Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Brassy Beauties

Recently, I got package filled with these beautiful metal goodies from the Vintaj Natural Brass Company and was so excited! I normally work mainly with silver and gold finishes, but fell in love with this company, which specializes in gorgeous filigree brass findings. Each piece is a little work of art and I'm really looking forward to working them into my jewelry and mixed media designs. If you haven't heard of them before or read their awesome blog, you should definitely check them out!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Art Class: Gel Medium Technique

I realize I haven't shown any of my scrapbooking projects since I started this blog, but that's because I've been so involved with the house and other stuff (can you say "beads!?"), and I just haven't created anything new to share. But I did go through my albums and found some Spring-like layouts that I thought were appropriate for this time of year—giving me something to look forward to since we still have snow on the ground! One of them featured a neat artist's technique that I've written about in the past, so I thought I'd share it with you in this mini tutorial as well. I stumbled upon it many years ago and it uses a fine art product called gel medium and acrylic paints to create a strong, flexible sheet that you can punch or cut out, which I used to create the dimensional fleur de lis accent on this layout:


Semi-Gloss Soft Gel Medium (Golden Artist Colors)
Acrylic paint (I used 3 shades)
Palette Knife (or similar spreading tool)
Craft Knife
Decorative Scissors, Dies or Punches
Non-Stick Craft Sheet (Ranger) or a pane of clean glass
Painter’s Tape

1. Cut out a frame from chipboard (I used two layers to make a thicker gel sheet), and attach to the clean non-stick craft sheet or glass with painter’s tape to hold it in place. Mix various paints and soft gel medium to create several shades and drop randomly into the frame opening.

2. Lightly swirly colors together, but be careful not to overmix or they will combine into one solid color.

3. Gently smooth down gel mixture so it completely covers the opening and is flush with edges of chipboard. Set aside to dry for 24 to 48 hours (depending on the thickness), then cut sheet away from frame with a craft knife to reveal the swirled pattern on the underside. This is the side you will want to show on your projects, as it will have the prettiest effect. (Note: if you're using glass as a base, make sure you don't leave the sheet on too long or it will be difficult to remove. It's better to take it off just before it's fully dried if you can, and let it air dry on wax paper.

4. Now you can take the "cured" acrylic sheet and use it like you would any sheet of thick cardstock or handmade paper. I love to make up several sheets in various colors and store them with wax paper in between each sheet. If you have any of the gel/paint mixtures left over, you can store them in air-tight containers for later use.

There are a wide variety of gel mediums available and you can find them in any art supply store, or in the fine art section of your craft store (where they have the oil paints and canvases, etc.). I prefer the Semi-Gloss version as it gives a nice sheen, without being too plastic looking or dull. Glossy varieties will be the most transparent, while Matte will have a milky to opaque finish.

Other Ideas to Try:
1. Punch out or die-cut simple shapes like flowers or leaves to create a layered bouquet or border.
2. Add a transparent paint to the medium or rub a tinted glaze over a plain, uncolored sheet to create a stained glass effect.
3. Instead of a swirled pattern, try layering on your gel/paint mixture in a striped or dotted pattern. Or pipe it on with a cake decorating tube and different tips.
4. Mix a texture medium with paint to give the sheet even more dimension and interest.

This is a really easy activity that you can even do with your children. And don't limit yourself to just scrapbooking applications—try it on cards, mixed media projects or home decor—have fun with it! I'm planning on sharing other techniques in the future, so please let me know if there's anything in particular you'd like to see me write about. I hope you enjoy trying this one out and I'd love to see what you come up with!

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Bring on the Spring!

Yesterday, we were getting ready for a day-trip to Edmonds to attend a travel seminar with Rick Steves, so we could learn all about traveling to Croatia and Italy with the girls. Just before we were ready to hop into the car, Kraig came to me with a puzzled look on his face, holding up a tiny plant that looked like a sad little mutant onion that he had pulled entirely out of the ground—roots and all—and asked,

"Honey, I found these all over the yard—do you know what these are?"

I slowly nodded, "Nooo...I don't think so?" and then… *ding!*
"Oh, YEAH! Those must be one of the crocus bulbs I planted last Fall! Put it back, put it back!!"

He gave me a funny look and said, "Are you sure? (aka "are you CRAZY?!") There's a bunch of them coming up all over the lawn! They look weird just sitting out in the middle of nowhere. And what am I supposed to do when I need to mow the lawn?"

And I somewhat smugly replied, "They're supposed to be scattered all over the yard like that—it's called naturalizing and that's what all the gardening experts say to do to make it look more natural! And they'll be gone before you ever need to mow the grass, so put it right back where you found it, please!"

He looked at me again with "that look" and the girls pitched in with Mini Me expressions at my insistence that this is what I wanted and it looked perfectly fine to have little onion-like things popping out in random spots over the lawn. But I gave them my own "look" back and Kraig somewhat reluctantly stuck the plant back into the ground. I tried to explain to them that I think it's so cool to have these tiny little flowers come out to signal the first of Spring and that they would look so much nicer when all their buds opened—but my uninspired family didn't look too convinced.

And just when I was starting to get excited at the thought that Spring has officially sprung, another storm system swept into our area late in the afternoon. UGH! We got some snow and it's much colder outside, but my sweet little crocus (croci??) didn't let that stop them. They're still tenaciously working to poke through and show off their cheery colors even more—as if to say to the world, "Bring it on!"

Friday, March 6, 2009

Let's Stay in Touch!

I just wanted to let everyone know that I created a new Email Subscription link that I think will be much easier to use and less confusing to set up. It'll notify you via email whenever I post something new, which is nice since I don't post in any particular scheduled manner. So if you've already signed up with my first attempt at a subscription feed last week, please disregard that and sign up with this new one instead. And don't worry, I promise not to send you any spam mail or use your email for any kind of marketing/stalking purposes—as long as you promise to do the same for me, k? ;-D

Also, I'm in the process of adding a photo Gallery of some of my favorite projects, so be sure to check out my nifty new Slideshow link as well! If you'd like to see more, just click on the photo and it'll take you directly to my Flickr site. I have my work currently divided into three different sets: Scrapbook Pages, Cards & Tags, and Misc. Projects. I will add a Jewelry set later on, but most of my current designs are being submitted to editors and need to wait until after they've been published, if they're accepted. You can see these sets by clicking on the specific links to them. I hope you enjoy looking!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

The Goldilocks Approach

I just finished working on an article submission, so I haven't posted in a while and thought I'd share some interchangeable ring bead designs I was playing with before my big deadline hit. They ended up in three different sizes and my efforts to make the *perfect* bead reminded me of the tale of "Goldilocks and the Three Bears"—so let's see if you agree with my final choice?

This was my first bead made out of black, ivory and shimmery opal-like raised dots. I love it, but I thought it was just a tad bit too small…

This one grew and grew until it became much larger than I had originally intended. It uses black, dark ivory and several layers of silver glass and clear to make the raised dots. I don't normally wear large, bold jewelry, but I kinda dig it—so this one is definitely growing on me…

And this one turned out "just right!" I used black, a gorgeous silvery-gold metallic glass (the rings around the center and below the raised dots), and two other silver glass colors for the raised dots. The size is perfect and I'm definitely going to try this again soon in other color combinations. This photo doesn't show the pretty tealy-blues in the dots very well, but they do have a wonderful inner glow similar to the 2nd ring above—almost like a mood ring…

I bought the ring base and the little silver bead on top screws off so I can change out my beads as I like. But I worry that it's kind of easy to loosen itself while I'm wearing it, so I'm working on some ring base designs of my own made out of PMC and a more secure closure system. I'm hoping to get those and a bunch of beads and other goodies like card sets, soldered pendants, and craft supplies stocked up so I can finally open my Etsy store. My goal is to open it by the end of April or sooner, depending on how smoothly my taxes go for me over the next few weeks (eek!). Wish me luck!!
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