Tiny terrariums.

Thursday I teach terrarium building to kids at Kingsbrae Garden’s ARTrageous. This post is to help any new parents of tiny terrariums to take care of their creations.

Wednesday

It’s pretty simple, add a couple drops of water if you notice it’s looking dry in there. This won’t happen very often. The terrarium contains charcoal to keep it fresh, but if you get mold, it probably means too much water.

Keep out of direct sunlight. If you like, you can tie a cord around the neck of the bottle and wear it like a necklace! Just do your best not to shake the little guy up too much. If you want somebody who really likes all that shaking, check out Marimo moss!

If it so happens that the little mossy dies, don’t despair! This is all locally harvested, and sometimes a species just doesn’t take to captivity. Remove the deceased critter, and go for a walk in the woods to find some more! To protect future mossies, only take from a plentiful source, and remember to wash out any bugs with clean, cool water.

Moss_4 copy

If you need to replace the whole thing, or would like to make more for friends, the layers are as follows, from bottom to top. You only need a pinch of each! Try to fill the bottle only half way with the dirt layers, leaving half the space for the moss to thrive!

Terrarium Layer Cake
Mini bottle (Dollar store or online, best to wash with dilute bleach)
2-3 gravel stones or beads (for drainage)
Sprinkle of activated charcoal (from aquarium store, to prevent algae)
Dampened dried moss (optional, keeps dirt from falling through in bigger bottles)
Half and half mixture of sand and potting soil (tamp down with a paintbrush handle or skewer)
Teeny tiny moss baby of your choosing! (dig a little hole for it with your paintbrush)
Spritz or two of water down the sides

I hope you enjoyed creating a habitat for your new friend! You can use the same recipe to make all different sizes. Keep me posted on how you get along!

First teach.

I had a special experience a few weeks ago, thanks to Lacey Hunter over at Loving the Lack. She generously lent me her class, and they kindly put up with my inexperienced teaching methods.

Chrysalis Workshop_2_1

I had never really taught before, so I was super nervous. This was a home for teenaged girls, but they were very kind and welcoming, an unlikely little family. (Thankfully) not at all like I was at their age. We altered wooden boxes using phototransfer, painting, and collage. I’ve found these to be my favourite “stop worrying about the outcome and just have fun” techniques.

Chrysalis Workshop_9

Just look how awesome they are! I was expecting to be anxious the whole time, but it turns out it is another feeling entirely. You help people make something, and have fun, and make a mess. You get this sort of glow in your belly, so much different than when you make something yourself. You know their work is good, you don’t have to struggle to view it objectively.

Chrysalis Workshop_10_1

So then I asked the universe to please give me some more opportunities to teach, and it has delivered! Last week I heard from Dana O’Regan about being his assistant teacher for another set of ArtReach workshops, this time on making art instruments with kids.

Chrysalis Workshop_6

Then I was contacted by my new friend Cheryl Lavigne, who teaches grade four french immersion. Her group was selected for the Fredericton Art Alliance/NB Gov’t program to bring artists into classrooms. We’ll be working together with a film and digital media artist to help the students respond to lessons about french language history.

Chrysalis Workshop_5

I’ve been struggling with where to place my focus this year since I am realizing I can’t do everything all at once. As my teacher would say, better to stretch it out on the timeline horizontally than to stack it up and do everything poorly.

Chrysalis Workshop_1

Decisions are hard, and although we like to believe otherwise, there is often no correct answer. In my art practice, when I reach a crossroads in a project, I look for a push in one direction or the other. Resistance somewhere, or an omen if you like. Although I don’t believe they are actually pointing out the right direction, I use these “signs” as an easy way to make the decision. After all, what really matters is that I start moving.

Chrysalis Workshop_13

This collection of unexpected teaching opportunities, I’m going to accept that as a sign to put effort in that direction. My first experience and their beautiful, unique creations brought me a well of joy.

It can be hard to learn art because it is all about making something different, and this is counter to our urge to fit in. I hope to help people get comfortable taking creative risks and identifying their own core inspirations.

Quiescent current.

I’ve come full circuit on this project (haha). From idea to action to rest. At least quilting feels like rest to me. It’s better than rest, because I have something to show for it.

I washed out the silk, very very thoroughly. The image became much clearer and the lines sharper. I did find that in places where the dye lapped up over the resist, it tinted the cloth underneath slightly. Part of learning the medium.
faces stolen 011 (1650x1238)I hummed, I hawed, and I sampled, but I put off quilting the piece for several days. Pinning seemed to put major holes in the silk, while binding with spray adhesive soaked through and stained the cloth (despite its bold claims to the contrary). I queried the internet and found some excellent advice here. I couldn’t find the thin fusible web that was suggested but I did discover some beautiful drapey interfacing at my school shop.
fusible interfacingI ironed it on, being careful to match the grain. I also stuck some heavy interfacing on the muslin backing to give me a little support and to help push the loft of the quilt toward the topside. Then I spray baste it all together with some extra fluffy polyester filling.
quilt sandwichIt quilted up like buttered muffins, or something equally lovely. None of that shifting and bunching that silk is so notorious for, yet somehow the interfacing was thin enough to look natural.
quilting in progressI nearly couldn’t stop. Thank goodness for deadlines. As is I stitched the poor thing to within an inch of its life. At first it was too “pillowy”, not nearly the structured look I was going for. With a little more time and thread it came together.
silk circuit_8 copyTo finish it off I bias bound the edges, using a method similar to the one described here. This was for aesthetic and also to protect the silk from the violence of my staple gun.
I arranged so that the back would still be visible. Oftentimes the back is my favourite view, I like it to be all one colour so you get an abstract view of your work. It seems almost like a secret piece you didn’t intend to make.
silk circuit_10 copyIt is now hanging for sale at the M&T Deli. I hope it finds a good home (although part of me hopes it will have to come back home with me). This one came out very much the way I had planned. Sometimes it has to go that way. Too often we arrive at the end and can’t see the beauty because it isn’t what we thought. We pick at the mistakes and distrust the compliments. But sometimes, as if in utopia, we love a project right from beginning to end.
silk circuit copy

Circuit breaker.

Progress, from idea to action. I’ve traced and traced again, first to make the pattern, next to lay it, and finally 4 Fleurs dans une 038 (1650x1238)to resist.
I trace the lines and circles onto the silk with ink that disappears with water (what a brilliant invention). The pattern reminds me of rice terraces.4 Fleurs dans une 032 (1650x1238)

I tie up my silk onto its frame, being sure to shore up the lines. This is important at every step, silk is so shifty. This is my first silk painting, I am nervous and proceed slowly and with deliberation.
4 Fleurs dans une 042 (1650x1238)

I colour my gutta (resist) with Procion dyes to match the greens, yellows, and reds of my image. I had considered screenprinting with the gutta, but in tests this proved only somewhat effective, and I am pressed for time. I will put this thought on the back burner to experiment with on a future piece. This time around I squeeze it from a little bottle using the ruler as guide. I was expecting much more difficulty.
4 Fleurs dans une 054 (1650x1238)

Proceeding despite expected difficulties is often an enlightening experience. I like to pick a hard project off the bat, test the limits of the medium. This project tests the gutta and its possibilities. It allows a surprising amount of control.
4 Fleurs dans une 058 (1650x1238)

For the background painting, I have chosen a more simple path. I have mixed a very dark Procion indigo, diluted it with alcohol to help keep smooth transitions in my background. There is a lot of nickel gray in the mix, which splits into pinks and grays (and other more shocking colours) as it dries. I am after that dash of luck.
4 Fleurs dans une 059 (1650x1238)

Simply touching the ink brush to the silk spreads little pools of colour right up to the resist line. This is much more efficient than my past forays into painted cotton. Successfully  wooed, I can see that silk painting and I will be spending a lot of time together.
4 Fleurs dans une 070 (1650x1238)

I will let it rest and steam it out when it has dried, then on to the quilting. I can’t wait to see the resist disappear along with the blue marker. Slow processes are chock full of meditation, but also much anticipation.
4 Fleurs dans une 079 (1650x1238)