Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Binder Remix

Decked out in duct tape!
We're approaching that time of year when the contents of desk and lockers are brought home and dumped into our homes. Think green and take a moment to carefully sort through the debris and salvage what can be reused. If you discover a worn binder this duct tape project might be the ticket to get your teen away from the computer and crafting.
 Creative hands at work.
This project was born out of the desire to create a useful party craft for my neighbors' birthday party. The party space was reserved and held at Art Mind and Soul Studio. My neighbor had originally considered making duct tape messenger bags. As much as I loved the idea I was hesitant that it would be too complicated for the number of girls and the allotted time. My suggestion was to simply cover binders with tape. My hope was that the ready made smooth surface would encourage preteens to freely explore color and design with tape.
 The Birthday girl in creative action.
It worked like a dream, the girls were almost completely independent. My role was chief  tape un-sticker, and scissor blade de-gunker (hand sanitizer). The key to the success was having a great selection of colored tape on hand, including printed tie dye and plaid varieties. Many of the girls used a different color combination on the front and back of their binder and also took the time to cover the inside covers.
The smaller half finished binders in the center right were quick samples I whipped together with my sons binder cast-offs.
The studio had adhesive foam flowers on hand that made fabulous accents over the tape. I was thrilled that the girls enjoyed themselves and was really pleased with the variety of designs. Binders get a daily work out at the junior high, tricking them out in vibrant duct tape is not only fun but strengthens them as well. I wonder if any of the girls will write in them this summer?

Friday, May 21, 2010

Baking Therapy cures Mom on Overload

Batch of molasses cookies, fresh from the oven!
When people hear I write craft books they're usually intrigued. I fight the temptation to admit that it's really not very glamorous. A creative career is truly a mixed bag. There are some wonderful moments when a new design falls together and editors appreciate my work. Other times I'm up til the wee hours of the night reworking an unsuccessful design. The scariest time for a self employed artist is when your workload hits a lull. What makes up for all the ups and downs is when I meet someone who knows my work, has followed my directions, and in the process has fallen in love with a new craft.
Our oldest in his natural habitat.
The biggest impediments to my work are also my greatest joys.  Our three children straddle high school to preschool.  Each day brings a new logistic dilemma: how do we get everyone where they need to be? All moms are busy whether they stay at home or work outside of the home. There's never ending lists of chores and emotional needs to keep a home and family running (or some days limping along). There's no way I could endeavor to do any of this alone, my husband Jon is always there with a sense of humor and an amazing ability to stay up late.
Our favorite athlete.
This week has been the perfect storm of home and work activity. The boys have been incredibly busy with end of the school year music performances and sports. Little Celia's preschool is almost finished, which means I'm using up my last mornings of solitude. I've been reading through the final edits for Wired Beautiful, wrapping up Halloween magazine work, and trying to get craft merchandise into stores. In the back of my mind I've been planning which new sewing book projects to tackle first.
The constant entertainer!
Whenever I'm stuck in the middle of chaos I bake. It's my therapy. I follow recipes and fill our home with delicious food. It gives me a sense of accomplishment and makes my family happy. It doesn't help get through my work assignments or clean the house but it offers measured moments of peace and order.

Molasses Cookies
makes approximately 30 cookies

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Whisk together:
3 1/4 cups of flour, 2 tsp baking soda, 1/2 tsp of salt, 2 tsp of cinnamon, 1/2 tsp of allspice, 2 tsp of ginger, and a dash of freshly ground black pepper, set aside

In a separate bowl blend:
8 tbsp or one stick of butter, 10 tbsp of shortening, 2/3 cup of brown sugar, 1/3 cup of white sugar: beat until fluffy
Then add: 1 egg, and 11/2 tsp of vanilla
When combined add: 3/4 cup of molasses.

Quickly fold in dry ingredients.

Lay parchment paper on two cookie trays, grease them.
Roll the batter into 11/2 inch balls moisten them by dipping your fingers in a water bowl. Roll the ball in sugar and place it on the prepared sheets.
Bake for 12 minutes until the tops are cracked.
I find it helps to rotate the trays top to bottom halfway through baking.


Friday, May 7, 2010

Preschool Posies for Mother's Day

It was a treat to volunteer in Celia's preschool class on Wednesday. I had a project in mind and her teachers graciously let me come in and work with the children. When I found 'Easter trees', simple clay pots with green floral wire stems, at the Dollar Tree store I immediately snatched a cart full. I knew that they would make the perfect base for one of a kind flower creations. 
To prepare for this activity I hauled out a bag of stiff felt scraps leftover from the library monster program. I ran the felt through my Sizzix 'Big Kick' machine to cut out an assortment of flower shapes. I've fallen in love with this versatile tool that will cut three layers of felt in a single pass. I also ran craft foam sheets through the Sizzix with the tag template so the children could write their name and 'MOM' on gift cards.

I hand cut leaf shapes out of green craft foam and used a 1/8" paper punch to make a hole in one end of each leaf. I dug through my supplies and discovered an interesting bag of plastic floral parts (salvaged from pulling apart silk flowers) and added them to a growing assortment of plastic, foam and pompom beads. I packed everything into a trusty laundry basket and tossed in a couple spools of ribbon. I was ready for action!
The children had no trouble threading the pieces onto the wires, my job was to help them figure out how to bend the wires over so that the beads and flowers wouldn't fall off. The kids jumped right into the assortment of supplies and made some gorgeous creations. They unexpectedly figured out how to thread some of the unusual flower parts onto the end of the wires. Fortunately the teachers had a glue gun on hand, after everyone finished, I was able to add a little glue to make sure their unique touches wouldn't fall off.
The children were proud of their work and I know their moms will enjoy their one of a kind centerpieces. Here's wishing you a very Happy Mother's Day!

Monday, May 3, 2010

A little faith - Beaded Necklace Tutorial and Giveaway.

I find the greatest spiritual wonder in nature, which is why I placed this beaded cross on a mossy stone. The view from a mountain top, the peace of a quiet walk in the woods, or the crashing sound of the waves on the beach all take my breath away.

A couple years ago Pure Allure sent me a selection of jewelry findings that featured Swarovski crystals for use in my design work. I recently delved into the stash and discovered an amazing selection of crosses. I chose a simple earthy mix of colored glass and crystal beads to contrast the detailed metal work.

You can easily adapt this design and create your own bead mix to accentuate a favorite finding or make a custom pendant by stringing larger sized beads onto a head pin. Please check out the 'Beaded Collage Pendant' on page 97 in my book Simply Beaded Bliss for inspiration.

Finished dimensions: 17 1/4"

20" length of silver .015 Beadalon stringing wire
2 silver crimp beads
6mm silver metal jump ring
O ring toggle clasp - Blue Moon Beads
Seed beads - brown foil, steel gray, and sand-washed brown
'E' beads - silver and brown
11 rectangular beadlettes
6 4mm round crystals - Swarovski
7 4mm bicone crystals olivine - Swarovski
Metal cross pendant inlaid with crystals - Pure Allure
Clear tape

wire cutters
chain nose pliers
optional - bent nose pliers

1. Begin by mixing all the beads in the material list into a shallow bowl. If you think it's too light add some dark beads, conversely if you find it too bright add in some dark beads. This mix worked well for crosses that also featured tan and topaz colored crystals.
2. Fold a piece of tape over the end of your stringing wire and begin stringing a 'random' assortment of the beads. Even though your goal is to have a random appearance try to space the rectangle beadlettes and crystals an inch apart, so that you have sparkle and added dimension along the entire strand.
3. Once you've beaded 17" test fit the necklace around your neck, if necessary add beads to increase the length. When you're satisfied with the length, string a crimping bead onto the wire end then loop the wire through one half of the clasp and back through the crimp bead. Remove any slack in the wire and squeeze the crimp bead flat with your pliers, trim the end with your wire cutters. Remove the tape and then repeat the process on the other side of the wire to attach the remaining half of the clasp.
4. To attach the pendant open the jump ring laterally, slide on the charm.  Hook the ring onto the center of the beaded chain before closing it. It's helpful to use a second pair of pliers to open and close the jump ring. You'll hear and feel a little click when the wire ends meet and the close back in their original position.
For more beading tips and close up step by step instructions please look for my beading books: Simply Beautiful beading, Simply Beautiful Beaded Jewelery, and Simply Beautiful Beaded Bliss.
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