Girls Art Night was a Smash Hit

Smoosh Book 25

Smash. Smoosh. Squish. Mash. Moosh. Mush. Stuff … Oh, the things you can do with an old book!

Smoosh Book 1

Smoosh Book 24

At our monthly Girls Art Night on March 27th, we altered vintage hardback books into Smoosh Books (my take on the official Smash Journals.) There were eleven of us mooshing, drilling, gluing, smooshing and stuffing away at 1+1=1 Gallery. We enjoyed tea, wine, and yummy finger foods. It was a great group of women friends — lots of comraderie and chemistry, laughter and concentration.

Smoosh Book 14

If you want to try a Smoosh Book yourself, and you live in Helena, let me know in the comments and maybe we can get together in a smaller group sometime soon to make more smoosh books. Otherwise there is a How-To towards the bottom of this post. :-)

I have a few vintage books left (I’ve already cut the spines off.) And lots of stuff to stuff into them. I will bring the “ingredients” to our Girls Go gathering in October. What do you think of that idea, my sisters?

Smoosh Book 12

Maybe one of these will be a diary of your journey to health. Or a baby book. A collection of family recipes. A book of quotes or a “commonplace book.” A trip journal. A wedding planner, a place to record things your kids say …  Whatever you use your smoosh book for, it will be wonderful once you smash it full of your stuff.

SmashBooksLookingAhead-imp

Here’s my mom’s Smoosh Book: I love that she picked the old children’s story collection, “Looking Ahead.” She is going to fill it with stories of her life. Cool!
PatsSmashBook14-impPatsSmashBook13-imp

Your Smoosh Book doesn’t have to be perfect. Or finished. It’s a work in progress. This kind of “journal” or scrapbook is great if you’re like me and don’t have the time or personality to do elaborate scrapbooking. The way scrapbooking has changed, it’s the last thing I want to do … I remember when a scrapbook was an album of plain pages you glued things onto – like photos, birthday cards, autographs, paper dolls, ticket stubs, pressed corsages, leaves and flowers. Remember photo-corners? Or LePage’s glue with the red rubber tip? (I know. I know. I’m dating myself. Oh well.)

Smoosh Book 4

A Smoosh Book can be kinda funky and alotta fun. When you first make the book, you can sort through the old book’s pages and keep the ones you like, recycling the rest. Try incorporating comic book pages, other special papers, translucent papers, seed packets, tiny bags, cellophane bags, glassine envelopes, ribbons, stickers, cards, and any other kind of envelope or pocket.

Smoosh Book Sarah and Joyce

To use your Smoosh Book, add written passages, poetry, quotes … lists of stuff you’re doing/planning/wishing, recipes, pressed flowers and leaves, feathers, seeds, labels, photos, doodles, menus, tickets, found lists, anything you can think of.

Smoosh Book 10

Use ribbons or binder rings to tie the book together so you can add pages as you find cool stuff (like envelopes.) Your book will grow as you use it. Eventually it becomes stuffed with stuff. And looks like it’s exploding and that’s totally okay. You can add bigger binder rings if it gets hard to turn the pages because you’re adding so much stuff.

Smoosh Book 3

Here’s what you need to make your own Smoosh Book:

  • Old hardback book from thrift store
  • band saw to cut off the spines
  • power sander to sand the edges where you cut
  • drill to drill holes through the entire book
  • clamp to hold the book covers and pages together while you drill
  • paper punch for miscellaneous papers — use one you can line up to match the holes you drilled
  • envelopes, extra blank papers, etc to fill the book
  • ring binders (preferably large) or ribbons, twine, leather cords, shoelaces
  • duct tape (for your new spine)
  • spray adhesive or dry-mount glue to attach pockets and envelopes that are not bound in to the book
  • washi tape, other tapes
  • white acrylic paint or gesso to paint over text where you want to be able to write
  • flat wide brushes, either bristle or foam, for painting
  • bits and pieces from the list below, or whatever you have around

Basic Instructions to Make Your Own Smoosh Book: 

  1. Cut off the spine of your hardback book with a band saw. Watch out for metal staples. If the spine has staples, just cut a little more off to avoid the metal.
  2. Sand off the edges to make them nice and even.
  3. Separate the pile of book pages from the front and back covers.
  4. Make a new “spine” using duct tape attached to just the two covers. This will keep all the loose stuff inside your book.
  5. Go through the pages of the book and pull out all the pages except the ones you want to keep. This will make your book much “thinner” at this point.
  6. Decide what other papers you are going to add to your book. This can include large envelopes, flat bags, pockets, other types of papers …
  7. Cut the extra papers to size and put them where you want them in the book.
  8. Add the other papers such as envelopes where you want them. Don’t worry about everything lining up perfectly. It’s okay to have some things sticking out. These act like “tabs” later.
  9. Clamp everything together on a work table, and using your power drill, drill 3 holes through the whole mess.
  10. Put it all together with ribbons, ring binders or whatever you have decided to use to attach.
  11. Now you’re ready to start gluing things into your Smoosh Book, then adding your words.
  12. Above all else, have fun!
cutting spine off of a book

Use a band saw to cut off the spine of your hardback book

Below is a list of ideas and inspiration:  things you might want to stuff in your Smoosh Book as it grows …

  • lunch box notes
  • love letters
  • wine labels
  • restaurant menus
  • chopstick papers
  • flattened match boxes
  • any kind of food label
  • receipts
  • concert and theater tickets
  • travel tickets
  • baggage claims
  • old photos
  • autographs
  • ribbons
  • scraps of special fabric
  • doilies
  • valentines
  • rick-rack
  • trim, ribbons
  • twine
  • business cards
  • postcards
  • seed packets
  • glassine envelopes
  • packaging of any kind
  • feathers
  • leaves, flower petals
  • drawings, doodles
  • airmail envelopes
  • buttons
  • lace
  • pet photos
  • manilla envelopes
  • tassels
  • recipes
  • poetry
  • old calendar pages
  • those square slide holders
  • tiny brown bags
  • cd protectors
  • singles record covers (remember those?)
  • quotes
  • shoelaces
  • patches
  • bookmarks
  • found papers
  • grocery lists
  • clear photo pages
  • report cards
  • paper clips
  • bandaids
  • washi tape
  • masking tape
  • any kind of tape
  • vintage advertisements
  • certificates
  • luggage tags
  • sheet music
  • Monopoly money
  • playing cards
  • postage stamps
  • ledger book papers
  • I could go on forever … please add your own ideas in the comments below the post. I’d love to hear what you’re thinking of and making.

More photos. Click to see them larger:

Portrait of Life Well Lived

Mom 21I love my mom so much it makes my heart feel like it’s going to explode. I can feel it in my chest. I feel it in my throat. I feel it in my hands and belly and spine. I know it in my eyes. I know this love in my mind and in my soul.

When I look at her — really look deeply at her — I see her for who she is and not just for who she has been for me.

Mom 5

I love to listen to her stories. I love to support her on my arm as we walk. Wrap my arm around her slender shoulders. Laugh with her. Bring her a cup of tea. Cover her with an extra blanket. Open the car door for her. Share our tears. Share chocolate. Watch her when she doesn’t know I am looking. Wash her hair in the kitchen sink. Cook for her.

I love knowing in the night, that she is snoring gently in a room just a few feet from mine … love knowing she loves me, because when I thanked her for letting me take these portraits of her, and for spending these almost-3-weeks with me, she hugged me and cried. We both cried.

Mom 16

Mom is 82. I feel more deeply connected to her now that I am an adult, than I remember ever feeling as a child. That is not to say I wasn’t close to Mom when I was little — maybe depth of relationship comes with the compression of time, with the way age matters less and less as we grow older. The difference between 80 and 60 is less than between 25 years old and 5.

Mom 9

Today I watched her through my lens. She knew I was looking. She knew my camera would capture every wrinkle and blemish, yet she relaxed and let me pursue something I have wanted for a long time … to capture the elusive portrait of someone who is part of me. Who is so deeply connected to me that when the time comes to let her go it will be the hardest thing I will ever do.

Mom 12

Mom 7 Mom 6

Maybe depth of relationship comes with changes inside me. Changes in that place of rebellion that still burns like a stubborn ember of fire. When I look in the mirror nowadays, I see my facial features softening, melting a little. I look like my mother. I am becoming a beautiful crone. A wise woman. Like her. When I see her through my camera viewfinder, I see myself in 20-some years. And I hope with all my heart, that I am as good and kind and loving a human being as my mom is.

A few more from our photo shoot today:

April Calendar is a Peaceful Montana Sunset

AprilCalendar2014-1024w

Dear Readers: Here is a gift from me to you.

I really do appreciate you. For reading my words and for commenting. I can’t tell you how much it means to me when someone comments, or emails me to let me know they are reading and appreciating my posts. For telling me that I have touched their heart. Just alot. So thank you, and here is a desktop or wall calendar for April that I hope you will enjoy.

Sorry it’s a wee bit late. These calendars are a gift because I want you to have something to remind you of a different way of seeing the world around us. And … well, just ‘cuz…

I’d love to know if you find these useful.

The calendars are free for you to download. I will try to post the calendars the first day or two of each month. The only thing I ask is that you use them only for your personal use. Please don’t sell them yourself. And please do tell your friends these are available. Thank you!

If I don’t have the size or proportion of your computer monitor, or if you would like one for a cell phone, please tell me in the comments and I will make one for you and post it here. This month I am posting two versions: the calendar below may be downloaded and printed for your wall or fridge. The one at the top of this post is desktop wallpaper for your computer.

How do I do this?  Just right-click to save the image. Let me know in comments if you have any trouble. You can download and print either calendar. Happy Springtime to you, wherever you are!

Here’s one for your iPhone: 

AprilCalendar2014-iPhone4

and here is one that’s 1280 pixels wide, for your desktop:

AprilCalendar2014-1280w

And, finally, here is a calendar for your (analog/actual) wall (just print it out on an 8 1/2 x 11 sheet of paper, using the “photo on matte paper” settings.)

April-Calendar-for-Printing

 

Snow Geese, Calligraphy and a Cold Dawn

Flyover

Yesterday we made a pilgrimage I’ve made a half dozen times before. We drove to Freezeout Lake near Fairfield, Montana, to witness the annual spring fly-out of a hundred thousand snow geese. Our road trip was short and easy compared to the birds’ many thousand-mile journey. All we had to do was get up at 4:30 am — a totally uncivilized time of day for me (*whine*) — and drive a couple of hours. The geese (up to a half million) weren’t even midway along in their migration from central California to Alaska and the Yukon. Before arriving at Freezeout, the massive flocks of geese had made a 15 to 18 hour non-stop flight. Now that’s a journey!

Freezeout201401-imp

Imagine sitting in your car in dark. Waiting. It’s too cold and windy to wait outside. For now. The engine is running so you can keep your feet warm. You roll the window down and hear a far off murmur.

Just before dawn the sky barely lightens. The murmur resolves like a jazz chord, into low-pitched honks and calls. You sip your hot coffee … turn off the engine. You are quiet. The prairie is quiet.

Freezeout201413-imp

Suddenly you feel a pounding downbeat as several thousand geese erupt from the water’s surface.

Snow Geese Lifting off from the surface of Freezeout Lake

The mass of black dots becomes a cloud of white. Throngs of geese lift in unison, creating a huge black and white spiral. Smooth backs reflect the twilight.  Then the flocks head towards you out of the western darkness.

Snow Geese Flying Over

They are directly overhead in just minutes. Jump out of the car and listen! The sound gives you shivers. So many voices!

Snow Geese Flyby

Look up! Life’s artistry lifts your soul. Snow geese fly in formations that shift and flex — they are writing poetry in calligraphic lines across the sky.

Snow Geese Lift Off

The incredible sound of that many geese flying overhead … going somewhere … makes me feel so connected to life. The sky and the prairie are inside me, those sounds are in my heart and my soul … I am filled with longing. To go … to explore … to belong.

Gleening the Grain in the Wheat Fields

 

Home is Where the Art Is … New Exhibit at 1+1=1

1+1=1 Gallery in Helena, Montana, announces a new, exciting woodworking exhibit of smaller, functional art by four Montana woodworkers: Tim Carney, Dave Carlson, Jim Hill and Phil Pontillo.

Jim Hill Spoons and Gourd Bowl

Hand Carved Spoons and Gourd Bowls by Jim Hill

Home is Where the Art Is

Whether you are furnishing your home with one-of-a-kind necessities, looking for something cool and unusual to give to a loved one, or trying to find the perfect Mother’s Day gift, you’ll find a variety of unique, affordable wood art at this exhibit.

Opening Reception Friday April 4th 6:30 pm to 9:00 pm. Please join us to meet the artists!

Gallery location: 335 North Last Chance Gulch, Helena, Montana.  (between the Painted Pot and the Turman-Larison Contemporary.)

Exhibit:  Home is Where the Art Is will be open from April 4th through May 7th, just before Mother’s Day. Come to the opening reception April 4th or come early in the month, to get first pick of the exhibit.

  • Sushi plates and chopstick sets made of domestic hardwoods
  • Hand mirrors
  • Live-edge bread and cheese boards
  • Turned bowls and lidded containers
  • Walnut stemmed wine glasses and maple tray
  • Shaker boxes
  • Jewelry boxes
  • A small four-legged cabinet
  • Gourd bowls
  • Hand-carved hardwood spoons and spatulas
  • Bistro table and stools
  • and much more
Sushi Plate Set by Tim J. Carney

Set of Sushi Plates, Chopsticks and Chopstick Rests by Tim Carney

Containers by Dave Carlson

Containers by Dave Carlson

Heart Cabinet by Phil Pontillo

Heart Cabinet by Phil Pontillo

 

Kids’ Arts Festival from the Perspective of a Docent

KidWorks 2014 at the Holter Museum of Art

A circle of hands is how it felt for me, as I helped with KidWorks! alongside the volunteers, my fellow docents and staff of the Holter Museum of Art. We needed everyone to make it work.

Last Saturday, the Holter Museum of Art held KidWorks! — it’s 23rd annual arts festival for kids. What a blast!! I had an amazing opportunity to help put on this fun event and boy was it alot of work. Yet, when we opened the doors of the museum at 10:00 am, just like Connie, Judy, Sondra and Hannah told me, the festival took care of itself. A gigantic bulldozer of little kids and and their significant adults moved through the museum playing, delighting, learning, appreciating, thoroughly enjoying themselves and getting a messy education in the wonderment of art.

For me — as a docent — it was incredibly fun (I hardly stopped smiling except when I was concentrating,) extremely exhausting (the tables were set to little kid height and my back hurt like hell at the end of the day) but so, so fulfilling to share my enthusiasm about art with this many kids and their peeps.

I absolutely loved witnessing the diversity of approaches. Every child, has a unique way of seeing the world and expressing what they see! As docents, we have to Let Go of Results and Outcomes. Allow Mess. Delight in Oops. Multi-task-yet-Focus. Smile. Laugh. Make Eye Contact. Then. Clean. Up.

KidWorks 2014 at the Holter Museum of Art

Well … it seems at the Holter, “docent” is a fancy word for a volunteer who:

  • works really hard
  • has lots of fun with peers and with the public
  • stays longer than expected to clean up the mess
  • knows how to laugh and goof
  • loves to share his/her passion for the arts
  • gets training to use Visual Thinking Strategy in educational museum tours
  • has a lot of energy (enough to keep up with kids of all ages!)
  • has an awesome opportunity to guide kids, teens and adults in appreciating art through tours and hands-on activities
  • can think on her/his feet, improvising when necessary
  • doesn’t mind getting down and messy
  • knows that every individual’s experience and ideas are valid
  • helps organize and put on the biggest and best kids’ arts festival anywhere around
  • then watches the magic happen as our doors open to over 800 participants

that’s alot to pack into one 6-letter word!

KidWorks 2014 at the Holter Museum of Art

2014 KidWorks Festival of Arts at the Holter Museum of Arts

KidWorks 2014 at the Holter Museum of Art

The Holter docents I have the privilege to work with, are a diverse group: outgoing, intelligent, friendly and helpful to new members of the team. We are all willing to learn from our mistakes and educate ourselves continuously so we are the best “art guides” the Holter could possibly have. It helps that we have some docents who are great leaders — super organized and experienced. It also helps that the educational staff (Sondra, Aubrey and Hannah) are so enthusiastic about their jobs. I have about half of the skills I need, to be an amazing docent. I’m working on the rest. But boy, was it fun, fun fun to help make KidWorks! happen.

2014 KidWorks Festival of Arts at the Holter Museum of Arts

KidWorks 2014 at the Holter Museum of Art

KidWorks 2014 at the Holter Museum of Art

KidWorks 2014 at the Holter Museum of Art

2014 KidWorks Festival of Arts at the Holter Museum of Arts

KidWorks 2014 at the Holter Museum of Art

KidWorks 2014 at the Holter Museum of Art

KidWorks 2014 at the Holter Museum of Art

KidWorks 2014 at the Holter Museum of Art

KidWorks 2014 at the Holter Museum of Art

Sorry about the photo-intensive post today. I just couldn’t resist! There were so many sweet moments and precious connections made during KidWorks! that I can’t resist posting these. Below is a gallery with a few more images from the festival.

If you attended KidWorks, or volunteered at the festival, won’t you write a short (or long) comment to say how you experienced it? Thank you!

Why Nature is So Important to Me

FrontRangeNearAugusta

I grew up in the 50s and 60s. My siblings and I spent every spare moment playing in nature. Our suburban back yard and the meadows, pastures, woods, creeks, oak trees and bramble patches of my childhood are as vivid in my memory as if it happened yesterday.

The moment our school bus dumped us out near our house, we would grab a snack then rush out to play until Mom called us in for dinner. After dinner, in good weather we would head back out until dark, when she would insist we come in and do our chores.

Prairie Gaillardia Bud Opening

Mom taught me the names of all the wildflowers and how to tell the difference between a monocot and a dicot. I learned to value the habitats of hundreds of creatures that lived on the wooded hillsides and creek bottoms near our house.

Slug, salamander, carrion beetle, praying mantis, flying squirrel, cardinal, purple finch, deer, siskin, spring beauty, skunk cabbage, lady slippers, raccoon, possum, badger… their names roll off my mind’s tongue like poetry. 

I would be bereft if our world contained even one less of the thousands of beings I grew to love as a child.

My husband, Tim Carney and I contribute to the Nature Conservancy every year because we believe in the work the conservancy is doing all over this world, especially in our home state of Montana. The Rocky Mountain Front is sacred to us and to the First Nation people. For me, the Front is probably the most spectacular landscape on earth, and it is certainly one of the most ecologically vital habitats for Earth’s creatures. I am thankful to the Conservancy for their work on behalf of the Front.

RockyMountainIris

For 25 years, Tim and I have practiced Huichol shamanism. Integral to Huichol shamanism are daily meditations and seasonal ceremonies that celebrate the heart of Mother Earth … we believe that Nature is sacred; that every entity on earth has a spirit, is literally alive. Mountains and rivers. Stones. Trees. Black bears, wolves, salmon, pine bark beetles and earthworms. Every being deserves our respect.

Deer in Field along the Front Range

Nature is inside us and we live in Nature. The idea that we humans (and everything) contain the dust of ancient stars …. this fits our beliefs perfectly. We are made up of all that surrounds us, all that has come before us. My mind, heart, legs and eyes contain molecules of that juniper tree, of the Yellowstone River, of the garden where I plant beans and corn. And, when I am finished with my body, ideas, breath … my atoms will go forward in time, transforming into other parts of Nature.

three drops of rain on a leaf

My beliefs inform my everyday life, so it makes sense to me to respect and love Nature — it is vital to the health of our world, to our species, to all of life.

When I take my daily walks, I think about stepping gently on my Mother. I think about walking instead of driving. I think about making my ecological footprint as small as possible. This is my meditation as much as praying each morning for healing for myself, family, community and the Earth.

Prairie Forms along the Front Range

I make my living as an artist. The core message I try to express with my art and photography is “connection.” Connection to Nature, to the heart of the Earth. If I can inspire one person to become more deeply connected to the natural world through my artwork, then I know I will have succeeded.

Buds

Both Tim and I have immense appreciation for the Nature Conservancy’s staff and ideals. The work is vitally important to quality of life — ours, yours, our descendants and all of Earth’s creatures. Please consider becoming a donor to the Conservancy and help protect Earth’s heart for future generations.

I originally wrote this article to share on the Nature Conservancy’s Stories site.