Friday, December 31, 2010

A Kitten Christmas, Finished Projects and Learning a New Technique

Christmas is over and we're in the quiet week between Christmas and New Years. This year has been one of making new traditions and temporarily setting old ones aside.  Because we have two kittens in residence, putting the delicate blown glass ornaments on the tree wasn't an option.  This is the first year in many, many years that I haven't been able to put my beloved ornaments on the tree, nor could I use the new ones I bought earlier this year.  Ah well, there's always next year! We opted for a (shudder!) artificial tree this year, decorated with large bows and unbreakable gold ornaments.  The kittens regarded the tree from the beginning as their playground and have spent quite a bit of time up in the branches.  They've knocked off ornaments and bows. But they're so darn cute that we couldn't get angry with them.
Myst in the Tree
See what I mean?

We did add two new traditions to the mix.  I've always loved the tradition of putting candles in the windows at Christmas.  Several years ago I visited Frederick, Maryland at Christmastime. I finished my work early and took the opportunity to visit the historic district. For December, the weather was mild and the walking tour was fun. Several of the oldest houses had the candles in the windows.  Beautiful!  Just before Christmas, I found some battery-powered LED candles that come with suction cups.  They can sit on the bottom window frame and hold on to the window.  They're wonderful!  They also flicker, so they look a bit spastic, but I love them.  I also love that they have embedded timers, so they turn themselves on and off autmatically.

Byzantine ATC's for the Tree

I was bemoaning the no-delicate-ornament situation to my son who replied that since we're artists, we'll think of something.  And he was right. I decided to start a tradition of making a few ATC's for the tree. Friends can have one... but only if they bring one for trade! Thus far, it was a bust. Joseph was going to make some, but he didn't get around to it. Mom opted out this year. But I made five more Byzantine cards for the Christmas tree and they looked lovely... when they weren't being knocked off the tree.  But they survived.  At least four of them did. I assume I'll find the fifth one when we take the tree down.

Finished Projects
I managed to finish several projects.  Obviously I have oodles more to go, but I'm happy for what I've gotten done.

George's Fingerless Gloves
George's Fingerless Gloves
Well, I didn't make it by Christmas, but I only missed it by one day.  I finished the gloves on the 26th and cast on for the caps the same day.  But at least these are wearable... just in time for the weather to warm up.  Ah well. There's plenty of time for it to get cold again.

The Aran Sweater
The Aran Sweater
And not that I want to suggest that the world might be coming to an end or anything, but I finally finished the Aran sweater!  It's been on the needles for years.  It's finally off the needles!  Finishing it was a pain, but I'm so glad I can finally wear it... just in time for the weather to warm up!  It's very warm and snuggly.

I steam-blocked the seams and cables.  This is the first time I've had the courage to try steam-blocking.  I like it very much for thicker things like sweaters.  Probably fine lace will still be damp-blocked.  If I do much more steam-blocking I'm going to need a garment steamer, but the steam iron does nicely for now.

ATC's and Encaustic
Again, I've been putting off doing January's ATC's.  It's not so much being stubborn as being very busy. 
January's themes are "Inspired by Color" and "Make Your Own Background."  Weeellll.... I frequently make my own backgrounds these days.  I'm getting more comfortable with acrylic paints and am rather enjoying them.  But I've been tempted by encaustics.  Encaustic is an ancient Greek style of painting.  Ground pigments are mixed with beeswax and damar resin.  The paint must be worked  hot, but when it cools, it's very tough. I've put off and put off buying some starter paints and tools and getting going with it.  But George gave me some paints and tools for Christmas, so my excuses are running thin. So yesterday, I plugged in the hot plate, melted paint in an old muffin tin and got out the natural-bristle brushes.  Eight cards later, I at least had the theme done!
Encaustic Village Group
I did these on a sticky-back canvas card, which I probably won't do again.  Next time I think I'll try watercolor paper cards.  But these worked.  The background was done in white, cobalt blue, and an ochre color I made with cadmium yellow and a dark brown.  (Didn't have yellow ochre paint.) The village scene was torn from a cocktail napkin and embedded in the wax. I made every beginner's mistake in the book, but I'm kind of excited about it.  It's far more time-consuming than acrylic or even watercolor, but it has its compensations. The smell of the beeswax is lovely!  None of the cards is a miracle of technical perfection, but they all have a charm of their own.

Encaustic Village Detail

"There's pansies, that's for thoughts."

Inspired by Color has been fun.  With the weather overcast and as gloomy as it sometimes gets around here, I've been longing for color.  Pansies are a cheerful flower that can tolerate the cold.  So we bought lots of pansies when we bought the window candles.  I planted them in windowboxes and set them on the walkway.  I also put some in the "kitten pot" - the flowerpot that the kittens slept in when they were tugging on our heartstrings and finding themselves a home.  I bought as many different colors as I could.  I love them all, but my favorite is a "monkey-face" large pansy with a brown-ish purple center surrounded by gold and red.  I like to think this card is a mixed-media project of gardening, photography, acrylic painting and stamping!

Another Year
So what will next year bring? More learning techniques in all media. More weaving. I love to weave, but I don't get around to it all that often. George is about to finish the antique Sabina loom and I'm excited about getting a shawl woven on it. I have all kinds of things I want to do in 2011. I want to get this weight off. It's affecting my health and that's not good. I want to spend more time outdoors and on the boat. We'll see what comes my way! A very happy and productive New Year to all my friends and family and to those that may read this blog, but who I never know or meet!


  1. I've done the torn napkin technique but not with beeswax. These are lovely.

  2. Thanks! I've learned the technique with acrylics and keep my art journal that way. The only trick to using the same technique in encaustic is to remember to put down a layer of medium, fuse it and get that paper on the wax before it cools. You gotta move quick! Then seal it with a second, fused layer of medium and there you are!