The alm Project – Diary of a Crafty Insomniac

Definitely different distinctive designs

What is a Tea Towel?

by Al - April 2nd, 2014
Not so stuffy

Not so stuffy tea Towel

A tea towel is a cloth typically used to spread over a tea tray before tea cups, tea pots and other tea paraphernalia are put onto it.  In addition, clean tea towels may be, or used to cover warm muffins, cakes and cookies or a tea pot to prevent heat loss. Some people, especially in North America, use tea towels for drying dishes and cutlery after they have been washed. Others use them as guest towels to dry your hands after washings. I am the product of a former British colony, I guess that explains my daily use of tea towels and my love of all things tea. And although you can pop down to your local big box store to get these versatile kitchen textiles, I felt the need to create a line of tea towel that defy the norm. My designs are influenced by my surroundings. I may be going for a run on the beach or at the park and I will see something that most people may take for granted, but that random image will show up in one of my designs.

Butterfly in my Garden

Butterfly in my Garden

Who doesn’t like butterflies. I have a container garden on my balcony and one of my greatest pleasures is sitting outside, having a cup of tea and watching the butterflies fluttering around my plants.

Water Under the bridge

Water Under the bridge

I live in south Florida where the terrain is flat – in fact most of Florida’s land mass is below sea level, but as I was running across a historic bridge in a tiny town in South Florida, I kept envisioning some mountains in the distance. when I designed this tea towel, I decided to add the mountains – I think it adds interest to the image.

Time for tea

Time for tea

These are not your mother’s tea towels:) These tea towels are designed to be conversation starters – they are art work for your kitchen. They are bold, colorful and whimsical – they are distinctively different; they each tell a story. What do you think?

xoxo Al

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The Succulent Container Garden Chronicles

by Al - March 6th, 2014

I am told that moving is one of the most stressful events in a person’s life. This may be true for others, but not for me. I see moving as a way to reboot my life. It’s a time to clear out the cobwebs and create fresh memories. Since I am now an empty nester, I no longer needed all the space I had when I was raising my family – I needed a smaller, more manageable space. I had 1 requirement; there should be adequate room for my ever-growing plant collection. I found the perfect place, made an offer, packed up my plants and made the move.

While I was unpacking, I came across some containers that I had forgotten I had – I don’t even remember packing them up. I decided to use them to refresh my patio garden.

succulent arangement

succulent arrangement

2 of my cappuccino cups were damaged in the move. The bold colors complimented green hue of 2 of my mini succulents.

Cappuccino cups

Cappuccino cups

I found some mini baskets among my craft stash -  I remembering getting them when Rag shop was going out of business.

3baskets

Mini Succulent Baskets

These mini baskets adds texture and interest. I like the organic quality they lend to my patio garden.

Remember the Bombay company? This home decor store was in malls all over the USA. I purchased a pair of vanilla scented candles housed in blue and white porcelain containers. I held on to the containers after burning the candles.

blue_white_suc

Blue and white Porcelain

They make a perfect home for some of my succulents and cacti.

Love the blue, white and green

Love the blue, white and green

I memory serves me, these mini embossed silver buckets shown below were left over from a baby shower I hosted (theme – a star is born).

Cacti in a silver Bucket

Cacti in a silver Bucket

silverpail2

Superstar

Ag Bucket

Ag Bucket

They are now hosting some of my gorgeous cacti.

An up cycled bowl served as the perfect home for this groovy aloe plant. The chips it suffered in transit adds character:)

Aloe I am settled, my plants are happy – I am looking forward to this new chapter in my life.

xoxo

al

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Observation of Wynwood – Miami Florida

by Al - January 16th, 2014

Maybe the most surprising thing about Wynwood and it’s inhabitants is how seriously they take the entire situation. When I went there, I was expecting something much more tame, something overdeveloped and precious and planned. What I found was just much more organic. The people I saw seemed genuine, if a little twee, and the area itself looked grown, as opposed to created. I quite frankly have never in my life seen a place that uninhibited. Even now, as I look back, I am struck by how genuine the art looked and felt. There were handtags over expressive murals, different disciplines all smashed up against each other in such a small area. I would personally recommend that anyone form anywhere come and see this place at least once, if only to verify if what I had seen was really as good as I thought.

WynwoodArtDistrictMiamiFlorida Although the most striking thing about the place might be the art on the walls, I’d say that the best place to start would be a description of he architecture and geography of Wynwood. According to wikipedia, the area used to be a bastion for Puerto Rican Imigrants about five decades ago. The look of the place agrees with this information. The buildings are squat, short, and kind of dumpy. It is reminiscent of the rest of the state actually, everything is low to the ground, most signs are painted on. If you’ve ever driven through a working class or ghetto neighborhood in south Florida, you’d have a good idea. There are very few Art Deco influences, which helps the genuine aura of the place. It seems like the place could have been lived in by completely normal people with blue collar jobs. Nothing much feels pretentious, in this way at least.

ARTS_wynwood-3

If the architecture is plain but effective, the art is quite the opposite. Dense, graphic, and ubiquitous, the various sketches and paintings and murals one can find around Wynwood are honestly impressive. Things look painted over and nearly all space is used to end a message or make you feel a specific way. There’s stencils of weird, vaguely propagandized sayings and tags all over the sidewalk. In addition to that, there’s plenty of hand style graffiti and simple stencils all over the place that reflect a sort of guerrilla attitude towards art. Often these little details serve to remind you that you’re in a city and not a playground or art exhibit. There are also larger pieces that are just people’s handles, but are done in an elaborate classical 90′s graffiti style that might remind you of a Wu Tan or NWA music video. It made me give pause and wonder exactly what type of people were spending their time putting their brains and hearts up on the walls.

blk and whit graphic On the other end of the art spectrum, there were more graphic illustrations that you might possibly consider finding in an edition of Juxtapose magazine. It was all what I personally would consider street inspired, but the detail and variety was surprising. People used all sorts of influences in coming up with these pieces. There was of course you’re typical Superflat influenced Paprika style illustrations in one place, but another would have something you wouldn’t really expect at all. According to the website, popular artists like Shepard Farely and Ryan McGuinness contributed to a lot of what you see walking down the street in Wynwood. This is readily apparent by the quality displayed by some of these pieces. But what is really compelling about the entire thing is how many different styles and skill levels you can find. Although I’m sure this definitely is not the case, it kind of looks like they just let people go wild, and everything is that much better for it.

kennyscharfmural1588

Of course, there are also art galleries and stores that are just as interesting. I personally didn’t have time to go into all of them, but I did see a few. I have no idea how a lot of these places were keeping their doors open, considering how little people I saw actually buying stuff. Sure, one could purchase a nice multimedia panting for around fifteen hundred dollars, but they didn’t exactly look like they were flying off the shelves, and the patrons of the art galleries didn’t look that rich to begin with. One could find all sorts of novelty stores selling your typically novelty items that appeal only to people who would describe themselves as “quirky” without irony. They also have weird places that sell odd things that don’t appeal to me in the slightest but seem to be perfectly accepted by the community.

I’m still not quite sure how all of the art galleries sustain themselves, but at least the coffee house seemed busy. Panther coffee is an interesting but not very appropriate name for the place, mostly due to the fact that it’s just so easygoing and laid back. The line stretched out the door into the parking lot, and the menu was rather obtusely only visible at the counter. For some odd reason they stored all of their food products in an attic that was directly above the bathroom. I wasn’t worried about cleanliness, but the optics of the situation were problematic. This was alleviated by the cappuccino I had, which was really delicious. I feel as I the little heart patterns done in creme helped, sort of like how flames decals on cars make them go faster.

panthercoffee

The coffee shop gave me a good vantage point to start observing the people of Wynwood. It seemed to me like these were just normal Miami people only better hydrated, a little younger, and dipped in a thin layer of hipster. If people outside of Wynwood wore pre-distrested jeans, these people were wearing the skinny, straight indigo version. If someone else would be wearing a typical t shirt, they’d be wearing an American Apparel v-neck. Still, most people looked about as one would expect. Not very much eclecticism apparent in how the people looked that way. I saw a pretty decent mix of different ethnicities, with the average leaning towards white or white Hispanic. I didn’t feel out of place at all though, which is not normal in a place where people know who Arcade Fire is.

wynwoodUnfortunately, I only got to talk to a couple of people during my time there, mostly cashiers, but I did get to eavesdrop to my satisfaction. I heard some people talk about normal city stuff, and others whisper about gluten free this or that. One lady in front of me mentioned DJ Shadow and Jamie XX, and I briefly considered going out with her. I noticed that when some people talked they gave the hipster smoldering look and smirk combo. It’s nearly impossible to describe, but I’ll try. It’s this sort of limp-wristed looks that tries to indicate that the speaker is basically aware of everything that could have possible happened in the cultural underground and she expects you to know as well. It’s like they’re all kinda bored with the current conversation before they’ve even really finished. The inhabitants of Wynwood give this look and talk in this manner so often I feel as if the may all just have a common ancestor, and they were just born this way. It’s as if they are all in on a joke that I was completely unaware of.

6730516641_06eec08f01_oI often got the look from people trying to sell me stuff, normally after they realized that I was actually going to buy stuff. Perhaps at that point I was considered part of the in group. It was Saturday in between lunch and dinner when I came, so a lot of the stores weren’t open, or at least weren’t expecting anyone. There was a wedding going on somewhere, however. A perfectly non bohemian looking couple who took Pictures near the Wynwood Walls place, where a group of people were sitting, standing, hipster-smirking, and eating elaborate gastronomic pub food that looked delectable and way to expensive. At some point a very cute lady tried to sell my vinyl stickers in a place called Kawaii Universe. I feel that if I were to return to Wynwwod with significantly more money and an ironic mustachio, I would maybe have the time of my life.

post2b The general aura the Wynwood gives, at least on a superficial level, is like walking through the sketchbook of a girl who looks up to Summer from 500 Days of Summer,  or Clementine from Eternal Sunshne of a Spotless Mind. On a deeper level, the district puts itself on display in a way that no other place I’ve ever been to does. The whole place exists to show you something, but not necessarily in a very structured way. Even though all of the art is very striking,  the intention is for you to come to it, rather than it coming to you. Although this may sound extreme, Wynwood is a gifted place, one that actually exuded verisimilitude without tripping off one’s BS sensors. I would recommend that nearly anyone check the area out, even if only to avoid having to pay for Art Basel.

xoxo

Matt.

 

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New Year, New Succulent Arrangements

by Al - January 6th, 2014

This textile is a succulent plant addict. during the week, I work on my textile designs, But on the weekend, you will find me cruising flea markets for unusual containers for my ever growing succulent container garden.

2014 143

Flea Market Finds

Not all my flea markets finds are suited to container gardening, but I have always been able to figure out  way to include them in my succulent garden.

Cobalt blue dish, turned cactus home

Cobalt blue dish, turned cactus home

The bottle below will eventually be an oil lamp. But for now, it houses a mini cactus that got separated from his mom:)

Kinda cool eh?

Kinda cool eh?

Even a discarded wine bottle cork was put to great as a container for this cactus orphan. A suction cup glued to the back made it a perfect companion for my naked sliding glass door.

Wine Cork Planter

Wine Cork Planter

A few traditional clay pots painted in my color choice added some flavor to my container garden.

2014 320

Cacti Garden

I found this orange planter for only .50 cents. Although it is not particularly unusual, I am digging the color.

Filler, Spiller, Thriller

Filler, Spiller, Thriller

Here is another view.

2014 327

View from the top

Can you see the little frog peaking out – he was another flea market find.

And the purple pot had a twin – but not identical.

Succulents

Succulents

See ya next weekend

xoxo

Al

 

 

 

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Happy New Year (2014)

by Al - January 2nd, 2014

2013 was a year an exciting year. When my corporate position position was eliminated, I panicked and I immediately started to search for another position. Getting a new job should have been easy, After all, corporations should be clamoring for a person with my qualifications – but what I found out is this. When you are in the online marketing space, you need to compete with the 20 somethings who are willing to offer their service for free.

Well as they say, When life gives you lemons, make lemonade, so that is what I did. You see, during my down time, I designed whimsical or some would say quirky pillows and other home decor items. I started by sketching the images floating around in my head, then I would fine tune them on my computer and once I was satisfied, I would transfer the final image to fabric or any other medium of my choosing. Finally, I would put the product out in cyber space and hoped for the best. Thank fully, many of you liked what I was offering, so, the al mcleary design company was born.

Well enough about that;). Several months ago, I was sitting at a stop light and a VW Bug from the 1960 or 70s pulled up next to me. I immediately got a flash back to my childhood – you see, I learned to drive on an old 1966 VW bug that my dad had restored. Naturally, I was inspired to create something – maybe a pillow.

Volkswagen Bus

Volkswagen Bus

volkswagen bugs and vans are reminiscent of the the hippie movement, so I used a a gradient of red, green and yellow as the back ground for the pillow.

Volkswagen  Hippie chic Pillow

Volkswagen Hippie chic Pillow

Remember I said I learned to drive on an old 1960s bug? well, here is how I remembered it.

vw_fire_bug

1960s VW Bug Pillow

I kept asking my dad to add flames to the side of the bug, but he would not comply, so I decided to add it to my design:)

I am hoping that 2014 will be a year filled with inspiration. I will be sharing my inspiration with you on this blog, if you are so inclined, please leave me a comment  – tell me what you thing of what I am doing.

1960_bug2

Look how great they look on a simple taupe couch from Crate and Barrel:)

Couch from Crate and Barrell

Couch from Crate and Barrel

Have a creative year!

xoxo

Al

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Coastal Pillows

by Al - October 26th, 2013

This summer, I had several visitors from out of state and the number 1 request of each visitor was “can we go to the beach?” and naturally each time my response was YES! I had a treat for my cousins when they visited – I took them to see the Florida sea turtles hatch and make their way to the sea. Everyone should have this event on their bucket list. The hatchelings break out of their shells and thrash about together causing the walls of the nest to collapse and the bottom of the hole to rise. Once near the surface, the hatchelings wait until the sand temperature cools to emerge. Therefore most emerge after dark. Once out of the nest, the turtles scramble to the water and swim offshore where they will live for several years in seaweed beds drifting along the Gulf Stream. As the turtles grow older they move into coastal waters.

Sea Turtle Coastal Pillow

Sea Turtle Coastal Pillow

Of course the image in my head was a bit different than the actual ‘image’. In my head, the turtles live in the lighthouse on the hill. They are welcomed into the world by a bright blue bird and brilliant light emitting from the lighthouse guides them home.

Snorkeling is an item on my bucket list – but I must confess, the idea of being under water terrifies me – so I snorkel in my head – and what I see is an octopus hanging out with mythical sea creatures. (I wish mermaids were real – how cool would that be!)

Under the sea?

Under the sea?

My brother had a pet Seahorses when he was in high school. When it died, he preserved in a mason jar for several years:) I added a seahorse to one of my creations and made a pillow for his grandson.

Seahorse Pillow

Seahorse Pillow

Did you know that seahorses are mainly found in shallow tropical and temperate waters throughout the world, and prefer to live in sheltered areas such as sea-grass beds, estuaries, coral reefs, or mangroves.

Have you ever flown a kite? OMG, so much fun! as a kid, my dad an I would make kites and run along the beach as the wind hoisted our kites in the sky. I had a chance to share the experience with my God kids this summer.

Seriously fun!

Seriously fun!

Yep! it was a beautifully, colorful and fun summer – but it’s South Florida, we have 2 more months of summer….

under the sea_chair

xoxo

Al

 

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Girl With The Dragon Tattooed Pillow

by Al - September 10th, 2013

Last night I had a crazy dream, I dreamt that I got a tattoo of a dragon on my forearm. Instead of breathing fire, the dragon was breathing hearts and flowers. Why is this a crazy dream? I do not have any tattoos nor do I have piercings because I am deathly afraid of needles. I admire body art, but I do so from afar.

This dream served as an inspiration for another pillow design – groovy, I can satisfy my love of  tattoo art without the discomfort.

The Dragon

The Dragon

I started by modifying one of my embroidery patterns. (BTW – feel free to download this pattern). I added my signature bold colors and lots of hearts and flowers.

The English word "dragon" derives from Greek δράκων (drákōn), "dragon, serpent of huge size, water-snake".

The English word “dragon” derives from Greek δράκων (drákōn), “dragon, serpent of huge size, water-snake”.

Next I selected a bold background and a new vibrantly colored pillow is born.

Dragon tattooed Pillow

Dragon tattooed Pillow

I think the dragon looks better on a pillow than it would look on my arm and if I get sick of it, I can just change my decor – no laser removal required.

Dragon Pillows

Dragon Pillows

What do you think of my latest design?
xoxo
Al

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My Ikea Hack

by Al - July 16th, 2013

I am a gardening enthusiast – some may say that I am a fanatic – I have crammed so many plants on my tiny balcony, the critters are starting to call it home. As my plant collection grew, I found that I needed more room on my already overcrowded balcony. I decided that the patio chairs that were on the balcony were too large for the space – If I replaced them with smaller chairs, I will have more room for my plants.

The Martin chair from Ikea provided the almost perfect solution. I am a fan of bold graphics, and these chairs are only available in black. Not to worry, I had a solution.

Ikea hack

Before and After(s)

I reached into my illustration stash and modified 4 of the graphics that I had created for my line of custom graphic pillows. I sized them to fit the chairs. I sent the files off to my favorite printer (spoonflower.com) where they printed the graphics on wallpaper. I chose this medium because its durable, but cotton fabric will work even better. The first print attempt was incorrect, but the guys at spoonflower corrected it and reprinted at no additional cost. (I used the erroneous print in another project).

beach_chair

After – The Beach Chair

To apply the the wallpaper to the chair, simply follow the included instruction – all you need is water, a sponge and a squeegee.

Garden Chair

Garden Chair

Leave the paper to dry over night, then trim the excess. Next, I assembled the chairs.

Squirrel Chair

Squirrel Chair

I added several coats of polyurethane to protect my handy work.

Another day at the beach

Another day at the beach

I arranged my much smaller chairs on the patio and added more plants:)

The little ones love the new chairs

littleones My plants are enjoying the additional room:)

DSCN5722
Before and after

Before and after

Before and after

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Up-Cycled Plant Pot Project

by Al - June 19th, 2013

Up cycling and recycling are a huge deal in my household. I try to re-purpose or recycle as much and as often as possible. This morning I has a chance to up-cycle a broken soup bowl.

:(

:(

A little clue was all that was necessary to put this bowl back together. Once the glue was set, I placed some pebbles in the bottom of the bowl and planted a succulent.

Succulent

Succulent

I added this beauty to my balcony garden – and it fits right in.

broken_bowl3
My friends know that I am always looking for vintage items to put my plants in, so  when my best friend saw this vintage container at a yard sale, he just had to rescue it on my behalf.

The Inspiration

The Inspiration

I had 2 succulents that I think looks like lotus flowers that were perfect for this pot.

Serenity

Serenity

I this this creation is Zen and serene, so I called it my Serenity. Some micro shells and a starfish completes the look.

my serinity xoxo,

Al

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Adventures in Silk Ribbon Embroidery

by Al - June 10th, 2013

One of my passions is doing silk ribbon embroidery. It’s quick, it’s easy, it’s beautiful, it’s instant gratification – its also very delicate. I mention this because I have 2 little girls under the age of 4 and they are fascinated with the lifelike 3 dimensional quality of silk ribbon embroidery. I loved making silk ribbon embroidered pillows, but the little ones would destroy them as soon as I made them. I started putting them on the wall instead.

SRE

Silk Ribbon Embroidery Wreath

Recently, I came up with another idea. I can display my SRE projects with my succulents. Growing succulents is not just a passion, its an obsession. These plants are what I call user friendly plants – if I can grow them, anyone can. Trust me, my home used to be where plants came to die. But not anymore – or at least, not as often as before :)

Here is what I did:- I have a few unattractive containers around the house so I up-cycled them by covering them with my SRE creations.

SRE

Sun Flowers Silk Ribbon Embroidery

candy jar The project above was done during my animal print phase. I stitched some sunflowers on a piece of animal print velvet. I used 3 stitches in this projects, ribbon or stab stitch, french knot and stem stitch. (This project was formally a pillow, but now it accompanies one of my succulents).

The process was simple, I cut away the embroidered portion and wrapped it around a candy canister I had lying around – I knew that I would find a great use for this container at some point – I used fabric glue (’cause that’s what I had on hand) to affix the fabric to the canister. I chose one of my many succulent plants (the plant is in a separate pot) and placed it in my new up-cycled silk ribbon embroidered vase/plant pot.

I can easily switch out the plants as my mood dictates. or I can use this vase as a stylish storage solution.

Animal print with sunflower SRE

Animal Print Vase

Another pillow turned vase is this rose bouquet I embroidered on a piece of purple velvet.

Purple Velvet

Purple Velvet

This red rose bouquet embroidered on grey velvet (shown below) narrowly escaped the destructive hands of my little ones. Now  its paired with another of my succulent arrangements and places well out of harms way.

Red roses on grey velvet

Red roses on grey velvet

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