Winter Paper Shrine

winter shrine

I found a triptych card template that can be used to make cards that double as shrines. Here is my offering for Winter. I used PhotoShop, a poem by Mary Oliver and some iridescent glitter, because everything looks better with glitter! The image that the card is sitting on is actually the image used on the back of the card.

The poem I used, Starlings in Winter, really summed up how I feel about winter. My favorite season!

Starlings in Winter
by Mary Oliver

Chunky and noisy,
but with stars in their black feathers,
they spring from the telephone wire
and instantly

they are acrobats
in the freezing wind.
And now, in the theater of air,
they swing over buildings,

dipping and rising;
they float like one stippled star
that opens,
becomes for a moment fragmented,

then closes again;
and you watch
and you try
but you simply can’t imagine

how they do it
with no articulated instruction, no pause,
only the silent confirmation
that they are this notable thing,

this wheel of many parts, that can rise and spin
over and over again,
full of gorgeous life.

Ah, world, what lessons you prepare for us,
even in the leafless winter,
even in the ashy city.
I am thinking now
of grief, and of getting past it;

I feel my boots
trying to leave the ground,
I feel my heart
pumping hard. I want

to think again of dangerous and noble things.
I want to be light and frolicsome.
I want to be improbable beautiful and afraid of nothing,
as though I had wings.


Another Art Bra for the Bratiste’s Traveling Bra Show

After I spent a lot of time and money (I just love craft supplies!) on my first art bra, I thought I was done. I was happy with how my first effort turned out, and one art bra should be enough, right?

Wrong…apparently art bras are like chocolate chip cookies…you can’t stop at just one.

This second bra was inspired by a conversation I had at one of our Pink Phoenix parties. I was chatting with a couple of Pinks who have metastatic breast cancer. Their experience with recurrences led to a discussion of what kind of art bra might reflect their reality. I asked what kind of message they would want to share with the public, and one replied, “Please don’t kill me.” She was being a bit sarcastic, but I was really taken with the simplicity of the message. It’s what every cancer survivor wants…to not be killed by cancer.

So I created a bra of all words. The inside of the bra says “Please don’t kill me,” and “Please don’t kill my friends.” The outside is covered with words of hope…things I told myself to help me get through treatment and to combat the fear. I titled the bra, “When Words Are Not Enough.”

So when you hear a breast cancer speaking about gratitude, love, courage and how they have learned so much from their breast cancer experience (which is, in fact, all true)…just remember, on the inside, they are also saying “please don’t kill me.”



Art Bra Project Finished!

I had such a fun time working on this project! I had to work in stages since drying was involved. This gave me time to contemplate and anticipate the next stage. I even stripped it down at one point and redid it. This was a very scary time as I was working with a glue gun and it was not easily undone and then redone!

So, after the layers of handpainted paper, I added three images of hawks (two on the front and one on the back) shell beads, wooden beads, and feathers. I also created a an amulet to hang down the front. The hawk images were in honor of the three hawks I saw on my way to the doctor’s office to get diagnosed with breast cancer. Seeing hawks is pretty common in Portland, but usually I see the birds circling high up in the sky. These three hawks were at the top of three separate trees (kind of like a Christmas tree angel) along the highway.

Part of the Art Bra guidelines was to submit the bra with a written explanation/story to accompany the bra. I based my bra on a poem I tried to write the year I was in treatment. I spent all year trying to finish this poem, and all I got was phrases and starts, but no cohesive piece. The phrase that I was really attached to was “this is where I wear my female power.” Thanks to the bra project, I was able to finish the poem and submit it with the bra.

So, here is the finished product…


I Wear My Female Power

by Deandra Ellerbe

I once wore my female power,
for all to see,
for all to admire.

Twin moon hung suspended in spandex and cotton;
Their gravitational pull brought many into their orbit.
These globes, full and shining bright,
knew their power,
and loved it.

I then lost my female power,
for all to see,
for all to pity.

The moons destroyed,
ground down,
they were reduced to dust and memory.

A scarred landscape was all that was left.
And I hated it.

I created my female power,
for all to see,
for all to fear.

A  breastplate of deceptive beauty,
Cups molded by steely resolve,
tempered by the fires of war.

I joined my sisters of pain and sacrifice,
battle maidens,
scar clan.

I have their power.
And I love it.

Art BRA Project Begins!

I thought I would post the first of my pictures for my art BRA that I am making for the Bratiste’s Traveling BRA Show. Since I am a mixed media artist, I decided to forgo anything resembling a real bra made out of cloth. My imagery that I am working with is the woman warrior…the amazon, the valkyrie. This was the archetype I used heavily while going through breast cancer treatment. I decided that I wanted to make a bustiere similar to a warrior’s piece of armor. I used plaster coated gauze (like what is used for casts) to wrap my model. My daughter was my model and i had to wrap her in plastic wrap first so that the plaster didn’t stick to her bra or her skin. This process turned out to be very messy!




After I cut the plaster off of my model and patched it back together…I covered it in matte medium and let it dry. Then I began the collaging process. I handpainted tissue paper with gesso, acrylic paint and inks and then let it dry. I tore strips of the paper and using more matte medium, began to cover the bust. I also covered the inside as well. I’m letting this dry before I go on to the next stage.



I’ll put up more photos once I get the next stage done!

Where Does Inspiration Come From?

Inspiration is a funny thing. Where does it come from? How can we access it? I have to admit that I have taken inspiration for granted. My mind was always on alert, taken in data and churning out ideas. I got used to having a deep pool of inspiration from which to drawn from. All I had to do was reach out and there it was.

Then breast cancer, chemo and premature menopause happened…and the pool dried up. My brain didn’t work the same way that it used to. It took me a long time to realize that I still had the information in my brain, but my way of accessing it had to be changed. So I found new ways to work my brain and I thought I was back on track.

This week I got together with a friend to do some art. Normally before I begin collaging, I have some idea of what I want to do. But not this time. And that is when I realized that while I had figured how to work my brain, my easy access to inspiration was still gone. I haven’t done much art since cancer treatment. I had been waiting for inspiration and it just wasn’t there.

I’m sitting there staring at the finished collage and I am pleased. It was then that I discovered that I had been waiting for the old way in which I did creative projects. I was waiting for the thought, the idea and then I would begin work. It’s as if I am no longer sitting next to a deep pool, dipping my hand in for inspiration. I am now in the deep pool. I don’t have to do anything to access it…it’s just there. If I begin to work, something always comes out of it.

I am very relieved that my creativity isn’t gone. This week’s art project helped me to see that I don’t need to wait for inspiration in order to create.


Art Bras Come to Portland

I firmly believe that you can make art out of anything. The homemade paper mache fiasco of ’02 not withstanding,  I have learned to appreciate the messiness and chaos of experimentation. No surprises, this is where my love of collage comes from. I work with handpainted tissue papers, layering them, then using paint and stamps…I never know what I’m going to end up with…and that’s a big part of the thrill.

My newest art venture is the bra (yes, that’s right, I said BRA!) I am making for Portland’s first Bratiste’s Traveling BRA Show. The show is a fundraiser and outreach event for Pink Phoenix, a breast cancer survivor dragon boat team in Portland, Oregon. Art bras have become all the rage…there are a number of exhibits/shows around the country. I’m just happy that this type of event has come to Portland.

I am going to be creating a bustiere out of plaster. My daughter doesn’t know it yet, but she’s going to be my model for the bustiere. I’m not going to give any more details,but I promise to post pictures of the finished piece.

Would YOU like to make an art bra and support breast cancer awareness? I have uploaded the guidelines to which is a free file storage site online…

And if you make an art bra…send me picture and I’ll post it!

Why Collage?

I used to think that only people who could draw were “real” artists. There was something about figurative work that had that air of legitimacy. Or maybe I just elevated it because I couldn’t do it. I was lucky I could draw stick figures. So needless to say, I never really considered myself an artist. Then I discovered collage and mixed media.

It was love at first sight.

The mystery is a major part of the attraction. I like not knowing what I’m creating. I like the mess of collage, and I like the happy accidents. When done from an intuitive place, collage and mixed media is chaotic, messy and very deep.

I use layers of hand-painted tissue paper, images printed on rice paper, transparencies, modeling clay, ephemera…pretty much anything I find around the house or at the art store. I collect my supplies and then just start layering. Color is what draws me first, then images, then found objects. Working in this way helps me get around my own perfectionism. Since there is no “right” way, I can give myself the freedom to play and explore. It doesn’t always gel…but when it does, I can feel it. Somehow everything just goes together well…like a puzzle with all the pieces.

Once my piece is done, I can then look at it to see what my unconscious might be trying to communicate to me. I will often write about my art, allowing my left brain an opportunity to weigh in on the collage.

Collage for me is a practically perfect form of self-expression. The images speak to my unconscious, circumventing the linear left-brain that runs the show most of the time. After choosing the images and creating the collage, I then let my rational mind back to the forefront and do writing exercises about the collage…allowing the images to “speak” to me about their meaning.

Why collage? Because it’s a perfect blend of left and right brain activities, and the only training needed is the ability to get out of my own way.

Public Domain Images

If you are a collage artist like me, then you know the importance of finding images that are in the public domain. This means images that have had their copyrights expired or the creator has expressly given the public the ability to use their work.

Did you know that the minute you commit an original piece to a tangible medium…it is automatically copyrighted? You do not have to put the copyright symbol on your work in order for it to be copyrighted. If you are concerned about copyright then check on the web for more details on how long particular copyrights last.

You might think this is an entry all about copyright…but really it’s to let you know about a fabulous web resource called Wikimedia Commons. This site has thousands of images that can be used free of charge. You’ll want to read the fine print, because some of the images have conditions for public use (like wanting you to credit them if you use them).

Here’s the link…go check them out! And if you have images that you have created and want to put out in the public domain…check out how to upload to Wikimedia Commons.

Wikimedia Commons

Candle Making

It’s Monday…which means it’s time to stir the creative juices! It’s the beginning of February and the days are beginning to get longer…Spring is coming! This is the time of year that I love making candles…a welcoming back of the light, if you will. So yesterday I spent the afternoon with a wonderful group of women making candles. Now to be perfectly honest, it’s more like decorating candles than actually making candles, but the meaning still holds true.

We got clear glass pillar candles (known as 7-day or novena candles), tissue paper and water-thinned glue. This is a messy project (yippee!), but the results are magical. Layering the torn pieces of tissue paper with lots of glue, the candle goes from blank canvas into art. And even better, you don’t really know what you have until the candle dries and you light it. That’s when the light shines through the transparent layers and you can really see what you have created. It’s a very alchemical process!

If you want to try this technique yourself, then here are a few tips.
1. Tear the tissue paper into no bigger than 2×2 inch pieces.
2. Use dark colors first.
3. More than 3 layers of paper on any one spot will affect the candle’s ability to shine through.
4. Uses lots of the glue mixture. Paint on a layer of glue, add paper and paint on more glue…the paper should be completely wet!
5. Once you are done, smooth the papers down with a finger. Remove air bubbles and make sure the edges of all the papers have been smoothed down.
6. Add a sprinkle of glitter if you want! I love glitter and will look for any excuse to use it.
7. Let dry overnight.
8. And remember…don’t put paper on the inside of the candle holder.

Here’ one of the candles I made yesterday…