Found Poetry Makerspace Recap!

photo by Sylvia Vardell

photo by Sylvia Vardell

PoetryMakerspace jpeg300

Greetings!  I’m glad to be back after evacuating for Hurricane Matthew.  [Weather has canceled the past two “First Friday After Five” gatherings in Beaufort this fall, but we’ll cross fingers for November.]

Two weeks ago, I had the awesome opportunity to lead a Found Poem Makerspace Workshop in Bellingham, Washington, the night before Western Washington University’s inaugural Poetry CHaT POETRY CAMP for grown-ups! Nearly 40 children’s poets, each of us published in The Poetry Friday Anthology series by  Pomelo Books, came from all over the country and a couple of other countries as well to participate. The conference concluded with a special performance by Jack Prelutsky, who received a surprise award from the University.

The whole weekend was an absolute blast.  It was also an amazing feat, organized by WWU’s Sylvia Tag and Nancy Johnson, with poet organization by Pomelo Books’s Sylvia Vardell and Janet Wong.  I was delighted to be asked to present an art workshop at the incredible Village Books on Friday night.  It was open to all the poets, plus any bookstore customers who wanted to join in.  What a band of creative souls we had!

Janet had asked if I could lead everyone to make something akin to the mixed media found poem pieces I offer in my artsyletters shop on Etsy.

©Robyn Hood Black

©Robyn Hood Black




©Robyn Hood Black

©Robyn Hood Black






“Of course!” I said, and then started planning like crazy.  I knew I had to adapt the process, as my pieces take lots of overnight drying time between the various elements, plus I use a lot of messy materials.





I needed to come up with something we could create in an hour, and I still wanted to use authentic vintage “ingredients.” And I needed to assemble supplies for – *cough* – up to 50 participants! I sent two heavy boxes of materials to Bellingham a week beforehand, and the lovely Fairhaven Village Inn had them waiting in our room when we arrived.

Many thanks to my hubby, Jeff, who helped me assemble 50 "kits" and 25 boxes of supplies! He also ran errands, helped avert a Powerpoint techno-disaster by retrieving Janet's computer when mine wouldn't work with the cord, and helped set up additional tables at the venue.

Many thanks to my hubby, Jeff, who helped me assemble 50 “kits” and 25 boxes of supplies! He also ran errands, helped avert a Powerpoint techno-disaster by retrieving Janet’s computer when mine wouldn’t work with the cord, and helped set up additional tables at the venue.

While I usually use 100-year-old texts in my mixed media collages, for this adventure, I discovered some vintage educational flashcards, each featuring a different shell from around the world.  (They were published two years before I was born, so definitely vintage!)

dsc04966-shell-cardsServing as both substrate (surface) AND text, these cards worked great, with their text box fitting EXACTLY inside the pre-cut mats I ordered in a seafaring blue color.  We wanted to celebrate Bellingham’s seaside location in the Pacific Northwest, and since I was coming all the way from the “Atlantic Southeast,” I was happy to incorporate an ocean-friendly theme.

I demonstrated how to find a poem in a text that wasn’t intended to be poetry, as I’d done with two poems in Georgia Heard’s THE ARROW FINDS ITS MARK. For this project, however, we used more of a “blackout” approach like I do in my collages.

Participants jotted down poem ideas on paper, and when they were satisfied, snipped tiny strips from the sticky margins of sticky notes to cover the words they wanted to keep as a poem. dsc04981






Instead of layers and glazes of acrylic or gouache paint, as I use, I provided a variety of colors of Stazon® ink pads. This ink dries very quickly.  Each poet-artist dabbed a color or two or more over the card (& over the sticky note strips), to cover the surrounding text. I’d provided cut-up sponge pieces, brushes, cotton swabs and the like.  Signo gel pens in different colors, and colored pencils, were also included, for making shadows under the chosen words, embellishing, or other touches.

photo by Jeff Black

photo by Jeff Black

The sticky note strips were then carefully peeled off with plastic toothpicks or tweezers, revealing the found poem. dsc05026

Then it was “ephemera” time.  In each packet I included vintage bookplates and sea-themed postage stamps from around the world.  (All found on Etsy.  I love Etsy as a shopper as well as a seller!)  Many of the bookplates featured Katsushika Hokusai’s “The Great Wave” image, a woodblock print from the 1830s. Stamps included nautical images of boats, fish, or lighthouses.


Attendees cut these images as desired, and then glued the backs with an Avery glue stick.  Then they positioned these and pressed them to their piece, took a deli sheet of wax paper and covered it all, and rolled the whole thing with a wine cork to use as a brayer and make the surface smooth.




Each “kit” also included a little brass anchor that I had antiqued beforehand.  These were adhered with Aleene’s Fast Grab Tacky Glue.

Finally, the finished art was mounted inside the 5X7 mat I had put together beforehand.  There was a little glitch in my attempts to demonstrate how to make “T-hinges” out of Lineco self-adhesive linen tape, but somehow everyone got his or her piece beautifully placed inside the mat.  Here was my finished sample:


I was blown away by what everyone came up with!  There was such positive energy in our crowded little space at the end of a long day, and seeing table-mates share their creations with each other made my heart full.

Here’s an example from my dear friend, Irene Latham:

©Irene Latham

©Irene Latham


the boy

who called

deep water

brought up

broken colors

©Irene Latham

She included the workshop in a blog post here.

Nikki Grimes kindly shared these pictures she snapped:


photo by Nikki Grimes


photo by Nikki Grimes


photo by Nikki Grimes


photo by Nikki Grimes

photo by Nikki Grimes







Several more folks also blogged about the weekend and included their Makerspace found poem pieces in posts.Click on the links below for their behind-the-scenes inspirations!

Peg Cheng’s recap brims with passion.

She said the workshop was “…the most fun I’ve had with a group of strangers in a long time. At one point, I took a breath, looked around, and realized I was completely surrounded by poets and authors all cutting, pasting, stamping, talking, and laughing. It was heaven.”  [Reading that description was heavenly to me!]

Elizabeth Steinglass found simple, lovely words with which to make magic, shared in her post here.

Bridget Magee’s poem is fun and profound at the same time.  Check it out here.

Happy to make Jone MaCulloch‘s top 10 faves from the weekend, where she shares her poem about beauty!

Holly Thompson, who came all the way from Japan, ended up with a card depicting a Japanese shell.  How amazing is that?  Here’s her post about the conference.

And, look!  Greg Pincus just shared his found poem from the evening – wow, did he find some great words/phrases, or what?  (Who would have thought a flash card about a shell could yield a poem about family – with an existential question or two, even?)  His table was definitely on the raucus side. He writes, “… there I was, sitting at a table along with Bob Raczka, Peg Cheng, and Brenda Olson chatting, glue-ing, picking words, laughing, and having a blast.

For a round-up of more poet blog links about POETRY CAMP, check out Sylvia Vardell’s wonderful post here.

I love it when my writing life and art life collide – this was a magical opportunity, and I’ll cherish it always.  Thanks to everyone who participated so enthusiastically, and to Janet, Sylvia V., Sylvia T., and Nancy for inviting me to lead this creative found-poem treasure hunt!

Poetry Makerspace!


RHB sm mixed media life contains heart-poems 300 dpiI’m honored and thrilled that I’ll be leading a Found Poem Makerspace Activity before our big Poetry Camp conference at Western Washington University at the end of next month! Thanks to the WWU organizers and to Janet Wong and Sylvia Vardell, publishers of the Poetry Friday Anthology series at Pomelo Books.

Our mini mixed media workshop will take place at Village Books in Bellingham.  Can’t wait! (I’ll share the fun poster when it’s the final version.)

On the local front, I’ll be set up again at the Starving Artist Market in Port Royal this Saturday from 10 – 2.  Come by and say hi if you’re out and about.

A Little 1920s for The Wedding…

The bride and groom left the celebration in style... in a 1928 Hudson!

The bride and groom left the celebration in style… in a 1928 Hudson! Photo – Sabrina Fields

Thanks for the kind feedback on my post a couple of weeks ago about handmade touches for my daughter’s wedding. As promised, here’s a little caboose to that, about how I decorated myself for the occasion.

Morgan-Matt_Family-110 morgan and robyn crop

Photo – Sabrina Fields

I found my dress (on sale, no less!) at Macy’s, after some disheartening shopping experiences before that.  I fell in love with its Downton Abbey vibe.  Daughter Morgan and I were die-hard fans from season to season, either texting during episodes or watching together on rare occasions of visits.  I wasn’t necessarily shopping for black, but since it was a “Black/Whyte” wedding, early evening, and bridesmaids were in gray, I went with it.

Never one to stop at one layer, I decided to make that a bit of a theme for my Mother-of-the-Bride “ensemble.” Being as big a fan of buying on Etsy as I am of selling on Etsy, that’s where I turned for inspiration.

First – earrings!  I wanted something period-authentic to echo the scalloped sequin-y pattern of my dress.  I found these 1920s clip-on delights from La Dolce Vita Jewels.

1920s earrings pI love them! Plus, shop owner Michele sent the loveliest note with them, tucking in good wishes for the wedding, and they were beautifully packaged with extra TLC  (& such a fun vintage image-inspired display card).  They were on sale, too, but a sparkly splurge at around $68.

photo - Sabrina Fields

With hubby Jeff and my rhinestone earrings. Photo – Sabrina Fields

Shoes were a challenge, but I’ll mention as they indirectly led to my next couple of purchases.  The dress was long, but hemming would have been prohibitively expensive because of its beading.  I quickly discovered, however, that an old Achilles injury was not going to allow me to wear any seriously high heels.  Arrgh. The mother of the groom – who arranged the awesome get-away car pictured above – suggested I try wedges.

I found some (again, after discouraging store excursions and even online ordering attempts!) at T. J. Maxx.  They were dressy as wedges go, with black straps and bling.  But the bling was silver and gold, not just silver like the rest of me was working out to be.  I thought, why not add a bit of gold elsewhere and then I’ll just be sporting more than one kind of shine?  It’s how I generally roll anyway.

I found this glorious little flapper/’20s bag from Jackie and Suzette at The Curiosity Collectors with this description – purse p “Beautiful, sparkly 1920’s beaded evening purse…it’s a combination of silver beads with long gold beads laid in a wave..has a pretty clasp with faux diamonds (I hope they’re not real!) and a pretty coiled silver tone handle.”

Not only did it have both silver and gold, but it came with my scallop-y waves, too!

Their description noted some condition issues, which I was happy to tackle.  The lining was stained (no one would see that!) and needed to be reattached by sewing all around the handle.  Hence, its wonderful “as-is” price of $19.99.  I’m still smiling over that one.

Finally, I knew I’d be wearing a lovely wrist corsage by Dahlia, but I’m a jewelry gal and wanted something for my other arm.  Searching Etsy for “art deco” and “bangles,” I found a simple bracelet from GloryDayz – circa 1950s but with that period feel.  It’s black enamel with a gold-accented, wavy metallic design – which meant I had to get it to go with the dress and the beaded bag, right? bangle pShows its age a little but just the right touch.  And just $14.99!  Shop owner Lisa Rae took great care in fun packaging and sent a thoughtful note.




Oh – and I must confess buying a beautiful new ring (black onyx) from a silversmith in Dahlonega, Georgia, a month before the wedding. onyx ring pIt was in an Art Deco setting I couldn’t resist.And reasonably priced for such careful hand crafting.

Plus, I was with some girlfriends.  Peer pressure.


Photo - Sabrina Fields

My mulit-metallic, 1920s/Art Deco accents. :0) Photo – Sabrina Fields

I didn’t realize while gathering these fun, 1920s/Art Deco elements that the bride and groom would get to make a grand exit in a 1928 Hudson!

Icing on the wedding cake. :0)

What I’ve Been Up To… Sharing Handmade Wedding Touches

Greetings, Friends!

Thanks for coming by.  I didn’t really fall off the planet in recent months, but much of my creative energy was funneled into MOB (“Mother of the Bride”) endeavors. While not directly artsyletters-related, maybe you’ll enjoy a peek behind the wedding-planning curtain into some handmade touches crafted for the Big Day.

[For REAL wedding photos, you might enjoy photographer Sabrina Fields’s blog post about Morgan and Matt’s wedding, which highlights the happy couple, bridal party, and main events of the day.]

Morgan-Matt_SabrinaFaves-225 crop

Sabrina Fields Photography (my crop)

THE BIG DETAILS: Planning started literally the morning after they got engaged – about 10 months from the wedding date.  We snagged Greenville, SC venues (Daniel Chapel at Furman University and The Commerce Club) and began lining up special vendors – flowers, DJ, cake, and the like.  Because it was out of town (Morgan remained in Greenville for two years after college but just moved to Georgia this month), we also reserved a large room block at The Hyatt Regency downtown.  That happens to be where my hubby and I, as Furman students, had our very first date in the hotel restaurant!

Back to the wedding. “The dress” was found Halloween weekend in Charlotte (it takes months for wedding dresses to come in, and a few weeks should be allowed for alterations), with bridesmaids dresses ordered and tuxes picked out soon thereafter.

Then the FUN, SMALLER parts! First, we pretty much had a theme and color scheme handed to us – when the bride’s last name is Black and the groom’s last name is Whyte, the direction is obvious! So, black and white and silver and gray it was, with dashes of fresh color in the gorgeous flowers by Dahlia.

Here are a few examples of things we did ourselves, for your amusement or inspiration.

While we ordered wedding stationery in a pattern of silvery-gray lace from Wedding Paper Divas (to complement the beautiful lace of Morgan’s Kenneth Winston dress from NY Bride and Groom), I was determined to brush up on Copperplate calligraphy and hand address each envelope.  I hadn’t attempted pointed pen calligraphy since those Furman days in art class…. I thought this would take a few days.  It took longer.

photo 3 (4) calligraphy practice

callig practice p

First I had to freshen up supplies, thanks to John Neal Bookseller, and drag out my old resources and references and purchase more.  I finally learned how to use an oblique pen holder!  Copperplate lettering requires a different, and much slower, approach than broad-nib calligraphy – and a pressure/release technique that’s a little tricky. Don’t look too closely at the chicken-scratch above; initial efforts were NOT pretty.

Finally the calendar dictated that I get those 125 envelopes (outer and inner!) addressed, ready or not.  I can’t believe I don’t have pictures of how they took over our dining room and spilled onto living room shelves; I accidentally deleted a couple I snapped on my phone.  But a few recipients were kind enough to send texts with nice notes and photos when their invitations arrived in the mail – here’s a sampling of those envelopes.

Far from perfect, but fun to do and sent with love.  Oh – see the extra stamp required on each envelope up there? Just .1 ounce (POINT 1!) above one ounce, with the RSVP inserts and such, so each envelope required an extra stamp.  I wanted a wedding-friendly image in addition to the custom postage we’d ordered, so another first-class stamp it was.

While in a calligraphy vein, I also wanted to add a wee flourish to the ceremony programs with an “M & M” decoration, since we were employing the letters here and there. We had looked at ordering matching programs from Wedding Paper Divas, but the cost was beyond the budget we’d already exceeded for all of that fancy paper.  My hometown printer here in Beaufort, Murr Printing, saved the day with a simple folded program on a lovely light gray linen cardstock.  For the ornamentation, once again, practice:

decorative initial practice p

then the final result – nowhere near perfect, but a scroll-y, curlicue touch:

Because most attendees were traveling, we made up welcome/goodie bags (one per room) to be handed to our folks at check-in.  I ordered bulk quantities of designs that I could also use for my shop! (These came from Store Supply Warehouse.)

bags on bed p

Each featured a circle tag from Wedding Paper Divas attached with a silver ribbon. tag from wedding paper divas pInside were:  A printed weekend itinerary (with a couple of more inclusive get-together options beyond wedding party events), a map, a new colorful guide to Greenville, a guide to the Swamp Rabbit Trail for those needing a fitness break, chamomile tea, some festive napkins, a little bag of silver Hershey Kisses & Hugs, and – of course – another bag with those yummy bakery black and white cookies, plus a few Keebler Danish Wedding Cookies thrown in for good measure.goodie bag contents wedding welcome c

cookies wedding c

The most special thing I made for the wedding were earrings for the bridesmaids.  Morgan and I had been looking at options on Etsy (where her lovely earrings came from – who could resist a shop with a name like Poetry Bridal?), but couldn’t find exactly what she wanted.  When I realized she was drawn to simple designs – no stone setting or metalsmithing! – I knew I wanted to have a go.  I love each one of those lovely young women who stood with Morgan and wanted to give them a little gift myself.

I’d found the Avon necklace I wore at my own wedding, um, 32 years ago. The gold-tone was definitely more tone than gold, and the iridescence uneven on the little pearl beads. But I knew I could use those small beads in earrings. I found some lovely 1940s Japanese glass beads (also “cheap” but with such a pretty patina) from another Etsy shop, House of Twinkle. Perfect color to complement the dove gray dresses. DSC02280 robyn necklace wedding and glass beads pThen it was time to experiment, trying a couple of different styles of rondelle beads from The Paris Carousel, adding a tiny 100-year-old steel bead from ohmymilky to each, and dangling all from findings from UnkamenSupplies. (Yep – all Etsy.)

DSC02286 earring construction zone p

DSC02293 trying out earring options 2 p

Here’s how they turned out:

bridesmaids earrings c(I made Morgan and myself a pair too, just for fun!)

bridsemaids earrings bunch p r c

Sabrina Fields

Sabrina Fields

I certainly come by my “maker” tendencies naturally.  My mother, Nita, made Morgan’s garters (one to keep and one to throw).  For the keepsake one, she used a little snip of lace from my wedding dress (taken unobtrusively) – a dress that SHE had made ME all those years ago.  For Morgan, she even made a couple of sets to choose from:

photo (31) garters p

Morgan-Matt_SabrinaFaves-106 garter p

Sabrina Fields

Speaking of lace, I wanted to incorporate it somehow into the seating chart for the reception.  Be forewarned – making a seating chart (even if just to assign table numbers as we did) is not for the faint of heart!  It’s like putting together a big puzzle, assuring that guests will at least have someone they know at their table.  :0)

After figuring out all those rounds of ten, the fun can begin.  I started with a 20 X 30 framed magnetic board from our local T.J. Maxx. I covered the canvas surface with black lace fabric I ordered on eBay from paylessfabric, tucking and gluing the edges inside the frame. Also on eBay, I found some great paper doilies from Sea Starr Emporium. I grabbed some metallic silver cardstock from my studio and with my new favorite tool, an EK circle cutter,  cut out circles slightly smaller than the doilies.  Are you still with me?  I printed off the names for each table on good white paper and cut circles of these as well (slightly smaller than the silver circles), experimenting…seating chart in progress p

magnets for seating chart p


At the top, I used a rectangle for the bridal party’s head table, playing with layers of doilies behind that and accenting with a cut out lace design from an extra wedding invitation.

In a final burst of overkill, I covered magnets with lace designs from the invitation, too – another excuse to play with the circle-cutter. I glued the layers of the circle together, then used a magnet to hold each “table” to the board.

Here’s how it turned out:

Morgan-Matt_SabrinaFaves-232 seating chart crop p

Sabrina Fields Photography

photo 1 (3)

Morgan-Matt_SabrinaFaves-236 seating chart detail p

Sabrina Fields Photography


[And the bride and groom get some fun refrigerator magnets to remind them of their celebration.]

For good measure, I also printed out the names for each table and put them in small frames.  First names only – to encourage conversation, and so they’d fit!

These were placed with the round table numbers (ordered on eBay from Green Ridge Designs, along with tiny stands) – see below.  I ordered two sets so the numbers would be visible from each side.
small framed table names p

Sabrina Fields Photography

Sabrina Fields Photography

Morgan also made a darling sign with their “hashtag” – one of several new wedding norms that didn’t exist back when I got married!morgan black to whyte sign p

Also, in addition to a traditional guestbook, Morgan and Matt bought a new bible and set it our for guests to highlight their favorite verse and sign.  We supplied small not-too-sticky sticky notes for them to mark the spot so they could be found later.

One last note about reception decor – For each table, I framed a 5 X 7-ish picture of Morgan and Matt through the years.  (These went back to eighth grade, though the two didn’t really stick as a couple until their senior year of high school!) And for the head table, these found treasures from the past, placed in T.J. Maxx frames, marked their seats:

little matt and morgan frames p

These days, couples often make their grand exit through sparklers (rather than bird seed, or, in the even older days, rice.) We found good ones at a good price from Wedding Sparklers Outlet.  (I ordered the 20-inch sparklers rather than the 30-inch, after another recent family wedding involved 30-inch sparklers and quite a little light show as the bride and groom made their escape exit…)

And one more wedding vendor – I don’t yet have pictures of it in action, but to keep our swanky affair grounded, we arranged a surprise gift for the bride and groom in the form of a custom monogrammed cornhole set!  Etsy sellers Zubky added some floor-protection to the bottom, and the Commerce Club staff kindly set it up in the bar area.  It was a hit with the younger guests, for sure, and we hope will foster fun for years to come.

Finally – favors!  We offered a couple.  Morgan found some great Koozies from Rook Design Co. on Etsy: kooziesYes – members of our immediate and extended family can quote every line of “The Princess Bride” movie.

And, because we HAD to…m and ms hearts p

Black and white M&Ms!  Kind of pricey but we had no choice. (At least we didn’t need any custom printing – the M’s were just right.)  I drafted hubby Jeff and son Seth to help with the assembly.  jeff m & msseth m & msm and ms in process p

The plastic hearts (perfect to hold a couple dozen candies) came from Papermart. I also ordered some of their ribbon and was pleased with the quality!

M & Ms and program p We hope everyone, the bride and groom most of all, left with full hearts.  (Sorry – couldn’t help myself.)

When we get family pictures back, I’ll follow up with a much shorter peek into how I used some vintage Etsy finds to decorate myself for the big day.

And I promise to post more artsyletters art soon, now that the flower petals have settled and I can get back into the studio…

Happy July!  And if you’re planning a wedding, best wishes!

Happy Spring! Chain, Chain, Chain….

robyn necklaces march 22 2016 crop ps

I hope you are having a great start to spring!

I’ve been busy in the studio, obsessed with making upcycled necklaces with charming, glorious, and sometimes quirky vintage elements.

necklace montage group 2016 03 ps

Old optical lenses make upbeat, fun bezels.  Mid-century brass stampings, or              100-year-old stamped brass embellishments, show off vintage typewriter keys in spunky or elegant settings, depending on your mood.

Here’s one I’ve been tempted to keep for myself!  But I’ll part with it to a good home:

sideways on neck staming fractions necklace c

And here’s a double-chain long necklace with a layered look.  Literary flapper?

shift freedom books c

Thanks for taking a look!  I’ve got lots more in the works.

Let’s see, what’s coming around the bend…  Mother’s Day?  Gruaduations? Weddings?  [We’ve got one of those last ones in our family in June!  Exciting times.]

Whatever is on your Spring calendar, I wish you blue skies and blooming landscapes. Thanks for coming by!

Merry Christmas!

divine love door open close up use

(Click for more pictures of this piece on Etsy.)


This altered book collage was made with heart and features Vol. 8 of MASTERPIECES OF THE WORLD’S BEST LITERATURE, compiled by Jeannette L. Gilder and published in 1910 by Classic Publishing Company, NY. Gently open the door, and the page block has been altered to reveal a found poem and new message from these words within by Gerhard Tersteegen, translated from German :


Love of God


beauteous light

finds rest in Thee.

Wishing you and yours a holiday and new year filled with light!