Month: July 2011


The Artful Life: Growing Crystals with a Bubble Rock | Elysian Studios

The Artful Life: Growing Crystals with a Bubble Rock

Categories: family, The Artful Life

“What the heck is a Bubble Rock?”


It’s a geology experiment waiting to happen, and one heck of an affordable souvenir from the Ore Cart Rock Shop in Estes Park, Colorado! The Bubble Rock is a naturally ocurring Limestone mineral that is found in Western Utah. With proper conditions that are similar to a cave environment, it will grow its own crystals!


Here’s what you’ll need:

Bubble Rocks– if you can’t make it to Estes Park, you can order them online at The Rock Shed (scroll down the page- they are $5.00 each)

White Vinegar- no fancy stuff, just plain white distilled vinegar

A Clear Glass Container- a wide flower vase or bowl will work, you will want to make sure you can easily reach your hand around the rock to remove it once you have grown the crystals

A nice, safe place to place your container for up to 2 weeks, undisturbed- you will want to place it where you can easily view the progress of the growing crystals

The rest is very simple and easy!


Unwrap your rocks (it’s nice to have one for each “geologist”), and place it in your container.  Again, be sure to leave enough room around the edges so that you can easily pick up the rock once all of the crystals have grown- they will be very fragile!


Add enough white vinegar to just barely cover the top of the Bubble Rock. If you get a little too much, no big deal, it will just take a bit longer for the vinegar to evaporate and get the crystals started.


The vinegar causes a chemical reaction with the minerals in the rock.  Within a few days tiny white Aragonite crystals appear and gradually place themselves to form clusters of white blossoms.  Similar aragonite crystal formations occur in caves in the form of stalactites and “cave flowers” (anthodite) such as in Carlsbad Caverns.


After about two weeks, your rock will look like this!  Carefully extract it from your container and allow it to dry.   You will have a very special crystal keepsake to tell friends about!  

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The Artful Life: On Vacation and Honoring Family Time | Elysian Studios

The Artful Life: On Vacation and Honoring Family Time

Categories: family, vacation

Left: My Grandma Joey and I building puzzles c. 1980
Right: My son Jackson and Grandma Joey building puzzles in 2011

“When you look at your life, the greatest happinesses are family happinesses.”  ~Joyce Brothers

If you’ve wondered where I’ve been, I’ve decided to take another bit of vacation.  My grandmother has come to visit us in Denver from Indianapolis, and the boys and I are having a great time with her!

We’ve been giving her the grand tour of Denver and nearby Colorado towns, and she’s been giving us tips on solving crosswords, jigsaw puzzles and Solitaire!  We’ve been swimming, cooking, shopping, working on a few household projects, and chatting around the fire pit in the evenings. 

As summer draws to a close in one week, I have just decided to enjoy this precious time with my children and my Grandmother.  Life is to short not to take time to stop and build memories!

Hope you all are also having a fabulous summer!

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May 2011 | Elysian Studios

Grammar Doesn’t Count on Vacation!

Image by tylerdurden1 via Flickr


My family and I are about to embark on an old-fashioned American road trip to Indiana to celebrate a family wedding.  Oh, gone are the days when you can just shlep some flip-flops, shorts and tees in a suitcase and hop in the car to start driving. 

Not only are two children involved, who need to be kept busy with activities other than movies and video games (remember when that wasn’t even an option?!), but I am leaving my studio behind! Agh! Hours sitting in the car can’t be wasted just staring out the window (though I love some wide-open Kansas countryside).  No, these hands are way too active to sit idly for 16 hours (each direction!)

Image by hey azi via Flickr

So while my husband is focused on the road, and when I’m not reffing a WWF match in the backseat, you’ll find me painting, stitching, writing and reading the long highway hours away!  I am looking forward to taking my creativity on the road, but planning for it has been a nightmare! Finding car-appropriate activities and making sure all of my supplies are organized and handy is quite the task!

I am looking forward to clearing my thoughts and allowing myself some time to just relax and play with my materials.  I kid you not, these grain silos you see in the middle of vast open fields are incredibly inspiring to me.  My family is also very inspiring to me, and getting to catch up with distant relatives will be food for my soul.  I’ll also be visiting some local bead shops and museums, and sharing those adventures with you when I return!

Image by JForth via Flickr

I’ll be back blogging after Memorial Day (can you believe how soon that actually is?!)  I’ll miss all of my friends dearly, but we’ll have lots of fun this summer!  Until then….

Image by comecloser via Flickr

….and grammar doesn’t count on vacation!

Thread Sketching: Creating Experimental Textile Collage


I am excited to be working on a new series of small, mixed-media collages!  About 5 inches x 7 inches in size, these are combinations of cloth, thread, paper, paint, stamps and ink, with some beaded embellishments to come.  My goal for this work is to loosen up and see what wonderful little accidents happen! As a result, I will better understand how materials work together to create beautiful effects in my art.

5717272248_3a1af96b09_z-7636781 I wrote about thread-painting awhile ago, and am finally back working with the same technique.  I am referring to it as “thread sketching” here, because I am only using black and focusing solely on line.  These are experimental collage pieces, so nothing was planned in advance.

I love this technique! It can be a little intimidating to get started, but a small project like this is a perfect place to begin!  I am not outlining how to make the collages here (sorry! I got ahead of myself and neglected to take photos!), however, that would be a fun tutorial to put together in the future!

For the thread-sketching technique you will need a sewing machine, several spools of thread, a bobbin filled with matching thread, and a darning foot for your machine.  I bought mine at a local specialty sewing store, but has a selection available.  You will need to drop the feed dogs of your machine, and you may need to consult your manual to do so.


You will need to remove your current presser foot, and install the darning foot (1).  Securely reattach the screw on the presser foot to ensure stability (2).  Save the packaging that your darning foot came with, as this will remind you what thread length, width and tension are appropriate to use on your machine. 

Don’t forget to drop the feed dogs! They help grip fabric and guide it straight through under your presser foot.  For this technique you don’t want that!  Set your machine to the “Zig-Zag” stitch.  Have a scrap piece of fabric handy to practice on and experiment with different widths.  A width of “0” will give you a straight line, whereas widths of “3” and “5” give you more of a zig-zag look.


Once you feel comfortable with how thread-sketching is going to work, dive in and get started:


1. To begin, pick a place on your work that is sort of “obvious” as to what you should do. For instance, it was easy to determine that I could follow the lines of this little froggy!

2. Then just start tracing, and adjust the speed as you need.  I like to double my lines, and I don’t worry if they get a bit wavy!

3. As you start working, you’ll begin to make intuitive decisions.  I felt that it would look better to leave his back alone!  You’ll have some mistakes, and they will get better the more you practice (look at my cross-eyed froggy!) Ah well, he’s still cute!

4.  Think about what you can sketch in the empty areas of fabric.  I felt like froggy needed some lily pads to sit on, and he already had those colorful flower puffs around him.  As you begin to create a story for your piece, this becomes a meaningful and therapeutic process!

You can see how much thread-sketching can add to your collage by comparing the “before” and “after” of this piece: 


I’m not finished at this stage!  These little pieces need some hand-beaded embellishments, as well as a hand-stitched binding to finish the edges.  After that, I will need to consider display!  Not every piece will make the “final cut” when you do an experimental series.  That’s why it’s nice to do a large number at once!

Here’s a few more examples from the series I’m working on:

5716755741_625c540eec_z-5345163 5716755805_a19149e2b2_z-4018757 5716755911_74a4c322e2_z-9998341

I encourage you to spend time experimenting with new techniques and materials! Not only is it fun, but it really does push your work to a new level.  By giving up control on your imagery and composition, you’ll discover a few beautiful moments in your creativity that will take you by surprise! You’ll be excited to try them again!

Art Tour: A Paris Street Market

May the 4th Be With You:Star Wars Day Craft Roundup


Happy Star Wars Day!

Hone your crafty Force with these fun projects:


Decorated Cookies- cutters available at Williams-Sonoma

starwarsday3-9409577 Adorable Amigurumi, patterns available from Lucy Ravenscar starwarsday4-3631029

A wooden cast of characters with wood people pegs


Origami X-Wing Fighter, and more Star Wars origami


Cuddly Felt Bantha, with a step-by-step tutorial


Need more ideas?

Check out the Star Wars Craft Book, available at Amazon
And no Star Wars round-up is complete without my favorite YouTube video…

May the Fourth Be With You!

Rocky Mountain Bead Society: Bead Bazaar 2011





Every year the Rocky Mountain Bead Society hosts the Bead Bazaar at the Denver Merchandise Mart.  This was my first opportunity to attend, and it was a great show!

It was packed with bead fanatics who frequently bumped elbows to get a better view of the wide selection of beads, findings, and unique jewelry!  If you attend in the future, plan to arrive early and allow yourself plenty of time to find a parking space and browse the bazaar.  Demos, classes and giveaways are constantly going on at this event, so look at the schedule to see when it would be most fun to go!

There were both very high-end components and jewelry, as well as great bargains to be found.  Many gemstone vendors were offering 50% off their strands, which was a great price!  There were all kinds of unique specials (like buy and get free or mix and match) and I found some unique additions to my bead inventory.  I was also so very excited that Green Girl Studios was a vendor at the show.  I had the wonderful opportunity to browse their unique designs and marvel at their intricate craftsmanship.


(clockwise from top left)

Jasper Wood (Desert Gems), Rock Crystal (Dakota Stones), Olive Jade (Desert Gems), Pewter beads and bead caps (Talisman Associates), Blue Goldstone (Dakota Stones), Pewter pendants and charms (Green Girl Studios)

I can’t wait to attend the RMBS Bead Bazaar next year!

Color Inspirations: May {Floral Fetish}