We Are All Book Lovers

I heard a radio commentary this morning. It was about searching for good news in a dark time. The commentator, a former journalist, looked in all the usual places, but finally found her cheering thought in a Pew Research Center story about reading.

73% of Americans read a book this year! And they actually seem to prefer reading on paper.

I found cheer in that too, and continued work on my Baby Bear Reads a Book ornament series.

20161212_135838

As with other multiple image projects like summer postcards, I grid my paper with painter’s tape. This time I measured out small 1 3/8″ x 2″ rectangles and drew Baby Bear reading a big, fat book in each opening.

20161212_233958

Then I paint them-layer by layer, one by one.

20161212_234925

Each one is kind-of the same and one of a kind.

20161213_001708

Then I cut the sheets up,

20161213_102645

Stick them in little silver frames

bear_19

And hang them from the evergreen tree.

bear_24

I’ve made a few extras and, if you’d like one, or a different Baby Bear 2016 ornament, I’m selling them in my Etsy shop

If you enjoyed this post, please  follow me here: Ashley Wolff Art on Facebook, my webpage , my Etsy shop, or Instagram. You can follow the blog by hitting the “follow blog” button at the top of the sidebar. 

Advertisements

Little Things?

When I moved back to Vermont I wanted to get involved with my community so I volunteered my time to a small group that aims to make Middlebury more Merry during the month of December.

Nothing fancy or noble-just little, fun things to create community and get people outside, downtown and into local businesses.

There are cut-outs around town for kids to pose in,

gingerbreadbrothers

Hot cocoa for 75 cents,

cocoahut_5

and Santa arrives on the firetruck.

santa_1

santaarrives

You can bring your presents to be wrapped at a local bar,

wrappers_3

Ride ride around town in a horse drawn cart,

horserides

and do an I Spy search for 10 little ornaments, hidden in the windows of downtown shops.

My job has been to make the ornaments and arrange for them to be hidden. The 1st year I painted little reindeer

vmmreindeer

The next year was little snow children,

snowmanlucia

And this year I decided to paint little Baby Bears in Christmas garb.

bears

I know-it’s too early to be thinking about Christmas–but I had to.

Then the election happened and it’s been hard to concentrate and harder to smile.

I found myself painting very pensive Baby Bears, with safety pins like the one on my sweater in their fur.

bears_3

I know wearing a safety pin is kind of lame-especially out in the sticks where I live,

and I know I live in a practically all white state, with loads of privilege and 1st world problems,

and I know it is just a little thing to offer as resistance, but I am offering it with all my heart.

I will put my money, my voice and my body to stand up for everyone’s rights and civil liberties.

You are safe with me.

If you enjoyed this post, please  follow me here: Ashley Wolff Art on Facebook, my webpage , my Etsy shop, or Instagram. You can follow the blog by hitting the “follow blog” button at the top of the sidebar. 

 

Making a Homemade Advent Calendar ~ Part 1

A couple of years ago I wrote about creating this advent calendar.

In my recent move I unearthed the original sketches so I thought I’d update with a process post.

sketchoffront

The full size sketch of the front, done in colored pencil.

My first Advent Calendars were completely handmade: cover image printed and hand-colored, window openings cut with a knife, window images printed and colored–all somehow fastened together to make a functioning calendar.

handmadeoriginal copy

the original 1983 calendar, given to Charlene Smith, and kept framed and displayed all year round. This one is less colorful a bit more austere.

I made fewer than 10 to give to friends, and I sent one to my editor at E P Dutton Children’s Books. She loved it, and suggested producing it to sell.

She asked me to show her sketches for the window images that had a more holiday feel than the original. Some of her suggestions were “Knitting Christmas Stocking?” and “kitten playing with ornament or pine spring?”
adventsketch

Following her suggestions, I revised the sketches.

sketches

Finally I carved each tiny scene, colored it and glued it into place

finishedwindows

Once the 2 layers are aligned, the scenes show up in the doors and windows.

adventcalendar_5

The finished calendar.

adventcalendar_1

Although this is out of print and no longer sold in stores. I have a stash to sell.

A Tree of Books

minibooktree_1

I know–Waaaaay too early for Christmas, but that’s when these things get done. And it’s kinda fun making tree decorations on a blustery November day. And, of course, it’s for a good cause!

My fantastically talented and philanthropic neighbor, Warren Kimble, urged me to join him in creating a tree for the Sheldon Museum Christmas benefit, so of course I said yes.

It took me forever to think of a fun way to decorate my very attractive faux tree, but with the deadline looming, I finally made up my mind.

I make books for a living, so why not a Tree of Books?

littlebook_4

I followed the directions for the no sew, no adhesive book and made a whole bunch of these. I did use a glue stick to paste the letter to the  mini books.

I began with plain copy paper for the pages. I’ll show some of my steps, but follow this tutorial for all the details. I found this video tutorial for a more elaborate book too. It uses a little bit of glue.

tools

Fold your pages according to the directions.

mountainfold

Then trim a piece of decorative paper for the book jacket. All it takes is some careful measuring and folding–no glue!

cover_1

I added a contrasting strip of washi tape to the spine.

tape

littlebook_3

Finally I glued a letter from a sheet of decorative alphabet letters to the front cover.

littlebook_2

Once I tied on strings the little books spelled out:

M E R R Y  C H R I S T M A S and H A P P Y  N E W  Y E A R

minibooktree_4

minibooktree_2

Homemade Christmas Stockings

When I was born my grandma made me a Christmas stocking.

stocking62cropped

It was probably made from a kit-the elements may have been the same on ALL the stockings made for children that year, but mine has a little, pink angel, a lavishly decorated tree, a white house with a red roof, and a train, trailing tiny seed-bead smoke.

AshStockingred:web

ashleystocking_2web

I think emptying my stocking was my favorite part of Christmas morning. My sister and I always got candy and fruit. In this photo I can see walnuts, cumquats, tangerines, and maybe mini marshmallows.

Peri had her own  Grandma-made stocking but it had a few crucial differences and we spent HOURS comparing and contrasting the stockings. I still think mine is better.

A&Pchristmas3:web

Later I began to ask for sour things: cocktail onions, lemons, pickles and homemade vinaigrette.

Hey, maybe there is something in there now…

A&Pstockingscropped:web

Uh-oh, those look too empty.

Let’s hope they fill up on Christmas Eve!

If you enjoyed this post, please like Ashley Wolff Art on Facebook, visit my webpage here, my Etsy shop, Instagram for plain old gorgeous nature photos, or follow the blog by hitting the “follow blog” button at the top of the sidebar. 

The Christmas Trees of Yore

Everything seems BIG when we are small.

But my childhood Christmas trees really were VERY tall. For scale, I am almost three years old in this photo and I am lost in the bottom branches.

christmas59

Unlike other families, we didn’t put up our tree until Christmas eve.

Many years we drove up Breadloaf Mountain and cut our own trees on Middlebury College forest land.

december:web

We waded through the snow, Mommy carrying the loppers and Daddy carrying the same saw as this dad in my 4th picture book: A Year of Beasts.  Back then it seemed we always had snow at Christmastime.

bigsnow'62Then it became the 70s. The trees were still tall and sparse, my mom was more beautiful than ever, my dad still put up the train set, I was always sulking and Peri was always sick in bed on Christmas eve!christmas72

Wild trees are not full and bushy. Dad figured out a way to ‘hang’ the tree from one of the beams in the 2nd floor gallery. The trunk dangled in a bucket of water. I used that idea many years later for this crazy tree.

driftwoodtree

One California Christmas I collected and sorted found wood into a tree shape and my elf drilled a hole in the “balance” center of each piece. We found a long piece of fresh kelp and used it as the “rope”. Once all the pieces were strung, we tied a knot at the bottom and hung the tree. It can hang flat like this or in the round. It was fine with lights, but hard to hang with ornaments.

driftwoodtree2011

Now that I’m back in Vermont I must break with tradition. The long, dark nights are too long and dark for an adult to endure without the cheerful glow of a lighted tree. So I’ve compromised. The tree is in a bucket of water and she has lights, but I will wait to add ornaments until Christmas eve.

Brightly shining, for a brief period, in the darkest days of the year.

If you enjoyed this post, please like Ashley Wolff Art on Facebook, visit my webpage here, my Etsy shop, or follow the blog by hitting the “follow blog” button at the top of the sidebar. 

Making my own Advent Calendar~Part 2

I grew up with “Sweet” paper Advent Calendars like this one

Advent Calendars 1The numbered openings are scattered all over, and the pictures outside bore no relation to what was underneath the perforated squares.

You got a lot of glitter outside, and dopey illustrations of stars, bells and candles inside the windows.

This annoyed me as a child. I already craved storytelling and wanted the outside and the inside to add up to something greater.

Nowadays, cool DIY Advent Calendars are all the rage. Many have candy and/or REAL gifts in them.

AdventKraftPaperParcels

But that is now. Back in 1986 I was thinking strictly 2-D, so I decided to make my own paper calendar. It was going to be fun to look at AND tell a story.

icicles_webI grew up in a cozy neighborhood in town, in a modern-looking, chalet style house designed by my parents. But my child alter-ego lived in a pale yellow farm house somewhere out in the country.

I needed at least 24 windows and doors on my imaginary house and barn in order to create the world within the calendar.

adventcalendar_1

I included characters from my three, published picture books:

orangecat

Nutkin, the marmalade cat from Only The Cat Saw

snowmanEllie, the little girl from A Year of Birds and A Year of Beasts, and her Border Collie Pumpkin

And later, I copied parts of my old calendar into books created far into the future like When Lucy Goes Out Walking!

JanuarytreeI wanted the picture you saw when you opened the door or window to make sense and tell a little bit more about this home and family.

adventcalendar_2

So when you open doors 1, 10 and 18, you see into the front hall, the kitchen and the back hall.

adventcalendar_5

The only window that did not fall within a real opening is in the woodpile.

adventcalendar_4but when you open it, the scene inside is still real to the location, even if the mice are enormous next to the cat!

Happy Advent!adventcalendar_6

Though this calendar is out of print, I still have a stash and am selling them here.

If you enjoyed this post, please like Ashley Wolff Art on Facebook, visit my webpage here, my Etsy shop, or follow the blog by hitting the “follow blog” button at the top of the sidebar.