Advent Greetings Beloved Illustrated Faith Tribe!
I am searching for JOY.
My favorite Christmas hymn is Joy to the World but I am struggling to find joy this year. There are people missing from my Christmas and it’s leaving a big hole in my heart. I am intentionally leaving lots of Christmas past activities behind because I want Advent to be focused on Jesus and drawing near to Him but that has left me with a sort of an unhappy family because mama isn’t stepping up to do Christmas big time with all the trimmings.
Time is precious and I am on a mission.
I am searching for Joy.
Anybody else? It’s feels like walking through a dark forest sometimes. When I am still and sit with Jesus, I see peeks of light and memories of Christmas past or glimpses of hope and light sparkling off the tree branches, but the forest remains. The darkness threatens.
I started searching through God’s Word for passages about Joy. More memories came. Good memories of Christmas past.
My heart smiles.
I remember my dad belting out Joy to the World (off key in a very formal church setting) and me standing by his side. He was so tall, I was so small. I remember the warm feeling in my heart watching him sing — joy vibrating through those off key notes. I remember wanting to have a voice just as loud and just as bold.
I remember Mom Bruce and how she would tuck those cheap chocolate Santa’s away, hidden, to sneak to my children. I wonder if she knew — I didn’t care that she gave them that sugar treat. I wonder if she knew — I let her think that she had me fooled. You know why? Because I saw joy deep in her heart giving my children a secret snack and her joy meant more to me than keeping my kids away from junk food. Dealing with their sugar high was a small price to pay to see the twinkle in her eyes.
Memories, bits of joy adding up, bits of light gathering together to become bright.
Maybe those trees all around can be transformed. Into trees of joy. Branches holding bits of light. Because in order for light to shine bright, darkness must be present.
So I will lift my hands in the midst of the forest and I will sing praise and I will wait… joy is coming down into those branches of darkness.
Psalm 9:1-2, The Passion Translation
1 Lord, I will worship you with extended hands
as my whole heart explodes with praise!
I will tell everyone everywhere about your wonderful works
and how your marvelous miracles exceed expectations!
2 I will jump for joy and shout in triumph
as I sing your song and make music for the Most High God.
Let’s journal truth friends. Let’s make some trees of joy.
I gathered supplies. Who wants to learn how to carve?
It is one of the most soothing ways to make art. With each stroke of the carving tool through the butter-like rubber, my nerves calm. The result is not even my goal. My goal is finding something new, hidden in the smooth surface. Let’s carve.
The first tree I made, I just traced the cute multicolor tree that came in the Illustrated Faith Advent kit to make the outside shape and then carved the inside into wonky blocks.
I wanted some taller trees to create my forest of memories. You can see I already started the stamp on the left. The stamping rubber is from Speedball. It cuts like butter. You can also carve images into white rubber erasers, the material is similar.
I put down a simple craft cutting mat and lined up my metal ruler top and bottom with the size markings. The metal ruler is important because if you run your razor along a wooden edge it may cut the ruler too!
I just use a box cutting knife to cut. Super inexpensive. You can use a regular Exacto knife too. It might take a few cuts to go through so be patient and let the razor glide along the metal ruler.
Once I have my piece, I am ready to trace a simple triangle with a pencil. Just line the ruler up with the center top point and the lower right corner and trace along the ruler.
Same method, opposite side.
Trace the bottom of the tree, leaving room for a little trunk.
I like to roughly map out what I am going to carve before I begin. So I am blocking areas with my pencil.
I linked my favorite cutting kit at the end of this tutorial. It comes with two handles and several tips. I use mainly #1 tip for small details and #3 tip for larger areas.
Using the #3, I begin carving out the portion of the stamp that will only show texture. Note: You can carve this down even lower so you don’t see any texture. But I love the look of the carved area. I am just running the tool parallel to the material in the same direction and angle as the outside of the tree.
It’s helpful to turn the stamp as you carve instead of contorting your hands and the cutter to carve.
The tip of the cutting tool is running horizontally. I am not “digging” down vertically in the the medium. Again, how deep you carve determines what you will see when you stamp. The deeper the carve, the less you will see.
Here you see me beginning to cut on either side of my horizontal lines to create a stripe.
Now I am using my #1 tip to make vertical stripes inside the tree. It’s always best when you are at the detail stage to cut towards another cut. In other words, I am cutting vertically and ending at the horizontal cut for the stripe.
Since there isn’t a lot of room at the bottom of the stamp, I used my #1 tip to edge out the bottom of the tree before using the larger tool. Again, it is much easier to move towards a straight cut line that has already been carved versus trying to stop every cut at the same place which is nearly impossible!
Here I am finishing my third stamp. Almost the same but varying the patterns inside the blocked areas. I have already cut out the horizontal stripe so I am cutting into an area that is already carved.
Making some horizontal stripes.
Vertical stripes. Oh my goodness I just love these wonky trees.
Once I am done carving, I like to test my stamps using Stazon ink. I use this ink for several reasons: (1) it’s permanent so after cleaning the stamp, the black won’t transfer into other colors that I want to use my stamp with and (2) black is an easy way to see any cleanup carving that might be needed.
After stamping the tree, I clean up areas that might have too much texture or need smoother edges.
Re-ink and restamp. And then I clean my stamp with cleaner specially designed for Stazon ink.
Testing the second stamp. AND LOL – I noticed you can see my “nutritional snack” on the side — dark chocolate coffee beans. Let’s see how long it takes for me to eat them all!
Once I have the stamps the way I want them, it’s time to stamp my forest. I like to stamp on a firm surface so I use a plastic plate behind my page topped with a sheet of paper to catch any stamping off the page.
I started with Illustrated Faith teal.
Mixing it up with dark teal.
Filling in the forest.
Oh my, LOVE! I also used the Illustrated Faith cross tree stamp. Because you just can’t have too many kinds of trees.
Keep in mind this is background to my die cut tree forest.
Lots of texture and depth.
Ready for paper trees. I knew I wanted the Joy, Joy down in my heart die cut and decided to add another joy, joy cut from the 3 x 4 Illustrated Faith Advent paper.
Need some pink trees! I might just give designers a bit of a heart attack. Nothing is safe with me when I have scissors. I just cut simple triangles with a trunk out of the 3 x 4 card that has the number 25.
Look how perfect the Joy to the World is from the same Advent Illustrated Faith 3 x 4 sheet!
Adding tab details.
I pulled these tid bits from everywhere! A journaling page is just not a journaling page with out a tab area that makes me smile! And don’t you just love the highlighter tape?
I used some random number stickers, trimmed to fit. There are lots of options in the Print and Pray Shop.
And the journal entry is complete!
I love it. I want the Joy to fill my heart to overflowing this Christmas!
You know I want to see what you carve! Tag me on Instagram friends @designsbyamybruce!
And my His JOY find you especially if you find yourself in a forest.