Difficult times

I’ve been struggling with depression and fear and all those types of things, which I’m sure a lot of us have during this time. Moments that leave me without any inspiration at all. It’s been hard. My heart goes out to all of us struggling and those who are suffering the most.

I’m learning to let myself feel whatever it is that I’m feeling and not fight it. No judgement. Create when I can and not pressure myself to produce, produce, produce.

I’m trying to take each moment as it comes.

Take in the joys.

Take in the sorrows.

Let the anger and fear roll through me.

And breathe in hope, when I can.

Be gentle with yourselves, my friends.

Lemon curd cheesecake

This year marks the ten year anniversary of the artists’ group, Colony of Coastside Artists, CoCA for short. To celebrate, I made a lemon curd cheesecake and brought it to our meeting.

The piped trim is sour cream buttercream frosting.
The crust is the classic graham cracker crumbs with butter.
I made lemon curd for the first time for this cake!
I had never attempted cheesecake before and this was almost a disaster! I was using a no-bake recipe and couldn’t for the life of me get the filling to thicken up and set. I finally moved it to the stovetop and added agar agar.
I was worried how it would turn out, particularly the texture, but it was well received at the CoCA meeting.

Congratulations to CoCA and especially Patt Sheldon who runs the group nearly single handedly! It’s been wonderful being part of the group and I applaud all the effort that goes into it.

A Taste of Art for the Holidays

I had my first “in person” art show at the Half Moon Bay Library on December 7th and 8th with the Colony of Coastside Artists. It was a blast! I had never met and spoken to so many people about my artwork – and they were all so supportive and kind! My husband, Nick, acted as my spokesperson when my shyness threatened to send me inside my shell and I was honored to make connections with so many fascinating people. I even got to hear an octopus story!

The library is gorgeous. The natural light from all the windows showed off our art beautifully. And the librarians were hospitable heroes! They made the entire event seamless and fun.

The first day was rainy.

I made cranberry and pecan pinwheel cookies! And chocolate chip cookies too, though they’re not as photogenic.

A heartfelt THANK YOU to all the visitors who came, all the artists who participated, and all the library staff who helped pull off a wonderful show!

Getting Organized

I finally have flat storage for my artwork!

FlatArtStorage2

This is a huge milestone in my life. I have wanted flat storage for ages and never had any. My artwork has been folded, tucked into sketchbooks and paperpads, rolled, and stacked in horrible places for years. I even had a mold/mildew incident!

This set of ten drawers is a miracle! I found them for free — someone in the neighborhood was clearing out their barn. I couldn’t believe my luck!

I jumped in the van and provided vague directions to my husband up a narrow twisty road to the old barn. The drawers were much bigger than I had imagined. We somehow wrestled them into the back of the van — they just barely fit! We had less than an inch clearance.

Getting them into my bedroom was a herculean task. Big thanks to my husband, Nick, who helped me orchestrate the dismantlement, re-assembly, repeated dismantlement, and final re-assembly. Dad, Mom, and my twin sister all pitched in too. I needed all hands on deck to get this thing figured out. Thank you all! I would still be crying on the floor without your guys’ help!

Now I can simply open a drawer and place my finished work inside. It is a REVELATION! I feel so liberated!

Protect your hands

Needle felting is hard on your hands. The repetitive motion of stabbing the needle into the wool is not only a hazard for your fingertips — those needles are sharp! — but it can be a strain on your wrists and finger joints, especially if you are working on a project for any extended period of time. Sitting for hour after hour stabbing at a clump of wool can lead to aches going up into your arms and your back as well.

Here I’ll share with you a few of the things I do to try to help prevent these aches, or in the cases where it seems inevitable, at least recover from them. If you have more ideas, please share them in the comments.

Let’s do whatever we can to make needle felting a more fun and less painful experience.

THIMBLES. I recommend always using thimbles to guard against stray pokes. As noted above, these needles are sharp. I have drawn blood more times than I care to count, even while wearing thimbles. Without them, my fingers would be riddled with scars. Even if I’m just going to do a few “touch up” pokes, I put my thimbles on. It’s the best policy.

I like to use leather thimbles so that I can manipulate the wool with relative ease and feel where exactly the needle is while still being well protected. You can find these thimbles in the quilting section of most craft stores and there are many online sources for them as well.

NimbleThimble
Nimble Thimble from JOANN Fabric and Crafts

WORK SURFACE. Using a pad of some kind as a work surface. This is something that I moved away from and then returned to throughout my needle felting life. I have learned the deeper wisdom of it over the years. Not only does the pad provide protection against the sharp needle stabbing into your leg or any other appendage, it lets your supporting hand, the one not doing the stabbing, rest. I felt a lot of long and thin shapes, like snonkey eyestalks and tapir stripes, and I often hold the strip of wool in between my thumb and finger while I stab at it. So exhausting! My left hand quickly cramps up. I’ve found it is so much easier on the hand to let the wool rest on the work surface and hold it minimally in place.

There are different types of work surfaces to use with needle felting. When I first began felting, I used a piece of foam. I didn’t like it because it crumbled after being poked so many times. It also made loud noises whenever the needle went into the foam, so pretty much … Every. Single. Second. I was working on my project. Maddening. Then for a while I used a pillow, which got wrecked in short order. Now, after years of not using any work surface at all, I use a Woolbuddy, which is actually itself made of  densely felted wool. I highly recommend it.

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Woolbuddy on Amazon.com

STRETCHES. Taking the time in the morning to do a few stretches and exercises to specifically strengthen your hands and fingers can really help. Every day before beginning my felting session I spend about a minute opening and closing my hands in fits in rapid succession. After the minute is up, I roll my wrists in circles and shake my hands out till they feel comfortable again. This has really helped stave off aches in my hands and wrists.

Here is an excellent short video for more great exercises: exercises for tendinitis (tendonitis) or carpal tunnel (cps)

Another video that I’ve found helpful: Yoga for Wrists & Fingers – Yoga for Wrist Cramps & Carpal Tunnel

When I’ve overdone it and my hands and shoulders are aching, yoga in general has been very healing for me. Try a few different things and find what works best for you.

TAKING BREAKS. This is an important one to keep in mind when you’re in the middle of a project and want to get “just one more” piece of it done. If you’ve been at it for more than an hour, take a little break and rest your hand. Get up and get a glass of water, pet the cat, or simply daydream for a moment. It will really help give your hands that little bit of recovery that enables you to get that much more done when you can come back to it fresh.

 

Those are the major things I can recommend to help you with this fantastic hobby. I’d love to learn more methods so let me know any good tips and tricks you’ve figured out in the comments.

Sand Snake

One of the many blessings of our life is that the beach is only a short walk from home. I adore the ocean and the sand and the sea shells and the wildlife, even the smell of drying seaweed. I love it. One thing I do not delight in, however, is sand-filled wind. The gusts can make the sand hit you with stinging force. On such a windy day, I recommend you stay home! But if you do forge ahead, take a moment to shape the sand into the dangerous entity it is.

Nick emerges from the belly of the snake

Sand snake close up