Trying something new

One of my preferred ways to take a break during the day is to browse images of crafts that are currently in my line of sight . So I go to Polymer Clay Daily to see what new designs are up, browse Pinterest and occasionally find something new from the various artists I follow on Instagram.

Earlier this year, I bought scarves that were on sale for a future project. I had this idea of crocheting small pieces that I could put on the scarf as embellishment. I started crocheting and I put the little bits away, same with the scarf.

I had been browsing some gorgeous handmade crochet scarves and hand embroidered items by Sophie Digard, and I was suddenly struck by an itch to do hand embroidery. I already had the scarf, the yarn, and even the tapestry needle needed to make it work, so I thought I’d try freeform embroidery.

No sketches, no design.. I chose an initial pair of balls and a third skein. I didn’t even think about getting an embroidery hoop. I felt confident enough to fall back on my doodling repetitive designs that eventually came out to be my paper flower garden. I pulled the thread carefully and I was mindful of how the thread went this way or that at the back as well. I had to undo stitches a couple of times, but for the most part, I’ve just been going off and on and I must say I’ve been enjoying myself.

I am working both ends of a Calvin Klein wool blend scarf. I made sure it was made of hand washable fabric and I washed it before putting it away to make it craft ready for whatever it is I am going to do with it. I work the design on each end as I go, just so I don’t forget the stitch or the design I have in mind. I’m still a long way off to finishing it, but it’s been easy enough that I am actually seeing major progress.

The challenge is really thinking of the design elements, more than the actual stitching.  I’ve outgrown the tendency to stitch too tightly, and the stitches I’ve been using enable me to “correct” the tension as I move along.

Freeform Yarn Embroidery

But generally, I like how I’ve done so far, so much so that I am already thinking of the next scarf I will be embroidering.  No pressure on finishing this anytime soon as the temperatures in New York have actually gone up again.  Autumn can’t seem to make up its mind, and while we have experienced some “jacket weather”, we’re keeping it to the lighter scarves for now, so I have time.

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Craft calendar revisited

The Gonzalez Christmas Card 2010
Our 2010 Christmas card featuring Angelo’s art
Back in February, I dared to put together a craft calendar in the hopes of planning my crafting year.  It was written with good intentions which I am still hoping can eventually shape the direction I take in this passion of mine.   It was a good idea to plan, and while I didn’t stick to the goals or project targets, I think it helped.

We are now entering the final quarter of the year and I’m keeping my fingers crossed that I will be able do accomplish even just a quarter of the holiday-related projects I had identified.

With the month officially ending this weekend, I am trying to get going on at least two of the items below:

September

  • Start series on Holiday-themed articles.
  • Work on Christmas decor.
  • Produce holiday cards.
  • Create gifts to give for the holidays.
  • Launch second postcard set.
  • Stock up the shop and launch holiday promo.
  • PROJECT: CHRISTMAS DECOR

I have started drafting Angelo’s and my Christmas card which I am tempted to have printed, but then again, I have all the materials and tools to produce it myself, so why bother?

I am going to start tinkering with our existing Christmas decor to hopefully produce a new holiday wreath.  (Yay!)  More on a separate post..

And yes, I will start creating new pieces both for the shop on Etsy and for my gift list.

With that said, I think I can move on to October.

October

  • Finish holiday card. (MUST be done before the month ends.)
  • Start series on handmade gifts for the holidays. (DIY projects for posting here!)
  • Put up my Christmas tree last week of October.  (Will start cleaning up this week to make room!)
  • PROJECT: Holiday Cards

And for the rest of the year, I hope I can stick to this schedule:

November

  • Mail out holiday cards.
  • Decorate tree first week, deck out the house.
  • PROJECT: Wrappers / Bags for the holiday gifts

December

  • Create and make gift packaging. (Wrapper, embellishments, tags)
  • Thank you cards
  • PROJECT: Recycling holiday wrap and cards

 I treat my lists as guidelines or guideposts.  They are never hard deadlines that cause undue stress.  Crafting, after all, is a diversion and not the be-all and emd-all of my existence.  I like that the list has reminded me that while we are still months to December, it’s about time I start thinking about my holiday card.  

As for the projects and tasks I missed, then there’s the option to roll them over to the following year or finish them before this one ends.  2017, after all, has not yet ended.

Getting organized

Getting organized: headpinsI came back from Sydney midnight Saturday, so this weekend is my first full weekend home.  I jumped back into work the Monday after and tried my best to cope with the jetlag, surviving it by sheer will and a judicious use of caffeine.  Not too much, not too little.  

Despite the stopover in Manila before and after Sydney, I didn’t bring a ton of supplies back — just three bags of headpins I had requested my sister-in-law to grab for me last minute, because I didn’t really have time to do any shopping.  

Friday night, I psyched myself up that I would just stay home this weekend and allow my body to rest and recover.  I stopped short of making plans to go this way and that and instead allowed myself the chance to just chill.  I decided to organize my head pins and eye pins and I am almost done with the two bins I focused on.  That was my idea of relaxing.

I am focusing on two bins knowing I have at least two more still stashed away somewhere.  I have not had the chance to really get down to organizing them until now, and I think I should’ve dealt with this sooner.  This is what happens when your supplies accumulate through the years, more so when I end up bringing new bins home each time I travel from Manila, and the stash usually stays on those bins instead of landing with like findings.

At the start, I organized them simply as they came.  I love the 1000 pin packs I get from Wellmanson’s in Quiapo (back in Manila), but the packs usually come bent and misshapen, so storing them means taking the time to actually flatten out the pin  Then there are the packs I buy from Firemountain Gems which usually come in smaller batches because they are pricier.  I stash those in a bin with their tags so I know what gauge and size the pins are.  It also makes for easier reordering when I find my stocks running low.  

This time around, I think I have enough of each to actually classify them into gold plated, silver plated, antique bronze and “others”.  (The latter being copper and gun metal.). I keep the sterling silver and vermeil tucked away with some gemstones I have and I don’t have enough of those  to collect into a bin.  Strangely, just going through the two bins has inspired new creative ideas which I will hopefully get to do soon.  And like my bead bins, I actually have a few cups of headpins of all shapes and sizes to go through.   I don’t always get to put them back where they belong when I’m working on projects, so they tend to accumulate in other spaces.

I’m getting ready to start creating again in time for the holidays.  And I’m thinking of new items not just for the shop, but also to give as gifts.  Organizing my current supplies is a step towards a more efficient production line for the coming weeks.  Before you know it, the holidays will be here again.

Pulling together bits and pieces

There is nothing more effective to wake me up from a craft haiatus than an impending trip that requires some promised gifts and other extras to be assembled.  So I’ve been gathering pieces that are halfway done, redoing some that have been redesigned in my head, and I’ve been trying not to go overboard with creating even more.

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The piece above is a woven chain bracelet I am making out of white AB glass crystals and various floral shaped Czech pressed glass.  It’s a rainbow of colors chained together, instead of beads being strung onto an existing chain.  It takes some practice to make, but chaining the beads together assures me of the integrity of the entire piece and that the beads will not fall off of the stringing.  It also helps prop up the beads on top of one another for a fuller look.

There are many earrings that I am trying to finish as well, and a few rosary bracelets.  I am trying to be mindful about not bringing too much because they can get rather heavy.  (Baggage allowance reminder to self!)

One of the perks of being able to create jewelry is seeing my work appreciated by the people I give them to.  There is a special reward in seeing someone’s face break out into a wide smile of joy upon getting something crafted specially for them.  I always find that most fulfilling.

My most recent weekends have seen me going through my containers and bins, and I have found quite a bit of almost finished (but not quite done yet) items.  My work process entails an assembly line that begins with focusing on a set of colors or materials, like beads in color schemes that I want to pull together.  I would create parts of the earring without finishing the entire piece, maybe saving the addition of charms or links for later.  The finishing touch usually entails putting in the clasps or the earwire hooks, and only then can I say it’s done.

My bracelet is almost done but not quite there yet.  I am still trying to decide if the medley of beads is enough, or if I should add a round or two more.  I also need to decide on the clasp.  To be continued… soon.

Polymer Clay Love

The long weekend has been a crafting staycation for me, mostly with me getting back to polymer clay.  I have amassed enough clay to keep me kneading and conditioning for quite a bit, so I went back to work on unfinished projects.  I also started to collate the work I had done so far, and much of them will evolve into something new cooking up in my head.

I found molds I had created but which I had not used to mold clay with, and a striking ornate brass stamping of a lion head I have had for a while came to life in clay.
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I am a novice at this but I find it very rewarding with minimal frustration because you can turn it into whatever it is you might want it to be.  It can be fanciful and candy colored, or almost like faux metal or faux stone.  I have enjoyed working with it and creating things to wear that make people stop and wonder what the necklace or earrings are made of.  

I find great inspiration from Cynthia Tinnaple’s Polymer Clay Daily where artisans from all over the world are featured.  Just browsing the short blurbs and the gorgeous pictures are enough to get me thinking about how I want to work with my polyclay.  So many possibilities!

While I work mainly with gemstones and glass beads for my etsy shop, I have pieces which have incorporated handmade cabochons I fashioned from my own molds.  I find that polymer clay cabochons are actually more elegant and have a more subtle color range than the regular resin cabochons that are in the market.  I’ve bought one or two and made molds, but my best tool is a set of carved opal cabochons that I got as a gift from my late mother-in-law.  They were loose cabochons meant to be a set of three, but the intricacy and uniqueness of the carving was what made them standout.  I see them as peonies.

I have worked with both pour on (liquid) molds and the more common mold putty.  I can’t say I like one more than the other because I’ve found that one can be better depending on what type of mold you’re making.  For intricately designed originals with lots of crevices and detail, the pourbob mold is more suitable as you will see in the end product below.
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The pink and lavender cabs, I will use as is, but the beige ones will rendered with a hint of gold patina using gilders paste later.

Below you will find my raw polymer clay lion head cabochons fashioned from the brass stamping on the picture on the left.  I actually did two versions of this with two different clays.  The harder in consistency went under the brass stamping itself, and the softer beige one went into a putty mold I cast off of the stamping.  
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The brass stamping wasn’t all that expensive but was hollow and unwieldy to work with, needing attaching to a cloth or plastic base.  So I thought I’d try to create a solid cabochon instead of a hollow form, and experimented with a subtler patina that wouldn’t make the head too loud a part of a piece I had in mind.  Here you can see what I mean when I put the real brass with the faux metal polymer clay lion head.  It isn’t quite as shiny, but you can pass it off as metallic.

This second I worked on is more of a cost and weight work around.  I fell in love with the original casting the minute I saw it but the price was a bit of a splurge for a finding.  The slots were too big and uneven a size for me to find actual cabochons for, so I knew right there and then I’d have to make the cabochons myself.  The piece was also rather heavy and I worried that further embellishing it would make it too heavy on the neck.  

This one is a work in progress as I purposely left out the bail on the original piece, and I am thinking of creating a solid backing for the pendant to have the bail cling to.  But below you will see the original rendering, and the golden tint it took on after an application of gilders paste.

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Rendered this way, I can fill in the setting with my choice of metallic polymer clay, or do that and add gemstones or other embellishments around the cross form to create a larger statement piece.  It’s just trickier to get all the rope details around the frame, but the finished setting in polyclay worked quite well and turned out as I had expected it to.

I’m going to save the before and after of the flower cabochons I tinted into a dark gold hue for later when I have them set into Earrings.  

I just found a shoebox full of other polymer clay bead experiments which I need to turn into something workable.  That’s another post altogether.  I am also working with doing another form of polymer clay Earrings but I’m still thinking about how I can render it well.  Back to my polymer clay I go..

Spring to Summer: (Re)building my nest

I like this time of the year because the temperatures are more agreeable to this crafter who grew up and lived most of her early life in hotter climes.  The only thing I don’t really like about spring is the humidity and the rain which takes care of projects involving paper.  It’s not the best time to work with the medium, because the moisture content of the air is much too high to produce optimum results.

So there will be very little, if any, working with paper crafts for me.

There are a ton of projects brewing in my head which involve sewing and refurbushing, and I might even end up trying my hand in carpentry.  I have set out to rebuild my nest.

We moved to my current apartment 15 years ago.  We haven’t really changed much except to do some repainting which now needs to be redone.  While the intention at the start was to imbue the place with “our personality”, life generally got in the way and put everything on hold.  That pretty much meant deteriorating environs and plans that remained just that: plans.

A major life change has caused me to physically move to make those plans a reality, and the strangest thing is that I’m back at working on colors.  Yes, I’m going to repaint again.  I live in a co-op which is a single level dwelling on a two-story courtyard type unit in a community of like structures.  Being that it’s a co-op, I really can’t touch the outside, but I can pretty much do as I wish with the interiors, for as long as I keep within the flooring requirement of having the place 80% carpeted.

It’s a two-bedroom unit which is now essentially mine, (master’s) and my son’s.  There is a single full bathroom, a tiny kitchen with a breakfast counter opening into a stand-alone dining room.  The structure itself was built post-war, and has seen its share of occupants through the decades.  I have an attic accessible via a folding ladder which has ample storage but which needs a major clean up.  My carpets have not been replaced although we had meant to do that early on.  My vinyl flooring is now yellowed and peeling off tile by tile, so that needs a do over as well.  Just thinking about all the things I need to get done to get my place in good shape is beginning to overwhelm me.  This might take forever.

I am not daunted.  I’m crafty and can do some of the work.  Still, I’m not deluding myself into thinking that if it has a do-it-yourself clip or article out in the web, I should attempt it to cut corners.  False economy.  You think you’re saving money by doing the job yourself when a reboot of the project later by a professional will likely cost you more.  I think it’s very important for a homeowner to know what he or she can do and what needs to be contracted out to the pros.

So for starters, I’m dividing everything that needs to be done into mini-projects that will allow me to work within my budget, and will enable me to get things moving without doing a major overhaul which I really cannot afford right now.

Choosing my greysI have jumped on the “grey” bandwagon and have (for now), made up my mind to use greys and neutral tones to cover the mostly white interiors I have.  My dining room is a calm sage green, but that has already outlived its variety.  My kitchen has white cabinets which are in need of repair in a splash of funky 80s like wall paper.  My bathroom was the only room I dressed in my favorite fuschia pink, forgetting that the tiles were in midnight blue with some ghastly floral graphics here and there.  The bedroom is a warm terra cotta color which I don’t mind keeping, but which, because I’d like to mentally and physically move forward, I feel a deep need to redo.  I painted this room once before, I can do it again.  And one of the bigger projects next to the kitchen really is my living room whose farthest and most solid wall is a huge mirror which is so 80s and which I can’t wait to either cover up or tear down.  I’m thinking black with wall-to-wall shelving in white.

I just breathed an audible sigh at the enormity of it all.  But it can be done.  I’m thinking within 12 months, I would have my colors up and most of my repairs done, and then I can go from there.

One of the most difficult things about redoing your nest is deciding on the colors to use.  Again, I live in a very small space, but I want the look to have a unified feel.  My son and I were at Home Depot a few weeks back and had picked up some samplers to try on colors.  I made him choose his closet interior and I thought I’d pick up a darker grey shade to try on the window wall of my stairwell landing.  I also picked up a small tub of plain white to redo his closet door primarily to cover up graffitti someone else had scribbled on it.

My grey test wall is temporarily on hold due to some major cracks on it as well as caulking or plaster that had fallen off the stairwell molding.  That is a separate project altogether but one which I will take care of sooner than later.  And yes, I’m hiring an expert to do that because I am asthmatic and might not fare well against the dust that chipping into the crack will generate.  More importantly, while I pride myself for being a diligent and neat painter, I don’t want to attempt the wall repairs and later have to call in the troops to save the day.

Years ago, I would have said grey was too dull or plain blah.  Now I can’t wait to have it from dark to light with white trim.

So this is one big craft project for me.  Again, in little doses.  More coming on my nest repairs and other projects.. soon.

Craft experiments: Photo Transfer to Canvas

I love taking photographs.  Even before the age of smartphones and selfies, I would hold my point and shoot DSL-like camera and click it framing my son and I in a photo that looks like it was taken by someone in front of me.  Friends would often wonder how I did it.  I kept telling them, it’s plain and simple practice.

  1. I would look at the lens and make sure that the reflection I saw there was the framing I was hoping to achieve.
  2. Whether I was taking a blind selfie or not, or taking the photo of another subject, I already knew not to place the subject’s head in the middle of the frame.  (A common  mistake), and instead put it on the upper center of the photo.
  3. I also knew I had to look at the lens, not at my hand.

In truth, this was really one of the skills of motherhood.  Ever since I became a Mom, I took numerous snapshots of my then little baby on a daily basis, capturing every essence of his day.  My camera and I were inseparable.  This is the reason why I have always opted for a fancy point and shoot rather than an actual DSLR.

Through the years, I’ve also learned that taking a snapshot of an actual photograph can produce better results than an actual scan.  (This, of course, is just my humble opinion.)

I have always had a deeply sentimental nature when it came to photographs.  I brought home a ton of my pictures through the years through my various trips home to Manila, and what I couldn’t take  (or chose not to take), I took photos of.  Holding a photo and looking at it, whether or not it’s me in the photo or someone else, evokes a wave of emotions and memories that a simple thought cannot bring.  It is a magical experience all its own.

Then I fell in love with the idea of photographing jeepneys and the many scenes of New York.  From the flora of Bryant Park to the gorgeous foliage of Central Park, to the never-ordinary cityscape showing any of our iconic buildings like the Empire State Building — I have amassed quite a personal trove of photos.

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One thing that the digital age has robbed us of, I think, is the need to actually produce these pictures as hard copy mementos of the moments they captured.  We have become content with visually beholding them in our smart phones or on our computer screens.  We have stopped printing them or creating a physical copy.

I’ve always wanted to incorporate these photos in my artwork but have really not had the chance to try until recently.  Again, I’m a crafter more than an artist, so my creative process is about acquiring the skill rather than cultivating a talent.  I am so green with envy of the real artists out there who can grab a pencil or a brush and with a few strokes create something others can drool over.  I call my attempts, “Personal art”.

Scouring the internet, I’ve found several resources that give tutorials on photo transfers on canvas using a gel or glue medium.  Over the previous week, I tried using regular mod podge after having painted small canvas panels with acrylic beforehand.  I’ve had some practice doing this on Artist Trading Card backgrounds half a lifetime ago, so the backgrounds were the easy piece of the puzzle.

Since this was purely experimental, I decided to go with a 4×5 canvas panel.  Aim small, miss small, as they say.

I already had future projects in mind so I decided to experiment with (1) a full-photo transfer, and (2) a collage transfer, essentially focusing on a cut out.  Below is a macro shot of Angelo when he was maybe 4 or 5, laser printed as recommended.  I printed the photo slightly larger than the canvas panel but I didn’t intend to wrap the edge of the photo print out on the sides of the frame.  From the get-go, I meant to show some of the background by exposing the edges.  I wanted it to be a distressed transfer to give the photo more drama.

The background was a hodge podge of gold, copper and silver acrylic.

This second one was a cut out of the dancing girl figure, a picture of me when I was maybe 3-4 years old.

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Chalk it to my impatience — instead of waiting for the customary drying time of 24 hours, I wanted to see as quickly as possible if the ink would indeed be transferred by applying a generous amount of transfer medium to the print out and then pasting it onto the canvas panel.  (This was, after all, an experiment only, so I threw all caution to the wind.)

Cutting out the figure that I wanted, I pasted it onto the canvas but being careful not to let any glue get onto the backside of the picture.  Two or three tutorials I viewed warned against this because any part of the printout with glue on the backside (the reverse side) would not be rubbed out when you tried to get the transfer reveal.

I think my transfers went well for a first attempt, and as far as first attempts go.  I’ve already stocked up on regular canvas to work with bigger projects which I hope to showcase here in future posts.

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