Walnut Hollow + National Craft Month

March is National Craft Month and to celebrate Walnut Hollow has asked a few of their friends/designers to create some quick and easy craft projects. Since I adore Walnut Hollow’s high quality wood surfaces and exceptional products, I thought it would be fun to participate. (Note: be sure to read to the end of the post for entering my giveaway).

But first, a quick little story as to another reason why I’m also a Walnut Hollow fan. When I first joined CHA as a designer (rather than a member of the press) in 2007, I participated in my first an only Designer Showcase. I spent the better part of a month working non-stop to make interesting mixed-media projects to showcase my talents. I worked out the display, got my postcards and business cards created and printed, did some cool signage and went to the show to announce myself to the crafts industry as a professional artist/designer. I had butterflies in my belly and was nervous as to how my work would be perceived during the meet the designers viewing. The very first manufacturer to show up at my table and talk about my designs was Chris Wallace from Walnut Hollow. Her supportive words were music to my ears and the match that lit a fire inside me and confirmed that I was right in my desire to step my work into a larger stage. Isn’t it incredible that one person saying just the right thing at just the right time can effect such positive change? Over the years, I’ve come to learn that Walnut Hollow is one of the most designer-friendly companies in the industry and Chris is a key player. Life has changed tremendously for me in the past eight years, but my loyalty to Chris never will.

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Here’s a sneak peek of my beach-themed project that’s up on Walnut Hollow’s blog today. Be sure to head on over to my post there to see the full tutorial!

And now for a giveaway. Tell me, have you ever used Walnut Hollow products? What’s your favorite. If not, is there something on their website you would like to try? Since it’s National Craft Month, I’ll pick a winner using random number generator for a giveaway an ICE Resin plunger and a few Susan Lenart Kazmer Art Mechanique bezels. (U.S. only please because of the shipping costs).

Here’s wishing you an Artful day!

JenSig

From Solitude to Spotlight

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Imagine my surprise when I open my email today and see the Cloth, Paper, Scissors Online Editor Cherie Haas has done a little write up on my next Art of Business column in the Spring 2015 issue of Artists and Makers magazine. The second issue of this fab new magazine is available now. Honestly, I think I am the target market for this magazine. As a working artist and entrepreneur, I spend my hours every day weaving in and out of tasks. Sometimes these tasks are getting to make jewelry or collages or assemblages. Sometimes (albeit rarely) I get to simply play in my art journal. More often than not, I’m doing business-related tasks of sending and responding to emails, writing columns, working through various stages of deadlines, marketing, research, social media, blogging, as well as all the rest of the tasks that occupy a typical work day. Add to that a traveling and teaching schedule and you’ll understand that I spend a lot of time thinking about ways to enhance productivity so I can keep moving forward in business, art and life.

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I was pretty jazzed when I learned the focus of the Spring issue is all about being in the spotlight. As my editor and I talked over my intro for my column, I told her one of my biggest challenges in my working life is how to balance the solitude of of my days in the studio with the spotlight of teaching/filming/selling. Fortunately, I have many more working days where it’s just me at my computer, talking to our team members or other business associates on the phone, and creating art than I do all-out public days. However, those days at the shows or art retreats or conferences are long hours with lots of creative energy exchange with others, as well as information overload. I consider myself to be a social introvert, meaning I enjoy people and their company immensely but when I’m left to my own devices I tend to choose home-based activities like making or reading or hanging out with my husband and family.

I’ve learned how to enjoy the solitude and embrace the spotlight after quite a few years of doing it now. It wasn’t always easy and I definitely stumbled at times, but I know that success requires both ends of this spectrum. It takes time where you must turn inward and create. After creation though comes sharing. Every artist needs to share her creations with the world in order to inspire others and generate sales, and being in the spotlight is just as important work as is the making. If you’re interested in this topic at all, you can find my thoughts on the subject, as well as 100+ pages of artist interviews, gorgeous photos and even more salient advice from the other experts/columnists. All this for less than $10.

Cool, eh?

 

 

 

Journaled Jeans Tutorial

 

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I’ve worn my Journaled Jeans a couple of times since I created them, and every time I put them on I get great comments and questions from people asking how I made them. The simple answer is this: Grab a pair of jeans, some fabric paint, a Sharpie marker and dive in.

Actually, I’ve been planning to do a tutorial of my jeans ever since my sweet “adopted” daughter (my best friend’s girl whom I’ve known since she was 1 years old) and I spent a crafting day over the winter break together. Unfortunately, I didn’t get it done before CHA or Tucson, but now that I’m home for a while, I’m catching up on things. Better late than never! So let’s get started.

 

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Jen’s Painted and Journaled Jeans

Supplies:

Directions:

Prepare your work surface. Place plastic garbage bags on your work table and cut pieces of recycled cardboard to fit into the legs of the jeans. This will provide a barrier so the fabric paint does not seep into the back of the jeans as you’re working on the front. Here’s Macy pulling out all the supplies and opening them. Kit Kat is being helpful crafty kitty. She meowed loudly in protest when we pulled her off the table to prep the work surface.

Art jeans Tutorial getting supplies ready

I knew that I didn’t want a hard edge to my jeans and that I also did not want the paint to cover the entire pant leg. I made my own jagged edge stencil out of ripped Viva paper towels and taped the edge to the jeans using masking tape.

Art Jeans Viva Paper Towel Stencil

Next I started to paint a base layer of color with my Soft Fabric Paint using a brush. I have to admit I was hoping for something that had more of a gesso like consistency to it. These paints are very soft and silky, which is lovely, but I had to use a lot of the bottle (about 3/4) to get a base layer. I also put down my paintbrush and switched to using my hands to really rub the color into the jeans. Macy thought I was crazy for getting in with my hands and she decided to stick to using her foam paintbrush. She later remembered that finger painting could be fun!

We let the base layer dry for about an hour (passing the time by making a batch of chocolate chip cookies. Gotta keep those teenagers busy!) and then came back to our project for the next layer. I placed the Stencil Girl stencils where I wanted them and then spritzed with the Tulip Fabric Spray Paint. I had to go really heavy-handed here to get an intense amount of color on the jeans. This was another messy step. Jen's Art Jeans Stencil Step

At this point I was not feeling my jeans that much. I had bought my BFF Colleen (Macy’s mom) a pair of jeans for her birthday to trick out as well. I decided to switch over to a new pair for a while and give mine a chance to dry while I figured out where I wanted to take them next. Macy continued working on hers.

Macy's Art Jeams

I did almost the same process described above on Colleen’s pair. The only difference was I used the end of a paint brush to scratch into the wet paint and also I felt this need to fling paint splatters everywhere on the one leg. Macy told me I needed to add a green ribbon since her mama is a survivor of Lymphoma. (This is another story for another time, but Colleen was diagnosed with Stage 4 Lymphoma cancer last summer when I was teaching in Chicago. She underwent chemotherapy and declared Cancer free before Christmas).

Art Jeans for Colleen, Lymphoma Survivor

I switched back to my jeans when the paint was dry and added some paint splatters and then color and stencils to the bottom back of the pant leg since I wanted my design to wrap around the pant leg. After this we’d been crafting jeans for about two hours and were ready to take a break.

The next day our paint layers were dry so we decided to finish up our jeans. Macy took the Tulip fabric paint in neon colors and made some fun, puffy paint doodles. They were perfect for a 16-year-old. Here’s Kit Kat being helpful kitty again and taking a nap on the jeans. Funny how she knew to lay on the non-painted leg.

Macy's finished jeans with cat

I decided to get out my wide width and regular Sharpie markers and start doodling. I would have loved to use the Tulip Fabric Markers, but I didn’t have any of them available to work with. To Colleen’s jeans I added the words “Live Life” and some hearts. To mine I added “Love Art” running down the right hand seam. I wanted to show you the mistake I did to the O in Love. I came back with my black Sharpie after it dried and gave it a nice thick scalloped border around that O with another layer and fixed it right up! I also drew a few more random flowers and circles and lines on mine just to give it the “journaled” feel I was going for.

Art Jeans Colleen

Jen Journaled Jeans Mistake O

Jen's Finished Journaled Jeans Detail

You have to wait at least 2 days for the paint to fully dry and cure before washing. I gave mine a week just to be sure. These jeans are my new favorites. I plan to wear them to every teaching gig I do, simply because they are artsy and because they make me smile. Living an artful life means embracing creativity in all corners of your existence. Your home, your wardrobe, your way of being. If you have a few hours to spare on afternoon, I encourage you to paint up a pair of your most comfortable jeans. Even if all you do is wear them in the studio, you’ll feel great. Remember, if you don’t want to do this to jeans, you can always grab your favorite apron or sweatshirt or yoga pants. Tulip fabric paints work on all these surfaces!

 

Another teaching photo. I always hope to find one where my mouth is not open and my hands are still. Hmmmmm...still waiting on that one. Well, at least its apparent that I take my job as an educator seriously. You will get lots of information in my classes.

Another pic of my jeans from my ICE Resin FUNdamentals class at CHA Winter 2015

 

 

Hoping you are having an awesome week.

JenSig

 

 

 

 

 

Happy Love Day

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Valentine’s Day is one of my favorite days. Not because of the Hallmark commercial aspect of it, but just because I love the idea of a Day of Love. You know how I feel about this subject. It’s my most favorite word and my most favorite emotion. Nothing in the world beats Love. All you need is Love. Love Makes the World go Around. Etcetera, etcetera. I’ve actually been accused of using the word love too much. Whatever.

I was recently working on new art samples for my Vivid Wire Links class, which is an offshoot of my successful Links, Clasps. Components and Chain workshop that I teach. Vivid Links is a condensed version of the wire links (fewer links) but with the addition of cold enameling (Iced Enamels + ICE Resin). I shared Work in Progress steps of the necklace on Instagram, but wanted to wait until Valentine’s Day for the reveal of the piece. Everything about this necklace to me screams Happy LOVE Day. AtAGlanceJenCushman Here are the pics I put on Instagram showing Step 1 in the process. The bezel ( pic below) has two layers of imagery and resin built up and the links are made from 16g copper wire.

AtAGlanceStep1 Next Step (pic below) with a third layer of imagery and cold enameling on the bezel and wire links. Obviously red is the dominant theme here. AtAGlanceStage2 If you’re interested in learning to make something like this, be sure to check out my website and click into Workshops to see where I’m teaching this year. I’ll be in Los Angeles, Houston, Milwaukee, Phoenix and Paris. Possibly back to Texas – Austin — in October. I know many of you have asked about online classes. It’s just not something I’ve been able to pull off considering my teaching/family schedule and ICE Resin responsibilities. However, it’s something I want to do and make time for. Maybe as the time draws nearer, I”ll do a survey to see which ones you’re most interested in so I know where to begin the process.

Here’s wishing you the most Artful Day of Love. I hope you can share it with a special partner, family member or BFF. JenSig

Always have a pocket

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Like millions of mothers my mornings are spent waking up my children, getting them fed, dressed and ready for school. My teenage son does this on his own, but my daughter still needs a lot of help. She has very definite ideas of her world; what she wants, likes and dislikes.  Add that to being in kindergarten where the reasoning skills are not yet fully developed and you’ll understand when I say I sometimes have challenging mornings. Lately she has been on this kick where she only wants to wear uniform skirts (no shorts, no pants) with pockets. The only problem with this is that she has one skirt with pockets and eight other typical pleated uniform skirts sans pockets. After about a week of her wanting to wear the same skirt every day, it finally occurred to me to ask her why she needed pockets.

She looked at me thoughtfully and answered a very well-reasoned response. “If Mrs. H. gives me something special during the day I want to have a place to hold my treasure.”

I looked at her just as sincerely and smiled. So many thoughts were running through my head from her sweet little answer.

  • How much she adores and admires her teacher. That’s a good thing!
  • How likely is it Mrs. H will be handing out special gifts to individual students when she’s doing her best each day to manage 24, five-year-olds?
  • How innocent my daughter is to patiently hope and wait for special gifts.
  • How the world would be a better place if all adults would hope for — and here’s the key — believe in and expect treasures at any given turn.

I don’t think it’s an accident that our children are innocent and open. I believe we all come into the world this way because the Universe truly is a magical place and we instinctively know it. Life is hard and bad things happen, which makes us more cynical as we age. We shutter our hearts, close off our vulnerability, stay on guard. The consequence is that we wrap ourselves in so much protection that we fail to see the little miracles that can happen at any given moment of any given day. We stop believing that a stranger – or worse, someone we love -will bestow upon us a special unexpected gift.

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Having an open heart is something that’s been somewhat challenging for me as I continue to put myself and my work into the world. As an artist, showing your work is the same as showing your heart. Your work is the essence of your thoughts and emotions made manifest in a tangible way; be it a piece of jewelry, an art journal, a canvas, a quilt, an art doll, a handmade book, a scrapbook, etc.  I’ve learned over the years that I like some pieces of my work much more than others. (Everyone feels this way!) When I first began my teaching career, I used to hide the pieces I didn’t like in a box, shut tightly and tucked away in a corner of my studio. Then one day as I was packing for an event and getting my jewelry together to sell at the Artist Fair night, I realized I didn’t have enough work to display. I didn’t have time to make anything new because I was down to the wire and the weeks prior had been particularly hectic with our company.

I looked over at the box in the corner and sighed. I hadn’t been in there in months and months. I sat on the floor and started pulling things out. To my surprise, it was like looking at brand new work. The wonky wrap on one necklace that I despised so much after I twisted it actually looked pretty cool. The odd color combination I experimented on one piece later became Pantone’s Color of the Year and was found in the fashion magazines. Other pieces had great components but I could see the design was slightly “off”. I knew it at the time but wasn’t in the head space to fix it. Time gave me what I needed to see with new eyes. I grabbed a handful of  pieces, pulled them apart and spent an hour or so re-configuring them into something fresh.

Learning this lesson was an important part of my growth as an artist and educator. Knowing who I am is one thing. Believing in myself another. Truly understanding that my life and my work is fluid and ever evolving and that every piece is “good enough” — fabulous even — was life changing. Today, I try to wear my pocket in my heart. I do my best to keep it open so that when life presents me with treasure, I have a special place to tuck it.

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Here’s wishing you an Artful week and a full pocket.

JenSig

Make Art in L.A. with me

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I’m so excited to announce I’ll be teaching at a brand new venue for me. It’s called Make Art in L.A and it’s run by an amazing artist Barbara Buckles. Barbara has spent most of the past 20 years as a photographer and entrepreneur. She’s done a line of greeting cards, written books on photography, invented a photography process that resembles vintage Daguerreotypes, taught workshops and had a successful online shop. Like a true mixed-media artist and creative soul, she’s dabbled in jewelry, encaustics, painting, collage, drawing, etc. Through it all, she’s made some pretty cool friends and decided to help them share their talents.

I had the sincere pleasure of learning about Barbara through Jeannine Stein, my editor for the columns I write with Cloth, Paper, Scissors and Artists and Makers magazines. Our mutual friend led to conversations and then to an invite to teach at her amazing space in Los Angeles.  If you’re one of my SoCal friends or a Phoenician wanting to do a road trip, or someone who wants to jump on a plane and spend some time with me — mark the dates in your calendar now. April 10th and 11th.

The best part is that I’ll be doing two days of resin workshops. These are my favorite; where we really get to have some fun with the medium learning new techniques and then building on them. I’ll be teaching resin basics for just a little bit and then putting it into turbo mode as we take it from zero to 60 pretty quickly. I’m hoping students will sign up for both days in order to dig in, but I have made the classes where it’s OK if you just have time in your schedule for only one. I promise, you’ll be walking out with some pretty cool art projects and tons of ideas to spark your creativity.

Head on over to Make Art in L.A.’s website to read more about my upcoming workshops. You can register now. As this is an intimate and super cool venue, seating is limited.

Here’s a peek:

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Craft Fail

If you follow my blog at all or my social media, you know I tend to look at the glass always as half full rather than half empty. It’s just easier to live my life feeling positive about things rather than unhappy and grumpy. Not that I don’t have my moods, but I’m pretty quick to shake most things off. I also try to live by the golden rule my grandmother taught me, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.” When I do go on a rant, it’s usually pretty legit.

Being a creative mom, I’m always looking for fun craft kits and ideas that my daughter can do. She’s five, so I know that’s on the young side for lots of crafty kits sold at the big box stores, but to be fair, she’s been making art since she could hold a crayon and scribble at 7 months. At three, she was even featured in Stampington’s Create with Me Kids magazine, making art using Faber-Castell’s Gelatos that I later used in a bezel with resin.

This past holiday season I saw a cake pop making kit on sale at Khols and bought it as a craft for us to do together. It required no baking. I was a little skeptical, but hey, how can you go wrong with chocolate and sprinkles? We opened the box, assembled the plastic unit intended to squirt the cake pop batter into the cute little cake pop molds and read the directions from beginning to end before starting. (Hard thing for me to do, admittedly because I usually think I know enough about any craft to dive in.)

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The batter, which you only use warm water with, is supposed to set up and harden on its own in the refrigerator. Apparently my water was too hot because it set up too quickly and we couldn’t get it to squirt neatly into the cake pop molds. We had to use sticks to push the batter into the molds and even then that didn’t work. We ended up with one overfilled cake pop and three sad looking ones.

After filling, I placed in the refrigerator as directed for 15 minutes. I took them out, popped off the top as directed and handed them to my girl to decorate. We made the frosting, again just a packet of dry mix that you add water to and stirred. The frosting was thin and runny. I can say the cute little pink candy crystal stencils worked well and made my daughter smile.

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Finally came the time to enjoy our hard-at-work crafting time. They were ready to eat. The taste was…hmmmm…what’s the word for it? I know, foul. My girl took one bite and said “Mama, is it supposed to taste this bad?” We even tried to give one to her 15-year-old brother, thinking teenagers will eat anything sweet. He took one look at the cake pops, wrinkled his nose, took a bite and then spit it out into the trash can.

I washed up the entire messy project and put the pieces and parts back into the box. Giant Craft FAIL.

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Now that you know the background, here’s the rant. Remember this comes from someone who’s in the crafts industry and works with manufacturers as a designer. Of course, I’m a mommy, but my DIY skills happen to be a bit more advanced than many of the parents these kit manufacturers are marketing their wares to. The point here is not to have a big ego but to say, “Heck if this is difficult for me to accomplish with my child how is a non-crafter going to feel?”

Tell me, please, who is making these types of bad kid’s kits and why? What is their background? Do they have any working knowledge at all of crafting…of children? Have they tested their products? Have they even tasted — let alone swallowed — their “treats”.  Are they really only concerned with making a profit to the point they completely lose site of their customer’s wants? And, frankly, my final question: Why even bother? If you happen to be the manufacturer of this kit and you happen to somehow read my blog post, please feel free to leave a comment. Honestly, I’d love to hear you thoughts.

One of my best friends is a wonderful, fabulous mom. She’s a single mom and literally lives every moment for her children. Her 7-year-old is like my girl. She’s been crafty since birth. My friend is not only NOT crafty, but the entire process of it makes her squirm. However, she’s bought every children’s craft kit for girls on the market. I asked her opinion after my craft fail how many of these kits did she feel like she got her money’s worth and how many of them not only felt like a rip off but annoyed her? She estimated the good vs. bad for her money is roughly 40% total craft fail, 50% OK and only 10% wonderful (Stay tuned for a wonderful kids craft product review!). How sad for this industry that I truly love.

Since I don’t usually buy these kits — we tend to make everything from what I have in my studio, plus her crayons, paint and paper — I wanted to ask you what you think about children’s craft kits. Do you ever buy them? Are there ones that you would recommend to other parents? What do you do when you’ve spent money on them and they’ve been craft fails?

Thanks for taking the time to listen. I feel so much better now. (grin)

Here’s wishing you a successful and Artful day!

JenSig