Postcard Portfolio

Top to bottom: paper mosaic, sponged paper, collage

After making the postcards as teaching samples, I decided they needed a portfolio to hold them. Nothing complicated– but something that would store them and maybe even display them.

Accordion-pleat journals are favorites of mine. They are versatile and simple to make. They are comfortable to work on, because you can turn them and open to the page you need. That was a good starting point.

To hold postcards, you need a pocket. To create one, you simple cut the height of the accordion fold larger, and fold the bottom up two inches to create a generous pocket. Deep pockets keep the postcards from falling out or scuffing as they slide.

Front of portfolio, closed

Instead of the traditional back-and-forth of the accordion fold, I folded the sides in twice–so no postcard was showing on the front, and giving the portfolio more of a book shape.

Opening the book shape, you see a spread of decorated paper, but the pockets are still hidden.

To make the portfolio, I cut and completed the folds using Arches Text Wove. The high cotton content of the paper allows a lot of surface design. Using a bone folder to make all the folds, I then opened the sheet up again and wet it thoroughly. I then crumpled it into a loose ball, opened it up, and applied India inks in sepia, brown and black, allowing the colors to run at will. Once the colors had soaked and spread, I hung the paper in the fig tree to dry. When it was still damp, I ironed it between parchments sheets to set the color, then refolded it along the original accordion fold lines. I then added loopy lines using Sakura gel pens in metallics and glaze inks.

Cards in place and fully open.

To keep the first and last postcards from falling out, I stitched the edges with waxed linen. I would do this more decoratively next time. I tried leaving the thread longer and tying bows, but I’m simply not a cutesy bow-lover.

The fourth postcard, third from left, is a foil-on-paper that I colored in using Copic markers. It’s edged in copper foil used by stained-glass makers.

The class for making all four postcards and the portfolio is tentatively scheduled at The Creative Quest on Sunday, June 12 from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. I’ll post it on my website when its confirmed.

© Quinn McDonald, no copying without permission. 2011.

There is a reason

Roses do well here in Arizona. But not for long. They seem tragic, somehow, working so hard to put out leaves and blooms and then the sun scorches them to nothing. We have our share of people in the desert who want their roses. Want to say they grow roses in the scrub-brush land of purples, grays and browns.

The same people who say, “There is a reason for everything,” do not want to accept the reason that some plants don’t grow in the desert on their own.

They want to prove they can outsmart the weather, the climate, the plan that doesn’t suit them.

But in the end, the climate is part of our lives, part of the big circle of life that brings us birth and brings us death. And there is beauty in both, whether we want to see it or not. Because the desert climate believes in us, even if we do not believe in it.

-Quinn McDonald is a writer and journaler who is a life coach because she believes in putting down roots where you thrive.

Invention: Purse Holder

Of course I carry a purse, where else would I put my sunglasses, iPhone, pens, journal, gum, keys, wallet and credit cards? And no tiny little clutch for me, either. Give me a substantial purse with a shoulder strap and I’m a happy shopper. Until, of course, I have to use a stall bathroom.

For “your safety” many stores (even hotsy-totsy ones!) have removed the handy hooks to hang your purse. Some even left a big, ripped hole. I’m not sure why–so you don’t hang yourself? So someone doesn’t come in, notice the Manolo Blahniks  visible under the door, reach over the door and swipe your purse? I’m sure it’s happened, but if you compare purse snaggage to necessity to have your hands to do more important things, it sounds like the squeaky wheel got the hooks removed. Easy solutions: Put the hooks lower so only a female giraffe can lip your purse away. She won’t get far unnoticed. Put a small V-shaped roof over the hook so only a magician can figure out how to snag that purse. Or put the hook on the back wall of the stall. But no, instead, they leave us trying to clear away clothing for the seat while still hanging onto a purse. It’s undignified.

If I come zipping into ladies’ room a quick glance will tell me that the walls are smooth and featureless. I’ve hung the purse around my neck (not too comfortable), even bitten the purse strap–which instantly make me drool, leaving me with a wet strap that gets strange looks when I’m washing my hands.

I’m a tool-creating mammal, so I solve the problem my way: I purchased a belt buckle blank, one without the thing that fits into belt holes. I also purchased a yard of stylish cording, doubled it, and tied an equally stylish knot. Using the larks-head knot, I attached the cord to the buckle’s center post. Using another LHK, I attached the other end to my purse. There wasn’t a lot of length between buckle and purse strap, but there doesn’t need to be.

When I go into the stall, I simply leave the buckle part outside the door, shut the door, and let the purse drop. It will stop at the door lock. If I am being pursued by monsters, I can also slam the door shut, lock it, then lift the purse enough to drop the buckle into the slot between door and lock wall.

The buckle lies flat against the door (because of the knot), the purse stays suspended inside, at door lock level. Easy peasy. If the hinges are low enough on the door, you can do the same on the wall side. If the buckle is not esthetically pleasing, you can use a medium- to large-size button with a shank and have a more decorative device.

In any case, I can now keep my purse off the bathroom floor and safely in the stall. Because it requires almost no mechanical ability, I thought I’d share.

Note: Thanks to all the people who suggested that I make and sell these. Let’s do the math. Cheap buckle: $2.30, 1 yard decorative cord: $1.00. Simple packaging: $0.50 Total materials: $3.80. I could make 5 in an hour.  Let’s say I pay myself $15/hour–which comes to about $31,000 a year, so labor is $3.00 each. Total so far: $6.80 without profit, or let’s say 20 percent profit brings the price to about $8.20 each, wholesale, $16.40 retail.  No one would pay $16.40 for these–they’d say, “Oh, I can make this myself for a lot cheaper than that.”

You’ll notice this doesn’t cover benefits or insurance, so if I wanted to make a profit,  I’d have to go to a sweatshop, deny workers health care, paid vacation, and a decent wage. And that’s not worth it for me.

©Quinn McDonald, All rights reserved. 2011.

–Quinn McDonald is a writer and tool-inventing mammal who loves the simple life–as long as her purse is kept off the bathroom floor.

New Postcard Journaling Class

Postcards are interesting and versatile. They are fun to make, because you have full access to them. Unlike bound journals, you can turn a postcard and keep it flat. You can use one side for writing and the other for the design. You can make them in themes (travel, books read, nature) or for days or time periods (visits, vacations, holidays). They can be sent (to yourself or to others), traded, shared. All in all, a flexible and satisfying art medium.

I’m going to make this my next in-person class. It makes a good 2- or 3-hour class, and if we add foil, fabric, and sewn cards, along with a container, it can be an all-day class.

If you want the class taught to your art group, calligraphy group, art journaling group (yes, you can gather postcards into an art journal) or book club, please get in touch at QuinnCreative [at] Yahoo [dot] com. I travel easily, and the supply list is short, making it a practical class to offer.

I’d prefer to teach the class in person before I do it online. I find that in-person classes allow for more personal work, allow me to be a creativity coach as well as an art workshop facilitator, answer questions, and offer encouragement. Eventually, I will do it online, but it needs to be an in-person class first.

Get in touch and let me know what you think! Or call me to get pricing for a group rate or class. Classes can be varied for the age or ability, and work well for creative writing classes in school, book groups, and corporate retreats. Get in touch: QuinnCreative [at] Yahoo [dot] com.

Book Conversations

Some vignettes from conversations this week as I arrange book signings. I must immediately add that I have had wonderful conversations with delightful people and have signings scheduled, but those aren’t the ones that make my wrinkle my forehead in confusion. Here are a few of the more perplexing conversations:

Me: “I’m a local author with a book coming out in July. I’d like to discuss setting up a book signing.”
Bookstore person: [Sigh] “Another local author. We only do NATIONAL authors.”
Me: [Chuckling] “Well, I’m not originally from here, so maybe I can quality as a national author.”
Bookstore person: “No. If you were a real national author, we’d know about you.”

* * * * * *
Me: “. . .so I’m hoping you’ll want to join the virtual book tour.”
Acquaintance: “I dunno. Maybe. Send me six free copies for my book group.”
Me: ? ? ?
Me: “. . .so I’m wondering if you would do me the honor or reviewing the book on amazon.
Acquaintance: “Sure. Send me a couple of free books when they come out and I’ll take it on vacation with me in September.”
Me: “I can send you a link to an online pdf copy for review in 10 days. That way, perhaps you can get the review up soon after the book comes out, at the end of July. Is that possible for you?”
Acquaintance: “No. I want at least two free books if I’m going have to read it and ALSO write a review. And you know, I get to write whatever I want.”
Me: ” Of course you get to write whatever you want. That’s the purpose of a review. But it sounds like I’m asking you to do more than you are comfortable with.”
Acquaintance: “Yeah, you kind of are. So do I still get two free books?”
Acquaintance: “So your book would be perfect for this person I know. If you send him some free books, he might review it, and he might mention it on his blog. He has thousands of readers.”
Me: “Who are the readers on his blog?”
Acquaintance: “What difference does it make? Publicity is publicity. He might mention you”
Me: “But having a lot of people who are not interested in my book looking at it doesn’t make much sense.”
Acquaintance: “Well, if you don’t want my help, why should I ask this guy? Hey, now that I’ve given you a great lead, can you send me a free copy?”
Acquaintance: “So my friend will review your book. But he has to say whatever he wants. And you won’t know till it goes up on amazon. And no deadlines, either. Send him about half a dozen free copies.”
Me: “There are no free copies. I have to pay for them.” But there is a link to a review pdf online. I can send you that.
Acquaintance: “Don’t be so cheap. You have to spend money to make money. And I was the one who told you to self-publish, but no, you had to go with a publishing company.”
Me: [Confused, as conversation is going is opposite directions] “If I’d self-published, I would have still had to pay for them myself. And ahead of time.”
Acquaintance: “Well, you did it your way. Anyway, when it comes out, send me a free copy and I’ll proofread it for you. It will be good for you to know where you made mistakes.”

–Quinn McDonald is the author of Raw Art Journaling: Making Meaning, Making Art. The book is available on her site for pre-order from amazon.

Manifesting is Hard Work

For two days this week, I am teaching work skills to the unemployed. There is a section in re-writing your resume for online job applications, and I tell them the two steps that are vital to make your resume visible. Inevitably, someone asks if they need to post a new resume for every job application. When I say yes, there are frowns. “Ms. Jones said a well-written resume doesn’t need revising,” one of them will always say. “Every job is different,” I answer, “and has its own key words, and you need to include those. That means a new resume for each new job.”

Hannibal crossed the alps with elephants. Really hard work.

Hands shoot up in protest. I hear about a friend who never updated his resume who got a great job, a woman who wore flip-flops and torn jeans to an interview and got the job, the cousin who got laid off and in a month the boss begged them to come back because they were indispensable. It’s the urban legend and Holy Grail of the unemployed–there is a job that is wonderful, pays well, has a great boss and is easy to find. And then comes the clincher: all you have to do is manifest it by believing, or praying, or following the steps in The Secret.

The horrible truth right now is that there are not enough jobs for everyone who wants one, and the only way to find a job is to keep looking for one. It’s hard, tedious work, and the best person is not always chosen. But you can’t stop trying. And while I believe in prayer and having goals, and positive thinking, I do not believe in magical thinking.

I do not believe that the websites that promise you the “job of your dreams” if only you click on “tell me how” or takes you to another page that doesn’t list a price for anything, and calls the money they are scamming from you, your “investment.” I’ve seen the same websites for finding the partner of your dreams, the SEO of your website’s dreams, and the secret that it will be your video that goes viral.

What’s missing from all of this the is practical application of the ancient Arab wisdom about losing your transportation: “Pray to Allah, but tie up your camel anyway.”

I believe in hard work. I know that people with connections often get the job before people who would be better suited. But if you don’t have connections, you are going to have to work around that lack. In the end, it is doing the heavy lifting, the tedious application, the refusal to give up that moves you along your journey. You can chose to sing to make the work easier, laugh to make the time lighter, or pray for spiritual support and strength. In the end, what you get from your effort is what you put into it. There isn’t any other way.

Quinn McDonald is a life coach who helps people though change.

The Problem-Solving Bee

The bee landed in the pool next to me. They can walk on the water for a few seconds. But much longer and the chlorine will do him in quickly. I’m allergic to bees, so I’ve figured out a way to splash/scoop them out and get them on dry land. Most of the time, they take a few minutes to buzz their wings dry, and then take off.

This one was different. He flew a few inches into the air and landed again. This time, he landed in my drinking glass, or, more precisely, drinking plastic. I’d finished my water, so the glass was dry. I fully expected the bee to climb out. But he didn’t. He walked around the bottom of the glass, bumping into the edge. He did not crawl up the side, he kept circling the bottom of the glass, looking for a way out.

The whole top was open to the sky, available for flying, but he didn’t do that. He didn’t look up where the solution was. He kept looking straight ahead and running into the glass.

The bee was not going to do the one thing he needed to gain his freedom–look around, get a different perspective. And it occured to me that I am just as stubborn as that bee. I keep repeating the same solution, not looking up, not finding a new way. I’ll circle my problem, bumping my head against the wall for days before it occurs to me to look up, to see their was an open space right over my head. A way out, in easy reach.

The only difference between a groove and a rut is the length of time you’ve been going around and your satisfaction level with the route.

Quit circling. Look up. It’s the way out.

Bee image: From the USDA website.

–Quinn McDonald is a creativity coach who helps her clients look up at the big blue sky of possibility right over their heads.

Journaling with Masking Materials

Tonight’s studio time concentrated on using masking materials–masking fluid and a stencil powder. The experiment is linked to the one I did with resists, but it’s different in that the resists were pens and now I’m using masking fluid and a brush.

The original idea was to catch up with Michelle Ward’s Street Team Crusade #44–scraping on paint with a credit card. As I started to turn to a fresh page in my journal, I realized I had tried out some oil pastels on a page. Well, that was a start, just use that as an under layer and keep going.

Before I started painting, I used a brush to apply circles of masking fluid over the paints and let it dry completely.  I got this idea from T. J. over as Studio Mailbox, who was making sewn postcards for the Sakura children. You’ll see more from her later in this blog.

I applied a thin layer of Golden’s Titan Buff acrylic paint to the entire page, covering the oil pastels and the circles of masking fluid. Next came another layer of turquoise paint on the left side of the page.

When it was dry, I rubbed off the masking fluid, to reveal the original oil pastels marks. I added a thick dot of acrylic in the center of each page. This page makes a good background for more work, or as a postcard. I’m loving the layering you can get with masking fluid.

I had to try something else. A few weeks ago, T. J. from Studio Mailbox, currently decamped in Germany,  made me a wonderful stencil that said Make Meaning in Fraktur, the old German writing, mixed with block letters. T. J. heard me say “You don’t find meaning in life, you make meaning from life,” often enough to put the words on a stencil for me. I wanted to use the stencil with Pan Pastels and see if the pastels would act as a resist to inks.

I laid the stencil on a piece of watercolor paper, and using a stencil brush and my shades of gray pan pastels, pounced the brush on the stencil until I had gray printing on the page. I then mixed some re-inkers with water and spritzed the page with three colors–red, stream (a turquoise) and denim.

After the ink dried, I used an eraser to pull away some of the pastels. To my surprise, the ink had soaked through. You can see the ink background underneath the ghosty letter M. This effect still needs some work, but I can see having a good deal of use for this technique as a background. Maybe shading the letters with some darker gray pan pastels would be interesting. Or brushing a light coat of acrylic over the entire page to push back the color. I’ll keep you posted.

-Quinn McDonald is the author of Raw Art Journaling, Making Meaning, Making Art. The book helps art journalers who don’t know how to draw make meaningful illustrations for their journals. It will be published in July, 2011 by North Light.

Job Security in a Right-To-Work State

While having breakfast in a restaurant, I eavesdropped as a loyal employee lost his job. I won’t mention the town, as that scene happens in any town, too often nowadays.  Probably not over a rooty-tooty pancake ‘n’ ham, as it happened this morning, but the instant it became clear what was happening, I understood why this was being done over breakfast: A scene in the office avoided, questions averted, no work disrupted, and breakfast is the cheapest meal of the day. It wouldn’t even cost the company a lot to get rid of the employee.

This is a right-to-work state, there are 27 of those in the U.S. The name comes from the fact that if you work at ABC company and the company forms a union, you cannot be fired. That’s what right-to-work means. It also means you are an employee at will. You can be fired for any reason or no reason. And that was exactly what was happening in the next booth.

While I was eavesdropping on this life-shattering conversation, it became obvious that the boss had done this more than once. He kept repeating the same phrases.

“You’ll get over this, it’s not the end of your life.”
“You’ll find another job quickly.”
“You’ll look back on this and laugh.”
No one was laughing at the time, and the employee was in shock. He kept citing statistics of the fine work he had done, the deadlines he had met, the extra work he had taken on and completed successfully.

It didn’t matter. Nothing he could say made a difference. The decision to have him gone was made before he arrived to meet his boss for breakfast. I wondered where he would go for the rest of the day, how he would tell his family.

Listening in, I remembered one of my clients telling me that she was indispensable. I smiled as I listened to the certainty, and two months later, I nodded my head as she cried, “They can’t do this to me. I’m the only ones who know how to run the program.” And yet, the program ran, and she was out on her ear, out of a job.

It can happen to you. Somewhere, someone reading this and smiling. Secure. You work hard. You are really indispensable. You have traded family life and balance for the job security. You gave up nights with your kids to cement security with your company. You are fooling yourself.

That’s what the guy at breakfast thought. That’s what I thought right before I was laid off at my last corporate job.

Everyone is replaceable. The company that demands your time and your life and your loyalty does not return that loyalty. They pay you and that, in their minds, is all they owe you. America is all about money and dedication and being “passionate” about your career, but less so about the other side of the coin.

I wish our corporate culture were a bit more passionate about loyalty, and caring and being reasonable. So, while you are reading this, what would you do if your job disappeared today?

If you are a perfectionist, this is particularly for you. . .perfectionism is about control, and you are far less in control that you think.

If you don’t have a plan about what to do if you are dumped, now might be a good time to think about it. How much of a financial cushion do you have? How much would you need if it took you six months to find a job? What jobs other than the one you are doing now are you qualified for? What wold it take to make you competitive in your field? When was the last time you updated your resume?

Take a look at your co-workers today. One of them will be gone in three months.

–Quinn McDonald is a life- and creativity coach. She won’t be dumped from her job because she owns the company. But she keeps changing her goals. See what she does at

Journaling with Photos

One of the most beautiful places in Phoenix is the Desert Botanical Garden. I’m a member, and love visiting the garden because there is always something happening–an art exhibit, a butterfly house, or the amazing Chihuly sculptures they displayed in 2009.

Chihuly's glass flames dance in the light of the night garden at the DBG in Phoenix.

When I’m wandering through the garden, I often take photos–to print out for my journal, to print onto cloth and sew onto a postcard, or just look at on my iPhone. A friend sent me some photos from the garden today, and I wrote some fast journal ideas. Maybe this is an idea you can use, too.

Here’s how I do it: I transfer the photos to my Flickr site, mark them “Private” and then add some notes I want to think about. The notes are really short, memory jogs for longer posts I can create. Then, I give myself permission to forget about them. In a week or so, when I go back, I peek at some older ideas. Sometimes the ideas don’t have a spark anymore, and I can delete them. Sometimes I get excited about a small idea and want to make it into something much bigger. Here are some examples, using the photos a friend sent me today.

This butterfly is so adapted to his surroundings, that he looks like a wilted flower. Sometimes looking like a wilted flower is a big advantage–it keeps you from getting eaten by a predator. Adaptation can be useful. If you do it to often, though, you may begin to think that blending in the only way to avoid risk. And it’s not.

I’m always amazed at how the thorniest, toughest plants have the most colorful, dainty, delicate flowers. It’s such a contrast. I know people like that, too–filled with contrasts. If I keep trying to label them one thing or another, I’ll never know them. If I accept all they are, I might enjoy certain parts of their character more.

This butterfly does not eat orange slices by nature. But in this environment, the slices provide both food and water to the butterfly. Making use of what is in front of you instead of spending a lot of energy doing what you’ve always done is a way to thrive instead of survive. (I’m also impressed by the camouflage.)

The obvious star pattern is caused by the less obvious light in the center. Sometimes the shadow of the light is more interesting than the light itself. Your shadow self, the darker side of you, often considered the “bad” part of you, teaches lessons the lighter side of you cannot. The shadow doesn’t always have to be ugly. There is beauty in both the shadow and the light. In this case, both at the same time.

It’s a great way to spark some deep, meaningful journaling.

Photos: Chihuly glass and light/shadow: © Quinn McDonald. Butterflies and cactus: © Rosaland Hannibal. All rights reserved. 2011.