Tuesday, February 28, 2012

koi kite

We are having work done on the house this week, so I am trying to keep the kids occupied. The carpenter is lovely and very patient. Still, searching my bookmarks for crafts that might be fun. This morning we went to the aquarium to watch the hippos and sharks be fed, then we came home. One hour killed.

This craft I archived a while ago, and thought it might be perfect with these little squares of tissue paper I bought a few months ago. I kind of remember mentioning it, but can't find the post.

We use quite a bit of tissue paper, but when you buy larger sheets, then you are stuck to the colors, and cutting and all that crappizzle. So, I saw this at Lakeshore Learning Store, and on a whim I bought it.

It is awesome. When the kids are in my hair, I give them cardstock and glue and they go to town. This project, though, calls for half circle cut tissue paper. Yeah, I didn't cut these, I used them as it. This project is called Koi Nobori Kite, or Japanese Carp Kite. It was super easy, fun, and looks very cool. You start with construction paper. The craft directions are 11"x17", but we used a normal size paper. I think it turned out cool. Beatrice wanted an orange fish and Thomas wanted a blue one. I poured some glue onto a paper plate, and they painted on glue. You layer tissue paper like scales.

Bea didn't want to layer like bricks, so hers are all over the place. It still looks rocking cool. Then we cut a piece of black construction paper to make a head. (Scales on the body) And she cut two circle eyes. We glued all of that on.  

Now the streamers. We grabbed some spare crepe paper from the basement and cut long pieces, flipped the paper around and Beatrice glued them on the bottom of the paper.

We then stapled the fish into a circle and attached a string like a kite.

And Ta-da!

We hung it in our new playroom. (So long, guests. You are SOL! We have a need to play!)

Saturday, February 25, 2012

reStore scores

I love the reStore. Sam and I are constantly visiting to try to find cool furniture for the house. Pieces I can turn into art. I am always looking for a few metal tables for my gardening space and/or art studio. This week, before we came down with the stomach flu, we hit the reStore, and I bought a bag full of awesome for a little over five bucks. I began vomiting in the afternoon and didn't unpack the bag, so this morning, when I began feeling a bit better, I unpacked it.

What I bought for five bucks and forty cents:

These are little handthrown pottery bowls about the perfect size for water dipping, making a watercolor wash, glitter, storing little things and the larger one is good for holding pencils. Each of the little ones cost me fifty cents and the larger one fifty cents. So in total, two bucks

These reminded me of my grandmother. One Virgin Mary and one Jesus round placard. The back is wood, the front is blue mirror and metal. I have a thing for sacred hearts. There is no surprise there, right? The Jesus one reads, "I will bless everyplace where a picture of my heart shall be exposed and honored." Hells yes! And the Mary one reads, "Immaculate Heart of Mary Pray for us who have recourse to thee." I love Catholic art. Lately, this is exactly the kind of art I am drawn too. Anyway, I loved these. One buck each. They are going in my studio for inspiration.

Two hand painted black metal trays with roses on them. I felt like these must be old, but I have no way to prove that claim. Always looking for trays. Fifty cents each.

One brown bottle for 40 cents. $5.40.

What kind of things are you finding at the thrift shop these days? Please say it doesn't involve sad clowns.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

heart labyrinth

Since I started this blog, I think I have only ever really done one linoleum block print for a Day of the Dead swap. I just paint more and do other crafting. But block printing, like stamp cutting, is something that is easy, versatile and fun. So, I thought I would show you the process with this project I did today.

For some background on this project, I was invited to a baby shower/blessingway for a friend of mine and received this in the mail.

The instructions were that each person coming to the baby shower would create a prayer flag, which would be strung together to help my friend during labor and birthing. Traditionally, Tibetan prayer flags are hung outside with prayers that are carried on the wind to God, or the gods, or the universe. Prayers for peace and the end of suffering. The flag is supposed to wear away, remain open to the elements, meaning your prayer would be answered when the flag is gone. For this blessingway, the idea is to write a prayer, positive message, and/or a loving powerful image for the pregnant woman to use as strength and love for birth. Each person does one to surround her with love and positive images. I loved the idea and immediately began thinking about what to do for her.

I've been thinking about labyrinths a great deal lately. I wrote about it on my other blog recently. In a birthing class I took while pregnant with Beezus, we drew labyrinths as a kind of power image to use during birth. Labor is like a labyrinth, we were told. You go in and though it is a long, winding, seemingly arduous path, you always find a way to the center and back out again. Though it seems to be a maze, you aren't tricked, there is no cleverness, you will get to the end.

I decided to do a labyrinth for my prayer flag. I am really drawn to the Native American labyrinth pattern, which has a more organic and less geometric look to it. Labyrinths are in cultures all over the world, so there are many different designs.

I drew this. Then I decided, as I was turning it around and around that it might look cool as a block print. And then as I was staring at it and thinking it looked like a brain, I thought I might transform it into a heart-shaped labyrinth, since labor is an arduous journey of love.

Creating a linoleum block print is really easy, but does require some equipment. All very reasonably priced and long lasting, so a little investment for a long pay-off. If you are so inclined. Linoleum block printing is one way to make a print. I did watch a Martha Stewart one morning where she did a print on a potato, then stamped it in fabric paint and made cool onesies. So, once you buy the stamp/block cutting tools, you can basically carve anything. I choose linoleum because it lasts a hell of a lot longer than a potato and I can make multiple prints, wash the linoleum in water, and use another color.

First thing to know is that printing is a reverse process, so if you are doing letters, mirror flip them. I drew my design right on my block. First in watercolor pencil, so I could erase with water, then I went over it in sharpie.

The drawing is the guideline. I am going to take the linoleum off the entire block EXCEPT my design. I am making a stamp, basically. This one is 8.5" x 5". My husband used a table saw to trim my block (later in the process). You can buy the tools to remove the linoleum at Michael's or AC Moore, both of which have printing materials, including blocks and ink and all the equipment. Speedball makes a cheap, totally fine, lino block tool set for ten bucks. Blocks vary in price, but are about five to ten bucks a piece. Again, you can cut them to suit your needs.

The block cutting tools I use are made my Speedball. And have different sizes of blade, which are stored in the handle. They are hella sharp, and I have cut myself a number of times. Practice before doing an intricate design. It isn't terribly difficult, but it does take a certain understanding of how much pressure and counter pressure to use and where to put your other hand. I have slipped, especially early on and skidded across my block and into my hand. It wasn't pleasant. Some people use a vice, but I like to move my block around.

I always start by creating the edge of my print first. Then the long, large areas.I do that for a number of reasons. One is that if I do slip and skid across my project, you usually stop at a gutter. Usually. Not always, but usually. I generally leave a huge field to cut around my project only so I can reorient myself to cutting the linoleum before I get into my design. Many people trim all block but the design. That is a good way to do it.

This is a very meditative process. Cutting and drinking coffee/tea. Cutting and drinking coffee. I also listen to music I can sing to.

 After finishing the entire surrounding area, I hunker down for the intricate design of the inside heart. I am cutting out everything but the black marker.

 This part is the difficult part. It takes patience, rather. It isn't difficult, but it is easy to slip and cut straight through the rest of your design, which would be bad. No repairing the gone linoleum. Here is my design, you can see the linoleum bits in a pile behind the block. As you can see, by this cross section above, linoleum block is a wood block with a relatively thin piece of linoleum on top. You can buy just the linoleum. And if you are so inclined, you can do this same exact thing on wood. Wood does come off differently because of grain and nooks and crannies, so it takes a lot more skill than I possess. Linoleum doesn't seem thin when you are carving, but then you hit wood here and there, and it feels thin. Pressure is important. Deep cuts will absorb less ink. Shallow cuts will pool your ink and make your print look muddy. But it is a way to create shadowing and detail by playing with cutting depth. This project was very straightforward for what was cut and what wasn't.

 Next step is to ink the bad boy. I use block printing ink for block printing. It seems like a no-brainer, but I have tried paint. It doesn't work. This is water soluble, and comes off easily. That is why I choose it. I think a brayer is an essential piece of equipment in an artist studio. It is so immensely useful for creating texture, background, printmaking, and all kinds of stuff. I use mine often. Very often. I used this little sushi dish to spread ink today, but usually I use a butcher pan I inherited from my step father. After spreading the ink evenly over your brayer, you then ink your block print. Try to roll evenly and do a number of rolls to cover all the parts of your design. This is why cutting depth is so important. As you can see in my picture, all the parts that are red are ink, so in the field, there is some reds. That is the high points of my cuts. I like that look. It gives a cool design element. Block prints want some of that, but too much and it looks sloppy.

The difference in stamp making and print making is that you move the stamp and with block printing, you move the paper. There are machine to help you print, but I use me. I am La Machina. But it takes a steady, delicate, yet strong touch. After inking, you place the paper on top. It is important to make sure you know where you want the image on your paper first, line it up, and lay it evenly. You cannot drag your paper into place after you lay it on top of the block, obviously, or paint will drag across your paper. Also resist the urge to jiggle it into place. Just place it and step away. Now grab your barren.

That is the barren, the thing on top of the white paper. It helps give you a nice even pressure on your design. When you use your fingers, you can easily press your paper into the crannies of your design, giving it ink where ink ain't supposed to be. Each print will be different. There is no helping it. Now, when you lift your paper, lift is straight up. Don't drag. Don't touch. Don't pull it. I actually pull at opposite corners in.

 Practicing with the print, I made these cards. While I like the design, the red ink makes it look a little placental, which is just not my style. So I tried mixing blue, green, yellow, and silver inks to create a cool new color of teal-ish sparkly goodness.

 This is how it turned out on the prayer flag.

 And this is the shitload of prints I did tonight on different papers, like origami paper, cardstock, watercolor paper, marker paper and just plain old colored stock.

 Hope you liked this tutorial, and if you think the design is too weird, tell me. I have a few weeks before the shower!

Friday, February 17, 2012

the-immensely-useful-but-not-particularly-crafty fire starter

Yeah, so last year, we installed a wood stove and use that as the only source of heating in our home. We did it to begin the arduous process of trying to be more sustainable with immediate goal of saving money on gas heat, the shorter-yet-still-a-long-ways-in-the-future term goal of being off the grid, and a much longer term goal of surviving the apocalypse. It stays a cool 64 degrees in here. It would seem like I would mind this, considering I can never catch a warm, but actually, I think I run a little cooler than the average dude. We are a tough lot. Kind of like polar bears. Perhaps growling, very tough and nasty arctic wolves. We howl and bite each other in the neck for attention.

At night, the ice weasels come.

Last year, we had to buy a few cords of wood, but this year, my husband has foraged for our entire winter's wood. Yes, something like five cords of wood, my husband has knocked on people's doors and asked for their logs, then hauled them off, then split them, then stacked them to dry and cure, then burned them. I was very proud of him. I did virtually nothing for this venture, and it has saved us a shitload on money. Our average gas and electric bill before the woodstove was something in the range of 300-400 bucks. And now, we barely break 100, and since wood is free, we are doing pretty well.

My problem is the starting of the fire when there is no coal bed. Which rarely happens these February days. But the other day, we went to the ReStore*, and I bought this cool Mason jar bird feeder. It came wrapped in newspaper. I rarely have newspaper in the house. I made a craft with it. And then I just stacked it in the office, and it occurred to me that I should use it for the fire. I remembered seeing something like this on a certain site I am not naming. I still have herbs in my garden. Well, they are drying, I suppose you could say. Rosemary. Lavender. And I had an old smudging cedar and sage bundle. So, I dug them out and created some fire starters that smell like heaven.

This is an easy one and it made a nice surprise gift for the husband. The kids loved helping with this craft. All you need are some dried herbs, pine cones, sticks, sage, cedar. I used rosemary, sage and cedar. You cut some square pieces of newspaper.

Then, you put some herbs in the middle, the sticks. Whatever. This totally looks like a doobie. Not that I know anything about that.

We used a large piece of paper to house the herbs as we were filling the smaller ones. The kids had a lot of fun breaking up the herbs, then smelling the packages.

Then you roll them. I tied them with sock yarn, which I use for everything. I have had one skein of sock yarn for four years, since I actually do not knit socks. But I use sock yarn for tassels, tying bundles, finishing projects, bookmarks. Well, anything you use regular string for, obviously. It is just prettier.

And basically, that is it. You can then hide it under some logs and kindling and start a gigantic blazing fire, and it smells good while you are doing it.

We put them in the kindling box. Just an idea for spare newspaper and herbs. Happy Wintering!

*which is the best place in the entire world.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Yarn-wrapped vases

"So I totally saw this on Pinterest and had to make them."  Yes, it's become my catch phrase.  But I totally did see them on Pinterest and I totally did have to make them.  So easy and really this doesn't need much of a tutorial.  You will need to gather these supplies...yarn, tacky glue or any glue, really, that dries clear, mod podge, fine, you get it...empty, clean jars, cans, whathaveyou.  Paintbrush and something to put the glue into.  Scissors.  Put something down to work on so you don't get glue on EVERYTHING YOU OWN!  Or you could have fugly formica like me and not give a crap.
Start painting the glue onto the jar or can.  If you are using a jar or bottle with a lid, and want to use the lid (maybe you are going to use this yarn-covered jar for storing herbs or buttons or whatever), do not put yarn on the threaded neck of the jar.  And you will want to paint the lid to compliment the color of your yarn.
I didn't even take the labels off.  Deal with that.  I knew I wanted to use these for vases so I put glue on the threaded part.  Now start wrapping your yarn around the jar.  Keep your beginning yarn end down and start wrapping it under the yarn wrap. I did this in sections so my hands didn't get all glue-y, except they still do.  Wrap the yarn so you can't see any of the jar.
Keep doing this until you get to the bottom and add a little glue to the end of your yarn.  Then you will become obsessed with doing this and make many, many yarn-wrapped jars.  I put flowers in it, then I put a candle in the other, then I put them downstairs and then upstairs.  And now I am making more.
"Someday, I'll be a button flower."

Monday, February 13, 2012

creating stickers/transparent images

Well, this weekend, after doing the canvas image transfer, I was reminded how much fun, how easy, and how cool it is to make transparent stickers from magazine pictures. It is not exactly the same process, but it has some similar elements. Also, you need very little in the way of supplies or art equipment.

Once you have the transparent image, you can then transform them into stickers or use them in mixed media work. I wanted to show you how I created a meditation piece for my art studio out of one  issue of Tricycle.

First, find a cool image to transfer, from a magazine or newspaper. This process only really works well with magazines/newspaper print. Inkjet printers are water soluble and you are going to be submerging this in water. You are basically transferring the ink to a piece of plastic, so you need to have a kind of substance behind the ink. I wanted to do a meditation piece for my studio, because I often do tonglen meditation and paint. But like all meditation, my mind wanders, and I think about groceries or people I love. So, I wanted to hang something front and center to remind me to focus.

I used this issue:

I ripped out pages with images that interested me. I like how this x-ray of the Buddha looks exactly like that small Buddha on another story. I cut and used both of those. I also dug the picture of Darwin.

First you cut out the image that you want to use.

Next use some packing tape. The transparent type. You pull out enough to cover your image.

Put your image face down onto your tape. You can use a burnishing tool, or anything really, so get it all up in the sticky of the tape.

After I did this, I decided I just wanted the Buddha head, so I cut the rest of it out.

Then you submerge the entire thing in water. Just dunk it in there. Swoosh it around. Obviously, bigger pictures need bigger vessels. Or patience.

You can keep it submerged for a few minutes. Then you rub the paper off the back.

Or peel, if the paper is willing.

And then, you have a transparent picture.

You can add glue on the back to stick it anywhere.

I also used that x-ray Buddha picture. For this one, I used two pieces of tape, because I wanted to split the image in two.  To do that, it take lining up the tape, so they don't touch. I could have also made one large transfer by overlapping the tape. This is before the water submersion.

This is after. I put it on paper towel, so you can see the transparency. I like how the dark ink areas get a little worn away. It gives it a really cool effect of antiquing or something.

Here is the final meditation piece I created. I used canvas paper. The base layer is a red/purple/white acrylic combination. Broad strokes. I did want the piece to be vertical. Then I used gold acrylic on a brayer, or an ink roller for print making. Just a few dabs directly on the brayer and then on the canvas. In the same issue, I found a shot of six Japanese calligraphy brushes made out of human hair. I made a transfer on that too. I then found a headline that read "focusing". I just cut out the focus. I used the x-ray Buddha head to head, but it makes it look like one of those optical illusions. Is it a woman, or two vases? I just don't know. After the brayer, I covered the canvas in gel medium, and just fiddled with the placement of these pieces. I love the way it turned out. Art makes me happy.

Oh, and I also made a transfer of the Darwin, because I just thought I could use a Darwin sticker some day.

I just have to say, I love the way these look when you are using animals. I really thought about making Valentine's cards with these and wild animal pictures that said, "I'm Wild about You." Just an idea. Go ahead. Steal it. Hope this helps. I would love to see what you do with this technique.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

canvas transfer.

Ssssssh, this is a gift for my husband for Valentine's Day. We don't usually exchange gifts, but I wanted to try this project. He never reads my blogs, so don't worry.

I used this tutorial from Elsie Larson.

I really wanted to do this with a wedding picture of ours. It seemed antique enough to match up with this technique. So, first you print a picture onto photo paper. I think you need an inkjet printer. Not totally sure on that, but I have one, so that is cool. I printed this one, which is one I love, but got overexposed in the corner, so I can't use it very much.

I printed this on 8.5" x 11" photo paper, then trimmed it to 8" x 10" I bought a simple, cheap canvas at Michael's. I think it cost me $5.99.

I used this Utrecht acrylic--matte gel. I had bought some a long time ago, and really have never used it. You cover the canvas in this. Make it a rather thick coat. then press the picture into it, lining it up. Now, remember that your image will be reversed. There is a feature on many basic photo programs that allows you to mirror flip your image. I think you can do this in MS Paint. So, if you want to do it the proper way, you can. I didn't care.

You allow this to dry to several hours. I did overnight. Then you get a spray bottle of water, and spray the back. Now, I have done a similar technique for art journaling to make stickers. (Hey, should I do a sticker tutorial? Does everyone know how to make stickers?) I am just warning you that this part is very time consuming, messy, and tedious. But I like the results. This is what it looks like when you first start rubbing and start seeing your image.

Now, remember that the rubbing is a kind of rough process, and yet, you don't want to rub too hard, because you will rub off your picture. So, find a kind of middle road of rubbing. (Oh, geez, like you know what that is.) You'll see what I mean. Unlike me, start at a corner that can bear to be rubbed to the canvas. Once you see the picture without a film, stop and move to another area. I rubbed some parts of my photo off, but it actually makes it look very antiqued.

And the finished product:

Hanging on a wall.

Which looks exactly like the one on the desk. Awesome. I forgot to mention that you should put a layer of gel medium on top of the picture after you are done rubbing to protect. That is all.