As part of our whirlwind visit to Quito, we decided to take a day trip to Otavalo, a town famous through the country for its Saturday market. Otavalo is home to a large population of indigenous people, and they make an amazing array of handicrafts, particularly woven textiles. If I ever got a chance, I would love to visit where they actually make the stuff, because it is pretty amazing.

Joel and I visited Otavalo 4 years ago on my first visit to Ecuador, and I was pretty impressed then. I knew I wanted to go, but we weren’t sure if we’d be able to fit it in. It’s a 2 hour bus ride from Quito, so it’s a big time commitment just to get there and back, and we were on the fence about whether it would be worth it to make the girls go through that (have I mentioned that they throw up pretty much without fail every time we ride a bus?), but in the end it was definitely worth it.

After getting off the bus, this was the first thing that caught our eye. I think those are green onions sticking out of its ears. What, you’ve never seen a restaurant with a complete roasted beast dressed to greet you at the entrance?

The next thing the girls saw were these little guys. Always an attention grabber.

And then I saw this. (Even in Spanish, you know a 30%-off sign when you see it.)

And then this. I know this may not look like much, but for someone who has been completely starved for craft shopping in the last 4 months, this was a sight for sore eyes, even though I didn’t buy anything.

The market is HUGE. It spills out of ever shop and fills the streets with booths selling piles and piles of handmade goodness. It’s so completely overwhelming, especially when you think of how many hours went into all the handmade wares for sale. Thinking of just the hours weaving is dizzying. I didn’t photograph even 1/100th of what there was, since I was carrying a squawking toddler most of the time, but you can kind of get an idea of how big it was.

We walked.

And walked. I wanted to find piles of yarn for sale, as I had seen when we came 4 years ago, but was out of luck. I did find one shop selling yarn in the end, but the selection was pretty limited, so it wasn’t quite what I was hoping for.

Ah, the textiles. The textiles.

Our first time in Otavalo, I was pretty moderate with my purchases, but this time, I didn’t hold back. The girls each got a traditional Otavalan dress, an alpaca sweater (so soft and cute) and a new drum.

The drums were as effective as cow bells for keeping the girls from getting lost in the crowd. And they helped keep the girls’ spirits up while we trekked along. I highly recommend them. 

Stacks of Panama hats with an array of hand-woven hat bands. Bonus trivia: Panama hats actually originated in Ecuador, but received their misnomer because they were shipped to the States through the Panama Canal.

We ate at the same little hole-in-the-wall restaurant that Joel and I ate at 4 years ago. A little harder with 2 kids, but still delicious. We had fritada, which is absolutely what you must eat when you go to Otavalo. I don’t know the name of the restaurant (sorry) but just look for a window with a woman laboring over a huge wok-looking thing filled with potatoes, chunks of pork, and other delectables sizzling in hot pig fat. Mmm.

I took a few pictures of the girls on the bus ride home. They were just too adorable in those sweaters.

Thanks for the good time, Otavalo. ‘Til we meet again.

A Longer Explore

As I may have mentioned more than once, we are living on the island of San Cristóbal in the Galapagos Islands. It is one of four populated islands in the archipelago, and it is not the most populated. That honor goes to Santa Cruz, which I had heard had a bustling port city of no small size. Joel and I visited Santa Cruz four years ago, but most of the memories I had about the size and situation of the island were effaced by my recent experiences in San Cristobal. Well, this last weekend, we returned to that island, and I was surprised by how much I actually remembered, and how much had changed. It is a very busy city compared to our sleepy San Cristóbal. I was positively homesick for our island after passing a sleepless night in listening to trucks and scooters passing noisily by our hostel window, to the congregating of dozens of dogs holding a midnight meeting in the street, and to a few boistrous tourist and townspeople staggering in the dark back to their dwellings.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. First, I should say that our primary purpose for traveling to Santa Cruz was to attend our church. Unfortunately, there is not a congregation located on our island, so we have been on our own for the last few months. We finally got up the courage to try the two-hour boat ride to Santa Cruz, where the local congregation meets.

Early Saturday morning, we set out on the Osprey, a fairly spacious vessel, with the group of British kids from the Hacienda Tranquila, who had booked passage on the same boat. Everything started out great. Isabella and Sofia were riveted to the windows for the first 45 minutes of the voyage. But their enthusiasms soon began to wane, and was then altogether replaced by a general malaise. Then all at once, sea sickness set in, and the poor little girls took turns, in close succession, of necessitating the application of a plastic bag and gobs of toilet paper to their aid.

Anyways, we were very glad to be back on dry land. We had not arranged lodgings for the night in advance, but that is no major problem on the island since there is always someone eager to fill up their rooms. We hadn’t even left the dock before finding a person to conduct us to a nice little apartment that they rented out to tourists. We changed into our swimsuits, slathered on the sunscreen, and took off in the direction of the Darwin Research center, home of Lonesome George.

Along the way, we there were plenty of fun things to see. Like a bridge through the mangroves.

And a fresh fish market with all the usual fish stalkers.

A friendly sea lion.

Pelicans young

and old.

And a surly booby. It’s not the blue-footed variety, and when I went to google it so I could perhaps look up the name of the correct variety, I got half way through typing the word before I realized that might not be the best thing to carelessly look up on the internet.

As we got closer to the center, we ran into some more iguanas and some fun little lizards. They must be cousins of the ones who live on our islands, because they have red patches in the same place, but it’s a different shade of red.

This was my favorite iguana. He just had a unique personality.

Almost as soon as we walked inside the center, we saw these big guys waiting for us.

Unlike our visit to the galapaguera on San Cristóbal, there are giant tortoises to spare at the Darwin Center in Santa Cruz.

And no less exciting were the giant land iguanas with flaming orange skin.

Lonesome George was napping in a cave, so we didn’t get to see him. We’ll just have to try for our next trip.

And there is also a small beach conveniently located there, for a cool dip after all that walking in the sun. The best part were the baby iguanas.


For dinner, we went to the same restaurant that Joel and I went to four years ago, and we ordered the pizza again. It was much better than I expected, probably because I didn’t make the mistake this time of ordering salchicha, which I mistakenly thought was sausage. Hot dogs cut up and sprinkled on a pizza is a thing that should never be.  I also got a plate of fish, and I just wanted to show you this lime, which was green on the outside and orange on the inside.

After dinner, we went to the park, which was packed with children, doing all sorts of crazy fun activities that are banned from US playgrounds. I wish I had taken a picture of the rope basket swing that had a swing-span of 15 feet and was reaching almost the level of the swing’s pole at its peak height. There was also a little slide shaped like an elephant, and Isabella and Sofia were going nuts sliding down the trunk of that thing. It made me feel a little sad about the dilapidated state of the parks we have here on San Cristóbal.

We woke up early Sunday morning (earlier than I would have liked, but my girlies just don’t know how to savor a good sleepy Sunday morning) and got ready for church.

The church building is nice, and air conditioned, and the people were very welcoming. All in all it was an excellent experience. If it wasn’t for the girls throwing up the whole way there, I think we would try to come at least monthly. But I just don’t know if we can do that to them every month.

After church we had a little time to wander around and then we made our way back to the dock. I just snapped a few more pictures before it was time to go.

The boat ride home was super crowded and hot, but the girls slept most of the way and there wasn’t any throwing up, so we’ll call it a success. I was certainly glad to be back home. Santa Cruz is a lovely island with many charming spots, but I’m so glad we’re living on San Cristóbal.

Shameless self promotion, i.e., Proof I have been up to something

Do you guys know what Spoonflower is? If you don’t you should check it out. Well, they had a little contest, and it was right up my alley, so I whipped something up and entered. What do you know, out of more than 700 entries, I made it into the semi-final round of 100. My internet connection is not allowing me to upload pictures to my blog, but you should go to the website and check it out (and while you’re there, vote for mine). My design is in there as “Rebecca Rendon Circles” (lame name, but I literally entered this thing 5 minutes before submissions closed, so there was no time to change it). I would love to make it to the top 8 and design a collection, so if you want to go there and support me, that would be great. Thanks.

Hopefully more creative stuff to come soon. Have a wonderful day!

ps. Still no internet in my house, so every post involves a trek; bored, hungry, screaming children; and spotty internet function, at best. Sorry, don’t give up on me, I will try to get some better posts coming. Thanks again for your patience.

Inspiration: On the Wings of a Bird

Just a brief disclaimer: This post contains pictures of a dead bird. As far as I know, the bird died of natural causes. I do not think any of the following pictures are disturbing or graphic, but if you do, please excuse them. My intent is simply to share a little piece of beauty that I happened upon by chance.

At my in-laws home in Ancón, Ecuador, we see many different kinds of creatures, but my favorite has always been the blue birds that come to share a bite or two of the bananas or plantains that hang in bunches outside the back door. They are smaller and more streamline than the blue birds in the states, and their shade of blue, to me, is more exquisite than their northern cousins. It’s always a brief source of joy to see them flitting about the yard, their blue wings dazzling in the bright equatorial sunlight.

So imagine my surprise when, one Sunday afternoon, I stepped outside and found one of these little birds lying motionless on the ground. At first I didn’t know what to do. It was whole, and seemed unhurt, so I couldn’t understand why it was not flying away. I gently scooped it up in a plastic bag and inspected it more closely. It was surely dead, but besides a small trickle of blood near that beak, I couldn’t see any indication of fatal trauma. My mother-in-law suggested that it had probably gotten confused and flown into the brilliantly white-washed walls of their cinder-block home, and I think this explanation is probably correct.

In any case, I was fascinated with the tiny, pristine creature. I instantly thought of the beautiful watercolors of birds wings by Albrecht Dürer, particularly this one. I wanted to make some paintings of this little fellow, but as you may have deduced from my lack of blog activity, my life has been in constant flux the last month, and pulling out my watercolors was nowhere near feasible. So I did the next best thing. I photographed the heck out of this lovely little bird, hoping to capture just a glimpse of the startling beauty that I found in it. Some pictures come close, but I think the dazzling iridescent blue was too illusive for my camera’s eye. Regardless of the shortcomings of these photos, I thought I would share a my in-depth photographic observations with you. Enjoy.

Okay, so I realize there are probably zero people who are interested in seeing that many pictures of a dead bird. So if, somehow, you made it to the end of this post, lucky you! Just leave a comment, and I’ll chose a winner to receive their very own dead blue bird in the mail. Nope, sorry, I’m totally kidding. That definitely crosses the line into creepy. Don’t worry, after I was done photographing him, I laid this little guy to rest under the mango tree in the back yard. It’s peaceful there, and he’ll always have plenty of shade. Rest in peace, beautiful bird.

Wondering about…{Embroidery}…answers

Sorry it’s taken a little while for me to check back in with you on this. It was actually kind of funny because that same day I stumbled across this post from Mary Cobert at Needle’n Thread, and then searched around her blog for some more tips. Basically she discouraged the use of anything that wouldn’t be archival on anything you want to keep really nice (like stitching on linen with silk thread), and I totally agree. I am all for good, archival quality materials for all my projects.

One of her suggestions was using a fine-tipped permanent marker to trace a design projected from behind the fabric with a light table, but that sounded a little too final for me (am I the only one who changes their designs on the fly while stitching?).

She also mentioned a Bohin ceramic pencil, which I would like to try, but I can’t find (anyone know a good place to get then in Utah county or online?)

The third suggestion was a #2 pencil. I kind of like the idea of using a pencil, but I am a little wary of what graphite does over time on fabric from my painter’s experience (that’s a whole different discussion, though).

She also mentioned using some webbing stuff in this post that dissolves in the wash after you’re done stitching, but she was concerned about it leaving some kind of residue, and I think I would be too. Plus, something you should know about me is that I try to avoid using synthetic materials if I can.

So this is what I’ve tried:

(I know the white is hard to see, but it’s there.)

a water soluble fine-tipped marker (fine-tipped is relative here, and it’s pretty hard to make a fine line on felt anyways) and a white pencil, for the dark felt. The marker was definitely easier to work with, but it didn’t show up on the dark felt. The white pencil was visible, but it wasn’t very precise. At most I was able to get the rough shapes drawn in, but it didn’t come close to an approximation of the original drawing.

(Forgive the drawing on the left; my toddler got hold of my sketchbook and amended several of my drawings.)

Plus, the pencil rubbed off as I sewed, so toward the end I had pretty much nothing to go on. Maybe if I were really careful about not touching it, the drawing would last better.

So I guess I’ll either need to get better at improvisational embroidery, or stop embroidering on felt. But I will keep the lookout for any marking device that might help me out. Any suggestions?

Full Spectrum in Linen

I would not consider myself a fabric addict. No, after perusing many a sewing blog, I have come to see that there really are people out there with a serious, chronic, incurable fabric addiction, which is totally fine, but I am just not one of them.

That being said, I can understand the feeling of wanting hoarding material and supplies for various creative mediums. This is something I have a problem with, and since I’ve started a little sewing, I have felt the urge to procure some raw materials (i.e. fabric) for the purpose.

So  I used the rest of a Christmas bonus gift card to buy a few half yards of fabric. And then right after that there was a sale, so I decided to get some more colors.

But not just any fabric. Linen. Yep, and not just any linen. Linen in luscious colors.

Maybe I do have a problem. Like: what am I going to do with all this linen? Any ideas?

What I’m Wondering About Wednesday {Embroidery}

Don’t you just love alliteration? I know I do.

Do you have things that you wonder about frequently? Doesn’t have to be big, profound questions, just little things. I wonder about a lot of stuff all the time, and I often find myself wondering about creativity-related things. You know, different techniques, different materials, tips, and problem-solving tricks. It seems some people are chock full of them (wherever that expression came from, I don’t know, but I like it). I am not one of these people. But I do love learning new things.

So I thought I would try a little something, for myself mostly, but if you want to join in, that would be great too. Every week (probably Wednesday’s) I’ll post a question or creative dilemma I have, and then see if I can find an answer/solution by the next week. Feel free to offer any advice  in the comments. Maybe you’ve been wondering something, too. Add your questions if you want, and I’ll see about working out an answer for those, too.

The point of this is to get me to act on all these question marks floating around in my head instead of just sitting there thinking “I wonder…?” Sound good?

Here’s what I’m wondering about this week:

What is the best way to transfer embroidery patterns to fabric (specifically dark fabrics and rough-textured fabrics like linen and felt)?

Sketchbook Project

In college I had a wonderful professor who was continually encouraging his students to reach their full potential as artists. In addition, he was always pushing himself to create his best work (go here to see some examples). He said something to me once that’s been in the back of my mind ever since. It was a Latin phrase (nulla dies sine linea I think; I had a little help from Google translate in remembering the Latin** ) which translated means “no day without a line.” The way my professor explained it, an artist shouldn’t go a day without drawing something. As great as the idea sounded at the time, I just filed it away in the back of my mind, but I never got around to implementing it in my daily routine.

I first read about this back at the beginning of September, and I’ve mulling the idea over ever since as a way to start practicing nulla dies sine linea. Not of actually participating in the real project. No, that deadline came and went during that twilight phase following the birth of my baby when all I could do was nurse, change diapers, and feed my family (note: dishes, laundry, and daily showers did not make this list; gross, I know).

I was likewise intrigued by this:

I think it would be a great thing to jump-start me into creating consistently again, even if it was just the bare minimum drawing a day. But unfortunately, February 1st coincides with another big and rather unpleasant time commitment for me, so I don’t think I’ll be able to solidly commit to this either.

So this is my compromise:

Basically, I’m going to fill up this sketchbook with drawings. I did this sort of thing once before for a class where I filled up a Moleskine sketchbook with one theme (in that case, pencil drawings of my husband), and the final sketchbook was intended to be a self-contained piece. I kind of like the idea of keeping with one theme, but I don’t know for sure right now if that’s what I’ll do. I have 64 pages to work with, and I do want the finished product to be one cohesive piece, even if it deals with different things.

I won’t commit for sure to one page a day because I just don’t think that it will work out for me right now and I don’t want to set myself up for failure. But I will give myself a deadline: let’s say April 15 (tax day!).

Do you want to do the project with me? Let me know, and then we could do a sketchbook  share after it’s over. If you’re interested, here are some guidelines:

  • get a sketchbook, any size just so long as you can fill it up before 04.15.11
  • set a goal for what you want to accomplish with your sketchbook (whether it be a cohesive piece, or working out color studies, or drawing your baby or whatever)
  • document and share the end result

How does that sound? Not too complicated, I hope.

Okay, here’s my sketchbook I made for the purpose:

This is a soft cover Coptic bound book. Here’s the colophon with the book’s details, in case you’re interested:

(Cover: Saint-Armand handmade paper, elephant gray; text block: Fabriano Ingres)

I’ll try to put together a tutorial on how to make this next week. We’ll see if I get it done. Wish me luck!

**Edit: I did some more checking, and it turns out that Google got this ancient Latin proverb right. Go here to read more about its history and to hear how it is pronounced so you can share this wisdom with someone else.

New Year, Fresh Start

Okay, I know I’m a bit slow on the “new year, new things” thing; after all, we’ve been living in 2011 for almost 2 weeks now. But I was out of town and then totally out of it with a cold, so I’m just getting around to really setting down what I want to accomplish this year.

It’s kind of funny how at the beginning of each year I make a really long, long list, remember, I’m a list person) because a year seems like a really long time, plenty of time in which to achieve all my life goals to that point. But of course, in reality, a year flies by unnoticed, and some goals, however noble or lofty, get left by the wayside. For example, at the beginning of last year, I made grand plans of creating a 24-piece nacimiento (nativity) for my husband for Christmas. I figured if I only made a couple a month, I’d get it done no palem. Well, unfortunately planner+procrastinator < 24 nativity pieces (sorry if that doesn’t make sense, my memory of how to write inequalities is a little fuzzy).

That doesn’t mean my whole last year was unproductive. In fact, I managed to produce a whole beautiful little person last year—that’s big in my book. This last year, and probably all the years of my life, I have learned that regardless of plans, life just keeps on going. I’ve also realized that the important thing is that among all the lists and plans and daily minutiae to not lose sight of the big picture.

Anyways, the point of all this rambling is to say that I’ve been rethinking this little blog and my plans for it. In the beginning, I had visions of thousands of readers commenting all the time, sponsors paying me to advertise on my site, and companies sending me cool products to review. Over the last year, I haven’t been able to make that happen. For awhile it bothered me, but now I’ve come to terms with the fact that I just can’t blog the way I need to in order to garner a big following.

So I’m changing directions a bit, and (selfish as it may sound) I’ve decided to make the blog more me-focused rather than reader-focused (sorry, dear readers, can we still be friends?). What I mean is, instead of trying to think up some fabulous tutorial, or trying to get the perfect lighting for my pictures and stress over the editing and what-not, I’m just going to post more rough journal-style entries about what I’m doing, because I guess I’m more interested in recording what I’ve done and am doing than I am in churning out perfect tutorials (there are lots of great blogs out there that do this a lot better than me). So you’ll be seeing a lot more process and works-in-progress type posts, because the truth is, I start projects a lot more often than I finish them.

I just want to say thanks for reading, and I hope you’ll stick around. And  even though I may not be posting proper tutorials as often (or ever, we’ll see), I do hope you will still be inspired to create along with me.

My favorite things and other introductory odds and ends

I decided that it was time for me to create a project log to record my various creations and share them with others as well. I hope that this blog will become a great reference to other artists/creators who want to create beautiful things. But even if I am the only one who uses it, it will be worth it to have an archive of my work. To give you an idea of the types of things I am interested in (and, thus, the types of things that will comprise the majority of my blog) here is a list of my favorite things:

1. My family (not really a “thing,” but they really are the best, so I couldn’t leave them off)

2. Looking at art (this does not include the strange/trashy/ugly stuff that people call “art”)

3. Bookbinding

4. Making paste paper

5. Making collages

6. Cooking and baking

7. Watercolor

8. Embroidery

Along with this, I think I’ll also try to include my adventures into areas that are unknown to me, such as the following:

1. Anything that involves a sewing machine

2. Hand quilting

3. Paper mache

4. Making stuff with wood (this is a big maybe, because power tools scare me)

5. Felt and wet/dry felting

6. Lots and lots of other things that I don’t even know about yet (completely unknown unknowns)

I hope this blog will become a great resource for those who want to have beauty all around.