Rocky Mountain High

The title for this post is most appropriate as I am still on a creative high from my trip to the US and Colorado.  Unlike Jen Lowe and Linda Peterson, I did  not post whilst all the activity of the Starving Artists Playground was happening – I don’t know where they found the energy!  A 7 hour time difference (and therefore pronounced jet lag) added to a general lack of sleep and over excitedness  means that all blogging activity has had to wait until I have at least half a brain cell working coherently.  For those of you who are feeling a bit bamboozled and don’t know what the Starving Artists Playground is, then visit Jen’s blog or the Friendly Plastic Blog and you will see that it was an event dreamed up by Jen to bring together lots of creative people for  a weekend of “playshops”.

Almost two weeks ago I flew to Indianapolis (Mid West) to visit my sister and do some serious craft shopping before flying on to  meet up with all the Friendly Plastic Gals in Colorado.  Boy did I do some shopping!  My suitcases were pretty darn full anyway as I  had to take loads of stuff out for the Playground, including large amounts (3kg) of Galaxy chocolate plus an Emergency Bar (I did not realise that there were so many different types of cleverly packaged bars of chocolate in Sainsuburys, and the one with “Emergency Bar” seemed too good to resist).  Once I had offloaded the chocolate then there would be plenty of room for all my shopping (Ha!). 

My sister had a surprise for me, she had organised a car to take me from her house to the airport; not just any car, but a stretch limo!

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There was acres of space for all my suitcases full of shopping!  I felt like royalty and a complete pillock all at the same time – thank goodness for smoked glass windows.

On arrival in Denver, I was greeted by the craziest bunch of women wandering around with “Wanted” posters

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This is Jen trolling around the airport searching for me.  Linda and Jana were similarly supplied with posters.  Jana had arrived from Las Vegas on an earlier flight and had been greeted with her very own Wanted Poster too.  Linda and Jen had pinched images from the web of Jana and I and added digital Friendly Plastic enhancements in the form of crowns!  Well, at  least it kept the crowds of onlookers happy wondering what these loony ladies were up to!

At Jen’s house the four of us spent a day and a half playing, getting to know each other, sharing ideas and generally having fun.  Jen had prepared so thoroughly that she was ready ahead of time for the influx of 24 ladies with creative intentions and loads and loads of food.  I have never been to a house so dedicated to creative play.  This is Jen’s play space upstairs, she also has a dedicated basement too.  Everywhere is full of her creations, and all her materials are soooo neatly organised.

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Before everyone began arriving on Friday, the four of us went off for a spot of retail therapy and to collect some last minute supplies.  Here is Jana rummaging around in a fabulous little ribbon and button store in Niwot called The Berry Patch.  For those of you who are not from the US reading this, you might like to know that Jen’s house is north of Denver, not too far from Boulder in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains.  Anyway, the ribbon store had HUGE amounts of ribbons and other stuff:

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This is just a tiny weeny selection of what they had to offer – thin ribbons, fancy ribbons, textured ribbons, patterned ribbons, silk ribbons, ribbons with dangly bits, over-the-top-in-your-face-ribbons, discrete ribbons, bling ribbons, buttons  of every size, shape and texture, and some amazing jewellery, the like of which I have never seen before.

We visited 6 stores in very quick succession, including a fabulous hardware store that stocked EVERYTHING under the sun (I am hardly exaggerating at all, promise!), two art stores, Hobby Lobby (infinitely better than Hobbycraft in the UK), and finally the supermarket to buy essential food stuff etc for the weekend.  Jen had allocated a list of stuff to everyone so this was my chance to go and buy some things for fondue dipping and a ten tons of loo roll.

Whilst at the fabulous hardware store, Jana showed me what Silpat was – it is a mesh of silicone strands in a regular woven pattern encased in clear silicone rubber.  It is very flexible and has a tacky non slip surface, and I think that the product comes from France so we should be able to source it here in the UK.  I will have to get on to that one.  I had never seen it before, but now that I have, I understand how Jana gets her lovely Fracture And Fusion cuffs to mould so beautifully.

We also found a heap of other useful things that I shall add to some later posts, as I am sure you don’t just want to hear about our shopping trips!

Back at Jen’s we had a crisis – we needed a whole heap of “stones” for the wire wrapping and bashing playshop, so Linda, Jana and I got stuck in and made 10 stones each to wrap.  Jana used her scraps for Fracture and Fusion, I recycled some of Linda’s big box of scraps and added metal flakes and Pearlex Powders, whilst Linda made some lovely faux stones using Friendly Plastic pellets.

IMG_0936Linda kindly coated them all in Envirotex Lite ready for the Playshop to begin.

Friday night was Fondue Night, and there was an excess of cheese and chocolate fondues, so no one went hungry.

Everything began on Saturday morning 8.45 sharp.  Besides the Friendly Plastic Playshops that Linda, Jana, Jen and I ran, there were fabulous sessions on Silver Art Clay, Polymer Clay (extruding and focal beads), wire bashing and wrapping, ribbons, Faux opals, water colour  painting, clever little Nicho boxes and sooooo much more.  I got to take the Silver Art Clay with Sherry and Peg’s polymer clay Focal Beads amongst other things, and if there is any time in my creative day that I can spare, then I would love to play with either of these, 2 hours was not enough. 

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This was my first attempt at Silver Art Clay, and I used my Salizah Arabesque Cutter to make the shape, which created a bail at the same time.  I could add a bead to the little dip in the top section of the pendant.  A little note to Sherry – thank you for being such a lovely, thorough and patient teacher, you were great.

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Peg had thoughtfully made some wonderful canes and slices of Polymer Clay for us to use, and she taught us how to create this “Lentil” shaped bead.  She then showed us how to make some fabulous long rectangular beads whose name I cannot now remember, but mine turned out to have a zebra’s backside on it!

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I think the hardest part of all this was making the canes and Peg had done that for us.  Thank you Peg, you make the most wonderful beads.

My playshops revolved around Oooze, Lacework, Lizzie Dolls (as Linda christened them), and a “Whatever Trevor” session when I showed people whatever they particularly wanted to know about.

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I have to confess that I was totally useless at remembering to get my camera out, as it was hectic and we were all having so much fun, so I apologise for the distinct lack of photos, but here is Becky from Amaco and Sherry the fabulous Silver Clay artist having a go at Oooze.

Now Jen’s house is large by UK standards, but fitting 24 women in so that they all have some creative space is pretty impressive, and although Jen has a capacious basement, last year things spread out on to her deck because they had such lovely weather.  This year, there was snow – 2″ of it.  In the UK that grinds everything to a halt, but not so in Colorado – people travelled 2 or 3 hours through freezing icy conditions from Nebraska and the other side of the mountains to get here by 8.45am on Saturday – pretty impressive and dedicated I think.  The picture below is of Jen’s deck, I thought the image of her sun lounger covered in snow epitomised the sudden change in the weather perfectly.

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Days full of creativity interspersed with some madcap initiatives by Jen (the Naughty Hat, and some incredibly embarrassing quizzes – fine if you are plastered, but way, way outside any Brit’s comfort zone!), plenty of food, and so much friendship and good humour.  What a fabulous time we all had, and I cannot thank Jen and her cohorts of helpers enough for making this such a wonderful “2nd, but not annual” event.  Everyone went home with heads full of ideas and possibilities, and new found friendships.  A truly super event.

Linda, Jana, Jen and I had an extra day together, which we spent it in Estes Park (Higher up in the Rockies) “Elk Hunting” which Rose thought was a euphemism for more shopping, but we truly did go looking for Elk, which by the way are ENORMOUS, much bigger than I was expecting.  Linda was loony enough to get up close and personal to a huge bull elk.

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Linda eventually got so close that she could have touched him, but she took an incredible photo that no one else had the guts to take except with their cameras set on max zoom.  They can be dangerous beasties when they feel like it, but he was just lazing about having a snooze.  His harem was feeling a bit skittish, I think they had been spooked by a dog.

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Weirdly, there was more snow on the ground lower down the mountains in Boulder than there was in Estes Park, as you can see from the photo below.

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 Jen thought I was mad because I was busy photographing bits of interesting bark on some railings  instead of mountains and more Elk.

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I tried some salt water Taffy from the Taffy Shop that Jen used to go to as a child.  I can’t say that I liked it very much, but it was good to try it out, now at least I know what it is.

After a bit of window shopping and some more photos of interesting textures, colours and shapes, it was time for me to get to the airport and head home.  The whole Starving Artists Playground event was a huge success, and I thoroughly enjoyed being part of it all. I made new friends, got inspired, tried things I had never tried before, lost a lot of sleep, gained a huge amount of stuff (see the picture below of some of the goodies that headed my way, this was a gift bag given to all participants, not my shopping.  I don’t think there would be a picture big enough to hold all of my shopping!), ate too much fondue, tried Taffy, and discovered a whole enclave of beautiful creative people who I would love to meet up with again in the future.  Thank you one and all.

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