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.

MATERIALS USED:

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My Art Journal 2017

I began this art journal project arpund 2012, I believe.  I am a fan of Julie Fei-Fan Balzer and her work, and she had this Art Journal Everyday project I joined at the start of my own art journaling journey.  I had done two false starts with loose pages until I finally decided on an altered book.

An altered book as an art journal is basically a book that you change up and use as your journal.  I happily jumped into converting or altering this business book which was one of several copies at work.  I didn’t realize that the choice wasn’t only about the size and the paper (do not pick glossy pages!), but the binding at the spine was a very important consideration as well.

Because I mostly painted my layouts using very wet methods, the spine gave out several times and I eventually reinforced the binding with masking tape for most of the layouts.  That’s what a glued hard  bound book is wont to do, and I found out halfway through the book that I was supposed to look for older ones which were sewn and then bound.  Too late, so I worked around it.

My Altered Book: Title Page: A HAPPY LIFE

I would paint the background pages ahead, and have had so much fun creating multi page layouts with cut out windows or letters.  Creating the backgrounds and journal pages was half the fun — the other was when I actually did the journal entries.  I lettered and wrote as I would in a regular journal.  The big difference was the theme of “happy” and “happiness” emblazoned on the pages, and quotes I had picked up from the web as sources of inspiration.  This first book I entitled “A Happy Life.”
My Art Jpurnal so far
Art journaling has been very therapeutic for me, and while I fell out of the “Art Journal Every Day” pace, I continued my art journaling off and on for the first two years after.  On the third year, I became preoccupied with other things and actually managed to lose my journal which I hid too well.  After I found it earlier this year, I continued the remaining layouts and am about to wind down to the last pages.   Although there are blank pages left for me to journal through, I’ve made up my mind to begin a new journal to mark my 51st birthday this April.

My Art Jpurnal so far

This time around, I’m making the journal itself and I’m hoping it will be an even more meaningful journey moving forward.

Our offices are moving from building to building, and mostly into smaller space.  As a result, we have been purging and digitizing files to make our office record keeping more efficient.  A previous boss also retired which meant going through a mountain of files pertaining to his tenure.  All those used Manila folders gave me an idea.  I was going to repurpose them into my next art journal.

The first question was what size would I cut the folders into.  I already knew the tabs would have to go, and the spine as well.  I didn’t want those embossed lines..  While others may find an appeal in just binding the folders together as is like they do with junque journals,  I wanted to make sure I didn’t make the mistake of having my journal pages fall apart on me like the first.  I also wanted a smooth surface so that meant the crimp or creases at the fold would have to be cut out.  I thought 7″ x 10″ would be good, resulting in a 10″ x 14″ spread.

The second consideration was how was I going to bind it. Do I sew the pages together? (But I didn’t want to have the paint seeping through to other pages..) Ring bind them?   This was problematic because I usually did two-page layouts.  So I thought I’d try and tape the pages together.

I’ve started with a small batch and am working on seeing how the painting affects the binding.  If this turns out as something that can work, I will make a video and post how I bound my card stock thick folder pages together.  All I used was a roll of masking tape you can easily buy from the dollar store.  It was more about figuring out a way to bind the pages the way I wanted the finished book to be.  After tweaking the taping of the pages, I’m thinking this might actually work.  I’m really excited.

As I get to the last few layouts of my first art journal, I’m thinking of doing a flip through video to go through the book.  Yes, the whole book.  The second will be very different in that I now want to use more pictures to decorate my pages.  Maybe I will use printed backgrounds as well instead of painting through all of them.  I know my journaling style has changed.  My first entries will be the previous year’s summary and then I move on to 2017.

My Art Jpurnal so farI want to use more of the pictures I take and include them in my art journal as well.  
Just a few minutes a day– and I have taken to doing several days’ entries in one spread.  Sometimes I just put in a word or two — something to remind me of what I did on that day.  At times a day will spread on to the next.  I don’t have too many rules with my art journaling.  It comes when it comes. 

Ear Candy Crazy

I’ve been busy crafting the last couple of weeks, this time focusing on my beads and my tools.  For starters, I’ve finally found the time and the will to go through my loose bead bins.  I have made it a habit to have small tubs  to collect loose beads in when I work with bigger batches.  Sometimes,  I end up collecting them in my work trays and then just pour them into the bins.  During several previous clean ups, I’ve sometimes managed to separate the freshwater pearls from the gemstones from the Czech pressed glass and metal findings.

I’ve been sorting individual organizers a bin at a time, actually gathering jumprings and putting the clasps and the eyepins and other headpins in separate containers.  Yes, I’m getting organized in a major way.  I have been pleasantly surprised to discover strings of beads I had all but forgotten I had, and while I’m excited to do something with each find, I need to get them all sorted out first.

One of my favorite suppliers is Fire Mountain Gems which has assortable pricing that progressively goes down depending on the number of items you buy.  This usually makes a difference when buying regular price items which can be pulled down dramatically when you purchase at certain price levels.  In addition, when they go on sale, they REALLY go on sale.  The only thing is you have to trust your visuals.  That can be tough when you’re looking at gemstones, but you have to pay attention to dimensions and string size.

I have always found it helpful to have an actual ruler in front of me when I am shopping online for beads and other materials.  It helps me visualize the size of the bead.  A 6mm round bead is not much different from an 8mm so it helps to actually see the bars that make a difference on that ruler.

During one of  those sales, there was a bead mix that was on sale for 25 cents per pack, with the catch that you had to purchase a minimum of 8 packs of 125 beads .  I’ve purchased a set of amethyst chips in the same packaging, and the quality wasn’t bad for the price I had paid.  At the time I made the purchase, I was thinking of actually embellishing brooches and my clutch purse with gemstones and shell beads.  The idea was to get beads small enough to  embroider or sew into something else.  And how can you argue with the price?  I went for 2 batches or 16 orders of the assortment.

I had to go and unstring the beads and sort them by kind.  The amethyst and rose quartz were quite the find, along with the green aventurine and prehnite in the batch.  The strings aren’t labeled, so unless you know how to eyeball a gemstone, you will end up going by color.

I had ordered these in July of last year but didn’t start unpacking each little bag until earlier this month.  I would say I got lucky with this buy.  You would have to have the patience to sort through the beads because the size and quality varied from string to string, but they all came together after they had been unstrung and sorted out.  It also helps me in creative process to actually go through the loose beads laid out flat on a tray.

Here’s what I can up with — gem stacks in various sizes.

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Square flat beads in green aventurine.. the stack wasn’t hard to imagine, but it meant finding the same cut in all the strings.  It takes some patience to actually unstring the beads and lay them all out on a plate or pad so you can see them side by side.  That’s my design process, and that might not work for everyone.

I tried to group them by shapes, then by size.  These are chips and irregularly shaped and sized, so it takes a bit of effort, but once you find the designs forming in your head, it is actually a good way of letting your creativity loose to pull a design you can work on.

There were also a sizeable chunk of prehnite beads which, at first, I thought were tourmalinated quartz because of the strings of black streaks.  But no, they turned out to be the former.   I have had a lot of fun working with the chips.  Sometimes I find it uncanny how design ideas don’t come to me until I unstrung the beads and actually hold the individual pieces.
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I guess we each have our own creative process we follow with our creations.  Mine has certainly evolved through the years, more so when I find old pieces from my early years, even if only in pictures.  I haven’t posted any in the shop for sale yet.  I am earmarking these for my #Giftof50 giveaways on the main blog.

Craft Calendar 2017

Carnelian bracelet - work in progressLast year, I tried to begin a craft calendar in April which I didn’t get to follow very closely, but which somehow helped me focus on the things I had hoped to do during the year.  HOPE is the operative word, being that a lot of things got in the way and somehow derailed my efforts to be more disciplined with the crafting.

Besides the list of tasks, I am also trying to identify PROJECTS to focus on for the month to help my productions goals along.

No more excuses, but let’s give it another go in 2017.  Again, I hope to be able to achieve more given this list of goals, and watch out for updates as the year rolls along with a monthly round up of how I’ve been doing.  (Edits, progress, deletions/additions)

I had started drafting this post in January but had gotten stuck.  So let me begin with the current month, February.

February

  • Work on the #GiftOf50 peripherals (gift tags, gift wrap, etc.) and keep creating gifts.
  • PROJECT: Start working on a light coat for Spring.

March

  • Work on getting my tour guide license.
  • Visit Lion Brand Yarns and enroll for a knitting class.
  • PROJECT: Easter cards

April

  • Begin work on fabric clutches.
  • PROJECT: throw pillows for the sofa

May 

  • Get my tour guide license.  (More on this later.)
  • Bead fabric clutches
  • PROJECT: Beaded brooch

June

  • Start planning my halloween costume, another paper fairy gown.
  • Design my holiday card for the end of the year.  (Need to determine materials.)
  • PROJECT: Launch Bead Tours

July

  • Post a clutch for sale in the etsy shop.
  • Launch first postcard set project.
  • PROJECT:  OZ projects

August

  • Start creating the halloween costume.  (Will try to actually sew one instead of pinning one together like the last time I made one in 2015.
  • PROJECT: paper boxes

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

October

  • Finish holiday card.
  • Start series on handmade gifts for the holidays.
  • Put up my Christmas tree last week of October.
  • PROJECT: Holiday Cards

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

Here’s to a productive and crafty 2017..