Utube video for the altered bottle/jar challenge

Here is the utube video of the challenge entries for altered bottles/jars. This was such a great challenge and all of the entries from Melange team members and friends are just beautiful.

"Mix It Up with Melange" Challenge ~ FRESH

Welcome...everyone is invited to join in the challenge. You do not have to be on the team or an Etsy seller to create a piece of art with the week's theme and show it on this blog.

Thanks to Brenda the prompt for this week's challenge is FRESH. Create a piece of mixed media art using this prompt as inspiration. When you are finished follow these simple rules:

1) Post your finished piece on your blog, website, Flickr page, Etsy or elsewhere INCLUDING a link back to the Melange Team blog.

2) Comment to this blog post INCLUDING the link to where we can find your beautiful piece.

3) Please link to a static page

(What’s a static page? An example of a static link is http://www.melange.com/ticket/2009/04/22/mix-it-up-challenge/, whereas an example of a link to the main website is http://www.melange.com)

4) Come back often to check out all the terrific work that will be submitted. :)

Thanks for joining in the fun !

(Here is a great tutorial on CREATING HOT LINKS)

MEIKONINGIN is our featured artist with this wonderful interpretation of FRESH. Thanks so much !


Product Reviews

"Fabulous Fabric Art with Lutradur" by Lesley Riley is an all-encompassing how-to guide to working with this revolutionary product. That’s the tag-line on the book cover -- “Revolutionize Your Craft Experience,” and I certainly see how this could be so, through the addition of Lutradur to your arsenal.

Lesley has organized the book into two sections: one containing “27 Things To Do with Lutradur” and the second devoted to 14 projects using Lutradur, all with detailed step-by-step instructions and materials listed.

“A versatile cross between fabric and paper,” Lutradur can be colored, stitched, fused, glued, printed or transferred upon. And that’s just the beginning. It comes in 8 1/2” x 11” sheets; regular (70 gram) and heavyweight (100 gram.)

In working with Lutradur, I added color with acrylic paints, oil pastels and water-soluble crayons. I stamped upon it with Staz-On inks and did rubbings over raised elements, using oil pastels, to add texture to the Lutradur. I think I was most impressed by the printing of images onto the Lutradur via my ink-jet printer. I experimented with printing on treated and untreated Lutradur and definitely like the crispness of the images on the treated Lutradur better. (It can be treated with matte medium, gesso or as I did, spray matte sealant.) I also printed onto painted (and then sealed) Lutradur and really liked the effect.

I certainly only scratched the surface of the possibilities Lutradur offers and the techniques which Lesley Riley guides the reader through in her book.

Although the non-fray quality of Lutradur is what attracts so many artists and quilters, I actually would have liked a torn edge on some of my Lutradur pieces. However, one can manipulate the Lutradur with heat to achieve a less than sharp edge or lacy quality.

Lesley Riley has succeeded in writing a thorough resource for newcomers to this “revolutionary” product. Readers can take their experimentation with Lutradur as far as they like; using as few or as many materials and techniques as suits them. There are enough techniques and sample projects to keep multiple levels of artists interested.

“Ready To Go” Blank Canvas Book

For the artist who likes to add a little stitching to their altered books, the canvas book is a wonderful product. This “ready to go” book measures 8 1/2” x 11” and has six pocketed pages (which can be cut to make a 12 page book.) The unprimed 100% cotton canvas is ready for all you can dish out -- painting, stamping, embellishing, journaling and more. The zig-zagged edges prevent fraying and there is a spine that can accommodate a dowel should that be desired.

Before starting to alter my canvas book I cut it in half to make two 6 1/2” x 8 1/2” books. I also cut open the pockets to give myself 12 pages (including front and back covers) to decorate. Because I cut the book down in size, I went around the cut edges with a zig-zag stitch.

I used a variety of mediums to color the pages: acrylic paints, oil pastels and water soluble crayons. I collaged papers and Lutradur onto pages with gel medium, stitched, stamped and sewed on buttons.

Canvas books hold a host of possibilities. I can envision creating books to commemorate special occasions such as weddings or babies’ births. They would also be a great venue for art journaling or could be used for children’s art projects.

Product Images © C&T Publishing
Artwork © Nancy Lefko

"Mix It Up with Melange" Challenge ~ TIMELESS

Welcome...everyone is invited to join in the challenge. You do not have to be on the team or an Etsy seller to create a piece of art with the week's theme and show it on this blog.

Thanks to Karen the prompt for this week's challenge is TIMELESS. Create a piece of mixed media art using this prompt as inspiration. When you are finished follow these simple rules:

1) Post your finished piece on your blog, website, Flickr page, Etsy or elsewhere INCLUDING a link back to the Melange Team blog.

2) Comment to this blog post INCLUDING the link to where we can find your beautiful piece.

3) Please link to a static page

(What’s a static page? An example of a static link is http://www.melange.com/ticket/2009/04/22/mix-it-up-challenge/, whereas an example of a link to the main website is http://www.melange.com)

4) Come back often to check out all the terrific work that will be submitted. :)

Thanks for joining in the fun !

(Here is a great tutorial on CREATING HOT LINKS)

Janet AKA Paper Dreamer is our featured artist with her wonderful interpretation of TIMELESS. Thanks so much !

Image © Paper Dreamer

Melange Featured on ByHand.Me

Thanks to Karen for creating a lovely showcase of Melange members' artwork for a ByHand.Me spotlight. If you visit the site and click on each image it will take you to that artist's Etsy page.

Thanks, Karen.

Altered bottle or jar challenge

Here we go. The latest mixed media challenge for Melange team members (but actually anybody can join in) is off and running...
Due on the 22nd of January. Make your altered art, post the url in the comments section here under this post on the 22nd to be eligible to win (drawing, not judging) a book donated by our LindaB (MidwestieLady) and a second prize from TwoCoolTexans (that would be me).

Linda has donated a terrific book called Printmaking and Mixed Media by Dorit Elisha. It's good, I have a copy. And, I am donating a book called Mixed Mania by Debbie Crane and Cheryl Prater. I have two copies (don't ask, happens more than I would want anybody to know).

So, two chances, lots of fun and can't wait to see what we all come up with.

Newest Melange team utube video--Hooray

Here is our latest video.

Artist Profile: Elizabeth Johnson of JEPortraits and WindandHoneyCreations

Welcome fellow creators to 2010 and our first Artist Profile of the new year. Over the past few weeks we've had several new members join the Melange Team, and over time I would like to introduce you to each of them and their work. If you recall, our last profile featured one of our new members, Heidi Rand of GardenDelightsArts and her scrumptious textile beauties. However, this month I step back "in time", so to speak, and reintroduce you to one of our long time family members. This is a trend I'd like to continue: a bit of a criss-cross with the old and new. Sound familiar? Perhaps like a trend many of us follow in our work? Ah ha!

Now, without further ado, please help me welcome our good friend, Elizabeth, pictured here with one of her many fur-babies:

Elizabeth & Tara

For those of you who already know Elizabeth, you know that she is a great lover and advocate of animals and that she uses this passion to fuel her artwork. This is clearly seen in works displayed in both shops she curates on Etsy: WindandHoney and JEJohnsonPortraits . WindandHoney is primarily her collection of mixed media and collage work, and JEJohnsonPortraits is a newly curated shop where she has set aside specific space for the incredibly intricate and life-like animal portraits at which she is so gifted. Let's take some time to get to know this wonderful asset to our team a bit better:

*Where do you call home? Are you married? Do you have children?

I live in a small community outside of Oklahoma City.  My husband and I have been married over 30 years and we have 2 children. Our son is 27 and makes his living as a chef in a high end Japanese steakhouse. Our daughter is 24 and is in graduate school studying sculpting.

*When did  your “artistic life” begin?

I can look back and see a thread of artistic expression running through my life from a very young age. But I was not really aware of it at the time.  Here is a little mixed media piece I did at 11 years old. I was bored and my mom handed me a junk box and told me to make something. 

Tiny Kitty Collage © Elizabeth Johnson

There was a time in my early adult years that I did feel a calling toward something different, something more than what I was living at the time.  I found that unusual because I was not really dissatisfied with my life.  After some time of soul searching  I realized my niche was to be art that centered on animals.

*Have you had formal art training?

No I have not had formal art training.  I am almost completely self taught. So, of course, I do not feel conventional schooling is necessary for one to be a “true artist”.  However as I have watched my daughter complete her BFA and now go on to graduate school, I can definitely see the benefits of the opportunity for that formal training.

*You have a very distinctive style in animal portraiture. When and how did you find this to be the primary subject and focus of your work?

Animal’s faces have always captured my heart and they were the first thing I wanted to paint when I began.  I have never grown tired of looking into their eyes.  

*I would imagine it is quite a daunting task to transform an often “flat” photo into a viable, lifelike rendering of a loved one’s companion, especially considering the emotional connections and attachments of the clients. Can you share some of this process with us?

It is definitely a challenge because the client knows their beloved pet’s face so well. Occasionally I do portraits for someone who is close enough that I can go and see the pet in person.  That always helps. The first thing I do is to create a much larger photograph so I can see the intricate details of the eyes and the unique quirks of the way the coat grows. Then after sketching out the basic outline and getting all the parts placed where they go, I completely finish the eyes.  Once the eyes are done, the portrait has become a “someone”. For the rest of the face, I just follow what those eyes tell me to do. 

Domino © JEJohnsonPortraits

  *Besides the Melange Mixed Media Team, you are also a member of Etsy For Animals. It’s obvious your love of both the arts and animals goes beyond the palette. In what ways do you hope your work makes a difference/impact?  

As a member of EFA/Artists Helping Animals, a percentage of the profit of all of my sales goes to an animal charity.  My chosen charities are listed in my shop profile.  I absolutely love that the sale of something I have created produces money that will help a needy animal to have shelter, food, and kind care. One of my artistic goals is to show the delights of life.  We have so much darkness and sadness around us.  I choose to focus on what warms our hearts and feeds our souls.  My hope is that when someone looks at something I have created they will be reminded of or perhaps see for the first time, some of the wonders of creation and animals.   And I hope it will make them smile and just perhaps even change their day.

7th Day © WindandHoney


*Do you work outside the home and if so, what do you do?

I teach art classes to children and to adults.  I enjoy watching the kids experience the freedom of creativity.  Most of my adult students have no previous training.  I love watching their faces when they realize they have accomplished something they thought they could not.

*When do you find personal art time, and how do you balance both aspects of your life?

Well, that’s always a challenge.  One of my goals for the new year is to actually take a day off each week.  That would be when I would have the opportunity to do personal projects that are just for fun. I have started keeping an art journal and that is also helpful in providing some personal creative time.

*Where and how does Etsy fit in?

Etsy was my first serious adventure into online marketing.  My daughter is the one that told me about it and insisted I join.  I am very thankful.  I have learned so very much in the last year.  I’m not sure I’m experienced enough here to be giving too much advise.  But as an artist in the marketing world, I’d say to find your voice and stick with it.  While it is good to be attentive to the colors and trends that are popular, I would say don’t produce just for the market.  It will crush your creative soul.
*What does a typical “art day” look like from the outside?

I am so fortunate that the house we live in now has a wonderful corner room upstairs that is my studio.  I have windows covering 2 walls with oodles of natural light.  When I look out I can see the treetops and the backyard where my Great Pyrenees might be playing if she is not sleeping in the studio.  My 2 cats are usually in the studio sleeping in the window, a basket, suitcase, drawer, MY chair, or on top of me.  If they are awake they are watching out the window for one of the squirrels to run by on the outside ledges.

Dare 2 Be Free © WindandHoney

I love so many kinds of music.  I listen to different kinds depending on what I am working on.  If I am doing a portrait, I like to listen to something soothing like the soundtrack to Finding Neverland.  If I am working in collage I listen to music that is more energizing.  Often my choice is Nicole C Mullen.  And lately I’ve been listening to some CDs I found of African music.  I really love that.

*What are your long term goals? Where do you see yourself in 5 years? In 10 years?

I want to find ways to incorporate my portraits more into my mixed media collage work. I’m interested in publishing some of my mixed media work.  And I am slowly working on writing a book.  It is not an art book.  But I hope to incorporate some of my art into it. Some children’s books may be a spin off from it too. I have so many creations in my head. I think my overall goal is to become more focused and get those things out of my head and onto the canvas.

*Tell us something we don’t know about Elizabeth.   

I like to watch movies that were produced in the 1930’s and 1940’s and watch the background.  I like to see what items they used to decorate and how they placed them on the wall or table.  It isn’t always how we stereotypically think they did it then.

Before I close this interview I'd like to add a personal note on Elizabeth's incredible work. Months ago I approached Elizabeth about doing a custom portrait for my Honey as a Christmas present. You see, he'd lost his beloved Shepherd (and best friend) of 15 years just days before last Christmas. I sent Elizabeth several photos of Sierra ranging in ages and physical stances not realizing how difficult this had made her job. Had I sent just one photo and said, "Okay, draw THIS", she'd had a much easier task. But, as is her way, Elizabeth went diligently to work, and through a few interactions with me along the way, produced a portrait that captured all of Sierra's attributes from playful pup to wise older mate, and my Honey and I couldn't have been more pleased (nor teary-eyed) with the outcome:

Sierra © JEJohnsonPortraits

(Insert grand applause here!)

Thank you, Elizabeth, for taking time from your busy schedule to spend a little time with us at the beginning of this new year. We all hope for you the very best in the year ahead!

For more on Elizabeth and her work, please visit:

Elizabeth's Website

or her Personal Blog

Our next Artist Profile will be featured on Monday, February 1st. The very best to you and yours in this spring of grand new adventures!

Crayon Fun

I wanted to do a tutorial for those of you who were wanting to try encaustic art this year. But, I wanted to do something really simple that would give you a "taste" of working with wax, without the investment. That way, you can see how you and the wax feel about each other. Also, I wanted to incorporate some stitching if I could, so those of you who are chomping at the bit to dust off your sewing machines and try some new projects, well, that also.

So, here is what I have come up with. Crayon and stitching. You will see some of the fun and some of the drawbacks of working with wax, while working with the least expensive wax there is--children's crayons.

You will need an iron to do this. Don't of course use your iron that you use for your clothing cause the iron will never, ever be the same again. That wax finds every little bitty crack and cranny and gets in there. And yes, it does tend to reappear later. So, if you don't have a craft iron, well, maybe your Goodwill or SalvationArmy store has one, cheap. And, you do need a sewing machine to do this project, but your sewing machine will not suffer. The crayon paper sews through very very easily.

So, you need:

Paper (I just used a piece of paper from a Sketch pad)
sewing machine
rubber stamps
Crayola crayons (I love, love, love the metallic ones and the gel ones and used these in this project as well as just regular blue colors)
a craft iron
now this is tricky if you don't sew--you need some iron on fusible interfacing
craft glue or gel medium
Either Fluid Chalk inkpad in Blackbird color, or you can use Black Stazon inkpad

So, here we go to make a Hugs card.

First, take your crayons and one at a time, just scribble across the paper randomly in what I call chunks. You need to leave quite a bit of wax down so don't be picky, just get down some color areas.

Next, pick out some stamps that you love and stamp the paper randomly. I used Colorbox Fluid Chalk Inkpad in Blackbird color. But, you can also use black Stazon inkpad. It just isn't quite as sharp on the crayon.

Cut your crayon paper into random pieces. You might want to cut some smaller than others, cut different shapes. Lay them out on the fusible interfacing and iron them onto the interfacing with the craft iron. You might want to measure a piece of interfacing the size of your card front so that you won't make a lot of extra and you can see pretty much how the finished card is going to look. Now......why didn't we just glue the pieces down on the card. Well, that is the thing about wax. It doesn't stick to anything but other wax and then it has to be fused to that layer underneath. Ahhhh, the #1 lesson about encaustics. Wax is onery about who it associates with. So, by fusing it to the interfacing, you have trapped the wax and when we are finished stitching, you can just glue the interfacing to your card. No wax touching your card.

Once all of your pieces are fused down to the interfacing, take it to your sewing machine and zig zag stitch around all the pieces. You don't have to be careful. And, you can pull those extra threads to the back when you are finished sewing. Here is the front:

And, here is the back:

Cut your artwork to fit the front of your card.

Now, with a straight stitch, be sure to stitch all the way around the crayon art. Don't skip this. If you do, the interfacing where there is no zig zag stitching will pull away from your card later on. So, be sure to do this step.

I added a stamped image of Here's A Hug from me at this point to the artwork. Just zig zag stitched it onto the piece.

Glue with a good heavy glue or you can of course use gel medium, the artwork which is now finished to your cardfront.

OR, if you want, you can take a couple of the crayons, hold them directly to the hot craft iron and add some neat "drips" to the piece.

Finished. Hope you like it. And, oh by the way, here is a "Hug" from me.


New Year's resolutions?

No, not really. No more at least will I do the "I am going to lose weight, start exercizing". Nope, give up on that. I am only going to make art "resolutions". Well, sort of resolutions. What I aspire to do in the coming year about art, my favorite subject. More likely to get those done than the exercize stuff. Although I need to do those of course.

So, I asked my fellow Melange team members to give us a few comments about what they are thinking about the New Year with regards to their art. And here is some things that they said. I think I love each and every comment.

Jodi said on her blog "art is food for my soul" or "art feeds my soul". I may not have the quote perfect, but boy it did hit me like a ton of bricks. Yes, those of us who do our art, no matter whether we sell anything or not, absolutely feel that way. "Art Feeds Our Soul".

said "Goals for this year include taking a few on-line classes... Most important will be starting an art journal. I would love to learn more about digital art and altered photos.

Janet said this "My thoughts for the New Year are to focus on using what I have in that room of mine" and "to finish Nat's memoies". "I would like to be published also".

This from Nancy "Hmmmm...thinking of art goals for 2010. For sure I will continue submitting art and article queries to magazines; offer a NEW workshop at Creative Worksops and definitely, definitely learn to do transfers!! I bought the book, so now no more excuses !!"

Our newest member, Erin said this "I need to go buy a huge jar of focus for myself in the new year". (I know Erin, so much art, so little time")

LindaB shared "My goals in 2010 are to continue to explore mixed media collages, work with fabrics, explore oil painting, and decide which style and type of art makes my heart sing."

Heidi offered "Goals for 2010 are to try to get an article published and to keep shopping around my book (still haven't heard yes or no!) Also to look into licensing my fabric designs. I've already set up a schedule for more teaching, so that will happen, and also a setup to do teaching online. As for techniques, I want to do more of the printing on unusual surfaces that I've started this year, including printing on skins with Digital Grounds"

LizAnna, who we are so happy to have join us on the Techniques thread and the newest member of the Melange team said this "Yippee, a new year! Better use of my sketchbook and experimenting with what I already have are high on the list. Oh yeah, and that fitness thing...."

From Maureen "In 2010 I hope to get into my polymer clay and transfer techniques - right now I am exploring Tim Holtz's alcohol inks and stamping on dominoes coloring with inks or chalk"

offered "My plans for the new year are not specific but I do intend to do more work with fabrics and create a diversity of products"

Elizabeth offered a wonderful poem by RW Emerson which can be read on her blog www.windandhoney.blogspot.com

I know, wants to enter into the world of magazine art publishing and to make use of her collection of materials that can be repurposed into beautiful art projects. Also a quote from Pat "One of my goals though, is to diversify "the routine" to liven up the mundane".......(you know, I feel that way also....different, change direction, do something different)

as we all know, is writing a book which will be finished in this year of 2010 and offered this for all of us "Dream BIG in 2010"

Bren , who's always been a writer, has become more interested in Art Journaling (especially with the inspirations of Pam and Nancy), and so incorporating more visual art with her writing is a primary goal throughout the new year, as well as continued focus on learning new techniques and stocking her Etsy shop.