Category Archives: Art

the joy of POD books

Pen and watercolor illustrations for my next Blurb project.

The beauty of the software from the folks at Blurb is that you don’t have to know how to write code, or even have a background in layout design, to join in the immediate gratification of bookmaking. My experience with print production goes back to my early twenties, when I learned how to set type on keyboards that evolved into desktop publishing computers. Bottom line, I love typography and I love the process of assembling images and words into books. Eating Clean was my first formal bookmaking project, but that was in 2002, before the wide popularity of print-on-demand, not to mention digital book formats. There are no wholesale rates for the books made on Blurb, but if you’re not interested in the expense of inventory and relinquishing storage space to boxes of books-that-are-yet-unsold, the 1-by-1 pricing might just work for you. For now, that suits me just fine. I can keep playing and doing, which is where the joy in POD is for me.  Have you tried an online POD bookmaking service? Love to hear about it and hear your thoughts.

It’s a wrap – 2011

2011 in pictures
1. zig zags and dots, 2. Anthony Hat, 3. knitting dots , 4. hope, 5. Pedigree Pooch, 6. wkshp_shawlette, 7. Blanket Squares, 8. Oceanic Hotel, Star Island, NH, 9. Windowsill in Bloom, 10. Benefits of Worm Castings as Fertilizer, 11. Photo Award Button 200×157, 12. Spring, 13. I made it within the deadline!, 14. Creamsicle Smoothie, 15. February Lady FRONT, 16. Friday afternoon, 17. Miniature Holiday Art display, 18. snowflakes in my window, 19. Miss Marple, 20. Snow flakes

Everyone’s talking about it: acknowledge the past year’s accomplishments before looking forward.  Prevailing wisdom advises that writing ideas down facilitates bringing them to fruition. But for a look back, I began with a visual list. Nothing like a bit of photo fun with the mosaic tool over on BigHugeLabs. Here are a few crafty highlights from my year:

  • an afternoon spent under the tutelage of professional photographer, Gale Zucker, during which she taught knitters about photographing fiber objects  (photo #6)
  • a winning entry in Southern New Hampshire’s 24-hour A Day in the Life photography contest (#11)
  • a roaring good time as online voting took my quilted Spring Runner into the top tier (#13) of the sew-along challenge
  • the inclusion of a brief memory narrative and accompanying photo in an upcoming book by friend and entrepreneur (#14)
  • a terrifically successful birthday gift for my mother, a knitted dog (#5). Jacqueline Russell, as I named her, was delivered to the birthday girl with an authentic birth certificate, and I don’t think my mother has ever been so enthusiastic about one of my gifts. That feels like an accomplishment worth noting!
  • Handmade Holiday gift-giving (#1-3) dominated my list this year, with hats, felted bags, and homemade cocoa mix with marshmallows; sadly, I never got around to photo’ing the Cocoa Kits.

My blog host, Word Press, surprised me with a summary of the year’s activity on “My Artful Life.” Thank you — for reading, subscribing, taking the time to comment, and being on the other end of my keyboard every time I click the ‘publish’ button. Here’s to another year — !

A Thanksgiving Table

I am thankful for the beautiful artistry of my friend Beth.

Her table settings always feature a seasonal centerpiece …

… and a holiday theme party bag at each lucky guest’s place.

A Day of Beauty, or Saturdays are for Road Trips, part 1

What better way to celebrate the arrival of an out-of-town friend than to organize an all-day art tour? That’s what my friend Cynthia did, and Trudie and I were fortunate to be invited along. The day was full of many wow!s, beginning with a tour of C’s house and gardens, and an al fresco breakfast served on the porch. Sun hats provided by the hostess!

Did you notice that that’s a repurposed grill from which a butterfly garden now spews forth? Clever!

Rose petal and blueberry ice cubes for our iced blackberry tea were an elegant embellishment to the menu:  Tomato Frittata  –  Scones and Corn Muffins with Lemon Curd  –  Strawberries dipped in Yogurt. The rose petals were freshly picked, too. It would have been easy to linger on the porch, but we had places to go! First stop, apotheca flower shoppe & tea cart, a feast for the eyes and heart, in a charming train depot in Goffstown village.

There were so many handmade and vintage delights to admire here, not to mention an astounding number of beverage choices. But we had many more artful destinations in front of us.
a secret gardenAs C pulled up alongside this path, we all called out “photo opp!” in unison. Talk about Vitamin N — this was pure intoxication. After experimenting with various camera settings with which to capture the most sumptuous range of greens, I resisted temptation and got back into the car.

Stay tuned for more photos and Part II of our Saturday Artist Tour of southern New Hampshire.

Waste Land, a movie that has changed lives


This film represents a convergence of so many facets of my life that I hardly know which aspect bears the most weight, or would be most fitting here. Perhaps I should begin at the beginning …

In January 2001 I spent a month in Alpercata, a small farming community in mid-eastern Brazil. When I arrived, my Portuguese language skills  were non-existent, but after several weeks in what could only be called a cultural immersion, I was able to engage in light conversation and make purchases at the market. The details of that month are best saved for another day, but for your amusement, here is a quick peek at yours truly, posing for posterity in Pai Pereira’s dairy cow corral (he’s the gentleman in the white shirt):
alpercata, brasilThree important things from that trip that relate to Waste Land the movie: 1) In both the rural farming communities where I spent the most time, and along the coast in the state of Bahia, I observed problems with trash disposal and management;  2) the lyrical nature of the language was intoxicating; and, 3) the grace, dignity, and hospitality of the Brazilian people endeared me to their country for life.

What happens in the world’s largest trash city will transform you.” — from the Waste Land movie trailer

The photographs that are the result of the creative collaboration between  Vik Muniz, his unique artistic vision, and a select group of catadores (pickers of recyclable materials) who worked alongside him in his Rio de Janeiro studio, drew the second largest crowd ever to Rio’s Modern Art Museum. The catadores’ lives were forever changed. And honestly, after watching this film, I cannot imagine anyone not thinking differently about: art (what is it? why do we make it?) and trash (how can I make less of this stuff? how can I be more ingenious in my upcycling and recycling?) and the people who work in the trash industry.

Four days have gone by since I watched the film and I’m still thinking about it. How often does that happen? Needless to say, I recommend it highly. For those who don’t like subtitles, there are some, but a considerable portion of the film is in English, as well. Please — go see it or rent it from your library. And then share your thoughts here. It will be fun to discuss.

Artist Date: Western Avenue Studios


This is a still life I used as inspiration, back in the day when I was designing custom placemats. The delicate balance between two complimentary colors has always intrigued me. How much orange can you mix with a handful of purples before the combination turns unsavory?

A field trip to Western Avenue Studios (Lowell, MA) last Saturday ignited my creative engine like a double-full-strength espresso, and I was reminded of these photos taken when I, too, rented studio space in a building filled with a dozen painters, a basket weaver, a jeweler, and a mixed media artist.

These placemats were for a family with younger children; the deep colors were intended to mask food splatters. The color scheme was pulled from their Sunday dishes.

All of the artists in our building came together and put on a one-night open studio extravaganza. In a three-hour period, five hundred visitors toured our studios! This panel of placemats (pre-cutting and -sewing) was on display outside my room. Sadly, the effort required to maintain a cohesive, organized group was unappealing to some of the artists, and any future plans were abandoned after our first and only event.

This 12-harness cotton and silk fabric was inspired by Gustav Klimt‘s painting “The Kiss.”

My loom was given a new home years ago, and now I have a crafting space in my home. But walking through the Western Avenue Studios building had me thinking about the energy generated by a creative community. I like to think I brought a bit of that home with me, and it wasn’t even Open Studio Day (12noon-5pm, first Saturday of each month). The processes of making and writing are solitary. But an afternoon spent admiring the work of others, engaging in conversation with kindred spirits, are bound to revitalize and inspire.

Summer Horizon

Five and HopefulSchool’s out and I’m excited! Granted, I’ll have some responsibilities over the summer, and prep for the fall semester cannot be left untended, but in general I have two months in front of me and the creative possibilities feel thrilling. As if she could read my mind, one of my favorite entrepreneurial people, Barbara Winter, posted a link to this list this morning. After ten days in what is lovingly referred to as “the bubble,” I should take a few minutes and assess the creativity-strengthening benefits of my trip to Star Island. But right now I’m itching to do so many other things. There’s the Mitered Crosses Knitted Blanketto finish (hey, I even managed to knit while working last week!),

Lisa Allen knitting

Knitting on the job!

the query letter for the memoir that needs more work, that new bedroom quilt needs starting, and the livingroom windows beg to be draped in something more refined than Indian bedspreads.

Now, I’m talking to myself more than anyone else, but there are three things I know for sure:
1) the ‘doing’ cannot be accomplished while surfing inspirational blogs and photos on the internet
2) pure unadulterated focus is essential
3) persistence pays

Island Sunrise

More Mitered Knitting

Spring knitting. I love it when I realize that different parts of my life match!

Matching the season!

New project
I’ve been thinking about doing a post dedicated to the blogs I follow on a regular basis. But until I get around to organizing all of those web links,
Happiness is ...
I have to tell you about Susan, a crafter out on the west coast. She seems to do it all, and she’s a young mom, too. Wow. One of her areas of expertise is quilting and she’s got a new book that just came out. Susan loves the log cabin pattern and has infused this American classic with new life. Her projects have such a zesty, youthful tone and modern application. Apparently she travels in the circle of the crafty elite, too, because Kay Gardiner of Mason-Dixon Knitting did a review of her book. And then Kay designed a Knitted Crosses Blanket pattern inspired by the book’s Modern Crosses quilt.
New Project Collage
It was love at first sight. I downloaded the pattern within minutes and raced to my local yarn store for a few balls of Noro Silk Garden. One of the things I most love about this pattern is that it is easy to remember. And it’s totally portable. And perhaps top on my personal list: no body measurements required!

Proceeds from the pattern sales are going to MercyCorps for its Japan relief efforts. That feels nice, too. To think it’s possible to “knit for Japan.” I like that. You can purchase a copy of the pattern on Ravelry or on the Mason-Dixon Knitting site.

I’m having a blast with these squares. As long as I can keep Corabelle’s paws out of the knitting tote, we’ll have a blanket before too long.

Cat Knitting

Here’s my furry companion and her own pink yarn.

Do Lessons from Kindergarten Still Apply?

Barbara Winter’s recent blog post about “tools” touched on one of my favorite topics. To paraphrase briefly, there are wonderful self-discoveries to be had by paying attention to the tools that we enjoy using. So what does this have to do with kindergarten, you may be wondering? Pictures, paper, pens & pencils, glue and scissors still make my world go round, my heart sing. And let’s add ‘words’ to the equation, too.

Using the concept of “bliss,” I took a blank notebook (a mock-up from the printer for Eating Clean) and went to town with images from magazines, a Victorian-themed calendar, stickers, and scrapbook papers. Talk about fun! Welcome to the covers of my 2010 art journal.

A New Home for My Photography and Writing

Your warm and encouraging comments about my photography have sparked a new idea: JOY CARDS — pocket-sized editions of my home & garden, craft, pet, food, and dance photography. Each image is enhanced with a custom motivational phrase on the back side. Now available in my new etsy shop. Come take a look!

I’m working on an online slide show of the 30 images in this inaugural Joy Card set. Stay tuned for the link.

December marks my 3rd blogaversary. Thank you for stepping into My Artful Life!