Tag Archives: Coloring

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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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!

Halloween is Creeping Up on Us!

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Lochinvar and I love Halloween. (OK, maybe I LOVE Halloween and Lochinvar is kind enough to humor my obsession.) Either way, we always have something going on for fright night. In the past we have teamed up with friends to host murder mystery parties or participate in costume contests with outfits based on colors, characters, and general tomfoolery. This year we are hosting a Festival of Imagination complete with a two-sentence scary story contest, a howling contest, and a costume contest; and I’m going as … you guessed it … a coloring book.

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I found a pair of hot pink Crayola socks and a crayon-top hair ornament at the Halloween store. Then, I bought a plain white men’s dress shirt at Goodwill (It even has oo-la-la French cuffs!) for about four dollars. The rest was just a matter of drawing and coloring. While this was not difficult, it did take some time since I covered the entire body of the shirt and colored parts of it. Since coloring books are black and white, I’ll be pairing the shirt with a black skirt or black shorts (to show off the socks, of course) and plain black shoes. I’m also contemplating some temporary hair dye to match my pink crayon accessories.

If you want to be a coloring page, too, but don’t want to draw everything from scratch, I suggest blowing up a piece of clip art that you like and tracing it on to the shirt. You could scatter some larger elements, and then fill in spaces with smaller complementary items. If you don’t want to take the time to color the shirt, walk around with a few markers and have others color in pieces while you’re wearing it. You could also repeat the process on a pair of tights, plain white socks, or tennis shoes. This could also be a good activity for the kids if you prep the drawing on the shirt but let them color it.

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I used Tulip fabric markers for this project. (Just as an aside, several years ago I colored a pair of plain tennis shoes using Sharpies. The markers bled pretty badly, muddling the colors and my lines. It could have been the canvas rather than the markers, but I didn’t want to risk a repeat of that project, so I went with fabric markers instead.) I already had these in my stash of goodies, but they are readily available at discount and craft stores. Both kinds worked well, but I really liked the double-tip markers better. The fat end made a nice line for drawing the designs and coloring large areas, while the fine end worked well on smaller areas (like the cuffs). In addition, when the fatter tip started getting “dull” on the black marker, I simply snipped a little off to recreate a sharper tip.

dscn2416I did find that the darker colors (especially dark blue and purple) wanted to spread a little if used next to an already wet area. I combated this by coloring the darkest shades first and letting them dry for about 10 minutes before coloring lighter areas adjacent to the dark. In addition, I allowed the darker green to bleed when coloring leaves by using it around the edges before quickly coloring in the lighter shade and picking up some of the darker color. Just like in a regular coloring book, play with the blending. At first I used the colors as they were, but then I began mixing pinks and oranges to get nifty shades. Remember, the point is to have fun. (My feline companion Stanzilicious certainly had a blast helping me pick out the correct colors!)

If you don’t use a seasonal theme, you could wear your art work all year (which is what I had in mind). Now, though, I’m thinking about creating shirts with holiday themes like Halloween, Christmas, or New Year’s. A birthday shirt could be a fun way to let everyone know it’s your special day. Just think of all the embellishments! Happy Halloween and happy coloring!

Easy Desk Accessories

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Easy Desk Accessories

I really love the idea of upcycling because I enjoy turning trash into treasure (to be trite) and making something useful for little or no money. Tonight’s project fits the bill on all accounts. I’m always looking for a way to store pencils, markers, scissors, erasers, and all sorts of other little doodads. I like having them easily accessible, but out of the way. So,  pretty cup-style holders make sense to organize my creative space.

I started with a couple of empty cans. One is a larger vegetable can, and the other is a cat food can. The bigger one is perfect for an assortment of markers, while the smaller is just the right size for paper clips, erasers, or pencil grips. I simply washed them out and removed the labels, which usually come off easily and provide a template for the decorations.

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Next, I grabbed a completed coloring page. (This one is from Creative Cats by Marjorie Sarnat.) I chose it because I think the cat surrounded by paint tubes and brushes is a good decorative touch for my drawing table. Since I wanted the cat’s face to be a focal point, I cut across the picture and pieced the strips together to make a new “label” for the larger can. I left my strip a little longer than the original to make sure I had plenty of overlap. (You can always cut some off, but it’s difficult to add it back on!)

Next, I repeated the process with another coloring page since there wasn’t enough left of the first one to cover the small can, too. (This page is from Flower Art and was drawn by Susan Bloomenstein.) I wanted the flowers to be right side up, so I (again) cut across the sheet and glued the two pieces together.

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The final step is to simply wrap the new labels around the can and glue them in place. I put some glue on the back of the paper in several places to help secure it, and then just glued down the overlapping edges. Voila! The cans are ready to serve as colorful organizers for my desk.

You could construct a whole set from coordinating coloring pages. Choose a theme that fits your style. A group of these along with some colored pens, etc. to fill the cans would make a nice teacher gift, too. (Trust me, teachers can never have too many containers!)

Remember, use what you have to make the world a little brighter! Happy coloring!

 

Summertime, and the Book Marks are Easy

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With summer reading just around the corner, tonight I’m sharing one of my favorite quick and easy uses for coloring pages. Book marks make great gifts for teachers and librarians as well as nice add-ons to  gift cards from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, etc. Summer trips to the library bring back fond memories from my childhood. There’s something comforting about the amiable silence, the smell of the paper, and the feel of a good book in my hands. (Ok … maybe it’s an English teacher thing, but what can I say?) In this age of digital reading, my family still sojourns to the used book store and sorts though other people’s left overs at the local thrift shops, so we necessarily have a supply of book marks on hand, and coloring pages or small pieces of artwork are the perfect way to personalize these items. Here’s a photo of my current assortment made from purchased coloring books and my own drawings. (I usually have a large stash because I give them away as freebies at craft shows.) DSCN2327[1]

These are super simple to make! Just choose a page or a piece of artwork that you’ve completed and cut it into strips. I like 1.5 to 2 inches, but any size is fine. Once the pages are cut apart, I use a broad-tip black Sharpie to add a little frame. This sets off the artwork and makes the book mark look more finished. (You might also add a person’s name on the back to make sure each family member has his or her own.) The final step is to laminate them. Of course you can use laminating sheets, but I usually use book tape because it is heavy duty and wide enough to cover the whole book mark in one piece (and I always have some in my stash). Once this is done, you could punch a hole in the top center and add a piece of ribbon, if you like.

Generally I don’t do this because the addition of free floating ribbon just means an item will become a cat toy at my house. As a matter of fact, here’s a snapshot of my almost constant companion, Wulfgar, who was named after a character in a book! He loves to play with dangling pieces of ribbon!

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To help you get started with this project, I doctored last weeks free download a little, adding lines every 1.5 inches to make it extra easy to turn the page into some bright floral book marks. Happy coloring (and reading, too)!

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Colorful Party Favors and a Free Download

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Spring seems to be a time for bright colors and celebrations – Easter, Mother’s Day, Graduation, along with the perennial baby showers, birthdays, and bridal showers. These special days often entail parties with friends and family, so today I’m going to show you how to make an easy party favor/decoration for your next get-together.

As always, I’ll start with a finished coloring book page. This one came from Art Nouveau Animal Designs from Creative Haven. If you are making several of these party favors, using multiple pages from the same coloring book will help carry through your theme without being repetitive. (Get family members to help color the pages if there are quite a few!) If you’re pressed for time, color one or two, and make copies.

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To make sure you get as much color and design as possible, start by trimming away the white borders.

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Next, shape your paper into a cone. I used double-sided tape to secure the edges, but glue would work well, too, though you’ll have to clip the edges in place until the glue dries (or use hot glue for instant gratification).

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Next, I used some sparkly tape to fashion a hanger. You could use ribbon, rickrack, washi tape, or even pieces of left over paper to create a hanging loop. I just stuck two pieces of tape back-to-back to make it pretty from both sides. Then I used a tape remnant to adhere the loop inside the back tip of the cone.

Next, I used a scrap of construction paper to make an edge that covered up the attachment and the inside of the coloring page where the marker showed through. This could be gussied up by using paper doilies or fancy punches for a lacy edge (perfect for Mother’s Day or a bridal shower). As you can see, I just rolled up the scrap and put it inside the cone. When I released it, the scrap adjusted itself to the space, and I used double-sided tape to hold it in place.

Once the cone itself is finished, it’s time to embellish! (You didn’t really think I’d just leave it plain, did you?) I started with an old button and some scraps of ribbon and rickrack. I pulled a piece of pretty gold rickrack through the button holes, made loops for a bow with the remaining pieces and then tied it all together. Tying the bow through the button made it very easy to attach it to the cone with hot glue.

While I had the glue gun out, I couldn’t resist adding some colored jewels from my stash. Use whatever you have on hand and whatever fits your theme. After I finished, it occurred to me that I could have outlined some of the elements on the coloring page with glitter before I started. I think that would really pretty if you were doing something bird themed or in pastels and lace trims.

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Here’s the final product. It is ready to fill with some goodies from the store or from your kitchen. I think wrapping some candy in a piece of tulle and tying it with a pretty ribbon would finish this off nicely.

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Since spring is all about flowers, I’m attaching a downloadable fun flower design coloring page to use at your next party. Happy coloring!

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Easter Craft Idea

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As a coloring book artist, I spend a great deal of time thinking about how to use my artwork once it’s finished. Framing is always an option, but I like to incorporate bright colors and bold designs throughout the house. Since springtime (and Easter) usually sees my table bedecked with lovely flowers, tender young vegetables, and creamy desserts, I think some colorful place mats are in order. To that end, I designed an Easter coloring page to use on my table.

This is a fun way to get the whole family involved in an activity. Everyone can color his or her own picture to be turned into a personalized place mat. Or, if you’re the only one who enjoys the coloring process, take your masterpiece to a copy shop and have color copies made. (You could also scan and upload your artwork to order the prints online.) Either way, be sure you don’t count your original as one of your place mats, since color can vary on copiers and it might not exactly match the copies you end up with. Once the artwork is finished, it is just a matter of framing it out with larger paper, embellishing it (with flat items only), and laminating it to create a waterproof mat.

Here’s how the process looks from start to finish.

I started by scanning in my drawing and creating a PDF with a nice margin that framed the picture. You can download the finished drawing here for free: Happy Easter Page. (Be sure your printer is set to landscape – not portrait – when you print it.) I printed mine on white card stock to make it a little sturdier than plain paper.

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Of course, the next step is to color the page. Once that’s done, you can use scrapbook paper or construction paper to mat it and create the place mat.

As you can see, I tried quite a few different colors before making a final choice. The blue goes with my home’s decor, so I ended up with that one, but the bright red and green were springy and fun. The double frame of yellow and blue seemed like overkill, and although the black really made the colors pop, it wasn’t right for a spring time table setting. I also tried out some glitter paper in green, pink, and purple, but that didn’t really work for me, either. Just use trial and error until you find the paper that’s right for you.

After I chose the medium blue paper, I decided the artwork could use a little embellishment. I usually have a few packages of assorted edgings, but you could use washi tape, left over rickrack, lace, or anything else that will lie flat enough to be laminated.

 

Once the embellishments were applied, I cut the paper down to 12 x 14.5 inches. The “standard” place mat size is about 12 x 18 inches (which is the size of the large construction paper I used for the background), but I didn’t like the way the extra paper looked on the sides, and that seemed a little big for my table. (I didn’t want the mats to overlap.) If you’re unsure of the best size for your table, just measure a favorite place mat as a guide. You could also consider cutting your artwork and paper into circles if you have a round table.

Finally, I took apart a silk flower to make it lie flat and added that to the bottom corner. Then I laminated the whole thing with book tape. (Hey, use what you have!) Of course, you can also use the iron on laminating sheets, clear contact paper, or have the finished mat laminated at the copy shop. Another good way to protect your artwork might be to make clear vinyl “envelopes.” This would take more time up front, but you’d be able to swap out the paper part easily to have mats for every holiday and season.

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Here’s the final product. (As you can see, the light is glaring a little on the laminate.) I hope you have fun making your own Easter place mats!

Decisions, Decisions

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If I have to stare at the computer screen for another hour this week, I might scream. (Oh wait, here I am in front of a computer screen – sigh.) Our digital world has presented many pros and cons lately. As I move through ordering materials for our new venture I find myself making decisions about canopies, display pieces, retail shopping bags, logo stickers, packaging, and at least a dozen other items that have currently slipped my mind. (It’s a good thing I keep a notebook!) On one hand, I am grateful to have so many online stores providing so many choices that I can (after so many hours of searching) get exactly what I want at a price I can afford. On the other hand, the dizzying array of choices seem to make the decisions harder than they have to be.

I’ve discovered I do that frequently – make decisions harder than they have to be. My mind has a difficult time settling on something (anything) until I’ve scoped out all (and I do mean ALL) of my options. While this usually means I’m happy with my final choice, it also means that I spend a lot of time agonizing over details that may seem inconsequential to others. For example, I spent several hours on four separate days looking at retail merchandise bags to use following a sale. What’s so hard about choosing a bag, you ask? Aside from the fact that there are about 300 kinds that I never realized existed and that online sellers have widely varying prices, minimum quantities, and shipping costs, I’m concerned about getting just the right feel for my customers. I want to be sure to choose an environmentally friendly bag. I want to be sure to give my customers an “artsy” feel at the end of the purchase. I want my customers to feel they have acquired a gift, whether it is for themselves or someone else. I want to be sure it is a reflection of our business idea that life should be seriously colorful. Ultimately, I think I found a bag that ticked off all of those boxes, but it was not easy, and (I can assure you) I lost sleep at night contemplating the pros and cons of paper versus plastic.

While this may seem like overkill, I’m discovering that the devil’s in the details. My parents owned businesses for many years, and I did a great deal of research and reading before starting this (very) small business. I think I’m going in with my eyes open, but I’m still surprised by the number of seemingly easy decisions that have a large impact on a daily basis. I never imagined buying things like envelopes and zip ties could hold so much significance that I would comparison shop at least 10 sellers before ordering. Nor did I imagine how excited I would be when the UPS truck stops in front of my house. Tomorrow Lochinvar and I are going to put the whole display together for the first time. (I’ll probably lie awake tonight imagining how wonderful it will be!) As each decision is actually made and each order is fulfilled, we feel ourselves moving closer to the moment of truth and the anticipation is tangible. So, while the decisions are frustrating and tiresome, they’re also paving the way for us to really get started on this adventure. And we’ve learned from experience that no matter what happens, at least it will be interesting.