Kid’s Art: DIY Painted Tiles, written by Ema and Adia

painted tile
Summer Fun with painted tiles
Adia using her invented tile painting technique, “Strawmania.”

Ema and Adia are spending lots of time with me this summer, just chillin, havin fun, learnin some stuff and makin some art.  So far, I think we are using this first week to get used to each other, test limits, and figure out what we want to do for the rest of the summer. It’s been interesting and … I am very tired each evening. I think they might be too. I think that is a good thing.

I promised the girls I would teach them how to make blog posts, so every once in awhile Ema and/or Adia will be a guest blogger here on Water::Earth::Wind::Fire.  I hope you enjoy their posts.  At first, I will take dictation, typing pretty much exactly what they tell me to type.  At some point, I will let them do the entire post.  So, here goes, with the girls’ first ever blog post….

Head of little girl making painted tiles

Ema writes:

We wanted to make something nice for my mom’s office, so we made these tiles. We saw these on Pinterest, and we saved them to our summer fun Pinterest board and this is one of the projects my sister and I both wanted to do this summer. This was a creative and fun project. I would recommend this to children and their parents. To do one tile it takes about 5 minutes. Well, after you get everything set up, it goes really fast.

We made practice tiles first and my favorite one turned out to be my practice tile (that’s my practice tile, below.) It was my favorite because it had a lot of bright, different colors. I would describe the design as 3 different colored wax seals (like the ones on old envelopes) laying on top of each other. I really like that.

painted tile

Here are the three tiles Ema made to go together as a triptych:

painted tile triptych

Editor’s note: Ema’s sister, Adia, made the list of supplies and wrote the instructions below: 

How to Make Strawmania Painted Tiles

Supplies You Need:

  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Alcohol inks
  • Ceramic tiles
  • Paint brushes
  • Bendy straws (or any kind of straw, but Adia says they should be bendy)
  • Q-Tips (cotton swabs)
  • Newspapers
  • Modge Podge
  • Felt circles
  • Hanger thingamajigs
  • Permanent glue


  1. Put down newspapers so you won’t get ink all over the place  

    tile painting
    Brush rubbing alcohol onto the tile. Use a lot.
  2. Take your tile and paint rubbing alcohol all over it. Use alot because it dries up fast

    Painted Tile in Progress
    Drip little drops on ink on the tile right into the rubbing alcohol
  3. Drip ink on the tile in little drops  

    Painted Tile - blowing with a straw
    Blow the colors around with a straw or just let them do their thing
  4. Use your straw and blow to make the dots expand.You can play around with the straw blowing to make really cool designs in the ink. (editor’s note: Adia and Ema invented this technique and Adia named the technique, “Strawmania.”)
  5. You can use a qtip to make shapes
  6. You can add more colors
    tile painting in progress
    You can add more colors to your tile, blow them around or just let them mix

    painted tile
    Add more colors and blow them around
  7. You can drip more rubbing alcohol to make really cool effects in the inks
  8. Next, let your tile dry
  9. After it’s dry you can add more ink colors, or you can add more alcohol and play around with it.
  10. When it’s all done and totally dry, you paint it with Modge Podge so the inks don’t disappear. Also to make it shiny. Also to protect the ink design
  11. When the ModgePodge is dry, you turn the tile over and put the felt circles on the corners (you need these so it won’t scratch your wall or your tables or tile)
  12. Then, glue on the hanger thingamajig with really good glue


Above is Adia’s finished triptych of tiles for her mom’s office. Adia writes:

My favorite part of making the tiles was Strawmania. That is what you do with a bendy straw when you blow through it onto the tile. It expands the ink blobs. You can blow colors together and mix them. Sometimes the color goes wherever it wants to go, which looks cool sometimes and other times it makes a big grey blob. If you get a gray blob, you can always add more alcohol and then add another color to make it colorful. That fixes it. This is something I will probably want to do again. Next time I will use less colors so my tiles don’t get big gray blobs. Here is my favorite tile (below). I am squirting the ink on it:

painted tile



Homestyle Art Fun: Ink Painted Tiles

painted tile

painted tile

Well, today was Jaime’s first day at her new job — and my first full day with Ema and Adia. And whoah! did we ever pack alot of fun stuff into one day! We started out by choosing a couple of projects from our Summer Fun Pinterest board, then running around town for an hour or so gathering supplies.

Our first project was to make ink painted tiles inspired by this link … we had to do a little googling to figure out exactly how to do it and which supplies we needed, plus we added our own spin (Adia named our technique “Straw-mania.”) I will let Adia and Ema write a blog post later this week with details on how they made their tiles.

painted tile triptych
Ema Terry’s Triptych of Painted Tiles
painted tiles
Adia Terry’s Triptych of Painted Tiles


SummerFunMonday01-imp Paint Sample Memory GameWhile we waited for our tiles to dry, we made smoothies (strawberry-peach-banana-amond) and sandwiches and ate lunch while playing “Memory.” We made our own Memory game with paint samples. That was a hit. I think we’ll keep the deck for other days. Then we walked down to Johns’ house to play with Tuffy for a few minutes, water Jaime’s garden a little and, oh yeah — get the marshmallows for the Rice Krispie Treats.

After lunch, we made krispie treats, then snuggled on the sofa and watched “The Lorax” on our Netflix instant-play. Sun tea and krispie treats during the movie… the girls had never made krispie treats. They got to do the whole thing themselves. (Confession: we ate almost half the pan — big grin)

We filled the rest of the afternoon with quiet activities: I taught them to make a campfire in the back yard, and the girls showed me how to make friendship bracelets . I am now wearing the one Ema made for me and she is wearing mine. I have a prediction: we’ll be making lots of friendship bracelets this summer. It’s easy, cheap, and something you can do for an hour while you are waiting for your mom to come home from work. 🙂 Besides I need to make one for Adia!

Tomorrow: make Charlie’s dog food. Get goldfish for the pond. Take Charlie out to play along the irrigation canal … make some silly videos and check out the classic cars at the Montana Dept. of Transportation 100th Birthday Celebration. Another non-boring day. 😉

I am having a glass of wine with my dinner tonight…

Think-Eat-Save: UN World Environment Day is Today

painting by Cheryl Fortier

World Environment Day is today, Wednesday, June 5th, 2013. This year, the theme for WED is Think-Eat-Save, focusing on ways we can alleviate the incredible food waste problems that contribute to world hunger and environmental degradation.

On a TEDx talk, Peter Lehner shares how he began working on food waste issues when he backpacked 30 days of food in his mountain climbing years. It’s true that if you have to carry your food for miles, you pack carefully and considerately — and you don’t waste a bit of it!  His talk is 14 minutes long by well worth watching. (click here to watch Peter Lehner’s TEDx talk)

graph of food waste in the US
According to Peter Lehner, 40% of the food grown in the US is wasted and the average American family spends $2000 on food they throw away! $2000 every year thrown away by one family! This is absolutely crazy!

That’s in the US and Canada … Worldwide the amount of food wasted — on average — is slightly less, but still outrageously dangerous for Earth’s future. Luc Gnacadja, Executive Secretary UN Convention to Combat Desertification, says:

Food is produced at such a high environmental cost. Yet, every year about one third of it is either wasted or lost. Meantime, one in seven people still goes to bed hungry. This enormous drain on our limited natural resources is shocking and morally unacceptable.

Lehner (in his TEDx talk) refers to a game they called “Journey to the back of the fridge,” when they would look for the multi-colored mold growing on an assortment of food. We have changed our food deal at the Carney-Shaughnessy household these days. We eat 90% vegetarian, and use aLOT of fresh fruits and vegetables, so it’s doubly critical that we shop/plan/cook in ways that we don’t end up tossing alot of produce in the garbage or compost pile (although composting is better than putting food in the landfill).

A couple of years ago, I would regularly have to clear out our fridge– throwing out science experiments like slimey greens, moldy salsa, stinky cooked beans, dried up leftovers … even the freezer had dried up meat and really old bread to toss. Not so anymore. We have gotten so efficient with menu planning and cooking just the right amount that I would estimate we have cut our food waste by at least 90%. One of the best things about that?  Saving money!

Okay, now for some eye-candy:

painting by Cheryl Fortier
Hover/Suspend by Cheryl Fortier

And finally, I am doing a shameless plug of my sister’s cause, ArtBomb, because today she has a stunning painting up for auction in honor of World Environment Day. Here’s what Mary Beth writes about the piece pictured above:

On Wednesday, June 5th, Artbomb will have a solo feature of the work of Vancouver artist Cheryl Fortier in celebration of the UN’s International Year of Water Cooperation and World Ocean’s Day.  Cheryl’s piece, titled Hover/Suspend, is a large, immersive and transporting painting depicting a close encounter between a snorkeler and a sea turtle.  The rendering of the water, and of the small swirling movements of the 2 participants in this dance of curiosity, is masterful, a balance between realism and abstraction.  The scale of the piece allows one to feel submerged with the figures, an underwater voyeur watching this enchanting and touching interaction between human and animal.  Cheryl paints with emotion, spontaneity and intuition.  This piece will both charm you, and transform your living room!

If you are interested in this painting, or know of anyone who might be, please pass this link along to them. ArtBomb auctions last ONLY one day, so it’s a great way to acquire original, professional art for reasonable prices.  I would also LOVE it if you share the link on your Facebook timeline, or Tweet about it.  Check out Cheryl’s website — she is an amazing artist. I love her paintings! 

Get into the head of an artist at work

Woodland with Icon and Cross

I collect images, mostly with my own camera, but also from old manuscripts, ephemera, found objects, cultural flotsam and jetsam. Sometimes I do digital collage, other times I work with paper, paint, drawing tools and glue in 2 dimensions or I make 3D mixed media sculptures. I work in layers, often more than twenty or thirty layers, as I am trying to create something with visual, symbolic and spiritual depth. The stories of the objects I use are glued into the collage layers. Emotions, connections, poetry, unspoken words, events, songs, dreams and spiritual meaning are embedded in there too. Often the layering will only be apparent on a subtle level. What’s important to me is that I know the layers are underneath somewhere, giving the piece personal depth and intimacy.

When I am looking at one of my own art pieces or someone else’s, I tend to judge it based on first my emotional response, then on the craftsmanship of the execution and finally based on some intellectual understanding of the piece. Sometimes I want my work to be wild and spontaneous and passionate. Other times I’m aiming for an almost cool control, which in itself can convey an experience or an emotion as effectively as a more passionate piece. It’s hard to say what makes a piece of art “work” for me. It’s intuitive. Can I connect with something the artist was trying to say? Or does it leave me cold? Really, it’s such a personal thing … one viewer may respond positively to a piece that another person thinks is boring.

Digital painting with roots
Ghost Roots Tapestry

Here’s a little about my altered photograph (above.) The main image I used was of the lower trunk of a tree. When I first saw the tree, the roots looked like they were twining together in a Celtic knot shape. I have some background in fiberarts and weaving, and I thought of trying to bring out this aspect of the roots — that they were threaded and knotted together, not only around each other, but around the rocks and pebbles on the lake shore and down into the earth, around the leaves and soil and micro-organisms that live down there. I wanted to make something that looked like a tapestry, like threads and cords and knots, textural and subtle and fine.

I used Photoshop to alter the tree roots photo by blending it with a photo of the frozen lake surface and another, of branches against sky. When I am doing this work, I choose photos based on their dominant shapes, lines and textures. For example, to create the look of a tapestry, I needed lots of texture, so I chose photos with lots of different line weights and shapes going on. The different textures of these three photos contribute to the feeling of woven cloth. Likewise, if I had been going for a minimalist feeling, I might have chosen only photos with simple shapes and few lines.After I played around with the colours and blended the three main photos, I rotated multiple copies of the image and blended many layers to make something like a tapestry with the appearance of depth and criss-crossing threads. I like that it’s not perfectly symmetrical … very much like my actual woven tapestries used to turn out.

I put together an album of images I used in the two pieces, Ghost Roots Tapestry and Woodland and Icon with Cross. You can see it here. I call this group of images, Dead of Winter.  Sometimes I come up with a title for a series that almost contradicts how I really feel about the subject of the series. Yet to me, it fits. I hope the title makes people stop and read it twice, to puzzle out why I might have chosen those words. winter sky with mullien candles

In this case, dead is the opposite of what I think winter is. Winter is very much alive — it is just sleeping; it is the Earth dreaming, growing secretly underground, holding the light of short winter days in her heart, in her belly, holding it in until everything is ready to leap out again, be born, and come back to the warmth and the air and the green. It is a time for meditation, concentration, inner-focus, silence and dreams and spiritual contemplation. With that in mind, I tried to bring out the subtle, quiet spirit of leafless trees, frozen water, and strong, connected roots.

Not all of the photos in this group are altered. In fact, some are just as they came out of my camera. But they all belong together because of the thread of winter-quiet

All images: © 2005 – 2008 Maureen Shaughnessy. All rights reserved 

Book of Fours by Joyce Ellen Davis

My friend and writer/poet/blogger/nature-lover/people-lover-especially-grandchildren-lover, Joyce Ellen Davis, has recently published her (at least) 3rd book of poetry, A Book of Fours.

I love the cover, but I might be biased — it’s my artwork — :-} and after I read her poems (which I know I will love because I always do appreciate Joyce’s language and insight and flowingness) I will write an update to this post.

It’s an honor, Joyce, to have my collage with your poetry. Thank you.

Off to buy Joyce’s book!

Contemplative Art in the Garden

Closeup of wing-like leaf

A garden is a peaceful place to connect with every part of creation . . .

Buddha Statue in Garden
Resting Among the Ten Thousand Things ©Maureen Shaughnessy 2008

I have worked with my son, Gabe and his best friend Jack, on spring garden cleanup for some of my design clients. I love hanging out in these gardens! For me, that is one way I know I have succeeded in a garden design. Another sign of a successful design is that my clients are happy in and with their own gardens, even years after the first installation.

The almost life-size Buddha (above) rests among the “ten thousand things” in a Contemplative Garden we have installed over the last two summers. “Ten thousand things” is a Buddhist expression representing the interconnection and simultaneous unity and diversity of everything in the universe.

Each one of us is here for a reason and the world would be incomplete without us.


In the Huichol spiritual tradition my husband and I follow, there is a similar concept, that each of us has all of creation inside our hearts:

Huichols say we are all joyous beings of light. We were created out of love, from all the elements of the natural world — fire, air, water, and earth. Because of this, each of us is a miniature universe, a mirror of the natural world outside of ourselves, and also a mirror of the spirit world. All the knowledge and secrets of those two worlds are also inside of us, and everything is perfectly arranged. Our job is to tap into that arrangement, to understand it and to live in harmony with it.” — Brant Secunda, Huichol Shaman and Healer

If we strive to deeply understand and perceive our world as inseparable from ourselves, then we will have empathy for every part of creation. We are an integral part of everything. Every one of the ten thousand things is, in the true sense, part of us. And everything is perfectly arranged!

This — whether we paint, draw, sing, pray, dance, cook,write code or write poetry — this empathy makes every one of us an artist and a spiritual being.

So, today, go out into a “Garden,” no matter where it is and see your connection to nature as a work of art and as an act of prayer: in a wildlife refuge, in your back yard, on your balcony, in a city park, in a plant nursery or just in a clay pot on your kitchen windowsill.

Find your connection with nature: watch the unfolding of leaf buds and see not just a “plant” but also freedom, flight, wings, wind, the lightness of a heart. Can you see your own life in the artistry of the natural sculpture in the photo below?