Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Review: Enchanted Adornments by Cynthia Thornton

I usually don't gush about books. This one had me up reading until my eyes blurred! It's packed with faerie-inspired jewelry crafts using polymer clay, resin, shrinky-dinks and precious metal clay, not to mention found objects, charms, beads, fabric, fibers... They're beautiful, absolutely unique and very well explained. I've already chosen two projects to try out right away-- the "Sculptural Scrimshaw" necklace and the "Woodland Wings" necklace.

To the meat of the review:

  • The projects have a very mythical slant. If you're into the fantasy genre or like organic, slightly odd items, this book will get you drooling.
  • The projects use a variety of materials. I currently can't afford PMC, but when I can, I'll be using this book as solid inspiration.
  • Many of the projects have variations, using slightly different materials for a different final product.
  • Lots of pictures! In color!
  • Plenty of basic information on the materials used, like how to work with polymer clay to keep it clean.
  • An "inspirational gallery" in the back of designs that aren't explained, but are awesome to ogle.
  • A troubleshooting guide in the back to help with crafting snags.
  • Step-by-step instructions on making the "meat" of the project-- say, the focal piece for a necklace-- and then another set for how to string the necklace itself. Most tricky steps also have photos to guide you.
  • Did I mention there's faeries? There's faeries. Each project is accompanied with a beautifully illustrated "journal entry" about the creator meeting a fantastical creature, and drawing inspiration from it. For example: On meeting "Niabi," a deer with a female head: "I drew a picture of her, attempting to capture her grace and lithe form. I sketched the spiraling pattern on her coat, noting the way it resembled ivory inlaid in wood." The project in this case is made from polymer clay colored to resemble ivory inlay on wood.

  • There are a few steps that aren't spelled out. One example is in the Woodland Wings project. You need to glue tissue paper to small wire wings that will later be covered in resin. Alas, it doesn't say what sort of glue to use, or how exactly to apply the glue to the wire, or whether to cover both sides of the wings with it. A seasoned (or bold) crafter will figure it out, but it might deter beginners.
  • The "journal entries" are cute, but some might find them a pointless addition. They also used "+" instead of "and," and while I like it (it gives more the appearance that this is a handwritten journal), some might not.
  • Changes in materials for the variations are not supplied in list form. For those into making an exact replica of what they see, this could cause some frustration.

Seriously? I can't say enough about this book. I don't often find a source of inspiration and technique all wrapped up into one amazing package. The book is well-designed, filled with beauty and will be an amazing addition to any crafter's library. Pick one up-- I did!


The Big Show is done. This show had me so scattered that I'd have lost my mind if it weren't stuck inside my head with all that leftover hot glue. The show-- which was Tribal Renaissance here in Eau Claire-- lasted all day, and included me vending, me teaching, me socializing, me learning, and me performing. There were other people there too, but oddly, I wasn't too concerned about them being overwhelmed. ;P

So needless to say, my brain has been busy going OMG for about a month while I prepped and stressed. Now that it's done, I'm having Craft Apathy. Nothing seems as important as the prep for the show did ("Man, if I can just make another twelve hair clips I'll be good to go... never mind that the gig is tomorrow..."), so I've been sorta wondering aimlessly around my craft room, looking for inspiration. The room needs a good cleaning and reorganizing, especially because there's another Big Show (or rather, Big Series of Shows) coming up-- my troupe is performing at five, count 'em, FIVE weekends in a row at the Renaissance Faire near us (linkage here). This is a Big Deal. We're not only dancing, but also working as street performers. We'll walk around, dance a bit, interact with other actors and with patrons, dance s'more, talk some more, harass the German Inquisitor character, and then eat some stew. All this, and my first (and second, and third) thought is, "What am I going to wear?"

It's valid, I swear. Imagine being outside for two days. Add sunshine, probably rain, improbably but concievably snow (it's Wisconsin, guys), dirt, dust, bugs, sweat from shaking my booty, bits of food I'll invariably drop down my cleavage, beer water I've dumped on my skirt, bits of yarn, twigs, tears of joy when the coffee has brewed and very small rocks. Shake vigorously and wear for five weekends. Mmmm, no. A girl needs (non-stinky, unstained) options.

So my "procrastination list" has new items. Some are totally in the planning stages; others are halfway done. Since I'm the troupe Crafty One (I didn't volunteer, but I can't. Say. No. PLEASE LET ME MAKE YOU STUFF WWWHEEEEEEE!), some of the items are multiples of four. Eeeeep. Tomorrow: Clean the studio! Do laundry! Buy some trim! Then dance. That's right, I am a dancer...

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Two recent projects... WITH CAPTIONS!!

I have several performances coming up that are "hafla style"-- that is, no seating beyond a pillow you bring. Alas, most pillows that are pretty are also slippery, uncomfortable due to beads and such, and are usually too small for a tasseled bottom. So I made a pair of "hafla pillows" that are round and big enough to sit on. They're made from scraps on the top and faux suede on the bottom. The blue/purple/green one has fringe around the edge.

Some things I learned doing these:

-Thin fabrics need iron-on interfacing, both to keep them from stretching while being sewn (and bulging after being stuffed), and to keep the stuffing from leaking out through the fibers.

-It's totally OK to forget to leave an opening for turning, but make up for it by cutting a hole in the bottom which is later patched in a sort of boho way.

-Circle pillows turn into dome pillows if you don't insert a strip of fabric between the circles. That's OK for these two, but next time I'm hoping to make a very big version of the pillow that came with my husband's singing bowl.

I also like to take pants that are thisclose to fitting and insert a strip of fabric up the outer seam so I can fit into 'em. I've been doing this for as long as I've been fluctuating between sizes, i.e., since age 17. Usually when I do this I use a contrasting fabric, but lately I was feeling a bit more subdued in my dress (probably because I dyed my hair bright red orange). The strip on this pair ended up looking more like a design element than a DIY fix. I did the stencil with pigment powders that I mixed with textile medium. Now THAT'S addictive.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

New Video in the Works

I shot a video on how I make layered tassels (like the ones with two colors on the belt in the post two below this one), but alas, it was too long. Reshooting, if I can, today or tomorrow, and will upload it for your tasseling pleasure. :D

I'm also working on dreadlocks, because my hair is dyed crazy and damaged beyond belief, and some more belts. AND, when I find another chunk of fabric in my stash, I'll shoot the photos for the flare pants tutorial. Wheee! Off to get coffee.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Madame Gasket's Steampunk Ring

I made this for my steampunk Queen of Hearts costume, but was really inspired by the kids' movie Robots. Madame Gasket, voiced by Jim Broadbent (love!), is such a nasty, gritty, gravely antagonist. The dark side of my heart loves her.

The ring was made from the following:
-A ring blank. I bought a bag of 10 or so at Michaels.
-Aileen's Jewelry glue (which is like super duper super glue)
-Various watch innards
-A pendant-style metal beading focal
-An ivory-tone button

A brief how-to:

1. Glue the button to the ring blank, centering the button holes on the blank's disc. (In my case the "disc" was square. It all works.) Let it dry.

2. Glue the pointy, curvy, evil-looking watch bits and the focal to the button. On my ring I centered the focal, which is open in the center, and flanked it on either side with watch bits. Flat curved bead drops would look good here, too. Let this step dry.

3. Glue the larger watch bit over the bases of the pointy bits. I could see substituting a cabochon for the watch bit here, but that would sort of remove the steampunky flavor, donchathink?

4. Let it dry overnight, and test your connections to make sure it's sturdy. If so, slip it on your finger and threaten the general populace.

Costume Photos

As promised, some photos of things I've been working on:

Skull print flare pants. Normally these are made a bit more snug to the thigh, but I left mine looser so I could wear them comfortably if I gain a bit of weight. :/ They also don't have slits in the legs, because I am a hairy beasty. Making flare pants is surprisingly easy. I have a tutorial written up for them, and will be taking photos for it this weekend.

Tassel belt. The base was a weird wall hanging/letter holder I found, reshaped, and added trim to. Alas, the trim is a bit scratchy. The tassels are hanging from an oversized crochet fishnet, and decorated with the same trim. Now all that needs adding is the coins and other baubles that make a belt complete!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

So much shouting, so much laughter

...So much going on! I'm sorry I'm not updating this as often as I'd hoped. Life does get exciting at times, doesn't it?

Right now on my overlarge, buffet-style plate are: teaching classes, taking classes, preparing for performances, making costumes, practicing my accent for Ren Faire (more bother than you'd think, especially when you're making calls and realize you've slipped into an Irish lilt accidentally), cleaning my house, deep-cleaning the studio, and preparing to move. We're not moving for sure, for good, but are at least vacating for a while so we can repair some things around here. It won't happen until nearer to summer, but being me, I've already started preparing.

Admittedly, part of my issue with uploading photos is it's such a damn pain. Take photo, dump onto laptop, edit, upload, find, insert. I'll stop bitching and do it sometime soon, if only to show off what I've been immersed in. I made some bindi the other day that turned out OK. I'm still on my kick of "what can I do with what I have?" but cheated a bit on my newest belt, buying trim, thread and yarn. The total still only came to about $10, which is spankin' for a dance item. And it's orange. I don't have any orange.

Photos later, I promise.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Oh, the things you'll do!

I've been on a bit of a hiatus, owing to several factors: 1. My dancing has taken over my life. The performance troupe I'm a member of recently had its first paying gig, and we were freaking over it for about a month straight. 2. My computer died. So I got a loaner, but it didn't have the "Q" or "1" or "tab" buttons. Lemme tell you-- you might THINK you don't need them, but you do. Especially when you're doing your taxes. 3. I had to do my taxes. 4. My definition of "what I do" has been changing.

Back in ye olde high school/college days, I'd make crap all day long just for the sheer joy of it. That, and I was poor, but wanted to dress super scary like the Hot Topic denizens did, and since I couldn't shell out $15 for a tee-shirt, I had to make one. Though it was more PIMA than being able to go out and buy whatever supplies I needed, the days of thrift store crafting were really good for my creativity. I am one of those people who thrive when they're forced to "make do."

Well, it's hard to "make do" when you're "making money" at "making stuff." When a customer requests a purple corduroy hat with pink faux fur, you can't wait around until you see a pair of purple cords to hack up. You go out and buy the material. This mode of thinking really started to poison my creative urges, which were formed at a time when I wouldn't have the bloody purple hat unless I made the thrift score. Moreover, many of my past projects were inspired and not FORCED by thrift sale items. Left without the constant influx of new shiny cheap things, I started having big problems with inspiration.

So I went back to the source, or at least a source of inspiration that hasn't let me down-- the Crafty Chica. Kathy Murillo's craft projects are fantastic for a bunch of reasons, but one thing I love about her is she's not tied down when it comes to supplies. If she wants you to use paint, she doesn't require you to have a certain brand (although she's knowledgable on what's worth buying, and will say so when needed). She just says, "Get some craft paint. Then do this." I own several of her books (I have a blurb in one!), and last night really looked through them and felt-- lo! Inspired. So thank you, Chica, for reminding me that the coolest thing about me is, well, myself, and that my inspiration was only hiding from my efforts at making myself into a label.

I also have to thank Kathy for making me want to write. As I sit down in my basement writing this (new wireless router! New laptop! OMG!), I can see a new future stretching out ahead of me, and it's much rosier. So I pledge, here on this blog, to go back to my make-it-and-explain it roots. That means more photos of projects, more tutorials, more MEness than I've been using for the past year. It's gonna be a bright, bright, sunshiney thread-filled day.

Monday, January 18, 2010

More Steampunk bathroom details

I do love steampunk. Have I mentioned? Ideally, I'd do my bathroom like a Victorian woman's powder room within an airship-- old bottles and other antiques, sepia photos and vintage lace, but also special buttons and gizmos that would, upon command, fill the room with the scent of chocolate or drench my bathwater with camphor epsom salts.

Not likely to happen. So I've been piecing together bits of stuff I've found over the past two years. The paint color is what the bathroom came with-- sort of a dusty salmon/adobe color, with a "suede" finish.

This picture inspired it all. I bought the poster while in college and framed it in the most ornate thing I could find (at the Family Dollar). People have said it's "inspirational." Heh. Needs to be fixed-- you can see in the lower right corner the poster is pulled away from the frame. Oh well.

Random bobs on a shelf. Thingies include a steampunky squirtgun recon, two Kuchi bracelets I rarely wear, an hour glass, a pair of glass "specimen jars" (one with a fairy inside, the other with "teeth" from the tooth fairy), a box that says "Share" and holds a zombie finger puppet, a hair clip made from feathers, a wax stamp, a framed picture of Mike at age 5, a bejeweled pear, and a small clay turtle that was living in a plant that died. Below the shelf are two hanging brass bucket things, and a picture of Hercules and Leo.

The "What Women Love" postcard that a friend brought back from Germany, copper Q-tip holder, and my own "Gytha's Special Bath Soak," which is Burt's Bees bath salts in a bottle with a handmade label. I should get a close-up of that.

Seriously, I need ideas. I'm planning on stenciling the top of the room, but it can't be anything too bizarre, because oil paint is a bitch to go over later if you have to sell the place. Maybe a female cameo with wings on either side?

Faucet Knob Necklace Holders

These are postitioned right under the hair flower holder. They're just faucet knobs-- the type that are often found outside, on a hose-- with the center bits removed and replaced with long screws. They were originally meant to hold hand towels, but since they don't stand out from the wall much, they were pressed into service as necklace holders. Works out great! (And I saw this somewhere else, but can't remember where. Oops.)

This idea works with lots of stuff-- drawer knobs can be screwed right to a wall, or to a plaque, a shelf... With drawer pulls, you often have a choice of ones that screw through the front or the back. With ones that have the hole in the back, you could mount them on something thin, like a wooden yardstick, which could then be hung.

The house updates continue. I still want to make a jewelry holder like this one I saw on Cut Out + Keep, but I don't have the room for it yet. I'm also messing around with my bedroom, and since my belly hurts too much today to actually get up and play with craft stuff, I may just continue photographing and posting the "before" pictures.

Hair Flower Holder

I finally made something that wasn't for dancing in, or selling, or for someone else. It IS mostly for holding dance stuff, but meh. It makes my bathroom look nicer!

It's for holding all my hair flowers. My bathroom has a loose Steampunky theme, so I used a wooden frame (thrift shop, $.25) and some bits of trim from a grab bag at Hancock Fabrics ($.99). I just removed the picture from the frame, clipped off the metal staples that were bent to hold it in there, and hot glued the trims across the back. I also used a bit of a copper/bronze stampbooking rub-on paste to shine up the wood, but it vanishes when photoed with a flash. I know the trims are not evenly spaced-- I did that on purpose, because some of my flowers are much larger than others.

My choices in hair flowers makes this look less Steampunk, obviously, but it works well and looks pretty whether or not it's full of petals. Would work nice for earrings, as well, if your ears aren't stretched like mine.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Huzzah for handmade holidays (and birthdays)

Anna, don't read this. I talk about the present I'm giving you tomorrow. Okay? Are you stopping? Okay, good.


Due to money troubles (who DIDN'T have 'em this year?), we really buckled down and did a lot of present MAKING this December. My husband, newly apron'ed, made loaves of fruity bread for our family. The kids colored pictures. I made tons of stuff, because that is the way of my people.

The grand made-it list:
  • My husband's apron. My procrastination list said I was making one for him and a matching one for our daughter, but I never got around to making the little one. She'll have to spill her pretend cookie dough all over a pretend apron instead.
  • A zipper-mouth mask for my son. Yes, I figured it out. I'd bought a ninja suit at Joann when it was 90% off after Halloween. I wrapped the whole shebang up with a note that said, "I will sew a zipper on the mask." And I did. He wears it to the store and gramma's and everywhere else.
  • Felt food for my daughter. All told, she got: 2 pieces of bacon, 2 pancakes with syrup and butter, a fried egg, two pieces of bread/toast, peanut butter, jelly, a slice of cheese, a tomato slice, a pickle, and a piece of lettuce. I list it all out because she puts it all between the two slices of "bread" and makes everybody eat a "shamitch." She also rolls it up and says it's a taco.
  • Mix CDs for my family.
  • Ties for my brother, who moved from WI to FL, the sissy sissypants. Okay, okay, there was a good job involved, but still. We all know who ran from the snow. The ties were stenciled, one with a subtle gold WI outline (on a tan tie) and the other with a more bold freehand "WISCO" in red (on blue). May I add that I'm REALLY not that into being from Wisconsin, but my brother is. That's cool. Distance makes the heart grow fonder.
  • Arm warmers for my sister. She was there when I made them.
  • Flower/feather hair pieces for the two ladies I dance with in performance troupe.

I'm terribly pleased with myself today, because I made a gift in under an hour. I made a scoodie-- a hooded scarf. The original pattern (or instruction, I guess, as I made my own pattern) came from Vegbee at IndieTutes. It is awesome. SHE is awesome. It looks a bit complicated for a beginner, but trust me, once you've made one, the process is much easier. Unless you're me, and you mess up the way to do the scarf. Regardless, it worked, and now I have a polar fleece red/black reversible scoodie for my sister's birthday (which is the 2nd of January. Poor girl.) I'm calling it the Red Riding/Ninja Hood. If I had time, I'd make a little ninja/red riding hood keychain dolly to go with it.

Realizing I am more tired than proud at this point. Scoodie still needs to be wrapped and I should throw some clothes in a backpack (field trip to Madison in the morning).