Multi-Media With Mad-Science Products

Multi-media usually means inks, paints, fabric, fiber and encaustic in various combinations. I wanted to try some things that were mad-science incredible, or, in this case, inventable.

The website Inventables, is a place that sells interesting scientific equipment, like aluminum foam bricks. Six inches by 10 inches, half an inch thick, under $30 each.

Aluminum foam bricks–look spongry, but are metal bricks.

There are lots of fascinating “what can I use this for?” ideas, so I began to comb the site for unusual journaling material.  Here’s what I found:

Radiant light film. Looks like chrome film, reflects light like a butterfly’s wings. Comes with adhesive backing, so it can be a journal cover or journal pages. Sheet measures 12 inches by 28 inches and costs $17.50.

Radiant light film.

It can be die-cut, embossed, cut and printed. Use adhesive to attach it to a substrate. It’s used in car decorations and interior decoration, but I’m thinking it would make a great journal cover.

If you don’t like shiny, and want more dimensional effects, you an go for multi-directional, shape-retaining plastic sheets.  Already used for casts that are lighter than plaster and visors you can bend into any shape, I think it would make an amazing journal page that looks crumpled but holds its shape.

Shape-retaining plastic sheet.

You can cut it with plastic-cutting devices.  Approximately 10 inches x 10 inches for $20.

There are also light-defusing sheets that are translucent white that break up light from behind and distribute it evenly. No photo, they look just like sheets of paper. An 8.5 x 11 sheet is about $23, and I could see it being used in an open-frame journal standing in front of a light, or as a shade for a strong LED.

Self-illuminating ribbon in green

Journaling at night? Sew this self-illuminating ribbon onto the cover and you’ll find your journal, even in the dark. Comes in both blue and bright green. A piece thats 10 feet by 2.75 inches is about $90, but a foot (still 2.75 inches wide) is about $10.00

You “charge” it by exposing it to sun for about 10 minutes and it glows for 8 hours. It can be machine washed and sewn on.  I can see it layered over folios as stubs (short pages) or, even better, edged onto the outside edge of a page for a book that won’t get lost at night. I’d probably add it to dog collars, back packs, hiking or biking jackets, too.

Temperature-sensitive sheets would let you hide your journal writing till your hands warmed up the page. Would also make a great postcard with a secret message. Made from a more sophisticated

Change the color of your journal page with your warm hands.

materials than mood rings, these  6″ x 6″ sheets would be a wonderful surprise in cards or as journal pages. About $28 each.

Make a slipcase for your journal or CDs and DVDs or even use these paper-thin sheets of wood veneer as journal pages. an 8″ x 12″page is about $5.00 and has interesting possibilities, from wood burning to painting to leaving it the way it is.

You can also find fabric that is woven from cotton and steel, which can be washed and dried like regular fabric. There is a silicone rubber that looks like glass and crumbles like glass, and makes great faux-ice and cracked glass. $44 for about four pounds.

Real copper fabric for garments.

Make your next project (quilt? journal?) out of copper fabric that won’t tarnish. You can cut it and sew it and expect it to get warm when the sun shines on it–it’s a great conductor of heat. It’s real copper, after all. One yard, 42.5 inches wide, is $32.85.

There is much more on this website to encourage you to experiment, putting “multi” back in multi-media in the best of all ways.  What I admire about this site, and encourage more websites to do, is that it puts the price right on the index page of photos. Each page has several items, or variations of items and each item has a photograph, a short description and a price. You click for details. No deceiving words, like “investment” and “wait, there’s more!”–just honest copy and a price.

Disclosure:  Inventables are not paying me in any way to mention them. I have just ordered some of the copper fabric, glow-in-the-dark ribbon and tape, and wood-veneer flexible sheeting.  Prices will vary over time, and products come and go.

–Quinn McDonald is a secret science geek, has always loved the combining of science and art, and is writing a book on conversations with the inner critic.



Saturday Stroll

For a Saturday creativity boost, some posts you may have missed:

Poured acrylics make great additions to journal pages. They are worth the wait–it takes a while for them to dry.

Resists like Friskit cover spaces on paper that you want to keep white. You can also used them in layers, to show the layers beneath the top one.

Zippers are underused in art journaling. Here’s a zipper drawing and a zipper made of rhinestones.  Here are a group of mixed-media postcards. One of them has a zipper, too.

Send postcards? Belong to Postcrossing? Make this clever fabric box to keep your postcards in.

Have a creative Saturday!

-Quinn McDonald is writing a book on confronting the Inner Critic.

In Praise of Slow

You have an idea. It’s a great idea. You gather materials and carry it out. It doesn’t work. You give up. What made you think that would work, anyway?

Slow motion: One drop of cream being added to coffee.

Wait. Act fast, fail fast, criticize fast. All that speed doesn’t allow you to learn a damn thing. Cutting your losses doesn’t teach you anything except how to cut.

There is a huge benefit to doing things slowly. We live in a super-fast culture, but it’s the same culture that doesn’t like mistakes, that encourages blamestorming as a fair shot in competition.

What’s the benefit of slowing down?

Three water balloons bursting.

You can anticipate. Slowing down lets you think before you act. You can think through the next several steps to see if they are what you want, if those steps move you to the result. If they don’t, you can choose another plan.

Slowing down saves time. Anticipating helps you plan more than one step ahead, create a Plan B, and discover options. All that saves time. Saving time reduces anxiety and possibly money. All because you slowed down.

Practice helps you get it right. Slowing down allows you to practice your steps before you have to do them. Practicing anything, from a piano concerto to a speech, makes you better at it. “Winging it” will just result in making your mistakes public. Slow down. Practice. Then when you do it, it will work, and you will know how come it worked. That allows you to do it again–the right way.

Slowing down slows time down. When time slows down, you see more and you understand more. The more you understand, the more you learn, the more you can use what you know.

Excellence takes time. No one was born an expert. You are not the exception. When you do things step by step you can see mistakes, often before you make them. You have more time to do each step, if you aren’t racing. John Wheeler, the physicist, said, “Time is what keeps everything from happening at once.” Take advantage of time.

Quinn McDonald likes the idea of not always rushing.

It’s Not Always About Happy

We think of “happy” as good and every other emotion as not as good. Here’s what I learned today: being real is good, whatever “real” is.

The world isn’t broken. It’s made up of pieces that fit together quite neatly.
Eggshells, watercolor paint on watercolor paper.

I went to lunch with a new friend who feels like an old soul and a good friend already. She shared sad news with me, and I felt tears start up over her suffering. We chatted a bit about the blog, and then I told her about something I felt bad about–petty behavior on my part. How hard it is to give up envy, pettiness, and feeling bad about it.

She was supportive and understanding. I felt heard. And I suddenly realized the truth of Brené Brown’s quote:

A 12-year-old’s wisdom on fitting-in vs. belonging: “If I get to be me, I belong. If I have to be like you, it’s fitting in.”

At that lunch table, with this kind woman, I belonged to the group of flawed human beings who are working on themselves. It made my day.

It’s good not having to be perfect, or pretending. It’s hard enough work just being me. Being appreciated for that felt like a blessing.

Put down the perfection mirror and just show up. It does a soul good.

–Quinn McDonald is an art journaler and writer. She’s working on a book on the Inner Critic.

Fading Out

Yesterday I mentioned re-writing your past in a way that lightens the darks and fades the shadows. Today I wanted to try to do the same thing visually.

Today was a day of too-saturated color, too much high dudgeon, too vivid emotions. Dramatic clients, fierce news, people shrilling for attention, credibility, everyone demanding to be heard and admired.

Poppies. Graphite, watercolor, pen on watercolor paper.

At the end of the day I was exhausted without having done any heavy lifting. So I decided to draw some cheerful flowers. Poppies are always cheerful, breezy. But the colors were too much, too bright, too assertive on my retina’s rods and cones. (Rods distinguish light; cones distinguish color. There are more rods, but they are not as sensitive as cones.)

In light of yesterday’s fading of memories, I did the equivalent with drawing. Using my new favorite Art Graf Stix, I drew the poppies, using shades of gray and black. I added very faint touches of red-orange and blue-red. Just a touch.

The final effect is light and airy without too much burden of color or detail. For right now, that suits me perfectly.

Quinn McDonald is an art journaler whose art makes meaning.

What You See Is What You Remember

When I was small, we ate dinner in my father’s study. This room was also part of the living room, the house library,  and next to the kitchen. There was a deep pocket door that held a huge table, and each night, we pulled the table out of the wall, attached the legs, set it up and then set it for dinner. After the meal, we packed it away again. It was my father’s time to study and work. We did our homework in the kitchen, at the table there.

I remember the table as being huge–at least eight feet long, and the legs must have been four feet tall. I adjusted the memory slightly when I realized that the legs would not have been that tall–we used regular chairs to sit at the table.

When I traveled back and saw the table, it was much smaller than I had remembered. Well, of course, I was a short child, so the table seemed huge. And I laughed and easily adjusted my memory.

There are other things that we don’t adjust easily. The brother who was a bully. The manipulative friend who got us to say something, then turned on us and broke our confidence. The histrionic mother who flirted with our boyfriends and refused to give up any of the stage, much less the center of it.

We hang on to memories that diminish us. Make us small. Slice us open for all to see and gawk at. The more we believe those stories, the more they become true. The more they become true, the bigger they grow. We give these hurtful memories importance they don’t deserve, inflate them to huge size and vivid colors, add a sound track and march down our life’s path with the sad circus band of our past hooting and jeering at us.

Statue of Alice passing through the Looking Glass from NorthStandChat.comband in the distance

No wonder we can’t sleep. Turn off the TV and you hear the sound of the circus in the distance.

You cannot change the bully brother, the manipulative friend, the histrionic mother. You can, however, give them far more importance and power than they ever had. You can use Life Photoshop and add shadows, sharpen contrast until your whole life is layered between these memories.

Or, you can try something else. Write down the story as you see it now in your journal. Use those filters of memory fully. Make the story as bad as your memory will let you. Immediately afterwards, pretend that you are walking into that situation now, as an adult, when the dinner table is normal-size and the chairs are normal height. Look at the hurtful situation again now, as an adult. Then re-write it with less color and more understanding. Because this time you are in control of what happens.

Allow the omnipotent power of others to drain away. Take back some of your own confidence. Your own tolerance. Your adult wisdom. See the bully brother as threatened. See the histrionic mother as unloved and fighting for attention. See the manipulative friend as weak. Then write a few concluding sentences about taking your own power back. About the perspective you have now, as an adult who can see life in real-size.

You cannot change the past, but you can surely go back and take another look at it. As an adult, you are in control. Those memories live on the power you give them. Don’t waste your power. Claim it back.
Your journal will let you shrink those memories down to size.

-Quinn McDonald keeps several journals. She’s working on another book on confronting the Inner Critic.

Celebrating a New Year in Fall

The beginning of the school year always felt like New Year to me. My feet, having been in sandals all summer, were suddenly crammed into tight new shoes. There were new pencils (with that great cedar-closet smell) and new crayons ( love the smell of fresh crayons) and paste (which also smelled good, but I was never tempted to taste it.) New teachers, new books, and a relief from summer’s heat.

Leaves. Pitt Pen, graphite and watercolor on watercolor paper.

When I lived in New England, the beginning of September marked a time when the days got noticeably shorter, and picked up speed. There was a red maple that turned colors first every year, starting around Labor Day.  The summers in New England were short and mild, and I was filled with a pang of longing when the September days grew shorter than the nippy September nights.

The Jewish New Year falls in September most years. It’s the first day of the 10 Days of Awe, and the mystics believe that on Rosh Hashanah (New Year), the Creator of the Universe opens the Book of Life and writes the names of those who will live for another year. On Yom Kippur, the last day of the celebration, and the most solemn day in the Jewish calendar, the book is closed. In the days between, the mystics say, we have a few precious days to reflect and make necessary changes.

Fall seed pods, watercolor pencil on paper.

On the two days of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, I take the day off and slow down. On the changing of seasons and the changing of lives. Tonight, I lit the candles and said the familiar blessing thanking the Creator for seeing us safely through the cycle of another year. I thought about the fading light that I once dreaded and now welcomed as the beginning of the season of outdoor eating, and planting–just when the rest of America is closing up the tables and pulling down the planters.

Soon the first migrating birds will arrive and bring us song and color and chattering and noise that we don’t hear in the summer.  In about two weeks a trailing cloud will drift to the West of Phoenix and meet with another one on the East as thousands of hummingbirds migrate to the Sky Islands South of Tucson. My three feeders will be drained twice a week.

I’ve started to walk again in the early morning, as the searing heat of summer has lifted. Well, it’s still over 100 degrees (F) in the daytime, but in the early morning, it is already 15 degrees cooler than five weeks ago.

The cycle of life goes on. There are more memory candles on the table this year, burning through the Days of Awe for the souls of those who died since last Yom Kippur. I am acutely aware that one day I my life will be represented by a candle on a table. And that day is not as far away as the years I have been lighting candles. It’s not something to fear, but it is something to remember.

Life, change, death. Nature presents them every year for us to notice. It’s hard not to think of dying when the leaves shrivel on the trees and pool is as warm as tea you leave to cool.

These are special days, the days that allow us to gracefully move from one season to the next. They are meant for reflection and planning, and welcoming change.

May everyone who reads this be written in the pages of the Book of Life for a year of growth, acceptance, courage and strength.

Quinn McDonald is a writer and creativity coach, working on a book about the Inner Critic and noticing the time slide past her window.