leaf. It was amazing how fast time flew – I created five of these collages in about four hours. They almost pieced themselves together.

Here are the five collages – #3 is my favorite because it looks most “Boro-like.” These pieces are destined for the Beacon Hill Art Walk this Sunday, but when I come home from Boston, I’m going to continue to explore the idea of gold-mended tatters and the beauty of imperfection and re-invention.

Mended with Gold #1 Lyn Belisle 2016

Mended with Gold #1
Lyn Belisle 2016

Mended with Gold #2 Lyn Belisle 2016

Mended with Gold #2
Lyn Belisle 2016

Mended with Gold #3 Lyn Belisle 2016

Mended with Gold #3
Lyn Belisle 2016

Mended with Gold #4 Lyn Belisle 2016

Mended with Gold #4
Lyn Belisle 2016

Mended with Gold #5 Lyn Belisle 2016

Mended with Gold #5
Lyn Belisle 2016

 

 

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The serendipitous landscape of fantasy

Landscape collages in progress

Landscape collages in progress

Now THIS is one of my all-time favorite workshops – perfect for any level, full of serendipity, with absolutely gorgeous results. Here’s how I described the workshop online:

Using the technique of DÉCHIRAGE (day-shur-ah j’) – distressed paper collage –  students will gain a solid grasp on composing little landscapes using a variety of altered papers, natural elements, and mixed media special effects. Lyn will also share art-enhancing framing suggestions that compliment your finished work so that your final display is both appealing and professional looking. Even a total beginner can create a stunning artwork with these fun distressed paper techniques.

Yesterday’s participants in the Altered Paper Landscape Abstractions class rose to the occasion with some stunning work. Some people created several collages, some just one, but all were beautiful and individual. The hardest part was choosing which piece to mat for display.

I loved this comment from Ellen, “I got frustrated because couldn’t make it do what I wanted it to do, but when I let it do what it wanted, I loved it!!” Talk about trusting the creative process – when you let go and accept the beautiful, unpredictable results, magic happens.

Take a look at the video, below, and then I’ll give you the list of materials for this project.

Lyn Belisle’s Altered Paper Landscape Collages: Materials List and Source Notes

For the basic collage:

  • A 5×7” piece of matboard, illustration board, or very heavy card stock
  • Glue sticks
  • Scissors
  • Walnut Ink from
    Tsukineko
  • Altered paper (see below)
  • Metal leaf
  • Stamps and inkpad, your choice
  • Lightweight paper to rub down elements as they are glued
  • Metallic felt tip pens and ultrafine Sharpie (optional)

For the altered paper:

  • Citrasolv orange oil-based cleaning solvent
  • National Geographic magazines or other clay-base ink photos – I encourage you to experiment

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Sources of materials:

  • Mat board scraps can be purchased or requested for free at most frame and craft shops. Look for ones that are dark colored with white on the back for the most versatile design options
  • Citrasolv is becoming widely available in art stores because of this popular altered paper method. You can usually find it at organic grocery stores such as Whole Foods, as well. Online: Citra Solv is now being sold through Cheap Joes, Jerry’s Artarama, Stampington, and DickBlick
  • Tsukineko Walnut Ink is very versatile for many projects and can be ordered from Imagine Crafts, the Tsukineko distributor:
  • I use Scotch permanent glue sticks, but most good brands will do nicely
  • Metal leaf is available in craft stores or can be ordered here on Amazon.com

If you want a very in-depth look at this process, including other altered papers such as “ghost paper” with bleach on black construction paper, I have a DVD called Small Worlds, published by Artful Gathering, that offers an intense discussion of how-to-do-it instructions, videos and demos. Happy new week, All!

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