Using Gesso With Stencils and Gelatos

The art challenge for the second week of the Documented Life Project was to use gesso in conquering the blank page (which is the theme for the month of January.) The journal prompt was, “The beginning is always today.” -Mary Shelley

We have seldom used gesso and decided to use it with stencils for this challenge. We first covered our pages with a layer of gesso and let it dry. Then using a palette knife we scraped gesso across the top of our stencils creating a slightly raised surface with the stencil design and let that dry.

Gesso through stencil

We each used Gelatos to add color to our pages. The grandkids had a wonderful time using these techniques because they were allowed to use tools new to them. Here are the results of our challenge:


Gesso in Stencil DLP J

Gesso with Stencil and GelatosGesso with stencil and gelatos


Gesso in Stencil DLP M

Ninja Boy:

Kids Gesso Stencil

My Princess:

Kids Gesso Stencil

Miss Tickles:

Kids Gesso Stencil 

Clay Tools for Kids

Last week we were invited to share a clay workshop with a group of pre-teen girls and their teachers at church. They all had a great time learning how to work with polymer clay to make some pendants. Since our desire is to inspire others to try creative activities, we wanted to send with each of the girls a bag of tools they could use at home with clay. Sometimes it is easier to not try something new because we think we have to have a bunch of expensive tools and equipment in order to get started. The bags of tools we put together were filled with various items we had around the house but they can do the job quite well.

Clay Tool Bags


My Creative Clay Tools:

•Roller (my husband cut 7 inch sections from a one inch PVC pipe we had left over)
•Several pins with different size heads
•Popsicle stick
•Cutters made from plastic lids and index tabs
•Wooden skewer
•Plastic bead (for texture)
•Foil (for texture)
•Bubble wrap (for texture)

We also brought along a box of texture tools from household items for them to use in the class.

Here is a closeup of the cutters made from an index tab. The flat sides can be used to cut the clay like a blade and the end of the spine can be used to make texture shapes.

Index Tab Clay Cutters

With simple tools like this and waxed paper for a base to work on (we put wax paper on top of smooth placemats) all you need is some clay and you can get started. When baking the clay to harden you need to follow the manufacturers instructions. You can place the clay on top of card stock or parchment paper over a cookie sheet or tray or place on a ceramic tile for baking. Caution: do not use kitchen items with food after they have come into contact with clay- keep them dedicated for clay use only.

We were busy working with the girls and almost forgot to take pictures, but here are a few…

Teaching Girls Clay WorkshopClay WorkshopClay WorkshopClay WorkshopClay WorkshopGirls class Clay WorkshopKids Polymer Clay Creations

Using Book Paper in Mixed Media

A new year has begun for the Documented Life Project and we are excited to stretch our creative brains with more challenges. You can join Melinda and I on this journey and participate in any way you want. It’s still free and you can share what you do with the rest of the DLP (Documented Life Project) community or just do it for your own enjoyment.

Roben-Marie SmithThis year the original artists who put together the project are incorporating more teaching in various art techniques as well as bringing in guest artists to share. It’s a great opportunity to learn new creative skills and we challenge you to give it a try as you document this year with an art journal. Melinda and I will be sharing with you what we do as a way of encouraging you to try something new as well as helping us to stay committed to keeping up with the challenges. (Disclaimer: We won’t always get the challenges done on the week issued– because life happens. But we will catch up eventually. So just because you think you might not be able to do all of the challenges on time, don’t be afraid to start even if you miss a few. The whole idea is for you to create and learn new skills.)

For the month of January, the theme is: The Blank Page and How to Face It! A blank piece of paper can sometimes be intimidating making it hard to know how to get started. The first week’s art challenge for the blank page was to use book paper, which could be pages from a book, magazine, letters, basically anything that already has something printed on it. The journal prompt for the week was: Be Your Own Goal Keeper.

Instead of using the suggested journal, I decided to use a book cover I purchased at a yard sale. I took out the book pages (easy to do because they were tied in) and will add my own pages as they are completed. I will eventually make the cover pretty but have not yet decided what I want to do to it.

Book for Art Journal

I covered my blank page with book paper– from a book, magazine, and coloring book.

Page covered in book paper

I thought I had some wonderful book paper, parts of which I planned to have showing through in the end. I spread a light coating of gesso over the whole page letting much of the print underneath still show and let it dry. Using my finger I began smearing some acrylic paints around on the page. Still not sure what direction I was going to take this I pulled out my gelli plate and began adding various textured designs to the page. By the time I was done with gelli printing on my background I had completely covered all the book text underneath. I still wanted book text to be a part of the visible design so I gelli printed on more book paper and from it cut out the letters for the word “GOALS” as well as various circles and petals which I glued to the page.


I used a black sharpie to draw numbers on the small circles and a silver pen to embellish the number circles. I tore paper from the border of a gelli printed book page for writing the goals.

Goals DLP Mixed Media

My goals were inspired by the verse in John 10:10– “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”

Abundant LifeGelli Print Mixed MediaGelli Print FlowerGelli Print Letters


This year I am doing the pages with my kids as part of their homeschooling. It’s going to be fun to do it together and teach them new artistic techniques.

I tried doing my own book-binding with not the best results, but I think it will hold up for this project (I hope). I used an old sketch book and took out the blank pages and folded them for my new book. I sewed the binding then cut down a file folder as my cover. I will eventually decorate the cover, but I haven’t decided what to do yet.


I tried hard to follow some of the techniques from the Documented Life Project ladies because I know it will help stretch my abilities and help me think outside of my box more. I used old book paper, a scrap of notebook paper that my Grandma had written on, and some old magazines. I glued them down and then water colored over the top. I have a hard time with layering, so that is something I am trying to improve. Then I made some white circles with acrylic paint, and after they dried, doodled on top with pen. I didn’t like one of them so I covered it with my GOALS paper. Under the paper that says 2015, I wrote what my goals are for the year and taped it so I can see them. It’s not my favorite page, but I am proud of myself for trying new things (which happens to be one of my goals).


My Princess used a coloring book and a piece from the paper I had used as her book paper. Then she taped on her paper with her goals for the year. At first the picture she colored what too big to fit on her small book (the dog was on the other side of the present), but she used her creativity to find a solution and cut the dog out to glue onto Strawberry’s lap so it would fit!

DLP 2015-Week-1-Kids

Ninja Boy used a coloring book for his book paper too. He also taped on his goals for the year.

DLP 2015-Week-1-Kids


Texture Tools for Clay From Everyday Items

While making some jewelry pendants from polymer clay, I got side-tracked into looking for things I could make textures with in the clay to enhance my designs. The more things I tried, the more fun the challenge became. I’m sure I could find many more things around my house– and I never even made it into the garage– that could be used in creating textures. If you have started playing with polymer clay and wish you had the money for buying more tools, look first at my slideshow of items I found around my house that became texturing “tools” for clay. You might be amazed at the tools you already own!

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Clay Texture Tools From Everyday Items

DLP 2014 Challenge Wrap-up #2

Jan showed you her last three DLP pages in another post. Now Melinda will show you what she did for her last few pages.

The challenge for week 51 was: Arrows.

For the arrow page, I used magazines and cardstock to make a game board. My kids like to make their own games often, so I made my own! It’s the Arrow Game.



The challenge for week 52 was: Document your family holiday tradition.

Our most consistent family tradition has been stockings on Christmas morning. My Hubby and I don’t usually get other Christmas gifts for the kids because they get so much from the rest of the family. However, we have stuck to filling up their stockings every year. They have gotten to where they have their expectations for what will be in there, and they talk about it all year long. The biggest requirement is pop tarts. We never buy pop tarts the rest of the year, but we found a good organic version to have as a treat. Even though the stockings’ contents are mostly practical and somewhat healthy, they still LOVE and get so excited about what they get.

I used black cardstock with a white Sharpie for my background with magazine stockings from the HGtv Holiday edition.



 The challenge for week 53 was: Draw or collage something that begins with the first letter of your first name.

I have been reading Star Trek books lately and have always been a fan of the show since I watched it as a kid with my dad. When I thought of this challenge, the phrase from Jean Luc Picard from The Next Generation kept coming to my mind, “Make it So.” I feel like it has several meanings for my 2014 as well as my future in 2015.



We hope you have enjoyed following our Documented Life this past year. We hope that you will join us for the new Documented Life Project in 2015.

Learn to Quilt One Block at a Time

My grandmothers and great grandmother left me a treasure in the form of beautiful handmade quilts. I have memories of visiting my great grandmother’s house and seeing ladies sitting around a large wooden frame hand stitching on a beautiful quilt. Most quilts today are stitched by machine, not only putting the blocks together, but the quilting of the layers as well. I am amazed when I look at the treasures I inherited that each block was stitched together and quilted by hand. I have two tops sewn by one of my grandmothers waiting to be quilted. One is full size and the other is a baby quilt. She made (and completed) one for each of my two oldest when they were born, but was not able to continue sewing to finish Melinda’s baby quilt. It was my intention to complete it by the time Melinda had children (maybe I can get it finished for her grandkids!)

Handstitched Quilt Top

Melinda’s baby blanket waiting to be quilted

Grandmas Handstiching

Oh, the hours Grandma spent hand stitching each little piece of fabric into beautiful quilt blocks!

I’ve made simple quilts with square blocks of fabric sewn with my machine and then hand tied to hold the layers together, but I am fascinated with the many intricate quilt designs I see. Quilt making today has moved from the necessity of keeping the family warm to beautiful works of art.

Through a free online course offered through Craftsy called, 2015 Block of the Month, I am going to learn how to make a different quilt block every month. If you are interested in learning to make quilt blocks, you can sign up for free and each month learn to make a new block. They have a kit available to make a quilt just like in the demonstrations or you can purchase your own fabrics. In the beginning lesson the instructor also teaches how to make color selections for beautiful quilts. My plan at the moment is to use fabrics I have on hand to learn how to make the quilt blocks and then I can use the individual quilt blocks on other projects like pillows, totes, and purses.

Making a quilt block

The pieces can be sewn together on the sewing machine, but the instructor shared how she sews the pieces together by hand and works on quilt blocks every where she goes. I decided to sew my pieces by hand and think about my grandmas. It really did not take very long.

Handstitch Quilt BlockQuilt block

And here is my completed quilt block.

January Block- May Basket

So are you ready to learn to sew quilt blocks? You don’t even need a sewing machine– just a needle, scissors, thimble, thread, and fabric scraps. The class includes all the instructions and pdf printouts for you. Learn a new creative skill and set a goal to sew one quilt block a month this year. Sign up here.

(Disclaimer: We do not receive any compensation from Crafsty for sharing this with you. We just like to let you know of great opportunities to grow your creative skills!)

DLP 2014 Challenge Wrap-up #1

Time to wrap up the 2014 Documented Life Project art challenges. Melinda and I have enjoyed each week’s challenges as a way to stretch our creative thinking and try a few new things along the way.

Our last couple of weeks of 2014 were a little more quiet than last year. Not as many family here as last Christmas and Melinda and her kids were fighting “the sickness” that was going around. I finally got caught up on the last challenges and will share them with you now. Melinda will share her last challenges in another post.

The challenge for week 51 was: Arrows. I chose to make a gelli print of arrow shaped trees in a snow storm.


The challenge for week 52 was: Document your family holiday tradition. Through the years we haven’t done very well with traditions. Maybe because I have a creative family and they like trying new things. I think traditions are supposed to last for many years to be called traditions. This year we once again made a pasty dinner for Christmas (last year was the first year) only this time the meat was venison. They were yummy! Once again gifts were a minimal part of our Christmas– presents for the little kids and the adults drew names and gave gifts to the favorite charity in their honor.

No matter what each of our Christmas’s look like, the reason our family celebrates is because of the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ. When my son was a baby I wanted to have a nativity set he could play with. I made three dimensional figures out of fine plastic canvas using needle point stitching. I think the pattern included directions for a nativity with kings and shepherds and maybe more animals. Joseph, Mary, Jesus, a lamb, and donkey were all I completed with the intention of making more the next Christmas. Then I had more kids and this is as far as I got. Through the years this set was always placed under the tree in easy reach of my kids and then my grandkids. However, the plastic canvas on Mary has become brittle, so I had to stop letting the grandkids play with it. For this challenge, I took a picture of the nativity set, glued burlap fabric around the edges, and hand lettered the verse.


The challenge for week 53 was: Draw or collage something that begins with the first letter of your first name. I know what you are thinking– there are only 52 weeks in the year. Somehow they squeezed in an extra week for 2014! As I was taking down the tree and putting away the ornaments, I got my inspiration for this challenge. I have several ornaments with the word “JOY” hanging all over the tree. Since Jan and joy both start with “J”, it seemed a fitting way to summarize my year of 2014.

I cut circles from gelli prints I made and added hangers and silver thread to my page. I drew the word joy on red paper, cut it out and outlined it with a silver pen.


If you have enjoyed seeing the art challenges Melinda and I did this past year with the Documented Life Project 2014, why not join us in the Documented Life Project 2015? It’s just getting started and the focus this year is on the art with teaching of various techniques to use in your art journal. Come create with us!

Join Us in a Free Writing Workshop

Do you wish you could write more creatively? Maybe you’ve had a secret desire to write a book but are not sure where to start. Maybe you have an idea for a blog and want to increase your writing skills. Maybe you just want to start writing your thoughts in a journal. The creative folks at Do What You Love are sponsoring a free seven day writing workshop starting December 29, 2014. Sign up TODAY and receive the daily emails with writing prompts, exercises and encouraging tips from well known authors. Melinda and I are signed up and excited to learn.

Will you join us?  Sign up here!Blank Page

Documented Life Project- Week 50

The art challenge for week 50 of the Documented Life Project was: “Pick a fantasy vacation spot and make a packing list. Money is NO object!”

My husband’s dream for years is to go to Tahiti. That’s fine with me because I love the beach, clear blue ocean water, and the idea of staying in a bungalow over the water. Sounds so relaxing! Since this challenge says that money is no object, first on my packing list is to take all of my kids and grandkids along with us. Then all I need is my camera, swimsuit, good book for the airplane ride, and a sketch pad for those creative inspirations. Since money isn’t a problem, we can buy everything else we need there. See that empty hammock in the upper left side– that’s for me while my husband and those of my kids that are divers are under the sea. I read that there are 118 islands in Tahiti…Guess we will have to study up on which island we want to go visit!  For this challenge I chose to keep it simple and cut out magazine pictures to make a collage with a little doodling on some of the words.




I saw mom had used magazine for her page and thought that I would copy her this time! I had a few magazines laying around that I needed to either recycle or do something with. After our vacation with the girls of the family this summer, all I could think of for a great vacation was spending time at a relaxing lakeside cabin with my family. We would eat and play and have no other responsibilities but have fun and enjoy being together. I would love to go back to Minnesota, but I have always thought it would be cool to go to Maine since I have never been there.