Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Rain boot Planters, Charming but not as Easy to Make as Youtube Tutorials Show

I have a big, honkin' board on Pinterest titled: Cool + Exciting Garden Ideas. It mostly consists of creative and functional garden-art ideas as I consider my backyard an extension to my indoor art studio. When I pounce upon a pin that excites me–like the pinned picture at left, I follow up with a YouTube search for a tutorial on how to re-create the idea.

Upcycling is a passion of mine so the clever transformation of colorful rainboots into planters really excited me. I mean it looked so easy and cheap to make. But recreating isn't always as easy as a YouTube tutorial may appear, whether it's a humble amateur video or one filmed by a professional outfit, I've learned a) The tutorial presenter isn't interested in creating the object for longevity or 2) Steps are often skipped because someone else behind the scenes did the hard prepping part, so don't let the cute flicks of children crafting something you intend to make fool you.

How to Make a Rainboot Planter-What I Learned

1. First thing, you need a pair of discarded rainboots.  Last Fall I found a gorgeous pair at a church sale, then over the winter I found some reasonably priced ones on eBay and at Goodwill  a Tagsale and Craigslist. Our solarium where I piled the boots smelled like a pungent swim cap until Spring arrived and we could slide the windows open. But first PAY ATTENTION when purchasing rainboots, check for condition, it's okay if they look worn, but the Goodwill ones had a busted buckle on one boot that I overlooked. I cut the buckles of this pair off, but if you're looking to make and re-sell your rainboot planter, inspect the boots with laser- focused eyes.

2. Secondly, one needs to drill holes in the bottom of the boot for drainage. Sounds easy huh? Well guess what! Most rain boots have metal reinforcements in the soles. Yeah, not so easy to drill through. Most YouTube tutorials showed wee little drill holes on the sides and/or bottom of the boots. The small drill bit holes didn't funnel water well when I tested for drainage by pouring water in the boots, some retained a lot of the water for a very long time. So I had to re-drill with a larger bit, and that's when I hit metal. The drill will drill through the metal reinforcement, but this isn't child's play. I opted for one larger hole instead of several, like a flower pot.

3. BEFORE DRILLING remove the insteps inside boots. Also some rainboots are lined and the first small drill bit I used got twisted up in the lining to the point the boot started rotating like a propeller, dislodging the drill from boot wasn't easy, thus another reason to use a large drill bit and make just ONE big hole. Also be careful to not drill through to other side of boot.

4. Use a sturdy cushion like the plastic Styrofoam block to left to rest boot on when drilling, otherwise you might drill a hole right through the table. Like. I. Did.

5. Next step, hold boot up to sky to make sure you drilled through the whole sole. You can use a knife or scissors to enlarge hole if need be. Then grab a few handfuls of peastone and toss in, using hands is faster than a small cup or hand shovel.

6. Add Potting Soil to boots, NOT Topsoil, potting soil is lighter and best for drainage in contained spaces. Trust me on this. Don't fill all the way to the top as you need room to put flowers in. So this project also points out you need Peastone, potting soil and flowers-this is a fun project but not uber cheap to produce. But still, whimsical and unique compared to a pedestrian Terra Cotta pot.

7. Add flowers, and voila! Ye are finally done. Come winter in colder climates, I suggest storing boots in garage or basement–someplace dry– to preserve them for future enjoyment. So I recommend planting annuals in your boots rather than perennials. Enjoy!

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Celebrate Monarchs! A Free Butterfly Stencil to Use on a Garden Rock

I live in a congenial town, today as I was spreading fresh hardwood bark around my Dappled Willow area garden I waved at neighbors biking by. "I love your garden Suzanne!" the woman called out. "And I love the Butterfly painted on your rock in your garden!" Well that compliment made my heart sing. "I can give you the stencil if you want, and it's also on my blog" I called out, "I love your blog!" she replied as she and her husband and dog sailed down the street. But then I realized, it wasn't on my blog, my pineapple stencil is on this blog, not the butterfly one, both were found online as free to use, but both needed cleaning up.. See Pineapple Stencil story here:
My Free Pineapple Stencil and Story Behind it

I created the Butterfly stencil last year when I and my neighbor BettyJo decided to plant two butterfly habitats in our downtown riverwalk, a conserved area with trails that run along the Farmington River. I was interested in raising monarchs, Betty Jo upped the ante by coming up with an idea to approach the Chamber of Commerce and town about public habitats. The monarch population like bees, has been diminishing at dangerous rates in America due to pesticide use. Without these winged insects our food supply is negatively impacted. To date many non-profits have flourished to assist in replenishing our landscape with Monarchs. So we jumped on the bandwagon and received immediate approval to plant two habitats designed by local realtor, WMP board member and landscape designer Kate Lange, all with the help of local sponsors. I designed the logo and we are officially:

I planted a variety of perennials in my side garden to attract Monarchs, last year Purple Cone Flower, Butterfly weed and Butterfly Bush, Stonecrop Sedum, Shasta Daisy. But my stenciled butterfly rock is a visual to let passerby's know, this garden is Monarch friendly. Last year we learned to raise butterflies, and released them in our town habitats. Over 100 Monarchs were raised from collecting  eggs from Milkweed plants that edged our town pond. How such a beautiful insect can grow from a very teeny white egg within a few weeks is flat out, amazing.

If you'd like to let others know your garden is butterfly friendly, you can download the below stencil with instructions to use, have fun! And if you want to know more about The Windsor Monarch Project please check out our facebook page:

Download the Butterfly Stencil here, click on image, then print:

Monday, April 30, 2018

What I Learned from the #100DayProject Challenge and Why I Stopped Again

The 100DayProject Challenge is a great idea, started up by the online magazine The Great Discontent. This concept challenges readers to commit to 100 of days learning something new, or focusing on a creative project, or making a lifestyle change. The 'Challengees' post on Instagram their daily progress using the proverbial hashtag #100DayProject. At the end of the 100 days the online site selects to highlight the successful outcome of some of the participants.

In 2017 I committed to this challenge but within two weeks I was overwhelmed and quit. I was so disappointed in myself as I'd selected a fairly easy project to commit to. When I quit, I imagined all the successful artist participants as being more organized and perfectly pulled together than I; they working from gorgeous studios and selling all they created during their challenge run and enjoying press for their efforts.

Admittedly, I'm the kind of artist who falls in love with ideas before thinking the whole thing through enough to realize that 100 days is a whole lotta time to marry oneself to, using up daily hours for a daily progress report.

Furthermore, as an illustrator and gag writer and one who manages an attention deficit issue; I found it hard to wedge in another task that could absorb one-two hours of my day. Remember, this not only involves creating the item, but shooting and/or scanning, cleaning up the image in Photoshop or Snapseed, posting on social media and blogging about it. This adds two more hours on top of art-production time.

So I ended the challenge and started again this year, full of promise, reminding myself that the failed challenge was adding on another hand created task that interfered with my daily process of running a busy ETSY shop, plus trying to finally get another one up and selling on a regular basis.

This year I cleverly decided to incorporate the task of creating art for my second ETSY shop SuzanneUrbanArt, thus integrating a daily task that matched up perfectly with a personal goal of mine. Aren't I clever thought I. and started off with a bang that resulted in several finished holiday characters plus one up for sale in a juried artist group: Ehag Artist Emporium. And it sold!

But slowly I missed a day of posting on IG, then another day, my daily productivity was crashing to a halt as my work space became too cramped and disorganized to work in. Some creatifs can work amid chaos, I. Can. Not. Clutter in my physical exterior creates clutter in my ADD mind.

So I convinced myself I'd commit two days to
re-orging my studio and back on the #100DayProject Challenge wagon I'd hop. Two days became two weeks that included ordering bookcases, selling old furniture on Facebook Marketplace and purging stuff, stuff accumulated when I fell in love with the idea of exploring a new medium with out thinking through how I could use this medium to create something that happily fit my personal, authentic style.

What I learned about the #100DayProject is, I'm not ready for it, or it's just not for me. I'm capable of focused discipline, due to years of working in left-brained habitats and freelancing around them, but making the switch full-time to my own studio work takes more conscious mental shifting than I ever thought. One must stay inner-focused A LOT. However, this challenge exercise, though brief, opened me up to seriously organizing my studio to enhance productivity, aid my ADD issue (everything containing supplies is stashed in homogeneous groups and labeled) and most importantly, the new white furniture, and area rug reflect much needed light in a studio with one window.

So be ye not discouraged if you flunked a challenge. As challenges not finished still offer an important learning curve and growth. If you fail to complete it,  the timing might be off for you, life gets in the way, but in turn you might open yourself up to a much needed change in half the time. Go forth and create. Herewith my new studio thus far:

Monday, February 12, 2018

My Napkin Draw Submissions for Doodlers Anonymous–Vote for Me?

My 2018 submission to Doodler's Anonymous Napkin Draw
Back in 2010 I entered Doodler's Anonymous' quirky challenge, to draw on a napkin and submit it to their site to have others vote on their favorite. I was pleasantly surprised when my entry then was highlighted in their Call to Artists to submit for their 2018 Napkin Draw Challenge.

I sometimes doodle on napkins when waiting for our order in restaurants. Back in 2010 I did so and found out the waitress saved the napkin and posted it on their community bulletin board next to postcards of work by local area artists. I wonder if it's still there.

I revisited the challenge this year and if you're not terribly busy, would you vote for my entry of a clumsy bear trying to draw on a cheap napkin? Shown here in this blog post The doodler with the most votes will win a gift card–and that will go to more Art Supplies and maybe some napkins, naturally.

Thank you for your time:

And my 2010 Napkin Draw submission in 2010:

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

My #100DayProject Commitment So Far

Last year I failed the #100DayProject, I thought up a project without thinking it through, my lofty goal was to create something ready to shoot with a camera and post on social media and this blog. Time management isn't my forté, I never seem to have a realistic idea on how long a task will take me. Because of this, everything seems so easy to accomplish in my head, but once it materializes on the drawing board, reality hits.

This year I decided not to assume I can produce a piece of art everyday, as long as I was working on finishing a piece and sharing the Work In Progress to finish, than this would suit my time management issue nicely. And thus my goal was to start finishing half started, half-finished projects that were taking over my studio space. And the goal was to work on pieces for my second ETSY shop, SuzanneUrbanArt the shop that I've neglected for so long.
So far, I've been able to consistently put one foot in front of the other and sit and paint, draw, glue, finish and post the varying stages. The picture to the left is the crowd of whimsical beings thus ready to live in a new home.

Monday, February 5, 2018

Reformed People Pleaser? I hear Ya and Have a New Magnet for You!

I feel the environment I was raised in decidedly turned me into a chronic people pleaser. And the habit's been hard to break. As a young adult I over-offered, did too much and pretty much became a welcome mat for some.

I still have moments that propel me into over-pleasedom to get the endorphins moving so I feel okay with myself and not anxious that someone out there isn't entirely satisfied with me. This over-pleasing neurosis surfaced mostly in work environments. Luckily, the exhaustion from trying to keep in everyone's graces or rather my faulted perception that I needed to over do in order to feel okay with the world became my reality check. So now an inner dialog kicks in and asks, are you seeking approval Suzanne? or genuinely doing or saying this because you want to? This helps.

This magnet is for all ye people pleasers who. need to a funny reminder that you're enough just as you are. It's available here:

Thanks for visiting!

Googly Eyes and Fun Stationery Pack for the Kids, The Art of Handwritten Notes Need not Disappear

Most of the work I create in my two ETSY shops is for women and men. But every once in awhile, I come up with a product sure meant for a kid, or the kid in you. I had a pack of googly eyes all colors and sizes in my stash, and VistaPrint had a postcard sale. Having drawn this snailmail character  a lot, I even licensed a line of snailmail illustrations to a rubberstamp company over a decade ago when the internet hit the scene, I decided to revisit him. I not only love to wordsmith, but I love to visually wordsmith too. The vintage stamps are collaged on digitally just for fun.

This fun postcard comes with a pack of three crayons for child to color him, write a note on the back, tuck in corresponding envelope and mail out to a friend. Fun project for the easily bored on rainy/snowy days.

The art of a handwritten note need not disappear in this age of Texting and emailing.

To purchase:
SnailMail Postcards