Category Archives: Crafting

Marker Love

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I’m a marker girl. I own a box of pastels, a couple sets of colored pencils and a carousel of gel pens, but markers are my medium of choice – and I have A LOT of them in water-based, permanent, and alcohol inks. Unfortunately, my VERY favorite set (a nondescript package of generic alcohol markers purchased for half price from Hobby Lobby) are running out of ink, and what is doubly unfortunate is that the store doesn’t have them anymore. (Imagine the outcry of indignation and sorrow!) Thus, I set out to find an affordable set of double tip markers to replace my beloved coloring companions. After looking at plenty of markers in local arts and crafts stores, I settled on a set of 72 Bianyo 8606 markers from Amazon.

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These arrived in a soft sided case for $39.99, which works out to about 56 cents a marker – a bargain for sure. (My former favorites were 69 cents each on sale.)

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I immediately liked the squarish shape of the barrel which made the markers easy to manipulate and comfortable to hold. Since I have arthritis, the fatter barrels are much easier on my hands.

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Each marker has a fine and broad tip along with the color number on both ends, so it is visible in the case no matter which end is up. I’m always happier when the company puts a number on the pen so I don’t have to!

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Whenever I get a new set of markers, I always start by creating a set of color swatches because I just don’t trust the hues on the caps. A set of swatches allows me to choose the exact color I want (or quickly see that I’ll need to blend a couple of shades to get it). Since the markers were not separated by color in the case,  I sorted them into color groups and arranged them by number before creating the swatches.

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Each swatch consists of two passes with the chisel tip and the color number written with the fine tip of the marker. These pages get stapled together and stored with the markers so the swatches are easily accessible whenever I use the pens. (I used to put all of the swatches into a three-ring binder, but found it too cumbersome over time.) This set is listed as “classic colors” and has a nice variety of both cool and warm grays, blues, yellows, greens, and reds along with a sable and a blending pen.

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After creating the swatches, I put the pens back into the case by color (sort of), which brings me to my only complaint about the set – the case. In the ordering photo, the markers appear to be in a stiff-sided case that holds them upright and in order. (Okay, I’m probably OCD about these things, but I like my pens sorted by color and number.) However, the case is unstructured so the markers don’t go in rows (which would make them easier to organize) and they start to fall over when several are removed at a time.

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That said, I liked them every bit as much as my “old favorites.” The colors dried quickly, and once dry they did not bleed when touched by a new color / wet ink (which is one of my pet peeves with water-based markers). In addition, the fine tip easily managed the small spaces on this coloring page from Creative Cats by Marjorie Sarnat (Dover: Mineola, New York) and the chisel tip filled in the backgrounds without streaking. (I tend to turn the page and color in different directions, so the fact that the ink blends into itself is a real plus.) I would give these pens a five star rating for color variety, value, and feel. But, I’d only give the case two stars, because I find it unwieldy and annoying. It provides basic storage, but it doesn’t help me organize the markers or quickly find the one I’m looking for. If that doesn’t bother you, I would definitely recommend these markers.

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The Mother of Invention

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The old saying, “Necessity is the mother of invention,” held true for me this week. Kids are returning to school in the Valley of the Sun, and that means dealing with cell phones in class. This year, my school is adopting a no-phone policy across the board during class time. (This is good news for those of us who battle the texting, gaming, and surfing that distract students from learning.) In order to make the edict more palatable I want to provide a space where students can park and charge their phones while we’re working on literacy and writing skills.

To my dismay, most of the classroom phone storage devices are hanging shoe organizers with pockets. Since all of my wall space is taken up with posters and academic language word walls, I want something that will rest on the counter at the side of my classroom. The few tabletop organizers I found were on the pricey side and wouldn’t arrive until after the kids report in a couple of days. So, I decided to make one.

I observed that the organizer I’m after is simply a series of boxes or slots that are large enough to accommodate any phone and provide access to a plug. So, here’s my low cost solution:

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I went to my local post office and picked up 19 of the (free) small Priority Mail boxes, which are about the size and shape of three DVDs stacked together. I drew a line down the center in order to get two open boxes from each piece. (I have 36 chairs in my room, so the 19 boxes cut in half  create 36 slots plus a couple of extras in case I mess up!)

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Here’s how the boxes look once they’re cut in half and assembled. (Just use the fold lines and pre-applied tape to put them together.)

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Next, I arranged the boxes into groups of four. The desks in my classroom are numbered and arranged into quads to create small tables and work groups for students, so it seemed logical to mirror this organization in the cell phone garage.

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I considered stacking the boxes vertically, but ultimately decided against it because I think the other arrangement provides more stability.

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Once the arrangement was finalized, I added labels that correspond to the group and seat numbering system on the desks in my room. Students will put their phone in the slot that matches their group and seat number. (I have nine groups of four students.) Then, I used left over box tape to form a set. After I finished the whole thing, I realized I probably should have “laminated” the labels with clear tape before attaching them just to add some durability to the card stock. (So, consider adding that step if you construct one of your own.)

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Once all the sets were created, I used left over masking tape to put them all together. I taped around the whole group a couple of times and across the bottom of each set both vertically and horizontally. (I have to confess that I changed tape here because I ran out of the box tape. I was determined to just use whatever I had to complete this project.)

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Finally, I used some shiny silver duct tape from my stash to finish the “garage.” This added more stability and durability to the project. (If you want to use spray paint to finish the piece, I suggest covering the whole thing in masking tape first to add that stability and create an even finish.)

When I take this to my classroom tomorrow morning, I’ll line up a couple of power strips in front of the boxes to provide a charging station for my students. Hopefully, this will entice them to willingly park their phones and give them a rest during Junior English!

Easy DIY Art with Colarting Kits

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When summer temps hit the valley of the sun there are only a few acceptable activities. One, of course, is hanging out in the pool; another is anything that can be done inside with air conditioning and a cold drink in hand. (The latter situation is also familiar to my northern friends who hunker down to escape the blustery cold of winter.)

As a teacher, I spend a good deal of my time in the summer thinking about and planning for school (which gears up at the beginning of August), but since I don’t have to do those activities on a bell schedule, I also get to spend a good deal of time in my studio. On 115 degree afternoons, the coolness of the basement beckons me to color, cut, and paste.

Thus, our Colarting (where coloring meets art) kits provide a means to escape the heat and create something to hang in my room, office, or home. Let me show you how it works with the Dreamy Kitty design.

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Each kit comes with three or four layers (depending on the picture) to create a 3-D design along with a package of standard embellishments and the foam tape used to give the art dimension. Full instructions are also included, along with a bonus coloring page.

 

 

 

In step one, each of the layers is colored in preparation for cutting and stacking. While a person could leave the larger shapes blank (white), I suggest filling them in to provide a background when looking at the pieces at an angle. This helps the piece look more professional when its complete.

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The middle layer has a gray space around the pieces to indicate what will be cut away. Because I know I’m going to cut these out, I don’t worry about staying inside the edges. As a matter of fact, I intentionally go over the line to make sure I fill in all of the white space. In addition, when I’m using several shades of the same color (like two shades of green on the squirrel shape), I color the entire shape in the lighter color using a chisel tip marker, and then go back with the darker color and fill in the details using a fine tip marker. This makes it much easier to color small, detailed areas.

As you can see, I have written the color numbers I used across the top (which will get cut off). Since I don’t always have time to color all of the pieces at once, this helps me remember which markers I used so I can carry the color theme over to other pieces.

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The top layer consists of cut outs that will rest on top of the middle layer pieces. I used the same basic colors to complete these pieces, too.

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If you plan to use a photo mat (which I highly recommend since it adds a professional finish to your artwork), put the background in the mat before you begin adding the layers. This allows the layers to stick out over the edge of the mat and adds to the 3-D effect.

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Now you’re ready to cut out the middle and top layer pieces.

Once everything is cut out, open up the embellishment packet and locate the foam tape squares. These will be applied to the back of the cut out pieces in order to create a 3-dimensional effect on your artwork.

It’s always a good idea to space out the foam tape squares around the edges of larger pieces (like the kitty). The smaller pieces may only need one or two squares to support them. Remember to plan the number of squares per piece to make sure you have enough.

Once the tape is stuck to the back of the layers, peel off the wax paper backing and apply the middle layer to the background.

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Repeat the application process with the smallest top-layer pieces. Here, the angled photo gives a better look at the shaded in bottom layers. (Take a look in the lower left corner under the lizard.)

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Once all the layers of the picture are attached, it’s time to have some fun with the embellishments. The packet contains basic embellishments in clear and silver to match any color scheme. Of course, you can always add extras from your own stash. (Consider buttons, beads, jewels, trims, pieces of broken jewelry, or even origami.)

If you don’t have a stash, we offer additional embellishment kits in multiple colors. (All of our kitty-themed demos on the website feature standard embellishments. The other themes sport a variety of items from my studio.)

Arrange the embellishments wherever you like. (I suggest placing all of them on the piece before gluing, just to make sure you like the layout.) Regular white glue or craft glue will work to attach the embellishments, or if you’re impatient (like I am), use a hot glue gun for immediate gratification.

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Finally, don’t forget to sign your work before putting it into a frame. Our kits create an 8 x 10 picture which fits into an 11 x 14 mat and frame. (I suggest you get a shadow box frame so your work will be protected behind glass.) If you use a non-shadow box, simply remove the glass to allow space for your 3-D design to pop out of the frame.

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The final product is a one-of-a-kind piece of art ready to adorn your office or home. Our whimsical designs are perfect for kids rooms, dorm rooms, hallways, and cubicles. They make great gifts as a project to be completed or as a finished product to make someone smile.

Check out the nearly 30 designs available at thecockeyedcolorist.com. Happy colarting!

 

Learning to Love the Gel

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I have a love/hate relationship with gel pens. I realize to most people having strong feelings about gel pens may seem overly dramatic or personally indulgent, and they’re probably right. In the grand scheme of things how I use gel pens is not going to save the world or cause it to spiral out of its orbit on the way to total anihiliation. . However, (and there’s ALWAYS a caveat, right?) they are a source of joy and consternation every time I color.

Why, you may ask, do I invest them with such emotional power? The answer is simple: I don’t know. There. I’ve admitted it. It could be that I love the sparkliness (Is that even a word?) of the glitter gels, the edgy glint of the metallic gels, and the vivid hues of the florescent gels, but I hate (deplore, abhor, and several other synonyms, too) their lack of coverage in larger spaces and their tendency to smudge. (Yes, I COULD wait for the ink to dry before coloring next to it, but that would require a level of patience that I don’t possess.)

Thus, the very things that make gel pens fun also make them annoying. So, I’ve tried to devise ways to mitigate the problems with gel pens while keeping the lovely gel-iness (Now, I KNOW that’s not a word, but I’m feeling Shakespearean today.) that they bring to a design. Let me explain:

DSCN3216This is how my gel pens look on a larger swathe of page. As you can see, there is quite a bit of open space, even though I colored the area twice.

DSCN3217Next, I turned the page 90 degrees and colored the other way. While this helped fill some of the gaps, there is still plenty of paper showing through.

DSCN3218Of course, I could use a fat-tipped marker to get better coverage. (This patch was done with a Sharpie.) But it lacks the lovely sparkle and the intensity of color from the glitter pen.

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And, of course, the combination of the two opens the door for other effects. Here, I laid down the base coat with a berry colored marker, but still used the dark purple glitter gel over the top. This allows for a subtle variation of color that I might use on flowers next to one another or to color a bunch of grapes.

And different colors yield different effects (duh, right?). Here is a bright tomato red patch of marker covered in three different gel colors: pink, dark red, and orange. Each one changes the base to create something new. I might do this as an easy way to shade parts of a flower (especially if I have a limited number of marker colors or the markers don’t blend well.) Thus, I could color the whole flower in the base marker color, and then add darker parts with the red gel, medium tones with the pink gel, and light areas with the orange gel.

However, I should add, some colors don’t play well together. Here, I put silver (left) and light blue (right) glitter gels over that swatch of red and ended up with muddy ugliness. (Yuck! Yup, even the camera couldn’t hone in well enough to focus on this mess.) So, be sure you try out the combinations on a piece of scratch paper before you apply them to something you’re working on. (I HATE it when I ruin a perfectly good picture with the wrong color choice!)

Here’s an example of the dramatic difference gel pens can make in your coloring. I started with a base coat of medium pink Sharpie (left). Next, I added some pink glitter gel around the center and edges (middle). Then I finished by going over the outlines and coloring in the center along with every other space on the edge with purple glitter gel. Just this touch of dark adds a great deal of drama to the image.

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Here’s how the flower looked after I colored in the rest of the petals alternating gel ink and marker. To help keep the gel from smudging into the color next door, I did all of the marker sections first, and then went back with the gel working my way from the inside out and turning the picture so my hand wouldn’t drag across it.

As you can see, I tend toward high contrast, bold, unrealistic colors. (After all, I get enough realism from the evening news. I don’t need it on my coloring pages!) The colors work because the purple on the outside petals relates back to the purple in the center of the flower, and the darker color on the outside grounds the flower as a whole.

So, thinking back on my relationship with these pens, I can see that learning to love gel ink was really a matter of setting it up the right partner. Hmm… Isn’t that true for most of us?

Happy coloring!

On Your Mark, Get Set …

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Lochinvar and I are gearing up for the Fountain Festival next weekend (yikes!), so we’ve been in sprint mode since Monday. I have finished up the last of the pieces for the show and Lochinvar photographed them and listed them on the website. Today I am writing artist statements, printing price tags, hemming tablecloths, and gathering paperwork while Lochinvar assembles the booth in the garage for a trial run. (Occasionally, of course, I have to go out and kibitz about where to hang specific pieces and give my creations a critical once over in the bright light of day.)

One of the items I am writing today is a process page that shows how pieces are created. I think people often don’t consider all the small steps necessary to create a piece of art. They say, “Oh, it’s a decorated bottle,” as if someone waved her hands, did a dance, and magically transformed a dusty dumpster dive piece of trash into an artful treasure by sheer will power.  People don’t seem to realize that bottle took elbow grease, inspiration, a myriad of materials, a good deal of time, and a host of steps to make. Other artists that I have seen at shows combat this mentality with an explanation of their process and materials, so I thought I would give it a shot, too. Here goes:

Hi, I’m Jenny and I rescue things: discarded bottles, old candy boxes, beat up toys, hand-me-down trays … all of these items (and many more) live in my studio stash waiting to be reimagined into something new. (To be honest, my work space sometimes looks like the Island of Misfit Toys with odd pieces of stuff scattered about in various states of becoming.)

While some of my art is completed on conventional mediums like canvas and card stock, I’m much more interested in the trash-to-treasure process, so here’s what it looks like for something as simple as a discarded bottle.

 

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Most of my bottles come from the trash, though sometimes people give them to me. Other items come from yard sales and thrift stores. (Half price day at Goodwill is always a treat!) “Junking” for hidden treasure is one of my favorite pastimes.

Of course the first step for any item is a thorough cleaning. Labels are removed and grime is scrubbed off.

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Next, everything gets two coats of gesso to create a paintable surface and block any colors or blemishes that did not come off with cleaning.

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The bottles (or boxes or toys, etc.) get two to three coats of paint. I am partial to indoor acrylic paint (the kind that goes on walls) for this step because it is durable and sample sizes come in lots of cool colors. I also use plaster of Paris to create my own chalk paint for this step.

Some items get acrylic craft paint, which usually requires extra coats. The type of paint is dictated by the material it is going on.

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After the base coats are dry, every motif that’s going on the item has to be created on paper, card stock, wallpaper, sheet music, book pages, etc. using a variety of inks, paint, pencils, and pastels.

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Once the elements are done, they get a coat of fixative  to seal the work and add a subtle sheen.

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Next, the elements are applied to the item with a variety of adhesives (depending on the materials) and craft or fabric paint and glitter are added to the edges.

23316727_1500196130016923_7630399991227667318_nThe final step is attaching embellishments like beads, rhinestones, and costume jewelry. It can be tricky to get the embellishments to stay put while the glue dries.

 Once everything is glued in place, the final product is ready to be signed and photographed for the website.

 

 

The Devil’s in the Details

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Popular advice on living and working goes two ways: “Don’t sweat the small stuff” or “Take care of the small things and the big things will take care of themselves.”

No wonder I’m always so confused! The paradoxical nature of these philosophies can create problems in life management. (At least it has for me lately.) As we move closer to launching our new product line (Colarting – where coloring becomes art) and our new website, the details seem to be ganging up on me and holding me down.

Two nights ago I spent three hours looking at embellishments online – weighing the pros and cons of rhinestone size, shape, and color; checking a ruler for relative size of charms; figuring out per piece prices on packaging; comparing the merits of glitter cord versus metallic cord … you get the picture. After dangling my toes in the wholesale supply market I presented my list to Lochinvar like a cat dropping a goldfish at her owner’s feet (and with about the same result). Needless to say he really just didn’t know what to do with this detailed list of shiny bits meant for our kits. (This is a good example of how to not sweat the small stuff – get someone else to do it for you. Of course, the down side to that is you are stuck with someone else’s decisions.) On the other hand, the right assortment of embellishments will add value to our pieces and (hopefully) make people want to buy them. Ultimately, Lochinvar did what all good partners do – he said, “This looks great!” and smiled encouragingly, even though he wasn’t really sure what I had done.

So, every time I spend hours doing something that looks insignificant I find myself contemplating whether or not I’m overthinking it or spinning my wheels for too long. After all, I have a deadline to meet. Which, of course, is another double-edged sword. While some people balk at deadlines, I tend to thrive under them. My ability to work under tight deadlines helped me land (and keep) my first writing job at The Mountain Press (my hometown newspaper), and it’s a skill that has served me well over my 23-year teaching career (especially when it comes to getting essays graded). However, deadlines are also stressful. They impose a sense of urgency that keeps me awake at night and demands time away from relaxing activities like enjoying a dirty martini and a James Bond movie with a cat in my lap.

I guess, in the end, the trick is choosing which details to give time to. If I sweat the right details (but not all the details) perhaps that will be enough.

 

 

Crafting Can Save the World (or at least your sanity)

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Frequently people ask me what I “get” out of crafting. They point out that it takes a lot of time, it can be messy, and the materials take up valuable storage space. While all of these ideas are true to some extent, crafting provides a plethora of benefits.

working-with-handsWorking with your hands invites a “can-do” attitude. Each time we create something, we learn that we are capable of creating something. I realize this sounds simplistic, but the truth in that statement can be profound. Many of us spend our lives thinking we’re not capable of doing something. We tell ourselves we could never have that job, or be in charge of that project, or finish that degree. This negative self-talk convinces us that we are not able to complete complex tasks. However, when we create, we learn through trial and error. We use productive struggle in a safe environment. After all, craft projects are not matters of life and death, so we’re allowed to get them wrong, and then fix them on the next attempt. With each small success we learn that we CAN do things; we CAN figure out how something is put together; we CAN have another shot; we CAN change our minds; we CAN learn and grow and become.

accomplishmentCrafting gives us something to show for our effort. This goes hand-in-hand with that can-do attitude by providing a sense of accomplishment. Many of us are frustrated in our jobs because at the end of the day we don’t feel like we’re any closer to success than we were the day before. This kind of frustration is rampant in my profession because as a teacher it can sometimes be years (if ever) before a student tells me how I helped him or what I taught her. While I do the best I can every day, at times I just need to feel that I finished a project so I can step back and admire my handiwork.

imaginingCrafting helps us see the world in a different way. Many of us spend our days in front of a screen – television, smart phone, computer monitor, etc. These bright, moving projections (or static lines of text – as the case may be) frame our world with visual, but non-tangible elements. (After all, we can’t pet that adorable Lil Bub no matter how many times we smile at her photo.) This removal of texture and three-dimensional objects can make the world seem flat and far-removed. When we manipulate wood, paper, fabric, beads, or paint, we come into physical contact with our surroundings. Our brains and eyes are provided with a different kind of stimuli which in turn helps us see our environment, our world, from a new perspective (not to mention giving our tired eyes a rest).

color-and-textureCrafting is cathartic. Color holds connotations for our society at large and for each of us individually. Vibrant colors like red, orange, and yellow make us feel alive and energetic spurring us to move forward. When we create something using these colors it seems to become imbued with that energy, and perhaps the creation makes us smile each time we see it on display. Colors like blue, green, and purple express another mood. Thus my studio becomes a place where I can express emotions freely without having to explain them to anyone.

giving_a_giftCrafting a gift for someone shows how much you care. I know that sometimes “homemade” conjures up images of clay ashtrays and cotton ball Santas made by our elementary-aged kiddos, but a piece of art contains a lot of heart. (Cheesy, but true!) When we make something beautiful for a friend or family member we are giving that person a piece of ourselves and a reminder of our most precious resource – time. These kinds of gifts can become cherished mementos of loved ones. As a matter of fact, Lochinvar and I have a Valentine’s Day tradition of only spending a dollar for each year we have been together. While we’re coming up on our 23rd anniversary which provides a little leeway, this was extremely challenging when we were young (and poor). One year he spent two dollars on some pastel colored paper. He cut the paper into squares and folded them into origami flowers. Then he used wire remnants to make stems and put them in a vase from our cabinet using old marbles to hold them in place. This lovely reminder of his gentleness and care lived on my desk at school for many years (until time and moving made them so ragtag that they fell apart). Each day when I came to work and saw my paper bouquet I felt loved. There is strength in that lasting warmth, for the giver and the receiver.

alg-knitting-jpgCrafting can be a social event. While I carry out most of my artistic endeavors alone in my studio with old rock and roll playing in the background, sometimes others get involved in my projects. Several years ago I created a fairy wand from silk flowers, ribbon, duct tape, and light weight dowels. These wands were thematically related to a musical that Lochinvar was directing at school, and we planned to sell them as a fundraiser. Since this required us to make quite a few, we created a little assembly line operation and enlisted the help of others. By the time we were done, not only did we have fairy wands but we also had memories of laughter and fun. A craft project is a great “in” with people. Creating something concrete together also helps create intangible connections with those around us.

Hopefully, the next time someone says, “I just don’t get it,” you’ll be able to explain why she should join our crafty ranks to save the world – even if it’s just one little corner of it.

 

 

A Real Who’s Who

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Well, I have done it. I have taken the plunge and am in the process of building a website. (I just keep remembering the man who ate an elephant – one bite at a time!) It is a little intimidating but interesting. I’m learning about all kinds of tools, and layout, and content needed for thecockeyedcolorist.com . However, as a creative endeavor it is also fun. I enjoy the process, and I’m having a good time writing some of the descriptors. (Although the artist statement still eludes me, and that will be the topic of a future post.) In the meantime, I’d like to give you a sneak peak of one of our pages by including the About Us content describing our staff.

toasting-our-friends-5-2Jenny Medlock (aka The Cockeyed Colorist) is the (not so) evil genius behind a diabolical plot to save the world through crafting by making people smile whether they want to or not.

 

toasting-our-friends-6-2Jeffrey Medlock (aka Lochinvar) is the organization’s Yes Man, as in “Yes, I know you can do it!” and “Yes, I’m here to help!” His jack-of-all-trades role keeps the machinery moving forward.

 

stanzi-1-2Stanzilicious Poufy Pants is the Efficiency Expert. She calls the staff to the basement to work every day and provides periodic petting breaks to her servants – I mean workers.

 

banditBanditulyumptious is the Cat Encouragement Officer (CEO) who brings incentive toys to the workers and makes sure everyone knows when it’s time to quit for dinner.

 

smudge-2Smudgicles (aka Old Blue Eyes) is Chaircat of the Board who oversees the whole production. From her seat of power she supervises the CEO and doles out responsibilities to the minions.

 

licorice-2Licorice is the Chief Fool and Art Critic (CFAC) who sees himself as a feline Jackson Pollock working in cat spit instead of gloss enamel.

 

georgie3Georgie Porgy is the Chief of Annoying Technology (CAT) who is never around when you need her. She specializes in hiding until problems are solved, unless someone shakes the treat jar.

And there you have it – the creative team behind our new website and our new product line (Coming Soon!) We hope your life is as colorful as ours!

 

More Bang for a Buck

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I know that many crafters are already familiar with the great “stuff” available at the dollar store, but sometimes I get excited about my finds and just have to share. A couple of days ago I was treading water between the end of school and the beginning of a meeting, so I stopped at a local Dollar Tree to pick up a snack. Of course, I couldn’t just hop in and out without perusing all the goodies – many of which just seemed to kamikaze off the shelves into my basket (go figure)!

I (obviously) started my excursion on the craft aisle where I found several kinds of glitter paint and glue. I was surprised to see the glitter hot glue sticks since those are not frequently available outside of craft stores. I also did not expect to see the large pieces of foam core / display board. These make a nice, sturdy foundation for lots of crafty ideas. Of course, the itty bitty clothes pins, colored buttons, and butterfly jewels are just too cute.

The office supply aisle yielded some pretty snazzy stickers and a couple of just fun items. I have to call your attention to the paper bracelets, though. These were hanging with the teacher/bulletin board items. I’m sure they’re meant to be reminders sent home to parents of small children. (Write the reminder and tape it around the child’s wrist so s/he doesn’t forget to tell Mom and Dad.) Still, I thought they could be pretty useful for remembering to bring something home or pick up something at the store. (Write your reminder and tape it around the handle of your purse or the steering wheel of your car.) Of course, many people do this sort of thing with sticky notes, but they always seem to fall off of where ever I place them.

Next stop was the toy aisle. I found a couple of nifty things to color for use in my classroom. (I thought the glittery poster board background on the balloon picture was really fun.) The other item is a colorable notebook cover and who doesn’t need more fun on their English notes? In addition, I found a bunch of cute puzzles. (Now, you have to understand that Lochinvar is a gifted puzzle person. He just glances at the pieces and knows where they go! This is a cool super power, but extremely frustrating to the rest of us mere mortals.) I envision that these could become the background for some nifty artwork. For example, complete the puzzle and glue it together. Then use a wash to tone down the colors and paint something related on top. How fun would that be?

Over on the wrapping paper aisle I found a series of “Diva” gift bags with the cutest cruel shoes. I envision cutting out the shoes and the words to use in a collage. Besides, who doesn’t love shoes? Of course, I have to love the pictures instead of the real thing because my feet would never tolerate such heels. I’d probably break an ankle just trying them on!

Over on the “home” aisle – where you find picture frames, small tools, etc. – I located these large-scale vinyl wall stickers. While I already have some of the floral and butterfly motifs, the over-sized elephant, birds, and balloon were newer designs. They actually come in two pieces which get matched up on the wall; although it would be cool to attach the stickers to an inexpensive canvas to give them a more artsy feel. It would also be fun to color the elephant before putting him up somewhere.

Overall, any time spent getting inspiration is a good time, but when those inspiration pieces are only a dollar, it’s even better! I hope you find colorful inspiration in your world.

 

Success Is Measured Many Ways

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Have you ever sort of failed at something but felt like you succeeded? That’s the situation I’m in regarding some jewelry box items I made last week. In the end, I successfully completed the project (which can be a win all by itself sometimes), but the items don’t really measure up to professional caliber. (I’ll show you in a minute!) However, even when projects don’t end up the way I’d hoped/planned/schemed/dreamed, there is still a sense of satisfaction that comes from the DIY mentality.

It all started when I purchased an old secretary a couple of months ago with the intention of turning it into a cabinet for my jewelry. (Trust me, I have lots!) I discovered that keeping all of my stuff in plastic tackle boxes wasn’t really conducive to wearing it. I didn’t take the time to look for just the right necklace and bracelet, I just grabbed my go-to pieces on top. So, I thought if I found a way to make the pieces more accessible, I’d wear more of it. (Seems logical, right?) And what better way to do that than with a piece of beat up old furniture.

Step one ensued – painting. Once that was accomplished, I jumped online to find some jewelry trays to hold my sparkly happiness. Unfortunately, the inexpensive trays were not the right size for my shelves or the drawers below. Sigh. After much searching I did find some trays that would fit the parameters, but they were high end adding up to nearly $200! (To be fair, they were wood with a lovely blue velvet lining – pretty sweet!)

This led to step two – DIY the jewelry trays. (This is the part that isn’t too pretty. You might want to look away!) In the end, I think the plan was good, but the execution lacked finesse. (What can I say, I’m much better with paper and paint than fabric and hot glue.)

Since I didn’t want to fork over the cash for fancy trays, I decided to use whatever I had to create my own. As luck would have it, I had three boxes from Christmas candy what were the perfect size for my shelf. (yeah!) So I covered them in wallpaper scraps and used a couple of stained towels to make the rolls for the rings. Then I covered those in left over felt and turned in the ends. The result was usable, but not particularly professional. (In retrospect, I might have chosen a softer, thinner fabric which would have made the ends much easier to finish.

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Here’s how the trays look in the cabinet. I used Command hooks to hang all my necklaces above and removed the extra shelves. I ended up purchasing beading trays to hold my earrings in a drawer below, but how to get the bracelets out of hiding eluded me for awhile. I looked at some of the t-shaped bracelet holders, but they were too tall for the drawer and a little pricey. Then I saw a bracelet tray that basically had “humps” to put the jewelry across but was low enough to fit in the drawer below. So I decided to give those a whirl, too. (Ever the optimist I figured this project had to be better than the ring trays!)

This one is made from a cat food flat (which is about the same size as the earring trays) and toilet paper rolls. Luckily for me, when I was revamping the studio last week I found some batting, which made the job easier. The process was pretty much the same as above with the exception of placing a pad in the bottom of the tray before covering the cardboard rolls and adhering them to the tray. I do think the ends finished a little better since I found some cardboard circles to cover with fabric and act as caps.

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Unfortunately, about halfway through the project I had a rather nasty run-in with the glue gun (silly me!). But Lochinvar came to my rescue with burn gel pads which took the sting away pretty quickly, so I finished the tray as the walking wounded. In the end, the pieces were not perfection, but there were several successes here. First, I didn’t have to fork over any extra money since everything was made with scraps. Second, I didn’t have to wait for shipping. (I’m really all about instant gratification.) Third, I had a good time embellishing the story of my wrapped hand at work today, and (finally) I have the pleasure of knowing that I figured out how to do it myself. So I’m calling it a win. I hope when your projects go awry, you’ll still see the bright side. (Hey, that’s why I’m the Cockeyed Colorist!)