Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Sneak Preview...Secret Illustration Project Revealed!

I started a big illustration job for Llewellyn during the summer of last year, eight books that are illustrated with beautiful black and white pencil like I did for the companion books for Voice of the Trees and Mystical Cats Tarot. I've been having so much fun with this job that I took some photos as I worked because I knew that I wanted to share this project with you as soon as I could.  Well, now this set of lovely books is available for pre-order on Barnes and Noble and Amazon and I got the official OK to share with you...here is a sneak preview of this amazing project that I'm so honored and excited to be a part of!

Early stages of the chapter opener; forms of divination here include cards, crystal ball, tea for reading the tea leaves as well as spell elements such as a candle, oils, herbs and a pen with parchment.
As soon as I got the email from Lynne at the Llewellyn art department and saw these beautiful book covers, I was "all in" to take on this big job filling the pages of this series of books with magical illustrations! I thought the covers look like an invitation to a witch's garden party to celebrate each sabbat.  I gasped when I saw them, so much inspiration, upon reading the description of the books, I knew this was a series that I would want to own myself. I thought of how pretty they would look on my bookshelf, and how delighted I would be to flip through them for ideas as each sabbat approached. I knew I had to be a part of this lovely series!
From the Amazon listing for the first in this series Ostara which is slated for Jan. 2015, "Llewellyn’s Sabbat Essentials series explores the old and new ways of celebrating the seasonal rites that are the cornerstones in the witch’s year.  A well-rounded introduction to Ostara, this attractive book features rituals, recipes, lore, and correspondences. It includes hands-on information for modern celebrations, spells and divination, recipes and crafts, invocations and prayers, and more!"  Pre-order here

While I was working on illustrations for Mabon, it was actually that time of year.  Right out my studio window I was watching squirrels running back and forth with acorns and hickory nuts. Since the squirrel was mentioned  in the manuscript as one of the animals associated with Mabon, our squirrel ended up running across the modern witch's front path in this chapter opener.
The witch's garden gate for a chapter opener, can you guess which sabbat this is for?
I always gang as many illustrations on a sheet as I could while still leaving room for labeling them and for the art department to digitally separate them after scanning. 
Part of the fun of illustrating this sabbat series is getting to revisit some of the concepts, deities, and teachings in order to offer a fresh take on the standards.  For Lughnasadh, I wanted to include Lugh in this chapter opener since he's one of the major deities of this holiday (it's named for him after all)  I've illustrated Lugh several times before, but this black and white may be one of my favorites.  
Re-inventing the wheel... this is another concept that I've illustrated before quite a few times before.  I have a black and white poster that's been circulated for years that I re-created as a design for my Sacred Source Wheel of the Year plaque, and I also illustrated one for The Well Worn Path deck.  So I did my best to come up with a fresh approach taking my inspiration from tradition as well as continuing the garden theme that was my original inspiration. 
I have three more books to illustrate, Samhain, Yule, and Imbolc, I'll have the manuscripts from those authors later on in December, so I'm working on Magical Almanac 2016 illustrations now to have them out of the way as soon as the last manuscripts are ready.  Part of the fun of working on this project is getting to read the manuscripts for the books, I have to make sure the illustrations work with what the authors have written so I've done my best to take lots of inspiration from their work.  The authors for the first five books are Kerri Conner, Melanie Marquis, (she wrote twoDeborah Blake, and Diana Rajchel.  These are really good books, chock full of no nonsense information on each sabbat. They discuss the ways the sabbats were celebrated in the old days, and new traditions as well. There are very creative craft projects, delicious sounding recipes, loads of spells, divination, rituals, and a handy section for correspondences.  I actually can't wait to get my hands on the finished books myself.  These will be released as the seasons progress starting early next spring well ahead of each sabbat so you can read them ahead of the sabbat and take full advantage of some of these great ideas, Watch for them to come out one by one, just like the seasons turn through the Wheel of the Year.   If you want to be the first to get them as they come out next year, here's a link for pre-ordering the first in the series, Ostara, and four more are available for pre-order as well.

Which Sabbat is your favorite? Which one would you love to have more recipes, crafts, and ritual ideas for?


Monday, November 24, 2014

Join Dan in the Workshop! Project-Porcelain Magnets

We placed an order with one of our Dye Sublimation suppliers last week as we gear up for the holiday season in the workshop.  We always want to make sure that we have plenty of our blank porcelain, ceramic, metal, hardboard, shell, glass, and fabric blank gift items in stock so that we can make items to ship all over for our Etsy customers during the holidays. While we were placing an order for some extra Tea-For-One sets, we came across some really nice looking 2 x 2 porcelain tiles for making your own magnets. Dan decided these magnets would make really nice gift items,so we added them to our order.

You've seen people make magnets by printing art onto flexible magnet sheets, and decoupaging art onto wood, ceramic, or other foundations, but that's not how these are made. Our process is called Dye Sublimation, the art is printed using a specially altered printer that uses dye instead of ink, and then the image is infused into the surface of the item, in this case a porcelain tile.  This process makes the art vivid, permanent, and waterproof. Dan was kind enough to invite you into the workshop to see how he makes his magic using my artwork and his Dye Sublimation skills!

I edited the art in Photoshop to the right size and dimensions. These were printed on our Dye Sublimation printer and Dan cut them apart, and used a spray adhesive specially designed for Dye Sublimation to keep the tiles centered how he wanted them and keeping them from sliding around on the press.
Next Dan lays the tiles out on the art making sure to center the image. The art is a little bigger than the item, this is so that the art will go all the way to the edge without any gaps along the edges.
Next Dan has heated the big heat press to 400 degrees and makes sure the pressure is set right, it needs to really be tight.  It's a combination of heat and pressure that releases the dye into the special coating on the porcelain. 
He has a system, makes sure none of the paper sheets have shifted before he closes the press on them and the timer starts. That big arm on top will swing around and line up with the press bed where he's working. 
Here he is setting the time, then he pulls that big black handle down, it really takes a lot of upper body strength to close that press! I can't do it at all. Tristan and I once made Dan a shirt for his birthday, it took both of us together to close that press. 
The timer goes off, and he opens the press. (which isn't as hard as closing it, but still takes some strength)  The cover sheets, paper, porcelain tiles, and surface of the heat press are now all 400 degrees. He uses an "Ove Glove" and spatula to get the items off the press.
We got these awesome cooling racks, they're meant for cookies, but we can stack them when we're making stuff for festivals or during the holidays so we can get a lot done in a small amount of space.  It's tempting to touch them...I have to walk away for about five minutes while they cool.  Different substrates make the art look different.  For instance, hardboard tiles and aluminum give you a very sharp bold look, these porcelain tiles have a softer fairy tale quality, very pretty.
I use a strong adhesive to affix the magnets onto the back of the porcelain.  These are really strong magnets, we were very pleased. I can't stand a wimpy magnet that will only hold one piece of paper.
Look how thick the magnet and the porcelain is.  I love these, they feel very high-end , they have a nice weight to them, a lovely smooth texture to the surface, and the porcelain has a lovely sheen to it. 
Now to put them on my fridge so I can take photos to post on Etsy...um, wow. My fridge is a mess!  Hang on, let me clear off some of this stuff...what IS that under the kids art, wine or jelly?! *clean, clean, wipe, wipe*  You didn't see that, right?!
Ok, YES! This is how my fridge really looks ALL the time...artistically arranged magnets, polite notes, and a bit of nature magic at work.  (At least as far as Etsy knows, right? We won't tell the truth will we?! ) Click here to see the Etsy listing for these lovely magnets!

That's how we do it! We use that big press for almost all of our items, unless they're coffee mugs, tea-for-one sets, steins etc. We have a round press for mugs, and for some items we use silicone wraps and press them in the oven.  Each item has it's own time, temp, and pressure adjustment. We have loads of templates designed by myself and my teenage son using my artwork on our big workhorse computer that we can print out and press to make all the beautiful things in our Etsy shop.  We hope you had fun walking through the process of one of our newest items, these new magnets look amazing in the photos, but wait until you see them in person. They're fancy enough to make you want to clean off your fridge...or get someone else to do it! Dan would be happy to make a set just for you, here's where you can order a set of your own.


Thursday, November 20, 2014

Wild Persimmons After the First Frost

This summer, I discovered that we have a persimmon tree growing here at Aelfheim.  I've never eaten a persimmon, so I was delighted. After reading up on wild Missouri persimmons I learned that they are bitter and astringent if not fully ripe. Yes, I did try, I was anxious...whew, I don't recommend it, better to wait.  There is an old saying that persimmons aren't edible until after the first frost....so I waited.

Sunday night we were hit with an early snow and freezing temperatures. We didn't get as much snow as my friends in the east who can't get out their doors, but we got some snow.  I woke up this morning having been dreaming about eating persimmons, and I remembered...it was time!

I bundled up and headed out, the snow was melting and slippery as I made my way down to the persimmon tree.  Wow! A lot of creatures of the forest had gotten to them already, no doubt many had fallen to the ground and were under the snow. Most of them were too far up for me to reach, but I managed to gather seven of them.  It's ok, it was mostly culinary curiosity and many of the wild birds rely on being able to forage for things like persimmons, elderberries and other wild plants, so I left most of them to the birds.  

Now there is nothing beautiful about a wild Missouri persimmon.  They are shriveled looking things.  But I forged forth, cut one in half and examined the fruit inside.  It was soft, gooey, sticky, doesn't really sound very good does it?  I grabbed a spoon and managed to scoop the pulp away from the bitter skin and popped it into my mouth...bliss! Wow, really delicious! It's flavor was sweet and buttery, like nature created the perfect candied fruit.  If the sweetest plum nature could make had a baby with a really moist date who's uncle was a pumpkin...maybe it would taste like a persimmon, it's really not like anything I've ever eaten.  Many people have seen Asian persimmons which are very pretty and look like little pumpkins, these aren't those persimmons.  But don't judge a book by it's cover. Ugly as it is to look at, the flavor is really a treat and there's something magical about picking something that grew in the wild and eating it!
They all look like knives don't they? Well....That's because I cut them the wrong way...what a NOOB! LOL You're supposed to split the seed along the seam apparently which I'm trying to do, but it's making me nervous because I don't want to slice my finger in the process... So I'll try later and update you on how that worked out. 

I couldn't pick persimmons and eat them without examining their seeds for a weather prediction.  There is a bit of folklore that says if you cut persimmon seeds in half you can find out what kind of winter you will have in your area.  If the white inside the seed looks like a knife it means cold and ice,  Spoon shaped means lots of snow, and a fork means a dry mild winter.

So, the persimmon has magical properties, like most plants do.  According to Ozarks folklore if you eat an unripe persimmon you will change your sex,  Now I wouldn't take this literally,  however it may be a bit of useful magic for someone going through a sex reassignment procedure to help you embrace the difficult changes with a little more ease, and even to use for magic to help others accept your true self.  I personally would use a ripe persimmon though, the intention would still be there, and dears, unripe persimmons are just nasty.  I love ya more than that! Other magical properties of the persimmon include healing, and good luck!

On the magic of persimmons, wait, there's more! In addition, I want to share a bit more information that the persimmon spoke to me of in my dream.  As it reminded me that it was waiting for me in the field, ripe and lovely, I was told a story of it's magical use.  It's story was one of our status and station in life.  How we accept our position and therefore agree to it.  The persimmon's magic gives us an opportunity to help us rise above where we are, daring to dream of our own life beyond the other peoples perception of us, stretching our abilities, and boosting our status in our work, community, and life in general.  If you want to "level up" in the game of life, try looking beyond what you thought was possible, try working some magic with the persimmon.  This is a little unassuming fruit that may not appear to be much upon initial inspection, but if we look deeper we discover something amazing in inner beauty that elevates it, delightful flavor, and even wisdom that lies within.


Monday, November 17, 2014

Creating New Art for Magical Amulets

Last week I decided to create a few new designs for our line of magical mother of peal amulets.  Sometimes inspiration hits and you just have to go with it.  So I grabbed my pencil, ink pens, and colored pencils and got right to work.

I realized I didn't have a triple moon design, so I wanted a pretty stylized one. I also was inspired by watching the leaves falling here at Aelfheim this autumn, and created the Swirling Leaves Pentacle.  I also did a new Awen for my Druid friends.

First I sketch out the design with a light pencil, then I go over everything and add details using my Staedtler pigment liner ink pens.  I have a set of 0.1mm, 0.3mm, 0.5mm, and 0.7mm.  Once the ink is dry, I erase the pencil lines and scan the art.  Sometimes I clean it up a bit in Photoshop if needed, and then I print out the line art.  Occasionally I add the color right on the original ink, it just depends on whether I need to do clean-up work, or how antsy I get.
Close up of my new cimaruta design, my version of a classic Italian witchcraft and folk magic symbol.  Read about the symbolism of the cimaruta here.

I add lots of color details to the inked art, giving it additional dimension, and who doesn't love a little color?
Working on the cimaruta, Hecate's wheel, and the Horned God.  I turned the triple moon on it's end and re-designed the crescent to represent antlers. I used gold-tones for shading. See my little pillow? That's for my elbow!

I love that coloring is part of my job! When I was a little kid and my friends asked me, "What should we do today?" My answer was often, "Let's color!" And I never got wrapped up in coloring in the lines.  That's a lesson I've used in life too.  Let's face it, I've got a pretty "coloring outside the lines" kind of job I've created for myself. No, I don't use crayons any more, now it's my handy dandy Berol Prismacolor colored pencils!
Almost done adding color to the Swirling Leaves Pentacle.  Read more about this piece here.

Dan was very encouraging as the new designs came to life, as I was finishing up the first three he kept asking me, "How much longer, I want to get these scanned, printed and pressed so we can take photos before the sun goes down and get them in the Etsy shop." I was scanning the first three finished pieces and he ran back to the workshop to get the press heated up.
Above is the first sheet we printed, Dan was excited to get pressing, but I managed to snatch it away just long enough to snap a photo on the old wooden art table so you could see the size of the art next to the originals.  You may notice they're backwards, but they'll be right after they're pressed.
We print the designs to the right size for our blank mother of pearl amulets using special ink that's actually a dye. It's also printed on special paper that's designed to release the dye when  heat and pressure are applied.  The circles and ovals around the art are slightly larger that the pendants, and help us line them up correctly.
They're hot, don't touch them yet!  Dan takes them off the press with a big plastic spatula and puts them on a wire rack to cool.

Here they are cooling on the rack, too hot to touch.  We decided to make both round and oval versions of each design.

The finished Swirling Leaves Pentacle.

My finished photos from the Etsy shop, we raced outside to beat the setting sun. Natural light is the best for photographing the mother of pearl. The glimmering sheen of the shell is so pretty, but it's a challenge to capture photographically, having natural light helps capture the pearlescent quality and keeps the color accurate.

If you want one, Dan will be happy to make one for you!
click here!


Wednesday, November 12, 2014

I Dyed In My Bathtub

So we've decided to decorate our bedroom in a romantic Middle Eastern eclectic decor focusing on vibrant blues and glass greens.  I ordered a comforter and shams online that we liked, but when it arrived, the color wasn't quite what we wanted. We really were looking for a vivid blue, but it felt like a dreary color even though we liked the fabric and pattern. My solution? I decided to overdye it!

Overdying is when you take a piece of fabric, clothing or other textile that instead of being white, has some kind of already existing color and/or print to it. Overdying changes the color, but you have to have an understanding about how colors mix to get the effect you're looking for.

I was worried about using my washer because of the size of the washer vs the comforter. Anytime you dye fabric, if you don't have enough room for the fabric to move around, you can end up with uneven color, and I wanted this to be right. So I decided to dye it in my bathtub.

First, I made sure the entire set was wet, I tossed it in the tub, got it all wet, and pulled it out again to prepare the dye. So my tub is fiberglass, and they warn you that dye can stain a fiberglass tub, I don't want a blue tub, but I had a plan!  I found inspiration over at The Hip Soiree and used their technique to line my bathtub with clear plastic.  My tub is bigger than theirs, so I used a tarp instead of a shower curtain, but you get the idea.

Our teenage son came home from school and out bathroom looked a bit like Dexter's kill room! Prepare to dye!

I used hot water, a cup of salt since it's a cotton comforter, and I used 2 bottles of Rit Aquamarine, which my artists eye told me would brighten up the gray-indigo color I was starting with and give me a pretty bright blue.  I added 1 cup of salt dissolved in some hot water. Since it's cotton, it's recommended to add salt to the dye bath to help set the color.

It was like stirring a gigantic cauldron. You're supposed to keep the fabric agitating the entire time so that the color comes out even, yeeeah...I did it about 1/2 the time.  My weapon of choice was the handle end of my kitchen broom since I don't own an oar. LOL

When 1/2 hour passed, I put on my rubber gloves and pushed as much excess tarp as I could down the drain, then I poked several holes into the drain with a knife, I prayed that all the dye would go down the drain and not leak under the tarp and dye my tub.

It worked perfectly! Dan and I shoved the comforter into a plastic garbage bag and shoved it into the washer. We put it on extra large load, cold water and let it go.

I was delighted with the results! I got the pretty cheery exotic blue we wanted, and my bathtub looks just as it did when we started! Now that I know the exact color of our new bedding set, I can start looking at window treatments, paint, (oh that pink and blue wallpaper's gotta go) and accessories! Excited to see this room come together!

Here's my inspiration board on Pinterest for my Bedroom Getaway Project!


Monday, November 10, 2014

Second Halloween and The Barely Haunted Hayride

On the night of Halloween/Samhain, by daughter Brittany of Va-Voom Vintage called me to tell me that her little kiddos told her that they wanted to come over to trick or treat at my house in the country.  They remembered the fun time we had here on the Spring Equinox riding around in the tractor hunting eggs, so we devised the "Barely Haunted Hayride." It was a Halloween Redoux weekend!
Rhys didn't lick his fingers one time, which must have been hard for his little three year old candy loving heart.  As a reward I gave him the icing spatula when we were done.  I love that expression, pure bliss! That's his momma Brittany working on her Va-Voom Vintage blog and laughing at our silliness.

The first night they arrived, we had to make cupcakes!  Olivia helped me with the baking, she's a very good baker, she cracked the eggs, poured all the ingredients, and did the mixing.  My mom picked up a bunch of cool decorations half off, so I washed their little mitts and set them all up.  I iced and then passed them on to the kids to decorate.  We don't believe in coloring inside the lines, so I told them they didn't have to make it look like the box, just be creative and have fun...and no licking you fingers until we're all done! 
My little baker, the cutest little witch ever!

I left up all my Halloween/Samhain decor for the kids, I think it made the weekend more fun.
They were pretty proud of their creations.

The next day, we did the "Barely Haunted Hayride!" Rhys doesn't wear regular clothes very often these days, he's usually in either his Spider-Man or Superman costume.  For the hayride, he chose Superman, kid's pretty buff, eh?  Olivia forgot her costume, but my teenage son's girlfriend gave her a funny pink hat with ears and a face, and then she wore my feathered witch hat over that, cute as a button!

So here's how trick or treating goes at my house.  We live on a rural highway, so there is no way any trick or treaters come to my house.  Mom, Brittany, and I walked the mowed path around the field and created several "stops."  I saved the jack-o-lanterns from Halloween night, and we used them, little ghosts, and other odds and ends to decorate the stops. We also left little bags at the stops, one for each kid, filled with pre-packaged Halloween pretzels, cheese balls, (like Cheetos) a couple little dollar store toys, and some candy.  We didn't want it to be all candy, and they got some really cool stuff. The cheese balls were a big hit, I'll do those again for sure.

Grandpa Dan put them in the wagon and hooked it up to the yard tractor and drove them all around the circuit, every time they would see a stop ahead, they would yell, "Oh, stop, stop, we see something!" And he would do a whole routine, "Are you sure, should I stop here...or should I keep going?" LOL

They the little ones climbed out and grabbed their loot.  Finger traps, glow in the dark tattoos, bubbles, stuffed orangutans, and Reese's Pieces, what a fun time!

My Little Pony figures awaited them at the last stop. Rhy's favorite is Rainbow Dash, if anyone ever saw this kid run, they would understand why, Rainbow dash is the fastest, and so is Rhys!

But even the quickest has to slow down sometime,  Poor little guy totally crashed in the car on the way home with his Spider-Man costume on, and his "Teddy Monkey" he got while trick or treating. I wonder if he was dreaming about the Barely Haunted Hayride?

And me? Did I run around the house cleaning up candy wrappers and wiping off sticky fingerprints on Sunday as they were on their way home?  Oh, hell no! Frozen pizza in bed, Farscape, and pajamas were the only things on the schedule that evening.

And that's how you do Second Halloween.


Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Moroccan Jar Lanterns and the Impending Halloween 2

It's been over a year since a moved into our country home of Aelfheim and while many things are organized and set up how we want them, many still are not. Our bedroom, while the furniture is set up, there is really not much decor going on in there. The walls need to be painted, (80's  pink and blue wall paper) many of our pretties need to be unpacked, and it's really not got much style.  I've decided, and Dan is going along with the idea, that I'm inspired by a romantic Middle Eastern eclectic decor for our bedroom. I've found a really cool comforter online, but once it arrived, it's not quite the right shade of blue, I want to brighten it up, so before I move forward, I'm going to over-dye it, I want to see what shade it will be when I'm done before I choose paint or other accessories.  More on that next week.
Two spaghetti sauce jars and a pickle jar, getting all fancy!

I love those cool Moroccan lanterns, and I've been eyeing some, but I'm on a tight budget. I saw these cool jar DIY versions online, so I decided to give it a try. I traced the designs using a crayon onto a few jars, then used Tulip gold dimensional paint to pipe the designs onto the jars.  I found some colored paint made just for tinting jars made by Mod Podge, and I think they turned out pretty cool! I'll add some electric votives with timers and these will look cool on the low dresser where our TV is.s
I've got to fix the blue one a bit at the top. The blue paint had dried out a bit and I had to add some water, so the consistency was a little off. Overall, I think they turned out pretty cool, I think I'll start saving jars and make more.

In other news, Samhain came and went. We had teenagers here for Halloween, it was a great time, tons of treats, deli sandwiches, and mom made meatball soup with "creepy pasta" you know, that Halloween pasta shaped like bats and pumpkins. Anyway, lots of fun, everyone had a great time!

But all my Halloween stuff is still up! Why? Well, on Halloween while my little grands were trick or treating with their parents, little Olivia said, " We want to trick or treat in Me-Maws field!" They remembered the egg hunt we did for the spring equinox when Dan pulled them in a wagon with the yard tractor in the field, and they found eggs and candy.  So next weekend we'll have a "barely haunted hayride" in the field for the little ones, with stops for them to jump out of the wagon and get treats and toys. So we're having "Second Halloween" just for them!

I even have a couple more pumpkins to carve!

This week my mom and I gathered the last of the herbs and I hung mine in the kitchen window to dry. It smells wonderful when I stand at the sink.

Summers end is here, watching the leaves as they fall from the trees, reminding us that letting to can be beautiful. 

Brightest Blessings!