Art Show Opening

I’m interrupting my regularly scheduled gift guide to bring you important news – a fellow Handmade Philly member has her work currently on display at a nearby gallery and you need to check it out!

Last weekend I had the wonderful opportunity to see the new work of Abby Sernoff. Abby’s been a Handmade Philly member for years now and though she may not always be heavily involved in discussions, she’s been working hard creating lovely works of art.

From now until May 29th, you can see Abby’s extraordinary collages at the Pebble Peace Gallery  located at 320 Edison-Furlong Road in Doylestown. Following is the press release of the show in addition so some photographs I snapped at the opening on Saturday. My photos do not do these collages justice – you need to see them in person! Also, Abby mentioned that soon she’ll have prints of these original collages available in her shop. Hope you all find time to take a gorgeous drive up to Doylestown to check out the work of a fellow Handmade Philly member. And a big congrats to Abby!!
Official Press Release:

Abby Sernoff

May 1 – 29, 2011
Opening Reception, Sun., May 1, 2010, 12 – 2pm
Abby Sernoff is a self-taught Mixed Media Collage artist who was raised in Lawrenceville, NJ. She received her B.A. from Macalester College and an MA in Speech Language Pathology from Temple University. Seven years ago, her life completely changed when she became seriously ill with Lyme Disease. Unable to continue working as a Speech Pathologist, Abby chanced upon collage making in 2006 while taking a local class about creativity. Within months, Abby found herself selling her artwork in local stores, accepting commissions, and participating in a juried art exhibit. She has shown her work as part of First Friday in Narberth, PA, and currently maintains a website and sells her art online.

Working primarily with paper, ink, and acrylic paint, Abby’s collages showcase varied texture, pattern, and color. Her collages include papers collected from numerous sources. She prefers to use recycled materials as much as possible; her pieces often contain repurposed calendars, shopping bags, wrapping paper, maps, greeting cards, old book pages, and even “junk mail.”

Abby’s work is inspired by the natural world around us, especially birds. Her artwork is heavily influenced by the mythology and symbolism that birds and other creatures have conveyed over centuries. She strongly believes nature is always communicating with us, and tries to reflect in her artwork the beauty that surrounds us. Since Abby’s journey as an artist has paralleled her journey healing from illness, she also wishes to convey a message of hope and optimism through her art.

Visit Abby’s website:

For Gallery information, to purchase artwork or schedule an exhibit, contact Gretchen Altabef, Gallery Director.

Multi Media Materials – This Month: Mod Podge

As an artist you are probably interested in finding out about new (or new to you) materials. Regardless of the ideas and concepts in your work, you may want to explore them using a variety of materials to keep your art practice exciting!

Each month I will focus on a new material. As an art teacher I am constantly trying new techniques, using materials in new ways and encouraging my students to experiment.  I also encourage you to post pics of your own work created with the highlighted material or technique, ask questions, suggest future materials and add your own knowledge and experiences with materials.

The Handmade Philly Book Exchange has reignited my love of materials, and given me the chance to revisit some of my favorite art making tools. (check out the link to learn more about the book exchange!)

This month, for my first post, I’ll focus on Mod Podge. Many of you may already know about this collaging, gluing, sealing water-based finish; but if you don’t now is the time to start something new!

Material of the Month: Mod Podge

Where can I get it?: usually found at Michael’s or an equivalent craft store

The Basic How To:

Matte Surface Mod Podge

Mod Podge is a non-toxic thick white liquid resembling Elmer’s Glue; it comes in Matte and Gloss and should be applied with a brush. One word on brushes and Mod Podge — if you don’t wash the brush REALLY WELL after use, consider them history. Some people prefer to use one of those cheapy foam brushes just for this reason, I on the other hand, like a medium sized flat brush. But really, both work well.

1. make sure the area you are collaging is clean – although Mod Podge goes on opaque and white, it dries clear – dust, dirt, cat hairs in the mix will show. (I know this from experience!)

2. Brush the Mod Podge onto the surface you are collaging, use a thin, even layer – a little goes a long way

3. place the item on top of the thin layer of MP.

Mod Podge works best with paper or other porous materials (you can collage thicker paper too – just use the MP to glue the item in place first)

4. brush another thin layer on top of the item, paying careful attention to the edges. If you want the piece to be sealed (perhaps you are saving a puzzle or want a sold smooth surface) push a little extra Mod Podge under the edges – since the material dries clear you can build up a little extra around the raised edges.

a medium sized flat brush works perfectly

With each additional piece brush a little more Mod Podge onto the surface – then the collage material, then a thin layer on top.

push a little extra MP under the raised edges of your pieces

5. If bubbles form smooth them out with your brush or your fingers, be sure to do this while the Mod Podge is still wet. Another method of smoothing is to use a piece of mat board or smooth cardboard (not corrugated) to smooth out any bubbles. Run the edge of the cardboard over the collaged paper forcing any extra glue out from the edges. As the MP dries, bubbles tend to reduce and flatten out.

6. Allow the surface to dry. This can take anywhere from 20 – 30 minutes. You can apply a second coat over the whole thing to be sure it is well sealed.

*Helpful Hints*

– Glossy Mod Podge can be applied over Matte to create a shiny surface even if you used Matte to create the collage – and vice versa.

– Don’t have any Mod Podge?  Acrylic Gel or Matte Medium (that you would add to your acrylic paint to thin it) are very similar and will do basically the same thing. These materials have more water in them so they tend to wrinkle a little more than MP – but absolutely work in a pinch.

– Mod Podge is for use on indoor projects – water, like rain and humidity – will make the surface sticky.

– When Mod Podging the pages of a book, allow them to dry for a few days before closing the book

– When collaging thick pieces, remember to push a little extra MP under the edges and around the edges, it’ll dry clear.

a thicker piece of paper with the edges sealed

– Again, a little goes a long way – too much Mod Podge will peel – if this happens, just apply more MP over the surface!

– Get creative! Try Mod Podging natural objects, photographs, receipts, movie tickets, etc!

Next Month: The Truth About Pencils and Erasers.

By MaryJo Rosania-Harvie, who loves the smell of new art supplies and lives and works on her art in New Hope, PA.

Spring Flowering

Just a wee bit of color pushing through the wintry landscape…perhaps a tinge of gold at peel of a birch, a glimmer of purple-hued crocus sparkling on the forest floor, dewy moss casting a brilliant green to the edge of a creek, or the whisper of a snow drop petal’s sweet welcome. All of these things bring a feeling of renewal, revitalization, and quiet awakening as we emerge from our wintry dens to feel the balmy new breezes of springtime. In perusing the artistic coffers of Philadelphia artisans, I found the following gold-tinged blossoming gems. That delicate eruption of color from the milky whites and frothy cream is enough to remind me that warmth is nigh, even if I still have to pull my hood up over my head for a few more weeks.


These absolutely stunning fairy wings are the exquisite, careful work of Rebecca Dixon, proprietor of etsy shop, Up from the Ashes I just hope that one day I can become the owner of one of these accessories to fantasy delight!

Grace Christie's lovely 'Rain' earrings

Grace Christie's lovely 'Rain' earrings

No one can deny the striking beauty of Grace Christie’s bejeweled creations. Like the afternoon sunlight filtering through a light spring drizzle, these earrings sparkle with a many hued light. You can find Grace Christie at her etsy site of the same name.

Sew Fragrant's Little Birdie

Sew Fragrant's Little Birdie

A delightful touch of whimsy for the Easter Basket, the Baby Shower, or any other event that delivers – in hushed tones, perhaps – spring growth, new growth, little birdie growth and happily, the arrival of little ones. Philly artisan, Patti, gives us all the chance to offer such sweet gifts at her shop Sew Fragrant.

SayHiBeth's adorable vintage magnets

SayHiBeth's adorable vintage magnets

What says ‘spring’ more than the hurry of little girls to begin skipping rope outside. I might not be little, but it seems pretty appealing to me! And I will say that for the two and a half year olds like my daughter, nothing is more appealing than getting out of doors at long last. And for such joyous weather! Say Hi Beth’s etsy shop is full of all kinds of wonderful vintage magnet sets. It won’t be long before some of these adorn my own fridge.

Harvest Sky Ring

Harvest Sky Ring

I know, I know, the name of this ring is “Harvest Sky” but who can mistake that clear blue of springtime, the golden branches merely a hold over from winter bareness, their silhouettes bathed in the hazy light following a light shower? Well, I can pretend. Isn’t that the glory of art? We see what we want to see. My stepmother already wears one of Dierdre Ryan’s photo rings, and many more can be found at her etsy shop, blackbird72.

Jen McCleary's picture postcard

Jen McCleary's picture postcard

For someone who delights in collage, Jen McCleary seems to have no end to the creative expanses of her imagination. Her artwork jewelry pieces are completely original and beautiful to behold, especially in person. And what’s this? Wonderful postcard prints of her collaged art pieces. And for a dollar? Astounding. Sign me up! And you, too, dear reader, should visit her shop for more. Find her at etsy under the name JenMcCleary

New springtime creations are all around us! Look for us locally area events, including the Trenton Avenue Arts Festival and the Fishtown Shad Fest for new, interesting, and endlessly creative creations.

Lilith's Apothecary glycerin soaps

Lilith's Apothecary glycerin soaps

Sarah Powell, is a medical anthropologist, herbalist, crafter, and the sole proprietor of the natural bath, body & herbal tea business, Lilith’s Apothecary.