Monthly Archives: October 2010

Ghost Chasing With Rabbit’s Camera

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I love what I can do with a camera and I love Halloween. These are all my photos, they’ve just been slightly altered for atmosphere. Most of my photographs don’t have people in them, they are places where people used to be or have just been. I love the sense of what might have been there. The stories old barns and falling down houses have to tell if I can listen closely enough. I also adore exuberant over-the-top fountains and carvings of faces and statues on walls, animation frozen in stone but if I turn my back they might just move. These photos are the most realistic of the spooky photos. I’m working on a second installment right now of even stranger images. enjoy…

Rabbit likes Mine–a lot

Don't know why I love this silly painting so much. It just strikes a chord with me. I love the dog's attitude. I have been drawing Black dog for a while now. He is worldly and detached, sure of himself and above it all. He's a snobby watcher I think. I almost called this ransom note. Its done on an old thin sheet of metal that has a page of newspaper printed on it. I'm not sure what its original use was but I wanted to play with it. The newspaper is showing through from the plate and the piece in the dogs mouth is cut out and applied.


I had to tack the metal to the board, tape the edges, gesso it and then use gel medium before painting it in acrylic and finishing with a fat coat of matte gel medium. Way too much work, next time I'll use the metal as cutouts and go straight to painting on the wood. It will be interesting to see how this weathers. It will be varnished and its been matte gelled already. The whole thing is about 14" square.

I think it harks back to some of my earlier less sophisticated, less 'worked' work. Now, I have the Jones to want to do MORE! And since there is no shortage of wood around here….

Rabbit Muses on Art Life

 What do you do? “I’m an artist.” Oh.  That simple little phrase can be a real conversation stopper. I get some of the same facial expressions I might get if I had said “I’m a mime”.  Puzzled, alarmed, and politely retreating.  Is the problem in them or me? Do people bring their conceptions of ‘artist’ and hang them on me like a badly fitting hat? Is artist such a daunting and wacky prospect that it’s easier to just step away?

 I think I can understand that to some extent. Its 11:00 in the morning. I am sitting in front of my computer wearing my pajamas and a warm red pashmina shawl, eating Greek yogurt and wishing the sun would come out and illuminate the glass crystals hanging in front of my window. I am surrounded by paintings and small curious objects that amuse and a window full of orchid plants. My obscenely big speakers are hooked up to my computer and I’m listening to a play list of gorgeous world music.

The sun came out and filled the room with rainbows

This is my life. I also work seventy hour weeks, can’t tell the weekend from the rest of the week and struggle to find markets for my work and pay the bills, just like every other artist. 

In a few minutes, I’ll finish my daily writing and put on jeans and a tee shirt that are stained and full of holes that I got in my clothes all by myself. Paint, solder, drills, glass, scissors, wire, metal, you name it I probably have it somewhere in my studio and use it in my work.  Today I’ll be cutting glass and soldering. Yesterday I worked on a painting and there are six more in the series I want to do, that’s my life.

  I can say I am an artist but it took me years to be able to wear that word. I used to try it on and say instead “painter” or “ceramicist”, or, or, or.  I think about art, I read about art, I make art, I learn, I experience, I do. I am greedy for new things and new experiences.  One of my favorite paintings (of mine) is in the city of Olympia’s permanent collection; the title is “Let’s Go Places and See Things”.  Those are my words to live by, I own four cameras and huge freestanding hard drive and use them all.

 Arts for life poster

Bad photo of Arts for Life with Let's Go Places and See Things

That poster led to my first big time commission, Michael Barsanti saw the poster and fell in love with it. He tracked me down and I did "Waiting for Michael for him". It hung on his office wall behind his clients, and kept him cheered up as he counseled people whose lives were not good. I found out he  died way too young and his wife Christine had the picture. She works with disabled people and it did my heart good to give their organization, KOKUA, a painting for their auction. Giving back and paying it all forward  is important in life. I see circles completed all around me all the time, even more as I get older.


For Michael Barsanti, my first real commission

Yes, I have some decided prejudices. I loathe Thomas Kinkade and most of everything that’s in galleries in Palm Springs, Palm Beach and anywhere the wealthy buy art by the yard.  There are a lot of people very much like me out there, living in a society where art is devalued and schools are cutting art and music programs right, left and sideways. My own mother told me you can be a teacher, artists don’t make any money.  Lack of support and understanding begins at home.  My least favorite thing to hear is “I used to paint. I’m going to do it again when I retire.” Those are not artists and they never will be. They are hobbyists who had something more important to do and no time to be possessed by art.

 I spent a lot of years in the working world. I was finally able to fully let go of the corporate world when the company I worked for moved their operations and I wouldn’t go to Louisiana. That was the universe knocking on my door and saying, “If not now, when?”  I finally gave myself to permission to live the art life fulltime and head on. I have never worked so hard or been so busy. Amazing how life expands to fill in all the cracks and crevices we create.

 Here’s the thing, when you make the choice to have a family and a home you don’t get to go wait tables and live in a garret in order to make the romanticized version of an art life. No, you take a straight job in an office and you do the very best you can at that job and you make your art everyday on a kitchen table, or in your garden, or late at night when everyone sleeps. You just do it because you have to. 

Making art is something I have to do to be alive. It’s something I have always done and I hope, like the great Spanish artist, Joan Miro, I’m still doing it when I’m 90 and laying down with only paper and scissors because I can’t stand up all day anymore. My mother should have known something was up when I was in kindergarten. She did save my beginning sculptures; I will give her credit for that. Most five year olds were sculpting strange looking bowls with their teacher’s encouragement. Me? The first thing I ever made was a statue of a fat man with short arms and legs and a big smile, his suit is glazed in blue and I still have him, my talisman. The beat goes on, out of my own four boys, I think one has the true painterly artist gene, I have HIS first sculpture, it’s a cat’s head and someday I’ll give it back to him, circle complete. The others are involved in music and photography and I love that.

Tor's first sculpture-the art gene goes on

 I have decided for me that life is art and art is life. Every facet of my life has art in it. It’s like living in my own movie. There are outtakes of course; the scenes of me cleaning the bathroom and scrubbing floors are on the cutting room floor. But the point to an artful life is to remember consciously to create beauty and find beauty.  Beautiful things, whatever one thinks them to be, nourish the spirit.

 The rules as I know them:

Find beauty in the world. It is always there if you look for it.

Find beauty in yourself. Take time to meditate, to read, and to nourish your spirit

Make your art whenever and wherever you can.  Never stop and never give up. If God closes a door find a window.

Be kind to others. Especially to those eager youngsters who will ask, “How do you become an artist?”

Share what you have, we are like magic cups, the more that we pour out the more that bubbles up to fill the cup again.

Know there are many forms of art and you are not the one to judge which are right and which are wrong.

As a full blown artist you will be called on to critique others work. Do it with kindness. Don’t lie and say something that’s bad is good, that doesn’t help the person who made the work. Find the positives and ways to encourage growth.


Rabbit Has Gone to the Birds

I made progress today on what I have now named as The Tree That Ate Cleveland in spite of having to run my son up back up to Seattle, over an hour each way, having a lovely breakfast with friends and getting the dog to and from the groomers. Whew…in twenty minutes I leave for an artists meeting so I want to get my birdies into my blog.

bird teacup nests

Eighteen more ornaments finished with the completion of 5 cups and saucers with nests, birds and eggs. I got 14 assorted spoon nests with eggs, tinier nests and birds done for my grand total. I love old spoons and started these yesterday and finished today. Yesterday was drilling and bending, today was assembly.

You can do this with some time and attention and they are adorable. Choose your spoon and drill a hole in the handle. My spoon tops are pretty ornate with wired on glass beads and a separate wound black wire hanger. You could easily just use your black wire and make a simple hanger. Next step was to bend the spoons and glue in the moss nests.

Weldbond glue in the bowl of the spoon, green moss, all held in place with a clothes pin til dry

I wanted to use birds and eggs and got lucky with the birds. Gotta love Michael's 40% off coupons! I had to make two trips with two coupons but with the price reduction it was worth it. I looked for eggs but someone else had bought every tiny toy egg in the store. What???? So, I got a package of that soft Crayola clay that feels like marshmallows and air dries. Perfection! For $3.99 I got a ton of eggs and the plastic ones would have cost three times as much. I rolled up the egglets and set them out to dry with a note to the male members of the family that these were not food. Seriously, I did put a note on them.


After egg construction and drying it was time for what else? Glitter of course!

Glitter baby, glitter

Assembly includes gluing down the bird and gluing in the egg and completing with a gorgeous bow

Waiting for egg 
Where's my egg?


Bird nest cup with shiny eggs.

And now I'm off like a crazy rabbit to a meeting. Tomorrow saltshakers and solder.




Rabbit is Christmas Crazy and its not even Halloween!

Whew, the Christmas Tree Forest tree ornaments are under way big time. I think I'm up to around 70 finished and 30 more in some stage of on the way. I haven't even had time to go pound tin flat to cut out or cut glass or mirrors, or, or, or.  Terry put up two strong wire clothes lines for me and both of them are full. I'm out of space now so I'm going to have to carefully roll up all that glittery stuff in tissue after I take inventory and pack them up so I'll be ready for the next group waiting in the wings.

ornament clothes line

This project is accomplishing three things at the very least: Number one, its a fantastic fund raiser to bring money in to pay healthcare for those in our community who can't afford it. Number two, its getting rid of all kinds of crap I've had stashed in corners forever ( I always knew that stuff would be useful someday no matter what my family said) and number three, its reminding me I do have some mad skillz in a lot of different areas. I think I'm using them all right now too.


Today I dug all of the porcelain tea cups out of the fountain, long story, washed them and glued each cup and saucer together with trusty E600 glue. I am turning them into bird nests, I found Aspen excelsior to use for the nest part, sustainable of course and I am going to break down and buy plastic eggs today. Hey, I just don't have time to make everything. One is complete except for the eggs, very cute and will add a nice touch.


I have been on the watch for silver spoons forever, and sacrificed my stash to the tree. Terry drilled holes in them and I polished all the tarnish off and bent them. Next I'll put tiny nests in the bowls add a bird and a bow and presto hanging silver nests.


Polished and bent, ready to become nests

I have the tops on a bunch of the bottles and all they need is ribbon and trim, but when I look over at how many more are waiting, its daunting. I'm dying to stop and work on a painting but my prostestant guilt is keeping my nose to the grindstone. 

3 bottles, one empty, one ready to solder and one ready to finish off. Each one takes about an hour by the time they are all done. I'll have Some 70 bottles and salt shakers by the time I'm done.

Ewww! This black wire turns my hands black!

Its worth when they are finished, this one is really pretty

All the pretty ornaments in a row!

And if you really want to see something impressive, check out this garland that is 17 feet long and made of bottle caps by one of the Matter Gallery artists for the tree. 


I'm an artist and I'm always filled with self doubt, that's the down side and probably why my stuff is at such a high level of craft. I never stop pushing to do better, be better and create beautiful things. I hope that the tree is a success. I have trepidation sometimes, especially when I think of the people just going out and buying stuff that fits a theme and building a tree. They are so beautiful when they get done and my tree is going to be different in that its "green", its all repurposed, used cast offs that I have given new life. I do so hope people get the message that we don't have to just go buy the newest thing. I love giving grace to someething that's already in the world.

Okay, enough philosophy for the moment…of to find eggs for my nests.

Rabbit Likes Glitter

I have pretty much decided there is nothing in the world that cannot be improved by the addition of glitter, the glitter has to be really good glitter, it has to be the Cadillac of glitter, German glass glitter. That's the old shiny stuff you see in dreamy photos of vintage Christmas ornaments. It even ages and takes on a mellow patina with time.


an old restaurant creamer

I have books of glittery old papier mache ornaments and the pages are dogeared and bent with my perusal of them. I have had a glitter box for years, full of disappointing American plastic and Chinese glitters, sigh. Just not the same depth and texture. Doesn't that sound funny? I mean, to most people glitter is glitter. I found out the difference when I started searching and found someone who sold GERMAN glass glitter. Meyer Imports. I thought I'd died and gone to heaven. I ordered several different types and grits all in white for the project I'm working on but it was all I could do to not go hog wild and get some in every color.

I still can't believe how nice those guys are either–they called me to make sure I got the right kind of glitter for what I was doing and offered to send me samples so I could choose the right shade and grit. Wow. I am a fan for life–and the stuff is so gorgeous I just ordered more of it. My studio looks like I killed Tinkerbell, shiny stuff everywhere. Fairy dust, and boy does it make a difference in the finished product.

Here's the thing, I got tapped this year to do a tree for the Providence St Peter Hospital Foundation Christmas Forest. That's a really big deal in Western Washington and these trees get decorated and auctioned off for thousands and thousands of dollars for charity. I mean they are spectacular and look like something off a movie set. So what theme did I choose? Green Green Christmas. This means I have to use as much recycled and repurposed stuff as I can. It has to be classy, look expensive, stick to the theme and make people want to buy it. What the hell was I thinking? Ornament1

The daunting sample-Professional slick tree is over the top 

I'm all about going green but I'm feeling daunted after seeing the spectacular sample treees last weekend. I figure I am going to need in excess of 300 ornaments before its all over and each one is going to be handmade pretty much. Unlike other tree people who can just buy 3 dozen of a green whatsis and wire them on. I have to create them. I'm whining and panic stricken now. I'll get over it but I need my moment.

Glitter to the rescue! Old salt shaker? Glitter it with blizzard flakes and put on a gorgeous ribbon and some buttons. 99 cent bird potpourri holder from Good Will? Glitter makes everything better–I didn't realize how incredibly gorgeous the stark white glass crystal glitter was until all the white glue on the first bird ornament dried. Glitterbird

I'm making "snow shakers" with old small jars and tiny figures. Those are fun, and I love soldering so I have a whole soldering stage set up.

I have to give a shout out to all the black wire in the world. I love that stuff, I'm using it in two sizes because I like the vintage feel it gives. Just don't forget to run steel wool down it unless you like being covered in the black gunk that comes off the wire.

Just to share with those that see this and want to do it for themselves. Here are the steps for each ornament made from a repurposed salt shaker, glass statue, etc.


Bear selected, noticed the giant glitter pile behind him?


Wired for hanging, this part is tough if you don't know how to do it.


Bead selection for the bear hanger-my big bead stash




I think about where snow would fall if it fell from above and use Weldbond glue and a cotton swab to apply a coat. It will be white when you glitter it and dry clear. Choose something that dries very clear to glitter on top of when using white glitter.

Bear druomg

Almost dry, there is still a spot of white on on one leg that will be clear and sparkly when it dries completely. Add a gorgeous ribbon and a button, in this cae a heart, and voila, repurposed green ornament. Feels good to not just go buy something from Walmart or Target, but to reuse something that's already in the world.

And for this post, last but not least, I am not a tidy multi-tasker. I know where everything is, but it is pretty much strewn and I have six things in progress at any one time. If you like doing this sort of thing you do need to find a dedicated area that you can set up and leave up. I have jars and boxes that everything goes back in for storage when I start on something else and need the space.

B glittering station

This is one side of the studio, the glittering and assembly station. Looks a mess doesn't it?

A soldering station

And on the other side the soldering station, notice its much tidier over here where the hot work happens. I try to get a bunch of things ready to roll all at once. Notice the little fan? I also solder with the door open and I always wear closed shoes. Solder burns are no joke.

So, this is the process and I have two big long metal clotheslines that are filling up fast with shiny completed ornaments. I'll shoot a few of those and post them next time around in my quest for 300 ornaments as repurposed as I can get them!