Sunday, February 26, 2012

To Paint or Not to Paint?

For over three decades I've lived in white-walled rentals where the rental agreement includes things like: don't even think about painting these stark white walls.  

I'm beginning to realize how simple the days were when we just learned to live with rental 'design' - blue indoor/outdoor carpeting with concrete for padding, bright orange Formica kitchen counters, gold fridges, blue bathtubs and toilets and boring walls.  And now that I'm free to paint my walls, I find myself paralyzed with too many choices.

Here are the paint chips I've collected along the way.  I now know why paint chip collections have evolved into craft projects and artwork.

I'm beginning to find it hard to believe that the DIYers in Blogland are finding really cool looking free furniture and they just happen to already have the perfect color of paint in the garage and the project only cost them $3.42 because they only had to buy one extra knob to complete the collection they already had - and fortunately the knob was on sale.  All I want to do is paint the living room and I've already spent a small fortune on paint samples!

Many of these samples have been designer-friend and art-friend approved.  In the paint store the colors look amazing with my itty bitty carpet sample, but they mysteriously morph when 'painted' on my walls.  Well, what do you think?  Should we paint or not?  I don't dare ask if I should keep looking.  Oh, and just to remind you, here's an idea of the palette I'm working towards.

Friday, February 17, 2012


Long ago, when I had less resources and better eyesight, I remember finding a needlepoint pattern that I liked in a small craft catalog.  The picture of the finished project was about a square inch or so.  I scrutinized all of the blues and greens that were in the floral pattern and bought (or scrounged up, or asked Mom to buy) the yarn that I needed.  I counted each microscopic stitch with the point of a pin and repeated the design on canvas.  It amazes me that Dad and Mary Ann still have it hanging in their home.

Digital photo taken last year while visiting the folks.

Once it was bigger, it was easier to make a second one.  I made a very 70s looking chunky-yarn version for Mom and Bill.  And yes, I made the crocheted zigzag afghan displayed behind it in the photo below.  That's the biggest afghan I ever made and it still keeps me warm when visiting Mom.  I remember buying the yarn at Safeway (a grocery store that was in walking distance of our house), back when even grocery stores and big drugstores had at least a few racks of yarn for sale.  I kept having to go back to buy more yarn to make the length proportional to the massive width.  But, I digress.

Old photo scanned - everything looking very 70s!

Some of my most creative moments have happened when I had to 'make do' with what I had on hand.  I'm still amazed that I thought to count all of those tiny little stitches in the picture and even more amazed that I was able to replicate it.  I realize that I wasn't really being creative because I used basically plagiarized someone else's pattern.  (I hope the copyright police don't read this post!)  But, I was resourceful.

It kind of makes me sad nowadays when I see aisles full of craft accessories, especially in the scrapbook section.  There was a time when I succumbed to the lure of those cool gadgets and doodads.  Over the last few years, though, I've been really good at passing up all that stuff.  It's cheaper and more importantly, my pilot light of ideas ignites and the creativity starts to flow again.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

I Think I'm Turning Japanese

The challenge for January was to make an Asian-inspired block.  I had no idea what to make, but Mary Jo Hiney saved my hiney!  She has the most amazing paper-pieced patterns in this book.  

My first choice was to make the crane below, but my goal is to use up my stash and to NOT buy new fabric.  It didn't seem like my on-hand fabrics were going to work with the requested color scheme of saffron, rusts, golds and greens.

Anyhoo, a lot of trial and error and gnashing of teeth went into this block.  Is there anyone out there who gets the color combination right the first time?  If so, I want to know your secret.  

I tried three different combinations before I finally came up with something I liked, although I would have preferred to have had a subtly patterned light background rather than just the plain light yellow that was in my stash.

In the first two, the kimonos didn't 'pop' because the background color blended in too much with the kimono fabric.  I loved the third fabric, but it seemed like the scale of the print was too big for such a mini kimono.  Anyway, the kimono finally 'popped' against a lighter background.

And wouldn't you know it, I ended up using the first 'kimono' fabric that I had picked out.  I should learn to trust my instincts.

And, here's a retro video for your viewing entertainment.

Thursday, February 9, 2012


Periaktoi sounds like some kind of scary contagious medical condition, but it's really a 3-sided panel used to make quick scene changes in theater.  An 11 second YouTube clip is worth at least 42 words.

For the last couple of weeks I've been painting periaktos (that's the plural form) and other random scenery things with my friend Kate.  When we're done, I'll post some pictures.  But, the experience is dragging up memories of other scenery painting and drama experiences that I've been involved in over the years.

When I taught 3rd grade in National City, my teaching partner, Carol, and I put on a play with our 3rd graders.  "What He Deserves" was about a greedy guy who tried to con the king and queen.  In the end he got what he deserved.  The king and queen gave him the most precious thing in the kingdom - a perfect turnip - which was the gift his poor neglected sister had given to the royal couple.

Carol always taught our students music - the recorder, Orff Ensemble (percussion instruments), singing, and music theory.  I always taught our students dance - mostly line dancing and square dancing.  So, of course, we had to add instrumentation, singing, and square dancing to the play.  Carol and the students rewrote lyrics to familiar songs and they learned how to sing them and play them on their instruments.  I remember the chorus, sung to the tune of Guantanamera:  "Rich greedy mister, so very mean to your sister."

I was also in charge of the scenery.  And, until last week, I didn't realize that what we had made were periaktos, kind of.  We painted the scenery on big appliance boxes - the castle on one side and the forest on the other.  The kids turned the boxes around for scene changes - just like periaktos.  We also made a gigantic papier mache turnip and a very uncomfortable top hat out of poster board and felt.

Doing projects like this used to be fun and maddening.  In the middle of it all you begin to wonder what in the world ever possessed you to take on such a project with 50-60 overly excited 3rd graders.  But, it's all worth it when you get to sit back and 'relax' during performance time.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

First and Last Roadshow

Back in the day our church congregations (wards) used to have roadshows.  The tradition started, in a different form, when the pioneers crossed the plains.  The pioneers would gather together in the evenings to sing, dance, and entertain each other.  It would help lift their spirits.

I didn't grow up in the church, but my siblings did.  For some reason I never got involved in the roadshows when they did.  (Knowing what I know now, I'm sure the ward would've gladly welcomed me to participate.)  I finally got to be part of a roadshow when I lived in Salt Lake City, after graduating from BYU.  I don't remember if I was actually 'in' the show, but I did draw and paint (with help) some of the scenery.

I drew out the designs on paper and then traced them with a Sharpie on some plastic that I had scrounged up and cut into small sheets.  Someone built some big lightweight wooden frames and we stapled butcher paper to them.  I used my newly acquired teacher skills to project and trace the drawings onto the framed butcher paper.

My favorite drawing was The Battle of the Champs.  I thought it was a pretty clever interpretation of the rivalry between the Brigham Young University Cougars and the University of Utah Utes.  

I was also proud of creating the illusion of a crowd in the stadium picture without drawing a gazillion little heads, but was quite disappointed when someone sneakily added in the 'Coke' ad and threw the whole drawing off center.