Thursday, October 31, 2013

Halloween Sickies at Home

Well, Dan, Tristan and I had originally planned Halloween with my daughter Brittany and our little grand kids trick or treating on historic Main Street in St. Charles.

We all ended up sick instead, I came down with this seasons big butt kicking cold and passed it on to both of the boys.  So we had to stay in this Halloween, and since Aelfheim is on a rural highway, no trick or treaters here!

Step up to the front door and visit us this Halloween!

Come in and sit for a spell!

Our table is set with an interesting combination of treats and cold remedies!

Don't forget the throat coat tea, it isn't the cough that carries you off, it's the coffin they carry you off in!

We decked the house out with our Halloween decor.  

And I made a big pot of my moms meatball soup in the crock pot, complete with Halloween pasta. 
2 cans tomato soup
2 cans beef broth
2 cans water
Good splash of red wine
3 cloves of garlic
1/2 onion diced
1 bag frozen meatballs browned
1 bag frozen mixed vegetables
Salt, pepper, cracked red pepper and Italian herbs to taste
Boiled pasta of your choice.

Toss it all in the crockpot and cook for 3-4 hours, add the pasta right before serving.

We relaxed, started off the evening with Practical Magic and then watched random scary movies while styling warm inside

Happy Halloween from the Mueller's to you!  Don't forget to take your garlic! It's good to ward of colds and vampires alike!


Friday, October 18, 2013

Feline Friday, The Priestess Card

Mystical Cats Tarot will be coming out in May 2014, so to celebrate Lunaea Weatherstone and I are hosting a fun event on our Facebook page for Mystical Cats Tarot!  Presenting… Feline Friday! Every Friday until the deck is published next spring, we’ll give you a sneak peek of a new Mystical Cats Tarot card. 

Today’s card is the Priestess, she who is the keeper of the Cat Mysteries, handed down through the generations. 

But wait! There’s more! The Feline Friday Foto -- er, Photo -- contest! Here’s how it works:

1. If your cat looks like the cat in Friday’s tarot card, post a photo of it in the comments for that card on our Facebook page.

2. Every four weeks, we will draw a name at random from the posted photos.

3. That person will win a secret surprise gift printed with the tarot card image that looks like their cat!

You can post your cat’s photo anytime until the drawing date, which will always be announced in advance, so you’ll have plenty of time to share the picture of your lovely cat friend. Please be sure to also "like" our Facebook page if you have not already done so.

The next four Feline Fridays and the drawing date are: 10/18, 10/25, 11/1, 11/8, and the drawing will be on 11/15.

We look forward to seeing your wise and beautiful cats!

Mickie & Lunaea

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Mystical Cats Tarot, Mischief Managed!

Well, it's been a long time coming, we signed the contract in fall of 2011, and now the art for Mystical Cats Tarot is done and ready to ship.
Mystical Cats Tarot art ready to ship, Willow approves.

My knuckles feel like I've been in a fight! Why? Or remember my post about peeling the backs off my thick illustration boards for the cover art so they could go around the drum scanner?
Cringe-Worthy Preparation of Mystical Cats Tarot Cover Art

 Well, I did that to all the rest of the cards yesterday.  Whew!  
If you ever have to do this, that rubber shelf lining really saved the day and allowed me to do it my myself while my dear family screamed in fear and ran out of the room!  I had Sweeney Todd playing on the TV while I worked. Muahahaha!!  
First I split the edge of the illustration board back from the art.  
Super important!  Place the art side down and peel the back from the art, not the other way around, this prevents bending the actual art.  ALSO, if you know in advance that you publisher uses a drum scanner and you will need to peel illustration boards, use Crescent brand, not this Canson that I had!  Crescent peels so much easier, this Canson was a real bear to peel, I ended up with bruised knuckles and even skinned a couple of them repeating this process for 78 cards.
I added some non-skid shelf liner to my triangle too, this helped me keep the art flat and undamaged while I wrangled the backs off.  I peeled a bit at a time and scooted the triangle along as I went.
Now the back is off and the art is flexible enough to curve around the drum scanner!
This isn't even all of the backs...this isn't even half.  Shampoo, rinse, repeat, infinity!

So now that I'm done with that, it's time to eat a bit of lunch and head off to FedEx and get these kitties in the mail!  My partner in crime for this project visionary author Lunaea Weatherstone is finishing up the book and then Llewellyn will do their magic!  Of course I still have interior illustrations to do, but that comes a bit later.

Watch for Mystical Cats Tarot in May 2014!  Be sure to pop by our Facebook page to see some sneak previews and be sure to "like" our page while you're there!

Bright Blessings,


Thursday, September 12, 2013

The Magical Plants of Aelfheim

Last week we took a walk across the rambling acres here at Aelfheim to see what we could see.  We made some really cool discoveries on our walk.  I was very curious what kinds of plants were growing out there in the meadow, having left my magical garden behind at our old home at Oak Path, it's good to know what's available in your own back yard.

You can see the house, or just the roof, waaaay in the distance. Those dead trees or
"widow-makers" will have to come down this fall.
And quite a back yard it is!  This is the view of the house from the back edge of the property!  So when I say I don't know what I've got growing, I mean it!

As we walked along, I took photos of the various wildflowers I saw, knowing what some were, counting on the photos to help me identify the rest.  I'll post some from time to time, along with their magical uses. I wonder if you'll find any of these magical plants growing in your garden?!

Wild Rose, we missed the bloom, but the rose hips are lovely.

I already knew there are wild roses that grow in the area, so I was delighted to find this wild rose complete with rose hips!  Wild roses are a favorite faerie flower, full of energies of healing, love, protection and warding.  Rose hips are associated with Venus, and are the fruit like seed pod that remains when the petals are dropped.  Magically they are great for relieving stress, bringing love, and peace.
Black Eyed Susan

These wild growing black eyed Susan's were a delight to discover!  They stand for justice in the language of flowers and they are also great for energy shift work such as clearing away bad habits, unwanted emotions, powering away that which is not serving you on your spiritual journey.
Pokeweed, not quite ripe, but it's interesting looking, isn't it?

My mom easily identified Pokeweed growing in the meadow. This is a favorite of local birds, the berries are purple when they are fully ripe, and the juice makes excellent magical ink.  They are very aggressive plants from what I've read, and will take over if you're not careful.  It's great magically for breaking hexes and curses, exorcism and basically any banishing of baneful energies.  It's a toxic plant, although from what I've read, parts of it can be eaten if properly prepared.  I'll pass on that though and stick to magical uses.
This one is charming, it's called Partridge Pea

This sweet little plant is called partridge pea, I love it's fern like leaves.  Apparently, it's pods are a favorite of bobwhites, quail and doves. It's magical properties include perseverance, reaching your goals, and healing.

These are just a very small handful of the magical plants that I've discovered so far in the meadows of Aelfheim. Some of the others I have yet to identify, and some I know very well, but need to get photos. I hope you've enjoyed these and I'll post more in the future.

Working with plants magically is one of the oldest form of magic, its a tradition honored in this
mortar and pestle trivet.  If you love it, it's available here: MickieMuellerStudio


Thursday, September 5, 2013

Welcome to Aelfheim!

I've been so busy with unpacking and catching up on art deadlines and articles for Llewellyn annuals, that I haven't had much of a chance to introduce you to my new magical place other than in a few photos on twitter and instagram.  This is Aelfheim!  We moved on August 17th  to this magical 3 acre parcel of land in the Meramec Valley, Missouri, and I must say, now that I live here, it's even more enchanting that I ever imagined!
Sunlight filtering through the oak trees in the morning, the view from my new studio window!

Why Aelfheim you ask?  Well, it's Old Norse for Elf Home, which seemed appropriate.  It was actually my clever husband Dan who first suggested it.  Aelfheim is one of the nine worlds in Norse mythology, and is the home of the "Light Elves." Often the Light Elves are credited with offering inspiration for art and music, much like the Greek Muses.  According to legend, the magical dwelling was given to the God Frey as a gift when he cut his first tooth, Frey has been the ruler of Aelfheim ever since.  We also see this land in Scottish legend as Elphame as a land of Faerie Folk described in the ballad of Thomas the Rhymer and the modernized Elfland or Elvenland. Our spelling of this old name of the land of Elves and Faeries is meant to honor the various cultural incarnations of this land of legend.

Even though our land is in the country, it's technically part of Sullivan Mo, which was originally named "Mount Helicon" by the postmaster in 1856.   Mount Helicon is the mountain in Greece which is the mythical sanctuary for the Muses!  I should find much inspiration here between the Muses and the Light Elves!

There are some really cool aspects of this land we've come to call home.  One of my favorite is what we have come to call "The Compass Points Oak" or "Four Trees"  It's an oak that was once cut down to the stump. It grew four new trunks, each one matching up to the four cardinal points of the compass.
Compass Point Oak Trunks

  This is an amazing tree, or trees, when you stand in the middle of it, it feels simply amazing!
Compass Point Oak, standing in the middle, looking up!

We also found a really cool twisted oak at the edge of the property, one of the trunks is partly hollow. We were delighted to find this really unique tree!
Our twisted oak

I've counted 22 oak trees just in the front yard, and amongst those oaks mushrooms of all varieties have been popping up ever since we moved in!
So many trees, I can't even get them all into this shot!

You can't walk through them without looking down so you don't step on them! I need to pick up a few books to learn how to identify mushrooms.
The herb garden will probably go right near that big window.

I think I'll be planting an herb garden close to the  house in the front, I've found a spot that seems to get lots of sun, and the soil has lots of limestone in it here, so it should grow great herbs, but around those trees, I won't plant much except perhaps add some ferns or blue bells near the trees.  It's very shady there and I want to honor the faeries that apparently live there by not putting in beds, they've got a lovely place already!

So do you want to come inside?

Come on in!

Here is where we eat, this sweet nook is right off the kitchen and has a wonderful view!
Want to join me for a cup of tea?

I love the open floor plan, you can see the kitchen on  the other side of the
bar, and the dining nook is back there to the left.  Willow and Garfield love all the windows!
My new studio, where the magic happens!  I still have lots to unpack, but I've got everything I need out
to finish up Mystical Cats Tarot and start my new book illustration job for
Llewellyn, and get some new statuary designs going for my friends at
Sacred Source...whew, I'm going to be busy, good thing it's a great work space!
Another really important room, if you order anything from our Etsy shop, this is where it gets printed,
heat pressed and shipped, this is the (temporary) Mickie Mueller Studio Workshop!
Eventually this will be a guest room and the workshop will be moved... the barn you see on the right of the house.  We'll be building a nice room inside the barn
for all of our workshop equipment that we use to make items for our Etsy shop.  We're very
excited to have more room to work!

That's the tour for now!  I have so many photos of some of the plants growing wild around the property that I need to identify. Everything is always changing, something new blooming, something else growing seed-pods, and so many interesting frogs, lizards, and other critters that also call Aelfheim home, but those stories will wait for another day.

Thanks for dropping in!


Mickie Mueller

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Cringe-Worthy Preparation of Mystical Cats Tarot Cover Art

As I finish up the art for Mystical Cats Tarot, the talented folks in the Llewellyn Art Department are working on starting their end of the process.

I got an email from the art director from Llewellyn shortly before my move to let me know that while I'm still finishing up the art for Mystical Cats Tarot, they would like the two cards that the committee chose for the cover art for the box and accompanying book for this deck.  They want to get started on the design for the packaging, and since I worked for several years as a designer for print, I totally was happy to get them whatever they needed.  I love to work on heavy illustration board, it's about a thick as a mat board if you've ever seen that.  Llewellyn prefers to scan the art themselves from the originals, and since they use a drum scanner which is curved, they prefer it if I peel the art from the illustration board that I prefer to work on. I know about drum scanners because we used to used them back when I worked at Network Color, they scanned the original art from the comic book pages so that we could digitally add color.   It's like a big thick tube that the art kind of wraps around as it scans.

Peeling the boards is a slightly daunting process, more so for my husband who hates to watch me do this, even though I've never torn one yet.(knocking very vigorously on the old wooden art table)

I went though and located the two pieces they are using for the covers, the orange cat, King of Earth will be the cover for the book Lunaea Weatherstone is writing and the grey cat in the tree, the Stars card will be the cover of the box, so watch for that on bookstore shelves this coming spring!
Everyone must thank my husband Dan, he photographed the peeling process for me, and it really makes him freaked out to watch it, he's so scared the art will get torn, so hats off to Dan for cringing while photographing!  FYI, I do 600 DPI scans of the art before I peel the boards..just in case.  Yikes!

So first I find a sweet spot with my fingernail where I can separate the thick board from the finished surface.

Then as carefully as I possibly can, and being careful not to bend the art at all, I peel the art from the board...oh Dan is totally loosing it now, he says it's very hard to watch.

Ta-da!! Now the art is peeled.  Instead of being on a thick piece of board, it's now more like a heavy piece of cardstock, exactly what Llewellyn needs to put through the curved drum scanner.

Ok, the second one gave me a bit of trouble, so Dan had to help hold it, but it turned out fine, here's the pic! (Poor guy, the things we do for love!)

Here they are, all ready to send off via FedEx.  At this writing, Llewellyn probably has the scans back and are working on creating our cool cover art from these images!  I'm so excited to see what they come up with!

For more updates and news about Mystical Cats Tarot, be sure to pop over and "like" our Facebook Page!

Brightest Blessings!

Mickie Mueller

Monday, August 12, 2013

How a Mystical Cat Becomes a Card

I've had many people curious about the process of creating tarot cards for a deck.  It's actually a very interesting process.  

To show you the steps, I'll take you through step by step of the Queen of the Sea Cats card from my upcoming deck Mystical Cats Tarot.  The first step is to determine the vision for the card.  On this project, I'm working with author Lunaea Weatherstone, so I get my initial direction from her.  Usually we have a phone discussion about the card and I get a written description for how she wants the card to look, the feel she wants to convey, and any specific elements she wants to be included in the card.  We modeled the cat for the "Sea Queen" after a beautiful real life cat as well, a cat that Lunaea knows, so she sent me several photos of the cat so I could see the markings, eye color, body type etc.  

I take all of the information and visualize it in my head, and then I draw a rough sketch.  
This is the very rough sketch, mostly to show placement and visual concept of everything
to Lunaea in case any changes need to be made, this is a very small sized sketch.
This brings all those ideas floating around into sharp focus.  For this card I found lots of inspiration looking at classic fountains, especially ones with mermaids on them.  Since this is the world of Mystical Cats however, it seemed obvious to me that it should be a mer-cat instead!  Once the sketch was complete, I emailed it off to Lunaea to make sure it fit her vision.  Then upon approval, I was ready to start creating the finished piece.

The next step is to transfer the sketch onto a sheet of smooth hot press illustration board.  Once I have all the details I need in place, I use a liquid frisked to cover up all of the areas of the art that I wish to remain totally white.  These are the areas that I will be working in colored pencil. Right now I'm using Art Masking Fluid by Windsor & Newton, although Grumbacher makes a good one as well.  It's kind of like a very thin rubber cement.  I recommend using a very cheap brush to paint it on, I use kids throw-away brushes with brightly colored plastic handles and trim the bristles as needed.  This stuff will ruin your good brushes, so don't go there!

Next  I mix up my special herbal wash.  I've chosen herbs for each card to correspond with the suit, card, and general feeling of the card.  This is how I add magic to every piece of art that I create.  It helps me to raise the appropriate energies of the piece so that I can make it vibrate with the correct intention and purpose.  In this case I used catnip, lady's mantle, kelp and a drop of water from the chalice well at Glastonbury that was given to me by my friend Shea, who traveled there.  This magical infusion is the water that I use for my watercolor wash, allowing the herbs I've chosen to work their magic and get the creative juices flowing. 
The finished sketch covered with liquid frisket after I've painted it.

 As I work with the paint, the frisket repels the paint from the areas to remain white, so I paint right over he top of it.  
The reveal: peeling the frisket from the painting, all those white areas will be layered with colored pencil.

Once the paint is completely dry, I peel off the frisket and the tape that marks the edges and I get to work with the colored pencils.  I work each section, usually adding the shadows first and working out towards the highlights.  I use Berol Prismacolor pencils, I love the variety and blend-ability  of them, I've been working with them for over 25 years.  As I work, I sometimes use a colorless blender, which is like a pencil that has no pigment, that helps blend multiple odors together and fill in darker areas so that less of the white paper shows through while it bumps up the color.  I work across the board bit by bit creating an entire world from the tips of very sharp pencils.  
A long way to go...

Really getting into the mosaic!

When I'm totally done with the colored pencil step which can take several days to complete, I look over the area and sometimes layer more watercolor over the top of the colored pencil.  I do this in order to fill in any areas where white shows through due to the texture or "tooth" of the illustration board and to make the colors "pop" a bit more.  
The Queen of the Sea Cats, complete!

Then I carefully add highlights to the cats eyes and whiskers, and the card is complete!  I scan it and email it off to Lunaea and then on to the next!  This is the process by which all 78 cards for Mystical Cats Tarot are (and will be) completed.  Then the original art for the cards will be whisked away to Llewellyns art department where they will do their magic to design how the finished cards and packaging will look.  This spring watch your local bookstore and you can pick up your very own copy of Mystical Cats Tarot.  I the mean time, why not pop over to the Mystical Cats Tarot Facebook Page and hit the "like" button so that you can see all the sneak peeks as they are released!

Brightest Blessings,

Mickie Mueller