Monday, January 23, 2012

Baby Hand Santa Ornament

This is my last holiday-related blog post hooray!!

It's not considered late if it's posted before the end of January, right? It's still "the holidays." {:

We made these hand print keepsake ornaments for ourselves and for both sets of grandparents. Being not-wealthy, and having parents who don't want or need many things, we end up giving them a lot of pictures of the babe and craft projects that he "helped with."

Once again, I found this idea on Pinterest (man oh man—I promise, the NEXT thing I do will not be something I first saw on Pinterest!).

The inspiration piece was actual ceramic, but being that I don't have a kiln, I had to find an alternative.

First I tried using this stuff called Amazing Clay (was going to link to their website, but I can't find a website—not surprising!). It comes as a powder and you add water. Then it's supposed to dry hard over night. Well, it didn't. The next morning it was still soft and had already started cracking, and I knew it wouldn't work for this project.

So I went on to a salt/flour dough. My parents put a salt/flour dough ornament on their tree every year that I made for them in maybe 1st grade? So I know they last long enough if you're careful with them.

I also like the folksiness of the salt/flour dough and the fact that you can add color! Maybe you can with the Amazing Clay, but I wasn't about the mess with the chemistry.

Adding the green meant I wouldn't need to paint the ornament before painting Santa on.

That Nest of Posies blog author said she baked her ornaments at 150° for 1 hour. Wha?!? Is she in Europe or something? Does she mean Celsius? That would be more like 300°. Better.

I started at 150°, then realized it would take forever (it's like being in a really hot desert), so I bumped it up to 350° for a few hours, then down the 200° or 250° for a couple hours. And they seriously were not completely dry when we gave them at Christmas. Now they seem nice and hard. {:

I painted the Santas with acrylic paint (I use my acrylics more than my oils these days), wrote a little name/date info on the back in fine sharpie, looped a pretty ribbon through the hole (made with a drinking straw, like the tutorial), and voilĂ !


Friday, January 13, 2012

A Napkin Caddy for Phil

Brian wanted to make a Christmas present for his dad with scrap wood from our "collection," so I found this idea on Pinterest. It's frustrating that the pin is from an old etsy post, and I can't even acknowledge the artist! ]: 

When it's nice outside, which is much of the year here in beautiful California, my in-laws often eat outside on their patio (and we join them as often as we can).

A napkin/utensil/salt/pepper caddy seemed like a perfect addition to those outdoor dinners. 

This is more Brian's craft project than mine, but since we're married, we share everything, right? Besides, I found it on Pinterest! And he doesn't have a blog. {:

Brian made some smart changes to the etsy inspiration.

First, there's a bottom so the napkins are held inside. The etsy one looks like it has no bottom, right?

The utensil jar moves freely, and holds the napkins down.

There's a notch for the salt and paper shakers, so they won't fall off (quite so easily).


We got the salt and pepper shakers from the dollar store, and the utensils (artfully mismatched) from Goodwill.

He painted it using a paint sample we got for our bedroom. So it's a flat interior wall paint. It's nearly white, but with a dash of brown. Then he sanded it until it looked awesomely worn.

Maybe I can get him to add a little technical info later.


Ok, here's Brian!

Well, to start, I drudged up some reclaimed 1x6 (pine?) that had pretty looking grain and no signs of paint, stains, or other harsh chemicals.  Having no specs from the inspiration project, I grabbed a napkin and took some measurements for dimensions and began making pencil marks on the wood.  I chose a top-down approach—not metaphorically see, but literally so if I messed up on the top, I would be throwing away less wood than if I had messed up on the bottom.  In retrospect, I would not have babied the wood so much. Granted, it was necessary to take off major gashes and existing contact paper (adhered by what looked like wood glue), but time was wasted trying to smooth out the finish when I would later attempt to scuff it up with varying degrees of sandpaper.

Back to business. I cut the top board two inches or so beyond the standard napkin size to give the napkins wiggle room plus the needed 3/4 inch that the 1x6 verticals would need to tie into. I preset 4 holes into the bottom of the top board and 2 to each of the adjoining vertical boards. I used a drill and the time tested technique of wrapping tape around the bit to measure depth. If one were fancy and had an actual shop, a drill press would have made quick work of this and the next step and the possibility of drilling through one's hand would be greatly reduced. With holes drilled, insert dowels with a heap of glue and clamp. Turns out, if you want to be a carpenter, you should invest in a whole mess of clamps.

Next day, drill holes in vertical boards and mark on bottom plank where you need to drill, then do so.  This could have been done the first day, but I wanted to make sure all angles were right, so I took them one at a time. Once the glue had dried I was able to use a hole cutter for the mason jar/flatware holder.  Then I used a Dremel to drill an inset for the S&P (I'm sure any router or hammer and chisel would work)  No, the inset is not to "hold" the salt and pepper, but simply an indication as to where to put the damn shakers.

Once assembled, I gave a rough sanding all over and then a sloppy, heavy painting to cover.  When I used clamps I also used cardboard and shims so as to not damage the wood, what a waste.  Dings and scratches add to the "antiquing" look and should not have been avoided.

After the paint dries, simply sand by hand as heavy or light as you want, and then you're done.  Oh, I also added some cabinet hardware -pulls- for handles.


Thanks Brian! What a good writer my husband is! And, turns out, we're both a little long-winded. But, hopefully, both entertaining.  (;

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Gion's Valentines

Before we all forget holiday season 2011 ever happened, I want to finish up my holiday craft posts.

My mother-in-law loves sending cards to people (mostly her sister and a few close friends) for several holidays, including Valentine's Day and Saint Patrick's Day. So when I saw this idea and this idea on Pinterest, I knew I had a potential Christmas gift on my hands.

I love the idea that such a simple process can produce such beautiful results. And I'm drawn to the natural, free look of the work. No need to labor over crisp, clean perfection.

I used both celery and napa cabbage to make the prints (I just found the original post, and now know good ol' Martha Stewart used Treviso radicchio—so glad I didn't know that. I wouldn't have been able to find that around here!).

I dusted off my acrylic paints to use as "ink."

I thought I would put the paint on a plate and dip the veg like a stamp, but it worked much better to use a paint brush, and apply the color directly.

It was a fun and easy project. And would have been even easier if I wasn't trying so hard to make it look nice—like if I was working with kids.

I covered the box with paper I had practiced stamping on and some cards that got "messed up."

The box was harder to make than I expected. I actually used a card box my in-laws had given me—Impressionist cards from The Huntington Library. I didn't anticipate the paper I covered it with making it too thick to close easily and the Mod Podge making it a little tacky. So I squeezed in the corners of the bottom box and taped the inside (with clear packing tape) to keep the pinch and the outside edge, to increase the sliding (no more Mod Podge edges rubbing on each other).

Of course the box was harder to make than the contents—the actual gift!

Hooray for homemade gifts!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Venetian Paper Dolls

My oh my! I decided to tackle this project two days ago, and it has sort of consumed my last three days (every moment not spent caring for/entertaining a toddler). It sort of felt like I was in school again. One of those tasks you think will take only an hour, and you end up staying up all night so you can turn it in the next day. Luckily I wasn't tuning this in, so I was able to stretch it across three days. But it still took waaaaay longer than I thought it would—with all my perfectionist and technical issues.

An explanation. I came across this project while organizing my studio, and it made me think of my friend Sarah. We met at San Jose State. We had similar areas of interest, and she actually went into the art history grad program—I would have too if I hadn't gotten pregnant (and I'm grateful every day I did. Sarah's muuuuch better suited for academia than I am). At first I thought I would stick the book in an envelope and send it to Sarah, but after her very enthusiastic response when I asked if she'd like to see it, I realized other people might find it interesting as well, and I should digitize it and share it with everyone!

I made this book in 2008 or 2009 for a History of Fashion class (and now you understand why people choose to go to places like SJSU—paper or art project option, yes please!). A semester or two before, I had taken an Art History of Renaissance Venice class and LOVED it, and I used that knowledge to make . . .

Renaissance Venice PAPER DOLLS!!

Please keep in mind, I was an undergrad when I made this book. I'm no expert in art history or costume. There may be factual mistakes. But I did my reading, and was a BIG big BIG BIG nerd back then. So it's probably pretty accurate. {:

As I mention on the last scanned page, I got my information from three books: Survey of Historic Costume: A History of Western Dress by Phyllis G. Tortora and Keith Eubank, Art and Life in Renaissance Venice by Patricia Fortini Brown, and Painting in Renaissance Venice by Peter Humfrey

Please don't use these images without crediting me. And certainly don't sell anything using my images. They're not very high quality anyway (I can send bigger files to friends who are interested).

Click to see images larger. And enjoy!










Thanks to Dr. Christine Junkerman for inspiring an interest in Renaissance Venice. And thanks to Doctor Christine Junkerman and Doctor Jan Thompson for refusing to take the book when I tried to give it to each of them. Whether they thought it was crap or thought I might like to have it for the future, I'm really happy they made me keep it, so I could share it with you!

If you think I'm a good artist, check out my painting blog:

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Bird Seed Neighbor Gifts

We moved into our house in August, and recently I'd been thinking we'd been here long enough without meeting all of our immediate neighbors (too long really). Of course, some neighbors we met right away. Like the woman whose dad used to live here. And the guy who's been building a HUGE retaining wall right across the creek from us the entire time we've owned the home (we've owned since April, but who knows how long before that he started). Other neighbors we've just waved to from across the street.

I wanted to find an excuse to meet the other neighbors and reach out a hand of friendship.

A neighbor Christmas gift sounded like a good idea. Not that we'll do this every year, but the first year seemed nice.

I kept seeing ideas for neighbor gifts that were food items, cookies and candy. But how do I know what our neighbors like or want to eat?

Yet I didn't want to make anything that our neighbors would feel obligated to keep around. "Oh, look at this cute Xmas tree ornament our neighbors made us! I don't remember their names . . ."

Then I found this. It was conceived of as a wedding favor, but I thought it would be perfect for our neighbor gift.

Then, I started asking around to find out what kind of bird seed people like to use, and SO MANY PEOPLE hate bird seed! It attracts squirrels and rats. It sprouts, and you get patches of grass underneath the feeder. Wow! I didn't realize feeding the birds was so controversial.

So I decided not to make these for family stocking stuffers, but I made them for neighbors with the note:

little bird seed cakes
hang them from a tree if you wish
if you don’t want to feed our local
birds or squirrels . . . regift
. . . might make a lovely valentine. (;

That covers things, right?

Onto the gift!

We have six houses that seem immediately adjacent to us, so I made six of these, with one star and one heart.

I asked my mom if she had any natural twine, and she brought over, like, four of these big skeins of twine. She was an avid macrame artist in the 70s. I think I need to wrap some brown paper packages with this stuff!!

Anyway, I made these little tags with our names and address. So glad I put our first names on because few could repeat Everett's name back to us correctly. We got Evert, and I think Everst. And we even got "Everett, makes me think of the outdoors and mountains." hmmm . . .

I regret now not putting our phone number on the tag. I didn't want to overload them with information, but what if they want to reach us?! Oh well, they'll just have to come over!

As you can see, we made "Happy New Year!!" gifts instead of Christmas gifts.  Things were just so busy at Christmas. But, I feel celebrating New Year's is much more universal. And, it was a great activity to do on New Year's Day. Going around talking to our neighbors made us feel more a part of a community on a day I feel it is important to think about the future and your role in it.

A note about the bird seed cakes. I wasn't suuuuper happy with the way they turned out. In my first batch, the flour got sort of lumpy, and those lumps showed up in the cakes (the cakes were also a little hazy from the flour). But the first batch I made with Everett, and I didn't follow the instructions in quite the right order or at a regular speed. I did a second batch. I did it in the right order. I even used the electric mixer to get out all the lumps (before putting the bird seed in). But this second batch still came out a little hazy, and some had lumps too (not as many).

I'd try a recipe I saw online that uses coconut oil, but I'm not sure how strong they would be or how fast they would set.

Mine set very quickly (I did overnight), and the final product was very sturdy.

Overall, I was happy with the project, and it was a really fun way to meet our neighbors!

Happy New Year!!

Holiday Cork Wreaths

It being the first year in our home—and before that living with my in-laws, and before that living in apartments, with no real desire to "deck the halls"—we had a severe lack of holiday decorations.

The holidays are always a little crazy for a crafty person like me. I always have several handmade gifts planned for people, crafted and non-crafted gifts to wrap creatively, plus now that we have a baby, I feel like it's necessary to send out Christmas cards. The holidays are crazy! . . . thank goodness I've gotten out of cooking thus far!

So, back to the craft, I wanted to make a few decorations that weren't too time consuming.

After scouring the internet, I found this cork wreath.

Wreaths tend to be quite cheesy, but the corks seemed fun and a little refined. Also, we drink wine quite frequently, so it's not entirely out of character for us to decorate with corks.

Knowing we had very few decorations, my mother-in-law had bought us some glittery letters, one for each of our first initials, and one for our last.

I put the three first initials on the tree and decided to put the last initial inside the wreath.

Yes, the "C" is for our last name. Not for my first name or for "Christmas."

I felt the matte wreath with the glittery letter would have looked weird, so I covered a few of the corks in glitter. I sort of wish I'd used the small glitter, like what's on the letter, but I had big glitter, so that's what I used.

I think it looks quite good, and prettys up our uglier-than-ugly front door.


Corks (helps to have one or more friends/family members who work for wineries)

A dollar store wreath made of braided willow or some type of natural cane.

Spray paint in festive colors


White glue (for the glitter)

Hot glue (for the corks)

Ribbon to tie on letter and hang up wreath.

As mentioned above, we know a few people who work for wineries (it's wine country for heaven's sake!). We were collecting our own—but just looking at the bag of corks, and imaging how many I still needed, was threatening to give me alcohol poisoning—so I put out the word, and got TONS!!

So many, in fact, that I was able to make another wreath for the back/kitchen door.

I actually bought this small wreath for the front door, but when I got so many corks, I went back to the dollar store and got the larger wreath for the front.

It was a fun project (or projects). I got to use two of my favorite crafting supplies: spray paint and hot glue. Spray paint is great, makes painting strangely shaped things fun and easy. But there are major downsides, like the fumes and needing many many coats (depending on the color/brand). Hot glue is the best! Whoever invented this stuff . . . I want to give her/him a big hug. It's so great.

Well, happy (almost end to the) holidays!