Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Handmade Embellishments 101: Creating Your Own Stamped Cork Stickers

I'm a little partial to the warm natural tone and texture of cork and enjoyed having the opportunity to play around a bit with it when creating the Inspiration Board in my book, Creative Bloom. So as not to waste a whole corkboard with my experimentation I purchased a roll of cork contact paper. What I learned was that painting directly on cork with acrylic worked great but so did stamping. However if I completely covered the cork with paint I lost the warm cork color I liked so much. I ended up keeping the cork background visible by cutting my own stamp and stamping with acrylics while also creating some little accent stickers out of the cork contact paper. Cork on cork is pretty cute but cork in the shapes of butterflies was SUPER cute. Now, a couple of years after my initial experimentation I'm starting to see cork embellishments come out in the scrapbooking stores so I thought I'd show you how really really easy (and inexpensive) these are to make at home.

Creating Your Own Super Easy Cork Embellishments

Tools and Materials
One roll of cork contact paper (I got mine at Target)*
Scissors or punches
Ink (dye pigment or permanent)

Step One: Choose some stamps and stamp directly on your cork surface. If you're using a detailed stamp (such as a photo realistic stamp) you'll want to make sure you really ink up the surface of the stamp. Then press the stamp firmly into the cork. Work on a hard surface for the best impression. If you plan on using a punch to cut out your stamp you might want to make sure you're working right at the edge of your cork as many punches won't allow you to reach very far.

Step Two: Cut around the stamp either with a punch or a scissor. Using a sharp scissor will give you the crispest edge, cork can be difficult to cut with a dull scissor. It just wants to bend. If punching you might want to insert the image upside down with the punch flipped over so that you can position it perfectly.

Step Three: Store your stickers flat as cork does want to break if rolled or folded. To use, simply peel off the backing paper and adhere to your surface. Easy as Pie. :) For the embellishment at right I did add a little twisted wire to the cork image with just a couple of stitches (more detail on this in my book, Creative Bloom). Enjoy!!!!

Detail of Inspiration Board in Creative Bloom
Variations: You can also make some freeform stickers but painting directly on the cork contact paper (like I did with my polka dots), or you can try drawing your own little images directly on the cork with a permanent marker as well. A doodled little robot might be awfully adorable. :)

* You can buy cork on a roll at craft or hobby stores but it usually does not have the adhesive backing. I did find that cork sticks just fine if using a UHU glue stick (apply for complete coverage) or tacky glue.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Handmade in Print

The family and I were making the 6 hour return trip from Bismarck, ND this weekend when we decided to stop midway at Fargo for a break. Our usual spot is the Barnes and Noble. As I was quickly scanning titles in the magazine section I ran into a new UK magazine titled Handmade Living. This is the second UK magazine that I've happened upon recently. The other is Mollie Makes. They were both debut issues and both covered different aspects of the handmade life. Sort of a more current and niche-y alternative to Martha Stewart. There are recipes, gardening tips, and how-to's. Glancing through the Handmade Living they had done an editorial challenge using a cheapo IKEA frame. Staff members had each put their spin on it. Cute idea I thought. But feeling a little broke I decided to wait on purchasing it. Plus it didn't scream "buy me".

The other magazine, Mollie Makes, not only shouted "buy me" in great big huge capitol letters but also insisted I take it over to the check out immediately. I adore it. First of all it came with a little kit attached to make this adorable little iphone cozy. It was felt- it came with felt. What's not to love there? Then, it has a section on what's new and hot on the handmade scene. Everything from new product lines from the likes of Ty Pennington and Amy Butler, some really interesting bits about new books, a calender for all things crafty (happening in the UK), a whole article devoted to ruffles, and another to using bobble trim, and a fabulous peak into the home of Dottie Angel. AND get this, that just scratches the surface. It also has tutorials, more little bits of news, upcoming designer bio's, etc. etc. Curious? They have a preview of the issue available online here.

Seriously I am smitten. But it makes me wonder why the UK? Why don't we have something trendy and local like this here? Is there a bigger audience for this sort of thing there? I think I might want to move. But maybe I've just overlooked it- do any of you know of a US lifestyle magazine for the handmade crowd? Please leave a comment if you do know of one, or if you have any thoughts on this. And have a super wonderful day!!!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Sheet Metal Posies

On Saturday I was able to take a class at the Studio at Rush Creek, a coffee shop/art studio near my home. The class was called Metal Ribbon art and was taught by Debbie Isaacson who makes these incredible metal sculptures from metal pipes and sheet metal. At right is an example of her work and the top pic is the piece I made in the class. It was really fun to learn some different techniques and try out some different tools and materials. I learned how to drill holes through metal conduit, how to cut aluminum flashing into shapes, how to use a pneumatic riveter, and how to assemble it all. The instructor is coming back in July to teach a class on Garden Art and I'm going to try to take that as well.
by Debbie Isaacson

What I really enjoyed was using her techniques to make something that incorporates my sense of style. Like any new experience I got all kinds of fab new ideas for my own work. Like sheet metal quilts with stenciled patterns and wire stitching. The beginning part of the sculpture felt a lot like putting a mini art quilt together. Fun new visions of art have been dancing through my head ever since. I spent last night researching how to paint on metal. Spray paint seemed obvious but for a more painterly approach I was thinking I need paint I can mix. Some were using acrylic, some were using oil, but what was really fun looking was the cans of metal Rustoleum I saw someone painting their car with. So we'll see how much it all costs, how much I can figure out, how it will all work, and what I can do with it. But FUN!

I'll keep you updated- but in the meantime I'd like to know if any of you have painted on metal before and if you primed your metal first, if you sanded, what kind of paint you used and on what kind of metal. SO please, if you've any experience with this, please, please, please, leave a comment and THANKS for your help!!!

Friday, June 17, 2011

Summer Summer Summer All the time....

At the Lake
Just last night I was thinking about how quickly this summer is going already. I've really been enjoying this extra time with my son and was shaking my head at myself that I ever worried about the time. Now I'm sitting here with him on my lap as he's telling me "Your name is Jennifer pee pee swift and how come you have such a weird middle name (I don't) and why does that bug want to come in the window, etc. etc..."

At a Cinco de Mayo Birthday party
If you offered to take him from me right now I'd maybe even consider the offer for a millisecond. Boys have this innate ability drive you crazy. It's honed at a young age. They apprentice with their fathers. I'm just saying...

But I am glad that I get to be here to be annoyed. I'm glad that as a stay at home mom I have the luxury of just having him around. Even if it means totally annoying and distracting behavior, it also means trips to the zoo, unexpectedly deep conversations in the car, playdates that turn out to be as much fun for me as for him, laughing over lunch, and all the other little things that get spread out over the days.

Time Flying
SO although I've been totally lax on this blog as of late, I think that the places I have been spending my time, here at home, and with my family- are more important so I'm not going to sweat it. I know that many of you are moms with kids on summer break as well and I guess I thought I'd pop on today to tell you not to sweat it either. These are times that don't last forever.... although at the moment you might, like me, be throwing a big "AMEN" to the end of that sentence. :) Hold in there -and enjoy the summer!
At our first outdoor music concert as a family- FUN!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Bathroom Makeover

Before View from hall
Don't you just LOVE before and after's? I know I am a complete sucker for them. Each time I see a fabulous "after" posted somewhere I'm paging back for the "before" hoping it's really really awful. The more dramatic the better. I was always a sucker for makeover movies too. The one's where the girl starts out clumsy, or a little backwards looking and ends up a total bombshell. slight.

After View from hall
The funny thing is that although I'm beyond the need for a  personal makeover reveal I do still LOVE the before and after's of home remodeling. Trolling through sites I found the Ugly Houses website and wow do I have to say I am GLAD GLAD GLAD we hired some professionals to help us with our bathroom remodel. My husband had contemplated doing it himself but just the idea of ripping out and replacing our cast iron tub made him doublethink and look for help. The guys that did the remodel have been absolutely a godsent blessing. SO if you live in this area and ever want a referral just let me know. :)

I've mentioned before that we live in a 1980's split level house and the bathroom is one of those that has the two doors, one from the master bedroom and one from the hall. It's a small space and the floor plan was pretty set because of the space/plumbing etc. So we did what we could, we pulled out the tub and replaced it with a deeper whirlpool tub that fit the same spot. Another huge change is the pocket door that replaced the door to the master bedroom. Because we took out that door we now have a usable wall space next to the tub that holds our towels. Before the towel rack was over the toilet and the bath towels would fall down over the toilet top. Ick. There was no place for hand towels.

Icky carpeting

Lovely New Tile
We replaced the icky molding tile in the shower area with travertine we got on sale at our local tile shop. We replaced the mdf vanity that had a fake marble top with a nice new wood one with a travertine top. The wall mirror is gone and a wall mounted medicine chest is in it's place, and the hollywood glamour lighting fixture's been replaced as well. It's all new and it's all lovely and I love love love how it turned out. The biggest change though has to be the floor. I HATED the icky brown carpeting on the floor and the new travertine tiles are a HUGE improvement.  So I am a happy happy girl. I hope you enjoy the little tour. :)
The new vanity area   
Tile close up :)

Monday, June 6, 2011

Product Comparison: Easy Carve Printing Blocks

Recently, I was at the Dick Blick store in my area and they had a make and take using hand carved stamps. There was a little demo about how to carve and then they let you print using some stamps they made. I was curious because I saw three different easy cut blocks. There was a pink, a grey, and the standard cream block that I've used in the past. When I first started block printing, there were only the linoleum or wood blocks available. You had to heat up the linoleum in order to make it a little softer and safer for cutting. But it cooled quickly and the smell of the heated linoleum was a little overwhelming. So when the EZ cut blocks came on the scene I began using those. They weren't as hard to work with as the linoleum and I loved how I could cut the block to any size. However, it has it's limitations. For instance, when you carve with it it gets all crumbly and it's almost impossible to get much detail because of this tendency to crumble. It also deteriorates with frequent handling. I've thought of trying to coat the backs of the blocks with a stiffener after carving, or mounting them on a block, but I'm lazy and usually just stuff them into a drawer once I've cut them and used them. Also, unlike the linoleum which was dangerous because it was SO hard to carve, it's maybe too easy to carve for safety's sake.

So I grabbed one of each type of easy cut block available and went home to give them a try. The grey was very rubbery and I wasn't a huge fan. It was down to the pink vs. the cream and here's the comparisons I made....

1) To begin a stamp I'll frequently sketch out my design on paper with a pencil and then press the paper on top of the block to transfer the design. I tried this technique with both blocks and didn't really see much of a difference. So far so good!

2) Next, on to the carving. I used the same basic design on each block. The pink block required more pressure when carving but I actually liked that. It was less likely to crumble and I was able to cut a lot more detail. You can see in the pic that the cream seems much more crumbly and the lines aren't nearly as good.  When done carving the blocks I decided to use a scissors to cut away the excess block around the image on each block. They each cut just fine with the scissors.

3) On to printing! I used the same dye ink pad for each and stamped them side by side. They both seemed to print the same. The image on the right is much crisper but that's because of the carving and not the application or transfer of ink. They both rinsed off fine, although the cream did retain a bit of the ink color.

4) Durability testing came next. To do this I bent each stamp gently in half. Here's where I saw another big difference. The cream block split and cracked immediately, the pink was just fine. This would be especially important to me if I was carving an over sized image. In the past I've had a real problem with those larger stamps cracking after just a few uses.

The cream block was the E-Z-Cut by Dick Blick, the pink is the Speedy-Carve by Speedball. Both are available from Dick Blick. The Speedy Carve was priced at about $20 for a 9" x 12", the E-Z-Cut is about $17 for the same size. Each block was also available in store in a variety of sizes.

Hope you found this interesting! Happy Carving!!!

p.s: I do have tutorials for carving stamps available- just check under the tutorials tab at the top of the page- Thanks!!!