Words of late artist Frank Howell...I totally relate!

"There are few days off and no retirement from this entanglement of knowledge, passion and vision that will be molded and converted into creative expression. There are no guarantees of acceptance, understanding or reward, but...the noise inside the mind never ceases. I will paint today, tonight and for as many tomorrows as I am given..." Words of the late artist Frank Howell...

Friday, February 28, 2014

DIY Hanging Chime/Mobile for Cat Lovers

We just celebrated another mermaid's birthday, and she is a cat lover.  Her cat's name is Jade, so for her gift, I decided to make something that would tell a story about Dorothy and her cat.  I will share with you how to make one yourself...and, it's really easy.  The hard part is coming up with the parts and pieces, and they can be anything.  The items I used are in bold.  Just use your imagination.

The entire finished piece is shown at left.  It was really hard to get a good picture. Everything kept wanting to move around!  This will at least give you an idea of the general plan.

I started by coming up with the theme.  Then I went to the studio and started "shopping" around for pieces that would fit the theme.  It needs to tell the story of Dorothy's love for her cat, and maybe something about the cat itself.  The story sort of begins to "write itself" as the pieces are found....  I knew I wanted to use a little jello mold.  It just seems perfect for a chime, and I have the tiny little tart tins, so I thought that would work well as a top tier.  I have tons of scrabble tiles, so I decided to spell out the cat's name...I need a "J", "A", "D" and "E".  Found.  A heart charm with the word "love" on it.. Perfect! I have some bits and pieces of things left over from other projects...a bowl part of a spoon, a length of a cut yard stick...these kinds of things could hang from the bottom center, or they could be used between tiers...Then I found a cat charm, and dragonfly button, and some cat face buttons.  I can see the story coming together...I had some round ring charm holders for making jewelry, so I decided to use one at the bottom on the end of a chain, with cat face buttons on each side...the buttons were the perfect size!   I have an assortment of glass beads, and an old chandelier crystal...I'm sort of planning it in my mind as I find the pieces, but to start with, I just gather the pieces together,  put them out so that I can see everything, and then come up with a firm plan.   Some pieces will be edited out of the plan, and that's okay.  You just want to use what is needed.

*Tip:  When I was staying at the hospital with a relative, they served the meals on these cardboard trays...They just throw them out, so I decided to recycle them as studio work trays. Then, I went to a restaurant supply store and picked up more.  They are GREAT to use in the studio for small project like this!

Edited Embellishments for Chime
Now, I needed to drill holes in the molds and in the top center of each scrabble tile.  So, I used my drill press  (or drill) with a tiny bit;  I drilled eight holes around the bottom of the larger mold and one in the top center of each mold.

I cut the ruler into small pieces, and drilled holes...one in each end.  I decided to use just one piece.

I then used my Dremel tool with a grinding bit to smooth out rough edges left behind on the metal after drilling.


I used E6000 glue to adhere the two cat face buttons onto the ring that I attached to a length of chain.  Using wire cutters, I snipped the shank from the back of each button before putting it together so that they would fit flat. 


Now, beginning with the piece that will hang at the bottom, just start tying or threading the pieces together as they will hang.  I used a double strand of string, about three feet in length (six feet folded in the middle).  There will be thread leftover at the end, but I don't have to worry about not having enough if I use more than I know I will need.  Just tie knots where you want to add a bead or other embellishment.  Where the molds hang, I tied a bead so that it would be held securely in place without slipping over the knot.  I also tied knots all along the way every couple of inches just to keep things nicely lined up..  

If you are using string, it is sometimes hard to get the string to go through the bead, so I used a toothpick to push it through.  If you are using fishing string, you shouldn't have this problem.

At the top, I finished it off with a large plastic ring that I had recycled...It came with a scarf that I purchased at Target. (The scarf was tied on it so that it could hang on the rack.)  The center, main section, was now finished.  

At this point, it is helpful to hang the piece from a hook so that you can keep everything level as you continue to work.   I hung mine from a chandelier over my table. 

For the bottom shorter "dangles"...

Simply tie strings along the outside of the larger mold and hang charms, beads or whatever you choose.  Refer to the photograph once again for another look at the lengths of the outside pieces, as compared to the center piece.

There really is no way to do this wrong!  Anything goes...just tie the pieces together in a pleasing way and that's it!  It's just an "assemblage" piece that tells your story in a fun and whimsical way!  

Have fun!


Monday, February 24, 2014

My Vintage Vitrified Railroad, Restaurant and Hotel China

 A few weeks ago, I mentioned my collection of china, and offered a sneak peak in the post, "Who Would Want This Stuff?" ... Well, today, I will share details and the history of my collection, as well as some history of this type of china.  My collection has now grown to well over 300 pieces.  It all started in 1993, in Virginia, when a friend brought me some homemade cookies at Christmas time, and they were on a wonderful heavy, oval platter with green stripes around the edges.  She was from Buffalo, New York originally, and still had family there.  She explained to me that this piece was Buffalo China, made in her old hometown, and that she picked up pieces whenever she found them.  She thought I would like it, so it was part of my gift. I fell in love with it right then and there.....I decided to get as much of it as I could find, and to actually use it for our everyday meals.  After all, it was created for use in restaurants, hotels, train dining cars and such, so it was very durable.  This worked great for us having three children in the house...I don't remember EVER having a piece break during all of the years at home with the growing children.  We still use it today, and it just feels nice to have heavy dishes to use...and, it sort of feels like we're always eating out!  

When serving oatmeal for breakfast, I love having a separate little
bowl in which to serve fruit and nuts.

Everything about them is easy...the way they look and work in any decor; they are easy to clean; you can actually put them in the oven to warm something; they are great in the microwave oven. And, I love the variety of pieces that I now have...I can always look in the cabinet and find something for every need.  I have huge oval platters all the way down to tiny ones.  I have several large serving bowls, as well as medium, small and tiny ones!  Pitchers of all sizes, butter pats, compotes dishes, covered bowls, jam servers, lunch plates with compartments (like they used at lunch counters at drug stores), cereal bowls, soup bowls, soup cups, coffee and tea cups, saucers, bread plates, lunch and dinner plates, egg cups, demitasse cups, celery servers, gravy boats (large and small), creamers, and I'm sure there's more that I'm not thinking about now.  Once you start collecting it, it becomes an obsession and you will see pieces that you didn't know existed. 

This china comes in many different patterns, as hotels and other commercial establishments created their own patterns that were uniquely theirs.  Some collectors collect only certain patterns, others focus on railroad china patterns, and so on.  Historically, I have collected anything that has green in the pattern; I now also have black, and some novelty patterns as well. Still, most of my pieces have the green stripes.  It became very hard to find this pattern (was actually many different patterns, depending on the maker) during the last fifteen or so years.  I purchased many pieces at online auctions on Ebay, and these auctions were very popular, with many bidders fighting to win the pieces.  So, it wasn't unusual for the prices to rise to a ridiculous price...sometimes, I would let it pass, other times, if it was a hard to find piece that I really wanted, I just did what I needed to do!  I should also mention that I was not particular about the maker...there were many manufacturers who made the white with green stripes. While they do vary slightly in look, it wasn't important to me.  I use it all together and it looks great.  I still come upon a piece or two, now and again, although I don't get nearly as excited over it as I once did.  I have so much of it now, that I will only purchase a piece if it is really special in some way.

There are websites dedicated to the hobby of collecting these dishes...They are also great sources for identifying the maker and age by back stamps or marks.  One such site is Restaurant Ware Collectors.  The vintage pieces were manufactured in the late 19th century and early 20th century and you can learn the history of the different manufacturers by searching the internet.

Finally, the pictures.  I've just picked some random pieces to photograph...there are too many to do all of them.

A view into the cabinet...showing the many
different sizes of plates and individual serving bowls.

Right side of cabinet...platters, serving bowls, cereal bowls,
coffee and tea cups.

Large Milk Pitcher

Variety of Creamers and Small Pitchers

Small Gravy Boat


Divided Serving Dish with Soup Cup

Egg Cups

Celery Dish, Oval Dishes and Butter Pats

Coffee Mugs and Tea Cups

Demitasse Cups and Saucers

Covered Bowl

Variety of Small Bowls

Some back stamps...

Now, it's time for me to go put the dishes to good use...it's about five o'clock on Sunday evening as I write this post.  Dinner time. 

I'll close by saying this: 
I don't even want to try to figure out how much money I've spent over the years on these pieces!
I just hope my children don't donate it to the thrift store or have a yard sale when I'm gone!
I hope you've enjoyed the little trip through my china cabinet and the education on Vitrified Restaurant/Railroad/Hotel China, and that maybe you feel inspired to go out and start your own collection!

Thanks for spending a little part of your day with me.


Friday, February 21, 2014

Celebrating a Mermaid's Birthday

Most people in Bay Minette are not even aware of the fact they they live among a group of mermaids...we sort of stick together quietly, meet once in awhile, and always celebrate our birthdays....we are a band of sisters.   We pull our mermaid tails out whenever appropriate...most days, they remain stored away out of sight, as we live and work daily among family and friends...most of whom have no clue about our mermaid lives. Well, tomorrow is mermaid Joanna's 25th birthday, and I wanted to make something special for her to celebrate. I will be stuck at home today waiting for a delivery, so I will not be able to put this in her hands in a timely manner...I will just have to share it with her on facebook so as not to be late with my wishes, and I will give her the gift when the mermaids meet for lunch next week. People...please don't come looking for us...we will not be wearing our tails!

Mermaid Gift

The mermaid card and "a very happy birthday" sentiment can be removed and replaced with photographs of your choice.

How To Make It

I started with a base stand that I had saved from another project...It was a jewelry stand.  I took it apart and stuck the top "tree" part in an old shoe form...I saved the base knowing that I would find another use for it one day.  If you can't find a piece like this, just improvise.  You could use anything for a base...a round piece of wood, or a piece of driftwood would be fabulous!  Just drill a hole the size of your dowel.

Next, I needed a wooden dowel that would fit.
I also wanted to print a card with a mermaid.  This part is easy...just go online and look.  Use white cardstock and print, using your computer and printer. 
 This is for personal use, just giving as a gift.  If you are going to do this to sell, make sure you check the copyright on the piece before you copy it. 
And, I will need a way to clip or attach the card.  I chose a little wooden clothespin.  These are available at your local crafts store.
I will need glues for attaching the embellishments and glitter.  I used Martha Stewart's glitter glue and a two part epoxy glue for the shells. 
Alcohol inks for distressing
Decoupage glue for adhering paper text to dowel
Paper text strips from discarded books
Discarded wine bottle cork
Ink pad- gold (or silver)
Cardstock for printing image
Other decorative paper
Embellishments (seashells, pearls, etc.)
Exacto knife

Assemble all of your parts and pieces in your work area.

Cutting text is fun!  Look for words that
would be meaningful or symbolic in
some way to the recipient...
In this case, I included the word "kitten".
When I found it, I knew it would mean
something to Joanna.  She really likes cats!

I always work on a piece of waxed paper.  This helps keep glitter from going everywhere.  When you are finished with the glittering, you can hold it up, letting the glitter settle into the crease in the paper and pour it back into your jar.

  1. Print your image and message and cut to appropriate size.  
  2. Embellish picture as desired.  I glued the edges and glittered.  Then, I attached this piece onto another coordinating piece of scrap-booking cardstock that was slightly larger.
  3. I rubbed the "happy birthday" card along the gold ink pad, applying ink to the edges.
  4. Using decoupage medium, glue strips of paper around the dowel, on a diagonal.  Cover as much or as little as you like.
  5. Once the glue is dry, I dripped alcohol ink (two colors, mushroom and oregano) on at random places to give it an aged appearance.
  6. Glue clothespin onto top of dowel with two part epoxy.  Hold stable until dry.  Cover with alcohol ink to age it.
  7. Insert dowel into base.
  8. Embellish base as desired.  I used pearls, seashells, a mother-of-pearl button, more glitter, and the cork as another future photo holder (now holding the "happy birthday" sentiment.
  9. Cut a slit across the top of the cork, using Exacto knife.  Go about 1/4" deep.
  10. Glue cork into arrangement on base.
  11. Slip message or sentiment into slit in cork.

See the word "kitten" right in the center?

That's it! 

I think my mer-sister is going to like it!  Happy Birthday Joanna!  I hope it's the best one yet!
Love you.


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Thursday, February 20, 2014

DIY Hanging Pendant Light Using Vintage Jello or Gelatin Mold

Today I'm going to share a project that was so much fun and easy to do...It was fun, in part, because I had to ask my husband, John,  for help!  He would never admit it, but I think he enjoys "helping" me with my projects from time to time..we are an old married couple (of over 27 years) that actually still enjoys spending time together!  I put "helping" in quotations because, it's usually something that I need for him to do all by himself, with me just standing by giving orders!  In this case, it was using the drill with a hole saw...those teeth on that hole saw are just a little scary looking for me...and cutting into metal.  No.   If you're like me, and it seems like a scary project, ask the man in your life for help.  So, now let me show you how to make this simple project.  It will take about 10 minutes, from start to finish.  

If you like this actual piece, it may be purchased through my shop by clicking here.

DIY hanging pendant light from a swag light kit and vintage Jello mold

I happened to find an entire collection of vintage molds in a local antique mall in Mobile.  I had been looking for awhile and thinking about making a light, so I picked up several of the molds. It was so hard trying to choose which one to use!  They can be found in all sorts of shapes and sizes.   I'm just showing three of the prettier ones here.

I had already picked up the "swag lamp kit" at World Market for around $20.  They come in several colors to include clear, white and black.  I chose the clear cord with the silver metal socket.  There are many different kinds online...click here to see the variety offered on Ebay.

You do have to do a little measuring to find the center of the mold.  I marked this spot with a black grease pencil.  John thought it was a good idea to go ahead and draw the circle also...if you do this, just make sure you use a  pencil or marker that can be wiped off just in case things don't line up when you're finished.  We decided to drill a pilot hole, so that the drill bit would not try to jump around and scratch the mold.

Now, for the scary part...

Now that the hole is cut, just put it together!

As I said, it is SO easy...just follow the directions.  Basically, you just unscrew the ring from the socket, drill a hole the appropriate size and then insert the socket into the hole, followed by screwing the ring back on!  That's it!

Now, find a pretty light bulb, or one of the old fashioned looking ones for an industrial look, and you're ready to hang it!

Another shot of my studio work space.  Look closely, and you will see that I love little molds...watch for more projects using the tiny ones pictured here, and individual serving size aluminum molds too.  You can do so many neat things with these vintage molds!

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