Friday, December 12, 2014

Christmas Celebrations

When I first went to Boston to visit my husband's family, it was during winter break between college semesters.  They took me to see Christmas Revels and I absolutely loved the show. The Revels is a series of vignettes celebrating folk customs around winter for the current theme.  No matter the theme there are always certain elements, Morris Dancers, a mystery play with St George and the dragon, the Abbots Bromley Horn Dance, a dance with the audience and a lovely poem by Susan Cooper, The Shortest Day.   Christmas Revels and other seasonal shows run in several US cities. You can find your closest Revels here and further links for a taste of the Revels.
Susan Cooper reading The Shortest Day

This week's Spoonflower contest is for a monochromatic winter scene toile design.  My design below is based on remembrances of Christmas Revels past.  Hope you can take time to vote for designs you like.

Celebrate Christmas Revels!

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Bunkbed Remake

The boys have had bunkbeds since my middle child moved out of the baby bed.  Now that we are entering tween territory we needed separate beds.  I really didn't want to buy new beds so I plotted a way to reuse the bunk bed.
Here is the original IKEA MYDAL bunk bed

My husband and I had discussed making this bunk into two separate beds when we were disassembling the bed in Dakar.  So we went ahead and measured the height of the cornerposts for a new bed and marked them for each bunk. 
The bed below was designed for my oldest son (my middle child's headboard is not yet finished.)  He wanted that flat, modern headboard which really is the easiest thing in the world to do.  I purchased a nicely veneered piece of plywood at the hardware store and had them cut the bunkbed posts down at our premeasured marks. After, we sanded the whole thing and wiped it down.
By now you probably have guessed my love of the Krylon spray paints and I do love the 2 in 1 paint plus primer paints but this bed was made of untreated wood so I really felt I needed a base coat.  We used a spray on primer followed by the hammered textured spray on paint in black.  I think the reflective properties of the paint make it look like a charcoal grey instead but that works as well.  Following painting we reassembled the bed and attached the headboard in front of the headboard corner posts.
My son is pretty happy with his bed.  See how it compares to the MALM bed on the IKEA site which is the bed he wanted.  I think we spent about $30 total on paint and the plywood, not bad for a 'new' bed.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Thrift Treasure

I love thrifting.  It is treasure hunting, ecological, inexpensive (if you just buy what you need) and appeals to my creativity.  I think I have found a terrific treasure. 
First, a little background.  We have just moved into a new house and the kids are getting their own rooms.  I have been working on a series of projects to reflect each of their personalities. The little one predictably wants a PINK and PURPLE room.  Preferably with FROZEN princesses everywhere and a lot of glitter thrown in to boot. 
Pinterest has a lot of great ideas for updating thrift projects.  And I found a terrific update for my little girl's room, a chandelier, can you get more princess than that?

Check out this old brash finish chandelier I found at the thrift store.  In this photo I am starting to remove the glass panels by melting the solder between the panels and gently pulling them out.  It took a bit of patience with my trusty soldering iron but I managed it with no prior experience.  I am setting them aside--maybe I will be able to make something with them?
Here you can see all of the glass pieces off.
And here is the finished piece, pink, per request.  I sprayed it with Krylon Paint plus Primer glossy pink.  It is pretty tricky to get an even coat on such a detailed piece.  After the paint was dry, my daughter and I went to the store and picked out the embellishments; beads to hang for sparkle and cording to trim the area on the platform the beads are hanging from.  I also painted the 'candlesticks' with turquoise glitter.  The last touch was to purchase dimmable LED bulbs.  Her room has a dimmer and regular LEDs do not dim well.  OK, really the last touch was to hang the lamp but that was Dad's job.  Thanks Dad!

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Stripey Walls and Ornaments

The two for one fat quarter sale at Spoonflower has been extended one day so head on over there because the twelfth is the last day.  While you are on the site, please consider voting in the Ornaments giftwrap contest.  My entry is simple and a little retro with silver tinsel in the background.
Snowflake Ornament Bright
As you know from a previous post we are getting settled in to our Michigan home.  Sadly, though, we still do not have our household effects from Africa.  This means that we are all sleeping on the floor until they arrive.  The best thing about that is that instead of unpacking I can focus on other aspects of decorating, like the nightstand remake from my previous post or painting my eldest son's bedroom.  
A little oldest son was not very happy with the house we selected.  He feels crowded with all of the trees surrounding us but the biggest problem is the lack of basketball hoop. Pretty much every other house we looked at had one, except this one.  All of the flat parts of the yard are right next to big windows and we are up on a hill, so there isn't really a good place to install one. We offered him a budget to decorate his bedroom so at least he feels like he has some space his own.
My son decided he wanted a grey room with a blue feature wall.  At the paint store he selected seven blues but just could not not narrow it down.  He decided he needed little 8oz samples of all of them so he could get a feel for which would look better with the grey.  Still he couldn't decide.  So I suggested we find a way to use all of them.  That is how we ended up painting the subtle hombre stripes seen in the picture below.  He is pretty happy with how it came out.  I used this tutorial to get really clean lines.  And now you also know why his bed is on the floor.  :)

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Upcycled Nightstand & Fat Quarter Sale

I purchased this nightstand as well as several other pieces of furniture for my daughter's bedroom.  She needed us to acquire almost everything since when we left Maryland she was still an infant.
The photo above does not reflect how this nightstand looked when I purchased it.  I was so excited to get started, I forgot to take a photo of the 'before' view.  The nightstand was painted in white matte paint and had a baby blue and leaf green sponged overlay.  Since that was not quite the look I was going for, I spray painted it with white gloss Krylon paint plus primer. 
I knew as soon as Spoonflower announced their ballet contest theme I could work with the design in her room.  She is such a girly girl and loves ballet and princesses.  So, I purchased a 2ft piece of Graceful 1950's Ballerinas in Turquoise and Coral wallpaper (they sell wallpaper by the foot) of my ballet design from Spoonflower to upcycle the drawers.  The process is really quite easy and instructions come with the wallpaper.  The hardest part was embossing the wallpaper around the rectangular ridge on the drawers.  When I was done, I had enough paper left over to also add a wallpaper inset to the top. I added new drawer pulls.

In other news, Spoonflower has 2 for 1 fat quarters starting tomorrow and the sale runs Nov 6-11.
I plan on purchasing some knit fabric in Hexie Roses Deep Hues and the coordinate Profusion of Roses in Red  to make a dress or leggings for my daughter.  I plan on covering some dining room chair cushions in Yellow Wagtail Birds on Dogwood Branches in one of the heavier polyesters.  Many of the knits and polyesters are 56 inches wide.  That makes a pretty big fat quarter.  You can find out the specs on the different fabric types here.  I bet you have some projects that you could use this sale for too.

Profusion of Roses in Red
Yellow Wagtail Birds on Dogwood Branches
Hexie Roses Deep Hues


Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Hi from Michigan

the view from the front door a week ago of my new home
Hi from Michigan.
I have been here two months now.  I moved from very hot and muggy conditions in Dakar to summer time weather here which turned quickly into a very condensed autumn.  It is predicted to snow already by the end of the week. 
In that period of time, we purchased a house, entered the children into school, and have begun to unpack our long term storage items.  We are still awaiting our items from Africa.
There is a lot said about reverse culture shock by expats. One of the things I find overwhelming is all of the stuff easily available everywhere, and at such great prices!  It is so easy to spend money.  Another difference is everyone seems to have a smartphone and expects you to have one too.  I haven't figured out how to get a prepaid phone yet and it seems like one is required to have a plan whether you have a contract or not.  This might sound weird but I also notice I am not 'special' anymore.  I don't stick out anymore and believe it or not that is a little uncomfortable since I have gotten used to being the foreigner.  I also miss my friends in Dakar and the amount of time I had to spend with them and pursue my interests.
Deer and other wildlife walk through my backyard daily
Life in the US goes so fast and so I am intentionally trying to move slowly while settling in to this new environment.  So many things to do but I feel I need to just set up my house and make sure the children are settling in too.  Luckily the new house is so grounding that it soothes me whenever I look out the window.
Lastly, if you get a chance, please vote in this week's Spoonflower Calavera contest, ending Thursday.  In honor of Day of the Dead, here is my entry based on Calaveras and Alice in Wonderland, Through the Looking Glass Calavera.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Classically Feminine

graceful 1950s ballerinas in tuquoise and coral
Graceful 1950's ballerinas

This week's contest theme at Spoonflower is Ballerinas.  My entry was inspired my our new home, a 1950's build, and the anticipation of decorating my daughter's bedroom.  In case you haven't been reading my blog she is very girly, so I tried to fit all of that in to my design.  Please consider voting this this week's contest.

Other feminine designs I have created lately are the new editions to the African Inspired collection.  Theses new designs inspired by cranes and flora from my time in Senegal.  There are four color ways available.
Crowning Glory of West Africa

I have also added designs to my Profusion of Roses collections. This is one of my favorite recent designs is Hexie Roses Deep Hues.  I love the colors and it is such a usable print for many applications.  All designs are available as fabric, wallpaper and giftwrap.
Hexie Roses Deep Hues

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Recent Fabric Projects: The Leaf Edition

After four years of living in warm climates it is nice to see the colors and smell the scent of fall leaves again.  All of the projects in this week's post have been inspired by leaves.
I love it when customers give me permission to share their projects.  Here is Rose Leaves Ditsy Vintage as a very lovely dress.  Thanks for sharing!

I took my own advice from back in July sewed this easy project.  I lined a yard of my Trash Art Rose Leaves Multi on White with a golden khaki knit to make a terrific scarf for cooler weather.

And I am very excited to continue supplying the wonderful children's clothing designer, Dandy Lion Company, with my Yellow Gingko Leaves design. It is used in a tunic that is part of their fall line.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Calendula Healing Salve

My friend Hannah was kind enough to give me a share of some of her dried herbs and the following recipie for Healing Calendula Salve.  I did this easy project with my children.

Here is her recipe:

2T Calendula Flower
2T Comfrey Leaf
2T Chamomille
2T Plantain
2tsp Rosemary
1/2 cup olive oil
add herbs to an airtight container and pour oil over them
store in cool, dark place for 2+ weeks
and then heat strained oil in double boiler with .5 ounce beeswax pastilles until wax melted.  Pour into tin or other container. 

Along with the recipe Hannah gave me, I followed the slow process at The Nerdy Farm Wife.  Our results were a little less volume than hers but that maybe because we used more plant material.  We reused a mint tin and another small vial poured our salve into. 

Friday, September 12, 2014

To those who have made my life in Senegal richer

Emily Sambou with my children
I have just left Dakar, Senegal to move back to the United States.  The last two years in Senegal were very rich years and I wanted to publicly thank many of the local people who made a real impact on my life.  So let's pretend you have a glass of your favorite beverage and raise our virtual glasses to a few of the people. 
The first, is Emily Sambou, our housekeeper, who was sweet, conscientious and reliable.  Throughout our two years she made my life easier so I could make my art, organize events and be with my children.  I deeply appreciated her work.  As of today she is still looking for work, let me, contact me if you are interested hiring her.  So, here's a toast to her!

Bouboucar with my daughter and Tinkerbell
Next is Boubacar Seck, one of our gaurds who was consistently friendly while also professional. He helped me add a little Woolof to my vocabulary.  He and my daughter really hit it off too.   I raise my glass to you Boubacar.
And let's raise the glass again to Anne Marie, my tailor.  She studied and interned in fashion design in France.  She is incredibly talented and her skills made some smashing clothing.  Anne Marie herself is a joy to work with.  Pictured are a couple of the items she has made with my fabric designs.  A soft jacket made with my Roosters of New York fabric in Performance Knit and a party dress in Cotton Silk with two designs; Ghana Butterflies on Steel Blue on the top and Ghana Fantastic Floral Yellows on Steel Blue for the skirt. I will be sharing a couple of the African wax items she created in the future. 
Anne Marie would love to come to the US on a working vacation.  The idea is she trades tailoring for you for a plane ticket and a spare bedroom.  She designs and sews for you and your friends a few days and she tours and see the sites a few days.  Anne Marie speaks perfect English.  Contact her on Facebook if you are interested.  I am happy to recommend her. Thanks so much Anne Marie, I raise a glass to you.
A jacket made with my Roosters of New York design
party dress in cotton silk from my Ghana Floral Collection 
Next is my husband's tailor, Seydou Diallo.  Fabric is generally less expensive in Senegal and the tailors so good that one would be crazy not to get a couple of things made.  Seydou was also trained in France to tailor men's suits.  Here is my husband Joe proudly showing off his work.  And here's a glass to him.

I will miss all of the wonderful musicians I was honored to work with and get to know while organizing monthly house concerts with Dakar Music Appreciation Group but I will miss none more than Cheikha.  He is so personable and a terrific musician.  He stopped by on our last night to drop by a CD of his music.  Check him out.  He can play traditional and popular music.  He is very versatile and a pleasure to work with.  Here's a glass to Cheikha.

And lastly I raise a glass to all of the artists I have met, too many to mention, but a few have been profiled on this blog in the last few months.  It was an honor to be in Senegal during the Biennale.  I am thankful to have been able to work with you and wish you much success. 

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Self Portrait Challenge Doll

"Interior View" (c) Penney Hughes 2014
This doll is my entry into the Dollstreet Dreamers self portrait challenge.  I have called it Interior View.  She not meant to look like me but instead represent a concept.  The first photo of the doll is closer to how I imagined she would look like.  She is intended to be a sort of inner self guardian angel contemplating layers that have been stripped away.  The exterior layers layers that have been stripped away are composed of fabrics I have designed.
The doll was a challenge to make.  She has a wire skeleton lightly wrapped with stuffing.  I have then wrapped Christmas tree lights around this base.  The cord exits the body in the lower back.  Next I added stuffing which I needle sculpted into shape.  She was then 'skinned' with lightweight knit jersey.  Her hair is wool roving and wings made of layered tissue paper.  I would love to make another doll that lights up but with LED lighting and a battery pack.
She was also a challenge to photograph since she is so dark and also requires darkness to see her lights properly.  I have included several versions to highlight features.

"Interior View" fully lit
"Interior View" lit up with outside lighting as well

"Interior View" in a well lit room with flash
Close up of "Interior View"

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Tiny Thermomorph Owl

 Every once in a while Amazon pops up with a recommendation that is hard to refuse.  That was the case with Thermomorph.  It sounded like a very versatile product and I was curious to explore it.  Thermomorph is made of small plastic granules that melt at a low temperature.  The tip in the second video of keeping my water warm in a crockpot was very useful.  Thermomorph begins to solidify very quickly and so if you are interested in sculpting with it you may want to use an additive method. Molds work very well with the product as seen in the first video.   I made my little owl (2 in tall) very quickly with my hands, using my nails and a straightened paperclip to give the impression of feathers and other details.  If it is solidifying too quickly, dip it back in the hot water for a bit. 
There are color additives that you can mix with the plastic but I opted to paint my little guy with a couple layers of acrylic paint. 
I tried a couple of other experiments as well, not photographed.  The thinnest I could work the product was to granule size, about 1/8 inch. I tried making a wing for a doll and found that it is too heavy to be practical and it frankly looked like a lumpy plastic sheet.  I am curious if it would make a good ball jointed doll--maybe if I had a mold.   

I found these Youtube videos useful

Monday, August 4, 2014

Paul Jacoulet

Senegalese Lady with Sothiou and Bambara Fan
The latest ATC challenge was to design a card based on or styled after your favorite artist. It is difficult for me to pick a very favorite artist. It is like trying to pick a favorite color---so many are beautiful, how to choose just one?  I decided to focus on the work of Paul Jacoulet because he is one of my favorites I have not yet worked with.

An example of a Ukiyo-e print
First an explanation of my ATC. This tiny acrylic painting is of a Pulaar Senegalese woman dressed for a special occasion. She is chewing a sothiou (pronounced so-chew) stick which people use here as a kind of toothbrush (and I have heard that it really works for this purpose.) She is holding a Bambara fan which is a kind of woven wicker fan. Her dress is a loose flowing robe that is tie dyed bazin. She wears a matching headwrap. She wears golden beads sewn into her hair. The women may have indigo ink tattooed around their mouth and chin and this is thought to make their smile more beautiful.
I choose the subject, a Pulaar woman, based on Jacoulet's subject preferences of documenting different ethnic groups. He spent much of his career visiting many of the small islands around Japan and the greater Pacific and made prints of the indigenous people. These are important especially because many of the island inhabitants lost their traditional way of life soon after World War II.

Jacoulet was Frenchman who lived in Japan most of his life. His printmaking style is Japanese and he was influenced by Ukiyo-e prints. He was known for exacting standards and high quality materials. He used ground mica, metals and pearls in his prints to give them a luminous look.  Check out a few of his prints at the bottom of this post.
12cm x 9cm inset painted on glass, artist unknown
His work also reminds me of the traditional Senegalese souwere (painting on glass see my previous post.)  Here is a beautiful piece, likely a Woolof woman, inset into a mosaic tea tray that I purchased  from Kamal Mosaic in Dakar.  Sadly, no artist was attributed.

Les Jades, Paul Jacoulet, 1940, one of his Christmas card prints

Sur le Sable, Rhull, Yap, Paul Jacoulet, 1937
Vielle Aino, Paul Jacoulet, 1950
Le Pacifique Mysterieux. Mers Du Sud (The Mysterious Pacific), Paul Jacoulet, 1951

Monday, July 28, 2014

Senegalese Artist Spotlight: Ismaila Manga

Ismaila Manga is a Senegalese Artist and in residence at Village des Arts in Dakar.  He grew up in Senegal and attended Ecole Nationale de Beaux Arts in Senegal.  Following his schooling he moved to Montreal, Canada where he also attended Ecole International du Design de Montreal. 

He is interested in exploring how we are all part of the earth and environment; how we are part of the temporal and history and how we are connected.  He begins that exploration with a combination weathering canvas with dirt and metallic, rusted objects.  Sometimes he leaves the canvas exposed to the elements and sometimes he may burying parts of it.  He manipulates the objects placed on the canvases every so often to layer oxidation.
Once he is satisfied with the condition of the canvas, he then draws figures and communities.  The people and trees are shown connected with each other and the greater environment.
All of the works shown were exhibited during the 2014 Dakart Biennale except the last work which was a part of the 2013 DWG Art Show.

Outside of his Village des Arts studio during the 2014 Biennale

exhibited at DWG Art show 2013