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Thursday, September 26, 2013

A Wee Wittle World of Mices

My house looks like a mouse fairytail right now....with only two weeks till showtime, my hands and mind are racing to complete "mouse visions" that have been swirling about in my imagination for some time now. It feels really great to finally bring them to fruition. We have Forest Mouses, Rapunzel...Angel Mouse and such. The grand finale Mer-Mouse is in the works as I write this blog. Now, everywhere I go, I look for mouse props. I see it becoming an obsession. There are certain ideas that will not let go. The Birth of Ve-mouse" was one, and there is a snarky black mouse in my freezer that thinks he's a pirate! How in the heck am I gonna find a pirate hat and jacket that tiny???? Anybody?
So raise a glass with me as I dive into a new area of art that I've dreamed of doing since my dad took me to the Natural History museum years and years ago......cheers!







Saturday, September 14, 2013

Christmas Tutorial #1: Hand Dyed Bottle Brush Trees



The colors that you can achieve from dying your own antique or new bottle brush trees is nothing short of delightful! This is the 5th year that I have been making them and every year I create a different color palette. Last year the colors were bright fuchsia, yellow and turquoise! This year they are soft, muted and peaceful......and ya know what? the very same colors were used! Lets see how I did that, shall we?

1. First you will need bottle brush trees. Michaels crafts has packages of them for around $20 (don't forget to use your coupon!), You'll need liquid or powdered Rit fabric dyes....or any fabric dyes for that matter. I like to mix my colors in the tallest drinking glasses that I have in the house...or vases, pitchers etc. You'll need a large tall vessel for the larger trees which are about 8".....You'll need bleach and a large plastic bucket (I saved my Costco laundry detergent bucket that had a nice lid on it and used that). you'll need water, disposable gloves (hardware store) tongs, LOTS of paper towels, glitter and glue for decorating. I began picking up old perfume bottles and silver salt and pepper shakers every time I saw them at garage sales, antique stores and thrift shops, so I had enough to make a bunch of trees. You can leave the trees right on their bases..you do not have to put them on something different....that's just my spin on them.
2. Fill up your bucket with water and add bleach....the more bleach you add the faster the process is, but the smellier it is...(the ratio is about 3 parts water-1 part bleach)
3. Add all of the trees that you want to bleach out and wait.....the process takes anywhere from 3 minutes to 10 minutes to bleach out the color. This depends on who manufactures your trees and how old they are.....just keep an eye on them until they are a nice light beige color. They will not turn completely white. Take them out of the bleach and rinse them with plain warm water and leave them to dry overnight or a few hours.
4. When you work with the dyes, a little goes a long way! maybe a tsp to 8oz. Again....the more dye the brighter the colors. The more you leave the trees in the color the more color they will have. Don't be afraid to create new colors....especially if you need orange and only have red and yellow dyes...add more pink to the brown to create mauve etc....Once you have all of your colors mixed you can start dipping the trees. Have plenty of paper towels ready on a surface that you don't mind getting stained. I did my process out in the September sun a few years back and last year I had a tree dying party so we were inside in the kitchen on an old folding table. the process is messy and don't forget to wear gloves! Hold the base of the tree and dip in the glasses of colors. A quick 5 second dip will create a light pastel color. You can just leave the whole tree in the color for a few minutes too, to get a real deep color. Have a large bucket of water ready to dip your dyed tree in quickly if you find you got too much color on it. I used layers and layers of paper towels for setting the dyed trees on to dry.
Try using an ombe technique by dipping the tree in portions starting from the bottom to the top...or try dipping your tree in one color and then in another half way to get interesting looks. Have fun with the colors! The more you experiment, the funner it becomes!
5. The trees will take hours to dry depending on your environment. We blow dried them last year so we could glitter them in the class. Once they are dried, take your finger and dip it in white glitter glue, moving along the tips of the tree and roll the tree in glitter that you have put on a paper plate. This way, the tips just get glittered. I have used just clear and silver sparkles glitter and have used colored glitter as well. I used turquoise glitter over a rich brown tree...the look was amazing!!!
6. Don't forget to glitter the bases of the trees if you are going to use them that way. If you are going to put them in old bottles, or the like.....then just simply pull the tree off it's base and glue into the base. Decorate any way you want to. the possibilities are endless! Some students, last year, created little wonderlands on paper mache boxes. Or use old vintage beaded garland for "ornaments" how about using fun flock instead of glitter? I printed out my own stars and glittered them.
Please be a considerate artist and use this tutorial for making trees as gifts and for personal use and not to sell. I sell these on Etsy and the greater San Francisco Bay area. Thanks for being thoughtful in this.
Have a great time and if you are interested in me coming to your home for a home class, I'd be happy too...just contact me via email or phone! Also check out my Sparrowsongs Facebook page to find out when the next tree dying party will happen this October-November at the Sparrowsongs studio.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

FairyTail Mice

Most people do not like mice....their creepy tails and the little sharp teeth. Scurry, furry little pests that get into everything!!! I, however, LOVE them! I mean, who ever hated the little mice in Cinderella? The mice I use in my taxidermy are rescued or have died of natural causes. "Rescued"...meaning from the jaws of a snake or lizard. Rescued from a horrifying and painful death. At the EBV, they have "feeder mice" who have no chance for a home as a pet and can't be sold as such (for reasons they would not explain to me fully,.... Not Certified they said) So.....the ethical question I get all the time is "Do you kill the mice for art?" the answer is no. The EBV euthanizes them or throws them in the cages live. I choose the mice from the ones that they put to sleep before they are fed to the snakes. To me, I immortalize it and honor it's death with bringing it "back to life" in taxidermy. God gave us all living creatures as a testimony to His greatness in creation. When I see an animal, whether in picture, zoo or "stuffed" as in taxidermy; I see His great creativity and wonder at every detail.
  Taxidermy was first popular a very long time ago when you couldn't just turn on the TV, computer or such and see a porcupine. Books weren't always available to everyone. Taxidermy was the way to bring the animal to the public. Yes, sporting and hunting for trophy's is considered unethical today, and I would not hunt a squirrel just to stuff it.
  I recently spoke with a baby duck taxidermist who's relative works in a chicken hatchery that raises them for grocers. 30% of the chicks do not make it past a month. He takes the ones that die and would otherwise be thrown into the furnace and does taxidermy on them so that you and I could smile every time we saw their cute little beaks and webbed feet! It is my hope that the creatures that I stuff will be treasured for all of the wonder they are. Examine the mouses tiny paws, it's sweet little nose and delicate ears......and Praise the Creator for all that He has given us in the animal kingdom.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Reinvention

I believe everyone needs to reinvent themselves or their surroundings at least once in their lives....especially if you create. This last year, I created more goods than I have in the years past. glittered trees, Halloween bats and plenty of seashell art. All of which made me very happy....but somewhat unfulfilled. As I grasped straw after straw to find something new to inspire me....I always ended up with the short one. Then, about four months ago, I was asked to work at Paxton Gate in San Francisco.......and drew a very very long straw.
Inspiration (married with my lifelong love of taxidermy and entomology) started to haunt my mind and soul every waking hour. I've changed....my art had changed.
Scattered in my little home studio are taxidermy mice awaiting clothing and crowns, tiny mouse skulls adorned with gold, spread beetles that await painted shells and steampunk embellishments, forgotten butterfly wings begging to be made into jewelry and real caught spiderwebs.....you read me right, I am "catching" real spider webs for art..........
I couldn't be more excited. Sparrowsongs still has it's brand....but with more of a nature inspired groove.......
Here is just a hint of what I am unveiling at this year's Tinsel and Treasures Magical Artisan Boutique this October.






Tuesday, March 12, 2013

New Beginnings

As spring creeps up on us with sunny days and trees blooming, I'm reminded of new beginnings. I am beginning  what I call a "regular" job.....my three part time creative jobs right now are tons of fun but offer zero predictability (something I desperately need right now). So...the stars, fates and the Good Lord saw fit for me to work outside the home at Paxton Gate in San Francisco. THE only place in the US of A that I would even want to work at right now. The place is pure magic for a Pix like me.....a perfect blend of artisan creations using images and found objects from Mother Nature, Taxidermy, entomology, botany, minerals and fossils, along with unique and one-of-a-kind gifts.....A natural History museum with stuff you can buy! PURE inspiration and the place just feels right. It feels good, It feels like home somehow. The last place that I was ever excited to go to work to was....well.....there wasn't. Don't get me wrong, Worthington Photography, Target, Emporium Capwell, etc.....all good and fun jobs, but no where near what I feel here. I've always wanted to own and learn taxidermy and have it around me at home........(but alas, it's expensive!) Now I get to be surrounded on a weekly basis by roaring lions, funny monkeys and sweet little forest creatures!
One of the best parts of going "back" to work, and mind you, I don't "have" to work financially speaking.....but, Chef is allowing me to be fulfilled in the other ways that I need to be, outside of our family nucleus and relationships. He understands me like no one I've ever met before. He understands my need to be around people in a helping and giving way. He understands my need for creative inspiration. He understands my need to be busy! He wants me to be happy and is happy to give this to me. As he has stated to me before..."Pix, your happiness is essential to my own." AMAZING! So as I begin a new and exciting adventure, I can't help but feel like I am one of the most blessed people on the planet. I can't wait to learn and grow and give at work.....the overflow of the happiness in my heart can spill out to the ones I love and hold so dear. A better mom, step-mom, wife, friend, artist and person.........Yay!

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Happy.

"If I could gather a star 
for each time that you have made me smile, 
I would have the whole of the heavens in the palm of my hand"...~Deni Kendig

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Painting Teensy ...and Tennsier


Penopoly Pens is at it again! As the LA Pen Show approaches, I am busily painting tiny again....on a cylindrical surface the size of a small cigar. My paint brushes are 10's and 20's over zero's and I am about to do some serious squirrel napping in hopes of "borrowing" a tail hair in which to sign my name on these tiny treasures.....So far we have an Indian Eagle Feather, a Rattlesnake, a Purple Tulip and The Raven.....and introducing; Sakura or Cherry Blossom.

Valentine! Oh Valentine!

Last month I was in Grass Valley and saw delicate wired jewelry work that intrigued, delighted and definitely caught my attention. the fragile little images stayed with me thru these past weeks, and I have learned that when that happens to me, I must get it out via create-problem-solve-create-tweak-create-eat chocolate....then create. Here is the first prototype using materials I had in my arsenal....you know, the "some day I'll use these cause they're pretty" stuff. Now I'm sure a trip to the craft store in the next few days will be in order, along with a consult with a FAB jewelry designer and friend. After that, I may have something to fall in love with creating. It's been a bit of a dry spell in three dimensional art for me as I have been painting tiny pens again, so this is a welcome gem! Not that painting isn't fulfilling....it's just different. With Valentines Day coming up around the corner, I hope you enjoy little copper and brass birdies bringing messages of love to wherever you may roam.