In the Garden

Today I’m feeling like I need an escape; a peaceful place to gather my thoughts and tune out the world. I have it in my mind to create such a place in my own back yard, but for now I’ll just have to pretend.

Here is a simple paper cutting I finished last month. It was a good month for me. I think all the sunshine helped energize my mind and awaken a little creative beast with in me.

I did this tin because Japan during springtime is one of my favorite places to be.  I wanted to capture the serenity of a tranquil Japanese bamboo forest, the soothing sound of bamboo leaves rustling in the breeze and the trickling of a gentle stream.japanese garden papercut

I’ve started to use more of my own hand made embellishments and I like to keep it as true to handmade as possible, but I did use two texture plates for the sky and the grass. Also, I cheated a little and used a small circle punch for the cherry blossoms. I wasn’t feeling up to the challenge of cutting out 50 little tiny circles by hand.

bamboo garden

Japanese garden collage

As I said, this was a pretty productive month for me and I’m excited to be finishing up a few projects, which I hope to share with you next time. But now – I must go tend to the garden –

Cheers!

 

 

What Happens at the Forest’s Edge

After weeks of battling serious artist’s block, I decided it would be best to give up on forcing an idea to develop and not think about doing anything creative. At all. Ever again.

This new outlook was just a little stressful. I was thinking about an upcoming show I’d be doing and I wanted to have new merchandise on display. But I just couldn’t come up with an idea. When there was a flicker of an idea, I lacked ambition to do anything with it.

So I did what all frustrated adult children do in times of stress; I picked up my coloring book and crayons (and my Oreos) and headed to my happy place.

Ahhhhh, there’s nothing like the feel (or smell) of brand new coloring book to transport you to that feel good place of wonder and possibilities. At first it was very intimidating, I was afraid I’d turn those gorgeous, magical illustrations of enchanting forest life into something more of an environmental doomsday disaster. How can a middle-aged adult woman be afraid of a coloring book? I realized how ridiculous I was being and after a few days of admiring and caressing the pages I decided this was MY coloring book and I was going to do with it what I wanted.  I then made the mistake of Googling how others were coloring their books and quickly realized how much I suck… not just at coloring but… MY GOD…. did I actually Google and watch other people coloring?  Well, I embraced my crazy, slammed down a fistful of Oreos, opened the book, grabbed the first crayon within my reach and threw caution to the wind.

After a few days of this madness I started to feel a little happy. After a few more days I had an idea.

I began to gather my pieces.

small bits

I approached this project with the same attitude I did the coloring; I just went for it. The idea was just like the illustrations in the book; there for me to fill in and expand on, but not to be feared. It was ok to color outside the lines. And it was more than ok if things got messy. And it would even be ok if it never got finished.

getting there

I rolled paper (for the scrolls and mini books – not what you’re thinking), picked up and smashed up twigs, broke mirrors, cut up twine, went through my stash and pulled out little pieces I’ve stored away for this very day, then smeared it all with black paint. I worked away and became one with that crazy old cat woman, alone in a ramshackle cabin at the edge of that enchanted forest, collecting and hoarding all the dead and dying things it spat out. All while not having a care or concern in the world.

I created my true happy place. Which is a complete opposite of my zen garden happy place, but there is room for more than one happy place.

LAB Collage

apothecary tins

After dabbling with these pieces,  I was able to easily move on to other projects that required a little more focus and neatness.  I’m still trying to figure out exactly what the lesson is in all this. I think it’s that sometimes we just need to get over ourselves and do something completely different, no matter how silly it may seem. And sometimes we don’t have to DO anything. In doing nothing we allow new ideas to form…. you know, “listen to the universe”…

If you haven’t already caught on to this new coloring craze – I would highly recommend it. I find it to be quite relaxing and meditative. You can find these “adult” coloring books in craft stores, book stores and even in the book section of some retail grocery stores – I suggest picking up a supersize snack pack of Oreo cookies as well – to achieve the full effect of the experience.

coloring book collage

I’d love to hear how you combat and overcome your artist’s block. You can also find out more about the artist and creator of these stunning coloring books, Johanna Basford, by visiting her website johannabasford.com.

Altoids Tin Pop-UP

For some strange reason I had a strong need to create a chrysalis from polymer clay. I had no idea why or what I would do with it once I made it.

polymer clay chrysalis

How could I tell its story?
Cacoon tin collageI thought it would be fun, and maybe challenging, to create a pop-up.

I’m pretty happy with how it turned out. I just love the way the butterfly unfolds when the tin is opened. Actually, the first photo is the second chrysalis I made, because I like this one so much I decided to make another one and thought I would give you a peek at how they look l before I paint them.

I also became so inspired by the pop-up concept I thought I would attempt it with something other than butterflies.

sparrowCollage

Again, polymer clay was used to make the eggs, which are then hand painted. The nest was made from wire. For both tins I used Steampunk Botanica scrapbook paper by DCWV. The lovely little sparrows were taken from the Graphics Fairy, an amazing resource of vintage images available to all crafters and artists for use in their projects. Thank You Graphics Fairy!

Well, it has been a rather productive week so far – wait, it is only Wednesday, I actually started these projects a couple of weeks ago, but I was able to get them finished up yesterday – just in time for a show I will be doing this weekend too. 🙂

Well, cheers to you all – have a fantastic day.

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

Altoids – It’s What’s for Dinner

I recently chatted with a friend I havent talked to in several years. We used to scrapbook together, in fact I introduced her to that whole scene. While she’s still an active scrapbooker, I have since focused my interests elsewhere (though rather sporadically).  I told her I  miss scrapbooking but haven’t been very motivated to drag out all the old supplies and face those dusty, partially completed scrapbooks I enthusiastically started oh-so long ago.

My friend suggested I make her a birthday card. That might get me motivated; rekindle my interest in an old favorite hobby. I immediately thought that would be a good idea ( I sometimes work best with dead lines) and I remembered the growing stash of Altoids tins I’ve been saving. I’ve always wanted to make a little scrapbook or card or book of some sort out of an Altoids tin.

After our conversation, I got right to work. My friend told me she likes earth tones and butterflies. EASY – I thought. I love earth tones and butterflies too, but even after sifting  through all my existing papers and searching through collections of internet images, nothing seemed to spark my interest.

A  trip to the local craft store was sure to give me a good push down the road to creative wonderland. As I strolled through the aisles, I came across this paper pack and a familiar feeling of excitement came over me…  I couldn’t get home fast enough to start cutting and creating.

I love working with paper from these coordinating packs, because all the colors and patterns work perfectly together and you can cut out parts of the patterns to make simple embellishments that also coordinate perfectly.

Before starting on the tin, I wanted to research what glues would work best and check for any tips that might be helpful so of course I Googled “Altoids tin crafts”.

I was led to this helpful tutorial by Kristin Batsel (aka rackycoo)) at crafters.org.  I also decided to follow the link to Kristin’s blog, Junk & Stuff, was I ever WOWED. You should check it out. She doesn’t just create fantastic altered Altoids tins, she is also an award-winning crafter (a true artist) and her blog is full of crafty inspiration.

Anyway, I’m not great at step by step written instructions, but here is the general idea ; (for more in-depth instruction go to Kristin’s tutorial at crafters.org.)

First, I drilled small holes where I wanted to add a handle. In the second photo below you can see two small holes just above the dots I made to mark my spot (the first time).

I cut the required shape (I prefer scissors over the exacto knife) then measured and cut the small strips needed for the edges (I used a paper-cutter to ensure absolutely straight lines)

After cutting the card stock, to touch up the edges and camouflage the white edge I used the edge of a felt tip craft marker with a coordinating color from the design.

I glued every thing in place using tacky glue.  In the above photo it’s glopped on, but I spread it out evenly over the surface of the tin. After the paper was applied, I added the beaded wire handle (pierced it through the paper that covered my pre drilled holes).

I used felt to line the inside edge of the tin, I thought this would work better to cover the wire than card stock.

And viol´a: Finished.

The next step is really up to you. You could simply line the inside with paper or fabric and be done with it. Since this was a very special card for an old friend on a landmark birthday, I decided to go all out and have some fun. I stuck to basic old-fashioned scrap-book skills.

For the inside I cut two strips of 12 x 12 card stock the width of the tin, then folded accordion style to ensure the folded strip would fit neatly inside. I had to glue two strips together at their end segments because it needed it to be extra long for what I had in mind. But you could keep it short or opt not to do it at all.

I embellished each segment and on the end segment (the first one you see when you open the tin I ran a bit of ribbon through an eyelet so the “card” could be easily pulled open.

In order for the folded card stock to fit, I had to trim the corners.

I used a corner rounder on bottom edge of the last segment, but folded the inside segments together and nipped off the corners, you can see the effect above. This helps everything fit neatly into the tin when it is all folded up.

That’s really about it, here is a small peek inside:

This project was so much fun and I now have a TON of ideas for more. Unfortunately, I have saved only a few tins and I can’t get everyone to eat them fast enough –  So, if you happen to have any great dish ideas that call for mass quantities of Altoids in the recipe – send them my way!

As a side note: After I completed this project I came across a post from Pillows A- la-Mode in my reader list and found this great idea for tins. It’s just so cute, I had to share…

What are some of your ideas for Altoids tins? Show me your creation, I’d love to see it!