Friday, July 30, 2021

Funky Polymer Clay Earrings

I haven't been teaching long, but the longer I do, the more I embrace my art teacher vibe. Maybe it comes with being in my, gulp!, mid-forties--I'm just gonna embrace who I am!

I LOVE dress up days at school and often dress up the entire week of Halloween and the entire month of December. I have at least a dozen ugly sweater and five totes of dress up clothes--just in case. 

Yep. It's a thing.

I also LOVE funky jewelry. It used to be just colorful jewelry, then it was big jewelry, and now it's totally funky! The students LOVE seeing my weird jewelry and it's fun to link my jewelry to the day's lesson or my mood (coffee and donut earrings are my favorite to wear when I just need a boost to get through the day!). 

I make polymer clay earrings out of the little scraps the kids at school leave after their projects--it's amazing how little polymer clay you need to make earrings! I'm no expert--I envy those artists who can work so small! I'm thankful for my OttLite and my reading glasses.

This time I made a few new pairs of art-teacher type earrings: dogs.
Food-related earrings are a favorite of mine!

And I love me some Bob Ross!

I also made some fun squiggle earrings inspired by the amazing earrings from Argia Jewelry Designs I saw on Instagram @argia_jewelry_designs. Argia Jewelry Designs is a trio of siblings that make and sell polymer clay jewelry. Here's a photo of some of their designs for Pride Month:

My children saw me creating and got into the game too--my daughter made some rubber ducky earring and my 19-year-old made some tiny jet ski earrings for his girlfriend (that girl is sooooo patient and listens to his obsessive talk about fixing jet skis and remote control cars, and well, all things mechanical. All. The. Time.). 

I hope you are inspired to embrace the funky and have fun with your wardrobe!


Thursday, July 29, 2021

Teacher Self Care: Reclaim Your Classroom with the Art Class Curator

Ahhhh August...the "Sunday" of summer. I know we aren't there yet, but I'm feeling it knocking on my door! 

I've been working hard to avoid school-like things and do some serious self care this summer. I've been renewing my efforts on the blog and trying to follow more creative and inspiring people on Instagram. So, the other day, when I was catching up on my online reading, I saw this online email "course" offered by Cindy Ingram at the Art Class Curator: Reclaim Your Classroom and Teaching Spark With Intention, Joy & Purpose.
This Emotions Wheel is awesome!

I LOVE my job. Seriously. Teaching middle school art is my dream job (you should see the middle schoolers' faces when I tell them that!). And this year+ was hard. Yeah, you're gonna hear me say it and probably keep saying it! If you have lived it, you understand. I'm thrilled to be going back (well, not JUST yet...), but I knew I needed to get my head in the game.

What I needed was some reflection to get me ready for next year.

This "course" is it! I'm really loving the structure of the email prompts. It's five days spread over about a week and a half. The prompts take me about an hour or so to do, but you could race through them or take even longer. I've chosen to answer them in my journal and add a bit of color, but Cindy and her folks at the Art Class Curator provide printables you can write on if you'd like.

But I'm not an art teacher? Is this for me?

Yep. I think ANY teacher could use this reflection series. You do not have to be artsy. I would even like to see something like this for STUDENTS. I mean, they also need to work through the last year AND also get psyched up for the coming year.

I particularly love the Emotions Wheel she had us use on day 2. I'm going to be adding that to my student sketchbooks I make this year. I think it will help students think more deeply about their own emotions and give them tools to talk about emotions in the art we see.

My set-up for some serious reflection!
Fresh air really helps!

So, check out the email "course" and see if it would work for you. Either way, make sure you are taking time for YOU this summer and reflecting on last year as well as setting intentions for this new school year. 

You are so worth it!


Six F's of a Great Classroom Manager

Nobody wants a big ol' "F" in their sketchbook, but I have one and I'm loving it!!

I've pledged to follow more inspiring people on Instagram lately--filling my feed with positivity! Somehow that includes LOTS of guinea pig photos where they are dressed up and riding in remote control jeeps. Not sure how the IG algorithm works, but I like it!! How can you have a bad day after watching a guinea pig video?!

Anyhow, one of the amazing people I began to follow just today is Dr. Marcia Tate (@drmarciatate). She has all sorts of  positive messages for teachers--and we all need that!

One that stuck out as I was scrolling through her feed: The 6 F's of a Great Classroom Manager. They are:

  • Be Fair
  • Be Firm
  • Be Flexible
  • Be Fun
  • Be Friendly
  • Be Forgiving
Absolutely LOVE this. Right away, I knew I had to put it in the new journal I've started. The 6 F's are so affirming to me--I'd say that this is how I am as a mom and as a teacher. In my opinion, you have to be all of these dealing with middle school and high school students. This doesn't mean my classroom and home is out of control--although some may question that. 

I think I run a pretty great classroom and home, but I also strike a nice balance between fun and work and most times work can even be fun (shhhhhh.....)! When students know you care about them--truly--they will work harder for you, care about their work, and behave better. Truly. 

So this is going in the journal and I'm gonna look at it when I need the inspiration. And since I'm following Dr. Marcia Tate on IG, I'll have a lot more positivity in my future IG feed!

Supplies: Prang watercolors (16 colors), Pigma Micron Pen (PN)

Sketchbook Art (aka Art For Me): Sour Puss

 I'm enjoying the freedom of creating art for myself these days. Throughout my day, I look around and get a spark of creativity and just go with it. That happened with this sketch. I was enjoying my pink lemonade and thinking about how much I like pink drinks (what can I say?). 

And I thought about all of those stickers my students have on their water bottles.

And I thought of a lemonade sticker.

And then I thought of the term "Sour Puss" which my kids didn't even know! :-0 By the way, it means having a sort of grouchy disposition, in case you didn't know either. 

Anyway, I stopped folding laundry (always willing to do that!) and started this sketch.

When I was done, my paint water looked the same as my glass of lemonade!

So, don't be a sour puss today! Have some fun!


Supplies: Winsor newton watercolors, ultra fine point Sharpie marker

Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Sketchbook Art (aka Art For Me): So Do It!

Enjoying being back home and thankful I have such a lovely deck area to hang out on every morning. Sipping my coffee, writing in my journal and sketching.

I hung an old window up out there and love the look of it. Also got easy-care Boston Ferns this year, knowing full well, I will bring them inside my house this fall and keep enjoying them.

Took a few minutes to create a quick sketchbook snapshot of those lovely things. It needed a quote (I LOVE quotes!) and saw this one by Kurt Vonnegut. So often I make something and start critiquing. 

Used the color swatches from the quote
to create beautiful blocks of color
and then doodled on top using Sharpie and paint marker.

I am also doing a 5-day online course by the Art Class Curator and she referred to another podcast I want to check out (Full Frontal Living) who says:

"Judgement and Curiosity Cannot Co-Exist"

I'm on this journey to create this summer. My goal is not to create finished art that is going to be in a museum. I'm creating for me. My journal. My sketchbook. My self care. It's time to create and there really isn't room (or time) for judgement. Not right now. 

I need to follow this process where it's going and just BE. 

What would YOU create if you didn't have to worry?

So do it!


Supplies: Winsor Newton watercolors, Sharpie, Studio Series acrylic paint marker (white) by Peter Pauper Press

Sketchbook Art (aka Art For Me): Trying Watercolor Pencils and Camper Gallery Wall

Usually when I'm camping, I am a voracious reader. This time, I wanted to make art instead. My motivation was to do some self-care, get my creative juices flowing and try out my travel art set I'm making (hopefully details on that in a future post).

I wasn't too strict about the art-making. I'm just having fun and seeing where it goes. It rained quite a bit the two weeks we were there, so I had plenty of opportunities to create. And I read three books--I still had to read!

One of the days, I just couldn't stop looking at this interesting leaf that had fallen into our campsite. The patterning on it was so cool. I had a good idea how I would paint it if I had brought traditional watercolors with me, which I had not. So, out came the watercolor pencils and I did my best to adapt to those. It has been fun trying a new medium. I'm going to try to "review" the watercolor pencils in a future post. 

Anyway...a side effect of doing art more is that my children see me creating. I've always encouraged making of all sorts and have multiple spaces in our house set up for that (the art center downstairs, mom's art area upstairs, the dining room table and all four of my kids have desks/work areas in their rooms). I've packed a bin of art supplies since the early days of camping, but I noticed that as they've become teens, the art bin isn't used. This time, they saw me using the watercolor pencils and decided they wanted to have an art competition. So, twice, they created art.

The competition wasn't an actual competition since I'm not judging anything on vacation AND certainly not an art competition between my kids!! But they had fun, used some new (to them) art supplies and passed a couple of rainy hours.

I created a super easy gallery wall in our camper to showcase their work.

Later in the week, I got the idea to "bottle up" some of the camping vibe and created two pieces inspired by the work of illustrator Jen Aranyi. Her work is AMAZING and so beautiful! I teach this lesson to my grade 5 students and it's always a hit. My older students usually see the work drying on the drying racks and want to do it too. 

Again, I experimented with the watercolor pencils I had with me, pushing one to be more watercolor-like and leaving the other a bit more sketchy and colored pencil-like. Usually, my favorite way to do a Jen Aranyi-inspired landscape is using Crayola markers for the color and then using water to turn them into watercolors. But I didn't have Crayola markers with me and I'm not sure I'd pack those in my travel art kit. I'll have to keep thinking about it!

What do YOU want to "bottle up" about the summer?


Supplies used: Cotman cold press watercolor paper, Sharpie markers, Prismacolor watercolor pencils, Reeves watercolor pencils, Craftsmart acrylic paint pens (white and gold) 

Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Sketchbook Art (aka Art For Me): View From Our Campsite

We've been going to the same campground in Maine for about 10 years--it's one of our "happy places." 

Every year, we get there and set up and I immediately take the same photo--the view of the pond from our campsite. 

See how much of the pond we can see from the site? Gorgeous!

And then I put my phone and/or camera away and forget to take any more pictures. 

Guys, I have FOUR KIDS. I'm supposed to be documenting these memories! But that view! 

My favorite thing do do (besides sit on the beach) is to have a cup of coffee and look at that view. The kids are usually asleep and that helps with the relaxing vibe. :-)

So this year, I photographed the view and sketched it quickly. I had intended to do my regular Sharpie/watercolor treatment to it, but kept it in pencil and just relaxed. Sketchbook project: supposed to be relaxing and get me creating. 

The date is totally wrong!
But I was guessing and too lazy to find my phone.

What's your favorite view?


Supplies: pencil and sketchbook paper

Sketchbook Art (aka Art For Me): Dreamcatcher 1

Someone once said to me (in the height of my baby-rearing days): "Are you really an artist if you don't make art?"

Not the thing to say to a mom who hasn't slept through the night in 11 years...

But that's stayed with me. Short answer: Yes. I think you are an artist even when you don't create art. HOWEVER, I feel like I've been given a gift and I should be trying to use it more AND (like I tell my students) practice makes you even better.

No matter what, I am trying to do more art for myself over the summer. I will say, to the end of time, that I need some serious self care after this past school year. So, here I am. 

I've usually get up early to make art because the kids aren't awake, but sometime I make art when they are awake (gasp!) and ask them to join me. I even (shhhhh......) sometimes make art instead of doing chores. Yep. Rebel!

So here's my July 13th art. It's based on the beautiful dreamcatchers over at "smART Class" They've caught my eyes for years and I've been thinking of trying them with 5th grade. So, I thought I'd try one out with my travel art kit I'm testing (hopefully more on that later).

It was camping and raining the morning I started it so I tried out letting the rain rehydrate and spread the yellow watercolor pencils in the background (in lieu of using liquid watercolors). It went OK. Liquid watercolors are better and more messy!

Just the thing to make as I relaxed and enjoyed the rain and gorgeous view from our campsite. 


Supplies:bristol paper (smooth), Reeves and Prismacolor colored pencils, Ultra fine point Sharpie, Kenmah Craft Fineliner Pens (.38mm)

Tuesday, July 6, 2021

New Mural at Amherst Middle School!

I think we can all agree that this past school year was "different." I could exchange that word for a bunch of others--some positive and some not-so-much. But I couldn't be totally negative about the past year. My brain just won't let me. There were LOTS of good things.

One good thing was this mural--designed and organized by 8th grader Kasen F. and painted by the National Junior Honor Society (NJHS) 8th graders in our school. At *almost* the end of the school year, they approached me with this idea and then they magically made it happen. Actually, it maybe wasn't magic--it took a lot of planning and organization by Kasen!

Our school is a combination of students from two towns and this mural highlights some of the sites from both towns--we even have a local celebrity, the Amherst Bear, and it's in there too!

I was so happy to watch this project come to life and it really is a wonderful additional to the murals in our middle school.

Great work Kasen and all the NHJS students. You've left a lasting touch on the AMS school and community and it was wonderful watching you learn and grow while you were with us. I know you're going to do great things!

Saturday, July 3, 2021

Watercolor Necklace & Cricut Love

One thing about watching kid shows with your kid is that you get to see all sorts of fashion for the younger set. A couple weeks ago we were watching "Nicky, Ricky, Dicky and Dawn" on Netflix and their friend Mae (who's like 10, mind you), was wearing this awesome geometric watercolor necklace. 

I sat up and took notice! WOAH! As an art teacher, watercolorist AND funky homemade jewelry-wearer, I WANTED THAT NECKLACE!!

But how? I searched the interwebs to see if I could find it--or anything like it, but, nope. So I started plotting, I mean, making a plan...I wanted something sturdy and the edges needed to be sharp and clean. My son has a 3D printer, but the thought of plastic poking me made me sad. And trying to get a 19-year-old boy to get all hyped up about jewelry and design his mama something ASAP might be tricky and involve lots of bribery.

And then, I got the Cricut machine I ordered. I splurged (for me) on the Cricut Explore Air 2 Everything Bundle from I wanted lilac but waited too darn long and needed to get the mint. Also an OK color (but I looooooove lilac. SIGH.). 

Anyway! I was scrolling through the Cricut Design Space, teaching myself how to do simple projects to get acquainted with the machine and (cue angels singing) I saw the necklace! OK, it was teal and full of holes where the watercolor bits should be, but you know what I'm saying!! And it had earrings!!! I love me a matching jewelry set!

So, I made it! It's multiple layers of black cardstock and one layer of Cotman Watercolor Paper (similar) I had painted with my favorite colors. The watercolors I'm using are professional grade and from my second time going to college (or maybe even my first--it was a summer class, so its hard to remember. SO let's just say, they are, AHEM, old). Just use the best quality watercolors you can if you are looking for something to last and stay bright. Then I mod podged the heck out of the layers. And then added more mod podge. Like a lot. Work on wax paper so that it doesn't stick to your work surface. 

Then I added findings (similar). This is another one of the projects I'm doing this summer that uses stuff I have on hand. I'm trying not to buy more stuff unless necessary to finish a project. We'll see who that goes!

I made both the original (full of holes) and my version. The earrings are full of holes and are meant to match both necklaces. 

I'm in love!!!

Supplies: 2-3 pieces of 12" square black cardstock, one 4"x6" piece of watercolor paper, watercolors, watercolor brush and supplies, Cricut machine and supplies, Mod Podge glossy, brush, waxed paper, jewelry findings in silver. 

Friday, July 2, 2021

Lighthouse From Terra Cotta Pots

I'm on summer break now and as I'm catching up on cleaning and purging all of the unwanted items from my home, I'm taking some "me" time--time to do things for myself (puzzles, journaling, reading, sketching, creating art and doing crafts). This past year was HARD as a teacher (and a mom and a human) and I'm enjoying some self-care!

The puzzle I'm currently working on is a Vintage Lighthouse Poster puzzle by Eurographics.

It's been wonderful looking at all of the illustration styles of these posters as well as dreaming of visiting them! Side note: my daughter and I are hooked on the Netflix series "The World's Most Amazing Vacation Rentals" and we're in love with the Sitka Lighthouse in Alaska--definitely going there someday!!

So, back to cleaning and purging...I had bought some terra cotta pots to make a mini lighthouse for the garden years ago and finally decided that it was time. Either make it, or clear the space! 

I sprayed the pots with Rustoleum "Boston White" spray paint, used acrylic paint for the red and black and used hot glue to attach the rope and pebbles. Hot glue should be OK for this as it is under a covered porch and hot glue melts at 200-250 degrees F. I'll let you know if anything goes awry as it ages. The solar light is from a local store and cost me $10 (I hadn't bought that when I originally bought the pots. 

I am so happy with the results. The light really lights up at dark and illuminates my front porch a bit. And, BONUS: I now have three terra cotta pots out of my shed!

What projects do you have that you could revisit? Maybe give them a go, or pass them on!

Supplies: Three terra cotta pots that stack, solar light that fits into the pot on top of stack, Rustoleum "Boston White" spray paint, red, black and brown acrylic craft paint, Rustoleum clear varnish for outdoor use, rope, pebbles, hot glue.

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