Wednesday, April 12, 2017

The Brakes On This Train Ain't Working

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Since my last post, there hasn't been whole lot of crafting going on. That's because I was away for three weeks tending to my daughter who was recuperating from major surgery, and caring for her two young sons. Those boys very nearly put me in traction, they are so rambunctious, but I managed to hold my own and tame them somewhat.

Before I left and since my return, the paper crafting focus at the senior center has been on creating flowers. Six years ago I created a faux window box for the center that was filled with flowers made by the seniors in my classes. In the years since, the flowers in the window box have become a little worse for the wear and it was time to replace them. That was a perfect segue to some classes on making paper flowers. My ladies created beautiful colorful blooms which were promptly placed in the window box. Now that the old planter has been rejuvenated with fresh blooms, it is ready for the next few years of beautifying the center.

We continued the floral theme with a cute little hydrangea gift box perfect for filling with sweet treats or a small gift. The box was topped with a beautiful paper hydrangea painstakingly created by pinning one floret at a time onto a styrofoam hemisphere. Once again my crafters met the challenge head on and were rewarded with a unique gift.

By using leftovers of the hydrangea box project, I made a springtime wreath featuring hydrangea balls, a variety of stylized leaves and a large decorative bow embellished with flowers, ribbons and leaves. Every so often I'll do something like this, just for the hell of it and because I find it personally satisfying and relaxing. Then I give it away. This wreath is going to the senior center to become part of the ever expanding seasonal decorating I do for them every year.

I've been on a whirlwind the past six weeks that is showing no signs of slowing down, like a train with no brakes. The next week or so will be dominated with the Easter and Passover holidays so I am taking advantage of the down time to do a little something for myself. This Easter weekend I'm going up to my mountain house with my husband and his mother to open the house for the season. I'm so looking forward to seeing the sunshine on the pond, the green landscape and the blue sky above. My back is already aching from all the work I'll be doing there but no matter. I'll just look to the green, the blue and the water and smile.

Ballo ergo sum
- Gitana, the Creative Diva

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Oh, The Things We've Done...

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I'm bewildered by the speed at which life is moving nowadays. Seems yesterday I was talking about the Lunar New Year. Now Valentine's Day has come and gone and President's Day is a day away. I'd better get moving before Christmas sneaks up on me again.

We've done a number of projects at the Dorchester Senior Citizens Center, some guided and others self-directed. I've been moving towards providing materials and some direction and having the members express their own creativity. This approach seems to be working quite well and the ladies are loving it.

I conducted a class in the art of masking to create a simple scene through the use of inks, cosmetic sponges and rubber stamps. I created a few samples of the scene using different color combinations from the limited palette we have to work with, then demonstrated how the scene was created. Then I tasked them with creating their scenes and, true to form, they came up with interpretations I never would have imagined. The scene was then used as a focal point in a minimalistic card.

For Valentine's Day, we did a project I call The Queen of Hearts. The ladies were told to decorate a foam crown to express love, then I set them loose on a table loaded down with stickers, glittered foam, self-stick rhinestones and all manner of bling. My seniors, magpies all, love all that shiny stuff and they had a ball decorating their crowns. They were then displayed on the center's walls as part of the Valentine's Day decorations.

There was also a swing card class, also known as the flip flop card, so named because it is cut in such a way that a central panel swings around upon opening the card to reveal what is on the back. You can be sure you won't find that at a Hallmark store.

Our latest project was the one we all enjoyed the most. I cut a memory wire bracelet apart to create individual rings that were used to make beaded key rings that can be worn on the wrist like a bracelet. After years of collecting beads, I had literally thousand of beads at my disposal, at least half of which I placed on the table for them to use. The sight of all those beads must have made their creative juices flow because they dove into the project like excited school children. They liked it enough to make two rings each, many of which were intended for grandchildren, nieces and nephews. This was one of the biggest classes to date, so much so that a couple of late comers had no place to sit at the table and had to walk away, sad to miss out on the fun. You can tell from the smiles on their faces that they really enjoyed themselves.

The best part of this class came at the end. After I took their picture, I announced that my birthday was coming up and I wanted a birthday hug from my "girls". Well, they gave a communal yell of approval and lined up as if I was a visiting rock star. Every one of them gave me the warmest, most sincere smiles, hugs and kisses as they filed by, one at a time. By the last embrace I was almost in tears, so full was I of gratitude and joy at being in the company of such wonderful people.

If I'm being honest with myself, I run this class as much for my enjoyment as for theirs. If I'm really being honest, I probably enjoy it more.

Ballo ergo sum
- Gitana, the Creative Diva

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Something To Pass the Time...

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In the midst of running a household, preparing and conducting a weekly crafts class for senior citizens and ferrying my elderly parents to a variety of medical appointments, there is very little time for me to do that which fulfills me in a personal way. Yes, the senior crafting is wonderfully gratifying but I am keenly aware that I do that primarily for them, not for me. So every once in a while I have to take a step back and do something to satisfy my inner creative beast.

Recently, I came across some new cutting files by one of my favorite artists, Monica Bjork. She creates the most intricate cutting patterns for paper crafters. The best part is her files are free! She gives them away to anyone who wants them. In checking out her newest files, I found this wonderfully detailed file in her Lattice Files category. One look told me I wanted to use this file as the basis for a Valentine's wall poster. Here you can see the before and after photos of my endeavor. I was very pleased with the way it came out. None of the elements were mounted on foam tape to make them stand out. I used ink shading and manipulation of the paper to make them pop off the page and appear three dimensional. The finished size is 12" x 12".

Once I scratched my creative itch, I gave it away to my sister to hang in her office along with the bulletin board header I made for her last year. Now I want to make an even bigger version with more details. Next year, perhaps...

Ballo ergo sum
- Gitana, the Creative Diva

Monday, January 9, 2017

2017 - Year of the Rooster

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The Christmas and New Year's celebrations have come and gone but at the Dorchester Senior Citizens Center we're still in the holiday spirit. With our sizable Asian contingent of members, we always make sure to celebrate the Lunar New Year. 2017 is the Year of the Rooster and the official start is January 28 but we're wasting no time in crafting some decorations to get our celebrations off to a beautiful start.

No Asian celebration is complete without lanterns so for this project we created a faux lantern adorned with an ornate rooster on one side and the corresponding Chinese symbol on the other. I took pains to use culturally traditional and appropriate colors and to make sure that no one assembled the kanji symbol incorrectly or inadvertently placed upside down. (Of course my Asian ladies knew the proper orientation.) I was complimented on the accuracy of the symbol by my Chinese crafters who painstakingly placed every stroke in its proper place. Everyone was a bit disappointed when I told them the lanterns would not be going home with them until the end of the month as they were created to decorate the center but they all proudly handed them to me so they could be displayed. As you can see from the photos, the Asians weren't the only ones who enjoyed creating the lanterns. One of my crafty ladies learned to create a beaded rooster to celebrate the New Year and she gave it to me. I absolutely love it.

I learned another cultural tidbit. Some of my crafters are Russian. They told me that January 6, traditionally known in the United States as Epiphany or Three Kings Day, is the day they celebrate as Christmas and there was Christmas music playing in the background as we made our lanterns. As a Latina, I know that Latin Americans celebrate El Día de Los Reyes Mago (Day of The Magi or Three King's Day) as well. Gotta love all this cultural diversity.

While the major holidays may be over, there's still plenty to celebrate in the weeks and months ahead. There are hearts on the horizon. Valentine's Day soon come.

 Ballo ergo sum
- Gitana, the Creative Diva