"Faerie" by Ruthsartsandletters on etsy

Although it’s still February, this past weekend gave us a glimpse of Spring.  Going out the door without a coat felt reckless and the white skin of my arms was blinding.  I looked through the jeweled-tones of the art I created this past fall and winter.  The colors that seemed rich and festive in the winter, seem shabby by the light of the Spring(ish) day.  It’s time to rethink the color pallet.

The first spring color that comes to mind is a color midway between yellow and orange.  It’s that hard-to-name peachy color.  Not the sherbert color that older women wear to church, but the kind of peach that boils beneath the surface and will transform by summer into a color so vivid it aches.  That’s the color of a ripening peach in the open market in the French Quarter of New Orleans.

Spring Collage on Microscope Slide

Encaustic Art Opens New Possibilities

A Moment in Time: New encaustic piece from ruthsartsandletters.etsy.com


Encaustic art uses beeswax and resin to add texture and intense color to pieces of art.  It is an art form that has been around since ancient times.  More and more modern artists are learning about and using this ancient technique.

Using wax is as multi-faceted as using any other painting media.  In general, beeswax is mixed with a resin – often damar resin – and then melted and applied to a surface.  Encaustic paints are available, and the colors are particularly saturated and rich.  An artist can also mix their own colors using pigments.  The melted wax is applied to the surface in any number of ways, including with a tacking iron, a heated spatula or other hot tool, a brush, or simply drizzled on the canvas.  Once the wax is applied – it dries almost instantly – the artist can manipulate the wax using a heat tool.  You can embed almost anything in the wax, and build up the layers to form 3-D images.  Paints or other colors can be applied on top of the wax, also.  Due to the resin content, the wax cures to a very hard and resilient finish.

For more information on encaustic art, visit the following link:


The Filigree–A World of its Own

Cromora Nicholson, Tightrope Walker Extraordinaire by the Filigree

ScareCrow Moni by thefiligree


Imagine a world where mermaidens sink ships, scarecrows compete to see who is scariest, and the clouds dance in the red glow of October’s Blood Moon.  Just such a world exists.  Last weekend at the Dickens Christmas Festival in Franklin, Tennessee I was bored by the usual jewelry and pottery vendors and tempted by the fried pie booth (which, oddly enough, was right next door to a booth extolling the benefits of cosmetic surgery)  when I was captured by an odd creature about two feet tall offering me a maggot on a serving tray.  The creature–a candy troll – was warty and wrinkly and strangely endearing.       

Candy Trolls Confectionary

 I had stumbled into the world of The Filigree.    



The Filigree is actually a newspaper, brilliantly edited by Celena Cavala, that is published four times a year.    Articles like Summer solstice in Sangamon Forest – Butterfield Sisters Host Fancy Dress Ball, and State of the Art Haunting – Old School Style at Vic’s Meatatorium,  cover the exploits and tragedies of the  imaginary population of the Filigree world.  Cleverly illustrated advertisements tout the benefit of fantasy products like Never Die Life Elixir and Ligeria Formula stain remover.    There are even classifieds, like this one from the Autumn 09 Issue:    

“Gorgeous assorted colored glass bottles Empty but very large capacity.  Maybe even bottomless as my sister fit a very small storm in one of the blue ones.”    

This is no flimsy, gimmacky tabloid.  The newspaper is substantial and well done.  The writing is engagingly whimsical and original  and the artwork (drawings and photos) is excellent.   But the best thing about this newspaper is that it “covers” the exploits and tragedies of the  imaginary population of the filigree world.    

This is where Martin Obakke, Artistic Director of the Filigree, struts his stuff.  Obakke brings to life these fascinating creatures, dubbed  Filigreetures, with a variety of mediums including resin and polymer clay.  Filagreetures are lifelike and etherial at the same time.  I would not have been surprised if one of the Filigreetures at the festival drifted up with a gentle breeze and landed on my shoulder.  The latent movement contained in these creatures is so powerful, you can’t help suspected they change position in the blink of an eye.  Even the clothes in which they are dressed – whispy clouds of thin cotton – take on life, draping  the creatures like  a gown on a Greek statue.     

The marriage of  the art and the word enhances the power of each form.  It creates a launch pad for the imagination.  Subscriptions to the newspaper are only six dollars for one year.  The Filigreetures aren’t cheap, but it would be worth it to have one of Obakke’s creations join your household.   A selection of black and white photographic prints – filigraphy -are also available.   Be sure to look through the Gallery on the Filigry website.  ( http://www.thefiligree.com/?content=gallery)   The mermaidens escaping from underwater after causing a shipwreck in The Sinking of the Concordia  is heart-wrenchingly elegant.   But, be warned!  A tour through the Filigree’s gallery and newspaper will make you want to lay aside your grown-up things and BELIEVE.    


Cromora Nicholson once again claims Crown by the Filigree 



Altering Photographs

Collage tile
My altered photograph collage, “Love is Blind” available on ruthsartsandletters.etsy.com

In the process of moving, I ran across a box of photos from my younger days, including lots of the beautiful cliffs and canyons of New Mexico.  I decided to use the photos to practice altered photography techniques.  First, I read a book by Karen Michel, The Complete Guide to Altered Imagery.  The book explains several methods for altering photographs.  One of the easiest ways is to alter 35mm photographs with sandpaper and and awl.    Dip the photo in water for about thirty seconds.  While it is wet, you can sand away the emulsion with sandpaper.  You can start at the edges or sand away particular areas.  You can use an awl or other sharp tool to scratch away finer areas or to create borders or words. 

Once you’re satisfied with the sanding, you can add back in or accentuate color with watercolors, paints, and markers.  Watercolor pencils dipped in water work beautifully.
The experiments with my photos yielded more failures than successes, but it’s such an easy and fun technique to use.  If you have photos you don’t mind mutilating, give it a try.
The image in the collage above, Love is Blind, was originally an interesting rock formation — two long thin rocks that rose side by side from the canyon floor.  The couple in an embrace just kind of emerged as I used an awl to scratch a border of sorts around the rocks.  Unfortunately, I learned a hard lesson.  I forgot to make a copy of the photo first, so I can’t show a before and after image. 

Refocusing on the Art

One of my gifty jewelry boxes available on ruthsartsandletters.etsy.com


It’s cyber Monday.  The Christmas season is upon us, whether we are ready or not.  (Personally, this past year went by entirely too fast, but that’s another thing altogether.)  The thing is, I did a couple of craft shows this fall, so I worked like a demon to crank out stuff I thought would sell well as Christmas gifts.  But, I overdo everything.  I made way too many cards and ornaments and jewelry boxes, and even worse, the work – and the holiday preparations – stopped being fun.  

It was time to refocus my efforts.  I reminded myself why I’m doing this — how good it feels to create something that others find beautiful or evocative.  The best compliment I ever got was from a young woman who told me my collages were like treasure hunts — you kept finding little things hidden here and there.  I love being able to create meaning for people — or more precisely, helping people create meaning for themselves.

So, it’s back to the artistry and away from giftable gadgets.  I decided to spend the holiday dabbling in something new — encaustic art.  I’ve ordered some supplies and look forward to experimenting and learning.  This may not be proper proceedure, but I like to experiment a little first, before I learn actual techniques because it frees me up to see all the possibilities.

Once this decision was made, that glorious feeling came back.   I don’t know that my encaustic work will be masterpiece-ful.  But the process of learning it will be.  Plus, Christmas can be Christmas again!


Etsy is a Great Place to Shop

Red Dress in the Wind

Red Dress in the Wind


This piece was the first item sold in my Etsy shop. 

If  you haven’t already visited Etsy.com, it is a great place to find original handmade arts and crafts.  Anything from soaps to purses to handbound journals abound on this great site.  Check it out for Christmas shopping!  Your gifts will be one-of-a-kind.