Introducing My Etsy Shop (finally)

Whew, I thought things would slow down after the holidays, but I have been as busy as ever. For now I will post the newest item added to my Etsy shop. I opened my Etsy shop in April of last year and never really officially launched it. I’ve been waiting for the perfect time and well, what’s the saying, “there is no time like the present”?

(My New Year Resolution is to fight the perfectionist in me, so look at this as a small step on my road to success.)

I found a way to combine my interest in creating altered Altoids tins with my new-found obsession of creating these little mini books.

frames book front 2

You can find a few more of my items at my Etsy store, TwistnPout.

Oh, and as for those big surprises I had in store for a later date? They are still in the works, but hopefully will be revealed next month. Well, one of them will for sure – because it will happen whether I am ready or not. :)

Happy Friday!

One Man’s Trash…

It is true, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. In this case though, it took a bit of work to turn actual trash into a little treasure.

I hosted a baby shower last month and the very last hour before guests arrived, I had a brilliant idea to quickly make a guest book. Needless to say, such a last-minute project was a little unrealistic. Firstly, I had never made a book before and secondly, well, there are always those last-minute details to attend to before guests arrive and creating a book from scratch doesn’t fit into the plan. I had to scrap the idea, but only temporarily. You can bet this was a project placed at the very top of my to-do list.

A few days after the hubbub of Thanksgiving and baby showers I came down with a cold that was bad enough to keep me homebound for a few days. What better way to spend a sick day than browsing the internet, and especially Pinterest? I hadn’t completely given up on my book making dreams, but the cold was causing me to lose my motivation. However, I had to make something for a silent art auction, so being obsessed with altered books lately, and still contemplating how to make a proper book,  I decided to spend my sick day doing a little research on the topic.

There are, of course, tons of tutorials on how to make books of various sizes, shapes and styles to be found on the internet.  I spent several hours “oohing and aahing” over gorgeous hand-made books and then I came across this very easy to follow mini soap box book tutorial by Avital from her blog “Creativity Prompt”.  I love the tag line “seduce your creativity and it will soar…” I couldn’t agree more and this soap box book idea did indeed seduce my creativity.

I started with this:

DSC_0403_2

The idea of this project was to use those small scraps of paper left over from past projects that are too good to throw away, yet somehow never the right size to use in other projects. I was happy get started on my mini book and use some of the scraps I’ve stashed a way over the years (yes, YEARS).

Because I have a thing for boxes, I also wanted to make a box to hold the book. A business card box was  an almost perfect fit, but I wanted a lid that would lift off rather than this flap style. A little altering and it would be even more perfect:

box project

1. and 2.  I cut the box in half* to make a top and bottom.

3. I then cut the bottom part of the box in half, (and also the top) so the halves could be slid together for a better fit around the soap box.

4. Completed box, trimmed to size and the top flap taped closed to create a lift-off lid.

(* as you can see in the photos, when I say “half” I don’t actually mean an exact half – I just eyeball and envision how parts  will fit together, the two pieces, regardless of what they measure are “halves”. Sorry, it’s just how my brain works…)

Below, You can see how the little book will fit perfectly into the altered box. ( a word on that later…)

DSC_0410

I then began to work on the box, below you can see the first layer of paint.

painted box

I continued to embellish the box top and bottom. I was excited to start on the book, but after completely assembling the box, I discovered all those layers of paint and paper (A few millimeters maybe?) caused the bottom to fit too tightly to the top. So tightly in fact, I had to make a completely new box! Uggggghhhhhh. So, what you see here is not the original box, but the prototype. It was back to the drawing board, but essentially, the same steps were followed with a different box. Just keep in mind, even a thin layer of paper will need to be accounted for when trying to create a perfect fit.

After making a whole new box, I started on the book. For details on how to make the book, head over to Avital’s awesome tutorial. Don’t forget, you can make any size book, any style using the same principles in Avital’s tutorial.

Anyway, here is my mini book and box. Of course, it would never work as a guest book, but with a little imagination and a bigger box, the possibilities are endless.

completed boxbook

I can’t wait to make more, more, MORE! of these tiny trashy treasures. :) The trick is going to be controlling my urge to save every empty box that comes my way. I can see how this may turn into a problem…

And before I forget, HAP-HAP-HAPPY Holidays to you all! And may the New Year bring you adventure, excitement, good health and prosperity!

Cheers!

Wow, that is a lot of exclamation points….. but what do you expect from someone who not only starts a sentence with “and” but an entire paragraph?

TTFN,
M.

Oh, So Raven

As usual, once October approaches, November and December come full speed at me. Here it is the end of November and not a post has been posted…

I have very exciting news to share. Well, two bits of exciting news, but I’m waiting to share until most the details have been worked out.

In the mean time, I thought I’d share with you a tin I was “commissioned” to do by a friend, Maryanne Christiano-Mistretta. Maryanne asked me to make a raven themed tin for her good friend Darlene Foster, a very talented artist who specializes in digital photography and image enhancement.

First, just a short side note… Maryanne has an interesting blog, All Maryanne, All The Time, where she writes about what moves her; music (she is a HUGE music fan), movies, general observations and especially her writing career (Maryanne has a book due out soon titled “On The Guest List”, all about her adventures as a music journalist in the hot spots of NYC). We actually met through blogging and have had the chance to chat over the phone and also become Facebook friends. It’s been a pleasure getting to know her and I was very honored she asked me to make this tin.

I wanted to unveil this in October, but was waiting for Maryanne to present it to Darlene first…

I was very nervous about this task because after looking at Darlene’s work, I felt grossly inadequate as an artist. How could I, a “self-teaching” unknown, create anything worthy enough to present to a talented, accomplished artist? I love her work, the haunting images, the eeriness of it all, and I wanted to capture the ideas expressed in her work without feeling as though I was copying.

But, I’m always up for a challenge. Being that Darlene is a photographer, I thought it would be fun to create a small frame inside the tin. The problem would be placing a photo inside the frame. The frame would have to be removable.

I decided on a square frame rather than circular. The clay was formed around the assembled frame before baking.

I settled on a square frame rather than circular. The clay was formed around the existing frame of 2 joined tags before baking.

I decided to make a small frame out of polymer clay (I am really loving this stuff). I used the metal frames from vellum tags then used three toothpicks between, along the metal part of the tag, to create a space for a photo. A small opening was made by omitting a fourth toothpick along the top of the joined frames so a photo could easily be slid in. For the frame to be removed from the tin, I attached a small, strong magnet to the back of the frame.  I kept velum intact for the back part of the frame, which I adhered the magnet to with E6000 glue.  I must have snapped this photo before I molded the clay frame to the metal part of the tags.  I also used clay to seal up the portions where the toothpicks might have been exposed – that would have ruined the look I was going for :).

raven drawing

I was happy with the raven drawing (right), but once placed on the tin, it lacked dimension. I could have used pop dots to raise the image, however, I was concerned the small drawing on its own would not be sturdy enough to withstand handling. The other option was a polymer raven, I was not happy with the results of that. I decided to place the drawing over the polymer piece which would give both dimension and support. I used Mod Podge to join the pieces together.

So here it is, the finished product.

rav2Collage

Typically, the raven is associated with dark magic, death and often seen perched on tombstones or atop skulls. I love all those images and the dark mystery that surrounds the raven, but for this project I wanted to focus on the positive side of the raven; keeper of secrets, bringer of light (according to Native American creation legends), preserver of ancestral memories. As the raven mates for life, I also see it as a symbol of love, faithfulness and security. These were the characteristics I attempted to capture here.

I heard Darlene was happy with it. I really enjoyed making it and thoroughly enjoyed browsing Darlene’s website and learning more about her as an artist. I also learned a lot about ravens as I did my research.

Being “commissioned” to do a piece of art work IS indeed exciting. I felt privileged and honored that anyone would consider asking me to do this. And as exciting as this was for me, I am super excited to share my next bit of news with you too! But as stated in the beginning – you will just have to wait. (only the raven knows…)

And as the mighty Tigger says…

TTFN,

Cheers!
(well, ok – I don’t think Tigger actually says THAT)

The Hidden Path Revealed

I intended to write a witty, whimsical post involving mysterious sea creatures and how one evening as I took a moonlit stroll along the beach, I was visited by a wise old octopus. As he levitated above the ocean shore he stretched out far-reaching tentacles. Each tentacle pointed to a different path and each path was right and looked as promising as the other. Indeed, each path is worthy of travel and exploration:

RIght View
Right Intentions
Right Speech
Right Action
Right Livelihood
Right Effort
Right Concentration
Right Mindfulness

But I’m no philosopher and so I will only leave you with these few photos of what I managed to work on this month.

octopus before

Before smoothing, baking and sanding

After:

octopus Collage

Oh, and a song too :)

An End to Summertime Blues

Oh NO, It’s mid September and I haven’t posted a thing! What will my beloved fans think? (note the sarcasm)

It’s been a busy month; I’ve been attending conferences, classes, meetings, hustling to build inventory for craft shows, done a couple of craft shows, now I’m planning a baby shower, preparing for out-of-town visitors not to mention I want to revamp my whole blog –  and well, I’m finding it hard to organize my thoughts long enough to write a meaningful post.

Aside from all the above mentioned activities, the biggest project by far has been getting our yard under control. We are certainly not done, but we have made huge progress in creating a nicely prepped canvas for next year. Finally, there seems to be an end to those summers spent in a bland, ugly backyard!!!

I’ve decided our next home will either be a high-rise apartment in the center of a bustling city or a small bungalow in Bali, either way – it wont have a yard. If it does have a yard, it will be fully and completely landscaped BEFORE we buy it. Of all the DIY projects we have done, the yard has felt like an impossible, never-ending task. It’s hard work and it’s expensive.

Anyway, I’d like to get this posted before September Ends so here is the run down:

slopeCollage

before and after of slope. Imagine the whole area covered in 10 times more than that last photo on the right.

I really wish I had more photos of this slope before we started – yep, believe it or not, it actually looked worse than this. It looked a little like the photo on the right, which is a corner of our backyard last year before we took care of all that ugliness. The plastic was to choke out the blackberry bushes and ivy we cut back. Let me tell you, I was sick of plastic sheeting by the time it was over with, I can’t imagine how Christo did it. Dang, I should have used pink plastic – maybe next time.

Then there was this:

Summer 2011, 7 months after moving in

Summer 2011, 7 months after moving in. We were playing around with the idea of what a retaining wall would look like here – we tested out the idea by using blocks we found which had been scattered throughout the yard.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, I came home one day a few weeks ago and found my husband had rented a jack hammer. The next  photo was taken after the six truck loads of rubble had been removed AND after the several days it took for me to fully digest just how big the problem was. Now, does this look like a space to laze away those nice summer days? NOT!

patiobef

This slope in the foreground is a pain to mow, so I’d like to have steps here, but how to connect it to the wall we already started?

My husband really did a great job on getting the wall started – you can see how long it is, and it is completely level, but trying to problem solve working around this grassy slope was more than we could deal with  - I mean, the man does have a full-time job and he wanted to take advantage of SOME of the nice summer weather on his time off, so we hired someone to complete the project. And I am soooooo glad we did.

We worked with Gonzalo Zuniga, a hardscape and landscape specialist, and I will say I am very impressed with Gonzalo’s  professionalism, attention to detail and ability to actually DESIGN. In my experience with contractors, I find many of them are just willing to do what you ask regardless of whether it makes sense or not, they seem to have no opinions or ideas about making a space look pleasing AND be functional. They do what they are getting paid for and that is it, no imagination, no problem solving and no design skills, which can end up leaving one with a bad case of buyers remorse.

We had an idea how we wanted the space to look. I pulled up TONS of photos of my dream spaces, but we didn’t need anything elaborate that would over power the style of the house. We also have one of those annoying budget things. The two problems were the slope where we initially wanted a retaining wall to hold all the dirt back and the  grassy slope which was a pain to mow. We had no idea how to  incorporate the existing wall to meet the point of where that grassy slope should disappear.

Thankfully, our trusty landscape specialist, Gonzolo, worked out a solution for us. Now, I’ll admit, the result  looks pretty grand for our simple backyard, but it was the best solution for what we had in mind and I absolutely love it.  I can’t wait for everything to grow in and soften the space up. You can bet I already have a to-do list going to finish this space off  next year.

Here’s a few shots of the work Gonzolo did:

You can see the back corner where those blackberry bushes from the first set of photos were last summer.

slope view of patio

view of the patio from what was once a huge overgrown mess of ugliness.

We still have work to do on the back wall. FIRST, removing the concrete pieces my husband thought would be good to use as filler.... REALLY???? But still a big improvement.

We still have work to do on the back wall. FIRST, removing the concrete pieces my husband thought would be good to use as filler…. REALLY???? But still a big improvement.

It’s nice to have the patio complete just in time for the rainy fall season :) And it is even nicer to finally have this posted before September gets away from me completely! On second thought, It’s nicer to have the landscaping done (well, started anyway…)

Now I’m off to prepare for a weekend retreat. I can’t wait. It will be a good time spent focusing on my business and art. Because I am so over yard work for a while.

Cheers for now.

What have you been up to this summer?

Here’s to My Heart

Ever have one of those “I could make that” moments? You’ve probably thought this to yourself every time you’ve browsed a craft show, and no doubt you have a Pinterest board titled “Things to Make Someday”.  I have those “I could make that” moments at least once a day. Oh, I could so totally make this:

drinking-bottle-caps-jewelry

Amazing high end bottle cap jewelry
photo from http://www.funkytrend.com/bottle-caps-jewelry/

or this

Imperfect_Perfection___Front_by_monsterkookies

Kimberly Ann Hart -
Owner, Founder, and the Designer behind:
Monster Kookies
The Mad Scientist of Polymer Clay!
Website & Shop: monsterkookies.com
Facebook: facebook.com/monsterkookies.creations

and even this

dinkel_TonSchrein_800px

Artist George Dinkel
“TonShrein”
photo from http://polymerclaydaily.com/2013/01/18/polymer-shrine-2-0/

Dare to dream right?

A few days ago, as I perused the beading aisle of a local craft shop looking for that perfect little something to add to a locket I’ve been working on for the past 6 months (and when I say working on, I really mean thinking about working on), I was feeling hopeless about not finding that perfect little something. Suddenly a light appeared from nowhere, shinning down on a display of polymer clay. The muse of polymer dangled  an enticing project brochure in front of me, she whirled around me “You could SO Totally make this” she teased with a giggle, her bedazzled stola slapping me in the face as she twirled. Before I knew what hit me, I woke at my work table staring at a small lump of clay. No muse in sight.

I wasn’t too worried about my now AWOL muse or her stupid little idea book anyway!  I had my own ideas. What captured my attention was not a specific project, but the endless possibilities. With an array of polymer clay, I could surely rule the world! Or at least make a small bead.

So, I had purchased a few packs of various clays for about 2.79 each. I bought red, black white and silver. I purchased Fimo, Sculpey III and Kato Polyclay brand clays. I know nothing at all about polymer clay, but I have played with Play-doh, how different could it be? From what I’ve read about it, you basically make a shape, then bake it in the oven. After baking it can be it can be sanded, painted, drilled, glued onto things… the possibilities really are endless.

All the websites I found on polymer clay stressed the importance of proper conditioning. Conditioning makes the clay soft and easy to work with. You can condition the clay by kneading it by hand or adding softening agents. Many polymer clay sites recommend using a pasta machine (one dedicated to the sole use with clay) and run the clay through it 15 times!! WHAT??? Yes, I read on one site, 15 times. I don’t have a pasta machine (surprise!). I’m not only an “I could make that kind of girl”, I’m also a “I could do this instead kind of girl” so I wasn’t about to go on a hunt for a pasta machine to knead my clay, nor was I about to plop down a wad of cash for all the little specialty tools and molds – I wasn’t even sure I would like working with this stuff in the first place, plus in my stash I was sure to find some kind of little doohickey that would work to cut and sculpt clay (ummm like a kitchen knife maybe? A tooth pick, a chop stick?) And I was pretty sure my strong hands would be good enough to condition a small square of clay.

The frist clay I worked with was Sculpey III. I just used my hands to condition it, rolling it and squishing it until it became soft and pliable, about 10 – 15 minutes. I then rolled out and formed this thin overlay for my small Altoids tin locket. I used silver Sculpey, but ended up painting it with black and silver paint after baking, then applying a protective coat of Inkssentials Glossy Accents over the paint job. I glued the overlay in place with Mod Podge.

locket overlay

I expected it to be hard after baking, but it was soft and rubbery, which I think is somewhat normal, according to my research. After sitting over night it was hard like baked clay should be.  I’m still not sure if I did something wrong though, maybe my piece was too thin, I guess all the answers will come with more practice.

I also used Fimo clay to make these two little heart charms. I found the Fimo and the Sculpey to be very similar, except the Fimo pieces came out of the oven hard, like you might expect.

red heart charms

My vision for the locket was one mixed with gothic horror and the over all power and awe  of the heart. The first two hearts I made weren’t offering the element of surprise or capturing the message I was trying to convey.

The next clay I worked with was Kato Polyclay.  I had read great reviews about it and supposedly it’s one of the strongest and durable polymer clays on the market.  At first I was disappointed. It was very dry and crumbly out of the package. The Sculpey III had been firm, yet slightly pliable. The Kato clay gave me reason to reconsider the pasta machine idea. After a few minutes of hand kneading, it was no longer crumbly, but it was still to hard to work with. Since I didn’t have a pasta machine, I thought about driving over it a few times with the car, but what would the neighbors think? Instead I just kept at it, kneading it by hand through an episode of “Breaking Bad” and finally, I  ended up with something I could work with.

I decided to try my hand at sculpting a more life-like heart and just started forming the shape of a heart, then I used a toothpick to add texture. I rolled tiny little pieces to use as the arteries and inserted them into small holes I made in the formed heart, then melded them onto the heart with a toothpick. I also applied the red and blue wire to the heart by poking the ends of the wire right into the clay before baking. I was surprised how well the wires held in place.

bef aft heart

A very blurry before shot and also a light coat of acrylic paint.

I painted the heart, but after I applied the first coat, I decided to paint after baking (for some reason – I forget why). I used acrylic paints and a little bit of silver Pearlex powder pigment for highlights. If you decide to paint after baking you will need to apply a protective sealer over it to keep the paint from scratching off. I used the Inkssentuals Glossy Accents  as a protective coat and it worked really well. I was pretty happy with the way it came out:

DSC_0375

The clay heart was just a little too thick to properly fit in the locket so I had to carve away some of it from the back.  I did this with a wood carving tool I found in my stash (imagine that). My little heart held up to all this man handling very well.

As I stated, I have zero experience working with this stuff, when comparing the three; Sculpey III, Kato Polyclay and Fimo, I’m still not sure which I like best, The Sculpey and Fimo were definitely easier to condition, but I was equally happy with the end results of all three.

locket Collage

I’d love to hear about your adventures in polymer clay and please feel free to offer tips and suggestions. And if you see that muse, invite her over for a play date. :)

Cheers,

Thanks for reading

Hoo’s That Peeking at Me?

Wow, I can’t believe it’s the middle of August already. Time sure does fly when you’re having fun. As usual I’ve been busy with projects. I’ve started many and most of them are only in various stages of completion. But I did manage to get one thing accomplished this month.

This little table called out to me the other day as I wondered around a garage sale. I thought I could add it to my collection of “ugly furniture to makeover someday”. Yes, it has seen better days, and I’m positive it smelled better in its youth as well. It also needed a few repairs. Nothing a little wood glue and filler wouldn’t take care of.  If you are curious about the style, I believe it is an Art Deco waterfall end table. “Waterfall” refers to the rounded edges.

waterfall table before

I took it home, added it to my collection and waited for it to speak to me. One day as I was rummaging through the pile, I heard a little voice whisper “Blue. Robins egg blue. Please?”

I was bitten by the painted furniture bug years ago, but this is the first time in a while I’ve had access to so much unwanted furniture at such great prices. (Summers around here mean LOTS of garage and estate sales.)  It’s also the first time I’ve had space to both store and work on my finds. Needless to say, I’ve accumulated a nice little collection. The problem is, waiting for each piece to speak to me.

One has to be open to the voices of the universe when working with furniture.

Sometimes, you might find trying to communicate with a piece of furniture is a little like talking to a wall. Daily I confront the pile. Typically I hear only muffled whispers. Yet, patience does pay off…

I began the prep work; sanding, cleaning, sanding, priming, sanding – yes there is quite a bit of sanding involved in painting furniture. After the first coat of paint was applied, I was at a stand still. There had to be a way to dress it up a bit without adding too much detail. Seemed as though my little table went mute on me.

After a few days of silence, I decided to take matters into my own hands. I went on a hunt for a knob. I wasn’t sure whether to go with something dainty and feminine, whimsical or simple. I settled on a simple whimsical owl.

I wasn’t entirely pleased with my decision, but when I revealed the knob to the table, its excitement was hard to contain. As was mine.

The knob became the inspiration for the surprise inside as well as the little touch on the back. Finally, I had completed one project on my to-do list!

table Collage

I just love having a little surprise inside a cabinet or drawer, so I thought the owl could offer a nice ‘how do ya do’ to anyone who might decide to give this table a new home.

I hope I can get at least two other small projects completed this month. I’m hearing mumbles coming from the garage, so I may be back real soon…

Cheers! Hope you are enjoying the rest of your summer.