December 30, 2008

Post-Christmas Hush

Listen. Can you hear it? The sound of silence--the post-Christmas hush that's descended on one and all. It's the absence of advertising. The opposite of Jingle Bells, We Wish You A Merry Christmas, and Silver Bells 24/7. The fudge is gone, the sugar cookies too. The wrapping paper has been recycled, stored, or thrown away. Beloved guests and family members have returned to their homes. Neighbors are back to doing whatever they do. The dogs have lowered the alert level to blue, realizing there are no more huge rawhide bones stuffed with fake bacon wrapped and resting under the tree.

This Christmas brought a bevy of handmade son, Jesse, gave me two cool paintings. One very light, pink, Oriental looking with flowers and bird-like shapes--lots of layering and careful thought. And, another smaller painting with blues, pinks, greys, and kitchen objects. I will treasure these forever!

My son, Bryce, made a paper nativity set which miraculously made its way through the mail without a fold or dent. I never tire of the outsider-type art he sends to me, and the decorations and writing along the outside of his boxes always grab the positive attention of the postal staff. Bryce made me a bracelet as well--the plastic laces, woven kind, that takes oodles of patience to create; by a guy who's learned patience the hard way.

My sister, Joan, gave me a wonderful bag to hold yarn projects: it's called a "Knit Knack Sack"! And it came with a holder for needles.

Just before Christmas I visited my mother in Florida and returned with the knitting needles (and one large crochet hook) that belonged to my grandmother. These were used from 1920 to 1970, approximately, and are in a variety of colors and sizes arranged in a handmade corduroy holder. I left some duplicates with my sister, Joyce, and gave thanks that TSA now allows knitting needles in carry-ons.

How great it is to have these needles that were used to create so many treasured things? Unfortunately, the only needlework of Grandma's I still have is a slightly shrunken Granny Square afghan, which is now more like a well-worn lap blanket.

I do have knitted lace made by my great-grandmother and table-cloth and runner made by her as well. Along with a very old quilt. But that's another blog article...

What I learned this Christmas in the gifts I created for others (hats and scarves):
  • A different type of yarn, a different size of needle--can make a huge difference in the way a project turns out.
  • I've can add ear flaps, trim and all sorts of extras to personalize any hat pattern! That was fun!
  • It would be helpful if I measured the recipients' heads. I ended up doing a lot of adjustment or redoing...I never realized head sizes differ so much.
  • Handmade gifts, given and received, and gifts that support hobbies and do-it-yourselfedness are wonderful!

Now, it's the new year....Time for resolutions both fun and serious. I am busy making altered books as samples for the altered book workshop I'll be leading January 18th in Athens, Ohio. You can learn more at

Happy New Year!

December 22, 2008

Love you can hold in your hands -- holiday gifts

Wow, it is Chanukah. And, nearly Christmas. And Boxing Day. And Kwanzaa. And New Year's! 2009 is nearly upon us.

I am hunkering down as what more can we do when the morning starts out at 1 degree F and zooms up to only 3 by lunchtime? Jackie gives thanks for her crocheted sweater as I carry her outside, put her down, she pees, I pick her words are really needed for my little Chihuahua of 6 years. She knows the drill by now.

What I love about this time of year is making gifts. Thankfully, our family values homemade/handmade gifts and there is no pressure to spend a lot of money. I've made scarves and hats this year; an altered book too. I've learned more about types of yarn and am finding out how much difference the yarn and the needle size make when crocheting. The same pattern in different yarn and needle size makes a huge difference. Without changing my pattern, I worked up several different looks to fit each person's personality and needs. Glamourous and fluffy for one. Natural fibers and hand-dyed colors for another. Soft and beautifully muted Monet's water lilies hues for my mom. Muted blues and blonds in a wool and soybean protein (?) mix for Mark. It's been a joy to work on these things!

I hope the recipients will know the love that went into making them. And I sure hope I guess right on the colors and styles!

Happy Holidays one and all!
PS: The hat shown above was made from a pattern in "Vogue Knitting on the Go: Crocheted Hats" which you can find at Amazon.

December 17, 2008

Creative Ideas for Collage, ATCs, Altered Books, and Scrapbooking

The following are some ideas to play with when you have artist’s block or just need a starting off point.

  • Think of a favorite song—what images, colors, word phrases, remind you of that song? You could do the same with a poem.
    “I love about you…” Create an ATC for someone you love
  • Discovery: Ever make a find that changed your life? Ever learn something that turned your life in a new direction? Every been surprised? How could you capture this on an ATC?
  • Acrostic Journaling: Select one word, then write a phrase or sentence using the letters in the word. For example “LOVE”: Live in Love; One Family; View the Future; Evolve Together. Since these would be a lot to put on a 3.5 x 2.5 inch ATC card, I would try making four cards that capture each phrase and then, perhaps, frame them together. Whenever you have an idea that is bigger than what you can fit on an ATC, break it down into steps, phases, or basic ideas—and use more than one card, create a set.
  • Use a favorite quote as a starting off point.
  • Have a favorite color? Make a card with nothing but that color, in all its various shades (black added) and tints (white added).
  • Celebrate your pet.
  • Do a memorial-type ATC for a person or pet who is no longer with you.
  • Secret message: Embed a single word or phrase within your ATC. Use code. Or, use a paragraph from an old book and underline certain words in the paragraph to create a new sentence.
  • Celebrate a hobby
  • Create birthday cards; you’ll need them all year long. Purchase blank greeting cards (see my resources list) and affix the ATC to the front of the card with a glue stick. Now you are ready for birthday cards.
  • Forget the e-cards—everyone would rather have a “real” card!
  • Do the above, but make thank you cards.

If you run into a block with your creative efforts, remember the following:

  1. It doesn’t matter if you cannot draw. Being creative is not about being able to draw. Drawing is a technique. It is not the only skill needed to be creative or considered artistic. Put drawing out of your mind, and you will have more fun and be able to benefit from creative endeavors without self-consciousness hanging over your head, spoiling the fun.
    Feel free to use images you find all around you. If you want to sell your creations, become informed about copyright law (easy to research on the web, in relation to collage and art). I recommend Dover books, which are sold at JoAnn fabric and online. They have many beautiful images and come with CDs too, so that you can have the images in your computer. Dover allows the unrestricted use of 10 images from each book, even in work that is sold (check with them if there is any question, though, as I am not a lawyer).
  2. When getting things realistic feels “too hard,” explore and enjoy color, technique, and process. It is from doing, doing, and doing some more—shutting off your inner critic—realizing this time is for you and WHATEVER you create will be beautiful and worthwhile—this is how you benefit from exploring the creative.
  3. Money is tight for many people. Art materials can be costly. Explore recycled materials. When you begin looking at everything you throw away with new eyes—“Hey, this could be useful!”—you’ll soon have a box or bag full of stuff. Magazines, boxes, paper, ribbons—all of it can be used to make ATCs.
  4. Say Yes more than you say No.

December 8, 2008

ATC to hold money gift, and hang on tree

>>>>This ATC can be given as it is, or adhered to the front of a blank greeting card, or you can put an eyelet on either side of the top edge, thread a ribbon through it, and hang it on the Christmas tree.

>>>>I shared this pattern with participants in our latest ATC workshop, and everyone seemed to like it. We adjusted the template to fit specific needs, for instance, one participant wanted an envelope that could hold postage stamps, as sold by the post office on in those booklets/sheets.

>>>>Here's how to make the ATC at left:

>>>>Use a blank ATC and decorate it with paints, collage, or colorful papers. The one in this picture has a painted background. Here's how to make the background:

>>>>Painted Background of ATC:

>>>>Place several ATCs on scrap paper or plastic. (I used 6 and work on them all at the same time.) You'll need 2 colors of acrylic paint, plus one metallic (I used gold from the Luminare line sold at

>>>>Take a medium size brush and apply the first color in random, happy stripes, squares, and circles.

>>>>Take a smaller brush and apply the second color in joyful squiggles, dabs, and dollops.

>>>>Take the metallic paint; dip your brush or a popsicle stick, in the paint and drip, splatter and splotch it on the ATCs. The gold dot on the bottom left of my ATC was made with a round sponge brush. I bought a set of sponge brushes in the crafts department of a discount store and they are perfect for this. You could also make your own sponge brushes in a variety of shapes. Cut out shapes from sponges, glue one side of the sponge to a piece of plastic (like a square cut out from the lid of a tub of Cool Whip), and voila, your own unique shaped sponge/stamp!

>>>>While the happy painted ATC is drying, move on to making the envelope.

>>>>Making the envelope:

>>>>The envelope below measures 2 x 2 inches. If you print this image out from your computer, make sure it prints so that the square is 2 x 2, otherwise your envelope will be smaller or larger, but it will still be proportionally okay.

>>>>A tiny envelope is made by drawing a square and then drawing half of an oval on each side of the square. (see the attached template). I altered the formula slightly, as I like one side a bit longer and the opposite side a bit shorter, so that a button can be placed on the longer side and a hole punched in the shorter side, to make an envelope as shown on this ATC. Cut one envelope pattern out on test paper and see what proportions you like. You might prefer pointed, triangular flaps rather than rounded ones. Or, perhaps you’ll cut the top flap with decorative scissors. Or, maybe you’d prefer a rectangular envelope rather than a square one.

>>Cut the envelope shape out.

>>>>Score the crease lines with an Xacto knife on the pretty side of the paper. (only necessary if the paper is thick)

>>>>Punch a 1/8 inch hole in the middle of the top flap. Put an eyelet in the hole. If you don't have an eyelet maker, put a reinforcement "donut" around the hole, or put clear tape on either side of where you want the hole, then punch the hold. If the paper for your envelope is card stock, (heavier paper) you might not need to reinforce the hole. If it is thin (rice paper) you will have to reinforce the hole. In any case, the eyelet gives a nice finished look and is easier to make than you might think. Directions come with the eyelet maker, available at most hobby/craft stores.

>>>>Sew a button in the middle of the bottom flap.

>>>>Now glue the envelope together: glue the bottom flap with the button to the side flaps (all folded properly of course with the button flap on top). IMPORTANT: use a gluestick or, if using white glue, put a piece of scrap paper inside the envelope. You don't want your envelope gluing shut inside so that you can't put anything in it.

>>>>Take a 6 inch piece of thread and put a bead in the middle of it, thread both ends through the hole in the top flap. Estimate the length needed (6 inches is good) for the loop to go around the button and make a knot just below where the button would be. Put two small beads on the end of each length of thread and make a knot after each small bead, trim the thread.

>>>>Glue the back of the envelope to your now dry painted ATC.

>>>>Optional: I also cut strips of thin (1/8 inch) decorative paper out with scalloped scissors and glued those on the side of the envelope.

Inside the envelope, you can place small photographs, small notes, or tiny ATCs, or money gifts! You can put two holes in the top of the ATC, string ribbon, yarn or raffia through, and hang on the tree for money gifts.

©2008 Janice Phelps Williams. You may feel free to print out, email and share this pattern with others, but please give proper credit and a link to . Thank you!

December 7, 2008

Special Effects for Collage Using Photo-altering Software #1

Today, I salute the wonderful worlds of photographs and technology. How great is it that we can not only scan, enlarge, restore, share, create, and alter photographs old and new, but we can also share them by phone / computer/ websites /blogs / iPod / CD / DVD / flash drive. Sometimes I think this is all so wonderful that I hardly know what fun and creative technique to try next.

Of course it is one thing to work in Photoshop on a project for a client; quite another to "futz" around (or is it "phutz") and lose two hours of the day altering a photograph of your aunt and uncle so they now have the legs of the family dog and the ears of Mickey Mouse.

As a book designer I've given perfect skin, thin thighs, whiter teeth, younger eyes and thinner upper arms to many authors whose photos were about to grace a back cover. But I also like to use photographs, old and new, to create altered books, artist trading cards, collages, and whatever the heck pops into my mind. Technology has given us access to a pandora's box of visual treasures.

If someone had told me when I graduated from college that I'd use a phone, without a cord, to take photographs of my artwork to place on a computer that others would visit, I would have shook my head in bewilderment. Kind of like I do now when my younger son, a web developer/IT person, explains new software to me.

Anyway... today I was assembling things for an altered book. I decided to unify the many photographs by making the colors all a bit faded and "old-timey" looking. (see three photos at top of this article). This was accomplished by opening the photos in Photoshop, then going to IMAGE > ADJUSTMENTS > HUE/SATURATION and changing SATURATION to 50%. In some cases, I also used IMAGE > ADJUSTMENTS > PHOTO FILTER > SEPIA 50% to give a warm tone to the photographs. The roses above, for instance, were beautiful, deep pinks, yellows, etc., but for the project I wanted to use this photo for, I needed something more muted. I didn't want pastels, but just less saturation of color.

By doing this, the project which incorporates many pieces from a variety of sources, will hold together better visually. I used Photoshop, but any photo altering software will have the same capability, though the terms may be slightly different. At the left, you can see an example of the various effects you can get with photo-altering software.

In the first photo, nothing was's just as the photo was taken (this is Mark and me on our wedding day last year...yes, we had lunch at Smith and Wollensky's).

>In photo 2, I've put a "cool" filter on the photo.

>In photo 3, I've reduced "saturation" to 50%. I love this effect!

>In photo 4, I've gone crazy...The saturation is increased to full effect...100%.

>In photo 5, I've done something but don't remember what. Oh yes, I used "film grain" which is an "artistic" filter in Photoshop.

>In photo 6, I've "posterized" it using a filter in Photoshop as well.

This is a lot of fun and, depending on the original photograph, you'll get a variety of results. It's best to use photos that are simple, have few elements, or are close-ups.

I print my photos out on Epson Premium Presentation Paper, matte, 40 lb, to use in collages, atcs and altered art. For photographs to share or put in an album, I use Epson Photo Paper, glossy, at 4 x 6 inch size.

Happy creating!

December 3, 2008

Love-of-Nature Table Arrangement

When we moved into our home in Athens this past July, there was a small bird's nest perched atop one of the porch lights. Usually, I would leave a nest alone, but this one had been abandoned and I was concerned about the dry straw and pine needles over the warm, and somewhat outdated, porch light.

I took the nest gently down and put it in the garage, sure I would find a use for it somehow. Just looking at it--I admired the workmanship. How did the little bird get it so round? So perfectly cup shaped? How did it hold together through all sorts of weather? And, mind you, all made "with no hands." Only a beak.

As Thanksgiving approached, I wanted to make some sort of arrangement using pine cones gathered at Drummond Island last year, tiny pine cones from Ohio University's campus, buckeyes from our back yard, and the bird's nest. I gathered these items together and, wanting to "fancy them up" grabbed a can of gold spray paint.

—Also my respirator. It's the first time I've used aerosals in a while and didn't want to stir up asthma symptoms. So, I did the sensible thing. Used the inhaler and strapped on the respirator. Looking like a giant fly and avoiding the room where our parrot resides, I went out into the garage and sprayed the heck out of these beautiful, natural elements. Hmmmm....

—Then, I found an old wooden salad bowl that had seen better days. It was humiliated by Mark's more beautiful and sturdy wooden bowls--a whole array of them, to be honest--and had been hiding in the back of a cupboard pretty much since we'd joined households. I promised it a new level of respect, and grabbed it and my glue gun, as well as the painted pinecones, bird's nest, and buckeyes.

—I put MI-5 DVDs in the player, poured a glass of Coke and settled in for a nice relaxing afternoon. On the table in front of me were a bevy of industrious projects, including nine ATCs for the "Two-Sided Hanging Ornament" swap and six or seven, I can't remember, ATCs for the "Blue Christmas" swap.

I'd used the "squirt blue, silver, and turquoise paint onto a slick surface and let it dry" method for the Blue Christmas cards, and so there was wet paint drying on surfaces all around. Silver beads used in the ornament cards were rolling across the table, as well as leftover glitter, a half-empty bag of gingersnaps (yum!), several pairs of sissors that said "sewing only" but nobody listened, and my favorite pens (Micron .005).

—I squirted glue generously into the bottom of the wooden bowl and arranged the larger, longer pine cones around it, their bottoms toward the center and their tops toward the rim. Next, I put the bird's nest in the middle and put enough glue in there to hold it.

—Then I took the medium size pine cones (more roundy shaped and about 2.5 to 3 inches long) and glued those around the bird's nest. I filled in all empty spaces with the tiny pinecones.

—I also used some leaves and eucalyptus (also sprayed gold) to fill in spaces, as well as some cool feathers purchased at Jo Ann Fabrics and Crafts a long time ago and left over from another project.

Three perfect buckeyes were glued into the middle of the next. Something else was needed (isn't it always?) and so I glued three white plastic beads in there as well.

—The arrangement looked really nice on the cherry table next to our dining room table. I love it and will enjoy it for many years, and the old wooden bowl seems happy to have a new life. I don't know how the wild bird feels about it. Hopefully the two-acres of woods behind our house will provide a new place for her to nest in the spring.

November 26, 2008

Holiday Table Seating Cards

This Thanksgiving, totally in the ATC mode, I decided to make name cards for each guest at our night, trying to fall asleep, I thought of the many buckeyes we'd collected just a month or so ago. I thought of spray paint, and holiday greetings...

I ended up spray painting the buckeyes gold. I'd actually spray-painted them a week or so earlier, in anticipation of another project (see bird's nest arrangment, coming soon). So I had plenty on hand. I'd also painted some small pine cones, the kind that are two inches or less in length.

A quick Google image search pulled up various clip art sites with holiday borders. Using Photoshop, I forced the dimensions to fit ATC card size.

I then went to a site that listed hymns for every occassion and picked out a few verses that seemed appropriate to each guest. I printed the cards out on one large sheet, and cut them into 2.5 x 3.5 inch rectangles.

Then, I picked out buckeyes that had one flat side; they stand up better that way. I put a dab of glue on the top of the buckeye and placed the pinecone on top.

I had also had some green leaves that were leftover from a flower arrangment. They seemed to never wither or die. I had sprayed them gold as well. I cut one leaf off for each name card and after the pine cone was secure, glued the leaf to the buckeye as well. The leaf was used to give interest to the back side of the seating cards, what people would see from the other side of the table. So, I put the right side of the leaf facing the pine cone.

Next, I glued the printed cards to the front of the buckeye, about 1/8 inch from the table's surface. I also put a dab of glue in the middle of the leaf and adhered the card to the leaf as well.

Below is a photo of the back of the cards. They looked really pretty on the table. The next time, I will also print something on the back, and likely use my own drawings. Also, I will use shorter verses and a larger font, as our table consisted of 2 80-somethings, 1 60-something and 2 50-somethings. We were all looking for our reading glasses to see the darn things. But they did look good on the table!

November 19, 2008

Handmade Stamps

I'd been wanting to try making stamps for a while, something not too time-consuming or intricate... just some new images that can be used on gift wrap, ATCs, tags, or cards... Today I found a way that was quick and easy.

Using a sheet of foam (sold in drug stores where the crayons and modeling clay is and also in craft stores in a variety of colors) I grabbed a sharp X-acto knife (yes, overcoming my aversion to knives) and some cast-off cardboard.

I cut the cardboard into rectangles no larger than an Artist Trading Card (2.5 x 3.5). I took a pen and drew the shape of a tree on the foam. I cut the tree out and grabbed my old-fashioned hole puncher. I punched holes in the tree for where I figured later I would put dabs of red or gold paint, or perhaps glue rhinestones (on the stamped image).

I then glued the foam tree with holes onto the cardboard with Elmer's glue. Then I gave the stamp a coat of acrylic gloss gel medium and went and ate a really good turkey and imported Swiss cheese sandwich made by Mark.

I also took all the holes I'd punched out of the tree, and glued them onto another rectangle of cardboard. And, I cut a four small strips of foam out with deckle-edged sissors and glued those in the shape of a not-too-square frame onto another rectangle of cardboard. So, now I had three new stamps. All were given a coat of gel medium just to seal them somewhat.

Returning to my craft room for Disk 3 of MI-5, season 3, I found the stamp dry. Now, lunch was over and time to try them out. They worked pretty well, don't you think? (see photo above. The images on white are the stamps on ATC cards. The images on brown are the stamps-on-cardboard I made. Keep in mind these were made quick, easy, and are a first attempt...)

One of the online trading groups I am in (see my blog article on ATC trading groups with the huge list of groups) is having a two-sided ATC swap, and I want to make 9 almost-identical ATCs, so will use the Christmas Tree stamp for that.

Jackie, my Chihuahua, is clamoring for me to make a stamp of her to use as gift tags on the stuffed dogs she wants me to make of her (she never stops). Jackie has set up a Ralvery page and is amassing huge amounts of yarn. No one will be without a scarf this year!

My suggestion with the stamps is:
Go slow.
Use a sharp knife.
Use smallish sissors.
Keep it simple.
Get some metallic stamp pads. That's next on my list.

Have fun!

November 15, 2008

House of Cards Box

At the recent workshop, there was some interest in a box I'd brought. This little box was made at a workshop I went to a few years ago... each square card was provided, 6 in all, and decorated with stamps, collage materials, and markers... then the 6 cards were joined together with string to make a box. The end result is like a dress that can be worn either side out, because, depending on how you fold it up, that determines which side of the cards is most visible. (Click on the images shown and you can pull them up enlarged.)

I scanned the flattened, joined cards, so you could see how they were decorated and arranged. When I do this again, I will think more about how to join the boxes together--the two strings were a bit flimsy for me.

My theme for this was "A wonderful life" and I tried to capture components of that on each side of the box, inside and out.

ATC Workshop

If you are in the Columbus, Ohio or Athens, Ohio area and want to participate in our next workshop on Dec. 7th, visit for more information.

November 12, 2008

First Creative Workshop

This past Sunday, five of us met for the first ever Athens, Ohio Creative Workshop, held at ACEnet in Athens. Paulette Halliday, Art of Ohio (A Service Project of the Appalachian Center for Economic Networks, aka ACEnet) arranged for use of the space, and we had lots of room and a sink! So, painting, gluing, glitter, and collage activities were all easy to do.

It was very energizing for me to be a part of the sharing of creative ideas and see the great results each of the women came up with. The focus was on ATCs (artist trading cards) and we explored various techniques as well as talked about ways to use ATCs for expression and networking.

I'm hoping to set up another workshop for December, perhaps focusing on gift tag ATCs. If you are interested, visit and add your name to the group list. There is no obligation and you'll receive automatic emails on future workshops and meetups.

October 30, 2008

Creativity Shared

Creativity Shared

Creating art, making crafts, writing poetry or prose are typically solitary pursuits. It is wonderful to create something new, but isolating to want for an audience to provide positive feedback and encouragement. While some people think the Internet has lessoned social interaction, used in a positive way, it actually can increase our connectedness with others.

Now, we can learn techniques from people we would never have otherwise met. We can trade art with people in other communities, states, and countries. We can see, in an instant, what others have created recently, and we can research and learn the history behind different art forms.

When we are planning a trip to a new place, we can research for museums, exhibits, festivals and other art-related events in the area. We can sign up to receive visitor information by mail without making a phone call.
The Internet provides a way to share our love of the creative without limitations. Financial, educational, health, accessibility, and travel limitations are somewhat reduced as we share with others who see, in essence, our creative side only. At times, deeper connections can be made as we ask questions, view the art others have created, and look deeper into what the online creative community is doing.

There is going to be an interesting movie, a documentary, out next year (2009): Handmade Nation. Learn more at You can also obtain a book about the creation of the movie at Amazon.

In conjuntion with Art of Ohio (a division of ACEnet, the Appalachian Center for Economic Networks) I'll be leading workshops on creating Artist Trading Cards, altered books, painting, and other creative endeavors. The techniques will be useful for anyone interested in scrapbooking, altered arts, painting, or creating personal stationary or greeting cards.

You can learn more by clicking here:

Or visiting this Meetup group:

See a list of
books at Amazon about Artist Trading Cards.

ATC groups
List provided by Janice Phelps Williams (

artisttradingcards 3501 Members, Archives: Membership required
This group is for Artist Trading Cards or ATC's. We run this group so that others can share in our enthusiastic endeavors. We LOVE them! Working on a smaller scale is fun & fast! We want all artists of all mediums to join us, share your artistic knowledge, make friendships with others all over the world and just have FUN! All types of ATC art will be embraced.

ATC_CONNECTION 191 Members, Archives: Membership required
ATC_CONNECTION is a place for artists of all skill levels, beginner to professional, to come together in a welcoming enviroment to discuss and swap Artist Trading Cards (ATC),Altered Boxes, Tins, Books, ETC.For those of you who do not know, Artist Trading Cards, or ATCs as we refer to them, are 2.5"x3.5" works of art. And that is the only rule to making them! They can be any medium, any subject, any style. 2.5"x3.5" is the ONLY rule. This group is created for the trading of atcs and not selling atcs/aceos.We invite you to join us to create and discuss your favorite techniques and methods, as well as to get to know other amazing artists.

ATC_JamsGalore 94 Members, Archives: Membership required
JAMS are where one person begins by preparing three (3) identical backgrounds and sends to person #2. Person #2 adds something (same thing to each card) and sends to person #3. Person #3 adds something (same thing to each card). The set is now complete. Person #3 keeps one card and mails the other two cards to Person #1, who in turn will mail one card to person #2. This completes the JAM.

ATC_World 1805 Members, Archives: Membership required
If you love ATC's (Artist Trading Cards), then come join us! We have swaps running all the time, each listed in the database.

mixedmediaartlinks 1029 Members, Archives: Membership required
Homepage Art created by: Cassi Here you will find comprehensive listings of links to ATC's, Fabric Art, Images to Print, Art Dolls, Found Object Art, Altered Art, Artsy Paper Dolls, Book Making, Bottle Cap Art, Altered Tins, Polymer Clay, Collage, Outsider Art, Altered Books, Artsy Fonts, Free Stuff, Game Piece Art, Altered Playing Cards, Art Jewelry, Bead Making, Journaling, Paper Making, Tag Art, Galleries, Project Sites, Technique Sites and much more

miniatureartisttradingcards 177 Members, Archives: Membership required
This group is for the discussion and swapping of Miniature Artist Trading Cards. Mini atc's measure 1.5 x 2.5 inches. They are mini masterpieces on an even smaller scale than the regular size artist trading cards! All mediums are welcome. Please feel free to share your mini artworks

ATC_Fun 360 Members, Archives: Membership required
Artist Trading Cards are a wonderful way of expressing yourselves and meeting other artists. Any art medium goes, as long as it fits on a 2 1/2" x 3 1/2" card. ATC_Fun is a good place to connect with individuals who love making ATC's. And, if you are a newbie, we would love to help you learn and grow. Active participation is encouraged, but not expected. You will find photos, classes and lots of sharing going on. All posts are encouraged to have the subject of ATC's as the focus.

ArtistsCraftersTradingSupplies 218 Members, Archives: Membership required
Welcome to Artists Crafters Trading Supplies! Do you find yourself inundated with supplies, yet you want more? Are you one of the crafters that want a little of this and a lot of that? Then this is the group for you! Are you done with that book on collage and need some fabric for art dolls? Need game pieces or buttons and have some chalks you no longer use? Offer it up for a trade here. Let the group know what you have and what want to swap for.

ATCswapping 170 Members, Archives: Membership required
This group is for swapping Artist Trading Cards (ATCs). There will be themed swaps posted every month which you will sign up for until the date in which the swaps close. Then you will have some time, usually until the end of the month, to make your cards and send to your swap partner. In each themed swap, you will make *ONLY* 2 cards, and they will both be sent to your partner. Please make both card different but on the same theme. Your partner in turn will make 2 cards and send them to you

14_Secrets 143 Members, Archives: Membership required
14 Secrets for a Happy Artist's Life Since the 14 Secrets for a Happy Artist's Life include lots of art making and lots of art exchange, that's what you will find here. We are a group of artists that share, swap, exchange and inspire all things artistic from artist's trading cards to fat books and puppets, mostly through our postal services. Having grown quite rapidly, and having a "happy artist" mandate, we are currently taking on new members by invitation only

Altered_stArt 226 Members, Archives: Membership required
Have you discovered altered art, rubber stamping or mixed media/collage? Would you like to meet other artists, some who are also new to altered art and others who have already stARTed their journey? Altered_stART was originally created as an online group for people who were new to the world of altered art and Yahoo art groups. While we still focus primarily on people who are discovering these art forms, we welcome and encourage people of all skill levels to join

Go to to search for additional groups by your area of interest

October 15, 2008

The other day (Sunday) the air cooled and Tyler (our Pekingese) admonished me that he could wait no longer to explore "the back 40." In other words, the 2 acres that extend beyond the steep drop at the edge of our back yard. So, back pack loaded with everything we'd need for a whole day, and hiking boots dusted off, Tyler and I left for our adventure--which lasted all of 45 minutes. Much to the relief of my mother, and husband, I'm sure.

I discovered that my hiking days have changed, at least till the asthma improves. But in the meantime I did get to see what our property looks like from the back, looking up the hill at the house. And, I learned that the woods are full of dead trees, burrs that stuck in Tyler's fur, old brown bottles, and interesting moss and fungi.

Tyler had a blast. He zoomed from tree to tree, always coming back when I blue my whistle. When it was time to return, he led the way, remembering his p-trail and running back to make sure I was following properly. When we got to the top, he ran ahead to get Mark, then came back to join me and plopped down on his back, tummy in the air, to cool off. What a guy!

We wanted to find the creek, but alas, never did get that far. We know it's there though, because it shows up on the Athens map, as being on our property.

Anyway, it was all worth it to get this photo!


October 8, 2008

Artist Trading Cards Workshop - Athens, Ohio

In conjuction with Art of Ohio I will leading an Artist Trading Card workshop Sunday, Nov. 9th, 2008 from 1:30 - 4:30 in Athens, Ohio at ACEnet. No artistic experience or talent is required--it's all about expression and networking.

My sister, Joan Phelps, will be teaching with me. Details are available on this PDF. You can also look on this webpage for information on workshops. Art of Ohio will also be posting information and supporting materials as the time for the class gets closer.

September 15, 2008

Memory-Keepers - Drawing

What is a memory-keeper drawing? I like to think of it as a way to document events, memories, of things that happen to me in my life or that are important to me in some way.
If the professors in my art classes had talked about keeping a sketchbook as a way to document one's life, or make sense of the visual images bombarding us daily, or as a visual journal we can look back on thirty years down the road--well, I might have kept a more faithful journal. We were just told that "all artists should keep sketchbooks." Certainly practicing technique is important. Working out ideas before commiting them to more expensive materials is a good idea too. But how about forgetting about "doing your best," or "perfecting technique," and just getting down the images, feelings, memories? That is what I'm finding joy in now, as a "mature artist." My inner critic has been silenced, for the most part, and I can draw without evaluating the worthiness of my product. I can create art for art's sake, for my sake.

I was thinking recently about all the pets I'd cared for in my lifetime. Rather than write a list, I drew them. The ones who were with me briefly and went to live with others, are shown walking or flying off the edges of the paper. Those who stayed with me until they died, are shown with little halos. Quite a list when it was all compiled: Timmy the teddy bear hamster who liked to watch TV while sitting on my knee; Marcel, my first pet bird, a Gouldian finch; Joey my first dog, a dashhound; Bailey, the beloved cockatoo whose funny antics still bring a smile to my face.

As for the drawing; it's just OK. But it got me to thinking about other projects that could take off from this one. Actually, this drawing came to me after seeing a photo of Frida Kohla with parrots on her shoulder.

Whether using ATCs, AECOs, collage, paint, scrapbooks, or writing in a journal or drawing in a sketchbook--take time to document your life.

I have some sketches I did decades ago. I've been carting them around from place to place and they are getting rather raggedy. I think I will scan them into my computer and print them out on Epson presentation matte paper (my favorite) and assemble them in a binder.

Do you have any sketches or artwork done, not for the final product, but as a process for keeping memories?

September 10, 2008

Drawing on New Surfaces

Paper, Canvas--traditional surfaces. But what happens when we take our favorite materials and work on new surfaces? Surprising things.

In a previous article, I wrote about my love of Sharpie markers in creating drawings of birds. I also like to use them to create bold, abstract drawings. Like the following:

What happens if we take those same markers, same bold colors, and apply them to a different surface? Below, you will see how the Sharpies look when I drew on a sheet of light beige foam.

This foam, used in kids' crafts, is sold in craft stores and in some discount drug marts. It's inexpensive and fun to use and comes in all sorts of colors. I first started buying it when I began incorporating collage and paste into my acrylic paintings; to build them up and create texture.

I decided to make some Artist Trading Cards using the same technique, and cut the foam to the 2.5 x 3.5 inch size.

The bold color remains, but the effect is softer, more impressionistic and dreamlike.

Take your favorite art materials and apply them to a new surface--see what happens!

Here are some surfaces you might not have thought of:

Recyled materials such as:
  • the nice white inside of a milk carton.
  • Old pieces of glass, old windows, old bottles,
  • old glass lenses, removed from frames and with a pin backing added
  • scraps of wood
  • old slate roof tiles
  • rocks
  • bricks

Materials you can find most anywhere:

  • Kids' board books can be found at most Goodwill and Salvation Army stores
  • Felt, foam
  • A variety of paper surfaces: rough, smooth, textured
  • Apply a coating of gesso or acrylic paint to fabric, then draw or paint on the fabric. How does velvet compare to felt? How does linen compare to fleece? For inexpensive fabric, cut up clothes you are going to give or throw away or buy clearance items at Goodwill.
  • Browse online catalogs from Dick Blick and the like and see what other surfaces are out there.

September 6, 2008

Finding the Right Art Materials #1: Permanent Markers

Let's muse a bit on materials. Ones that work and ones that don't.

How frustrating is it to create a beautiful ATC or altered book or collage or greeting card, reach for a "gold foil" pen and the result is a huge blob of goldish paint right in the middle of your creation?

I love gold and silver pens, but some I've bought went right into the trash. Others consistently work. My problem is keeping track of which is which and remembering when I'm in Hobby Lobby or shopping at Dick Blick or Jo Ann Fabric!

I am thinking about materials because I recently paid many bucks for Micron Archival Ink Acid-free pens. One set of black in various widths and one set of colored. Turns out, I love them. They were worth the price.

I usually draw with fine and extra fine Sharpies. I love the bold colors, the layering of colors, the ease, convenience and portability. In my perfect world there would be 256 colors of Sharpies.

My son, Jesse, introduced me to Poster Paint markers, and the white has been a good addition to my marker box.

But, back to the Microns, the .005 size, in particular. A drawing done in extra-fine Sharpie looks good, but the same drawing done in .005 Micron looks much more sophisticated. Suddenly, my drawing looks hip, looks Wow, looks...I don't know...more professional. I really like the results I'm getting, and nothing about me has changed! Only my tools. How great is that.

Here are some examples:
Here is a drawing I did this week of Tyler, guarding his birthday bone. It is with the Micron pen.

Next, we have a drawing I did last year with Sharpie Extra-Fine markers. I call it Tiny Dancer. You'll see the difference between the two pens.

Here is another drawing of Jackie done with Sharpie markers.

Next, we have two drawings I did this pasat week with Micron .005 black and colored markers. "Tyler and Jackie Dancing" and "Farley's Treat Yes! #2." These are also Artist Trading Card (ATC) size, which is 3.5 x 2.5.

Now, one would hope my technique and skill would improve over time, but the Microns just seem to make things easier.

Do you have any pens or markers that are particular favorites? What gold and silver pens have you found work best?

September 1, 2008

People and their pets–vintage images

Recently, I joined two Yahoo groups for those interested in Artist Trading Cards. Wow! What a wealth of information, friendship, creativity, and visual resources.

I began looking at some of the links to online databases for images of people with their pets. This led me to two websites that were goldmines: and the Library of Congress.

The images that caught my eye gave me a glimpse into life with pets in an earlier time in American history and several images and articles that sparked ideas for future art and writing projects.

Photographing pets is a great hobby. For more on photographing pets, see
this previous blog article.

August 25, 2008

Artist Trading Cards

Green, green, green! That's sums up my weekend in one wordX3. Green were the hills and trees as we drove "somewhere near" Harrisonville to the Blues and Arts Festival. What a beautiful setting: a private farm with rolling hills, shady tents, Amish basket-sellers, two stages with performers, a few farm dogs, barbequed pork, and lots of fresh air. It was hot, sure, but I lived in FL for 17 years, it never really feels that hot to me in Ohio.

Saturday evening, it was off to the 28th annual OxRoast at Ohio University. Imagine free food for anyone who showed up, and there were lots of anyones and someones there. Watermelon, hot dogs, ox (I tried it, it just tasted like roast beef), cake!, corn on the cob, potato salad...for lots and lots of people. Served efficiently and it was all excellent. The coaches were introduced and we bought portable seats with backs for our not-in-college-anymore butts for the upcoming games. The green football field was filled with children enjoying the large inflatable playthings brought in for the event. Green, again.

Green again on Sunday morning when I dusted off my bike after 16 years, inflated the tires, raised the seat a bit, put it in my van and drove a mile to a parking lot by the beautiful 14-mile long bike path that runs between Nelsonville and Athens. I had seen folks riding their bikes along the Hocking River as we sped past on the highway nearby. I looked with longing at how much fun that looked. Now I was one of those people; going slowly, yes, but going nonetheless! Thank you to whomever initiated the creation of this bike path! With a river on one side and the OU golf course on the other, with the library at one end and the stadium at the other (of the portion I was enjoying)...It was heavenly and green, green, green all around.

Everything is green, except our front lawn which awaited last night's rain. Rain it did and this morning a hush and shade lingers over the hills. The dogs are lazy and Gracie, our parrot, is quietly preening her feathers and wondering about the lack of sun.

At the top of this post, I have posted some line drawings I've done recently. Most at ATC (Artist Trading Card) size (2.5 x 3.5 inches). Below are some colored ATCs. Are you familiar with Artist Trading Cards? They don't have to be drawn, they can be collage, stamped, even beaded.

August 18, 2008

Altered Book - from a board book

I design books for a living, and in doing that all the attention is on the details, but someone else's details. What I like about altered books is the deconstruction of a book no longer useful in its original form... I like incorporating other things into it, cast off things, recycled things... taking one thing or several things and by rearranging and gathering, making something new.

I bought a children's board book at a thrift store. It was the story of Beauty and the Beast, not one of my favorites, the girl being married off to a beast and all... So, I was happy to change it into something else.

I gathered images that I liked, glue stick and archival glue in a bottle...sissors that cut interesting edges, a sharp knife, and some permanent pens. I don't consider it done, but almost a sketch. In doing this, I learned more about what looks good and what might be done to improve.

The cover is really not done yet. I've glued two photos and two images from magazines. I found the magazine images, using them in the book, was not ideal as they wrinkled. Next time I will copy them onto something else by scanning or by transfer using a gel medium.

Page one features a chicken by Chagall, taken from a photograph I took at the Cincinnati art museum. She says "The sky is not falling and I am not little." This sums up my philosophy today. Also, "Diamonds are not a girl's best friend, but they are pretty" as the little drawn chicken in the corner states.

Chagall is one of my favorite painters and when I first met my husband, Mark, and he had a Chagall print in his living room, I knew we would hit it off. We ended up going to Cincinnati to the Art Museum on one of our first dates, and he says we went down there on a date and came back as a couple, that's when we knew we would make a good team. So, I've got a soft spot for Chagall. Moving on to page two...

On page two, I wanted to leave some of the type showing through from the original book. The traveler (on an alligator) the three doors, all relate to the traveling and finding shelter theme of this page. There is another Chagall figure at the top.

On pages 3 and 4 there is a theme, but I'm not sure what it is! Angels, Snow White, a bird in the hand, dancers--these are all part of my life in some way. On Snow White's chest it says "A dream is a wish that your heart makes...."

On pages 5 and 6...

On the left I have a list of things worth taking a photo of. There's an image of hands cut out of a magazine. The hands are holding a camera. The ring worn on the hands is similar to a ring my husband gave me when we were married. On the right side I have again left the words from the book "Please marry me, and stay with me forever." At the top, I have written personal notes related to love.

On the last two pages, I have placed an image of a bird, taken from a Dover book "Birds and Butterflies." I like the way the feathers on the bird's head remind me of the branches on the tree in the photograph above it, which I took. On the opposite page I have an image of a girl and a woman.

On the back cover, I glued grass-like shapes and mosaic-like squares from colored foam. I used a photograph I took of three gravemarkers and a photograph I cut from a magazine of three naked women standing at a bar. Like the three doors on page 2, I am referencing the three daughters in my family. And, this page is about how we will one day all be memories to those who love us.There is a woman sleeping, but I was thinking of the "final sleep" when I pasted it in. (And this references back to the earlier page on a dream is a wish that your heart makes. Because our lives are the embodiment of what we dreamed into reality. Or, how we turned reality into something worth dreaming about. Or...)

Working on this book was not about creating a beautiful art piece that someone will buy. That is another process, another mindset. It was about using visual prompts to go down a mental path and then seeing where that path would go and how these seemingly unrelated images would come together to make a whole. Kind of like life.

The good news is that anyone could feel comfortable using this technique and it would be a good project for teens and children too (though you might want to photocopy magazine images onto sturdier paper, 24 lb or 28 lb).

Finishing touches:
I think to finish this book, so that I can feel it is done and put it away... I will varnish the pages and also I may add some three-dimensional embellishments to the front cover, which still is too plain for my taste. Stay tuned...

Postscript: Since posting this I have continued to work on the front cover, adding an image of a feather and some gold embellishments. I've also applied an acrylic finish (decoupage transfer medium) over each page to further adhere things. I then had to score the gutter (inside edge) of pages slightly so they would open and not tear. It's a process.

I went on Ebay and found you can buy LOADS of kids board books really inexpensively. Then I went to my local Goodwill and purchased three for $1. Various sizes. You can also buy blank board books and other scrapbooking and craft supplies at CT Publishing. (Thanks, Dina!)

Here are some great sites for Altered Book Artists:

Here is a book arts group with 162 members on Flickr

July 23, 2008

Finally Here in the Appalachian Foothills

We are here! The big move took place July 1st, and we have quickly settled in. All those notes on colors, patterns, and where to put what paid off and made the adjustment more pleasant.

Last month I wrote
"Choosing Color: What Inspires You?" This was when I was thinking of the colors that appealed to me, and what I might want to emphasize in our new home. Everything came together well, and I had a great time mixing color, texture and shape to create our "nest."

Last Sunday morning I went on a long drive through parts of Southern Ohio that were completely new to me. From Athens to McArthur to Chillicothe, along Rt. 50. It was so beautiful. There were many farms that had the hay (I'm guessing here) rolled up into big, perfect looking cylinders, and they stood in the morning sun on tawny hills with the sun rising behind them and green green green all around.

I saw a horse trailer pulling into a driveway, and the beautiful chestnut-colored horse had his head sticking out the window, just like our dog!

On one particular part of the road, you come around a curve and then before you are many small hills dotting the landscape to the beautiful. Even when gas is $3.86 a gallon (in Chillicothe, Ohio).

I haven't painted here yet, but have spent some time happily setting up my painting and craft studio; now I can't wait to mess it up. The pets are adjusting well to the move and I will be sharing their stories at
Open Your Heart with Pets blog at the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

Thought for the day: Appreciation costs nothing, but reaps big dividends. It keeps us in tune with what really matters and opens our eyes to the beauty around us in nature, in animals, in those we love.

All the best,
Janice Phelps Williams

July 4, 2008

Avian Art with Sharpie Markers

Left: A hawk-head parrot.

A few years ago, I discovered how much I loved drawing with Sharpie markers, and did a series of abstract drawings, which I hope to turn into large paintings one day.

At the same time, I was creating these abstract drawings, I thought it would be fun to draw some colorful parrots. I had painted parrots in watercolor, but I really like the ease of drawing with markers and the way I can layer color and create a texture of small colored lines.

Here are some birds I drew using the Sharpie markers.

Above: Two macaws.
Below: A pair of Eclectus parrots. The male is green, with tinges of red and royal blue, the female is red and blue.

Below: a small, yellow parrot

All paintings, drawings and photographs on are copyrighted by Janice Phelps Williams unless otherwise noted. All rights reserved.