You’ve Come A Long Way, Baby

It was early 2010 and several adminstrators of the Green School: An Academy for Environmental Careers, a newly formed high school in Brooklyn, New York, were planning for its first graduating class. My daughter was among those who would be receiving her diploma and I had been very involved with the school from the day she chose it at a high school fair. In keeping with its mission of promoting sustainable living environments, the focus of its first commencement ceremony was to use as much in the way of recycled materials as possible to reduce its environmental impact. In addition, there was next to no budget so everything had to be done on the cheap. That’s where I entered the fray, volunteering to create the floral bouquets that were to adorn the very front of the auditorium stage. In retrospect, I have to wonder what I was thinking, given that I had no experience whatsoever creating flowers, arranging them or anything other than growing them in my own garden. Regardless, I climbed out of my comfort zone and dove into it.

The project was a large one involving countless hours of my time in researching floral arrangement and securing materials from anywhere and everywhere I could. Countless more hours were spent in designing, cutting, coloring, creating and arranging each flower and leaf by hand. The result was six large floral arrangements measuring approximately two and a half feet wide and nearly three feet tall  from the topmost petal to the end of the trailing vines that draped down over the stage apron. I had never done anything to that large a scale, always preferring to do small works of art. By my standards at the time, the project was a remarkable success and I learned much in the process. You can see the bouquets in the photos below.

Three of the six paper floral arrangements created for The Green School's first graduation ceremony awaiting their finishing touches.
Paper bouquets line the front of the auditorium stage apron on graduation day.

This was a turning point for me. If nothing else, the project taught me, among other things, that I really enjoyed making flowers.

Fast forward to Spring 2017. I took my new flower making skills back to the senior center where I was volunteering and created flower-making projects for my weekly crafts class. Instead of focusing on making bouquets, I used the flowers we made to decorate the center. In time, the flowers we made became larger so I decided to create a wall installation and festoon some of the walls with them. The members loved it. It was an opportunity for them to show off their work and to enjoy the ambience it created. That’s when I decided I would make flowers every spring and show them off in a large display. Here’s a video of that first installation.

In 2018 there was no spring floral display because of an accident I suffered so I revived it for 2019. At our weekly crafts class, the seniors created large flowers for display. In addition, I created some double sided floral ornaments to hang from the ceiling. 

In addition to those that were salvaged from the previous installation, this year’s crop of flowers have turned into an impressive and very colorful display. At present they are crawling across walls, creeping over doors and greeting people as they enter the main activity/dining room and the office suite/ meeting room areas. In all, I individually placed over 125 flowers, over 200 leaves and vines and several dozen butterflies on the walls of the senior center. It is a riot of color wherever you look. 

You can see a part of the 2019 installation in the video below.

Flowers tumble across the door to the kitchen area.
These beauties liven up a fabric covered panel on the wall of the office suite/meeting room area.

I’ve come a long way from those graduation bouquets and it’s been a wonderful ride. Can’t wait to see where I’ll be going next.

Until next time…

“Crafting is messy. Embrace the chaos.” – Gitana the Creative Diva

Les Rites Du Printemps (The Rites of Spring)

Here at the Dorchester Senior Citizens Center, the year is flying by. It seems we were celebrating New Year’s just last week and now we’re diving headfirst into the early spring celebrations with St. Patrick’s Day and Easter just around the corner. We’re all anxious to get rid of winter’s chill so in order to give spring a little nudge, we’ve begun winding up our Spring Floral Wall Installation, something we first started in 2017.

In 2017 I had the idea to design a series of large flowers that we could create in our craft classes and then mount on the center’s walls. My motivation was to instill a sense of pride and accomplishment among my group members and give them the opportunity to show off their skills to the rest of the center and visiting guests.

2017 Spring Floral Wall Installation

It was so well received that I decided to save those flowers and add to them over the years. This year we created the pretty flowers being held by some craft class members in the adjacent photograph.

Members of DSCC’s crafting class hold the flowers they made for the wall installation.

Here is a photo of the preliminary display. I say preliminary because a) there are still more flowers to add and b) I’m not sure if I like the arrangement. I’ll have to live with it for a while and listen for feedback from the center’s members before making a final decision.

2019 Spring Floral Wall Installation – Preliminary Stage

Also included in this photo are some double-sided hanging ornaments I started to make early last year. They were intended for last year’s display but disaster struck in the form of me falling off a ladder and breaking my knee so there was no display last year. The unfinished ornaments sat on my worktable until  I finally finished them in time for this year’s display. The photo truly does not do them justice. They are beautiful.

More flowers are in the works for the near future and the display will stay up until the fall when, as in nature, they will come down in anticipation of the cooler weather. Until then, we will celebrate the beauty of spring.

“Crafting is messy. Embrace the chaos.” – Gitana the Creative Diva

Do Little Things With Great Love

This past Valentine’s Day our senior center had its annual Valentine’s Day party complete with special lunch, a DJ and cake. For the occasion, I had created little candy filled pillow boxes for the purpose of handing them out to the seniors I interact with the most. As I was heading into the party room, I passed two women painting their nails at a table. One of them told me how pretty I looked that day. I thanked her, gave her a pillow box, wished her Happy Valentine’s Day and continued into the party.

After handing out my boxes, I found myself moving in the direction of an old Chinese couple who were preparing to leave. They stopped directly in front of me. The woman, who speaks no English, repeatedly pointed at me and then to her husband and although I couldn’t understand what she was saying, it became apparent that she wanted me to dance with him, she being too frail to dance herself. Although I wasn’t sure what to expect, I obliged. If dancing with this stooped man would make him and his wife happy, I was all for it so without a second thought, I accepted. He took my hand and began to sway me to the lively Latin beat. He was a little off rhythm and definitely not dancing salsa but after warming up a bit, his rhythm improved and it was obvious that this man knew how to lead a partner. He led me into turns and kept us both spinning like tops, impressing me and everyone else in the room to no end. The song ended, another began and he continued dancing with the biggest smile on his face. His wife was enjoying the show as well and after two songs we stopped, thanked each other and continued on our way. They were both smiling and happy, as was I. In that moment I realized that this man had probably wanted to dance for a long time but couldn’t because his wife was unable. At her urging, I became the conduit for his creative expression.

As I headed towards my office, I again passed the woman to whom I had given the pillow box. In her heavy Russian accent, she thanked me once more and told me how happy she was that she received something for Valentine’s Day because no one had given her anything. I smiled and nodded, got my coat and headed home.

As I walked to my bus stop, I thought about my interactions that day. I thought about the smiles I received as I handed out candy, about how happy that Chinese couple was after I danced with the husband, and how touched I was to hear how receiving a little pillow box meant so much to that Russian woman. Those actions were small, really, and required next to no effort on my part but I was struck by the impact they had on the recipients.

Do little things with great love. And just be you. That is enough.

 

“Crafting is messy. Embrace the chaos.” – Gitana the Creative Diva

Surrendering to Vanity

Every year, as I plan for the weekly crafts class I conduct at the Dorchester Senior Citizens Center in Brooklyn, I take many of my cues from the calendar so it is no surprise to see seasonal and holiday themes in many of my projects. One of my favorite holidays to plan for is the Chinese Lunar New Year with its emphasis on the animal of the year, the giving of sweets and the colors red and gold. For several years, the idea for a large perpetual calendar to represent every Chinese zodiac animal has been stewing in my head but I never felt ready for the challenge, nor did I have materials that sparked my creative juices. This year everything came together in a flash of inspiration and I set to work on my most ambitious vanity project to date.

Above you see the completed project. It measures more than two feet across and three feet in height including the tassel. The gold animal symbol disks measure about three inches in diameter and feature magnets on the back that allows them to be moved around the calendar. To give you an idea of the scale, consider that it was suspended in front of a curtained doorway for the photo. It consists of foam core and corrugated cardboard covered in red and gold paper.  The project was designed in a drawing program based on my research of Chinese decorative elements and symbols, then the graphic files were exported to and carefully cut by an electronic cutter. Below you see the concept drawing I created and used as my reference during the construction phase.

At my senior center, we have a small but active group of Chinese members who proudly celebrate their cultural traditions. Inasmuch as I am not Chinese and can not read or write the language, I was a bit nervous about hanging the calendar at the center, concerned that I may have done something wrong that may offend them. On the contrary, they were impressed with my work, with only one person pointing out a “misspelling” of one of the characters that is easily corrected. I’m very happy with the way this turned out and the positive feedback has me thinking ahead to my next vanity project. 

 

“Crafting is messy. Embrace the chaos.” – Gitana the Creative Diva

 

It’s been a busy September.

It has been three weeks since my return to conducting the crafts class at the Dorchester Senior Citizens Center in Brooklyn and I have to admit it feels good to be back. My crafty seniors were all eagerly awaiting my return and we picked right back up where we left off as if my seven month leave had been only seven days. We have already completed three projects: the Spirelli card I featured in my last post, a small gift box created out of a single sheet of cardstock and a reversible bookmark. 

Just Saying Hi Spirelli Card
Just Saying Hi Spirelli Card
One Sheet Gift Box
Reversible Day/Night Bookmark - Day
Reversible Day/Night Bookmark - Night

These projects have been deliberately quick and easy because I wanted to warm them up and get them back into the rhythm of our weekly crafting.  I warned them not to get used to the simple projects and have promised I was going to make them sweat with some upcoming projects. They all groaned but they won’t miss a class regardless. Either they love crafting or they are suckers for punishment. Either way we have a good time together. Here’s a sneak peek at their next project — a sign proclaiming the arrival of the autumn season. 

Let the sweating begin.

“Crafting is messy. Embrace the chaos.” – Gitana the Creative Diva

 

You can follow the seniors of Dorchester on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/dorchesterbrooklyn/.

Recovery and Return

It is nothing less than astounding to me that it has already been six months since I fell off a ladder at work and broke my knee. In those early weeks of pain and immobility, it was hard to believe that I would ever walk again much less return to the life I had before my accident. It is my infinite pleasure to report that not only have I recovered (at least 90% or better), I am scheduled to return to crafting with my beloved seniors at the Dorchester Senior Citizens Center right after Labor Day. The first project will be a simple card featuring a scalloped element decorated with Spirelli stringwork and embellished with a glittery, three dimensional butterfly sticker. Nothing fancy or over the top. Just something to warm us up and get us back into the rhythm of crafting and reconnecting. I’m considering this class as part of my therapy regimen, if not for my injured knee, then for my psyche. Looking forward to it all.

“Crafting is messy. Embrace the chaos.” – Gitana the Creative Diva

 

Cuttlebug Tutorial – Die Cut Configurations (Part 3 of 3)

In the last two tutorials, I showed you some simple ways of combining die cuts created with Cuttlebug®’s Vintage die set. I hope you’ve done a little experimenting of your own with this versatile set. As promised, I am going to show you some of the combinations possible with the two die used to create the Filigree Medallion and the Mini Medallion

(Please note that illustrations are not to scale.)

The dies in the Cuttlebug 2×2 Vintage set do not have individual names. For the purpose of this tutorial, I will assign the following names to make identification easier:
A – Scroll Corner
B – Stained Glass Square
C – Openwork Scallop Square
D – Tulip Corner
Only dies A and B will be used for the following configurations. 

By way of review, this is the scroll corner with alignment holes indicated. All of the configurations that use this piece are aligned at the holes.

By combining two corners you can create this ornate square. It is shown here in two colors for clarity.

By combining four corners you create the base of the filigree medallion demonstrated in my first CB tutorial.

This is the double cane “negative space” cutout from the scroll corner that I introduced in the second tutorial . This is a wonderfully versatile piece. Note: This is a rather small piece and creating some of the designs can be very tricky. I suggest using a bent nose tweezer for placement.

Here are some of the designs you can create with double cane:

By combining the scroll corner and double cane, you increase your creative design possibilities exponentially. Here are a few examples of what you can do with these pieces.

Now add a stained glass square (die “B” above) and you can get combinations like this:

Okay, I think you can see where this is going. The possibilities are limited only by your imagination. Now let’s see what you’ve got. Show me YOUR Cuttlebug die cut creations.

Click here to go to Part I of this tutorial series.
Click here to go to Part II.

I hope you liked my CB tutorials.  If you did, I would greatly appreciate it if you would show a little love and leave a comment. Thanks for stopping by.

“Crafting is messy. Embrace the chaos.”  – Gitana the Creative Diva

(Cuttlebug is a registered trademark of Provo Craft and Novelty, Inc. All rights reserved.)

Cuttlebug Tutorial –“Negative” Space Mini Medallion (Part 2 of 3)

Click on the image for a larger view.

I hope you liked my previous tutorial on the Filigree Medallion created with Cuttlebug®’s Vintage die set. I also hope you took my suggestion to save the larger cutout pieces because, as promised, I am going to show you how you can put those normally discarded pieces to creative use. Using those scraps, you will be able to create a simple motif that can be used as the basis for many others. By the end of this tutorial, you will agree that negative spaces can be positively beautiful.

The scroll corner used in the filigree medallion has a cutout that looks like two canes attached head to head (“double cane”). For the purpose of identification, I will refer to the two parts of the double cane as swirl and tail. This simple piece can be combined in so many ways that you can spend hours just contemplating the possibilities. In this tutorial we will create a mini medallion (four of them pictured above) that can be used in a variety of papercraft projects.

Double Cane

Materials list:
• “Vintage” 2 x 2 Cuttlebug® die set; (Item #37-1201), scroll corner die;
• “Squares” 2 x 2 Cuttlebug® die set (Item #37-1216, largest square) or a piece of cardstock 1 ½ inches square;
• Cuttlebug® or any other die cutting/embossing machine that accepts CB dies;
• Pencil and a soft eraser;
• Spray adhesive.

1. Punch out four of the scroll corners. Remove and save the large “double cane” cutout from each corner and set the rest aside for later use. (If you saved your pieces from the last tutorial, skip to Step 2.)

2. Punch out one 1-½ inch square with the Squares die set. If you don’t have this set, simply cut out a 1-½ inch cardstock square in a contrasting color to the double cane pieces. In my example above, I colored the edges of the square with a gold paint pen to match the  cutout pieces. This is optional.

3. Very lightly mark the center of each side of the square.

4. Position one double cane piece diagonally on the square, placing the tip of one tail on the center mark on one side and the other tip on the adjacent center mark. Make sure the swirls are facing the center of the square. Repeat this positioning for the remaining sides. When correctly positioned, the four double canes form four heart shapes in the center of the square. Refer to the photo above.

5. When you are satisfied with the positioning, glue the pieces down using the spray adhesive. These pieces are so slender and delicate that most other adhesives are liable to leave telltale residue. If the pencil marks are still visible, lightly erase them out with the soft eraser.

Ta-da! You’re done! You have just created a “mini medallion” using the negative spaces from the Scroll Corner die. Now it’s time to show off your creativity. Send me a picture of what you have created using what you have learned in these last two tutorials. I will create a photo album of all the entries and let you all see them. 

In Part III of this tutorial series, I will show you multiple die cut combinations using the Vintage die set that will get your creative juices flowing. The possibilities are nearly endless.

Click here to see Part I of this tutorial series. Click here to jump to Part III.

Did you like this tutorial? Please leave a comment and send me some feedback. I’d love to hear from you.

(The individual dies in the Vintage set were given names to facilitate identification. See Create A Filigree Medallion Using the “Vintage” Cuttlebug Die – Part 1 of 3 for more information.)

“Crafting is messy. Embrace the chaos.” – Gitana the Creative Diva

(Cuttlebug® is a registered trademark of Provo Craft and Novelty, Inc. All rights reserved.)

Create A Filigree Medallion Using the “Vintage” Cuttlebug Die – Part 1 of 3

Custom card embellished with Filigree Medallion.
Cube Ornament embellished with Filigree Medallion.

Ten years ago, just before electronic cutters totally consumed the crafting world, small hand-cranked die cutters were the go-to crafting tool, and serious paper crafters played and experimented with their cutters to increase their use and versatility. Nowadays, although a computer-driven electronic cutter is the tool du jour for serious crafters, many still use their tried-and-true die cutters. In fact, they seem to be making a comeback. In light of this, it seems appropriate to repost a three part tutorial series I first published in 2009 featuring my favorite cutter, the Cuttlebug®, and the “Vintage” die set created for the Cuttlebug®. It should be noted that, to my knowledge, “Vintage” has been retired by Provocraft, the makers of the Cuttlebug®, but can still be found on Amazon, Ebay and other third party retailers with a simple internet search.

The “Vintage” Cuttlebug® die set is very versatile and lends itself to many intricate designs. In this tutorial, you will learn how to create a pretty medallion by combining various pieces in different ways. Pictured above are two ways of using the medallion –on a card front or as the main design element on a cube ornament. Use your imagination to come up with other applications.

The Vintage die set comes with two corner dies and two openwork squares. For this project we will use only two dies – the scroll corner (A) and the stained glass openwork square (B). They are easy to distinguish from the tulip corner and the scallop square.

It is important to note that not only the die cut image is useful but some of the cutout pieces (the “negative” space) are also very useful. Save the cutouts when you have punched out the dies. In the next tutorial I will show you how to use them to lend a lot of interest to your designs.

Materials list:
• “Vintage” 2 x 2 Cuttlebug® die set;
• Cuttlebug® or any other die cutting/embossing machine that accepts CB dies;
• A 2½ inch square of cardstock for the background;
• A contrasting color of cardstock large enough to create the die cuts;
• Spray adhesive or tacky glue applied with an extra fine tip.

Cuttlebug "Vintage" Die Set
  1. Punch out four of the scroll corners and one openwork square. (TIP: They are particularly pretty in metallic or pearlized paper.)
  2. Note that the scroll corners have a small hole at each end of the design. Before gluing your corners to your background cardstock, place them just slightly inside the edges of the background (about 1/8”), visually aligning the hole from one scroll with the hole from the next, edges parallel with that of the background. This alignment is important in order to fit inside the edges of the background. (Refer to the photo below left.)
  3. When you are satisfied with the way it looks, glue the corners down. I use spray adhesive for this step because it is fast, gives even coverage and doesn’t leave any telltale residue like other glues may. Just remember to spray the backs of the corners, NOT the background square. A fast-setting glue applied with an extra fine point or spread neatly with a pin head would also work.
  4.  Next, center and glue the stained glass square in place with its corners pointing to the aligned holes of the scroll corners (on point).  Alternatively, you could glue this square in place with its edges parallel to the outer edge (on edge). (Refer to the photo below right.)
Four scroll corners aligned at the end holes.
Stained glass square variations: (L) set on edge, (R) set on point

That’s it! You have created a beautiful filigree medallion that you can use in your crafting. I would love to see what you have created with this. And don’t forget to save those cutout pieces. I’ll show you how to use them in Part II of this tutorial series. In Part III, you’ll learn how to combine all these pieces into incredible motifs that can be used in dozens of ways.

Did you like this tutorial? Please leave a comment below and send me some feedback. I’d love to hear from you.

“Crafting is messy. Embrace the chaos.”  – Gitana the Creative Diva

(Cuttlebug is a registered trademark of Provo Craft and Novelty, Inc. All rights reserved.)

Mandala Madness

In spite of the fact that I failed geometry in high school, I have always gravitated towards geometric designs. The mathematical precision with which such designs are created appeals to me on a deep level.  I used to spend hours creating geometric designs with my Spirograph as a child. It is therefore no surprise that mandalas endlessly fascinate me as an adult.

(Click on an image to see a larger version.)

Mandala-3
Mandala-2

These mandalas were created in a digital drawing program, allowing me the luxury of getting the vision in my head onto virtual paper quickly and make changes if something didn’t work well. The old fashioned paper-and-pencil method didn’t work too well for me in this case. One mandala was created as an outline with very little color used to provide definition between elements. The other was done in full color with a bit of three dimensional rendering and lighting effects. 

These two mandalas represent a return to the type of digital art I was creating about ten years ago, when I was channeling a person’s energy and creating personalized mandalas. At some point, I will post my digital artwork in my photo gallery so you can see some of my past work. 

“Crafting is mess. Embrace the chaos.” – Gitana the Creative Diva