Somerset Apprentice Winner Announced!!!

As promised (I think it’s just now been ten days) I literally put the names of all who commented on my last post into a bowl and mixed them up.  I had my helper choose one name.  (Oh how I do looooooove to do this!)  I decided to get my vintage typewriter out and get all typewritery to announce the winner.  I’m pretty sure it needs to be oiled…


I wish there was a typewriter repair class somewhere that I could take.  I did tinker with this beauty when I acquired it and I managed to get it working.  It just needs a little bit more help.  The keys sometimes stick and I feel that I have to really bang on it to get a good clear letter.  So it’s far from smooth.  But I digress…



And just to say one quick thing before I announce the winner of the latest Somerset Apprentice magazine along with some other goodies, I just love how you can see the surface texture of the paper above (and below).  This is due to a manually focused macro lens.  YUMMY!!!  Again I digress… Congrats to:




Geez, did I spell exclamation wrong?  It appears so.  Whoops!  Congrats Caroline!!! Just email me your mailing address and I shall ship your package out shortly.


Thank you everyone for playing and your words are an inspiration to me for my future novice word-smithing.



Amalgamate was Caroline’s word.  A fantastic verb. Love it!




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Stampington Sponsored Giveaway: Win the latest Somerset Apprentice Magazine Plus Some Extra Goodies!!!!

I respect the wonderful weirdos of the world;  the artists, the dreamers, the inventors; those colorful souls that stand out against the rest.  The ones who stick their oddball neck out in the face of normalcy often to be scoffed at by others.  The ones who put their strange foot forward and march.  I can identify with that.  I am different; a bit kooky I suppose.


Making art lets me express myself like nothing else.  It frees my inner weirdo.  I guess I could say it defines me.  Along with a few other roles (mother and dog lover), I know that being an artist (and crafty person) is what I was meant to be.  That being said, I still have a variety of art-related insecurities.  While I have taken quite a few art classes, I did not attend art school. (A prime example of an art-related-Mandy-insecurity).  My inner critic can be a real meanie at times. Sometimes she has the nerve to tell me that there is a glaringly obvious difference between my work and the work of “real” “art-school” artists…

When this bully gets too loud, I turn to one of my favorite places: the magazine rack at my local craft store.  Even though this place resides inside a florescent-lit big-box retailer, it still is candy for my soul.  There I find an amazing source of inspiration and virtual camaraderie.  The artists that contribute to these publications come from all different backgrounds.  The Stampington line of publications (I think there are over 20!) are nothing short of amazing.  Somerset Apprentice is one of my all-time favorites.   While it is geared toward the beginner artist, it’s also appreciated by the veteran art maker.



In this latest Somerset Apprentice, the Spring 2015 issue, I am thrilled to report that I am featured in a “From The Pros” article.  Here I tell a bit about myself and share some advice for those embarking on their own art journey.  This issue is full of delicious art work and wonderful words of encouragement from other art professionals, not just moi!

My favorite article in this issue has to be “Page in Bleu,” by Linda Trenholm.  Pictured below, the faint patterned background, simple collaged elements, smudged edges, and the funny marching band man, all speak to me.  I love the blue tones next to the red pieces, they make my inner color fiend super happy!  The fact that it’s created in an altered book inspires me greatly.  I am a lover of hand made books.  And have altered a book or two in my day.  Linda’s directions are simple and straightforward.  Very easy for the beginner!


I also love Renee Stein’s work and story.  Her stuff is playful and colorful and her advice rings true: “Try to carve out a little time for art each day.  It’s sort of like training a new puppy; the more you nurture it and devote time to its training, the happier you will be with your results.”  Wonderful advice, Renee!


Now to address the title of this post.  Thanks to the folks at Stampington, I will be sending this lovely Somerset Apprentice issue to one lucky reader along with some of my own goodies!  I’m including one of my dear little mixed-media pieces featured in the magazine!  To win, all you have to do is leave a one-word comment.  Not just any word, but a word that you like; maybe you like the sound of it, or it reminds you of a special time in your life, or the definition is just amazingly awesome.  The stranger, the better, but in English, si vous plait!  I’m very much into words and their meanings these days…In fact, I’ve begun posting a word a day, artfully scribed, and it’s definition on Instagram (follow me at mandy.russell.940).  I’m also trying my hand at writing quirky poems and incorporating said poems into some sort of delicious art journalling.  So my hope is that your words will become art…or poetry…which is in fact, art.

I will choose a winner by literally putting names (or your corresponding word) into a hat and drawing one!  I will announce my findings within 10 days.  So roll up your sleeves and grab your dictionary!



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Simple Shading and Burnishing with a Blending Stump; An Easy Tutorial

Oh how I love to shade and burnish my drawings with a pencil and a blending stump.  I just finished leading a 3 week course on Zentangle-inspired art where shading and burnishing in this way is kind of a big deal.  The pen lines of the doodle really come alive in pure 3-D glory when they are shaded well.



With a small Pitt pen or a fine point Micron pen, draw a simple image, like rounded rocks.  I particularly like the look of rock piles and find them quick and easy to depict.


With a HB or 2B pencil lightly draw around the circumference of each rock, sticking to the interior of the rock as shown below.  Here the light source is perpendicular to the plane of the page.


With a blending stump, rub the penciled area until it becomes a bit darker and more blended.  Rub it into the interior of the rock slightly too.  Occasionally this rubbing process will give me chills like nails on a chalkboard.  But I persevere because the reward is worth it!


The tip of the blending stump will quickly become dull and covered in graphite.  You can easily sharpen it, while removing the graphite at the same time, by rubbing the tip on sand paper.

This might be the shortest post in the history of my bloggity self.  I tend to be a bit chattier.  I will say that I have a Stampington-sponsored giveaway coming very soon!  So stay tuned…AND as always, thank you for stopping by!


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Border Control of the Quilterly Kind (A tutorial on achieving even and squared quilt borders)

There’s nothing like teaching a class to motivate me to create.  I’m in the middle of teaching a Quilting 101 course for my local adult ed center (Merrymeeting Adult Education) a most lovely and encouraging place.  I’ve been sewing up a storm in order to be ready and prepared.  I’m up to my ears in fat quarters, acrylic rulers, batting, quilting pins, and thread.  There are two quilts that I’ve been focusing on; one is a T-shirt quilt and the other a photo quilt.  I’m at the point where I’ve bordered them.  The next step will be making quilt sandwiches.

I’m sort of a one-hit wonder when it comes to making an actual blanket-sized quilt.  I build a center and then I usually add borders around said center.  Borders are a quick and relatively easy way to add a good amount of size to your quilt top. They also frame the center nicely.


Cut your border strips to your desired width.  (As pictured above, I usually like a double border; a skinnier, inner border followed by a thicker, outer one).  Your strips should be a bit longer than the side to which they are to be sewn.  You may have to piece to strips together to achieve the length needed.

Using only a 6″ x 24″ ruler, cutting a border strip that’s 6″ wide or less is a an easy feat.  However, if your cutting a strip that’s wider than your ruler, it can be tricky to say the least.  That’s when another ruler is necessary to achieve an accurate cut.  The image below shows how to use two clear acrylic rulers in tandem to get the desired width for the entire length of your fabric.  Here I slide the square ruler along the left egde of the 6″ x 24″ ruler to make sure I am cutting a 9″ wide strip the whole time.


You’ll also want to even-up the edges of your center area by trimming off any slight imperfections with a rotary cutter.  Having a perfectly square center piece isn’t actually necessary when you’re making a large blanket, just make sure the sides are nice and straight.

Pin your first strip to an edge of your center piece.  I pin perpendicular to the seam allowance with the sharp end of the pin facing the seam edge.  Make sure a bit of your border strip (at least an inch or so) hangs over each end of your center block.  The reason for this will become apparent shortly.  Stitch following your seam allowance.  I’m a baby and still prefer to quilt with 1/2″ seams.  1/4″ seams make me feel vulnerable and scared that there isn’t enough fabric for my iron really “grab.”  I’ve even tried 3/8″ seams. These were awkward to handle with my favorite presser foot (long, useless story), so 1/2″ it is!


Press your seam open and trim the little bit of overhang flush with the adjacent edge as pictured below. Sometimes it’s helpful to use a second ruler during this step to keep things as square as possible.  Line up the ruler’s grid lines with a few of the interior seam ditches as best as you can.


Repeat this for each side of the center block, in a log cabin style, until all sides have been bordered.  Repeat the entire technique for as many borders as your heart desires.


The above T-shirt quilt is for my daughter.  These tees were hers when she was 5.  She was (and still is) quite a mess maker.  She can’t keep clothing clean.  Food, paint, dirt, and grease quickly nestle into whatever she wears.  So this quilt is a memory of that very fact.  I purposefully chose T-shirts that were the most stained and used them here.  I love to profess that I am not, and never will be, a stain fighter.  Life is far, far too short to worry about such trivial things.  The owl butt segment below is speckled with paint and the plain pink rectangle looks like it has grease and more paint stains?  Subvert the dominant Good Houskeeping paradigm I say.  Stain fighting puts unnecessary pressure on moms who already handle enough pressure!


The photo quilt below includes mostly quilt fabric but is speckled with black ‘n’ white garden close-ups.  I used June Tailor brand Colorfast Printer Fabric.  I simply photocopied real photos.  Have I ever mentioned that I’m low tech?  Photocopies just seem so much easier and quicker than any other route.


That grasshopper was my friend. I watched it eat a leaf through my macro lens.  Grasshoppers have big mouths.  This guy didn’t stop moving his antennae for a second.  We talked.  It had spotted eyes.  I like bugs.  Except for ticks.  Which is the best part about winter; no ticks.

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Happy Birthday Yet Again, Mom!

It’s that day of the year again. Today is my very dear and very deceased mother’s birthday.  She would have been 58 years old.  My mother died 18 years ago, at age 40, from metastasized breast cancer.  The closer I get to the big 4-0, the more I realize how tragically young 40 really is.  But this is not supposed to be a sad post.  It’s supposed to be a happy birthday post celebrating a woman who made me who I am today.  My mother was creative, strong, hard working, and driven to push past hardship.  She worked almost 50 hours a week to provide a humble life for her and I.  She found time to instill in me a love and appreciation of the handmade.  Something not everyone “gets.”  She was a seamstress, an avid gardener, a maker of many crafty things, and a lover of animals.  She had a sense of humor too and could laugh at herself.  (We would have a lot in common.)


One thing that my mother absolutely loved was springtime.  She longed for it.  Preparing through the months of Febrary and March by starting seeds, placing orders, and making plans.  She had two gorgeous perennial gardens called “The Shady Side” and “The Sunny Side.”  When those first tell-tale harbingers would poke their little green shoots up through the half frozen ground, my mother would light up like a kid in a candy store.   She taught me quite a bit about gardening and together we shared this passion.  Over time, she had built up quite a rich soil. Once when digging around, I found a foot long earthworm!  I still have most of her perennials in my own gardens today.  (I have moved them twice!)

My art often takes shape around an empty, mother-less place in my heart.  I think I’m convinced that by making much of the art that I do, I’m creating beauty from a nasty-ass wound.  “Fixing it” maybe.  So this little poem and art book is something I made in honor of my mother’s love of spring, which I also share.  I made this several months back using one paper grocery bag, acrylic paint, and china markers, a.k.a. wax pencils.  Honestly, the snowbanks are starting to make me squirrely.  We’re rounding the home stretch, almost, but it seriously can’t come soon enough. I want to play in the dirt, divide my day lily tubers, weed, and watch the first bugs.  I want to feel the sun and a bit of warmth outdoors.  Thanks for this love mom.  And Happy 58th Birthday!




















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