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The Lunch Bags

My friend Lisa reminded me the other night that I should post “the lunch bags”, so here they are.

The framed lunch bags now hand over the mantle in our family room.

When my oldest daughter was in Kindergarten I was a newly divorced mother with my only child starting kindergarten. I started painting a scene from our favorite books on her lunch bag every day for school. They started simple and got more elaborate. I would sit in my kitchen every night with my pens and watercolors and work away on these little creations. These of course meant very little to Amanda at the time. In fact, some of the best ones ended up in the trash as she would just throw them away with her lefttover lunch. The ones she did manage to bring home ended up in the drawer of an old dresser used to store kids art projects in our basement, and there they sat for the last 14 years. About two years ago or so I decided to drag them out and frame some of them. I gathered the best ones together, figured out a pleasing order for them and had them framed. They now hang over our family room fireplace. I’ll give them to Amanda one day when she has her own home to hang them in.

You can see that they are wrinkled and even torn in some cases – probably from being rescued from the trash can by Amanda, but they are a fun memory for us.

Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse, The Day it Rained Hearts, The Strange Blue Creature, and Olivia Saves the Circus

Redbird in Rockefeller Center, Lettice, Owen, The Day it Rained Hearts

The Day it Rained Hearts, The Giving Tree, Parts, Boodil by Dog

There's a Nightmare in my Attic, A Porcupine Named Fluffy, Dr. DeSoto, If You Give a Moose a Muffin

If You Give a Pig a Pancake, One Zillion Valentines, Are You my Mother?, Sylvester and the Magic Pebble

Eeyore from Winnie the Pooh, Dr. DeSoto Goes to Africa, The Something in my Closet, Huggly's Sleepover

I don’t know if I could pick a favorite from them. There’s a bunch that I really like. I don’t really know why I did them either. To instill my love of reading into Amanda? To compensate for divorcing her father? Because I had nothing else to do every night? Whatever the reason, I didn’t think much about them for years. I’m glad I remembered them though and had them framed.

The problem with having done these for Amanda though is that the three younger kids thought I was going to draw them lunch bags every day. Doing these for Amanda was a luxury I could only afford when I had one child; it certainly wasn’t something that I could have entertained with 4 of them running around. We joke that they’ll spend time on the therapists couch later in life over that.

Hand Painted Porcelain Dishware

When I saw a post on — where else — Pinterest, for using something called a porcelain pen on china that you then bake in the oven and it becomes permanent, I thought to myself  I had to try that. I found one brand called DecoArtGlass Paint Marker at Joan’s Craft Stores, and I found the Uchida DecoColor Opaque Paint Market at my local Jerry’s Artarama, but any opaque oil-based paint marker should work.

Now why weren’t these pens around 16 or 17 years ago?

When Amanda was young, maybe 5 or so, for her birthday party I asked each child what their favorite book was on the invitations. For their party favor, I used one of those kits where I drew my picture freehand on the melamine plate they provided and send it into the company where they somehow treat it and made the design permanent. At the party the children got to use their new plate for the birthday cake, and then they got to take it home and use it again and again. For years after that moms would stop me to say that their child still used that plate all those years later.

I was so excited when I looked and found I still had some of these plates tucked away.

A picture from the book The Strange Blue Creature by

And to prove how old I'm getting, I cannot even remember the name of this book!

And I must have done this plate for India's 4th birthday.

The problem with a project of this magnitude, just like the dreaded “Lunch Bags” became, is that while they were pretty significant undertaking with one child, they were impossible to tackle when I had two, let alone when 2 turned into 4. My younger kids still feel like they got the short end of the stick in life because they didn’t get hand-painted lunch bags to take to school every day or custom cake plates to send home with their friends at their birthday parties.  So use this page for inspiration, or for a good laugh. Oh, and if you actually manage to paint custom lunch bags or plates as party favors and you have more than one child, drop me a note because I want to personally tell you that you are amazing.

So I bought  dinner plate, salad plate and coffee cup at Target. Simple white porcelain. Dishwasher and microwave safe. I removed all stickers and washed it well. I knew I wanted a simple design. While the pens claim to be “fine point”, it would be hard to do something very detailed with one on a plate. I chose barbed wire for some strange reason. Must  be the Wyoming in me. I went to the trust internet and printed out some images of barbed wire so I had a general idea of what it should look like in detail, measured the area where I wanted it on the plate, and drew the design to fit the areas. I did 4 separate strips of wire to go around the outside of the dinner plate. I used the same sized circular wire design on the center of both plates, but shrunk it on my printer/copier for the coffee cup layout. The circular wire around the top edge of the coffee mug I did freehand.

A technique I learned the hard way while teaching myself to do linoleum cutting is to use paper, a #2B or #4B art pencil and a bone folder to transfer designs easily onto another surface. What is a bone folder you ask? I did too. Sounds like something a serial killer keeps in his handy tool kit, doesn’t it. Well, it looks a bit like a letter opener and it is actually made out of bone. You can find it at most craft or art supply stores.

It’s such a simple concept, yet when I first realized I could transfer images this way I felt like crying at all the time I’d wasted using other methods.

Take your pencil drawn design and lay it in the desired area on the porcelain piece. Tape it securely down all around. Using the bone folder, rug all over the image, pressing firmly. Lift a corner to see if design has transferred, and if not, rub the image some more until you can see the image pretty clearly. Now I did find that it was hard to transfer onto the porcelain surface, but it did transfer lightly, which was all I really wanted in this case. This method works great when transferring my designs onto linoleum.

Design is taped around outside edge of plate.

Design is transferred onto plate with bone folding tool.

Then I just took a black porcelain pen and carefully traced over my design. The paint dries pretty quickly, but use caution not to smudge anything.

Using the pen, I just drew over the transferred pattern, being careful not to smudge anything.

I used the same method to transfer the center design when the outside was dry.

Transfer the design with a bone folding tool.

The transferred design.

The finished plate.

I just continued this with the salad plate and the mug until I had a finished set.

The finished set.

Now in my spare time I just have to do 5 more sets.

My First Day at School

What a lovely day for my sister and me.

Our fight departed slighly late but we actually arrived on time to Atlanta. Got our rental car with relative ease, and departed for our drive to North Carolina with shining sun, blue skies and temperatures in the high 40’s. There wasn’t a flake of snow to be seen anywhere. The drive was not particularly impressive until we started to get into the boonies of Georgea and into North Carolina. By that time it was about 4:30 and the sun was so perfect in the sky, casting this golden hew on everything. I wanted to stop the car every few hundred yards to take pictures. But, by this time we’d run out of room to spare to get to the school on time so I only got a few opportunities.

Here are a few of the photos I managed to get.

Fence in the Setting Sun

Cool Funky Cabin

We arrived just in time for final check-in, went directly to orientation, and from there directly to dinner, which was family-style and quite delicious. We then had just enough time to throw our bags into our rooms (which were much nicer than we anticipated) and arrive a few minutes late for the evening portion of class tonight.

From 6:45 until 9:00 we both learned something we knew absolutely nothing about. By the end of the night I had learned how to make yarn on a drop spindle. It wasn’t perfect, but I seemed to be picking it up fairly quickly and was happy with the progress I’d made by 9:00.

My sister enjoyed her evening portion of the bowl turning on a lathe class, but seemed a little frustrated by having a little bit too much assistance by the teachers. She may start over with a fresh bowl blank tomorrow.

Tomorrow we plan on getting up at 6:00 a.m. and take a quick drive around the area for to see what’s here and take some photos in the early-morning sunlight. Breakfast is at 8:15 and class starts at 9:00 and pretty much goes all day with a short break for lunch. By the end of the day tomorrow we should all have learned the general basics of spinning on a spinning wheel, which should be quite interesting. Apparently we will not be learning carding and preparing wool, as there is simply not enough time in the short weekend to cover all of the basics. We will learn how to pick a good fleece tomorrow and we’ll wash it as well. It’s all very interesting. There are I think 8 women in the class and none of us have every done spinning of any kind so we’re all total beginners and there was a lot of laughing going on.

At night we’ll have an opportunity to spend more “open studio” time working on projects or visiting the other buildings and see what they are doing there. They teach so many classes in so many different arts it’s mind boggling.

Hopefully I’ll be able to update more tomorrow. There’s lots to learn!