The art and science of aromatherapy – essential oils and Alzheimer’s Disease

I’ve studied and used essential oils since 1989 and was actually teaching workshops on their uses way before I began teaching art workshops. In the late ’90s, Dr. Bill Kurtin and I partnered in sharing research-based information about aromatherapy with social agencies and college classes, and set up our informational website, called Chemaroma, in 2006.

Bill is a biochemist who chaired the Chemistry Department at Trinity University for many years. We’re married now, and since Bill retired from teaching, he’s had time to do more research on current studies about essential oils. He’s just written an article for our Chemaroma blog summarizing recent research on essential oils and Alzheimer’s Disease. Here’s the link to the complete article, which I think is wonderful and encouraging.

In his article, Bill writes, “The research . . ., as well as much work not mentioned, strongly suggest that EOs may provide an excellent alternative, natural, widely available, and inexpensive treatment for AD, particularly for easing the symptoms of the disease.” He writes for a general audience, who, like me, have trouble with scientific complexities – whew! It’s a fascinating premises that could help millions.

If you have not any in-depth reading on the science of aromatherapy and need an introduction, here’s a good background article from the University of Maryland Medical Center. And, or course, you can always go to our website, Chemaroma, for more info.

I’ve always relied on Clary Sage essential oil for getting past creative blocks – the name in Latin means “clear eye” – and its smell is intoxicating.  Here’s another take on essential oils from an artist on the Craftsy site.

Bill and I are especially interested in essential oil research that pertains to our aging population – anything that will help all of us stay alive, engaged, and creative longer is worth pursuing! Read and share the article, Are Essential Oils Useful in the Treatment of Alzheimer’s Disease.” It’s a good one.

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Goodbye, ol’ pal – CraftArtEdu closes doors, leaves freebies

Waaa-aay back in 2013, I wanted to learn how to teach online classes. CraftArtEdu was a place I’d heard of from another artist, so I emailed them and asked if they needed teachers. They told me to develop a proposal, and they’d give me 30% of the tuition (wow) that I earned.

So I designed a simple composition class that later became the AB3 System that I’ve taught at workshops all over the country.

In retrospect, CraftArtEdu wasn’t really a good fit for me since most of the classes were about polymer clay, but I learned how to upload lessons and how to create content. I didn’t earn much money at all, but I’ll always be grateful to them for what I learned in my first time out on the Internet.

Now they are closing their doors – but they are leaving behind a library of free intro classes on Vimeo that you might want to take a look at. Most of these are photo-based rather than video based. There’s still lots of good step-by-step information, though. For example:

You can check out all 166 of these freebies at this one link:

All of them are short, basic lessons that might give you some inspiration. I have to say, the video lessons and DVDs I’m doing now for Artful Gathering are a lot more rewarding, but you gotta start somewhere, and CraftArtEdu was that place for me.
Thanks, Donna and Vern! Adios!

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Big problem, but I got it covered . . .

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My nifty new ultra-cheap ultra-cool floor covering in the studio workshop room

So when I moved into the new Studio, two of the rooms had wood-grain floors that I was really afraid of messing up with paint and glue and art stuff. I tried a drop cloth, but kept tripping over it and saying bad words. I tried plastic sheets, and that was worse. Think Attack of the Saran Wrap Monster.

In desperation, I went to Home Depot and asked a nice guy named Dave what might work. He showed me this fantastic indoor/outdoor carpet that is a perfect solution!

I’m sharing this with you guys in case you need something cheap and durable for your workroom floor. It’s called Elevations Indoor/Outdoor carpeting, and it comes in 12″ and 6″ widths. They cut it for you with a giant machine to whatever length you want. I got enough to completely cover two big rooms for less than $100. I kid you not.  Cheaper than canvas drop cloths.

This is where I taped a seam together with clear packing tape - works great.

This is where I taped a seam together with clear packing tape – works great.

The sheets of carpet lie flat and are light enough that I could lay them down by myself – I moved half of the furniture to one side of the room, lined the carpet up and rolled it out part-way, moved the furniture back on that half, then – well, you get the picture. No glue, no tape – when you move out, you just roll it up!

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You can see how nicely the edge of the carpet meets the door – it’s not glued down and it still lies flat.

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It has a tightly-woven grain – not bad looking at all!

 This carpeting comes in four colors – I picked “Stone Beige”, of course – Neutrals ‘R’ Me – but they also had a pretty blue, a grassy green, and a nice gray. It’s worth the purchase just to see them cut the stuff with the 20′ long cutting machine. Rowwrr.

And that’s your Studio Tip for the Day, kids – by the way, don’t you just love the way Home Depot smells when you walk in? It makes you feel all strong, like you really want to buy a chain saw or a flat of Sheetrock. Yeah!!

Elevations at Home Depot – great for art studio floors – yay. Hmmm, wonder if they’ll give me a discount for this free advertising  . . .?

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Friday resources, mostly free, all fabulous

But first, before we get to those resources, wanna hear a story? OK, so I needed to find a home for a wonderful easel that Nancy Powlas had given me several years ago. It had belonged to her late sister, and I loved it, but didn’t have room for it in my new studio space. When I got it, it was bent at the back, so I took a rubber mallet and whacked it straight.

Some arty intuition told me to call Lesta Frank to see if she would like it. She came to look at it and said, “Hey, I used to have an easel just like that that I gave away 17 years because it was bent, but I always regretted giving it up.”

And of course, as all good stories go, it turned out to be the very same easel that Lesta had given up and was now returned to her from the Mysterious Art Universe.

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Lesta and easel, reunited at last

So now on to these free resources, most of which are image goldmines for mixed-media artists and designers.

The first one is Pixabay, which has a searchable index of thousands of copyright-free photos and illustrations. I did a search for “rust” and found this beauty – look at the colors and textures! Thanks to Leannah Kurtin Fulmer for reminding me of Pixabay.

rust

The second resource, Unsplash, came to me via Ivy Newport, an imaginative, inspiring and successful artist and teacher – she has curated a collection of portrait photos at Unsplash that are gorgeous. The photos at Unspalsh are offered without restriction – their motto is “Free (do whatever you want) high-resolution photos.” Wow. Here’s one from Ivy’s collection – just think of all the ways you could use this evocative face.

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Another photo resource, also free, is Noah Bradley’s Free Photo Reference Megapack. Noah Bradley is an artist and fantasy author who is building an amazing illustrated world called The Sin of Man. He has photos from all over the world to download and use as backgrounds and reference. I downloaded his American Southwest collection and his France and England collection – they are huge albums.

Here are two examples from those collections.

england southwest

The last resource was suggested to me by my friend Linda Krantz. a wonderfully perceptive artist from Houston who was in my class at Vivi Magoo a couple of weeks ago. It’s called MadRat Rubbergreat name. While they don’t have free images, they have the most original and amazing stamps and other cool stuff for mixed-media artists.madrat

Here’s onenot your everyday stamp design, right? And their prices are very competitive, plus you can get them mounted or unmounted.

So now you have lots of places to get inspiration. Print out the photos, tear them up and collage them, stamp into them, veil them with paint and scribble over the paint. That’s going to be the first workshop at the new studio – Intuitive Photocollage!

And if you know a bit of digital imagery manipulation, you can work on you computer to combine these resources into something totally new – like this!

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Happy weekend –  if you’re in San Antonio, bundle up – it’s finally gonna feel like Thanksgiving weather. Thanks, as always, for reading SHARDS.

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Tissue techniques and encaustic exploration

15We had a full house for yesterday’s Wax and Tissue workshop. Everyone was particularly interested in how to print images on delicate tissue paper. If you do an Internet search, you’ll find all kinds of methods to do this.

Most of the methods involve taping or tacking the tissue on all four sides to a sheet of regular copy paper. I just cut the paper slightly smaller than the copy paper, put two pieces of clear tape at the top, and run that sucker through the printer. So far, so good – I printed about 25 sheets for the workshop and had only two of them crunch up in the printer. Not bad odds considering how thin tissue paper is.

In my example below, you can see how the bird image, printed on tissue paper, becomes translucent when wax is applied over it. It’s always interesting to see how unpredictable the translucent images appear when wax is applied over them. Different kinds of tissue yield different results. I use just plain old wrapping tissue and I iron it first to get the creases out. Works like a charm.

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Lyn Belisle, demonstration piece done during wax and tissue workshop

You can see in my demo piece, above, that the bird image, which was printed on plain white tissue, has a translucency that conceals and reveals elements of the collage above and below it. In the workshop, we started with two opaque “anchor” images and then added layers of wax and tissue to build up our narratives. It was a thoroughly enjoyable experience – everyone was experimenting and developing the best stories as the process evolved. Here’s the video – what do you think? Pretty cool, right?

If you’d like to see what the supply list looks like, you can go to Roses on my Table, a site developed by the fantastic Zinnia from Artful Gathering. Michelle Belto and I have an online class there on Wax and Tissue, but you don’t have to register for the class to get the supply list. You can just click on the Material and Supply List link to see both sources and “ingredients” for this project.

Encaustic Month at Lyn Belisle Studio ended on a high note! And mark your calendar for next Saturday’s Show and Tell from 2-4 pm. Happy Monday!

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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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HandEye: the mother lode of inspirational eye-candy

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Wow. Just wow. I can’t believe I’ve lived this long without knowing about HAND/EYE online magazine (it comes in a print edition, too).  I’ve just created an account (free) and am browsing through gallery after gallery of textiles, artifacts, fine crafts, indigenous processes, and so much more.

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Maria Constanza Cardenas – Plumage choker, Orinoco collection. This piece portrays the power of the colors, textures, shapes and movement of the tropics.

The online site is divided into sections and the emphasis is on celebrating cultural creativity and sustainability.

HAND/EYE also features events such as England’s Woolfest as well as unusual products from small commercial designers such as 502 Home’s huipil-inspired ceramics.

A personal favorite is an article written by India Flint in 2010 called  Desert Country: Contemporary Aboriginal Artists Take on the Land.

One of the most wonderful features of the HAND/EYE site is the treasure-trove of archived articles and galleries like that one written by India Flint with beautiful photographs – and they are organized beautifully to allow maximum accessibility.

From the article Desert Country in HandEye Magazine, 2010

They also have a Facebook page if you just want a sneak preview!

I commend this publication for its vision. HAND/EYE Magazine bridges the worlds of art, design, craft, philanthropy, retailing, and socio-environmental sustainability.

That’s my Show and Tell for the week!

Don’t forget that there will be an in-person Show and Tell at the Studio this Saturday from 2-4. I just cleaned up my fiber art room and it looks great, so show up and don’t make me do this clean-up for nothin’ – :). Check it out (below) – it may be the last time you ever see it this organized.

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Want instant relaxation? Try this . . .

Candles

My theme word for 2016 is BALANCE – I’m gonna try to have time for art and workshops and sketching every day, reading more books, updating the website and keeping track of taxes in advance and writing real letters and relaxing and . . . ARG – I got tense and unbalanced just thinking about it!

So I turned to the all-wise higher power – Google! Lo and behold, I found this great guide to active relaxation that takes two minutes at the most and really works to help refocus and calm down. It’s on the Eastern Washington University site, and when I followed the steps, my whole body de-stressed and lightened up.

Want to try it? Here are the steps (and I’ve also made a printable version for you guys that has two copies – one for you and one for a friend – you can find it here).


Sit or lie in a comfortable place with your spine straight.

You may start with either you right side or your left side (most people prefer to begin with their dominant side).

For each step, hold the position described for 5 seconds and concentrate on the sensation of muscle tension. Then release the position and concentrate on changes in the muscles, noticing the sensation of relaxation.

  1. Foot – point and curl toes, turning foot inward
  2. Calf – pull toes toward head, flexing foot
  3. Thigh – push thigh muscles down, tensing muscles
  4. Repeat for opposite foot, calf, and thigh
  5. Stomach – contract stomach, making it as small and tight as possible
  6. Chest, Shoulders, and Upper Back – pull shoulder blades back and together
  7. Upper Arms – push elbow down
  8. Hand and Forearm – make a tight fist
  9. Repeat for opposite upper arm and hand
  10. Neck and Throat – pull chin toward chest and keep it from touching chest
  11. Jaw – bite hard and pull back corners of mouth
  12. Cheeks and Nose – squint and wrinkle nose
  13. Forehead – lift eyebrows as high as possible

That’s it!! I figure that if your body feels unbalanced, your mind is going to take a hike, too – sometimes just remembering to flex my foot (#2) and push my elbows down (#7) is enough to help me refocus.


OK, print out your relaxation tips and go have a balanced and happy weekend – become one with the serene seashore rock!

Stone

 

 

Decayed Daguerreotypes and The Public Domain Review

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Portrait of Emma Gillingham Bostwick [between 1851 and 1860], by Mathew Brady’s studio

Part of having some leisure time over the holidays is discovering new Good Stuff, which, of course, I’m passing along to you guys. Look at that wonderful portrait, above – it’s an old daguerreotype that has been naturally distressed over time by scratches, dust, hair, etc, and particularly the rubbing of its glass cover. Isn’t it beautiful?? Artists strive to achieve those distressed effects in wax and paint – age and natural process has done it for us here.

It’s part of a collection from a site called The Public Domain Review: a project of the Open Knowledge Foundation. You can read more about these daguerreotypes and see many more fantastic examples here.

Reading the Public Domain Review’s mission statement makes me smile:

images“In particular, as our name suggests, the focus is on works which have now fallen into the public domain, that vast commons of out-of-copyright material that everyone is free to enjoy, share, and build upon without restriction. Our aim is to promote and celebrate the public domain in all its abundance and variety, and help our readers explore its rich terrain – like a small exhibition gallery at the entrance to an immense network of archives and storage rooms that lie beyond.”

 

The Public Domain Review has unbelievable treasures, and my personal favorites are in the images collections. Here are a few of the non-copyright images I came across in my first visit – it won’t be my last. I hope you have fun with this great resource. I plan to donate to their site (just as soon as I climb out of this rabbit-hole of digital discovery)!

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Beeswax Wednesday was a great mid-week play break

Seven intrepid students came to the Studio yesterday afternoon to help me test drive my first mid-week workshop. It was a major success – we waxed out little hearts out and produced some fine collages. Take a look:


I’ve scheduled three more Wednesday workshop for the spring – it seems to be a good day for a lot of people. One good suggestion was to change the time from 2-5 to 1-4 so participants wold miss the rush hour traffic. Thoughts?

We had an interesting discussion during yesterday’s workshop about materials. There seems to be a trend toward letting the materials dictate the process rather than the other way around.  In all my workshops, I try to encourage the simplest materials possible, and the most accessible. That’s why I like yesterday’s Beeswax Collage workshop – you can do it with an electric griddle and two tuna cans plus some clear wax and white wax. And – tah-dah – just add you own creativity! What a concept.

brushes2One of the best non-gimmicky lists of basic, good quality, non-goofy art materials I’ve come across is Jane Davies’ list of favorite materials. True, she doesn’t include basic encaustic supplies, but here’s my short list for the beeswax collage project:

You can leave some of the medium clear and tint some of it with the white paint in separate tuna cans on your griddle – simple. Be sure and follow the safety rules!