Friday, March 23, 2018

Winter Birdwatching, Weaselhead Park

Is it spring? One can never be too sure in Canadaland! It's hard to believe that a few weeks ago my friend Pam and I joined a few other birdwatchers at Weaselhead Park in Calgary on the snowiest day of the month. It figured that the weather would turn so severely after some lovely, melty, blue sky days just when I planned to go birdwatching with my friend. She's been enjoying weekend birdwatching trips and I have been so envious of her photographs! With a winter storm warning covering the Southern half of Alberta, it would be too easy to bail, but I felt determined. I spent my youth living farther North than here. Somehow I managed to live, work and play for many years without calling in a snow day or hiding beneath the covers. Adventure doesn't come knocking on your front door, hoping that you will answer, after all. Click on the birdie to see all the photos.
Black-capped chickadee
Sometimes, adventure requires you to get up at crazy o'clock. I sprang out of bed at 5 on the dot after having a dream that it was 8 and I missed my ride. After grimly shovelling the sidewalk, I layered up - underneath my older, longer winter coat I wore wool socks, leggings, yoga pants, jeans, two toques, two scarves and double mitts. I borrowed a 200-700mm zoom lens and doubler from work, but ultimately left the doubler at home. I took an extra, less powerful zoom lens, but it could have stayed home as well since it impossible to switch them out with all the snow. Once my camera bag was on my back, I could barely get it off. We carpooled to the Weaselhead Park in Southwest Calgary after a slightly hairy car ride on the Deerfoot. It was dark and the roads were mushy. It was make your own lane after the snow plows took a crack at it. The sky was purple by the time we reached the parking lot and we were soon joined by a few others birders. The purpose of the trip was to watch hundreds of magpies leave their roosts at sunrise. Unfortunately, sunrise was a little overcast, and by the time the sky changed colour again, only a few dozen had flown over the bluff where we were standing. Some even flew back! We followed our very knowledgeable and friendly guide from the bluff, down a hill, into a valley, across a bridge until we came to a smaller wood bridge. My phone recorded 6km of walking, although Google Maps seems to think it was 2. The snow was a blessing as it covered all the ice on the pathway and my new Yaktrax crampons made it easy to avoid a fall. It didn't take us long at all to see birds once we went away from the much windier bluff. It was noticeably warmer. We saw black capped chickadees, a boreal chickadee, blue jays, magpies, red polls, grosbeaks, ravens, Northern flickers, downy woodpeckers, hairy woodpeckers and a nuthatch. There was a red squirrel scooting about in the trees, but he didn't come close. Winter photography was...challenging to say the least. It was physically demanding even though I was up to the task. I only had a peanut butter sandwich for breakfast and somehow didn't go all hangry :-D Operating the zoom lens with my gloves on was difficult (took them off for a few minutes...big mistake!). The auto focus on my camera was working hard. I nudged the wrong setting on the wheel too and I'm not sure how many photos were affected. All in all I took about 300 photos and marked 52 as total duds due to blurriness. I had to correct for luminance and colour noise. On the upside, the flat lighting made it possible to be artistic with the photographs. We saw some human wildlife including joggers and cross-country skiers who weren't about to let the weather control their lives. I'm so glad I went - easily the best part was spending two hours talking with other birders in a Timmy's! I was physically exhausted but emotionally ecstatic after such a great outing - maybe it was the lack of sleep - but the downside was a huge surge of energy in the afternoon and a hunger for calories. I really could have used a steak or something :-)

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Happy Valentine's Day! Or Friendship Day!

It's been hard to sit on this design as I like to post in progress pics to Instagram, but I had immense fun making these very pink Valentine's cards for a group card exchange. Each pony was hand coloured in different hues - pink, yellow, blue, purple, seafoam. Originally they were supposed to go on the outside, but I whoopsie measured. Still turned out great though!

I made some special Valentine's day cards this year for a card exchange. I hope they have all been received as it was hard to sit on them so long! Each pony was hand coloured differently - yellow, blue, pink and even seafoam

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Textiles Throwback Thursday

January is the month of getting it done - or at least we try to! One thing that was nagging me was that I had not photographed two older works. Documenting artwork can always be a challenge for artists and I really let it slip by the wayside. Click the pictures to see them on Flickr and they are also on DevArt if you care to comment there. The first, Fire Escape, is my award winning wool tapestry. It placed second in its class at the Calgary Stampede Western Lifestyles Arts & Crafts show in 2013. Regrettably I did not get a picture before it was framed under glass, the colour is still true to life. Pro tip: always splurge on museum glass.
Fire Escape
The second is an untitled piece, a square fabric collage was created for one of my classes at ACAD. The goal of the project was to spend one hour a night adding something to a large collage - whether it was adding a piece of material or embroidering a feeling. Now, I wish I had framed this one because it needed a lot of canned air and even then in the end I had to clone out a big, fluffy budgie feather I had missed. Fabric collage is really fun, but does require some forethought such as ironing all the pieces beforehand.
Untitled Fibre 212 Project

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Whoopie! 400 Etsy Sales!

I am so proud to announce that I hit 400 early sales not too long ago. It's funny how these milestones creep up on you! A few years ago I didn't think I would be celebrating this milestone, let alone 100 sales - but I kept trying new things and finding the products that stick. Thank you to everyone who has supported my art and my little endeavour over the year! Best wishes for 2018!
Woohoo! I am so thrilled to close out the new year with over 400 sales. Thank you to all who support my art and endeavours :)

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Chickadee dee dee Christmas Ornaments

Brrrr! One of the things I love about winter is how everything slows down - and during this epic cold snap, I'm happy that I don't have anywhere else to be but in my office and catching up on the computer. It's such a rare opportunity to sit and get stuff done! I usually sell cards and magnets at Christmas craft sales here in Calgary. Even though I make Christmas cards, hardly any of them sell. Knowing this, I decided to try Christmas ornaments, which I brainstormed over the summer. Actually, I brainstorm about this every year, but usually at Christmas time, and then I forget by next Christmas :-D This past summer, I sat down and prototyped a cardinal Christmas ornament. It required a lot of steps, but I made 50 of them to give out to co-workers, where they were warmly received. A lot of us take for granted the amount of thought and design that goes into product development. The end result looks effortless, but I can sure you the road to that effortless look is a lot of wadded up paper balls, torn in half prototypes and sighs. However, making the cardinal ornament led the way to a lot of success for the chickadee ornament. I made 12, sold 9, kept one for myself and two as gifts. Here's how they turned out:
A chickadee for your tree!
Each one is handmade, although I had a little technological help! Here's a rundown:
  • I drew and coloured the chickadee, then scanned and reduced it on the computer
  • I designed a blue circle fill in CorelDraw and the greeting on the back
  • I die cut the circles and affixed them together
  • Then I die cut and hand brushed the pine branches with embossing paste, white paint and a glitter brush. I really need to figure out how to make this step better!
  • I printed out the cardinals on a laser printer and cut one out by hand. For the cardinals, I printed them on cardstock and made a mask so that my Pazzles could do the job - but the glossy paper would not have worked well in the Pazzles
  • I ended up making the ribbons by hand because I could not find small ribbons the right size
  • Then I assembled all the pieces and strung it on a gold thread
Whew! I plan on making more next year, along with the cardinals and maybe a third winter bird - we'll see how productive I am! If you want the darling little chickadee for your personal crafts or projects, you can download the clip art which comes with a PDF of chickadees to get you started!

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Cardinal Christmas Card Printable

We had our first major snowfall of the year here in Canadaland this weekend and no craft sales booked. It's such a rare moment for me to be able to sit down in front of my computer and show off about my new Christmas card printable. It's based on a real paper design that I made for this year's Christmas card - more on that later! As an international seller, it is often difficult for me to get physical items out the door - the standard delivery window for international is 21 days. With printables, you can print when you want, which is a very win win solution. The cards are compatible with Avery or Word quarter fold card templates, so you can personalize your cards on the inside and print on the other.

Saturday, October 7, 2017


It's hard to believe, it's not hard to believe, that I made less than a dozen posts in 2017. 2017 has been hard. 2016 seems better in comparison! Since April a number of things have happened - I adopted four budgies, I came down with bronchitis, a family member was diagnosed with intestinal cancer, my bronchitis marched on, one of the adopted budgies passed away while at the vet, my family member successfully had their surgery, one of the other new budgies came down with something that I spent all of August and $800 treating, September was...OK September was not OK, one of my co-workers died from a heart attack. October looked like it was going to be OK, but I have spent the first seven days of it with a nasty cold that feels like I have bronchitis all over again!

A lot of this stuff sapped not only my regular energy but my creative energy. It's easy to say "Go with the flow" or "Roll with the punches", but it's not so easy when so many things punch you down. This summer was one continual stream of wake up calls that caused me to re-examine a lot of things in my life. The past few months have reminded me how little control we have. We like to think we're in control, but wow, we sure are not! It seems like the only things I can control are getting out of bed every morning and going to work. Or, as in the case of the last week, not going to work.

Usually I'm not such a downer, but as Thanksgiving comes around this weekend, it's a timely reminder of all the things that I can be thankful for - a safe home, a loving family and husband, a cranky teenage cockatiel, dental benefits and just living in a city that is safe. Gratitude - truly a skill that can be taken for granted. I wish all my friends and readers a lovely Thanksgiving if you are Canadian - and a lovely weekend if you are not.