My Official Ranger U Recap

I've been back in Florida less than 24 hours and I've been dying to write this post, but first it was hugs to my kid and dog, then dinner out with hubby, then a visit to my father-in-law in the hospital (pneumonia again), then to above-mentioned kid's awards banquet, sleep in my glorious own bed, then a lovely pelvic sonogram this morning and a stop at Starbucks to reward myself for that last one.

Now home.

So here goes from start to finish. Ranger University 2013.

Thursday morning, April 25th, I am sitting in the Orlando airport waiting for my flight to New Jersey. I'm early and enjoying a big cup of Starbucks checking e-mail and Facebook on my iPad. Then I see it. Graphic 45 has made their announcement of the 2013 Design Team. I am shaking. I tap on the link to their blog, I scroll through the first name, then the second, then O-M-G my name is there! Third on the list (alphabetical) and I gasp. Then I cry a bit. My hand is over my mouth. Then I'm smiling through tears. Then I'm speed-dialing my husband. I want to scream out loud and jump up and down in the airport, but consider this a bad idea in this day and age. So he puts me on speaker phone with our daughter and I'm quietly screaming into the phone that I made it and I hear them yelling and cheering for me. And now the tears are really flowing. People must've thought I was a whacko. One minute quietly sipping coffee, the next I'm a frantically happy lunatic on my phone. What a way to start my weekend heading off to Ranger U.

Now back to that...

My flight to Jersey, thanks to the sequester, began with about an hour in a plane full of people sitting still on the runway. I could care less! I've made the Graphic 45 Design Team and am going to Ranger U. Nothing's gonna bring me down at this point. The flight went well and I was finally on my way.

Marjie Kemper (fellow eclectic Paperie design team member and enthusiastic fan of all things creative) very generously picked me up at the Newark airport on her way from New York. We chatted it up all the way there, making a stop at the delightful Scrapper's Cove, met shop owner Chris who had attended Ranger U herself a few years ago, and couldn't resist picking up a few goodies. Dyan Reaveley's art journal to name one. And incidentally, this is MY first art journal ever, but boy-oh-boy after this weekend it will certainly not be my last. More on that soon.

Right across the street from Scrapper's Cove was Shanahan's...

so of course we got a slice of Jersey pizza. Delish!

Since it was too early to check into our hotel, we took a drive to the shore. It was a bit chilly, but for this Florida girl it was interesting to see a northern beach like this. We saw quite a bit of the aftermath from last September's storm as we drove around. Lots of rebuilding and construction going on.

We went to the hotel but before checking in, got a quick photo of Ranger Industries' mailbox. The only indication that this was Ranger. No signs on the building or anywhere else in site otherwise. We stayed at the Courtyard by Marriott which is so close I could throw a baseball from one building to the other. 

Equally as close is an Applebee's where we met up with some fellow Ranger U buddies for dinner.

Zandra Cudney came to visit and have dinner with us (far left). Jim Hankins (The Gentleman Crafter), Ellen Vargo, Marjie and me. Jim, being the gentleman that he truly is, picked up the check for the whole lot of us. I kept trying to pay him back throughout the weekend but he would have NONE of that.

After a not-so-restful night's sleep from the excitement, it was finally time for Day One of Ranger U. Tim said they threw this sign out front so people would know it was the right building. There's truly no markings on the building at all. Funny, eh? Needless to say, I was fired up and ready to go. I'm not always a very lady-like gal as you can see, but holy cow, I was at Ranger-freakin-U! All bets are off.

The excitement in the room was super charged. Lots of quick introductions to one another then Tim got right to business. We went around the room and gave a brief into of who we are and what we do. It was so awesome to meet so many people from other countries there. Germany, Spain, South Korea, New Zealand, and Australia to name off a few. And within the group of 24 we had store owners, bloggers, instructors, beaders, manufacturers, buyers and more.

Next up was the fascinating tour of Ranger warehouse and factory. No photos allowed there. I don't use the word fascinating lightly here. Tim likens it to Willie Wonka's factory, and I agree. It was incredible to see how inks, paints, stains and such were produced and to hear the story of the progress of Ranger over the years. Justin and Alan, owners, split us into two groups and took us on a tour through the facility. Alan (our guide) was a delight to listen to. You could see his enthusiasm for the business, and I quickly came to realize the magnitude of his knowledge of machinery and engineering. This company is sure to continue to grow and prosper for many, many years to come.

Back to the classroom to get busy. First up was Tim with about three hours of Perfect Pearls, Embossing Powders, Stickles, and Liquid Pearls techniques. Then a lunch break right there at the plant (can't even remember what we had now, it's such a blur) then back to the classroom. Next up was the pretty Mackie Mullane with Vintaj. She shared some great techniques with the Vintaj product line like Patina, Faux Enamel, and Etching as we made several stunning jewelry pieces.

Marjie is keeping up fine, but I am getting behind...

...probably because I'm goofing around with my camera. 
(What are YOU looking at, Wendy? Get busy!) 

And speaking of goofing around, Jim is sporting his earrings on his glasses since he has no holes.

"Key" and Hee-Sun (I hope I got those right) are from South Korea and were so DARN cute. They gave out wonderful little cellphone charms to everyone on the first day. Even though they didn't understand much English, the language of Ranger products is evidently universal. They followed along in class beautifully and produced some amazing samples to take home.

The rest of the afternoon was Melt Art heaven. We each had our own Melting Pots and learned some of the coolest techniques using UTEE (Ultra Thick Embossing Enamel) from image transfer, amazing agates, and mold-n-pour to using Texture Treads (I am SO getting lots of these) making shrink mosaics, and stamping into UTEE.

We also learned that a Chicklet melts nicely in the Melting Pot. (You'll have to ask Jim about that one.) All I'll say is that it earned him the nickname "Chicklet."

The first day ended with the traditional Ranger BBQ in the warehouse. Here, Dyan Reaveley is pondering over the mental state of Marjie after along, exhausting, yet glorious day. (More on Dyan in a bit.) The BBQ was delicious and meeting the Ranger family was such a pleasure. Wives and kids where there and the staff treated us like royalty serving drinks and making sure we were all happily fed. 

Day Two started with Jim in a white shirt which he declared a blank canvas for us all to adorn throughout the day. 

Ellen's going for the back.

I sat directly across from him, so I was constantly spritzing, painting, and flicking stuff at him. 

Nice keepsake, eh?

This is how the room looks when we all arrive in the morning. People are having doughnuts and coffee and chatting, then getting settled in for another long, wonderful day.

First up was the talented Claudine Hellmuth who shared loads of techniques using her Studio line of products. Everything from Gesso Etching, several transfer techniques that were SO cool, using Extra Time and so much more. Her Studio paints, I must admit I had never used before, were so buttery and wonderful, I can't wait to break them out again and try some more things with them.

Lunch time again then a quick photo op with my new BFF. It's amazing how connected you get so quickly with people in this industry. Jim was such a pleasure to be table-mates with. I felt like I had known him for years only after a few days. Such a perfect gentleman all the time. I surely hope to connect with him again soon.

Back to work, class! The lovely Marjie showcases the towers of Adirondack ink pads we're about to use. Which meant we were back to Tim as our educator. We learned how these water-based ink pads are different from Distress and experienced their properties and capabilities through several great techniques.

The moment I had been waiting for finally arrived. Dyan Reaveley and her Dylusions line. I say this because this area was the most foreign to me going into the weekend. And although I've owned most of the Dylusions sprays, I quickly learned that I had NOT been using them properly and because I had never done any art journaling, like I mentioned before.

Dyan began her portion with a bit of her background then opened herself up to us with a very touching confession of her struggle not only with her hypersonic rise to fame in the crafting industry but also with Rapid Cycling Bi-Polar disorder. You can get a much better sense about that in her post back in 2011 here. I was touched by her willingness to expose herself and the confidence it must have taken to do so. And it made me instantly like her.

She was such a delight, so easy to follow, and very quick-witted. I thoroughly enjoyed her. Although I had looked forward to learning about Dylusions and art journaling techniques, I honestly came into this thinking that this might not be my cup of tea. But, oh my goodness, I was hooked from the very first technique she showed us and cannot wait to make my first journal and share what I learned with you and my local students. It's a whole new world and I am officially addicted to it.

Just look at those lovely inky fingers. Glorious way to end the day!

Dinner was on our own, so a bunch of us walked across the street to the local Chinese restaurant, then a handful of us returned to the hotel lobby for a night cap and more chatting. It was great to exchange ideas and questions with these folks. So inspiring.

Day Three. I'm running on adrenaline at this point. I'm not sleeping really deeply and class moves at an intense pace, so you simply can't be a slacker or you'll fall behind. Luckily our hotel has Starbucks coffee so I am fueled up and ready to roar by the time class starts. Here is just one wall of samples in the Ranger classroom. Incredible pieces of art like this surround and inspire us all day.

At one point in the day, we got this excellent photo opportunity with the Fab 3 Ranger designers. It had to be quick because all 24 of us wanted to take this photo and Tim was keeping us on track with the schedule.  So when I say quick, I mean once the photo was snapped, Tim was giving us a chummy shove-off with his hand to our back so the next person could quickly get in place. Watch your step, whoosh, off you go!

Today's agenda: Distress Overload. It was all about techniques using Distress Inks, Distress Powders, Distress Crackle, Distress Stains, Distress Paints (a new addition to the Ranger U curriculum), and finally Distress Markers. Fabulous!

The final day ended with a big group photo (which I will eventually get a copy of) and then a huge box of goodies for each of us. 28 pounds of Ranger goodness, to be exact. Although I packed an extra tote for the trip home, I had underestimated the generosity of the folks at Ranger. So I wasn't surprised when I got that suitcase up on the scale at the airport and it was six pound over the limit. After yanking out my heavy jacket, I was close enough and they let me go without an additional fee.

The flight home was smooth and speedy and I was back to my cozy comforts by 4:15 in the afternoon. Now it's a new day and while I SHOULD be unpacking, doing laundry, grocery shopping, and cleaning up, I've been blogging to you for several hours and also...

...admiring this.

More in the weeks ahead on the techniques learned at Ranger U. I promise to share my samples and details about them. I thank you for stopping by and congratulate you if you read this entire post. Have a great day!


  1. Wow I just found your blog the other day....this was such an amazing trip for you, thanks so much for sharing. I can't wait to see what you made! Sunny greetings from the UK, Jane x

  2. so great to spend time with you last weekend! thrilled you liked the paints :)

  3. Hey Annette whooohoo huge congrats to you!! Loved reading about your adventure it looks awesome!

    Kaz x

  4. Dearest Annette,
    I'm so excited for you!!! I applied to go this year because every single person just about that you have in your photos I have a deep admiration for just as much as you when we touched base over a year 1/2 ago. I'm filled with JOY to read about your story & CONGRATS on Graphic 45! Well deserved my Lovely.

    I am so so so so so happy for you there truly are no words. I know your an amazing Lady & with all my heART I will continue to follow your heARTistry!
    P.S. This is my new bloggy blog ;) I still have Creatique Candy but made some changes too. LOVES

  5. Congrats Annette, I'm so happy for you and welcome home. I can't wait to see all the yummy things you make with what you picked up at the U.

  6. How exciting!!! Congratulations on Graphic 45! I am living vicariously through you and your artistic adventures! LOL

  7. I am soooooo happy that it was more than you had hoped for and Starbucks at the hotel to top it all off!!!!! Yay!

  8. Oh my word, Annette, it looks amazing. I was getting excited and inspired just reading about your time there. Thanks for the vivid descriptions and the fun photos. I had a few sneak peeks from Gentleman Jim's blog. Congrats again on being a Ranger U grad and a G45 teamie. I'm excited to follow this next phase of your journey.

  9. Hi Annette!
    What a fun post and what an incrediable experience!
    I just found your blog thru someone that i am friends with on face book and I am so glad that I did!
    Thank you for sharing this experience with us and all of the time it took to do so!
    I look forward to see what you have in store for us...this class would be a lifetime or bucket list goal for me! :D
    Have a great day!

  10. Great post! Thanks for the wonderful recap of Ranger U. And congrats again on the G45 team.

  11. I am so glad you had a great time at Ranger U. Can't wait for you to teach us all those techniques.

  12. Oooooo! Thankyou so much for sharing your RU experiences. I really enjoyed reading your post and for a brief moment was transported right there. !! What a fantastic time you all had . I look forward to seeing the influences on your future projects x

  13. Lovely to hear your adventures. It's an awesome experience. Looking at the photo I think that you were sitting where kaz and I sat last year! Congratulations on your other achievement too G45.

  14. Awesome! Congratulations, it must be so exciting! Will keep posted here to see what you are going to share with us, cant wait!I am really happy for you !

  15. I can't wait to see what fantastic projects you come up with!! Congratulations! :D

  16. First of all, BIG congrats on making the G45 team, ever since then I have added you to my bloglist and I look forward to future posts! Secondly, I read your post in its entirety ( and followed the link to Dyan's and read that too). Thank you so much for taking the time to write it all up and showing all the photos. You must have had so much fun!!! For someone who most likely can only dream of ever attending Ranger U, it is wonderful to get this level of detail, so thanks again and I really look forward to seeing some of your projects and how you made them!

  17. A memorable weekend, congrats! Glad I got to meet you.
    Hugz, Zandra

  18. Wow Annette. I love your blog and I am looking forward to your graphic 45 posts as well your ranger examples. What an exciting week. Congratulations.

  19. Thanks for sharing your journey! It looks like an absolute blast. Oh how I wish I was there. I am going to keep hoping and applying. It sounds like an experience you will never forget with connections made with artists from around the world! Cheers!

  20. Congrats Annette! Thanks for sharing all the details. Please continue to share your creative journey with us. I'm looking forward to see your artwork for Graphic 45 too!
    Congrats again! :)

  21. Sounds like a very exciting fun trip!

  22. Jim the Gentleman Crafter sent me here. Congratulations on joining the Graphic 45 DT and graduating from Ranger U - what a great weekend! Thank you for taking the time to blog all the details and photos for us mere mortals who can only dream of attending! Looking forward to seeing more of your artwork in future.

  23. That was a fun trip, thank you for sharing. I enjoyed reading every word and look forward to seeing your future creations.

  24. Annette, I'm soooo very happy for you with your new adventure with G45! And to top it all off...a Ranger U graduate! I watched Jim's Ustream tonight and he had wonderful things to say about you. I'm so glad you guys had such a wonderful time!!! I'll be "stalking" your blog to see what wonderful things you create.

  25. A really wonderful post full of so much wonderful information! Hugsvtrace x

  26. Wow, wow, wow, wow, wow! Does that get the message across?!? Fabulous post, Annette, thanks so much for sharing... and I teared up too imagining you getting the G45 news at the airport!!
    Alison xx

  27. You bet I read every word! What an awesome post! Was wonderful to get to know you - can't imagine the experience of Ranger U without you, Marjie and Jim (aka Chicklet)... LOL! :)

  28. I've met Jim and he is everything you describe and more. Marjie is an online friend I'd like to meet one day. And I hope to meet YOU at CTMH Convention next month! Loved your recap of your whirlwind 3 days.

  29. That is so awesome! Congrats!

  30. are too much fun! I'm sorry I wasn't there just so I could have hung out with you for a few days! **smile** Love the photos and details of your classes and stuff!

  31. WOW!!! You really went on a fun ride down creativity lane!!!
    I will be looking forward to seeing all those cool techniques you learned!
    Congrats on Ranger and G45 you rocked it :-)

  32. What a great opportunity!! Thanks for letting us expirience even a tiny bit!!

  33. Congratulations. You truly deserve this recognition for your talent!


  34. Congrats on make the Graphic 45 team!!! Thanks so much for sharing your trip to Ranger U with us. Looks like alot of work but a whole lot of fun!

  35. Thank you so much for the wonderful post!! Makes me feel like I was there!

  36. Annette, congrats on the Graphic 45 DT spot!! That is so wonderful, I love their stuff. =) Ranger U looks like so much fun! Thank you for your detailed post about it; lots of fun to read.

  37. I am so enjoying having the time to read about your amazing experience at Ranger U. I've read Margie, Ellen, and Jim's posts...sounds like you had a blast. And I've seen some finished products that look AH MAZE ING. Cant' wait to start seeing the examples come out in your art. And welcome to art journaling; be careful - it's addictive. Thanks for sharing.
    PS love the picture of you by the Ranger sign! Now that is a happy woman.

  38. What a fun post to read--yes, every word!! : ) I had the pleasure--I should say THRILL!!--of meeting Tim and Mario at their first store visit of the year in CT two weekends ago, and heard Tim tell a bit about Ranger U. So it was great to get an insider's view of the experience! Congratulations on your acceptance to the Graphic 45 DT team!!! I'll look forward to following more of your adventures on your blog! Have a wonderful art-filled year ahead!

  39. Thanks a lot for sharing your great trip with us. Very inspiring to read about.
    Congrats on your spot in DT Graphic 45. Sure you will enrich us with more of your creative art !
    Hugs from SPAIN

  40. wow and congrats on making the G45 desing team. your blog is awesome and I sure wish I could go to RangerU. thanks for sharing your weekend with us. loved all the photos and can't wait to see what you learned.

  41. Hello Annette,

    What a wonderful trip you have, and so kind to let us journey with you in your incredible blog post. I teared up when I read about your Graphic45 DT reaction! We are so excited as well about the new team! And your pictures are too fun. I just love that Gentleman Crafter! Thanks again for sharing!
    Happy Papercrafting!

  42. awesome post - thanks for sharing! How exciting to see the "Certified Ranger Educator" button on your blog - squeeeeeeeeel!

  43. Holy cow!! What an amazing weekend! Can't wait to see all the beauties you'll be creating. My favorite thing about this post is that you can feel the excitement!! So glad to be able to live vicariously thru you!!

  44. I love visualizing you flicking stuff at your table mate!! Looks like you had a blast!


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