Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Lots of catching up to do!

Grab some coffee...HUGE post ahead!
Here it is, the middle of September, and I have six months of catching up to do with this blog that I have sadly neglected!  If any of you have been checking in now and then to see what we've been up to or to see your projects posted, please accept my apologies for my absence.  Yesterday, Chris and I put the finishing touches on our new class brochure (see sidebar, right, to download) for Fall, and before we send it out to the masses, I am determined to get this thing updated and caught up!

One of the driving forces behind starting up our Collage College classes a year ago was the need to help fund a possible trip to Italy, planned for the summer of 2010.  My illustration and design work, which had been thriving for years and had kept me very, very busy,  had dwindled significantly in this crummy economy.  Chris, ever my cheerleader, convinced me that offering these classes would be a great way for the two of us to do something really fun together, as well as a means to add a little jingle to the Raguse travel-fund piggy bank.  She was right on both counts!  We have had a TON of fun with all of our crafty, fantastic students AND we went to Italy!!!  SO,  I'm starting this post with some shots of the two of us enjoying indeed our beloved Italia, this past June (click on any picture to enlarge):
First stop, Rome!  Can't miss the Coliseum!
This was an anniversary trip of sorts-- this same (more or less) group of us went to Italy together 5 years ago.  This time, my awesome daughter Gretchen came (she's the non-menopausal one in the center, above) and it was such a blast having her there with us.  Our husbands joined us and all together we were a rowdy group of fifteen!  We met up in Rome, where we spent only a few days, and then headed to the Amalfi Coast for the rest of our wonderful trip.
A view along the Amalfi coastline 
Magnificent views, fantastic food, charming was a glorious place to be!! Our favorite day was spent going to the Isle of Capri, enjoying a fantastic boat that our group chartered to get there.
Ready to board our boat.  Color of the day: turquoise!
A long chairlift ride took us to the tippy-top of Capri!  Breathtaking!
You can see, above, that we're each sporting a soldered charm necklace!  Gotta represent!

Update, June 25, 2011, one year later.....After I saw these photos, it was painfully obvious I needed to shed some pounds! As of this morning, I'm down 32lbs, with many more to go. But, omg, I feel so much better!

**Yet another update, also June 25,2011.....Chris reports that she is now at Minus 20lbs since these pics were taken.  We have become mere wisps of our former selves!!!(i wish...)

NOW, what happened in the months BEFORE we went on the trip??

I have to go way back to March, when we had a request to have a craft class as a going-away party for a friend who was moving away from her "gang".  We had cupcakes to send her off,
And Christy (the guest of honor) and her friends made some wonderful charms!  Here they are, along with their handiwork:
Glittered words and china shards.......Gorgeous!

April kept us very busy.  We started off the month with another 2-part Collage College class, with a small but mighty group of 4 great gals:
If you click on the picture above you can get a better look at their beautiful coasters, but here they are close-up (sorry about the blurry picture of you, Julie!  Darn, I wish I had a better one of your "eye"):
Plus, they went home with perfectly lovely initial letter necklaces:

and the CUTEST EVER little house charms!!  Look at these adorable, wonky houses:

I want all of them!!

Next up, we had a fun opportunity to take our show on the road, when we were asked to do two classes at My Masterpiece Art Studio for their 'First Friday' art event.  We packed everything up and took it to this awesome studio that offers wonderful art classes (generally geared for kids), and taught our biggest group of ladies to date.  I wish I had taken pictures of the studio--you'll have to check it out here .  I also failed to get pictures during the classes, because we got too busy, but here is a glimpse of the 50 or so charms we had to whip out and get back to everyone:
We're hoping to go back and and teach a class or two with the studio again this fall. 

Still in April, next up was another opportunity to take our show on the road when our new friend Patti asked us to teach a group of her friends at her beautiful home.  We packed all of our materials, glass, samples, and loads of vintage books and papers in our oh-so-chic totes:
Patti was so gracious and we got to work with some charming (no pun intended) ladies!
Another big batch of charms was soldered & turned around quickly--whew! We are soldering soldiers!

Next up in April, our first-ever Photo Charm Class!  A previous student requested that we do a special class and make black & white photo charms.    She brought the wine and all her girlfriends and we had a party! We know this is going to be a favorite class in the future.  Everyone who has seen these finished charms has wanted one or two or three or....
Thanks for planning this one, Allison!
For this class, we take your color or black/white photos or digital images, and convert them to little 1 x 1" black & white squares, ready for the charms:
Now look at these finished charms!!!!
I just had to include them all.....aren't they adorable??!  Notice, too, that we made little stamped sterling silver tag charms as well.  

Using steel letter stamps on silver....easy! 

We finished off a crazy-busy April with our Spring Boutique.
Chris made darling aprons and her beautiful bead-wrapped serving pieces, and I did some of my angel paintings
These now all live at Rozane's house!  Thanks, Rozane!!
as well as prints and cards.  I did some wee little painted house sculptures, too (in the style of Noodle & Lou Studio--gotta give props!):
Together, Chris and I included our soldered charms and necklaces, some collaged journals, and more.  Several friends had their hand-crafted wares for sale as well: jewelry, candles, soaps & lotions, and so much more. The big hit of the bazaar was our friend Angie's goods.  She is a former dept. store buyer, who now does wholesale buying on her own, from several wonderful lines she's come to love down in California.  She brought her treasure trove of jewelry, scarves, and purses, and they sold like crazy!  She has a fantastic eye for what people will love, and then prices everything SO reasonably---I met her several years ago at a crafty sale we were both doing, and have been visiting her ever since.  We had been wanting to do a sale with her, and the idea of a Spring Boutique was born!  (A big THANK YOU to everyone who stopped by!)
Here I am trying to decide which scarf I love the most.  I ended up with quite a big stash.... Love her stuff!  Needless to say, she was pretty exhausted by the end of the weekend.
Chris and I were exhausted too!!  What a jam-packed April we had.

May was a little calmer, but we still had our calendar pretty full.  We squeezed in a quickie class right before Mother's Day for some ladies that had their own little party.  Here's some of their handiwork:
Then I got busy with a small commission piece--one of my angel paintings.  It was requested that I make her face somewhat resemble the recipient's daughter (who also happens to be our God-daughter).  I thought it would be fun to show it in steps:
sketch, trying to capture her distinctively-shaped large eyes
painting mostly completed, collage elements added

crackle finish, stamped phrase & finishing wax added
It's a small piece, approximately 7 x 7", painted on wood, and very sweet.  Hope they like it!

Later in May, we had a request for a class for a lovely group of 5th and 6th grade girls.  They each made one glittery word charm, to celebrate the end of their school year together.  They listened well, and worked hard--and with just a little extra help from the 2 moms that joined them, they had pretty impressive results! 

  Getting a close-up soldering demo from Chris

Next on the May agenda, I had to re-do a piece of art for Simplicity Pattern Co.  They insisted the lady needed to look like she was home and having a cup of coffee in her cuddly fleece poncho, instead of  the outdoorsy way I had drawn it the first time.  Whatever.........
Actually, I was happy for the work.  This is the kind of stuff I cranked out like crazy for about 20+ years, doing 10 or 15 illustrations a month.  Now, I'm lucky to do 10 in a year.  The home sewing industry is certainly in a slump right now, unfortunately.  It really makes me sad.

Just one last project got squeezed in before our Italy trip:  our friend Emily had some cherished pieces of china from her great-grandmother, and wanted to make several charms from one of the plates, for all the female relatives she'd soon be seeing at a family reunion.  That first blow of the hammer made her wince a little, but she knew the charms would be appreciated a lot more than a dish that never came out of her cupboard.  It was a particularly great piece for this project, since it had loads of imagery on its flat surfaces.  Look at all of these!
I think all together, I got 21 charms out of one plate!

Well, that wraps up the spring months' adventures.  Thanks for bearing with this tediously LONG post.  I promise to post more regularly and more succinctly in the months to come!  Ciao!