Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Winter Solstice

Carol-Dekle-Foss
I love this time of year. Clear nights. Crisp clean air. Bare branches silhouetted against a cloudy sky. For me, it's a time of reflection. Although some of us, myself included, find ourselves caught up in the whirlwind of holiday madness. We end up becoming depleted in more ways than one.


So I think it's important, especially for us creatives, to embrace the darker months by turning inward. It's a good time for stillness and reflection. It's an opportunity for us to recharge and prepare for the creative bursts we will have in spring. 

So for now, I am introspective and quiet. 

Every year I look forward to the winter solstice, the shortest day and longest night. I celebrate by watching the sunset with my family wrapped in a warm blanket and a hot toddy. 


My family and I will celebrate Christmas in a very simple way this year. Probably no tree, and that's ok. My son doesn't want a dying tree in the living room. I don't blame him. We will cut branches and pick up pine cones for display on the dinner table. Also, some of my sons military friends will join us. They are far from their families, so we will share a delicious home cooked feast, play the guitar and sing, and take a long walk along the river. 


I created this necklace today thinking about the return of light after the winter solstice. I made it as a reminder to embrace the darkness for soon there will be light.

How do you celebrate your holiday season? Do you have any special traditions or rituals that you and your family do every year?

 I hope everyone has a peaceful and love filled holiday!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Last Minute Gifts That Will ROCK Your Christmas! By Karen McGovern


Christmas is, like, a month away....right?
  

Ah, the joy of realizing the week before Christmas that you still have 25 gifts to magically make appear.  If you are like me, you wait until that golden moment of panic/procrastination hits and you rush to your laptop and order everyone you forgot about something "thoughtful" from Wallgreens like socks with toes in them, or whatever else is left for sale on Amazon in the hours before Christmas.  DON'T BE THIS PERSON!

Even if you find yourself scrambling for last-minute gifts, there is no need to panic or end up buying crap you then have to GIFT WRAP like it's something actually NICE.  No one wants to open a nicely wrapped gift to find A JAR OF PICKLES.  Unless that's your thing...then, YEAH?

So, I am here to give you some super-cool, EASY, and INEXPENSIVE ideas for gifts that will make you KING/QUEEN OF THE HOLIDAY PARTY.  Your welcome....

1.  The hilarious gag gift.  Anything from Archie McPhee.  How can you resist a website who's tag line is: "Archie McPhee has the best toys, gifts, candy and novelties on the internet. We love the same things you do: unicorns, bacon, mustaches and underpants." My favorite item this year is the Centaur Santa Claus. Cause...SANTA HAS AN AMAZING SIX-PACK!  So, for those on your list with a slightly twisted sense of humor, get them HANDERPANTS and move on.



2. For the person who loves technology.  BOOMFS.  What are Boomfs, you ask?  Only MARSHMALLOWS PRINTED WITH IMAGES YOU UPLOAD TO THE SITE! Serioulsy!  How cool is this?  I bought everyone Boommfs last year and got rave reviews.  This is especially wonderful for Grandparents--imagine how they will love getting a box of marshmallows all with the Grandkids faces on them!!!  Then plopping those adorable faces into a piping hot cup of cocoa and watching them melt....wait, that escalated rather quickly...Anyway, it's a fun, inexpensive gift to give that is easily personalized.  But hurry, they stop shipping SOON.



3. The gift that will make you look far more interesting than you probably are.....AN EXPERIENCE.  What do I mean?  Well, how about giving a gift that actually requires the recipient to DO SOMETHING?  Tickets or passes to a local museum/nature center/science museum/art show/concert/performance.  NOT MOVIE TICKETS, but tickets to an actual event or activity.  AND, throw in a disposable camera so they can share the experience after.  My local nature center offers open ended day passes, and I buy these all the time. I am lucky to live in Florida and can give things like passes that allow folks to go on sea turtle nest walks along the beach or visits to wildlife rehab centers. This type thing is a great stocking stuffer and you will be surprised...people sometimes actually LIKE being forced to leave the home....

Just imagine, this could be YOUR FAMILY...OUTSIDE!

4.  For the DIY-ers.  Put ANYTHING into a clear craft glass Christmas ornament from Michael's.  Seriously. ANYTHING placed inside a clear ornament is instantly ADORABLE. Got a friend with dogs?  Tuck a few dog treats into an ornament.  Cats?  CATNIP, DUH. You can put CHEX-MIX in a clear ornament and have a spectacular hostess gift.  Tea lover?  Cram a few Earl Gray bags inside.  Dried flowers, mini candy canes, lottery tickets, CASH, JEWELRY, it can all be stuffed into these ornaments and you are a HOLIDAY SUPERHERO.  How about wildflower seeds?  Heck, any seed at all!  Perfect for a gardener....A LOVE LETTER!  Photographs!  If I wasn't late and trying to get this post up, I bet I could sit here and think of 12 BILLION things you could tuck into one of these ornaments to create a really thoughtful, cool gift. I am personally making many of these this year.  I would love to tell you what I am putting inside, but I can't because a few of the folks getting this read this blog and well....I want it to be a surprise!


5.  Finally, if you want to totally ROCK Christmas, buy some hand-made, amazing artisan jewelry and more from any of the spectacularly talented artists right here on LMAJ.  Most of us also offer gift certificates, so you don't even have to suffer through looking at all the amazing jewelry and art and trying to decide what to buy.  No one, I mean NO ONE will be less than THRILLED with this gift.  And, I don't have to tell you that you are also giving a gift to the artists you support...your purchase allows us to continue doing what we love, and helps us with other stuff--like supporting our families and such....

So, take a deep breath, all you Secret Santas, you can do this!  I hope your holidays are bright and full of love and peace.  From all of us here at LMAJ....HAPPY HOLIDAYS!!!!

Friday, December 12, 2014

CHEERS! Holiday Polymer- Perfect for Gifts!

by Staci Louise Smith

I am horrible at Christmas Cards.  I never get them done in time, and we take our kids annual Christmas picture, usually on Christmas Eve.  That's how I roll.  

I do however try to make a little something for my friends and family each year.  Usually, its a special Christmas ornament.  This year, I wanted to do something different for them.  Since a few of them are wine drinkers (ok, ok, all of them are!) I thought wine toppers could be cool.  I wasn't sure how they would turn out, but hey, I have polymer, and picked up some corks.

Well, after three leisurely play days in the studio, I have wine toppers-

AND I LOVE THEM!

Here they are before I glued them, all set up ready to go in the studio.  



And here they are all finished and ready for gifts!
(I definitely need to make these to sell as well)







How did I make them?

I created the polymer pieces first, baked and finished them.

Then I drilled a hole in the bottom as well as the cork.  

I fitted in a 14g wire so it attached both of them securely.

Then I mixed up my 2 part epoxy, took them apart one at a time, and glued them.

To ensure a good bond, I tied string around them so the connection was nice and firm.  

I could NOT be more happy, and now they will have something they can use year round...ILO just at the Holidays. 

I never get tired of what you can do with Polymer Clay!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Textures, Color and Fibers

As a nature lover and ceramic artist, it is easy to say that I am inspired in my work to create textures often repeated by what I see in nature.
With Ceramics, it is usually in my hand carved texture plates (which I later use when bisque fired - hard and porous) that show the textures. I use those plates to press porcelain or stoneware clay into to create a reverse printed texture.

When it comes to using my ceramic pieces in finished jewelry, I tend to stall a bit.
This I believe is because there are so many possibilities, I have a hard time getting my brain to settle and focus on one technique (talk about ADHD!)
And I'm all about the quality, so I tend to work things through a few times before I come up with something I'm happy with (this bracelet below is still a work in progress).

 When it comes to colors, these Hand Painted Silks (painted by Ute of Silk Painting is Fun) that I have been carrying now for over 10 years, are an endless supply of inspiration.
Marsha Neal Studio presents Silky and Fairy Ribbons

Marsha Neal Studio presents 2mm Hand Painted Silks
 I love to pick through and make specific color palettes from the 80+ colors I carry (in three styles: Silky Ribbon, Fairy Ribbon, and 2mm round).
 And I am seriously delighted with every order that comes through because I get to see a bit into what you are picking out and are working with for your jewelry (or other) designing.
If you are interested in using these in your work to add color and texture, you can shop for these ribbons through my Etsy shop or my Marsha Neal Studio website.

Recently I have been fiddling more and more with Needle Felting Wool Roving and Locks (see SarafinaFiberArt for beautiful supplies). And luckily Sarafina Art House is about 25 minutes from my house/studio and I have picked up working there part-time, helping with orders, stock, and whatever they need me to jump in and do. Which is a whole other chapter opening up in my creative life - working outside of the home around other creative positive people helping run that business is SO what I need right now.

What kind of fibers are you into using?
And what techniques make you giddy?

Look for some posts on fibers (all kinds of fibers) coming up in the next couple of months as we get through the holidays and back to our creative time.
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