Thursday, 30 December 2010

Blog giveaway

Just the quickest of posts to say pop over to Linda's blog and you can enter a give away to win Tim Holtz goodies - and see her beatuiful art work too of course.

I'll be back over the long weekend with 365 journal updates - 2010 is nearly finished (well the journalling bit anyway) and I'm already thinking about a 2011 format.

Sunday, 12 December 2010

Sometimes real life gets in the way

I've been falling further and further behind on crafty things of late. Pressure of the day job has been increased by the bad weather multiplying my normal hour each way journey and by long term and unexpected serious illnesses in the family detracting from time and inclination to create pretty things. As a result I don't have much to share just now.

I've been working on a 12 days of Christmas swap where all the participants make 12 of the same gift, send them to the coordinator who packages them up with one of each item to a parcel and sends each player a set back. We open these one each day in the run up to Christmas and because we don't know what each of us in opening it is a secret what we have made until everyone has opened all their parcels. You'll need to come back after Christmas day to see what I've been up to.

I have just about kept going with my 365 day journal challenge.

My completed pages for October and November are here - not wonky in real life just in the super quick snap shots:

And my December page ready to start (well nearly) is here:

If you'd like to keep a journal like this next year check out the wonderful Kate Crane's article in the new issue of Craft Stamper magazine for step by step instructions and inspiration.

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Missing in action

I've been getting more and more behind somehow. I'm in one of those weird places where I've got too many things going on and can't quite apply myself to any of them properly.

So in a bit of catch up mode here are a whole series of snippety updates. None are in the state where I am really happy with them but if I don't make myself move on I think I might be somehow stuck for ages yet. Anyone else out there get periodically stuck in creative limbo?

So here goes...

My six month stint on The Altered Element design team officially ended in September but I never posted about my last project because by messing about with an order (all my fault) I got the goodies late. Lynne sent me a dear little jar of buttons which is too cute to open,
and a papier mache urn which has been haunting me. It is still work in progress but I've has lots of fun experimenting with Viva paints to get tons of texture on the surface.

I discovered by accident that if you put water based ink over a gesso base and then apply Croco crackle paint (to cover up what didn't turn out how you wanted) that the cracks reveal the white base and the colour is drawn into the glass like cracked surface. Still thinking what to do next - it might end up filled with chocolate coins at Christmas.

My 365 day journal challenge page for October got journalled on time but I still haven't managed to put the October title on it. November has journal squares but again no title and no journalling yet. Must try harder.

I made a couple of jewellery items for swaps this month. A bracelet using up more grunge paper charms like those posted for an earlier DT challenge and a pendant with a fabric paper cameo. Unfortunately by the time I'd sent myself doolally embroidering miniscule french knots I was up against the deadline so didn't get chance to take piccies.

And finally, the Christmas issue of Craft Stamper magazine will be hitting the shops tomorrow and it is a belter, crammed full of gorgeous and inspiring projects. Kim Costello's Masterclass on making buttons is totally brilliant and Kate Crane's bright and alternative decoration is fabulous too. And that is just for starters, you really must take a look.

Thursday, 30 September 2010

Is it just me?

Or do other people get that "exam avoidance syndrome". You know, the one where you have something important with a deadline and instead all those things you never ever do suddenly have to be done.

When I was studying for my accountancy exams the oven only ever got cleaned when I was supposed to be revising.

This week the arrival of my son's French exchange student partner required the urgent clearance of my craft "toys" from the spare room into storage boxes so instead I got lots of stuff out and made little houses for a swap not due until 3 weeks after he leaves.

Here are the houses in question which had to be autumnal in colour scheme and include a face. I used scientists - I find I often revert back to science and engineering subjects - I somehow liked the contrast of black and white pictures with the organic looking backgrounds made with kitchen towel, doylies, ink spray and oil pastels.

I must go stand in the naughty corner now!

Catching up slowly

At last my August 365 challenge pages uploaded. These are the ones that were ready on time (honest - but the old adage pride comes before a fall is obviously true, I must have been a bit too pleased with myself) but got held up by technological hitches.

And here is the almost finished September page. I got a bit left behind on the journalling and had to make myself go back and fill in the sparse patch at the last minute or I'd have lost it completely. It is still missing the days of the week headings but I will add them when I put the titles onto October. I think I was getting ahead of myself colourwise though - this seems very Autumnal for September.

And here is October - not quite but nearly ready to go.

Friday, 24 September 2010

Failed again!

Having got myself completely upto date with my 365 day journal challenge by the end of August I then hit another technical snag - battery flat and then memory card full - so I couldn't post the evidence straight away.

I then forgot about it for a while and got a sudden reminder when I met the wonderful Kate of The Kathryn Wheel with her daughter at the Great Northern Papercraft Extravaganza. Needless to say I still haven't had a chance to get sorted - there are just too many distractions and temptations to fill any spare moments I have.

Here's just one...

Jill and her DT colleagues at The Stamp Man have a fabulous challenge running at the moment, and even better than that they are running a blog hop with super candy in conjunction with it. Do take a look at the letters they have altered - starting from here..... and hopping along. It will save you from housework for ages!

I will try really really hard to catch up on posting over the weekend - it will be like buses, none for ages then 2 or 3 at once (again).

Friday, 27 August 2010

Part 2 - what to do with the left overs and another interesting experiment

Here are some more ideas using virtually the same techniques with clay, stamps and mica powder to use up the offcuts and disasters.

First, whilst you have most clay left, roll it up into a ball and press it to flatten a little with the palm of your hand. Then take a texture plate, lie it on top and carefully roll over it ONCE to make a patterned surface and to press the clay thinner. I'm sure this is probably not the recommended approach but it is super quick and easy and provided you don't roll repeatedly backwards and forwards you get a clear pattern.

I used a Sculpey texture making plate, but stamps with a background or script pattern are good and with improvisation you could use a Cuttlebug embossing folder too.

I generally cut the patterned clay into random shapes like tags and rectangles before colouring so they don't all have to be the same colour. These make useful embellishments to have on hand for cards and projects. In the example below I have cut a square to fit a papier mache frame to make a Christmas decoration. These frames a cheap and great fun. They have an aperture on both sides so as well as using remnants you could really go to town with Christmas stamps to make the clay pieces. The result is not very heavy and so suitable to hang on the tree. (Yes I know - it is too early to be talking about Christmas.)

I used green mica powder on the clay as before and then after baking it I rubbed a bit of gold (Krylon pen) with my finger over the raised pattern to emphasise it.

If you don't already have alphabet stamps, cookie cutters and texture plates this starter kit from Walnut Hollow is a neat way to get started - and comes with a box to keep everything in its place.

The alphabet pieces are designed to slot into a small handle with even spacing between letters - and there is a blank if you need to leave a space. It is quick and not too fiddly to use. The main challenge is to remember to assemble the pieces with the word and letters backwards. Working with individual letter stamps is easier in some respects because you spell as you go, but putting the whole word together first helps with sizing and centreing.
Here is an example. You can make little personalised tags, embellishments and add wording to larger projects in this way.

And finally, when you are down to the smallest ball of left over clay, roll it in your palms into a sphere and then press it with your thumb onto a texture mat or background pattern stamp to make a little button shape.

You can either add mica as before or paint them after baking. The black one below is a scrap that had some metal leaf mixed in (recycled error). The blue one is painted with acrylic paint and rubbed over with some metallic paint to higlight the pattern.

And now for my first experiment with Sculpey Bake and Bond. This is a bakeable adhesive intended for bonding Sculpey pieces to each other or to porous surfaces. I'm not entirely sure my experiment was what they had in mind, but paper is a porous surface right?
I conditioned, rolled out and trimmed to size a piece of clay - buttercream colour. Then I applied the Bake & Bond to the clay. It is very gloopy and sticky and so tricky to spread neatly. I ended up using my fingers (happens often) to spread the liquid without wrecking the smooth rolled surface of the clay.
Then I positioned some images face down onto the Bake & Bond and smoothed them down - again using fingers. I start in the centre of each piece and rub gently outwards to try and ensure complete contact. I anticipated that this first attempt might not be very tidy which is why I chose seaside images so the end result could justifiably look "weathered".
A quick tidy up to straighten the edges where working on the clay had distorted it and I created faux tiles by indenting the clay in between the pictures before baking.

Now the exciting bit....
Once the piece has baked and cooled take a dripping wet dishwashing sponge and press to thoroughly soak the paper bonded onto the clay.

Then rub the wet paper to peel it back in layers from the clay leaving behind the pictures. you may need to keep re-soaking as you go but you can be fairly vigorous without damaging the image.

As I suspected my first go was not completely successful. I had not pressed one corner into contact properly and the edges of each image were as wiggly as the gloop spreading. You also need to remember (and I know this but got carried away with new toys and didn't think about it) the images with writing come out backwards. Fortunately here the boat is so small you can't really tell that the name is back to front.
Nevertheless, I was please enough to incorporate it into a little project. I painted and weathered a little box with seaside colours, netting pattern, and flicks of dark blue spray which also "altered" another of my tops!

The materials used in these projects are available from The Altered Element. Click on the links in the text to see them.

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Really simple stamping and polymer clay - part 1

And yes I do mean really simple. Like many of the techniques I revert to, this is very forgiving and suitable for even the most inexperienced of stampers, nothing gets wasted and apart from the clay you only need a few materials that you probably already use for normal paper based stamping projects.

The basic ingredients are:

Polymer clay (Sculpey or Fimo work fine). I usually use black but colour doesn't matter for this technique because all the clay surface is eventually covered.

Mica powders. Again any sort will do. I use a mixture of Pearlex, Perfect Pearls and Moonglow in this project because that is what I happen to have collected over the years but if you don't already have any Cosmic Shimmer Powders come in sets of pretty colours to get started with.

Stamps - rubber or clear, mounted or not. The key here is not to choose too detailed an image. Photo type stamps do not work well. Something bold, outline or text which adds texture as well as an inked image is good. Here I used the Eco Green Garden Chic set from my Altered Element DT challenge pack.

Ink. I used Brilliance but Crafters or Chalk ink pads which also heat set will work too.

And to finish as many bits and pieces of embellishment as you choose from your stash.

A few basic tools are useful and those you don't already have can be improvised. I work on a heat proof non stick craft sheet so it is easy to transfer projects. A rolling pin (or substitute) and a blunt edge like a table knife for cutting are pretty much essential too. You can buy lovely purpose made tools for working with clay though if you intend to use it a lot.
All the materials and tools can be obtained from The Altered Element.

To make a finished piece to fit roughly folded A5 or a 4x6 incj frame, take half a block of clay.

First condition it by warming and rolling in your palms until you can form a ball. Then roll it out, either through a pasta machine (note DO NOT use it for food as well) or with a rolling pin. You can buy acrylic rolling pins for the purpose but a child's plastic one from a baking set is cheaper and works as well (or even an empty - well it wouldn't be full would it - wine bottle). Roll and fold 4 or 5 times to get a flexible sheet of clay. I roll in opposite directions each time so the end result is something like a rounded square rather than long and thin which it is after the first roll - unless of course you want a long thin project.
Next trim your sheet to the size and shape you require. Here I have straightened the edges. You can use a plastic blade or a table knife as the clay is very soft. Note: I have learned the hard way not to use a craft knife - you can see the line cut through my craft sheet as a result in the picture below!

(My piece was a bit square so I gave it another roll before the next step.) Now cover the clay completely with mica powders in your choice of colours. Use either a soft brush or just your finger tips to spread the powder onto the clay. It will stick by itself with no pressure so that you end up with a smooth sheen on the surface.

Next ink up your stamp and stamp onto the prepared surface of the clay. Press down evenly over the whole stamp. You need to take a little care to press so that you make an indentation into the clay but you don't need to press really hard or you go right through.

The good news is though that accidents are easily put right. If you press a little too hard and end up with a mark where the edge of your stamp pressed this can be disguised by gently rolling the clay again. Your impression will be deep enough to remain after the edge marks are smoothed.

If that doesn't work you can still either carry on with the next steps and add design features and embellishments to disguise blemishes or roll the clay up into a ball and start again. This works even after you have applied mica powders and ink and in fact if you've had several goes the powder helps stop the clay becoming too tacky and overworked.

Stamping into the clay will distort it a little but it doesn't matter because the next step is to take advantage of the clay medium and add some more distortion.
Gently peel some of the edges up from the craft sheet and gently stretch the clay a little so it doesn't lie flat again. Make small nicks into the edges (I use my thumb nail) and then roll the clay edge back to get an effect a bit like the curled edge of an old scroll.
Finally poke some holes hrough the clay. A ball ended parchment or metal tool or the rounded tip of a paintbrush handle works fine. Simply push the tool right through and circle slowly to stretch the hole to the size you like. You might need to brush a little mica powder over the edges and holes to conceal any bare clay exposed at this stage.

When you are happy with the result it is time to bake it. Follow the manufacturers instructions regarding temperature and timing. I transfer the pieces still on my craft sheet onto a baking tray, cover it with foil and fold the edges to seal in any fumes.

Remove from the over after the recommended time and leave covered to cool. As a precaution I generally unwrap outside to release any fumes.
The final steps are to embellish and mount the piece. Here I have made spirals of wire to thread through the holes at the top and then pulled these into 3-D shapes. I have threaded beads and cord through the holes at the side and added some Vintaj brass charms to finish.
The whole piece is mounted onto an easel style card but you could also frame it. Use an ordinary photo frame and put a sheet of card or paper in front of the glass inside the frame, then glue the clay piece into place.
For further ideas on using the scraps trimmed off and to see my first experiment with Bake and Bond please come back and see installment 2.

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

At last!

I have finally caught up with myself. Seven months down and five to go in the 365 Calendar Challenge and I still haven't managed to post a single month on time. July has been especially late but with fab excuses - the weekend of 31st I was away in Bristol to see my son playing a concert with the National Childrens' Orchestra and, equally brilliant, on the Saturday just gone I had a day at Art from the Heart doing a Dina Wakely workshop. That, the day job and domestic duties have not left time for the technological trials of posting until now.
I've got a week off work now though and when the gardening gets rained off - which forecasts indicate might be a lot - I'm playing with the Garden Chic stamps Lynne at The Altered Element sent for my DT project this month. I've been working on tiny little canvas surfaces 4x4 and 2x2 inches that were part of the stamping surfaces pack a couple of months back.
This first one is the larger size and has a thick gloopy painted background with added string for texture. The butterfly is made from layers of paper sprayed with inks.
This tiny canvas has a less painty background and more string.
And this (also tiny) one was a complete disaster at first. I just couldn't get the background so I liked it and I used so many layers to try and fix it that it was much too thick. So I peeled the canvas off the board, painted it white and started again on a smooth surface. The same paints look quite different on a smooth background on this small scale. I added dimension by putting Glossy Accents over the flowers and stems at the end.

Sunday, 1 August 2010

And another one...

These little books have covers bound with painted silk, reinforced with Vilene interfacing and glued over hardboard. The pages inside are made from watercolour paper, folded into signatures and pierced using a pricking tool and... the reverse of the mouse mat.

I photocopied the painted silk before binding the covers and used the copies to make matching fly sheets at the front and back.

And use five for a surplus mouse mat is for embossing. With apologies to any parchment craft lovers, who will no doubt be appalled, I embossed the figure in this photo (another image from the Artchix sheet in my July DT pack) using the rounded end of a paintbrush handle and the back of a mouse mat to give her something of the effect of those Wedgewood cameos where the image is in relief.
I also painted her with a coat of watered down glossy accents so she appears as a raised image with sheen against the grungy background. As ever my photography in not the best but you can just about use imagination to see the effect in the close ups below.

Both items were made for swaps so I really hope I haven't spoiled the surprise by showing them here.
And onto August already! I don't know where time goes. Lynne at The Altered Element sent me these pretty garden themed stamps which I will play with as soon as I've caught up with my 365 day challenge.

Thursday, 15 July 2010

101 uses for a surplus mouse mat

This month Lynne at The Altered Element gave us the chance to choose items to use for our DT challenge projects. So, being strict with myself and in keeping with the spirit of "challenge" I selected the bits and pieces in the picture below. Big challenge... no purple this month.

I also self selected an item for the upcycle challenge - this mouse mat that came free with a music magazine and had been hanging around for ages.

Use number one would of course be as a mouse mat but in the age of the infra red mouse it isn't really needed.

Use number two would be as a pricking mat. The back although not very thick (it was a freebie after all) is soft foam and the picture, which would be the bottom when pricking, is tough and plasticy so you wouldn't go right through.

I was obviously in a destructive mood though and simple stabbing wasn't enough so I cut the mat into pieces. I have to confess I haven't actually got anywhere near to 101 uses but I did find a couple more to use in my projects....

Use three - make your own stamps.

Heat the underneath foam side gently and then press firmly onto items of your choice to make indentations. Hold for a minute whilst the foam cools and sets before lifting off. If you don't like the result you can reheat and try again. You can also do this technique with a Rub it Scrub it stamp cleaning mat when the scrubbing surface has worn out.

SAFTEY FIRST THOUGH - holding near a light bulb (one that is on of course) is enough. Don't go mad with a heat gun or any other heat source for that matter. Take care not to over heat and work in a well ventilated room in case of fumes. Make sure you use heat resistant things to impress your pattern too. Here I used fancy paper clips to make a swirly design.

One of the items in my DT selection was a chain bracelet. I made grunge paper charms - more recycling. The left over green painted grunge paper from my birdy creation last month got a new lick of paint, some spritzes with mica spray and overstamping (with my home made stamp) with assorted yellow and brown paint dabbers and inks. Each is finished with an eyelet and attached with a jump ring.

I made the reverse sides a slightly more subdued pinkier base colour and although you can't tell from the photo they have some Stickles glitter glue smeared on them.

Use four....

Squares of mouse mat fit into the Ranger memory frames and make an excellent cheap and safe alternative to glass slides when making items of jewellery.

In this first pendant I have coloured the frame with alcohol ink. The front of the pendant is the foan side of the mat. I paintend it with Lumiere gold paint, heated and stamped into it with a rubber stamp. The sparkly accents are more Stickles in gold and silver.

To cover the picture on the mat I used a piece of gold card daubed with alcohol ink.

Pendant number two has the frame painted with watered down (it is old and thick and I don't like the bulky, stubby brush) Crackle paint, inked over with some chalk and Brilliance ink pads once dry. These heat set but need a paint grounding to work really well on metal.

The collage on the front is made of scraps of music score stained with walnut ink and embellished with an image from the ArtChix sheet and some German Scrap.

The picture for the reverse is stamped onto tissue paper and coloured on the back with inks before glueing it to the mat. I painted two coats of Mod Podge over the top in opposite directions to protect the surface and give it some texture.

Uses 5 to 101 TBA when I think of them.

Because the ArtChix image sheet had pictures the right side for microscope slides I had to decorate a slide mailer. Not strictly recycling is it but I do have rather a lot of "blank" things that I've bought because I'm bound to use them one day so another challenge to myself - get something out and use it!

I covered the whole thing with torn pices of music score, wiped over with gesso, then paint dabber, then Stickles and then spritzed with mica spray to get a colourful messy background to blend with the yellow scheme of the images.

I glued on an image front and back and stamped words onto tissue paper to stick iinside. - More spritzing afterwards to blend them in.

I always use Xyron to stick images onto glass. That bit of all over stick makes it less likely for splinters of glass to cause injury if the slide is accidentally broken. I have coloured metal tape with alcohol ink and stuck it all round the edges for extra protection. The slide is glued into the aperture with a snippet of ribbon behind.

More pretty birds but NO purple in sight.