Sunday, June 28, 2009

Design Style Guide Giveaway

I'm a proud member of the Etsy Design Style Guide Team. The team is now sponsoring giveaways every two weeks from members of the DSG team. The current giveaway is from Woodsheddesigns - a $30 credit and free shipping. Lindy creates the most gorgeous log cabin quilt table runners! This beauty is just in time for the Fourth of July:
Here's the link to find instructions to enter the giveaway:

Hurry-hurry - the giveaway ends on July 1. Good luck!!

My Etsy Shop Gets Another Bright Idea Makeover

Nothing is easier than being busy and nothing is more difficult than being effective. ~ R. Alex MacKenzie

Whew! I have been working on a bunch of both large and small tweaks to my Etsy shop - I touched pretty much everything, focusing mostly on redoing the section categories and tweaking all keywords, etc., to hopefully maximize SEO. I spent about 12 hours straight on it yesterday - my eyes were bugging out of my head at that point!

I think I'm done. And now I can concentrate on filling some of those categories. I want to get a few lines of greeting cards going and I'm going to put together some photo collections at reduced prices. (Now that I've said it I have to do it.)

I also have ideas for a few special features on this blog. So stay tuned, folks -- all I need is a few more hours in the day! You too, huh?

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Whirling Colors in Mid-Flight

“That’s when I saw you balancing on a high wire without a net while painting the sky in a kaleidoscope of color …” "And There Were Wings" - Natasha Reilly-Moynihan

That's the theme for this week's Thursday Sweet Treat,
Here's my submission:

“Kaleidoscope of Color”

"When I first heard this theme I was a little stumped for ideas. Then I remembered a line from one of Natasha’s poems (“And There Were Wings”) that has stuck with me since I read it: “That’s when I saw you balancing on a high wire without a net while painting the sky in a kaleidoscope of color …” (I’m beginning to think that Natasha is my muse!) This is a digital collage print using my background images in layers and then applying Photoshop effects."

I'm not sure I'm 100% happy with this image. I feel like it still needs something. I won't post it in my Etsy shop unless I'm happier with it. What do you think?

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

A Midwest Visit

I finally was able to sort out my photos from last week's trip to Wisconsin and Illinois to visit my sister. We spent some time in Galena, Illinois, a place I have wanted to visit for quite awhile.

It was a solid three hour drive from Milwaukee so we didn't get to Galena until around 1:00 p.m. We spent the afternoon hitting the shops on - what else? - Main Street. We stopped for ice cream, then for chocolate, and, of course, to a cute bar for a drink.

After a few hours, we found out that all the stores close at 5:00 p.m. - go figure. Strange for a tourist area! So we headed back to our hotel and found a great Italian restaurant nearby for dinner.

We planned to go back to Galena the next day, and we did - starting with breakfast at a place a friend told me had the best coffee he ever tasted. Arrgghhh - contrary to what the tourist brochure said, they don't serve breakfast. (The coffee was good; maybe not the best ever, though.) So off we went back to Main Street, and by this point we were starting to get rained on. The weather report was ominous with severe weather heading east, so we decided to cut our visit short and head east ourselves to perhaps get ahead of the bad weather. We had also decided earlier to make another stop on the way back.

Have you ever heard of The House on the Rock in Spring Green, Wisconsin? Now a week later, I still can't decide what I think of it. It's one of the most oddly interesting places I have ever seen, the singular vision of a man named Alex Jordan. The book I bought in their gift shop put a nice face on him, but it didn't really tell me what I wanted to know about this man, who I think must have been quite eccentric. And the book also didn't tell me enough about the sheer numbers of collections contained in this place. It did tell me that the entire place was built without a blueprint - a fact I didn't find surprising after I had walked through it! And this: "Alex Jordan was always - always - on the lookout for things. Often there didn't seem to be a plan, or even a rhyme or reason. If something was unique, interesting or unusual, there was a good chance he wanted it."

(A word of caution if you do visit: there's three sections to see, and if you sign up for all three you will have walked a total of 2.5 miles! And you go up, up, up, then down, down, down, then around and around. And most of it in very dim light. It certainly put my bad back to the test.)

It's hard to describe. There's every kind of collection you could imagine in here - dolls, weapons, stained glass, bronze statues, doll houses, a three story wall of rare books, organs, grand pianos, etc. etc. etc. - and that's just a start.

All throughout the House is probably the largest collection of animated and automated music machines, with mannequin musicians "playing." Now this started to get a little creepy. Ominous sounding organ music and all those animated mannequins in the shadows started to make us feel like we had walked into the Twilight Zone! Here's a full orchestra:
The one exhibit I was most anxious to see was the "world's largest carousel." I thought that might be a good photo op, and it was. What I was surprised to find out is that this carousel was built entirely on the premises and has never been ridden by anyone! "It boasts over 20,000 lights and 269 hand-crafted animals, ... It measures 35 feet tall, 80 feet wide, weighs 35 tons and took 10 years to complete." The animals are about 6 rows deep.
While I was touring the exhibits, I assumed that all of it was collected from elsewhere. But it turns out that it's a mixture of real antiques with other items built right on the premises. Mr. Jordan apparently didn't like to travel either, so anything he collected he purchased almost entirely on the phone!

All in all, it was an interesting visit. But I'll think twice the next time about that 2.5 miles!

My sister was then subjected to my own artist-quirkiness, when I made her stop at this abandoned garage so I could take photos.

After all that, we spent two days at my sister's condo planning how to redecorate her bedroom, hanging pictures, and rearranging her collections. (That girl has more tchotckes and framed stuff than I've ever seen. I thought I was bad ...) I now have a pile of lovely blue and white fabrics to make a bedspread, faux headboard and pillows for her bed. I see a sewing marathon in my future ...

If you've ever been to The House on the Rock I would love to hear what you thought about it. Interesting? Fascinating? Weird? Quirky? Or all that?

Monday, June 22, 2009

No place like home

There's a place where you can march to the beat of your own drummer - because it's home. Author unknown

Don't get me wrong - it's great to be home but I had a wonderful time with my sister. We had some fun - Galena, IL and another stop I'll tell you about later - and we had some work - hanging pix, craft painting, shopping for fabric and accessories for her bedroom. I came home with fabric to make a bedroom quilt, pillow covers, pillows to hang from a rod behind her bed, and a bunch of toss pillows for her. On the schedule today is to clean and oil my sewing machine to get ready for a sewing marathon!

I also took almost 300 - yes! - pix. Brilliant me - I forgot my camera for our full day in Galena and the next morning when we went back it was pouring rain. So I won't have as many photos from there that I had hoped for. I was interested in not only "vacation" photos, but photos I can use in my digital collages. I need time to sort my photos and probably delete some, I'm sure. I do love digital cameras for that ability alone. No more fussing with pix for fear of wasting money. Now I just shoot and shoot and shoot.

Anyway, bear with me while I decompress from the trip. Hope you all had a wonderful weekend!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Special Day for Dads

A truly rich man is one whose children run into his arms when his hands are empty. – Author unknown

My Dad has been gone many years now and I miss both him and my Mom so much. I often wonder how my relationship would be with them today, now that I'm so much older and wiser (?) and understand so much more than I did when they were alive.

So - if you still have your father with you, enjoy today with him, whether it's in person, or on the phone, or even via email. And if your dad is no longer with you for whatever reason, have a peaceful thought for him today.




Saturday, June 20, 2009

Writing from Somewhere in Wisconsin

Here's the good news: This tiny village my sister lives in has wireless internet access! Here's the bad news: We have been way too busy - going and doing and enjoying and talking and shopping - for me to spend time online! I'm scheduled to fly home on Sunday so I'll see you next week with photos and musings.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

"It's not enough to be busy. The question is: what are you busy about?" ~ Henry David Thoreau

I fly tonight to Wisconsin to spend a few days with my sister. Just in time - I think I need to back off a little from my studio and my Etsy shop to gain some perspective. I have been so busy, but lately I have been asking myself that question: what am I busy about? At the end of the day why do I always feel I haven’t accomplished as much as I wanted to? I’m hoping to return home from this trip with a clear head, refreshed and re-energized.

As I was preparing for the trip I realized how rusty I am with travel preparations. Back in the day, in the frenzied work world, I traveled extensively and had packing down to a science. But the last time I was on a plane was in 2005; a few back surgeries have grounded me since then. It’s quite a bit different this time – I’m probably over-packing, and stressed about forgetting something. I have to keep reminding myself what I used to tell my Mom, who packed for a trip by imagining very possible item we might need and packing it: if I forget something they do have stores in Milwaukee!

The trip has a purpose – I promised my sister that I would help her decorate her new condo and she moved in two years ago! She's been very patient. I’m a little late with my consulting services, but looking forward to having someplace new to decorate.

We’re also going to take a quick trip to visit Galena, IL. It’s a quaint, historical town with lots of artists and galleries, antique shops, B&Bs, and unique eateries. A friend tells me a cafe there has the best coffee he’s ever had in his life. And he’s a coffee aficionado! I have wanted to see Galena for quite awhile and I’m glad to finally have the chance. I’m hoping for lots of photo ops in the surrounding countryside and renewed inspiration from all the artists in the area. The only possible downer: the weather forecast. Rain, rain, go away!

I don’t know if I will be able to post while I’m gone. That will all depend on whether and where I can find wireless access. (I can't sit at Starbucks all day!)

What about you? Are you able to get away somewhere this summer? What do you do to refresh and re-energize?

Monday, June 15, 2009

Art and Music - Irrational?

Great art is as irrational as great music. It is mad with its own loveliness. – George Jean

That was just a teaser title for a favorite quote. The first sentence is provocative; the second sentence is delightful!

The theme for last week’s Thursday Sweet Treat was a little different than usual. Natasha posted "Clair de lune", the third movement of Claude Debussy's piano suite Suite bergamasque, which in itself was a depiction of a poem by French poet Paul Verlaine. (What goes around, comes around?)
Hear it: Clair de Lune
It was ironic that she chose this piece, because it is one of my all-time favorites. My oldest brother loved this piece and as a child I remember him trying to play it on Mom’s piano. It was a little beyond his capabilities but that didn’t stop us both from loving it. More recently, I found that others didn’t necessarily share our feelings.

I once had “Clair” playing as part of my computer screen saver and one day my next door office neighbor came in and asked me to stop it because when I was out of my office it was DRIVING HER CRAZY. And as you’ll see below, my nephew refuses to play it for me. Here’s the artwork I created along with the description that appeared for Thursday Sweet Treat.

“In the Light of the Moon”

"To visualize Clair de Lune (French, "moonlight"), I knew I wanted “blue” and “moon.” The end result is a digital collage print of 10 layers of texture: a few of my handmade papers, an altered moon photo, altered mountain range photo, and Photoshop effects. To me, this reflects the mood and essence of Clair de Lune."

“Stephen plays Clair de Lune”

"As I mentioned ..., my incredibly talented nephew won’t play the piece for me because he hates it. So I took my photo of him playing and superimposed it over the sheet music and some textured paper. This is my revenge – it looks like he’s playing it for me - and I’m sure we will have a good laugh about it! (Congratulations on your music scholarship to OU, Stephen!)"

Because dawn always comes after the night, I thought “In the Light of the Moon” deserved the follow-up, so here is “Comes the Dawn.”

Both "In the Light of the Moon" and "Comes the Dawn" are now in my etsy shop here.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Thursday, June 11, 2009


Well, this is embarrassing ... two of the blogs that were supposed to be listed for the "One Lovely Blog" award have disappeared from my list. I have been having so much trouble with my wireless mouse. When I try to highlight something, instead of highlighting it "chases" itself and sometimes removes or moves things I don't want to move. That does it - I'm heading to the office supply store to replace my mouse!

My deepest apologies to:


You really are on the list - honest!!

"One Lovely Blog" Award

Art is doing anything that needs to be done in the most beautiful way that it can be done. - Maud Ellsworth
As a recipient of the “One Lovely Blog” award from Natasha of Thursdaysweettreat and JenJen of Gottalovemom, I’m passing the award on to some of my favorite blogs. I have been following them for awhile and I can assure you you’ll enjoy your time visiting with them. You’ll be amazed at the wonderful creativity you see there.

Stop by and give them all a virtual hug!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Garden Fairies

Sit where the cat sits.
Cross your toes.
Close your eyes.

And smell a rose.

Then say under your breath:

"I believe in fairies, sure as death."

- Excerpt from 'Lady Cottington's pressed fairy book'

Although I’m normally not a huge fan of garden statues, I do have a few fairies and a fairy house in my garden because … Well … I like fairies. Here’s my favorite: a garden fairy I purchased a few years ago from a gift shop/garden shop in Lexington, MI. The owner digs up and gives a cutting of Lady’s Mantle to anyone who purchases a garden fairy, the legend being that fairies wash up in the morning with the dew that collects on the Lady’s Mantle leaves. She told me that she purchases these garden fairies from an elderly lady in Kentucky who makes them. Isn’t this fairy delightful, and doesn’t she just make you want to smile and throw up your hands in thanks for a beautiful summer day?
You can also find fairies in my etsy shop:

I also have some framed floral collections being guarded by their fairy:

There's more here.

Take a minute to sit quietly in your garden. Can you see the fairies?

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

If nature has made you a giver, your hands are born open, and so is your heart. And though there may be times when your hands are empty, your heart is always full, and you can give things out of that . - Frances Hodgson Burnett

Two very generous online friends, Natasha and JenJen, have honored me with the One Lovely Blog Award. I told a little about Natasha in the previous post and now I would like to introduce you to JenJen.

JenJen of Gottalovemom, a woman with a really big heart, has honored me with not only the One Lovely Blog Award but also the Kreativ Blogger Award.

JenJen and I met online through Natasha's Thursday Sweet Treat. Jen’s a wonderful writer, poet and photographer, whose very busy life revolves around her family and the personal heartaches brought about by separation from her Filipino family.

Jen is “a Filipino mom raising 4 kids (age 8-19) in a Filipino-Jewish-American culture who's crazy about her honey, and a daughter and a sister on a mission to bring the families back together.”

Her blog posts about her family are absolutely delightful, especially when she writes about her hilariously funny and loving youngest son, Josh, aka Crumbcatcher.

Stop by her blog and visit with her for a few minutes, or take a virtual Zen walk with her – Jen's gentle humor, love and caring just jumps out at you and warms your heart.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Creative Nachos interviews Another Bright Idea

One of my very best online art friends, Natasha, has interviewed me for her blog, Creative Nachos, here. (Someday I must ask how she came up with that blog name!) Thanks, Natasha. You make me look good ...

Natasha is also the creator of Thursday Sweet Treat. Each week she posts a theme and all artists are invited to create something to reflect that theme. I have been participating for a few months now, and thoroughly enjoy it. Aside from the fact that the weekly challenge inspires us all to continually create new work, its major benefit is the positive encouragement and support - more like major cheerleading - from Natasha. Every Thursday is a warm and welcoming blanket where we can all cuddle up and just enjoy and celebrate each other's work for a few hours. Stop by and take a look. Better yet, participate!

Spring - the Most Delightful Season

Spring being a tough act to follow, God created June. – Al Bernstein

One of the benefits of living in Michigan is experiencing first-hand the beauty of the four seasons. I have to admit I’m not such a fan in the middle of a cold winter, but even then I love the quiet beauty of newly fallen snow. I would be hard pressed to pick a favorite season, but spring definitely IS a tough act to follow. Last month, on a perfect spring day, I took a walk with my camera through my (very small) condo complex and was thrilled that one walk yielded so many gorgeous spring photos. Take that walk with me ….

There's more in my shop here.

So take a walk today - it's good for the mind and the body.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Shakespeare and SEO
What's in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.
Wm. Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet
If Shakespeare had to be concerned with search engine optimization (SEO) he might have had to think a bit longer about “what’s in a name?” When I chose “another bright idea” as the name for my Etsy shop, I had never heard of SEO. If I had, I might have given more thought to coming up with another bright idea (pun intended, sorry) – a site name that was unique to me and wouldn’t be used by everyone in the universe who had an idea. A Google search with “another bright idea” will bring up everything from gossip about Naomi Campbell’s desire to have a baby to instructions on how to recycle your CFIs (compact fluorescent lights). The sort of good news is that if someone tries “anotherbrightidea,” no spaces, then – bingo – I’m first on the list.
I chose the name for more personal reasons, though. It is somewhat sarcastic and tongue in cheek, reflective of the fact that I do come up with ideas all the time. Some begin in my brain, stay there and eventually fade from my short-term memory; others spur me to action. Some of those turn out to be brilliant, appearing in reality just the way I saw them in my head. But alas, I have also had some not-so-bright spectacular failures. Fortunately, I can hide or destroy those before anyone else sees them!
Having so many ideas can be frustrating. My Etsy site reflects probably one-tenth of the types of art and craft I want to explore. I just keep running out of time to act on my ideas. You know, time - that commodity that none of us have enough of! I suspect I’m not the only one whose thoughts just before I slip into sleep are first, what I accomplished that day, and second, what I DIDN’T get done today. The latter list always seems a lot longer ...
Time is a sort of river of passing events, and strong is its current; no sooner is a thing brought to sight than it is swept by and another takes its place, and this too will be swept away. – Marcus Aurelius
What about you? Lots of ideas, not enough time? How do you quiet your mind? How do you deal with it?

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Here's ... Another Bright Idea

The thought of starting this blog has been bouncing around in my brain for quite awhile now. But like a little kid standing on the edge of a pool, hesitant to make that first jump, I have been standing here … shifting from one foot to the other … looking around furtively to see if anyone’s watching ... mumbling to myself: “C’mon, Kramer – lots of people write blogs … it can’t be that tough … you’re not a kid anymore … fraidy-cat!”

Finally, my daily horoscope pushed me into the pool:

Aries (March 21-April 19) The way to bring your heart and head into union is simply to act. The time has come for you to let go of fear and go for it.

So what can you expect to see here instead of a bad backstroke?

Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time.
-Thomas Merton

Art. Lots of it. As an Etsy artist, I hope to be able to share with you what I’m working on and give you some insight as to the process, both mental and physical, that goes into an artistic creation.

Communication leads to community, that is, to understanding, intimacy and mutual valuing. – Rollo May

Community. I’m now part of a large creative on-line community and I’m loving every minute of it. I want to introduce you to other artists who are doing incredible work and have them share themselves with you. Occasionally I will post a tutorial, either my own or other artists’, a step-by-step guide to the artistic process.

That is the best – to laugh with someone because you both think the same things are funny.
– Gloria Vanderbilt

Family. I’m part of a huge extended family – three brothers, four sisters, and so many nieces, nephews, great-nieces and great-nephews that I have to stop and count before I can tell you how many there are. And I think all of them are born comedians. We laugh a lot … and often. So you’ll occasionally get some family funnies here.

In case you haven’t already guessed, you’ll get quotations. I’m an inveterate quote collector because others wiser than me say what I want to say, but they usually say it better.
The secret of being a bore is to tell everything.
- Voltaire

And finally, I expect I will share some of the minutiae of my daily life … but I’ll try mightily not to be boring because … (see the quote at the bottom of this page.)
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