Tuesday, July 24, 2012


A few months ago my sweet friend Tina, Tiny Bear Studio, and I decided to do a one-on-one handmade book swap.  The rules were simple and few, a handmade book using any materials or techniques we wished to use and no theme.  This left our creativity wide open.  I rarely do swaps anymore but the temptation to own a piece of Tina's artwork was way to good to pass up!  I wanted to share the exquisite book that Tina made for me, this fabric and vintage textile book is sheer perfection!
 The book cover is made from an old quilt and laces...
 Delicious layers...
 Darling images of precious children or beautiful women of days gone by are featured on each page...
Metal, Wax, and Buttons, Oh My!
 A sweet scene from nature and a trio of precious children richly layered and stitched...
 A pretty pocket, driftwood, and wire...
 This tickles my fancy, look closely at the key hole...
 These little lads are so cute and just look at that tiny coin purse!
 Time has run out and we have far too quickly come to the end of this fabulous book...
 But, that is not all Tina sent, she also included these wonderful tart tins filled with tiny bundles of stamps from Denmark...
 Beautiful old hand penned letters and trio of lace bundles...
 Vintage linens and sheer barely there ribbon...
 And last but not least, a trove of trinkets to create with!
 Love that brilliant blue piece of hardware, makes me want to scoop it up and make something...
 If you are curious to see the Nature Journal (no surprise there huh?) that I sent to Tina you can view the book HERE in Tina's swap post.  I don't know how it happened but this one got away and I don't have even one photo of this creation.

Special thanks to Tina for suggesting this swap, it was so much fun to both give and receive!

 P.S.  Thank you so very much to each sweet soul who left a personal message, good thought, or precious prayer on my recent post about my mother's condition.  You will never know how touched and uplifted I was by your kindness.  Thank You!

Friday, July 20, 2012


Over the last couple of days I have been trying to find my creative groove again. Taking care of my mother has begun to take its toll on me. The studio has sat in a state of nauseating cleanliness for weeks now without me even stepping through the door. My body has been tired, my mind numb from the weight of decisions being made, and my heart is battered from the range of emotions that come with watching the sickness and suffering of a loved one. I have been weaving my way in and out of my days trying to absorb each new event or each new piece of news...
One of the conditions my mother is suffering from may be genetic. I am told I may also be carrying the deformed gene. If I am tested it may help to identify if is in fact genetic or a mutation. I don't want to know (maybe someday but not today), it really does not matter, it won't change the changes in my mother. Over the last two weeks we have watched her slip into what can only be described as insanity. I keep wondering if I am getting a glimpse into my own future. I wonder how many layers of my life will be stripped away until there is nothing left of me but an outline of who I used to be...
With these things on my heart and mind, yesterday, I was able to briefly step into the studio pulling out paints and textiles to feel my way back into that creative groove. I lost myself in layers of comforting colors brushing and weaving my worries away. For a small span of time my fears receded, my worries ceased, I was at peace. Somehow my messy life seemed to come to order...
A little bit of normal went a long way to sooth my aching soul. I don't know when I will be able to cross the thresh hold of creativity again, maybe not for days, maybe not for weeks, but I will take comfort in knowing it is there waiting for me as familiar and comforting as my mothers arms have always been. I won't forget how either feels or what each means to me. Life may be a little sideways at the moment...
I may not be able to spend much time here with you, dear friends, visiting, commenting, or even posting but I wanted you to know that you have been on my mind and how much I appreciate your kind thoughts, prayers, and loving support during this difficult time. May God's best blessings be yours.

Saturday, July 14, 2012


 Welcome to the studio here at Quill Cottage.  A few things are new since last years party post and I hope you will enjoy the tour.
My name is Sandy and I am a mixed media artist who loves to play with paint, paper, fabrics, and fibers.
  What do I make?  Mostly a mess, (although today everything is cleaned up and company ready) as well as handmade books, fiber embellishments to use in books or art quilts, fabric and paper sculpting, and pretty much anything else that strikes my fancy.  I also enjoy surface design, making my own unique backgrounds for collage pieces or book pages. 
 ("Elements of Nature" a handmade mixed media nature journal, book can be seen here, book text can be seen here.)

If anyone had ever told me that I would some day have a creative space all my own larger than a TV tray with more storage than you can fit under a bed I would have smiled and thought, "When pigs fly!"  Well, pigs still can't fly but time sure did, my high school sweetheart husband and I watched our son and daughter leave the nest and the cottage that once seemed so full and over flowing suddenly had a little breathing room and my studio was born.
 (One of my handmade fiber birds)

It measures a scant 11 feet wide and 16 feet long with an 8 foot wide by 2 1/2 deep foot closet.  Space planning and storage were my key concerns when designing the space.  I assessed my needs and my wants as well as how I wanted the space to function.  While I could not have my cake and eat it too I was able to meet most of my "wish list".  I wanted a space where I would have a large work area, a sewing area, room for a guest or three to come and play, supply storage, gift wrap area, a place to write, and a photo "booth" for product or blog photos.  Believe it or not, I can do all these things in my small studio.
By careful planning and a ton of culling and honing my supplies down to only things I really love to work with I made it work.  My supplies are my "decorations".  My philosophy is that I don't have to have a lot of any one thing but a little bit of everything I truly love.  I tried to artfully arrange things where I can see them or they are in labeled containers so I can quickly find them.  Since I generally work small my storage containers could also be small (and numerous ;c).  I like the pretty things in sight and the actual tools and various products hidden out of sight.
My goal in this studio was to create a neutral backdrop of creams and whites, letting my supplies or accessories bring in color.  The walls are a parchment color with white trim.  Sometimes when you work with color in a colorful room your color does not read true.  While I embrace color in other areas of my home, outside of this small room my life contains a lot of chaos and stress so I wanted a soothing peaceful environment.  My little get away haven is soft and feminine with a vintage feel creating a neutral backdrop that can work with any colors or changes I might make as my mood changes.  
All the furnishings were thrift or flea market finds, while putting together my studio I was working a tight budget.  I married many pieces together to meet my needs.  Since the space is small I planned out a lot of vertical storage/workspace. To make them all cohesive I used white paint and vintage book pages unifying the mixed elements.
A small child sized chest of drawers and two tier table made a perfect unit to place between the open studio door and closet.
 This unit houses a collection of pretty storage boxes and drawers full of vintage linens to craft with as well as my fabric surface design backgrounds.
  (Handmade book by Tina, I'll be sharing more about this in another post.)
 Don't discount what you can store behind a door!  With a scant six inches of space between the door and the wall I have created a narrow storage unit to house threads, jars of ribbon snippets, rolls of seam binding, hand dyed fabric ribbons, and colorful feathers.
 Old wooden crates were sawed down into uniform thickness, all were applied to a scrap wooden backing.  The backing was coated with book pages, (still needs to be painted white and when time permits that will get done).  A store bought thread holder was cut down and tacked to the backing.
 Cone threads rest underneath.  A tension rod sprayed brown holds seam binding rolls.  Jars fill the remaining areas to hold those ribbon roll ends and scraps that are still useable but loose.  Old door knobs were applied to one side to hang my hand dyed fabric ribbons from.
An old metal eight hook hanger is on the wall on the other side to hold more dyed ribbons and crinkled seam bindings.  I hope to score another one of these some day.
Another small chest and some old porch posts made another vertical unit to house most of my ribbons, laces, and trims plus fun inspiration pieces.
(One of my handmade paper shoes)
(Handmade fiber and fabric boot)
 In the closet I had stock lament shelving and brackets from a previous space and they were too short to fill the closet so I married a small book case and a hutch top to create a center unit and installed the stock shelving on either side to create one continuous storage space.  Jars from various food stuffs have brown spray painted lids to hold multiples of small supplies.
 Wire baskets house fabrics to keep them from tumbling off shelves.  Since my work is small in scale I don't need places for large item storage, inexpensive shoe boxes from the dollar store fit the bill for most things.  I had a set of cardboard boxes from a previous space the I spray painted glossy black and glued more old book pages to the lids, other containers with drawers were purchased over time as they were on sale or with store coupons.  All are labeled so I or guests can find things quickly to use when crafting.
 Cardboard boxes were cut down and covered in old book pages to create book holders for craft magazines and art books.
  I reserved the center shelf where the two pieces were joined as a place to put a rotating display of inspirational pieces.  Right now it is a girly gallery...
Featured below are a series of paper and fiber sculpted shoes and boxes I made:

 Fun trinkets I can incorporate into art pieces...

TIP:  When planning closet storage sort all your supplies into like minded piles to determine the size and kind of containers you are going to need to house each set of items.  Once that is done you can then measure your closet space to determine your shelving needs and plan the layout accordingly.  Using adjustable shelving strips with brackets is a great idea, since they are adjustable you can move them around as space and needs change.

I flanked the large window with two old wooden columns (free from a friend, gotta love that!) and placed old door knobs evenly spaced down the front to hold empty frames I have collected to use in my art work.  One side also houses a 3 tier hanging basket that I made canvas liners for to hold small hand sewing projects.
(A fabric collage I made featuring a favorite quote)
A side wall holds a wire basket that can be used as an inspiration board, another holder for muslin ribbons, and a trio of containers holding handmade items to use in my artwork.
 The desk was a big brown bear that wed an old twin sized iron bed frame that had been welded into a bench.  It created vertical storage that did not block the light. The base was painted out white and my husband laminated the desk top, pull out wings, and knee hole shelf for a smooth and easy clean up surface.
I used simple tin cans from the kitchen spray painting them and then decorating them with various things from around the studio that make me smile.  I drilled two holes in the back of each can and used zip tie to hold them in place on the back of the iron frame.
 I applied old cabinet knobs to the sides of the frame and painted out some old cafe rods to hold a roll of waxed paper and artist tissue as well as various rolls of tape.  In the area where the weld for the old seating was I placed two small shelves painted out to match the desk top.
 The previous seat  was moved up to the arm rails and became a shelf with under mounted lighting, it houses an inspiring collection that can be rotated or changed with need or mood.
I filled the shallow center desk drawer with flea market find shadow boxes.  They hold small finds to use in my artwork.
 A simple garden trellis, found wire, cup hooks, chain, and anchors top off the desk making a study hanging storage space.  Strips of torn muslin wrap the chain to make it appear to be tied up with fabric.  Vintage wire shopping baskets decorated with a couple of beeswax collage pieces hold handmade substrates and rolls of interesting papers and textiles.  Vintage hat boxes house favorite paper scraps for using in collage.
 The large unit that divides my sewing station and creates my main work cubical was put together with a mish-mash of finds.
 The base was built from stock laminate shelving pieces that I found on clearance.  The sides are two old bi-fold doors that I removed the louvers from the top half and replaced with chicken wire and some scrap trim.
 The shelving consists of two rough boards that I sanded then glued old book pages to cover their imperfections.  This area holds and jewelry box I turned into an ink pad cabinet, jars of supplies, a pair of paper sculpted birds I made, as well as a fun collection of writing items.
The back is an old window (another freebie from an old family cabin that had fallen into ruin), a couple of old spindles, and some more scrap trim.  The brackets for the shelving are flea market finds.  Finishing pieces are some aged picket flower bed fencing with rusty tacks to hang things from and on the back a couple more brackets and a window stool that came with the salvaged window.
 Hidden underneath a vintage lace draped tension rod are modern containers of supplies.  My printer is here handy as well as a place beside it for my laptop for those artful printing project needs.
My main work station is the back wall with an 11 foot wall-to-wall counter.  These white cabinets and  gray counter top were deep discounts of discontinued stock from a kitchen store display.
 I used wallpaper paste, vintage book pages, antique images, white paint, and a rubber stamp to create the cabinet fronts.  More stock laminate shelving were hung above with lighting installed underneath.  More flea market shelving finds top them off for more vertical storage.  I arranged the cabinets to have two knee hole work spaces for sitting or standing options.
 Leftover laminate shelving ends were tacked under neath for extra storage space.  Since the cabinets are kitchen sized they are deep and house most of my tools and products that I use to create with.  I was able to find two large matching picnic baskets that I tucked under each shelf.  One holds drawing pads and substrates, the other holds rolls of vintage wall paper.
 The stools were found at a flea market, they were bar height cut down to fit the counter top and to seat comfortably.  The chair pads were ready mades that I found on sale and stapled to the seat rim and trimmed with a wide lace.
I work standing up so the counter height is perfect for that.  That is not a cute rug that you see below but an ugly cushy gel mat.  I totally recommend one if you work standing up, it is great for the back and legs.
 Centrally located is my ribbon roll "lamp" and containers of colorful art supplies.
 My work cubical houses most basic supplies in open handy reach.  I have utilized flea market finds of spice racks, paper towel holders, bottles and jars, even a stray glove and shoe last have been pressed into service.

 More decorated tin cans hold my paint brushes on top of my inspiration/photo booth/project design rail.   This piece is an old ceiling tile tin layered with a baby bed rail, both flea market finds.  It is capped off with upper and lower picket flower bed fencing and a shelf on top.
(A work in progress)

 I can clip or hang things from the rails and with a quick blink of an eye I can convert it into a small photo booth for taking blog or product photos.  To use this area for a photo booth I remove whatever is on it...
 Set up my lighting, an adjustable clamp lamp on top and an adjustable goose neck lamp on eight side...
 I place brackets that my husband helped me to modify in the bracket holders and clamp sheeting to the brackets to diffuse the light...
 I have three options for showcasing products, hanging from a wreath hanger...
 Clipping directly to the rail with clamps or clothes pins...
 Or by sitting something on a shelf, this shelf is featured on the center of my desk, it is removable, the hooks on back were set to work in both areas...
On the other side of this room diving piece is my sewing station. 
 What appears to be an antique sewing machine it not what it seems.  The old sewing machine base with a board top was bought at a flea market.  I found the machine drawers at an antique store and the wooden machine cover at vintage textile store.  Once again I married them up to create a sewing table.  
The table top and piano stool were covered over with sewing patterns.  The drawer frames were attached to the underside of the top.  The wooden cover was too shallow to go over my modern machine hiding underneath so I had the Handy Hubby frame it out with some scrap trim that I painted black.  The ends of the cover were damaged so I covered that over with pattern pieces too.
Since I have to face the wall to sew I filled the wall with a collage of fashion themed items that give me something to look at.  A small antique vanity mirror helps to reflect light.  Baskets on the hat rack, all flea market finds, hold sewing and needlework notions. 
 Just within reach are a collection of candle holders that hold frequently used cones of thread.  Each cone has an insert to convert it to fit on my standard machine and underneath each cone are three bobbins of coordinating thread.
TIP:  To make these holders for your studio you will need candle holders of your choice, corks to fit in the holder, bamboo skewers, black craft paint.  Hot glue cork into candle holder.  Poke bamboo skewer into cork, place either cone or spool threads on skewer to determine where to clip off end of skewer.  Leave a little bit of tip for a "wick".  Remove thread, paint skewer with black craft paint and allow to dry.  Replace your thread and you have chic sewing thread candles!
 A button cubby rests on the floor underneath the salvaged shelf.  Buttons are sorted by color into small jars topped with hand sewn tags. 
 Other pretties round out the space.
 The newest studio addition is a gift my husband gave me for Christmas, an antique dress form...
This poor dear has been standing around stark naked ever since she arrived.  In panic mode I thought she needed a party dress and a head, she did not have either.  I plopped on a vintage doll skirt on to create a collar.  Tattered old books were stacked to create a neck.  
 An old glass jello mold jar topped off with a door knob completes her head and shoulders.  
Her necklace is a broken piece of jewelry and a Christmas Dangle Ornament (ornament tutorial found here)
 Her "skirt" is made from coffee filter flowers, a handmade Christmas garland (Garland tutorial found here), and pearl and chandelier crystal drops tied on with muslin ribbon.
 I am so close to sticking a fork in it and calling it done I can scarcely believe it! I have left myself room to grow some of the drawers, boxes, bins, and jars are empty just waiting to be filled with creative delights. This studio did not happen over night it has been over a two year process to get it this far.  It is also not perfect, I would have loved to ripped out the carpet and installed cork flooring but Handy Hubby was agreeable to everything but that.  Hopefully when we get around to installing new flooring in the main living space I can convince him to run the hardwood into this room also.  Until then, I will throw down a tarp and create anyway!
(Over view of entire studio space) 

 I feel incredibly blessed and so grateful to have a place that encourages my creative dreams.  A huge thank you goes out to our party hostess, Karen of My Desert Cottage, for supplying the creative connection through Where Bloggers Create 2012!
   I hope that you enjoy a visit to my studio and I hope that you too will DREAM until your dream comes true!
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