Prayer Book

I attend a Shamanic Drumming / Visioning circle once a month. For the month of December, the facilitator, Lynne Carol Austin (awesome woman), proposed that we do a gift blanket as a part of our time together. Our task was to bring something that had been important to us, but that we wanted to let go of, as a gift for someone in the circle.

From the moment she suggested it, I knew what I wanted to do – make a prayer book. I was raised Catholic, and over the course of the past ten years, I’ve moved away from religion and toward spirituality. But once you’re raised Catholic, a part of that stays with you for life, I think. And I’m finally in a place where I can enjoy all the bits that I’ve kept, and honor and treasure them as a valuable part of who I grew to be, and let the rest go.

I rewrote the Hail Mary this summer (inspired by Dale Allen’s revision of the Our Father). I wanted to recast some of the language that I had felt alienated by into something that better reflected my feelings about Divinity and about the Mary that I felt I knew.

There are no accidents – despite my small quakes of trepidation about making this book for this gathering, the perfect person received it, saying that though she’d been raised Pagan, there was always a part of her that was strongly attracted to Mary, and that she’d been seeking her but not finding the Mary that she felt she knew. I hope that having the book does for her what making it did for me.

Enjoy the show.

A Blessing

I made the covers for the book using the back cardboard cover from a regular notebook. I snipped it away from the spiral binding, and then cut it into four 4×5” rectangles. I wanted the covers to have some heft to them, so I glued two of the rectangles together using ZipDry Paper Glue (sticks hard and fast). Then, I ripped pages out of one of my ‘scrap’ books, and affixed it to the cover using gel medium (not crunchy). I wanted the book to look aged, so I shaded the book pages with brown ink, allowing it to naturally collect on the ripples and bumps in the page, the way a real book cover might age. Then, I took a piece of thin light brown tissue paper and ModPodged it over the entire thing.

The front cover was finished using Staz-on Timber brown ink for the stamping. I chose this image (by Susan Seddon Boulet, whose work I love) because I felt that it bridged the gap between the Mary I grew up knowing and the Mary that I felt was a part of something far more ancient than Christ – the goddess part of the divine. I had the hardest time deciding what to ‘title’ the book, and in the end decided to simply call it what it was – a blessing.

Hail Mary

I wanted to create a palette for the book, and I love browns – the richness they possess and the age they suggest. I chose a postulant, because sometimes we petition the divine standing firm with arms wide open, but we’ve all been on our knees.

full of Grace

I stamped the wings behind the image of Mary using a two step process: first, I stamp them using Staz-on Timber Brown ink, and then I wipe the stamp and re-ink it with Colorbox Copper ink, and stamp right on top of the first image.

You art within me.

I wanted to make a connection to the universality of the feminine divine, and to bring in the symbolism of creation and growth. Water / libation and eggs.

And this picture has always spoken to me, because if I’m praying – or delighting in feeling connected to the divine – you’ll probably find me like this, rather than in a more conventional pose.

All Creation

I shaded the sides and corners of this page with ink, but I also just ran the ink pad over certain parts of it to create a deeper coloring. I like the kind of grungy, peeling paint kind of look, and this is sort of reminiscent of that. I recolored the image I selected – the original was bright blues and greens and golds, and would have looked garish.

is the fruit of Thy womb, sacred.

There is something iconic about this image, and something that I think it is important to remember and think about in conjunction with any thought about Mary or female divinity – they do create physically, not just metaphorically. And we are a part of that creation, and get to have a taste of it as women.

Holy Mary,

Many of these pages are simple. Especially when compared to some of the elaborate and beautiful things that I’ve seen folks doing out there on the Internet. I love seeing all the possibilities for creating. Sometimes simple is best, though, and I’ve noticed over time that I tend to trend toward that.

Mother of all,

I loved this picture. I don’t know these people, but we’ve all been a part of this scene, or a scene like this. We’ve all had some sort of connection to a mother, or someone who stood in place of our mothers. Taking that relationship bigger, and letting it connect us to the divine, is something that has always touched me.

pray for your daughters

This line could also be “pray for your sons” or “pray for your children,” but that wasn’t my focus when I rewrote the prayer. I was more interested in women feeling a connectedness to the divine – something that many of us have had issues with. And there is a quality to daughterhood that creates a specific bond.

now, and in each moment of our lives.

The original prayer says: “now and at the moment of our deaths.” I never liked that line. It puts too much focus on where you end up and not enough focus on where you are right now. I’d rather pray that the divine was with me for each and every step and breath of my life, rather than just ask for them to be there for the finish. I’ve used this picture before – I love this woman’s face, and the way her hands are reaching out and upward, to receive the blessing she’s requesting.


I constructed the back cover using the same technique as the first. I also (which I forgot to mention for the first cover) used Colorbox copper ink to create a luminosity on the picture (which is so subtle that it doesn’t show up well in the scan) and to create a kind of halo around the picture. I use a stiffer-bristled small brush and swipe it across the ink pad to pick up color and kind of swirl and work it into the paper around the image. It actually ends up looking pretty awesome (which is why it’s so annoying that it doesn’t really show up in the scan).

To finish it all off, I create an accordion-style paper binding. I glue each page into its place one at a time using ZipDry Paper Glue – I want it to come together quickly and this is the best way to keep things in place and to keep them from slipping around as you affix the next page.

I punch holes through each level of the accordion and take a few bits of DMC floss and push it through the holes I’ve made with a needle (try this without a needle and you’re begging for a headache). I realized once the book was complete that I totally forgot a line of the prayer I wrote – but since there are no accidents, that was supposed to happen, I guess! I’m planning on making myself one of these, too, and when I do I’ll put the whole thing in there!

For your edification, the original prayer and my reworded version are below.


Hail Mary, full of grace.

The Lord is with thee.

Blessed art thou amongst women,

And blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.

Holy Mary, Mother of God,

Pray for us sinners,

Now and at the hour of our deaths. Amen.


My version:

Hail Mary, full of grace.

You art within me.

Blessed are you and all women.

All creation is the fruit of thy womb, sacred.

Holy Mary, mother of all,

Pray for your daughters,

Now and in each moment of our lives.


Feel free to use the one I altered, feel free to keep using the one you grew up with. Whatever road you travel to get there is the one that’s best for you.


Snippety Snip, and … Voila!

I know I’ve been completely M.I.A. for waaaay too long, and I’m sorry! I’ve had some life/schedule changes that’ve taken a while to adapt to, but I’ve also got some things in the works that I hope to be posting about soon!

In the meanwhile, I did something super simple and crafty today, and I was so delighted with the results, I had to share them! I made myself glovelets! (That’s what I call those finger-less little glove thingies). Super simple, and super awesome end result.

I had a pair of knee-high socks that I loved so much, I wore them to death. In mourning for my socks, I had to face it that, as foot apparel, they had exhausted their usefulness. But, I didn’t have to say goodbye to them!

I washed ’em, got out the scissors, and started snipping away, and I’ve got myself a swanky pair of little glovelets! Check it out:

Honoring Friendship – The Book for Dani

A few months ago (in June-ish), I put together a little book for a dear friend. I wanted to create pages that I thought explored all the sides of who she is, from the sacred to the irreverent. It was also kind of an exploration for me – I tried different and new things, and learned a lot about technique in the process. It took me far too long to get it to her because I was determined to sew a bit of the binding because I thought it would look cool (it did).

I used a set of premade book board covers by 7Gypsies. The format was larger than I had been used to working in at the time and I found that it took a while to make the mental adjustment to having all that space to work with. I loved making this cover for her book! I used Timber Brown Staz-on ink to stamp around the edges. The image was printed on my color inkjet printer. Her wings are a double-stamp – first with the brown Staz-on and then an overlay of Colorbox copper ink. I used the copper ink and my finger to kind of give her a halo, too. The yarn is this filmy feathery yarn that I tied at both ends and secured with Zipdry paper glue and some metal embellishments that spell out “JOY.”

“Journey within – through a dark wood, borne along by the mystery.”

This was the first page I made for the book. The background was created using pigment inks, which I rubbed into the paper. The three women came from a picture I found online and then spruced up a little bit with Micron pens. The word ‘journey’ and the moon were stamped in Staz-on black ink, and then I rubbed copper ink over the moon to soften the image. The rest of the text is handwritten in Micron pen.

This is likely one of my favorite pages for this book! I found this picture of a woman praying, and I just knew that it needed to go into this book for Dani. I shaded the edges of the paper using pigment ink, and stamped some pattern into the corners using the same color of ink – I discovered that I enjoy the subtlety of tone-on-tone colors and patterns. I used the copper ink and my moon stamp turned sideways to evoke the image of a priestess at prayer. The text is handwritten in micron pen and comes from a prayer written by Dale Allen: “Our Mother who art within us, each breath brings us to you, Thy wisdom come, Thy will be done, as we honor your presence within us….For you are the Mother of all things.”

This page is more about the irreverent side of my friend. The sassy gal with a ‘dare you’ smile came from the internet. And she just seemed to be begging to be French, therefore, I christened her ‘le petit chat noir’ – the little black cat. A simple page. Not everything has to be teeming with stuff. Pigment ink shading and stamping.

Shaded the background in brown pigment inks and then stamped a feather stamp in a semi-circle using the same. The rest of the stamping was done in pigment inks using a deep red color. Again, simple.

Shaded background in pigment ink. Used different shade of ink for text stamping in upper left corner. Image from online, printed on inkjet printer.

More experimentation. Book pages Mod-Podged onto background, and shaded with pigment ink. Girl from inkjet image. Happy surprise when I looked at this from further away and realized that I positioned her perfectly to appear as though she had a skirt.

Pigment ink shading, and then stamping using same shade. I like the subtlety of it.

Another simple page. I wanted to experiment with the white ink and see how it worked. I learned that it stays wet for a LONG time. Lesson learned.

One of the things that I noticed is that the shading and the subtle things don’t show up very well when you scan something into the computer. Each of these pages was shaded by hand around the edges to create depth before I added any other elements.

Inkjet image. Silver paint pen and silver ink stamping. The stamps in the upper right are from my dad’s collection – he gave me a bunch of ones he had doubles of to play with (thanks Dad). I added a bit of black yarn along the edge of the image because it just needed something more.

Shaded background paper. Crumpled up a book page and then shaded it – I like the way the ink took more deeply on the crumples. I stamped all images using pigment inks.

I loved this sonnet from Shakespeare and thought that it suited the recipient. I crumpled the page and shaded it using pigment ink, and tore the edges by hand. Stamping using black Staz-on ink and Colorbox copper.

This was the second page I created for the book. I shaded the background sheet using pigment ink. All stamps created using same shade of ink, just different methods to create differences in the depth of color. Book page outlined in Micron pen. Gal, wings, and chrysalis all from inkjet images – different ones clipped apart and pasted together. Used a real bit of branch from outside. One of my favorite pages.

For this page, I rewrote the Catholic Hail Mary prayer: “Hail Mary, full of grace, you art within me. Blessed are you and all women. All Creation is the fruit of thy womb, sacred. Holy Mary, Mother of all, Pray for your daughters, now and in each moment of our lives. Amen.” Pigment shading on background. Used same color for stamping. Both images from internet sources and cut out of original photo.

The back cover was the other half of the book-board set. The stamping was done in Staz-on Timber Brown ink. The image of the Madonna and child is from a famous painting I found online. Using my finger and Colorbox copper ink, I created a nimbus around the image and then used the same ink to stamp the word ‘Live’ with.

I truly enjoyed making this book for my friend. I cut and folded my own binding using brown textured cardstock, and then shaded it with pigment inks to create depth. She gave me a feather that her husband found in the yard to incorporate into the book. I sewed the feather onto some eyelash yarn and then glued several pieces of the yarn in between pages so that it would drape up and over the cover of the book when closed. I wish that I’d thought to take pictures of the finished product (I really need to start doing that!).

Looking at these pages now, I can see how I’ve grown and experimented. The kinds of things I liked doing, and the kinds of things that I tweaked for future use. The greatest pleasure, though is to create something with someone specific in mind – and all the while you’re creating, you know that you’re doing this with them in your heart , and making it for their pleasure. 

I plan to make one for my mother, and my sister. And for my best friend, Char V.


I’ve been changing up my landscape the last few weeks — getting used to new schedules, squirreling away flotsam around the house, kinda bumping around in my interior a little bit. When things shift and change on the outside, it takes some time for the repercussions to be integrated on the inside — and vice versa.

I’ve neglected my art a bit. I know it. I admit it. I’ve been sketching here and there — but nothing’s really ‘finished,’ ya know? So I haven’t posted. In a while. So, I figured I’d post something ‘unfinished,’ — that’s pretty much the true state of things, anyhow. In flux.

It’s just regular old graphite pencil on scrap paper. Might turn into something…and then again, it might be more ‘finished’ than I thought and just stay what it is.

Take the Detours

"take the detours," she said

I loved making this page! Fun, irreverent, and just a little bit sassy. I started with an image from a magazine, which I mounted on cardstock and lightly dry brushed with gesso. And then, I left it for a few weeks, trying to figure out just where I wanted it to go. For this art journal I’m making right now, I want to continue working within the theme I’ve chosen: each page having a statement that “she” said. So, once I find the image, then I have to kind of wait a bit and see what “she” is going to have to say about it, and how it’s going to come together from there.

I mounted the image on some fabric — my first experiment with incorporating fabric into a journal page. The fabric is this revolting black burlap that I found for a pittance in that sad little bin at JoAnn’s where they put all the remnants. I initially bought it to use to create textured gesso resist backgrounds, but there’s so much of it that I’m going to have to find other uses for it! This worked out perfectly — I slathered the back of the image with heavy gel medium, and then pressed it onto the fabric. And it staying put looked a bit dubious, so I wedged it between some books (with a heavy volume of Shakespeare’s collected works on top — there are just so many uses for the bard) and let it dry in there for a few hours.

I used red Staz-on ink to stamp the embellished border and for the first layer of the crown stamp. I used black Staz-on ink for the chicken-wire side border, and for the crown overlay stamp. I definitely wanted the crown to be a bit more subtle and to have some depth — doing a stamp over a stamp worked out perfectly. I stamped over the image using black Staz-on as well, since water based inks just don’t take over any kind of gesso in the way I wanted them to — bolder and deeper.

I used a font that mimicked the look of a dymo labeler for the “title” — and I’m really happy with the way that turned out — a little bit incongruous, a little bit vintage, which echoed the theme of the image. I really enjoyed making this page, and working in the black-white-red palette that I seem so attracted to lately.

It’s all coming together

"piece by piece," she said, "it's all coming together."

Part of what I’ve been doing is just making backgrounds, and hoping that inspiration jives with what I’ve got there already. It’s been an interesting approach for me — less planned out, less structured. I started this page with just a snippet of patterned tissue paper affixed to the page with heavy gel medium. Then, light gesso over top. Then nada for a couple of days.

Then, I found a picture that captured me and just started cutting it up and moving it around until I liked where it was. Then I affixed the parts with more Gel medium and applied another dry-brushed coat of gesso over the top, staying away from her eye — I wanted that to be bold. Then I left it alone some more. Then, some stamping using Staz-on black ink and some drawing using black permanent markers.

I’ve been doing some sketching on the side — which I haven’t put up here yet, but will in the future.

It’s all within my reach

she said, "it's all within my reach."

I really enjoyed doing this page, even though as Jeremy (my fiance) pointed out, it’s not my usual palette. That fact may have been partly why it was so fun to do — breaking away from what I’m accustomed to doing, seeing, feeling thinking.

I constructed the page starting with a picture from a magazine and an idea. The border and the images are stamped using Staz-on black ink. I liked the idea that she just looked ready to pluck all the best fruits from the garden of life — a mindset I’m concentrating on very, very hard lately.

Anything is Possible

She said, "Do you believe anything is possible?"

I’ve been experimenting with pages in different shapes — I want to feel like I’ve stumbled on some kind of treasure book when I open my art journal. Doesn’t really matter to me if others feel that way — I want to feel that way. When I was a little girl, I fantasized about making my own books — what they would look like, the secrets they’d hold, what they would feel like, the heaviness & permanence of them. Guess I’m doing that now…just not in the way I thought I would be.

She said, “Do you believe anything is possible?” Well, do you? I do.

Strange Angels

she said, "Pay attention -- the world is full of Strange Angels."

Here’s another page I completed in my art journal — and I’m really happy with the outcome! The guy is from a magazine picture, the blue background on the bottom is Mod-Podge’d tissue paper, all with a gesso overlay to scruff it up and blend it together. The trees were crayon (yes, crayon) on book pages, which I glued onto cardstock to give it all more solidity. The bird is an image I printed out on my inkjet and colored over. I love the way all these things come together in a perfect marriage of elements.

I thought that the thing that “she” had to say today was a pretty apropos statement for the solemnity of the day — in remembering on September 11th, yes let us remember all that we lost. But let us also remember all that we found in the hearts of one another.

Two New Pages

Here are two of the latest pages I’ve done :)

This one was fun to put together, and meant to be irreverent…and universal, because let’s face it ladies — we’ve all dated “that guy” at some point.

And this one was all about whimsy, and the deep longings we all feel, but often don’t express.

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(C) Carolyn Gaar

All images, text, and contents of this blog are the original productions of the artist and owner, Carolyn Gaar. Please contact me if you would like to use any of the content.