Mission Statement

This blog journals my quest of art, whether it is a piece of work that is inherent in nature or one created by artists known or unknown or that I created myself. During this search, I have come to appreciate the magnificence and generosity of God who in his infinite wisdom surrounded us with exquisiteness everyday...everywhere and inspired our human spirit to create beauty that feeds our bodies and souls. Come join me on my journey to find art through my travels and my own creative endeavors. Maraming salamat.

All rights to all posts and contents on this blog, including photos and artwork are reserved by jojo sabalvaro tan.






Friday, February 24, 2012

Renew, Recycle, Reuse - Bicycle Panniers, etc.

My design prototype of one of the bags for a bicycle pannier  made from recycled materials

Nowadays, at various groceries and stores you will find bags made of recycled materials for sale. They come in different sizes, styles and patterns. Some of them are so attractive that I've started collecting them to use as gift bags. They actually turn out a cheaper and more practical alternative to the paper gift bags.
Store bags made from recycled material in various sizes, styles and designs
My husband and I were invited to go on a European biking trip next autumn. Since I have never been on a bicycle in more than three decades, I am naturally apprehensive, We knew I will have to start re-learning to ride a bike. My husband decided he would  buy me a new bike to practice on. I wanted one that was simple and classic - no handbrakes and one speed and settled on a  cruiser bike, also known as beach cruisers which combine balloon tires, upright seating posture, single speed drive trains, and straightforward steel construction with expressive styling. These bikes, noted for their durability and heavy weight, were the most popular bicycle in the United States from the early 1930s through the 1950s and  are enjoying renewed popularity since the late 1990s. 
If you know me well enough, I am all about bags and accessories, so my bike and I  have to be fully accessorized. A few years ago, we came across a group of bikers who had colorful bags at the rear of their bike. I asked them about the bags and they said they were panniers that they purchased in Amsterdam.  I liked these panniers a lot, enough to file them in my memory bank. 


A touring bike with panniers


A  pannier /ˈpæniər/ is a basket, bag, box, or similar container, carried in pairs either slung over the back
of a beast of burden, or attached to the sides of a bicycle or motorcycle. The term derives from the old French word for bread basket. Now that I am getting a new bike, I decided I wanted those panniers I saw for my new bike. So off I went searching the internet and found that there was so much to choose from and the ones that I think were similar to the ones I saw years ago were quite expensive. Light bulb moment: I decided that maybe I can design and make one myself.







So off I went on my sketch pad, designing a pannier. The design process made me feel like an industrial engineer.  I had a few considerations:

1. Size - it needs to be a size that does not interfere with the bike's mechanics and pedaling
2. Durability - it has to stand up to the elements and waterproof/repellant
3.  Attractive - it has to be unique, colorful and easily spotted on the street 
4. Closure - secure and easy closure 
5. Means of attaching to the bike rack - it has to attach and remove easily from the rack
6. Capacity - it has to fit the lock, helmet, jacket, picnic stuff and sundries such as bug repellant and sun block.
7. Folds when not in use 
8. Simplicity - it has to be simple to make
9. Other considerations - a strap to convert to a messenger bag, reflector strips
For material, I decided that I would reuse and up-cycle one of the recycled material bags from my collection. The first thing I did was cut off the side seams to make a new flat fabric. Then I cut the fabric based on my design. I made a prototype of one of the bags  I wanted the pannier to be more tote like, so I did not add pockets. Designing on paper and executing it can be quite a different matter. I found that sewing this coated, plastic like material on the sewing machine is not the easiest so I had to make some adjustments such as stitch length and feed dog and foot pressure. I also placed some masking tape on the feed plate, which seemed to help. I am still struggling with the uneven stitches. And I am still stuck about how to attach the connector piece between the bags and how to attach the pannier securely to the bike. I have an idea, I but I have to rip the prototype bag to try it. Oh well, we'll have to see how this turns out. I do have to wait till the bike comes to experiment further. I will share my progress on a future post.


Anyway, what  I am most proud off, is finding a way to renew, recycle and reuse. I will end up with a very green and environmentally friendly product.


I found another use for the scraps from the recycled material fabric. I made a tissue cozy for my purse. I love it, so I think I might sell some on my Etsy shop.





I also made this front bar bike bag for my new bicycle. The design is very Japanese. I liked it so much that I also made another one to sell on Etsy.



Who knew recycling, renewing and reusing could be so much fun. All's well!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Mixed Media Collage

Rejoice, 2012
8" x 8"
by jojo sabalvaro tan
Mixed media collage
Acrylic paint, paper, fabric, scrapbooking supplies, glue, glitter
I decided to try my hand at mixed media collage. Peachy, a friend of mine, is very accomplished in this media and uses it to produce her beautiful art journals. I was inspired and encourage to follow her lead. While trolling the arts and crafts stores, I found an 8" x 8" primed wooden cradle art board that was prefinished with gesso in the clearance aisle. The side are 1" in depth. I knew, I wanted to use it for some kind of mixed media project. Mulling over the theme, I settled on my favorite subject - the Madonna and Child. I proceeded to sketch to get ideas going. Once I settled on a general drawing, I transferred the sketch onto the art board.

Unfortunately, I was so engrossed in creating this project and doing each step on the fly that I neglected to document the steps with photos.
Face Detail

I began by painting the face, neck and hair of the Mother and Child. This time, I used acrylic paints due to the gesso coating on the board which watercolor does not adhere to well. Daniel Smith makes a watercolor ground that supposedly you can apply to any surface and make them suitable for watercolors. I have yet to try it to see if it works. I then started tracing elements of the drawing on transfer paper and proceeded to cut fabric and scrapbook paper to size. I used glue stick to adhere them to the surface; starting with the bottom layer first which was the background, then the clothes and lastly, the veil. The halos were painted with metallic gold paint. I freeform cut pieces of paper for the tree branches and then attached paper flowers.   Some fine tuning was done with watercolor pencils, watercolors, colored pencils and Pitt artists pens.







I decided to additionally embellish the piece with acrylic rhinestones and lettering spelling out the word "Rejoice."







The sides of the board were painted a persimmon color picking up the color of one of the flowers. This piece  does not require framing. The entire piece was sealed with Mod Podge which I was not very happy with since it tended to buckle the paper. But, overall,  I am pleased enough with how this turned out to consider it a candidate for our 2012 Christmas Card.  This was so much fun, I think I will do it again. You guys should try it too.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Great Blue Heron

The Great Blue Heron - St. John River, Florida. 2012
by jojo sabalvaro tan
Watercolor on 140# watercolor paper


During our latest vacation in Florida, I was fascinated by the Great Blue Herons we spotted along the rivers, lakes, swamps and marshes. On this trip, we decided to not do the normal theme park activities and instead enjoy the beaches and the water. Coming from the very cold Chicago weather, it seemed logical to take advantage of Florida offerings that are unavailable to us during wintertime at home.

One of the most fun activities we did this time was to take an airboat ride along the St. John River, the longest river in Florida and one of its most important. Here we spotted alligators in their natural habitat and numerous birds. One of these birds was the great blue heron. There was one in particular that was perched on a branch of a tree at the bend of the river. I decided  that I would paint this bird as a souvenir of this experience. The actual bird appeared more indigo than a true blue. For my first attempt, I tried to use a different surface called Yupo which is a synthetic paper. I found that my colors stayed on top of the paper and it did not lend exactly to my painting technique. I decided to go back to my tried and true 140# watercolor paper. I do vow to capture the secret of painting on Yupo as it seems an ideal way to just put down colors and mix them right on the surface.

The unfinished painting on Yupo.
 I really like the effect of less control but I still have to work on my technique.
For brushes, I used #8 Round squirrel and a 1/2" in Flat Kolinsky Sable. I also used a bamboo pen scraper to define some of the feathers.



According to Wikipedia, The Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) is a large wading bird in the heron family Ardeidae, common near the shores of open water and in wetlands over most of North and Central America as well as the West Indies and the Galápagos Islands.


It is the largest North American heron, with a head-to-tail length of 91–140 cm (36–55 in), a wingspan of 167–201 cm (66–79 in), a height of 115–138 cm (45–54 in) and a weight of 2–3.6 kg (4.4–8 lbs).[4] Notable features include slaty flight feathers, red-brown thighs, and a paired red-brown and black stripe up the flanks; the neck is rusty-gray, with black and white streaking down the front; the head is paler, with a nearly white face, and a pair of black plumes running from just above the eye to the back of the head. The feathers on the lower neck are long and plume-like; it also has plumes on the lower back at the start of the breeding season. The bill is dull yellowish, becoming orange briefly at the start of the breeding season, and the lower legs gray, also becoming orangey at the start of the breeding season.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Religious Medals

Religious Medal Charm bracelet made with medals collected from churches in  Italy.
by jojo sabalvaro tan
A few years ago, my close friends in high school embarked on a trip to Italy after a reunion in Vienna with our other classmates. Of course, a tour of Italy means visiting their many, many wonderful churches. My best friend, Maripaz and I decided to pick up religious medals from the churches we visited. Needless to say, we ended up with a handful of religious medals. In the Roman Catholic faith, religious medals are used for devotional purposes - commemorating persons (saints), places and events. My favorite is a devotional medal that we purchased at the Shrine of St. Francis in Assisi. This was also one of the favorite spots I visited on this tour since I have not been to Assisi before. For some reason, I felt very peaceful there.

Once we got back to Rome, which was the last leg of our tour, we met up with another group of classmates touring Italy at the Trevi Fountain for dinner and gelato. During dinner, which was hosted by a classmate who has lived in Milan for years and came down to Rome to meet up with us, we compared notes on our experiences - especially about the advantages and disadvantages of traveling with an organized tour (which our group did) or going on your own, which the other group did. We decided that  joining a group tour is better for the convenience and less stress; and for the money, turned out to be  more budget friendly. The disadvantages were that we had less freedom of movement than those that were traveling on their own. We did rent an apartment in Rome near the Spanish Steps so we can take in Eternal City more fully.  It was located along Via del Corso which was very convenient, as we could walk to the Trevi Fountain, Villa Borghese, Parthenon, Spanish Steps and other major sites and the bus that can take us to the Vatican is just steps away.

I digress again. Back to the religious medals ..... At dinner, our classmate, ZenyK, whose son is a priest,  suggested that we attach the medals to a rosary and it will be a constant reminder of the trip. I thought it was a great idea ang purchased a rosary at the Vatican. We had timed our trip for a scheduled Papal audience and reserved tickets prior to our arrival. When we picked up the tickets, the nun told us to bring all of the items we want blessed by Pope Benedict. So we brought all the rosaries and medals we collected along. The audience was in the grand piazza outside St. Peter's and it was a very hot and sunny day. There were so many people from different countries and nationalities. The ceremony was done in several languages and was wild with the different groups chanting and cheering and solemn at the same time.

Closeup of charm bracelet showing Swarovski crystal enhancements


At home, I decided to make a charm bracelet out of the medallions instead and gave the rosary to my grandniece for her first communion. I attached the medallions with jump rings to a purchased charm bracelet . The bracelet has a double layer of links - 2 bracelets in one. I also embellished it with a variety of colored Swarovski crystals I beaded on head pins and attached to the bracelet as well.


On a trip to Mexico, I also gathered religious medals and made them into a necklace. I hope to be able to make more so I can give them to friends, as it is the item most of my friends commented on wanting. I guess, I just have to go on another trip to collect more religious medals.

Religious medal beaded necklace made from medals collected on a trip to Mexico
by jojo sabalvaro tan

Close up of Medals