Sunday, October 1, 2017

Fighter ... Chiari Awareness Month

Ah ... my friends ... it has been way too long.  I kept hoping to blog more over the summer and my time just got away from me.  My job has kept me extremely busy and my presence in crafty blogland suffered as a result.  I have missed you all so very much.

However, I am back with a special project that I really want to share with you.  I planned to post it yesterday, the last day of September (but my computer had other plans for me).  Yesterday was my 50th birthday.  While that may not be a very good day for many people, it was an amazing milestone for me.  You see, I once thought I would not make it past my 30th birthday.  Many of you know that I have a condition called Chiari Malformation and that it took me a very long time to figure out why I suffered from some serious and often debilitating symptoms.  Chiari Malformation Type I is an abnormality in the lower part of the brain called the cerebellum.  The bottom part of the cerebellum is called the cerebellar tonsils.  In Chiari I, the tonsils hang or are pushed through the opening at the base of the skull into the spinal canal. This can often slow or stop the flow of spinal fluid from the spine to the brain and back again and cause horrible headaches.  It can also impinge on nerves and other vital structures that can cause a variety of symptoms all over the body.  This often makes Chiari very difficult to diagnose.  We all present with different symptoms, depending on the position, length, thickness of the tonsils.  Each September, I try to raise awareness for this condition since so many go undiagnosed or misdiagnosed.  If you are interested in my story, you can follow it via the posts below:

This September, I have been working on a very special project.  Last year, I introduced you to one my "Chiari Sisters", Elizabeth.  What a blessing it has been to have a fellow Chiari patient to talk to and understand the issues related to our conditions.  As much as our family and friends care about us and try to understand, it is so very hard to understand the variety of bizarre things we experience on a daily basis.  Elizabeth has been a rock for me and encouraged me.  This year, she presented me with a water color painting of boxing gloves that she painted for me.  (See above image)  Isn't it fantastic!!!  The gloves represent the fact that I've taken up boxing (non-sparring) as a way to increase flexibility, core strength and strength in my shoulder, arm and neck muscles in my continuing fight against the impacts of Chiari on my body. 

This painting touched me so very much.  I wanted to create a special frame for it.  The frame began as an Easter shadowbox frame purchased on clearance at Big Lots.  I knew I wanted to create a very grungy frame, taking my inspiration from old city boxing gyms (with old brick, rusty metal, grungy paint, etc.)  And here is how the rest played out in my craft room ...

The top, bottom, left and right outside surfaces of the frame were sanded and then some areas were given a some swipes of Vintage Photo Distress Crackle Paint.  This added some texture and color.  Then I gave all of these surfaces a light overall coat of Weathered Wood Distress Paint.  Then I mixed in a little Antique Linen Distress Paint to lighten it up.  The edges were sanded again and then I began added Black Soot and Walnut Stain Distress Crayon (rubbing into the  crevices made by the crackle paint and paint brush strokes), then wiping some of it off with a damp baby wipe. 

Then it was time to embellish.  I was so touched  by Elizabeth's gift that I wanted to decorate the piece with words ... all the words that I associate with our friendship and journey together through this thing called Chiari.  Out came the Tim Holtz's Remnant Rubs. I used a light coat of Matte Distress Collage Medium to reduce the "white edges" around the remnant rubs and make them look like they have always been on the frame.  (Thanks for the tip Paula Cheney!)  Then I grabbed Tim's Alpha Parts "This is Life" and "Remember".  They were painted with Rusty Hinge, Antique Linen and Broken China Distress Paint.  Now to add some metal!  I knew I wanted to hang the frame on my wall, so I used a Hobby Lobby Spare Parts Drawer Pull (colored with Silver Mixative, Mushroom, and Black alcohol ink) as my frame "hook".    I used some jute to tie on a 45 cent tag (made with Tim's Ephemera collection) and a Tim Holtz Muse Token ("knowledge" since Elizabeth and I have learned a great deal about Chiari through this journey).  I added another Muse Token (memories) and a Type Token (story) that were colored with distress paint and/or alcohol ink.  I use an old Distress Black Soot Marker to grunge around the 3-D parts and add shadows.

The front face of the frame was given the same Distress paint/crayon treatment.  I used another TH ephemera piece "special delivery" and a chit chat sticker "kind" to say just how much I think of this painting!  I had some chip board letters from Hobby Lobby that I painted with a base layer of Rusty Hinge Distress Paint.  I sanded them and inked them Walnut Stain Distress Ink.  I wanted them to look like rusty metal, so I added a little Walnut Stain Distress Embossing Powder and then dipped them in Broken China Distress Oxide Ink that I had applied to and spritzed with water on my craft sheet.  Not a bad rusty metal look for paper!

 At the bottom for the front face of the frame, I wanted to highlight the word "FIGHTER".  I had some of Tim's Grungeboard letters.  I knew I wanted a metallic look, but nothing too bright and shiny.  I wanted something that looked like it had been beaten up a bit and weathered.  I covered the letters with some Ranger Matte Multi Medium. I used it like embossing ink.  I covered the wet medium with silver embossing power and heat embossed the letters with a heat gun.   It made the medium "bubble" and created this "hammered" metal look on the letters.  I used my Black Soot Distress Crayon to grunge the nook and crannies of the letters and wiped off excess with a wet baby wipe.  I loved it!!

 Next came more TH Chit Chat stickers.  This was an amazing process.  Elizabeth and I have been through so very much together.  We truly have become like sisters.  I was in NY with her when she had her surgery.  We have added other "Chiari Sisters" (from right here in our local town and across the country) to our family.  We supported each other when we both found out in December 2016 that we both may have more surgeries in our future.  It's been a relationship forged through trials, laughter, faith, and friendship.

Since this was a shadow box frame, I wanted to make the most of the 3-dimensional aspect of it.  I used Tim's Brick Texture Fade on some light colored card stock (colored with Fired Brick, Black Soot, Frayed Burlap and Walnut Stain Distress Crayons).  I pasted these pieces of card stock onto the back panel of the shadow box frame.  This gave me the exposed brick wall feeling of an old boxing gym.   Alcohol ink was used to "rust" some Hobby Lobby "chicken wire" (yes, you really can get just about anything there).  I used wire cutters to cut a piece big enough to insert in the frame and glued it (using Matte Multi Medium) inside the right and left side of the frame.  This later allowed me to insert watercolor in at the top and bottom of the frame where the wire was not glued.  I used the remnant rubs "breathe" and "brave" on the tiny wooden clothespins (stained with Weathered Wood Distress Stain) to attach the painting to the wire.

I grunged some of Tim's linen ribbon with Walnut Stain and Rusty Hinge Distress stain and ran it through the wire to attach the perfect Tim Holtz Quote Band (colored with Candied Apple Distress Crayon) on top of the painting.

 I am going to enter this piece in the following challenges:
A Vintage Journey's Altered Art Challenge
Simon Says Stamps Monday Challenge:  Heavy Metal (for both the metal embellishment and the paper embellishments made to look like metal)
Mixed Media World -- Anything Goes

Thanks for sharing this special blog post with me.  And a very special thank you to Elizabeth for this amazing painting, your friendship, and getting me through some very tough times! 

Elizabeth was with me in December when I found out that along with Chiari and Ehler's Danlos Syndrome, I have another condition called Eagle's Syndrome.  There seems to be a tendency for some complex Chiari patients to have all three of these conditions.  I am now part of an ongoing medical study to investigate this phenomenon.  And the journey continues ...

Mary Elizabeth


Meihsia Liu said...

This is such a fantastic creation! Love the beautiful embellishments and your great coloring. Thank you so much for sharing with us at Simon Says Stamp Monday Challenge. :)

butterfly said...

What a stunning project, Mary Elizabeth - and another brilliant awareness-raising post. What a wonderful gift from Elizabeth - not only an accomplished watercolour painting, but one with such personal meaning for you. And you have given it a worthy setting. The weathered frame with all those wonderful words, and the chicken wire panel to enhance the dimensional depth - all your technical skill and design talent joining together to make a truly memorable piece of artwork.

I'm so happy we managed a rendezvous this summer - though we've missed you in Craftyblogland, I've had the benefit of the real life version. Belated birthday greetings, and love and hugs to you as you continue your extraordinary battle, with such heart and good humour - I'm not surprised they want to study you!
Alison xx

Sara Barker said...

Mary Elizabeth, do you know that you have totally made my day, perhaps my month???? I was super excited to see your work in the gallery at A Vintage Journey, and I didn't even have to see your name to know it was your lovely work!

What a beautiful transformation of a frame and all of the elements to make this perfect frame to hold this treasured work of art! So much work and love went into this, each element speaking volumes! Love the end product, love the story behind it. Always a delight to read of your story. Thank you for sharing it with us at A Vintage Journey!

On a personal note: You are one of the people who has touched my heart in blogland, and I couldn't be more thrilled to see your post! I am tickled pink you have forged this friendship with Elizabeth, and lucky you to get to meet up with Alison! Happy belated birthday wishes! Here's to many more fulfilled years! Hugs! Sara Emily

Julia Aston said...

what a wonderful personal and inspiring post Mary Elizabeth - the frame you created for your friend's thoughtful gift tells such a story of survival. Thank you for sharing your creativity and story with us at A Vintage Journey this month and I hope you continue to find time to create! Julia xx

Redanne said...

Elizabeth's painting is stunning and I must say that I found it quite moving seeing it, especially since you both suffer from the same condition - you must be such a wonderful support for each other. The frame you created is so beautiful and shows the boxing gloves off wonderfully well - I love all the words you added to the frame too. This is such a beautiful way to showcase the painting. I hope you had a lovely birthday too!

Whilst I am here, thank you for sharing your wonderful art with us at A Vintage Journey. Hugs, Anne xx

butterfly said...

See, I was so busy admiring your project that I forgot to say thanks so much for joining us on A Vintage Journey.
Alison x

Barbara Schiassi said...

Mary Elizabeth!!!!!!!!!!!!! You don'y understand how i'm happy to see you in our crafty world again! Your works are always so significant and tthey touch my heart every time .... Hope you're ok , you're a great fighter! With love Barbara