27 July 2011

mailbox roundup

I've been the delighted recipient of three mail-art surprises lately, from Jeannine Saylor, Toni Rica and Jessica Gowling. I really want to thank all three of them for the happiness their mail creations brought to my mailbox!

The most recent envelope was from Jeannine @saylor_made ~ a delectable envelope of tentacles and deep sea circular suction cups, undulant negative shapes, which she also blogged about here.

Inside were some of the most thoughtful items! Thinking of my recent road trip, she sent me a U.S. postcard that she made from her globe and one of her gorgeous watercolor silhouettes ~ this one of a camera which is perfect as I was almost never without my camera on the road. I'm planning to put them in my road trip scrapbook where they'll also remind me of the company my twitter friends kept me on the road.

 She also sent me a little watercolor of a school of fish (since I work at a school) that I've photographed here with a little sketch of the view outside my window. Somehow, they seemed compatible to me.

We were also both on the theme of butterflies ~ 'tis the season ~ in my California fields and gardens I've seen many flitting past. Jeannine had an old Polaroid that she etched and painted into this natural phenomenon:

and she also sent some cut-outs:

Some of the other interesting items were stickers and magazine cut-outs. On her blog, Jeannine shared the clipping of a girl with a sewing machine, so I thought that here it would be fun to show the other side of the same page with its rugged-faced piano player. I could also definitely appreciate her mom-ism "blarg" illo. I've got some of those replacement-swears myself that will be fun to pass back to her!

And, a blue mushroom!

Now you'll know that I'm quite belated in posting this, because Jessica Gowling's envelope had a royal theme, appropriately timed with the royal wedding. I've no idea how she came to have this image of a very young Prince Charles but I'm so glad she sent it to me as she's got a brilliant sense of humor. Its hilarious caption had me laughing as soon as I read it. The washi scissors tape and the stamps were also a nice touch, I thought.

If you read her post about it you'll also get to see another royal envelope and a herd of other mail art exchanges. I met Jessica via Twitter and she started me on the game of mail exchange. Besides running her Etsy shop and creating nonstop, she is kind of Mail Art Royalty herself. I don't know how many artists she exchanges with, but I think she mentioned that she now receives something just about every day. That's a lot of correspondence!

This is what she sent to me ~ patterned origami paper, a note on a neon bird print (gorgeous!), cool stickers, cute foxes, a homemade "to do" list, vintage advertisements, a clipping of hunters and a bird bookmark passed on from Twitter friend, bird-rescuer and print artist Ashley @GaiaPrints.

I felt so lucky to get all this treasure!

Both Jessica and Jeannine are from Canada, but living very close to me here in the Bay Area is Toni Rica, who sent me such an exquisite set of delights. The envelope already told me I was in for a treat.

Cupcake, tea and my name card on a cute table! ^_^

Through our tweets and conversations, I learned that Toni is not only an artist but also a musician. The sea monster on her envelope is a singer, too. ~ la la la ...

When Toni blogged about our "great mail art exchange", she created an entire flickr set in which she staged the things I sent her around her house and selected close-ups of certain pieces to showcase just part of them. I loved that she couldn't resist drawing on the notebook I stitched for her with washi paper, rice paper and metallic paper.

Her presentation was so unique and charming, just like the contents of the envelope she sent me! Take a look and revel in the cuteness and allure of her drawings.

I was completely floored by the detail in the topiary "K" and fell in love with the cardboard painted cut-outs ~ the yellow flower bug and the spoon-and-jam tied with raffia! Some recycled cardboard with a little face for me to draw on, botanical book pages, a pretty paisley card on amazingly soft paper and ... a CD of one of her favorite bands with a painted fox! Adorable!

The music was so good I listened to it in the car all the way up to San Francisco to see the Sketchbook Project. I'm so impressed by my very first exchange with her. She mentioned that the drawings she made were inspiring her to create her own line of cards. I definitely think she should!

Truly, all three packages were glorious. I collected a number of things along my road trip to send back to these talented and lovely ladies, but am also making some new things to personalize each one. There's as much fun in giving as receiving with mail art. ^_^

19 July 2011

clay play

My little one came ricocheting up the aisle of the art store with a colorful box tucked under his arm and one of those smiles that lets me know I'm probably about to buy something. The box turned out to be a set of Sculpey polymer clay and his smile was right ~ we bought it and brought it home to play.

He made these little finger friendlies and I made some flowers and random shapes and attached magnets to them. (I won't share them yet as I plan to send some in mail art packages to friends.)

It's always fun spending creative time with kids as they let their imaginations go and don't hold back. His unchecked enthusiasm encouraged me to do the same!

15 July 2011

in the forest

I made some drawings during our road trip (since painting in the car was logistically impractical). Going through rural areas, spotting wildlife and hiking in the forests with my kids must have got me thinking how brave one has to be to go through the dark woods alone.

Later, we drove past a handmade sign someone had posted on a fence in the-middle-of-nowhere New Mexico that said, "KEEP YOUR PETS AND CHILDREN CLOSE! RECENT WOLF ATTACKS." Yeeps! Too scary for me.

13 July 2011

sculpture ~ {south dakota}

South Dakota was one of my many favorite places on our recent road trip. The land was beautiful, wildlife was everywhere and the art was enormous! The sculpture everyone hears about in South Dakota is of course, Mt. Rushmore. There are paths throughout the park to view the presidents from just about every lower angle, with the result that we have dozens and dozens of photos of these guys from every vantage point. It would have been neat to be able to climb up higher and see them even closer, but then we'd just have way too many pictures! ;)

One of the places you can visit is the sculptor's studio. A ranger gave a talk about the history of the monument and the tools the sculptor and his team used on the mountain.

One of the many scale models (used for reference) was on display. I was interested to see how much of the presidents' torsos were originally intended to be part of the sculpture. Also, I thought the models' expressions were much more animated and sly than the very austere final results on Mt. Rushmore.

In the model they look like they might be sharing secrets.

The sculptor's son sculpted the sculptor.

There's also a park ranger whose job is to stand in the old sculpting area and sculpt for visitors all day long. What a great job!

After touring Mt. Rushmore, we drove to the mountain sculpture that's still in progress, the Crazy Horse Memorial. This mountain is even bigger than Mt. Rushmore and is funded by private donations and visits to the museum. It's a project begun in 1948 by the Lakota Chief Henry Standing Bear and the original sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski (whose children now continue to carve the mountain).

Ziolkowski's model statue shows how the mountain will eventually look.
Its current progress is in the background.

The face alone is nine stories high! It's the world's largest mountain carving. Another statue showing how it will eventually stand ~ there's a lot of earth to move still.

Its story is quite inspirational as it serves a larger purpose of educating and helping the community.

Also inspirational were nature's carvings in the Black Hills. We took a scenic drive through these rock formations on the Needles Highway and saw deer, bison and a mountain goat along the way.

There were cute sculptures, too. The little town of Custer was decorated at each intersection with bison. Each one was painted differently.

And there was a giant prairie dog on the highway!

Then, we got to the Badlands. Wow. It looked like meteors fell into soggy earth or a giant was squishing his toes in clay ... and it went on for miles! (or kilometers, if you prefer)...

Some of the areas were "softer".

I could see the dinosaurs roaming here. :)

Apparently all of these formations were sculpted by wind and water erosion. It was almost hard not to believe that more fantastic forces were not at work, but in this photo I can see how water could have carved the deep rivulets.

I was very impressed with South Dakota's natural and manmade carvings. Almost looks like a painted backdrop behind me, doesn't it? :)

10 July 2011

home again

Two weeks and 5597 miles later we are back in the Bay Area! We saw so much in such a short time that it feels like we were away much longer. Our eyes were tricked by the desert mirages in the Great Salt Desert; we rode the alpine slides and roller coaster in Park City, Utah; swam in String Lake in Grand Teton; had a summer snowball fight and watched Old Faithful blow in Yellowstone; crossed the Bighorn Mountains and got a speeding ticket on the high plains of Wyoming; were escorted by an American buffalo to our hotel (the State Game Lodge) in the gorgeous Black Hills of South Dakota; toured the Badlands and celebrated my aunt and uncle's anniversary with family in Illinois.

On the way back, we traveled the pioneer trail through Nebraska, did a quick drive-through tour of Colorado, then relaxed in a beautiful historic resort in Santa Fe. Staying at the Mirage in crowded Las Vegas was a huge contrast to the rest of our trip, but the room had just been tastefully renovated and the huge saltwater pool offered a respite from the desert heat. We wound down for a day in central California at a family house there. Our grand idea of riding ATVs on Oceano Beach got postponed to a later date when we got to the beach and realized we were just too tuckered out to race around the sand for two hours. Traveling up the coast, the landscape became more and more familiar until we arrived home to our bunny who gave us a happy welcome.

As you can see on the map, only twice did we have to repeat sections of road ~ one tiny stretch of the 80 going to the Mississippi River had to be passed again on our way out, and a southern detour in New Mexico lost us at least 5 hours total when we realized that the less-traveled road was seriously remote and we'd better turn back and stick to the freeway.  (We'd traveled a lot of road but this area was different ~ someone had posted quite graphic signs warning of wolf attacks, there were high-alert fire risk notices prohibiting entrance to the forests and the towns that we thought were on the map were nearly abandoned/shut down.) If traveling east-west in the southwest, I definitely recommend sticking to the 40 or old Route 66!

We made an effort to stay in nice hotels (historic when possible) and to eat well since we were always sightseeing or traveling. We enjoyed good food just about everywhere we went, but found that coffee is better closer to the west coast. After an excellent cup of coffee in Park City we didn't have another really good cup until Santa Fe!

I took a lot of pictures and got so much inspiration from the land and wildlife. The sculpted rocks in South Dakota were very impressive. Santa Fe was an especially artistic and creative place with shops full of folk art and imagination. I'll share some of our discoveries and favorite places in upcoming posts. Thanks to everyone that kept in touch with me via twitter during our journey. It was a great trip that will also give me lots to work with for my Sketchbook Project ~ the theme Uncharted Waters should work out perfectly!

05 July 2011


Our road trip has been so exciting as we traveled the northern route across the United States through the desert, the Rockies and the Bighorn mountains, the high plains, the Black Hills, the Badlands and cultivated farmland. At last we reached the Mississippi River and there on the other side we found my aunts and uncle, cousins and all kinds of cousins several times removed, second cousins and other relatives. We'd all gotten together for my aunt and uncle's 65th wedding anniversary. Pretty amazing!

Couldn't find a 65th Anniversary card, so I made this one.
No scanner on the road, though... it actually isn't so antiqued.

My uncle joked that they never had a fight - when she would lay into him after he did something wrong he would say, "Yup! You're right. I did it!" and that would be that. They worked long hours together side by side for many years farming the land and milking cows every day at 4 a.m. and 4 p.m. They had five children and now so many grandchildren and great-grandchildren that I've lost count.

It seems to have been a good recipe for a long marriage. They were still looking very happy together after all these years. Now we're driving west again, taking a more southern route back to California. We're in Nebraska now, a long day's drive away from all my relatives and there's a sadness hanging around me. I'm really sorry to leave them all behind so soon and as some of my aunts and uncles are now in their late 80's I worry a little that I might not see them again.

We brought them a bottle of wine from the Custer State Park that had a picture of the State Game Lodge on it, which is where we stayed in the Black Hills of South Dakota and I put the "card" in a leather frame. Wishing a very Happy 65th Anniversary to my Uncle Marvin and Aunt Anita!