Wednesday, July 30, 2008

How I feel this morning...

funny pictures
moar funny pictures

Back from Vacation

After a week in sunny, breezy southern California, I'm back in humid, hot Illinois. *bleh* I went loaded down with memory cards for my cameras (Canon PowerShot A540, Canon Digital Rebel XTi), but never had to switch out from either one. My daughter, who'd never flown before or been to California, is not the world's most patient child, and does not care to stand around while Mommy frames a shot.

Our last night in Oceanside, we ate at Ruby's Diner, which has a fabulous location out on the end of a pier. Like an idiot, I forgot to grab my camera, but my brother offered to drive me back to the condo so I could get it and take me back out so I could shoot the sunset. The clouds had been uncooperative the whole time we were there, obscuring the sunset at the point where the sun hit the water... I was sure I'd get it this time. Wrong! My sis-in-law says the best sunsets are in January.

So my brother and I hung out on the pier after the disappointing sunset, and I shot surfers. I had to use ISO 800 for most of them, so the pictures are grainy as hell, and more than a little blurry because of the movement of the water and the men, plus the lighting was a little strange from the sodium lights on the pier and the disappearing sun (while I had it), making the water look a little pinkish on the foam. I ran a cooling photo filter over it to correct some of the color. Far from perfect, but you can definitely see that, yes, that is a surfer.

These guys were surfing right next to the pier, so I had an excellent vantage point, even if the light was not my friend. If I hadn't forgotten my bloody camera in the first place, I would have had the light while we walked to the end of the pier for dinner. (Doh!)

This shot was taken the night before, from the walkway of the building we were staying in. I shot it from the 3rd floor, and it was well past sunset, so I was using a long exposure time. You can really see the peach-tinged glow from the lights on the pier. That's the diner out at the end (right side), and my brother and I were watching the surfers from the near (north) side, about a third of the way down the pier.

The palms you see are growing along the beach where we spent some time. The road behind it is called simply "The Strand." The places up and down The Strand are rental properties, and some of them are quite tiny, like this little row of stucco cottages.

These are practically doll's houses. One room, essentially, with a loft for sleeping. You can see in them especially well at night, when everyone is out on the front porch or sidewalk, talking with neighbors, and they have their front windows uncovered and front doors open to the ocean breeze. There's another row of them behind these, staggered so that the space between the front row becomes the ocean view of the ones behind. The front row is literally about 10 yards (9 meters) from the beach. Front porch, sidewalk, The Strand (one lane), sidewalk, beach. If it looks a little grey, it is grey. This was what every morning looked like, until the sun was up high enough to burn off the haze from the ocean. Once the haze is gone, the beach looks more like this:

The flag with the black circle on a yellow field is a "blackball" - and it means no surfing allowed. It's a safety thing; surfers can be dangerous to swimmers and boogie boarders. Surfers resent it hugely.

The beach may look strangely empty, even if the photo was taken on a Tuesday. It's about 5pm (PDT); the tourists have largely left to go have dinner. I found it very interesting that people will set up their umbrellas, pavilion tents, coolers, blankets, etc, etc... starting around 7 in the morning, to stake out their spot on the beach, stay all day, but leave before sunset! It's the west coast, this is where the sun sets on the (mainland) US! 'Course, maybe they already know what my sis-in-law does: this is the wrong time of year for spectacular sunsets...

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Kaleidoscopic Spider

Most people have little or no use for spiders, no respect or reverence for the work they do, the abilities they have. I am not one of those people. I don't want to be bitten by them, and I startle as much as the next person if I am leapt upon by one, but I think spiders are cool. The myth of Arachne is a favorite of mine, though it doesn't show Athene/Minerva at Her best.

The photo (above, top) was taken last July. A really magnificent spider had a large web running from the corner of the garage to the fence - good-sized guy, really. Unfortunately, my photo is grainy and dark, so it's not the best capture in the world. I ran it through the kaleidoscope action in Photoshop, a total of 3 iterations. I bumped up the color saturation, too. The cloudy day that the photo was taken didn't do much for the color of the spider, all rusty browns and oranges. (I'm not positive what kind of spider it is, but it may be Araneus diadematus, a European garden spider - if I had a photo of the dorsal surface, I could positively ID it.)

Friday, July 18, 2008

Thanks where deserved

Here's the very first ATC I made from handmade paper "blanks" I created. It's very simple, with a silk flower, rhinestone and some metallic pen stating "Thanks." 

The lady at Hobby Lobby who was so helpful with ideas asked me to send one finished piece to the store so she could see. I did one better: I had to be out that way Thursday anyway, for my belly dance class, so I popped in to give it to her in person. She was pleased and surprised I'd take the time, and even more surprised when what I brought wasn't merely a small piece of handmade paper, but an actual ATC made just for her. 

It took very little extra effort on my part to hand deliver, little effort to make what amounts to a Thank You card. She went above and beyond when she helped me, and that kind of care and attention should be rewarded and encouraged. The retail environment doesn't really foster that sort of behavior. I worked in retail for years, and often thought the job would be perfect if not for the customers. But since I have been on both sides of the cash register, I know exactly how hard a job it can be, how annoying the customers often are, and the effort it takes to be polite and friendly, even when you really want to work in peace. It's really a shame that the location where she works is out of my way by quite a lot, or I'd patronize that store over the one that's more convenient for me.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Some of the finished results

Here's a few of the cards I've made. These are from last night, and have (clockwise from top left) glitter, paper shred, a postage stamp, and bits of yarn added.
The edges are quite irregular, and I'm still refining the process. This morning I added green paper to the leftover blue (not a lot of that left), and have made some green paper. The blue batch made 18 cards - so probably around 8 cups of blue pulp is what I made. Way more than I'd intended. I blame impetuous enthusiasm. I made about half as much of the green, with a bit less water. I'm still working out exactly how I will trim them down to the 2.5" x 3.5" format to which an ATC must conform. Do I wet the edge and carefully tear off the excess, or trim with scissors (ruining the irregular edge)? I may try both, and see what I think looks and works best. As I get more experienced with this process, I hope the need for trimming is reduced.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008


My experiment was a success! After discussing the possibilities with an employee at Hobby Lobby, I came to this solution.

Using a glass jar, some recycled paper and a bit of blue dryer lint, I tore the paper into fairly small pieces and added the lint and hot water. While it soaked, I did steps 1-3 below. The dark blob on the left side of the jar is the lint.

Step 1: Cut a sheet of perforated plastic canvas into rectangles 2.5"x3.5", and attaching two pieces of wire to the short sides of one, leaving the second rectangle alone.

Step 2: Using the LID half of a plastic box designed for trading cards, this made my "deckle" and the plastic canvas pieces became the screens.

Step 3: Removing the screen from the box, I added a small amount of water and white glue, then replaced the handled screen. Please note: the picture shows the water in the bottom of the box, not the lid. This was an error; with the handles, the screen doesn't fit flat like it does in the lid.

I used an immersion blender (stick blender) to blend the paper and lint. I ran into a bit of a snag, because the dryer lint also had dog hair and Wendy hair, which clogged the blades of the blender. Once I cleaned it out, it worked fine.

Step 4: Using a measuring scoop, I dropped around a 1/3 cup of my paper pulp into the box on top of the handled screen. I added the pulp gradually, because I didn't know how much it would need, so the scoop in the picture isn't full.

Step 5: The box on the left shows the top screen pressed in place. The box on the right shows the pulp swimming on top of the handled screen.

Step 6: Carefully lifting out the screens, I squeezed out the extra water over the box, and set the screen to the side while I did that with the other box.

Step 7: I put the two screens with their pulpy filling onto a washcloth folded in half, then folded then pressed the free end of the cloth firmly onto the screens.
Step 8: After blotting the worst of the water out of the screen sandwich, I peeled the top screen off s-l-o-w-l-y, starting with one corner. Then I pressed the handled screen pulp-side-down onto a dry paper towel on newspaper to blot again.

Step 9: I then carefully peeled the handled screen off of the much-dryer pulp (below) and set it on glossy newspaper ads to dry a bit.

Step 10: On the left, you see what I ended up with after Step 9. The one on the right is what the paper looks like mostly dry, after I had a go with the hairdryer.
I'm so excited that this worked! Of course, I got way carried away with the blue paper, and now have much pulp to process. Eh! Live and learn!

Handmade Paper ATCs... Maybe

My brain is burning. I have all this multicolored dryer lint, and recalled reading about making paper with it. So I thought, sure, save the lint, make the screen, recycle the junk mail - free paper! I have a roll of screen that I bought to replace a damaged window screen. It's in the garage... somewhere. Then I read that the aluminum screen is better for this (more rigid), and what I have is fiberglass. But what I really wanted to do was to make ATC-sized pieces of handmade paper, rather than cut apart a larger sheet, so I thought I could make a really small frame. As I said, burning brain.

I went to Michael's to price the Arnold Grummer kits and deckles. More than I want to spend on an experiment. So I went to Hobby Lobby to look. They don't carry the supplies for paper making, but the employee I asked was really helpful, made several great suggestions, and when I told her what I really wanted to do (the ATC-sized papers), she suggested I use screening and one of the plastic boxes used for trading cards. I thought maybe I could use plastic canvas as a press, so she led me to needleworking, and said she thought those holes would be too big - I agreed. But then I spied something we both thought would be perfect: perforated plastic canvas. It's just like perforated paper that's used in place of Aida cloth, but this is thin flexible plastic with very small holes in it. Mary then thought I could put some string in the holes on the edges, so I could lift out the plastic, rather than dumping it (and making a mess with the water). Between us, we had some bloody brilliant ideas for this! 

On the way home, I thought I wanted to try using an immersion blender rather than my freestanding one. Since I want to do small batches, this seems ideal. (Plus it means I don't have to sacrifice a blender for a craft project that may not pan out.) I'll post pictures of the process and whether it works with a finished piece as soon as I have one.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Kaleidoscope Mania

I've been mad to get a kaleidoscope maker for Macs. I found one at Digital Crafts, and have been having much fun experimenting with it. (Once my husband clued me into how Photoshop Actions work, anyway.)

I have a ton of pictures that the focus is off, the focus is on the wrong thing, or the picture just isn't what it was supposed to be. A normal person would probably delete them, but I have discovered that my pack-rattiness also extends to digital photo files. Here's an example of one that didn't turn out as I'd hoped:

The picture is of (IIRC) a macro of a daylily petal that I got too close to, and it's blurry. However, the colors are still great, so I didn't trash it. Enter DCkaleidoscopes06! With this nifty PS gadget, I can take a picture that was otherwise not very useable, and create this:

This image was made using the "Octagonal Kaleidoscope fr Image" Action, three times. The Action also does Hex images, but they produce mandala-like rounds. The one below was made with a photo I took of a rosebud I'd sprayed water on (dry summer, no rain, and I wanted raindrops, darnit): 

So I have discovered (yet again) that it really doesn't pay to throw out anything, because you really might be able to "use that someday"! I will be recycling more otherwise-unusable images soon.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Weaning off LiveJournal for something more substantial

Currently, I occasionally post to LiveJournal. I got started there to keep in touch with friends who live far away. However, they're not very good at updating their blogs, either. I want to maintain a photo blog, but not exclusively photos. I have a number of creative endeavors I pursue, and photography is only one; hence the name "Creative Miscellany." 

Here's just one of the things I've spied through the lens of my camera:

This photo is available as a print at DeviantArt, and for licensing at PhotoShelter.

Other things I'll include from time to time are scans of some of the ATCs* I've made, or an altered book project I work on off-and-on. One of the swaps I've recently mailed my cards into is a Gypsy Mixed Media swap. I used a mesh ribbon and gold-embossed chipboard pieces on top of altered photos. I am particularly pleased with the way these turned out. Had a hard time parting with them!

My altered book is inspired by one of my other passions, belly dance. I've been taking classes and attending workshops for more than 5 years now. I'm not very far into this project, but here's one of my favorite page spreads so far: 

So that's the sort of thing I'll be up to here. I'll keep my LJ blog for ranting and keeping up with my far-flung friends. I'll limit this, though, for my creative pursuits.

*ATCs = Artist Trading Cards, 3.5" x 2.5" tradable works of art. I trade at