Collage of Ideas -Blog

If You Don’t Give Grandma Gift Ideas, She’ll Send You Something Silly!

If You Don’t Give Grandma Gift Ideas, She’ll Send You Something Silly!

Pipe cleaner butterfly

At the beginning of November 2018, I was cleaning up my studio area after completing on online class, and noticed five small substrates I made during the summer, lined up on a rack, waiting to be used. I quickly decided I didn’t want to see them there in 2019, so I laid them out on my work table, hoping for an idea to come my way.

I thought back to the art retreat I went to in 2017 in Santa Rosa, where I spent two days learning how Finnabair makes her fascinating creations. I hadn’t made anything like that since I came home. I looked at the experiments I had been doing with handmade paper, wire, and palm bark. What would happen if I added these materials to what I learned at the retreat?

I had to find my notes from the retreat to recall how we began the piece I made. I didn’t have the finished item from the retreat because I had given it to my granddaughter for her High School Graduation.

I cut up patterned paper into small squares, pasted them to each substrate with gel medium, and coated them with soft gel, through which I dragged a comb to create texture. When that layer was dry, I added torn strips of handmade paper and a small piece of palm bark to each substrate. I was making a series so they all had a small amount of each material.

At this point, I realized I needed a focal point in each piece. While looking for something else, I had recently come across a box of curious animals made of coiled pipe cleaners. They had been in that drawer for years, since I added my mother’s craft stash to mine. They looked like the things she made in Florida at the mobile home center. There was a caterpillar, a mouse, two bears, and one I couldn’t identify, which I decided would be a butterfly.

Pipe cleaner caterpillar

I added garage junk: nuts, screws, paper clips, washers, and odd metal and plastic pieces using  gel medium for the glue. I highlighted the metal with metallic paint. I was having such a fun time, but what was I going to do with them when they were finished?

I hadn’t done any Christmas shopping because I had no idea what to get my three granddaughters. Why not give each of them one of these creations?  The little animals were made by their great-grandmother. This was just the incentive I needed to get them finished soon even though I was cleaning up the yard every day, too. The next logical thought was that the mouse should go to my son.

Full view of butterfly collage

To the caterpillar and butterfly pieces I added some dark green paper leaves and flowers. I tried to highlight the leaves with some shiny paint, but it didn’t work out well, and I couldn’t remove the paint.

These were both on wood substrates.

 

 

Brown Bear on cork base with silver highlights

 

The brown bear is on a cork substrate which was glued to a piece of craft wood to give it stability. I liked working with the cork. It made a nice texture for adding paint, and the gel medium stuck to it well. The dark brown mass in each collage is the palm bark. The tan area is the handmade paper which was torn into odd shapes. This piece has silver highlights.

 

Pack Rat in his nest

The mouse is actually a pack rat as can be seen by all the junk in his nest. The next is made with the palm bark. On the bottom below the bark is a strip of black woven mesh, probably nylon, which I picked up in a garage at an estate sale. The metal pieces were highlighted with brass metallic paint. His corrugated cardboard substrate was glued to a craft board.

 

Panda

One of the substrates was made on a piece of cardboard with the lower right corner cut out. I resolved this by mounting it on a piece of light weight craft board that was slightly smaller than the cardboard, painted that corner with a pink metallic paint that I used for highlights on the piece, and glued a small shell to the craft board. The green diamond pattern on the bottom and right side were made by using thickened gesso with a stencil. After it was dry, I applied green paint and rubbed most of it off. This has a little panda bear sitting in the palm bark, surrounded by tiny fabric roses. He has now joined the menagerie in my bedroom

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An Auspicious Beginning for 2019

An Auspicious Beginning for 2019

On the first two days of the New Year, I raked up leaves from two good size areas in the yard that had not gotten any attention for cleanup, as well as the patio which always needs to be cleaned up. I hauled a total of eleven full garbage cans to the street for pickup by the county.

On the third day of 2019, the county came with their heavy equipment and picked up the pile of leaves at 8:45 a.m. I was still too exhausted, after eight hours of sleep, to attend my M&M art group, went back to bed and slept two more hours that morning.

In the afternoon, I went to the grocery store. When I returned, I saw that my yard man had come while I was gone and had deposited the leaves and grass clippings from my yard as well as from a yard across the street in the nice clean street. Grrrr!

On Friday, the forth day of the New Year, I made a quick trip to an estate sale nearby before I went out to the street to clean up the leaves, because the county was not coming back, and rain and wind were forecast. I filled my large green waste bin and began to fill leaf bags. Fortunately, a neighbor walked over to ask when the pick up was. He graciously offered his empty yard waste bin and proceeded to pick up the mess with his shovel and pitch fork. I am so thankful for his help.

On the fifth day, I did some household chores, and after supper I watched the first video of the online class, which I had planned to start on Friday.

On Sunday, day six, the rain started while I ate breakfast. Rain days should be art making days, right? But first, I reorganized a small book shelf so I can reach things without using a step stool, and dusted everything so I’d have a clean start. The wind was blowing, rain pouring down.

I made a pot of soup. Robert came in the house and cooked something. As we were eating, his van started sounding its alarm. He was able to shut it off quickly from inside the house. I was looking out my large front window as the man across the street had his headlights pointing directly at my yard and saw a surge of huge palm fronds blowing into my yard. Robert speculated that a frond hitting his van probably set off the alarm.

Dozen palm fronds wrapped around my birch trees

I noticed that the lights were out across the street. A little while later, Robert’s wheelchair became stuck in a flowerbed near the garage when a wheel slipped off the sidewalk. We called the guys across the street to rescue him. Then our power went out for about twenty minutes.

So this morning – I’m writing on Monday evening, January 7, 2019 – the mess from the storm was not a surprise. The rain had passed on overnight, and the day actually had a little sun between the clouds. My activity for the day was obvious. Clean it up!

Marilyn’s driveway Monday morning

I loaded at least 35 palm fronds into my truck, with small pieces going into the trash bin that was waiting for pickup in the street. These fronds are huge, hanging over the end of my Chevy S10 buy at least two feet, maybe more.

Here we are a week into 2019 and nothing to show for it art wise. Tomorrow, day 8, I will tarp the truck and drive half an hour to the dump. Yes, I was planning to go there some time this winter, but not this soon.

More rain is expected on Wednesday – maybe then I’ll get going with my class.

I hope your New Year has started well.

If not, perhaps we should fasten our seat belts and hold on tight!

 

 

 

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A Glance Back, a Peek Ahead

A Glance Back, a Peek Ahead

I started 2018 by choosing the word “Weed” as my word for the year and I did all kinds of weeding in the yard, in my eleven bookcases, and in my closet. I’m still finding cupboards and drawers that could use some cleaning out, but they will have to wait.

I went through approximately a nine foot stack of old magazines cutting out pictures and discarding the rest. I’ve done such a good job of staying on top of this, that Saturday evening when I needed some magazines to select random images that appealed to me for a quick exercise in a book I was reading, I could find only one magazine in the recycle bin.

I began the year completing one or more unfinished projects that had been hiding here and there, as well as finishing an online collage course I had started in fall of 2017. I went through the rest of the year feeling like I wasn’t putting in the studio time I wanted to.

A quick inventory on Sunday of the work I did counted fifteen collages using a variety of materials, and two baskets made from the Watsonia I harvested from the garden in September. I completed two additional online courses, attended the Basket and Gourd two-day conference in Visalia, and led one activity for my local mixed media group.

The week between Christmas and New Year’s has had two primary activities—get the big leather-like Sycamore leaves out of the back and side yard into the street for pick-up tomorrow, and in the evening when I was exhausted from the leaves, set some art goals for 2019.

My inspiration board for the last three years.

First, I have a room divider in the studio that is also a place where I can hang things that inspire me. Nothing has changed on it since 2015; past time for something new to look at.

I have been thinking about a yard art project for over a year which involves many small items I have collected that are no longer useful. In the last few months I have been planning how to actually do it, and acquiring parts for it.

Many years ago when I lived in Cincinnati, I did some plein air painting and really liked it. But then I had my first baby and it was too much trouble to leave the house to paint. On Saturday, while raking up leaves, I stubbed my foot twice on a tree root in a place I walk often. I covered it with one of those square milk carton carriers which will make a perfect place to sit and paint in my yard.

Safety solution – a seat for plein air painting

On my computer is a digital book on how to use cold wax. I finally got around to ordering some cold wax, so I can try using it as I watch the lesson. I have one more online collage course lined up, which I hope to begin on Friday of this week.

In 2018, I have acquired as gifts or at estate sales, eight wonderful books about various artists that I’m eager to read, perhaps at lunch time, or instead of Facebook.

Art books waiting to be read

These are enough ideas to get me going. I’m praying for a lot of rain in the next few months, so I don’t spend all winter working outside like last year. I think it is important to write out some specific ideas for the creative work, and to leave some space for new ideas and opportunities to emerge.

Wishing you a Creative New Year!

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Sweet Christmas Chaos

Sweet Christmas Chaos

I left home at 2:48 p.m. on Monday, December 24 headed seventy miles north to Roseville, CA where my son Chris lives. It was dry, but threatening. As I drove up the on ramp at Hammer Lane, the first rain drops hit the windshield, and before the next exit the wipers were going on high speed. The heavy rain continued on the two lane section of I-5 until Elk Grove where the road picks up a third lane. Fortunately, the heavy traffic was headed south on the other side of the freeway.

Sacramento had easy, normal rain when I passed through. It was still raining when I arrived at my son’s house at about 4:30. When I stepped into the house, I was greeted with three new faces. Two of them ran toward the door; the third stood there in shock, and quickly disappeared.

One of the kittens

Jeremy helped me unload my car of gifts, food, a duffel bag, and pillow. There was a face-to-tummy hug from my grandson, Vinnie, who disappeared until dinner was served. Jer was busy putting food in the oven at the right time, and fixing a salad. I learned all about his new job.

The almost three-month-old kittens were busy checking out my shoes, chasing colorful Christmas bows, and grabbing anything that moved on the Christmas tree. Once Chris got home from work, dinner was on the table in no time, my grandson ate and was back in his room before I had tasted everything once.

I had brought my IPad and was hoping Vin could show me how to do a few things on it, but I was never able to catch his eye, mainly because I couldn’t see his eyes due to his new hairdo.

When I go to Chris’ house, I seem to get caught up in a vortex of image and sound, so foreign to what I’m used to, that I just watch it happening around me, like I’ve stepped into the middle of a movie.

About 9 p.m. the shy kitten made an appearance, keeping her distance from me, while the two large dogs gnawed new bones, and we watched a movie called “Dumplin.” Things shifted into high gear as gifts were wrapped, the TV news repeated itself about every half hour, the kittens got into more stuff, and the Pope reminded us why we have Christmas.

When I got up to use the bathroom at 5 a.m. Christmas morning, one of the cats was outside the door of my room, staring at it, waiting for it to open. When I came out of the bathroom, she was gone.

Christmas morning Vinnie opened most of his gifts and had gone back upstairs before I could finish a small bowl of oatmeal. Once all the gifts were opened, I put on my makeup, and curled my hair. The two kittens attacked the neatly stacked pile of tissue paper and discovered it slides wonderfully on carpet.

Two kittens working over the tissue paper

My grandson went to his friend’s house wearing his new clothes, Chris cleaned up the kitchen, and soon it was time for me to get on the road back to Stockton, with the sun shining brightly. It is nice to go for a short visit, but I wouldn’t want to live there.

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December Rituals

December Rituals

Since the end of summer I have been accumulating clothing and household items that need the attention of the sewing machine in the small front bedroom of my home. This room is mostly used for storage of things I might use in my art, as well as my 12-harness loom, a small loveseat with a hide-a-bed for the rare occasions when we have a visitor for a few nights, and my sewing machine.                                    

My sewing machine this week.

The Singer sewing machine was my first purchase after I began my first graphic arts job in 1962. It has a cam system with discs to make decorative stitches, and it will sew in reverse with just the push of a lever. My mother’s machine did not have a reverse feature which required me to turn the item 180 degrees to sew over the end of the seam to lock in the stitching. My machine was portable, so I could set it up in front of the TV on a card table. Soon after I got married, I found an old treadle cabinet, with four small drawers like my paternal grandmother had, at a yard sale.

Until the last few years, I did a lot of sewing, making most of my clothes. Now, I mostly repair things. I wanted to get this room cleaned up before I start making plans for next year. Tuesday afternoon I finished the sewing. Next, I will be baking nut bread and a few Christmas cookies.

Christmas is one of those events that can take over your life for weeks or even months if you let it. I used to make hand-woven gifts, bake dozens of cookies, wrap gifts with ribbons and bows—the whole big deal. Then my sons married,  had families, and wanted me to come to their house.

When I worked at the Livermore VA for ten years, we had so many Christmas events and decorations at work that I was happy to get away from it at home.  When I stopped working full time with the ninety-minute one-way commute, doing all my holiday rituals became another chore on the list. I would decorate inside, but spend all day outside raking leaves. I’d wrap and mail gifts, but never see them opened.

There is nothing wrong with making a special time if it brings you joy, but I came to see it all as a huge distraction, taking me away from subjects I was studying, or projects I was in the middle of. I was spending my time and energy on activities that I didn’t care about, and didn’t seem to matter much to anyone else.

Now, I decorate in less than an hour, putting candle-type lights in my windows. I bake two kinds of cookies I really love, and enjoy a few hours with my sons and grandson on Christmas Eve and morning.

Since I’ve been writing every week about my art making, yard tending, and occasional travels, I see no reason to write a Christmas letter reviewing the year.

My wish for each of you is that you cherish the meaning that this season holds for you. I pray you will enjoy good health and peace in your heart in the New Year.    Marilyn

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Odds and Ends

Odds and Ends

The apple mystery from last week was solved Wednesday morning.

Caught

I generally write my blog on Monday or Tuesday and schedule it to post on Wednesday at 7:00 a.m. When I got into the kitchen last Wednesday morning, there was the culprit.

I believe he got in through the cat door, decided he would stay in the warm house, and was camped out under the dishwasher. The apples were too big to take through that small space.

I put the finishing touches on the collage series that I have been working on the last few weeks. I decided to use them as Christmas gifts, and will post photos of them in January.

Panda

I am keeping this one which was made on an odd piece of cardboard with a lower right corner missing. I glued a heavy cotton fabric on the cardboard and put white gesso on the fabric. The pattern on the bottom and the right side was made by spreading thickened gesso through a stencil. After the gesso was set, I painted with diluted, green, acrylic paint.

The panda is sitting on palm bark, under which are some odd scraps of printed paper covered with soft acrylic gel that was scratched while wet. I added more paint, and three fabric roses. The panda was made out of pipe cleaners by my mother more than thirty years ago.

I mounted the whole thing on a 1/8 inch thick piece of balsa wood from the craft store. This filled in the missing corner, which I painted, before adding a shell fragment.

Last Saturday, my basket making group had their Christmas potluck. We have a custom of distributing the handmade gifts we brought, where the wrapped items are set on a table and we draw numbers for the order in which we select a gift from the table, or from a member who already has chosen a gift. The gift can be “stolen” up to twice before it is opened.

I came home with “yard art” in the form of a bird house made from a gourd.

New Yard Art – Birdhouse from a gourd

I had a perfect place for it. Some years ago, I attached a copper hook to an arbor set among trees, with plans to hang a hummingbird feeder there. All it ever drew was ants—my hummers want the real deal.

Coming up this week is another potluck on Thursday. And, I will be putting up window lights in the form of (electric) candles, one to each window. This is a custom I have had since I lived in Tidewater Virginia, where every house had candles in the windows. They make the house glow inside and out.

As you prepare for the holidays, may your heart be happy.

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The Apple Mystery

The Apple Mystery

Marilyn’s studio work table December 2018

The photo above was the state of my studio work table last Friday as I was adding “mechanicals” to the five collages I have been working on sporadically last month. Mechanicals is the term the artist Finnabair uses to refer to items she adds to her collage pieces such as gears, screws, nuts, bolts, safety pins, paperclips, and other odd parts of things that have been discarded.

I have been working on these collages once or twice a week all last month because the weather has been pleasantly warm until last week. I began an extensive weeding project a few months ago. It has probably been a dozen years since I cleaned up this area. From a distance, it is all just shades of green, but up close the grass thins out and the whole area looks messy.

Under my big tree, I have been digging out things that don’t belong in the grass such as tiny palm trees, privet, pyracantha, mock orange, and other woody plants that have grown from seed dropped by the birds. I also removed large masses of ajuga, a flat, flowering plant that takes over if not removed, and bermuda grass that sends long strings of itself under these other plants. Today, I finished this job.

The next garden chore will be getting the huge sycamore leaves out to the street so the county can haul them away. Sycamore leaves are tough and do not compost into the ground, so I like to get them out of here ASAP. I also have been picking up apples from my tree at the back of my lot every few days, and bringing the good ones inside.     ~~~

My bedtime routine is to shower and then have a custard-cup-dish of ice cream as I read in bed before sleep. Saturday evening, when I went to the kitchen for the ice cream, I found an apple on the floor in front of the dishwasher. I had a tray of newly picked apples on a table near the cat door around the corner from the kitchen, and apples in the refrigerator, but what was an apple doing on the floor? I’m the only one in the house and I didn’t drop it there. So, I picked it up and put it back with the other apples in the tray.

When I found a second apple on the kitchen floor, same spot, on Sunday night after my shower, I became suspicious. This apple had been gnawed at. Maybe he got in through the cat door, but this would be the first time in almost five years anyone has used the cat door. I picked the apple up and figured I’d deal with it in the morning. But I’m thinking: the animal had to smell the apples from outside the house. If it wasn’t using the cat door, maybe it was getting in near the plumbing, but none of the cabinets were open and they don’t shut on their own. Maybe from under the dishwasher.

Imagine my amazement on Monday morning when I found a third apple on the kitchen floor. I immediately put the tray of apples in the refrigerator. The question remains, is this mouse or rat coming in somewhere every night, or has it set up housekeeping inside somewhere?  The curious thing is there are no droppings, or other signs of a resident mouse.

Tuesday morning the gnawed apple was not on the end of the counter near the door to the driveway where I left it yesterday. It was, of course, on the floor in front of the dishwasher. It became evident that the critter had gotten up on the sink counter by way of a table where I keep my keys because a coupon that had been on the table was now on the floor.

Making breakfast, I discovered that this guy had also stolen a half-used supplement capsule which was in a tiny plastic dish on the counter. A second capsule was still in the dish. Why did he take one and not the other?

Fortunately, my cleaning person is here today so she can clean the counter thoroughly.  When my life hits a stretch where each day seems like the one before, nature provides some comic relief!

 

 

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Illustrating Opportunity

Illustrating Opportunity

Fly like the Eagle

The forth circular collage in this series features a picture of an eagle soaring above a coast line with snow capped mountains in the background. This center image is ringed with beads that become a counterclockwise spiral going around three times, with beads becoming larger in a variety of colors.

When I arrived in the San Francisco Bay Area in 1978, I soon discovered an enormous arts and crafts community of weavers and other fiber artists. There were guilds and small neighborhood groups, annual conferences, classes, and vendors of supplies.

Six years later, I became a full time college student at a price we could afford. A new basket-making guild was forming and I was invited to their meetings. At that time, I could drive to almost any meeting place or college campus in forty-five minutes from our home in Livermore. The doors of opportunity were open to me.

So, this circle represents that time of trying new things, weaving tapestries, exhibiting my work, getting an education and a profession, and getting a job. I eventually left my marriage and learned to make my own choices and decisions.

Love After Fifty

The fifth, and last, circle collage looks similar to the second one, but there are no beads around the edge of the picture of daffodils with a butterfly. The paper is sewn to the ring with turquoise embroidery thread. The beads in the center of the paper are organized on either side of a rippling line made of those tiny 3/16ths inch beads. The beads attached to the brass ring are various shades of pink.

By the time I made this series, I had been in my house with the big yard for eight years, and had a new man in my life, who continues to provide me with all kinds of adventures I could never have imagined.

Collages on My Wall

 

The five handmade paper collages hang in a vertical row on the wall next to my bed. I enjoy seeing them. I would not have the time or patience to make them now, so it is a good thing I made them when I did.

One of my goals this year of weeding through things, is to get to a place where, if I get an idea, I can try it out soon, instead of adding it to a list and losing track of the list. This goal is still a work in process, but I think I’m getting there.

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Thankful for Many Times and Places

Thankful for Many Times and Places

The second piece in my handmade paper series is based on the early years of my marriage, and when my sons were little. I was thankful I had the opportunity to marry Ray, who had an engineering degree. He didn’t want me to work and he had jobs that paid well enough that I could attend to the household, the children, and enjoy weaving and other crafts.

Wife and Mother

The circular collage features a photo of flowers (now faded), in a center circle on oatmeal colored paper that has flecks of white and other colors throughout the paper. This was sewn onto a brass ring with a cross stitch. The flower picture is circled with small beads, and then a ring of larger mauve beads. Farther out on the paper, the beads are a variety of sizes and colors somewhat randomly placed.

The gray scalloped shapes are made with narrow glass beads about 3/16ths of an inch long. The faint pink marks were made with a marker and have also faded. I have a thing about the color pink. In actual flowers, like roses I enjoy pink, but it is not a color I wear or use in my house, unless it is darker, sort of a rose color. A small amount of pink paired with larger amounts of green is nice also.

In this piece, I wanted some pink to represent my enjoyment of having a husband, a home, and children. I was thankful I didn’t have to live in Cleveland where I grew up. During these years we lived in Atlanta, Cincinnati, Missouri near Joplin, Nebraska in the southeast corner, and Portsmouth, Virginia.

I had been raised in the Lutheran Church, as had Ray. During our time in Virginia, I made a personal commitment to Jesus, and became close to some members of our church, and believers from other churches as well.

Jesus In My Life

The third circle in this series honors this time. The brass ring is sewn on top of the handmade paper with very fine dark thread. The image is a drawing from a magazine, looking down on the head of Christ with the crown of thorns.

I don’t recall any specific meaning for the arrangement of the beads streaming out from the center circle, but they make a dramatic looking piece. There are some faceted crystal beads sewn onto the ring, which don’t show up well in this photo.

After six years in Virginia, we were outgrowing our house, and Ray wanted a different job. An unexpected job offer came from California, where a huge world of opportunity awaited me.

At Thanksgiving, I sometimes struggle to name specific things I’m thankful for because there are so many. It is good to look back and remember all the experiences and blessings that have brought me to this moment.

Wishing you a joyous day tomorrow, wherever you are.

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Handmade Paper Series

Handmade Paper Series

“Don’t Live”

When I retired from my full time Creative Arts Therapy job at the beginning of 2005, I spent that year resting and recharging by playing with my art supplies.

I made small baskets out of daylily leaves from my yard. I spent two weeks during the summer making handmade paper on the patio.

I had been in a workshop learning to make paper some years before, and one of the Recreation Therapists from Palo Alto VA came to Livermore and we made paper with the veterans at the nursing home. That was a lot of messy fun, but when you are facilitating an activity it is not the same as making it yourself.

If you have never made paper, it can be an easy and fun outdoor activity. I shred junk mail and old financial papers to make the base pulp. The shredded paper is placed in a blender – get a used one at a thrift store – add water and blend. Pour the pulp onto a screen with a frame around it to drain off the water. Turn the residue onto a wad of newspaper to dry.

You can add colored paper before blending, and you may get a paper with speckles depending on how much you add to it. Add glitter. Color the whole batch by adding a small amount of liquid poster or acrylic paint in the blender.

The screen is called a mould and deckle, and is usually a rectangle shape. You can see demos of this on the internet. I didn’t want to bother to make a deckle, so I put screen cloth into an embroidery hoop, both of which I had. Of course, this resulted in round sheets of paper.

I also experimented with adding vegetable fibers to the mix. I went to the grocery and bagged up loose onion skins to add to one batch of pulp. After the two weeks of playing, I had a huge stack of paper circles. Then the challenge became what should I do with them?  I’m still working on the answer to that.

“Treasure”

 

 

I made some fragile baskets by stitching several sheets together. The director of the Art League gallery would not accept them, because she was afraid they might get damaged. The item at the left has faded from a lovely turquoise color.

 

 

I had some eight-inch brass rings I had acquired somewhere, so I stitched a sheet of my paper to one of them, and added some beads and cutouts from a magazine page that was popular that year. I was quite taken with it, because it reminded me of how I felt as a child and teen.

“Don’t cry”  “Don’t play”  “Don’t eat”  “Don’t stand”  “Don’t work”   “Don’t kiss”   “Don’t live”

We’ve all heard them:  Stop crying or I will give you something to cry about.  Don’t play with your food.  Don’t eat anything before dinner.  Don’t stand there, help me with . . .  No you can’t get a job, because I don’t want to have to haul you there and back.  Don’t you dare kiss anyone, you’ll get pregnant.  So, buy the time we are teens, we hear  “Don’t live.”

This is the first of five circles I made to represent stages of my life.

 

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