A “Slow Down” sort of Day…

Sometimes you just need one.

A “Slow Down” sort of day.

A day to just do the next thing without
rushing or running or going or fretting.

The past few weeks, I’ve been working on
a new series of prints about “Slowing Down”…

…About enjoying the simplest things in life instead of
dashing through them or rushing past them…

Slowing down long enough to Pick Some Flowers.


Slowing down long enough to Listen to the Birds.


Slow down long enough to Hand out the Wash.


What sort of things do YOU want to slow down and enjoy?

(They might just become a print!)

Photo by our daughter, Kate, of Corner Chair!

Photo by our daughter, Kate, of Corner Chair!

Adding a Little Value…

My Mom, my brother, and I had an impromptu thrifting adventure last week… They were in a second hand shop about ten minutes from home, and saw some things they thought I might like and called me to come check them out. So I did… Not quite what I needed, but we hopscotched down the highway to several other shops, and at the last shop I found something I wasn’t expecting to find, but definitely something I could use in the art room…


Sitting on an overflowing shelf were three “shapes,” a sphere, a pyramid, and a cube. Just what everyone needs, right? Well, immediately I knew what to do with them… They would be perfect hands-on thing-a-ma-jigs for art classes to help students learn to draw three-dimensional shapes. I’ve been wanting to buy a set for quite a while, but hadn’t gotten around to it, and here was a small set of three, for only $4! I didn’t know how heavy they were until we picked them up to carry them to the counter. Once I brought them home, I realized their intended purpose. The cube had the original tag from (insert famous brand store name) that said “Set of three paperweights… $58” Well! As you can see, we soon put them to their proper use while cutting backing paper for frames! Though I would have never paid $58 for three paperweights, it sure did feel good to know their value.

“Value” means “how much,” and in most cases we think about money or worth when we hear it. Value is also an element or building block of art and design. The last two weeks, we’ve been experimenting with Value in art class… the amount of lightness or darkness an object has. We discovered that extreme darks or heavy shadows can allow the light areas of a work of art to become focal points. And we played with making tints and shades by adding white or black to paint to create some interesting contrasts…


To add a bit more “Value” or “worth” to my Home is Where the Heart Is design, I played around with it by fancy-ing up the border. My favorite papercut border is a bit lacy or icy-looking, but it adds several hours to the cutting process, so I usually reserve it for “one-of-a-kind” paper cuts. But… if my new “assistant” can help with the snipping, I could add that border to the design! Sooo… I re-cut it!


What little things do you do to add value to your daily work?


If you missed my last post… There’s a Giveaway to sign up for…
Pop over and leave a comment!

Expanding a Design…

We’ve been filling quite a few special orders around here, and it’s been difficult for me to switch gears and get some new designs “up and going.” I find it hard to strike a balance between producing old designs and playing around with new ones… Either the former or the latter takes over, and something always falls between the cracks. However, the idea of “Home” has been consistently coming to the front of my foggy brain, and a new design has recently emerged…


I’ve been wanting to try cutting something larger with my brand new Silhouette Cameo, and this is the first cutting of this design that came “off the press,” so to speak! When I learned about the Cameo, I had mixed feelings. Something similar to how the lacemakers, weavers, and spinners must have felt when the Industrial Revolution hit and factories began making in a few moments what took them hours, or even days to create. Watching that amazing machine cut away at paper had me and my entire family standing there in awe… And in my mind I was thinking “I’ve just been downsized!”

But then I tried to look at the other side of the coin.

I’ve been cutting paper for almost a quarter of a century. Every day. I love it, but must admit that I often fuss about how my eyes hurt now when I push them beyond their daily limit, and  grumble about a sore arm and neck when I’ve been doing lots of papercutting. Maybe it WAS time to take on an assistant. So, during the rest of March, I’m going to play around with this design, exploring the many ways that it can be expanded into products… and hopefully make the best use of technology in the process. Stay tuned!

And… A Giveaway!

The above electronically-cut papercutting
Home is Where the Heart Is
(Mounted on Lime card stock, Fits an 8″ x 10″ frame)
will be given away at the end of this month!

Leave a comment on this post to enter…

…You can include ideas for ways to expand this design if you’d like…

… And we’ll have a drawing on March 31st to determine the winner!

How do I love thee?

Are you getting geared up for Valentine’s Day?


I didn’t realize it, but over the past year I’ve been decorating our new
hand-me-down bedroom with some really sweet memories!


I didn’t want to “over do” the decorating,
or just quickly fill the room with a lot of “things,”
but as special little treasures caught my heart
I tucked them in our room, sort of here and there…


Some have a REALLY special place in my heart,
like this tiny little painted rock…


…which I got for my 12th birthday…

…from Guess Who?



Sometimes a little trinket like my rock will be
tucked away in a box or drawer for many years.

Or maybe a special card will be saved…


We just added a few new designs to our shop…


…Just in case you haven’t found the perfect card yet for your Valentine!


Better Late Than Never?

Hubby and I have been squeezing in lots of frame-making and art-making time this past week! I’ve had a couple of special orders that HAD to get in the mail… one is on its way, and the other should go out tomorrow! That is cause for rejoicing! I LOVE it when I can turn “To Do’s” into “Did Its!”

Anyway… short blog post today… but I just wanted to let you know that I got those Valentine papercuttings up on the Shop today! After lots of scanning and uploading, they are finally online. And if I keep on “Did-It-ing” this week, we can get them to folks by Valentine’s Day!

Here are some of them…

Sweet Rembrances

And here are the tiny versions…
…The Mini Page needed some serious housekeeping!

Miniature Papercuttings

And even put some on Etsy!
Our shop there has been empty for some time…
Maybe this will revive it.

A Small Token…

I’ve been working on this year’s Valentine designs, and thought I’d share with you the process of doing a papercutting from start to finish! It takes a bit of inspiration to get ideas for a historic-style papercutting. I usually spend a few hours going through reference books on early fraktur. I rarely do exact reproductions of historic pieces, but instead, try to get a feel for the layout of antique papercuts. I’ll also doodle a bit, trying to create birds and flowers that look like they were drawn a couple hundred years ago. And, I’ll read through the translations of the German sayings to find an inspiring phrase or verse.

The Gift is Small, The Love is Great is one of my favorite resources for Pennsylvania German fraktur. It focuses on small works of art, such as the Vorschrift (writing samples), Book Plates, and Rewards of Merit that teachers once gave to their students. The Gift is Small also includes little love notes and tokens of remembrance given between sweethearts and friends, as well as other little fraktur-style drawings. None of the artwork in this book is particularly elaborate, but mostly just small tokens made by simple folk.

In coming up with new designs, other
sources of inspiration are also required…

(My art kiddos have asked about those little dishes of
chocolate chips hanging around the art room!)

And when the internal balance between visual references, doodling, coffee (or tea), and chocolate has reached the appropriate settings, I’ll start sketching. I start with a piece of paper cut to the size I need for the frame I want to use. I was trying to use two 6″ x 7″ frames that I had “ready-to-go,” so these cuttings are 4 & 1/2″ x 5 1/2″. However, there is actually a “historically correct” size that these little tokens should be! In the 18th and 19th centuries, “standard” sheets of paper were usually 13″ x 16″. Fraktur makers used either full sheets, half sheets, quarter sheets or eighth sheets to do artwork on, getting their finished size by simply carefully folding and tearing the paper. These tiny tokens were usually done on an eighth of a sheet of paper.

I almost always start my sketches from the outside in, establishing my borders by measuring carefully. Did you know there’s a correct way to make a square or rectangle? After years of being a frustrated young artist, I learned a few technical drawing skills in a college cartography class. Drawing “square” was one of them… Maybe that would make a Really Helpful Upcoming Post!

This will be the back of the papercutting. I have to keep reminding myself that everything will be backward on the finished piece. My originals will also get pretty smudgy from all the graphite dust, but it’s a necessary evil to designing. I keep trying to sketch on my Wacom tablet or my iPad, and I’m starting to get the hang of it, but there’s nothing like a real pencil and a kneaded eraser! Once I have the sketch close to how I want it, I start cutting…

I use a rubber-coated X-Acto knife with #11 blades. Any sort of padding or rubber on the handle is a HUGE help when doing lots of papercutting. Hand fatigue happens very quickly without it. I also go through blades like crazy… I cut mostly with the very tip edge of the blade, and curvy designs seem to snap them pretty quickly. Buy them in bulk! My knife… or my pair of scissors… are sort of like a second pencil to me. That’s what I use to straighten out my sketch lines and create the final design.

Once I have the original cut, I make a copy of it and use the copy to make a pattern for duplicate cuttings. As you can see, this is a relatively simple design… much of the artwork will be added in the painting process. But first, I’ll stain it to add some age. I make a strong solution of instant coffee and boiling water, and apply it to the papercutting with a natural sponge.

I’ll actually soak up the excess coffee with the sponge so the paper isn’t sitting in puddles of water. I let the paper dry naturally (Usually… sometimes impatience gets the best of me!) and then iron it between two sheets of white paper to smooth out any wrinkles. Here are the two new Valentine designs once they are stained…

And… although I had every intention of showing the painting and inking process, I got into painting and forgot to take pictures. So, here’s what they look like AFTER they’re painted…

I went with rather bright colors on these, which believe it or not, is quite true to history. The Pennsylvania Germans LOVED color. The colors in most of the antique artworks we see today have lost a lot of their original vibrancy due to sunlight and time. So I sort of compromise a bit… adding staining to make them look old, but also pumping up the color to make them look new. Artistic license.

Once they’re framed, they look like this…

I should be adding them to our shop’s Sweet Remembrances page very soon… Keep an eye out for them! We’re going to make a limited supply of each for this year due to time constraints, so if you need one let me know!

Unmerited Favor…

Sometimes a word can become so familiar to us that we forget its actual meaning.

Or the depth of its meaning.

Like Grace.

Grace is not just a little singsong ditty we teach our children to say before meals. Or even the prayer of an eloquent adult. As a matter of fact, you have to go all the way down to definition #19 in Webster’s 1828 Dictionary to find that definition of Grace. However, if you look at the first few definitions that Mr. Webster assigned to his entry for Grace, it’s a rather meaning-full word:


1. Favor; goodwill; kindess

2. Appropriately, the free and unmerited favor of God,
the spring and source of all the
 men recieve from Him.

3. Favorable influence of God;
divine influence or the influence of the Spirit
in renewing the heart and restraining from sin.

4. The application of Christ’s righteousness
to the sinner.

5. A state of reconciliation to God.

I was speaking to a customer at our last show while I was working on this papercutting. Her church had been doing an extensive study on Grace, and she commented on how we need to relearn the meaning of words like Grace from time to time. It seems nearly everywhere you look… on blogs, in bookstores, in artwork, in sermons… Grace is a popular theme, and people are getting excited about it as it begins to take on more significant meaning in their lives.

About two hundred years ago, a man named John Newton discovered the real, true meaning of Grace. Having been the captain of a slave ship, Newton experienced a spiritual conversion and soon gave up his career on the sea to follow the Lord. Convicted by his past, he penned the words to probably our most well-known hymn…

Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost, but now I am found,
Was blind,  but now I see.

Grace… It’s free.

All we have to do is accept it.

This week…

This past week, I worked on a couple of Really Tiny Papercuts.

3″ x 4″


Staining them always makes them curl a bit,
but an iron fixes that easily.
I’d say we iron more paper than fabric at our house,
but Kate sews, so that may not be true.

Then out came the paint…
…and on went North and South.
Excellent movie to paint by.

I usually paint at our coffee table while “watching” a movie,
sitting on a stool meant for little kids.


A tiny detail… about 1 & 1/2 ” Square!

And in the frame…

No Greater Love…
The Pelican plucking its breast to feed its young.

Strange icon for our modern eyes…
but it’s found in early American Christian folk art,
symbolizing Christ’s self-sacrifice.

And you’ll recognize this one…

The Fall…

Traditional Adam and Eve.

Took a bit of artistic liberty
and gave them leafy coverings ahead of time.

I’ve been known to give
Michelangelo’s David
a Post-It Note toga.

Which caused quite a stir among my
12-14 year-old art students.


Preserving the snow…

Some folks save snowballs in the freezer (really, I know a few!), and some folks take pictures, but we got out the scissors and started snipping! In honor of the Double Blizzard of 2010, this papercutting went into a frame this morning…

Paper Blizzard
9 & 3/4″ Square, Outside Framed Edges
$115, plus $10 shipping

So far, it’s a “one of a kind.” Those snowflakes are buggers to paint… the white gouache is thick, and tends to stick the papercutting to the painting surface. I had to keep lifting the soggy snowflake tips off the surface as I moved on to the next flake to keep it from sticking permanently! Hubby was outside fighting snowflakes, and I was inside fighting them!

Here’s a glimpse out the back door after the blizzard was finally over… thought my California girl would like to see it…

And a glimpse of where Kate and I hibernated… it got a little too cozy at times, but the art room was too cold to stay in there for long!

And before I go… take a peek at these two unexpected visitors to our yard…

A killdeer running along the ditch bank! It’s a little too early for her to nest!

And a very cautious deer peeking through the cedar tree at us! She stood by the pond for several minutes watching the cars go by, and then ventured into the front yard.

Hope you all have a happy Valentine’s Day!

The view from here…

We’re just beginning to get back into the swing of things here… new designs are in the work, winter classes are coming up, and Hubby spent the day in the barn making frames. I’m back looking at the view I see for many hours a day…

It’s a nice view, but it’s definitely not a “looking up” sort of view! I’ve listened to quite a few movies, and I’ve missed quite a bit of scenery while riding in the mini-van. (Yep, it is possible to papercut in a car… you just need well-trained family members to warn you of upcoming bumps, curves, and railroad tracks!) I’m not sure why it took so long to figure out what to “do” while papercutting busied my hands until I was browsing through the library a few weeks ago…

Books on Tape.

Actually, they’re on CD. Now why didn’t I think of that sooner? Our very first book is Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen. I’m ashamed to say, as a retired homeschool Mom, that I’ve never actually read the book. Watched the movies umpteen gillion times. Read aloud a bazillion other classic books, but never Jane Austen. Assigned it to my high schoolers, but never read it myself. We’re over halfway through (yes… it has drawn Kate downstairs and away from her treadle sewing machine… and Hubby has drifted in from the shop…) and I have to say that…

… the real book is way better than the movies.

Well, of course it is.

So my very late New Year’s Resolution is to listen to every Jane Austen Book On Tape in our library system. I think I can keep that one.


January is always a time to re-organize and spruce up things a bit around the house, and I was very excited to hang the curtains my Dad (and Mom too!) bought me for Christmas! I saw these beautiful lace curtains a while back, but was a little too frugal to splurge for them. Mom & Dad were shopping before Christmas, and Mom showed them to Dad… and he bought them on the spot! (I think that’s the very first time he’s ever bought curtains!) Boy, was I completely and totally surprised! They look just like papercuttings…

And when I do look up from my lap desk,
I get to enjoy a new “view from here!”

Aren’t they pretty under the valances Kate made us this fall?