A gift to myself…

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Did you ever have an idea in your head but it took you forever to make it come to fruition?  I received many wonderful cards and words of prayer and encouragement last summer during my treatment.  These small gestures of  kindness made the most incredible difference in my life…

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I cannot express in words how they made me feel;  cared for, thought of, and loved are just a few that come to mind.  These simple notes and expressions made me laugh, cry, and thank God that I have such loving people in my life.  I saved each and every one and thought “I need to do something with these…”

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So they sat upstairs on the table in my studio all winter.  Every time I would look through them I would think “I really need to do something with these.”  I tend  to think  about things too much;  as in  think and think and think so much, but drag my feet when it comes time to act.  

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I finally decided that I truly needed to do something.   Mother’s Day weekend I took those cards and notes and created a collaged piece that expresses what my mantra was last summer.  I stopped thinking about it and jumped in with both feet.  I wasn’t exactly sure at first where I was going with the piece but I pressed on.  Sometimes the best way to get started on something is to just start.

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I used the notes and letters to create the background.  Then I layered tissue paper and paint with stamps and ink.  I used graphics from some of the cards  and  a pin for the found objects. Finally I used some old ledger paper for the printed words. (I have a large old ledger journal from 1912 that I use to print text. It sounds shallow, but it is one of my prized art making possessions!)  

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I finished this in two days.  I decided it was my Mother’s Day gift to myself. (The hubby and my girls also got me some lovely pajamas and an art journal.)  I thought about this bible quote a lot last summer.  The piece now hangs in the living room above the fire place.  It gives me comfort.

Projects are keeping me busy…

I have been very busy with life and projects the past three weeks.  Lots of things going on – all good things but I have never been very good at finding a balance.  I’m learning to do this, slowly but surely…

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I like my art to be functional and to have a sentimentality to it. This is why I like to make the embroidered photo collages and the picture frames; capturing memories and telling people’s stories

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I have a very good friend who lost her father to cancer early this year.  He was a life long lover of trains, particularly the steam locomotive. He built the train in the photo and I felt a nice way to remember him would be to use the photo in a collage.

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Once the photo was printed on the fabric sheet I stained it with tea and embroidered it before attaching it to the painted canvas.  I find the bible verse comforting and the vintage model train track seemed to be the perfect found object.

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I also completed a collaged picture frame for a friend who wanted to give her mother-n-law a meaningful retirement gift.  She is devout in her faith and my friend wanted something that would reflect her devotion. . .

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The background was created  with many layers of old paper, acrylic paint, ink-tense pencils, stamps, and even some extra gesso for texture.  I love creating backgrounds that are very layered – so you can look deep under the surface.  

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I like to use bible quotes in my art if I am not using my own verse. It’s very uplifting and people can easily relate it to some part of their lives.

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I first made a stuffed bunny for my daughter Fiona last fall.  I had promised her last spring that I would make one for her and then I got sick, so she waited patiently all through my treatments.  This one was made for a friend’s daughter. She wanted to give it to her for Easter. I try to use recycled materials when I make them; left over fleece, buttons and charms, anything that goes together in a whimsical way.

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The craziness around here is almost over – my younger daughter, Alexa, is making her First Holy Communion this weekend and things should calm down.  I know that is probably me just wishful thinking but summer will be here before I know it and then I can really relax!  After the past year, I am not going to complain about being busy – every day is a gift no matter how crazy it is!

Cherish the Little Things…

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Lots of times life can be feast or famine.  I happen to be feasting at the moment;  I have been very busy with not one but two commission projects.  The first one is a stuffed bunny I am making for someone’s daughter, and the second is a mixed media picture frame someone would like to give as a retirement gift. (Pictures will be posted after I have completed them and sent them on their way.)  Before last year this would have really stressed me out.  Now, not so much, because I have learned to cherish all of it; from the simple everyday moments to the busy hectic activities…

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I cherish little things like homemade chocolate cupcakes (yes they are one of my favorites!)

Macro blade of grass
Warm spring mornings where the dew is still visible on each blade of grass…

Tea cup and little book

I cherish all things homemade and vintage, like an antique tea cup and a homemade mini journal.  The simplest things really are what make me the happiest.

Rose for drawing class referance

I refuse to be called a hoarder – but I will admit to saving lots of little things that hold stories or can be used again to create stories.  Dried flowers, scraps of old ledger paper, buttons, and keys.  I save them all and I cherish the stories they can tell.

dipped oreo cookies

And of course my Macro lens is something I really cherish;  you can never get too close to something to take a picture.  I love that the closer you get – the more detail is revealed…

spun wool

My goal this summer is to use my Macro lens at least three days a week.  Everyday would be great but with two girls and a menagerie of pets at home I think three days a week is just fine.   Go and find happiness with the people and things you cherish this week and relish in all of the joy!

My Journey during this past year…

Fort Macon arched doorways

 This past weekend was the first anniversary of my Lymphoma diagnosis.  I did not spend the weekend dwelling on it, but it did cause me to stop and reflect on my journey this past year…

Alexa at Shackleford Banks

 My journey was a humbling one, I learned that I am not invincible ; my diagnosis came out of nowhere.  Beyond the physical pain (I had a tumor in my spine) I was a relatively healthy forty-three year old.

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 I learned that people really, truly do care.  I also learned to let those people help.  My family, my doctors and nurses, my close friends, even my not so close friends; everyone I have come in contact with over the last year has been a Blessing…

Fairy collage at window and cropped

   I consider myself very fortunate to be able to look back on this experience because I am currently cancer free and healthy.   The past year has given me the opportunity to look at my world with a unique perspective.

Summer Flower 2010

 I know longer stress about the small stuff I can’t control (for the most part).  I am very conscience of how valuable every moment of every day is,  even the most mundane.  My alarm goes off early in the morning and I’m grateful that I am healthy enough to get out of bed, enjoy my cup of coffee, doodle in my sketch book, and enjoy the quiet before the craziness of the day begins. . .

Cupcake

I have learned to enjoy the simplest things in life;  sleeping children, a good book, a home cooked meal,  fresh flowers and of course chocolate cupcakes:)  Everything else is not worth fretting over.  Enjoy every moment of every day!

Waiting For Spring…

“The sweet smell of rain,

balmy breeze freshens my face,

the first taste of spring.”

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Since the first couple of days of spring here in Ohio have brought snow, I thought it would be nice to take a peek at what we eventually have to look forward to…

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As I get older, and especially now that my girls are getting older, I really look forward to spring.  Warmer weather, longer days, and the wonderful scents that this inspiring season brings to us…

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Fresh grass after a rain, lilacs coming into bloom, even the smell of fresh dirt makes me smile…

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I am especially excited for spring this year as I did not have much of a spring or summer last year because of my treatments.  It’s amazing how much you appreciate the simple everyday things when you have had the experience of not being able to enjoy them…

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Even with the snow falling today, and even though I am very ready for spring, I will be patient and grateful…

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I am looking forward to a wonderful season of inspiring gifts from nature.  I cannot wait to get my camera out and start photographing the beautiful moments of everyday. I am especially looking forward to dusting off my macro lens – as it did not get a chance to come out of my camera bag at all last summer!

Black Eyed Susans

Have a Blessed weekend.  Enjoy early spring, even if you still have snow.  Remember to be grateful, it allows you to feel content.

Thinking About Our Beloved Pets…

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Yesterday a good friend of mine asked me to go with her to have her beloved cat put to sleep.  She was fifteen years old and had been sick for a while so it was good that she was no longer suffering but difficult for my friend just the same. It got me to thinking about my own beloved pets…

Hailey collage Dec 2013 pic one

We all know how pets become family members.  They are our protectors, our sounding boards, our friends and confidants, unconditionally loving us regardless of how flawed we are.  We are always sad when they leave us.  But did you ever have a pet that just touched your soul and has held on to a piece of your heart even after they are gone? They become an inspired piece of our lives, always reminding us of the goodness and hope in this world. The dog in this artwork here is our late Hailey, a German Wire-haired Pointer that was truly one of a kind…

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Hailey was a big, furry, angel- all 110 pounds of her!  She was a part of our family for almost twelve years; she was here for the birth of both of our girls, helped us through rough times, made us laugh a lot, and loved us with all of her heart. We think of her every day… 

Alexa and Simon

Our pets enrich our lives so much more than even they can imagine.  Here in our household we currently have three cats, all three came together as strays. We joke that they actually adopted us!  We also have Red Girl, our three year old German Short-haired Pointer/English Setter mix. She is a crazy handful but does not have a mean bone in her body.  She exists to chase birds, squirrels, frisbees, and make us laugh.  She also happens to be a pretty good hunter too.

Big Boy and Red

I sometimes find that their shenanigans inspire my artwork; their love and caring knows no bounds.  They are a constant reminder of how Blessed we are and how grateful we should be.  Hope you have a very pet inspired week:) 

My Love of Needle and Thread…

Calmly, quietly,

Steadiness in pulling thread

Peace in needlework.

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Nothing makes me feel better than to sit down with some cloth, a needle, and some embroidery thread, and start creating something meaningful.  The simple fluid motion calms my mind and my soul…

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I have been hand sewing off and on since I was about ten years old.  My grandmother bought me my first embroidery kit and I have been taking thread to fabric ever since.  I will also embroider on paper, canvas, and anything else that I can get my needle through.

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I love the idea of taking embroidery and combining it with layers of paper, paint, found objects, ink and ephemera. The combination of all of these things coming together to tell a story inspires me beyond words…

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I also like to create and sew things that are useful and environmentally friendly.  I love to embroider on recycled wool; it’s soft, semi felted, waterproof, and just feels wonderful in my fingers…

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Embroidery has been around for thousands of years. Long, long ago women embroidered to decorate clothing and to create something beautiful.  Sewing, whether it be embroidery, crosstitch, blackwork, beading, or any other type of hand work leaves a legacy in history. Samplers give a glimpse into a by-gone time, tapestries tell a story, all these things start with a needle and thread.

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I hope you have a wonderful week and if you get a chance to do some hand sewing sit quietly and enjoy it 🙂   Blessings~Cassie

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Learning to Just Be…

Annie Oakley

I have always had a tendency to get stressed over things that, in the long run, are not worth stressing over.  I have let that happen this passed week.  My daughter Fiona has a project on Annie Oakley due for her fourth grade history fair.  She has worked hard on it;  we even took a drive down to the Garst Museum to visit the Annie Oakley Exhibit  in Greenville, Ohio.  It’s coming together and I am sure she will do a great job with her presentation but for some reason, I am stressing about us getting it finished (and I say “us” because this was a big project for a fourth grader – she needed some help).  Then, earlier today I was in my studio cleaning some stuff off the table when a bowl of collected scraps and bits fell over.  I was a little irritated until I saw this…

Fortune cookie note

So many times we need to be reminded that all of this “stuff” isn’t really stressful at all, it’s just moments in life.  As I was thinking about this scrap of paper this morning I realized that all through my treatment last summer I really didn’t have any stress.  When I was first diagnosed with Lymphoma, and we knew that it was treatable, I made a very conscience decision to not worry about stuff that wasn’t worth it.  I needed to concentrate on me and my family and everything else was just going to have to just be…

basket and buttons

Beyond physically not feeling well because of the chemotherapy, I was really okay.  I was emotionally, at a better place than I had been in a really long time.  I concentrated on just enjoying the moments of life.  I realize that I am going to get stressed about things now and then, but knowing that how I react to it, makes an unbelievable difference in my life.  

Live life laugh lotsI have many things to be thankful for.  Even if some of those things cause me a little stress.  It’s all good and that is all that really matters.  My wish for you this weekend is this; have fun, make some art, and try to not stress about the small stuff.  Just let it be…

More Snow and Some Journaling…

Winter scene

We got more snow here in Ohio over the weekend. Fortunately it was only about three inches this time around.  I have not experienced a winter this long and cold since I was about eight years old!  So what to do on a snowed in afternoon?  Art Journal of course:)

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I prefer to keep my journaling to simple doodles.  I have tried playing with glue and papers and lots of other stuff when it comes to my journals but I keep coming back to the basics; a fine black marker and colored pencils.  I have only small increments of time to journal so I like it to be portable, so I can take it with me, quick, as I only have a fifteen or twenty minute stretch of time, and clean, because I don’t want to get messy.   My girls on the other hand like to experiment and get very messy when they journal…

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Fiona and Alexa like to cut paper, and explore with glue, paint, and glitter. They will try just about anything that makes their pages pretty…

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Their reckless abandonment when it comes to their art making constantly inspires me.  They are not afraid to try anything; mix colors, glue over something, start anew, and on and on!  What happens along the way to adulthood that we lose that wonderful fearless approach to our art?
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Sometimes I get so caught up in the “I hope it’s good enough” or the “will everyone like it” mantra that I forget to just let go and have fun with my art.  Then I sit down for an afternoon with my girls and they remind me what it’s all about…

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Of course this guy has the best idea… This is Big Boy, he literally wormed his way in to our home five years ago through an open window in our basement.  He also wormed his way into our hearts.  Whenever we get the art supplies out this is what he does.
Big BoyI don’t know about you but I’m going to challenge myself to be a little more like my girls when it comes to my art making this week.  We’ll see what I come up with…