Arte Es Vida

Storytelling by arteesvida
March 17, 2007, 2:45 pm
Filed under: Journaling

I went to a lecture by Emma Perez a couple of weeks ago that combined some of her new work in the oral history tradition with that of her previous opus on the decolonial imaginary.  The paper I’m working on about the lecture focuses on how the oral history tradtion plays an integral part in expanding the horizions of historiography (which is essentially what the decolonial imaginary is).  There was a quote from a book by Michael Ruhlman called “House” that discussed the importance of the idea of storytelling.

(Ruhlman’s own blog is fairly new.  While occassionally hijacked by the enjoyable rantings of Anthony Bourdain, it also includes much about Ruhlman’s life and work which keeps it on the top of my TBR list.)

 I couldn’t refind the quote, and an email to Michael Ruhlman last night was answered in my inbox this morning.  (It also thrills me to know that the lives of some of my favorite writers is as boring as mine…I stayed home watching Art School Confidental and eating Wheat Thins last night.  Ruhlman apparently spent his answering silly emails from fangirls.)

The quote is from Reynolds Price.  Theessay is “A Single Meaning” and is in his book “A Common Room.”  This is it:

” A need to hear and to tell stories is essential to the species Homo Sapiens — in necessity apparently after nourishment and before love and shelter.”

Ruhlman goes on to discuss how storytelling is hardwired into us, and that even in our sleep we tell ourselves stories.  (And when we lose the ability to dream, we begin to lose our ability to function.)

For those of us who keep a journal, whether it be pen and paper or a blog, we are acting as storytellers.  I’ve noticed over the years that the stories I tell shift in importance.  As my priorities shift and my values sharpen, my stories flow alongside them.

What are your stories, why are they valuable to you and why do you feel the imperative to share those particular ones?

Artist’s Journals and Sketchbooks by arteesvida
December 23, 2006, 5:50 pm
Filed under: Art Of Jewelry Design, Book Reviews, Creativity, Journaling

“Lynne Perrella’s book? Why are you reviewing Lynne Perrella’s book? It doesn’t have anything to do with jewelry making!“

All teasing aside, I think my friend is just jealous I got a copy of this fabulous book before she did! I have been a huge proponent of art journaling and keeping a design journal for a couple of years now. Always one to do things obsessively, I went from never keeping any kind of diary or journal to keeping three! One is for notes, ideas, quotes and pure “writing”, one is a pure art journal that I use for experimental and artistic “play”. My third is a jewelry design journal that I use to sketch out ideas, make notes for projects that intrigue me, and paste pictures of jewelry and other objects from magazines that I find inspirational. While this may sound obsessive (ok, maybe I am a weeeee bit obsessive), they all actually work together.

Sketchbook -- Dragonfly Pin

Design Journal Page

The design journal is the most important one for jewelry makers (for obvious reasons) and also the first sketchbook I ever started. I fill up about two blank books a year of notes, drawings, and magazine clippings. My big rule with this journal is that I allow myself to be ugly, and messy and scrawly. I have found if I don’t worry about “pretty”, I don’t limit and censure my self and my ideas. The above page are the notes and rough sketches of the Dragonfly Pin Project. When I am working on an idea that I think I may eventually turn in to an article, I usually go in to more detail so it is easier for me to recreate my directions at a later date. My other pages tend to be even messier and shorthanded.

Art Journal Soul Blooming 1

Art Journal Page One

Art Journal Soul Blooming 2

Art Journal Page Two

My second journal, a pure “art” journal is prettier by default. Since I use it to play with color and texture and elements of assemblage and collage it doesn’t relate directly to jewelry design. But I have found it to be a fantastic source of design inspiration. And fills my obsessive need to make something pretty after working in a messy design sketchbook. As you may have noticed already, this two page spread from my art journal was the inspiration for the dragonfly pin project.

Although I was already an art journal convert when I received a copy of Lynn Perrella’s book, I found it to be incredibly inspiring and useful, not just for journaling but as a source of jewelry design ideas. Besides being a physically beautiful book, it holds a huge amount of practical information. Including tips and ideas on:

· Working with photocopies
· Use of color using paints, washes, chalks, and textured mediums
· 9 different image transfer techniques
· Using slide mount frames (which can make gorgeous little photo frame pins)
· Attachment techniques, including brads and grommets
· Stamp carving
· Making faux postage stamps

The collection of featured journals themselves are of a huge variety. Besides the “typical” art journals (although art journals tend to be anything but typical) she includes photos and resources on an incredible array of sketchbook ideas. If you are interested in starting your own journal, you are sure to find an idea that appeals to you! She includes a decorator’s sketchbook and file, a project sketchbook (both are very similar to a jewelry designers sketchbook), travel sketchbooks, a mixed media epherma collection, a diary collage made out of rolled paper beads, and even diary quilts and skirts! Of course since this is the densest 130 pages I have seen in a long time, I am barely scratching the surface of what is included.

I may sound like a bit of a sketchbook zealot, but the amount of grown in my work I have gotten just from keeping a journal is amazing. My mom is very supportive and has even been wearing my jewelry for many, many years, but isn’t someone who is interested in the subtleties of design and technique. She commented to me a few months ago about the difference in my work over the past couple of years. She had noticed that I had started to make the leap from stringing beads to creating wearable art. Thinking about design, experimenting with technique, and giving myself permission to play on paper has made all the difference for me. Whether you are thinking about taking the next step design-wise, or just looking for a great creative and emotional outlet, this book is a FANTASTIC resource!

The Healing Hands Collaborative Book Project by arteesvida
November 30, 2006, 2:29 am
Filed under: Bookmaking, Journaling, Mixed Media

This article was first posted about a year and a half ago.. This ended up being Deb’s last round of chemo.  The spots they found in her spine traveled to her brain and she died this Feburary.  She loved her Healing Hands book…it was one of the few things she brought with her to hospice.




One of the best things about the Internet is that it enables you to make friends all over the world.  It is an amazing gift to be able to create community that isn’t defined by geographical borders.  However, when one of these long distance friends becomes ill, it is frustrating not to be able to go out for coffee with them, or to be able to reach out and give them a hug.

The Healing Hands project stems from just this predicament.  A friend of ours has been fighting illness for several years now and was recently informed she would have to take 20 straight days of treatment; a daunting and terrifying undertaking.  We wanted to let her know we cared for her and to find a tangible way to send her strength when we couldn’t be with her.  But most importantly, we wanted her to heal.  Not just physically, but emotionally.  The amount of emotional courage it takes to fight illness for months and years on end is something that most of us can only imagine.  We wanted her to know that we were with her.

The idea of creating a collaborative journal, where everyone contributed a page struck me almost immediately.  So did the theme: “Healing Hands” in honor of the wellness work she was undertaking.  Most collaborative journals are done by round robin.  A journal is started by one person and then sent to another person who does a page and sends it on to something else.  Most projects of this nature take months to complete, and many get lost in the passing.  We wanted our friend to be able to have this journal in her hand during her last few days of her 20 days of treatment, so I struck on the idea of everyone creating a page and sending it to me so I could put the entire book together and have it sent to her within weeks.

Because bookbinding isn’t my forte, I decided to make the journal a three ring binder with plastic sleeves to slip the pages in.  This worked best for several reasons:

§          It allowed us to continue to add pages to the book as late arrivals filtered in.

§          It allowed for 3D embellishments be added to each sheet and various mixed media techniques to be used on each without them altering the entire book or making the book uncloseable.

§          It allows our friend to move pages around, take pages out, or even frame certain pages if she wishes too.

§          It allowed people to include personal notes and other trinkets with their pages.  I was able to slip these extras into the back of each plastic sleeve so she would be surprised with the extras when she found them.

Many different media were submitted by different artists.  I used beads to create spiral embroidery on a felt hand, which I then attached to a colorful paper background.  Other techniques people used included paint, collage, photography, and stamping. 

Our friend’s response to her journal once she received it?  It made her feel special…and cared for.  Even though it was a time crunch project, everyone really pulled together to make it happen…and we all felt that every minute was worth it.

I am posting the scan of my page below.  The original article had scans of everyone’s artwork and I will post them all again once I contact the rest of the artist’s on the project for their as for their permission.






Tea Staining by arteesvida
November 27, 2006, 2:07 am
Filed under: Fabric Arts, Journaling, Mixed Media

I recently walked a friend through her first tea-staining project and she was impressed by how easy to create such a wonderful effect! Tea staining can be used on just about any kind of paper or fabric…it’s a wonderful way to create aged effect in all sorts of projects, including:

· Staining different fabrics to create a unifying theme for a fabric journal.
· Staining paper to create an aged journal feel.
· Staining backgrounds for vintage photos, letters, and ephemera.
· Staining journal add-in elements such as manilla tags, letters, pockets, and envelopes.


Add a black tea bag or two to the bottom of a small bowl or mug. Poor a small amount of boiling water over the bags (just to cover) and let steep. Use the bag itself to “paint” on your paper or fabric. The bag itself can be fragile and may break…which is ok for some projects. The tealeaf itself on the paper can lend a variegated color pattern (just brush off the bits of tea after it dries). For a more uniform look, and to keep the bag from breaking you can wrap it in old pantyhose, cheesecloth, or an old flour sack towel. For a more texture look with paper, crumple the paper while it is still damp. (Carefully! It can tear easily). For a longer lasting finish on fabric, you can heat set with a iron.

Other staining options include using coffee (for a darker brown stain) or green tea (for a soft sage colored stain).

Recipe For A Dadaist Poem by arteesvida
November 27, 2006, 2:03 am
Filed under: Journaling, Mixed Media

Dadaism was a literary and artistic movement from the early part of the 20th century (1916-1923 is considered the heyday of the movement). Tristan Tzaza, Hugo Ball, Hans Arp, and Richard Huelsenbeck created the Cabaret Voltaire in Zurich, Switzerland as a place to showcase their group art efforts. Defining Dadaism isn’t easy. There was a hugely diverse amount of art being created under the Dadaist umbrella. Most of it was widely considered to be in complete defiance of all artistic tradition and wildly pessimistic. In fact Tzara himself, abandoned Dadaism by 1930 for the equally strange but more ebullient Surrealist movement.

However, Tzara’s recipe for a Dadaist poem lives on in books, magazines, newspapers, and on the web. Part word game, part collage, and part free-association, the Dadaist poem also makes a wonderful journaling exercise!

“Recipe For A Dadaist Poem”
Tristan Tzara, 1920
Take a newspaper.
Take a pair of scissors.
Choose an article as long as you are planning to make your poem.
Cut out the article.
Then cut out each of the words that make up this article and put them in the bag.
Shake it gently.
Then take the scraps one after the other in the order in which they left the bag.
Copy conscientiously.
This poem will be like you.
And here you are a writer, infinitely original and endowed with a sensibility that is charming though beyond the understanding of the vulgar.
I did my Dadaist poem entry slightly different. I used a paragraph from a descriptive travel article from Gourmet magazine, and I didn’t cut out each word individually. There were a couple of two or three word phrases I left intact because I was curious how they would look in a new configuration. I also removed my words and glued the directly to the journal page rather than copy them down. I did a watercolor background on the page first, then glued the words on one by one.

The text by itself reads: People’s pleasure sharing
In a shocking display
Fertility added
Raises appreciated
In food
Magically transformed
Surely this is it.
Every hard tomorrow
Has subtle nights
We provide
Daily land to concuer
We gracefully
Filled pleasures
Of ladies and gentleman
Under the burning sun
A table around them
A collective bravo
Rises as if by prayer
Among work of cooks
Tonight it’s some
Other mutiny
Delicious affection
Turn the conditions
In the hard like rhythm
Caressing over and over
Slowly understanding fear
We’d planted
Across the soil
They move
While the rest of us stumble.
–Faith Harper, 2004

It might be really fun to take the Dadaist poem a step further, and write an additional entry deconstructing your creation. What does the piece mean to you? What symbolism was created? Did you find the piece reflected your thoughts and intentions well? While the Dadaist poem is a great journaling exercise in itself, it can also be a wonderful journaling prompt to explore further!

Building A Letterbox by arteesvida
November 27, 2006, 1:53 am
Filed under: Journaling, Letterboxing

Many letterboxes are actually quite small (less likely to be discovered and removed that way), my son and I made ours out of an old medicine bottle!

I folded and cut slips of paper and stapled them together to form the book. Rolled up, the book fits nicely in the bottle. My plan is if the letterbox lasts long enough for the book to be filled, to mount all the stamps inside it in a larger journal for my son later.

Carve your stamp and slip it inside. Small, eraser sized stamps will fit perfectly.

Tape a small label to the front. Cover the whole label in a clear tape for extra water-proofing.
The one I created looked like:

Journal-istic Integrity

Find a good hidey-hole for it. Public access areas are best (and remember that it is illegal to hide them in National Parks!). After you hide your box, retrace your steps and create directions to post for others. The main site for posting box clues is Letterboxing USA. The box my son and I hid is listed here.

Letterboxing 101 by arteesvida
November 27, 2006, 1:47 am
Filed under: Journaling, Letterboxing

Letterboxing combines rubber art stamping, treasure hunting, collaborative journaling, and nature journaling all in one! Although probably not as well known as geocaching, it’s been around quite a bit longer and is a whole lot of fun!

People all over the world hide small boxes with a small journal and hand carved stamp inside. Clues are passed around (typically through letterboxing websites…see the end of the article for links) and the hunt is on! Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to decipher the clues and find the box!

This is a wonderful family outing (and a great way to get kids interested in maps and directions) and a unique take on the idea of the collaborative art journal.

So what do you need to get started?

Log on to a Letterboxing site and look for boxes hid in your area. Most box owners are really good about checking on their box from time to time so there should be updates if the box has gone missing or been removed.

Carve your own stamp to use for boxes you find. You can use a pre-fab stamp but almost everyone uses stamps they carve themselves. It isn’t hard to do, nor is it very expensive, and it really adds to the uniqueness of the project. Check out the links below for more information on stamp carving.

Pack your journal (you can use your nature or travel journal or create a journal just for letterboxing!), your stamp, an ink pad, and a pen for any notes you would like to leave and set out!

When you find a box, stamp your stamp in the journal that is packed in to the box, and stamp the stamp from the box into your own journal. You may want to leave a little note and date their journal before repackaging and re-hiding it (in the same place you found it!). It’s also fun to date and note the name of the box in your own journal next to the image you stamped in!

My 5 year old had so much fun finding letterboxes, he insisted on making and hiding one of his own! We carved another stamp that spells his name, and hid our letterbox behind our local library. Our box’s name is “Journal-istic Integrity” and the first page says Journals@BellaOnline for all the BellaOnline readers who letterbox!

Letterboxing Links And Information:

Letterboxing USA
The main website for letterboxing information and clues.

Joural-istic Integrity
A letterbox conceived, created, and hid by my 5 year old!

Letterboxing And Atlas Quest
Another active letterboxing site with lots of information and clues to boxes.

Mapsurfer Treasureboxes
These are letterboxes that are a bit trickier to find. They have a lot more clues and research involved for people who love a good challenge!

They Live And Breath Letterboxing
An article from Smithsonian magazine about the letterboxing phenomenon

Letterboxing Discussion Group
The offical discussion group for Letterboxing USA (through Yahoo).