Natural Columns {Arts and Crafts}

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After a long school year we are finally down to the last week of school.  All of my classes are wrapping up and the students are preparing to take finals over the next few days.

During the last 2 weeks of regular classes I brought back a project I had found online and completed with my Art 1 students last year – Natural Columns.

I love this project because it uses measuring, drawing skills, a transfer technique, emphasis and the students have to make color choices and demonstrate appropriate coloring techniques with either marker, colored pencil, or a combination of the two.

The project requires a fair amount of concentration but also seemed to create a meditative state amongst the students.  My students seemed more engrossed in this project than they had in many of the projects we had completed during the year.

The final results were phenomenal.  The project, although not overly difficult, has that WOW factor.  I am so pleased with their work!


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Handmade Paper Ornaments Tutorial

I love paper ornaments! They are beautiful, classy and a have a touch of nostalgia. Enjoy these paper ornament tutorials.

Handmade Paper Ornaments Tutorial

Paper Ornament #1

Materials Needed:
2 Pieces of 6×6 Double Sided Scrapbook Paper
String or Ornament hook

Step 1: Select two coordinating 6×6 pieces of double sided scrapbook paper. (I cut a 12×12 sheet into 4 6×6 pieces and used 2.)

paper star step 1

Step 2: Fold the paper in half to form a triangle.

paper star step 2

Step 3: Fold in half again.

paper star step 3

Step 4: Draw and cut out this curved shape from the open edge of the triangle.

paper star step 4

Paper star step 4b

Step 5: Cut 2 rounded slits on each folded edge.


Step 6: Open the paper.


Step 7: Fold the center petal in to the center and glue into place.


Step 8: Repeat with all four petals.


Step 9: Repeat steps 1-5 with the second piece of paper then place the completed piece on top of the new piece and glue in the center.

paper star step 10

Step 10: Fold the center petal to the center and glue to attach to the first piece.


Step 11: Repeat with all four petals.

Step 12: Add a sting or ornament hook and hang on the tree!



Please check out the links below for tutorials to the remaining ornaments.

Handmade Paper Ornaments Tutorial

Ornament #2 – Duitang
Ornament #3 – House Revivals
Ornament #4 – HandiMania

P. Allen Smith: The Artist

A few weeks ago I was so blessed to be invited to P. Allen Smith’s house to tour his home, gardens and get to learn about the importance of soy beans in Arkansas. It was a wonderful day that I will be talking about more in several upcoming posts but today I want to focus on P. Allen Smith: The Artist.
(Photo by Donna Evans. Used with permission by Hortus Ltd. and P. Allen Smith Companies)
If your aren’t familiar with P. Allen Smith he is one of America’s most recognized garden and design experts. He has two shows on PBS, has written multiple books and often appears on The Weather Channel and the CBS Early Show. His website is a wonderful resource for all kinds of home and garden tips and ideas.

Allen’s home and gardens are stunning, but as an artist and art teacher I was amazed to learn that he is an avid supporter of the arts and a budding artist himself. Here are several examples of his art from around his home:

Image courtesy of Beth Stephens @

The depth of color in each of these paintings is striking and rich. Upon closer examination of the artwork you will also discover little bugs playing around, dancing and even doing “naughty” things upon the leaves and stems of the fruit and vegetables. I love an artist with a sense of humor!

Allen gets his inspiration from his gardens. He designs his gardens as “rooms” and wants the gardens to be places that people can enjoy and relax in. What better way to relax after a hard day of gardening than to paint the fruits of your labor? Check out this conversation between Allen and Plein Aire painters Cyndra Bradford and Jeff Smith where they discuss the similarities between art and gardening.

A good portion of our day at Moss Mountain Farm was also spent discussing the importance of local farmers and soy beans to Arkansas’s economy and well-being. Here are two artworks I created that were inspired by the rural landscape around Arkansas.

I was also floored by Allen’s art studio. The studio, which is a symmetrical complement to his summer kitchen is large, airy, well lit and surrounded by unfounded beauty and inspiration.

What a dream it would be if Allen invited me back to his home to paint with him in his gardens and studio!

Felted Balls Cheer Up Dreary Decor {A Guest Post}

Felted Balls Cheer Up Dreary Decor {A Guest Post}

I don’t know about you, but I was a little sad to put away the Christmas decorations this year. Everything looks so plain without them, and that’s a bad feeling when winter [is slowly melting into spring]. It feels like we need alternative decorations to keep the house cheerful during dreary days.

I have this lovely blue tray I bought from Hobby Lobby a while back, and I imagined it full of something pretty, sitting on my big dining room table, bringing a little color to our days. I imagined loads of felted balls, decorated in stripes of different colored wool.

I don’t quite have the tray filled up yet (it’s a big tray, and the balls are somewhat time consuming to make) but I’ve got a good start. Maybe by next year my tray will be full.

In the meantime, I wanted to share the project with you in case your home needs a little post-holiday[pre-spring] pick-me-up, too. Don’t be scared if you’ve never done needle felting before. This is a really easy project, the supplies are minimal and can be purchased at any craft store. Just keep your fingers out of the way and you’ll be fine.


  •  Wool roving – lots of a base color and little bits of accent colors
  • Needle felting tool (I use one from Clover that has four needles)
  • Needle felting mat (I use the brush-style one because I like it better than the foam ones)
  • A sink that makes hot water and a pair of rubber gloves wouldn’t be a bad idea, either


Grab a big handful of your base material. If you want to be precise you can weigh out the same amount for each ball, but felting is naturally not very precise (as you can see by the fact that some of my balls are not really ball shaped at all) so I wouldn’t worry about it.

Begin stabbing the roving with your needle felting tool, slowly working it into a ball shape. This is kind of tedious, but also wonderful for stress reduction.

If you get bored doing it all by needle, go to the sink, put on your rubber gloves, get the hottest water you can stand and rub the wool between your hands. This will speed up the process considerably. You may need to needle felt it a bit again once it’s dry to get the shape you want.

You may also have to put a little extra roving in toward the end if you’re getting a crease in your ball. Or just go with the natural look.

Once you have your base shape (and it’s dry if you used water) apply accent colors with the needle felting tool. You can make stripes, wrap it like a present or felt a shape on top if you happen to have a piece that’s more stone than ball. The point is to have fun with it and view it as an organic process rather than something you have to get right.

You can keep punching as long as you like, but it doesn’t actually take that much needle felting to get the accent wool to hold on.

Repeat this process as many times as you like. Here are a few of my examples.

I really like the look of these – rustic and colorful, easy to make but still a skill that a lot of people haven’t tried. If you try this, I’d love to hear how it goes.

Thanks so much to Julie for giving me a chance to share! Come visit me at if you’d like to see more of my crafty ideas.

AWB Hanmade Ornament Exchange Secret Santa Reveal

I love Secret Santa exchanges! I recently participated in the Handmade Ornament Secret Santa exchange over at Arkansas Women Bloggers.  We each received the information for another blogger and were supposed to make an ornament to send to our partner.  Today I get to reveal the person who sent me an ornament!

98% of my Christmas tree is covered with handmade ornaments.  With the exception of a few store bought ornaments that we have collected on our travels, everything else is either handmade by me or by a friend or loved one.  I look forward to putting up my tree each year and reflecting on the occasion in which each ornament was created.

Each ornament has a story.  Perhaps it was made by a child I taught at school.  Perhaps it was made by an online friend whom I have never met.  Perhaps it was made by my husband and I because we had no money to purchase ornaments for our tree.

Earlier this week I received and ornament from my AWB Secret Pal.

I absolutely adore this ornament! The style fits me perfectly and it is beautiful.

The ornament was sent to me by Jeanetta of Splendid Things.  Jeanetta lives on a farm and loves to make things.  Through her blog I can see that she is crafty, fun and also loves to cook.  I also discovered that my handmade ornament came about through a massive undertaking on the part of Jeanetta and her friend Jerusalem.

Jeanetta and Jerusalem decided, over a year ago, that they wanted to do another craft fair.  The planned to work hard, have everything planned and ready, and sail through the craft fair like ol’ pros.  Well time has a funny habit of running away but those girls were NOT giving up.  You can read all about how they perservered and see some pictures of thier gorgous booth in Jeanetta’s post, Back in the Saddle.  You can also see a beautiful garland made with the same crocheted stars as my new ornament!

Thank you so much for the lovely ornament, Jeanetta!  Your hard work is inpiring! A craft show is something I have always longed to do but never been brave enough to follow through on.

PS. I made and sent some handmade ornaments to Brittney at Razorback Britt.  Watch her site and perhaps you will see what she got from me!


DIY Romantic Fall Inspired Mason Jar Vase with Burlap, Lace & Pearls

Mason jars are so versatile in the home.  They are perfect in the kitchen for canning homemade goodies, for filling with ice cold beverages and I have even seen individual cakes baked in mason jars! Mason jars are also useful in other areas. They are perfect storage in the pantry, craft room or the bathroom.  They make great packages for gift giving. They even make great Memory jars!  You can see my Sand and Seashells in a Bottle tutorial here.

Today, I am going to show you how to make a beautiful mason jar vase that will make a lovely and romantic fall inspired centerpiece.

DIY Romantic Fall Inspired Mason Jar Vase with Burlap, Lace & Pearls

Mason Jars
Lace yardage
Flat backed pearls
hot glue gun

1. Cut a strip of burlap, a piece of lace and a string of flat backed pearls  to fit around the center of your mason jar with a slight overlap.

2. Hot glue the burlap into place.

3. Hot glue the lace in place.

4. Hot glue the pearls in place.

5. Add fresh cut flowers and place on the table along with pumpkins, gourds and other fall items for a beautiful and romantic centerpiece.

Oh yeah, I have a cool giveaway going on! Enter NOW for a chance to win a $150 gift certificate to Country Outfitter!  Click here for all the details!  I will be selecting a winner on October 23!

Sand and Seashells in a Bottle Beach Souvenir TUTORIAL {Arts and Crafts}

Every summer we head to the beach.  Every summer I collect a pail full of sand and seashells.  Every summer I don’t know what to do with the sand and shells and they end up being tossed in our driveway.  This is neat in it’s own way because every once and a while I will see a shell in the driveway and it takes me back to the days at the beach.  Still, I have always wanted to do something a little more special and a little more permanent.  I have seen hundred of “Sand and Seashells in a Bottle” type souvenir at all the little shops along the beach.  They are neat – yet impersonal and probably contain seashells from China.  So I decided to make my OWN Sand and Seashells in a Bottle Beach Souvenir.  It turned out pretty cute!


Sand and Seashells in a Bottle Beach Souvenir Tutorial

Seashells and Sand from a recent beach trip
A jar (I used a mason jar but any kind will do.)
A photo from your trip printed on regular computer paper
Mod Podge
A sponge brush
Craft Paint
A small detail brush
Printed text for your jar

Let’s get started!

1. Collect you sand and seashells.  Make sure your sand is dry and your shells have been cleaned and dry.

2.  Print off a picture from your vacation onto REGULAR computer paper – not photo paper.  You should choose a size that will fit easily on the back of your jar.  I printed my picture to 3×5 inches.

3. Carefully cut out your picture and gather the Mod Podge and a sponge brush.

4. Use the sponge brush to paint a thin even layer of Mod Podge onto the jar where you will place your picture.  I prefer to paint the glue onto the jar rather than the picture because sometimes the ink in the picture may smear.

5. Carefully press your picture onto the glued area.

6. Smooth the picture onto the glass and use the sponge brush to paint over the back of the entire picture.  Smooth out any wrinkles as you go with your fingers.  Don’t worry if you get Mod Podge on the other areas of the jar. It will clean off easily with a damp towel or baby wipe before you move on to the next step.

7.  Use your computer to type up what you would like painted on your jar. I chose “Panama City Beach 2012”.  I sized the letters to my liking and selected a font that seemed “beachy” to me.  I then printed my words, cut away the excess paper and carefully taped them in place.

8.  I selected some craft paint in a beachy color to paint on the letters. I chose the color Caribbean.

9. Very carefully use the printed words as a guide and paint the letters in place.  I used at least two coats of paint allowing the paint to dry between coats for the best coverage.  The great part is that you can just wipe it off and start over if you mess up!

10. When you have finished add your sand and shells into your jar.

The Finished Product:

Jersey Summer {Arts and Crafts}

I have long had an infatuation with Jersey cows.  Not only are they beautiful creatures they are sweet and produce amazing milk.  I have yet to take the plunge but SOMEDAY I will own a Jersey cow which I will raise for its milk.

I have been wanting to paint a Jersey for a very long time.  I have hesitated because I have not always been as confident in my ability to draw animals and people as I am now.  When I studied art in college I focused mainly on landscapes, buildings and still life and avoided drawing people and animals at all costs.

As an art teacher I find that most of my students want tips on how to draw people and animals.  The one area where I really felt I couldn’t help them as best as I should be able to.  During the 2011-2012 school year one of my goals was to become more confident in this area.

In the fall, I took an online class through Dirty Footprints Studio called BIG.  It is part of the Fearless® Painting Series.  The class was AMAZING but also very emotional for me and helped me to work through some feelings I have kept bottled up for a long time.  I took this time to focus on my painting of people in a more freeing and uncontrolled manner.  Being free helped me to tone up my skill.

In January I began an online class called Life Book through Willowing.  This year long class is an exploration of art meant to honor and celebrate YOU.  The class is comprised of weekly projects many which focus on self-portraits.  Additionally because of the nature of the class I have also had the opportunity to really practice a lot of animal drawing as well. (By the way – Willowings art classes are amazing and are very beginner friendly!  See that little icon over in the side bar? ——————————> Over there! If you happen to sign up for one of her classes please do so by clicking this button.  I am an affiliate and will get a few pennies if you sign up through my site.  PLUS, enter the code MOONBEAM77 to get 10% off of your first class! And, thanks!)

Today I decided to tackle my fear head on and paint a picture, on canvas, of that beautiful Jersey cow I have wanted to paint for so long!


Crystal Bridges Museum of America Art

Sometimes (actually a lot of times) I think the rest of the country underestimates how cool Arkansas can be.  Sure we have a decent population of country boys and girls and our fair share of “hill people” but we are not as backwards as the rest of the world thinks.  In fact, Arkansas boasts a few things that have literally changed the world.  Some Arkansas originals include Tyson Chicken, Walmart, Ranger Boats, TCBY, Axiom, Candy Bouquet, Dillard’s,  J.B. Hunt, Murphy Oil and USA Drug.  Have you heard of any of these? I’ll bet you have!

In addition to some cool businesses there are some really neat attractions in Arkansas. Here is a list of a few of my favorites, in no particular order.

  • Heifer Village (Heifer International)
  • Ozark Folk Center
  • Hot Springs National Park and Oaklawn Racetrack
  • Blanchard Springs Caverns
  • Buffalo National River
  • Mt. Magazine

Recently I was able to add a new location to my list of favorites, the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art.  The museum was founded in 2005 by Alice Walton, daughter of Walmart founder Sam Walton, and was kept relatively secret until it’s opening on 11/11/11.  Although not without criticism, Crystal Bridges is being hailed as one of the World’s top Fine Art Museums.  And rightly so!  According to Crystal Bridges their permanent collection

“spans five centuries of American masterworks ranging from the Colonial era to the current day. Included within the collection are iconic images such as Asher B. Durand’s Kindred SpiritsRosie the Riveter by Norman Rockwell, and Andy Warhol’s Dolly Parton, each reflecting a distinct moment in American artistic evolution. In addition to historical works, the Museum’s collection also showcases major works by modern and contemporary American artists, including Roy Lichtenstein, James Turrell, and Georgia O’Keeffe, providing visitors with a unique opportunity to experience the full scope of American art.”

The collection continues to grow as the museum obtains new pieces for it’s permanent collection and obtains a variety of temporary loan exhibits.

Richie and I have already had the privilege to visit Crystal Bridges twice.  There simply aren’t words to describe how amazing the place is.  I will let the pictures do the talking.

Bottle Cap Murals

Bottle Cap Murals


I’ve mentioned a few times in the past that I am an art teacher.  Teaching art is such a great job! Since I teach 5th – 12th grade I get to play with a BIG variety of materials each day.  I love seeing what the kids can create and am constantly impressed by the level of work the students create.

This year I was really interested in attempting some collaborative projects with my students and after reading these posts on Art with Mr. E, one of my favorite art teacher blogs, I too was inspired to create a bottle cap mural.

Did you know that most recycling plants will not accept plastic bottle caps?  In fact, if you are sending plastic bottles to the recycling center with the caps on, someone has to manually remove all of the caps before the bottles can be recycled!  Why?  Bottle caps are often made from different types of plastic than the bottles and many bottle caps themselves are made from different types of plastic.  While the individual plastics can likely be recycled, mixing them can contaminate the plastic and lower the value of the product.  Therefore, most recycling centers make it their policy not to accept bottle caps.

Collecting Bottle Caps

The first week of school last fall I put out a plea to all the students and faculty to start collecting bottle caps.  Almost immediately bottle caps started to arrive! Students were bringing them in almost weekly.  Several teachers even asked students to bring them in as part of their community service requirements.  I was amazed!

I had TRIED to keep a running tally of the caps we received but when the number soared into the TENS OF THOUSANDS I gave up counting!

Sorting Bottle Caps

The biggest issue with collecting bottle caps is sorting them.  Sorting the caps takes a long time especially when people send you big bags full of mixed caps.  I collected some copy paper boxes that were destined for the dumpster and labeled them for the different colors.  Bottle caps come in an amazing variety of colors! Blue, white, green and red are the most common but we also had yellow, orange, gold, silver, black, pink and purple.

We sorted what we could when we had some free time but in the end we had a big “Sorting Party”!  There were 27 of us all sorting bottle caps.  It took us almost an hour to separate them!  It was pure chaos in the room but it was fun and we felt accomplished when we were done!

Designing the Bottle Cap Murals

Since I am in a temporary location while our new middle school and fine arts building are being constructed it wasn’t really practical to do a large, permanent mural.  I opted to do 5 smaller murals that could later be hung in our new fine arts building.

In class we discussed how the mural would be created and that, due to the size of the bottle caps, large areas of solid color would work the best.  I asked my students to submit sketches of designs they would like to do and then each class voted on their favorite. We selected a blue and white paw print (we are the Bulldogs), a large red flower, a rainbow fish, a butterfly and the word ART in primary colors.

Several of my high school students sketched out the designs and painted the background colors.  We used some old boards that had fallen out of the bottom of the drawers in the old wooden drafting desks that are in my class room.  Again we were recycling!

Putting a Lid (cap) On It

Mr. E had used DAP Dynaflex 230 to attach his bottle caps.  I had considered this possibility but at $3-$4 a bottle it didn’t really fit our budget.  The murals will eventually be hanging inside my classroom and will not be exposed to the elements so I opted to go with good ol’ hot glue.

Obviously working with hot glue with students can be dangerous.  We took very careful precautions to prevent anyone from getting burned.

Students took turns putting on 2 bottle caps at a time while they finished up other projects.  Most classes finished in two class periods.  There were two classes that were unable to complete their murals due to field day and semester awards so my high school classes will be putting the finishing touches on those murals.

From collecting bottle caps, to painting backgrounds, to gluing down caps over 200 students had a hand in the finished products.  The project was very successful and I look forward to doing this again next year on and even grander scale!


Finished Bottle Cap Murals


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