Monday, January 20, 2014

Snow and Ice

Let it Snow Gypsies!
I love snow – I’ve never lived in it mind you, but I love how it looks! I also love embossing powders, especially the specialty ones full of chunks and shiny bits. So in honor of the winter season I decided to experiment with embossing on clear acrylic for a snow and ice effect.
The trick with embossing on acrylic is that acrylic melts – surprise! So you need to work fast and stay sharp while you use the heat gun on the acrylic to set the embossing powder.

I used a very very liberal amount of my Ranger Distress Embossing Pad so there was something for the embossing powder to stick to. Chunky embossing powder is the best for texture – it’s chunky, with lots of sparkle and texture to it, just like snow.
When I started using the heat gun I kept it moving, making sure to move the gun away as soon as the acrylic started to buckle or warp.

After I edged all of the sheets, I adhered the chipboard letters – previously covered with paper – and snowflake buttons. Using my Crop-o-dile I punched a pair of holes at the left edge of each sheet for binding, and tied the book together with a couple of strips of frayed white ribbon. – the more frayed the better. Inserted in the binding is a bundle of winter twigs complete with sparkly frost.

Finishing touches
The tiny tree - thanks Tim Holtz - is dabbed with adhesive then rolled in very fine white glitter for a snow-dappled look.
So happy Snow Day fellow Gypsies. Be sure to stop back soon for more winter wonder!

~ Materials ~
6x6 acrylic sheets
Ranger Distressed Embossing Pad
Chunky Embossing Powder
Ideaology tree

Monday, January 13, 2014

Winter Trees

I love snowy trees. Unfortunately, I live in an area where we don’t get snow. Ever. So I thought I’d make my own. 
These little cuties can make awesome little placecards for the holiday table, and use some very simple materials.
The trees are made of simple stacks of snowflakes – I used a glue gun to adhere the “branches” together. The tree trunks are old spools wrapped with twine and tinsel. One trunk is actually a tiny bottle filled with more Diamond Dust.
The key to the snow effect is the glue – I used the Helmar 450 Quick Dry because it is stringy! And that’s what you need for the dripping ice. Use a liberal amount and “hang” glue from branch to branch to create the look of icicles in the trees and add a good toss of the Diamond Dust. The Diamond Dust will harden in the glue strands, shake off the excess.
Just a tiny bit of winter magic for the new year. Stop back again, there’s always something new going on at the caravan!

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Boxing Day

Hello Gypsies and Happy Boxing Day!

No, not the UK Boxing Day that's celebrated on Dec 26 - I'm late but not that late - it's the "Getting Organized by Boxing Up my Stuff" Day.

Every January I get bitten by the organizing bug. My family cringes and hides their junk valuable treasures while I purge the closets, do an exorcism under the bed and evict the contents of the kitchen catch-all drawer. 

I decided to start organizing early this year and tackle the Creative Corner. My Creative Corner is a small bit of space in the family room, and currently features piles of junk interesting project ideas and ephemera stacked in every available space. I decided to tackle my growing pile of Sizzix dies, before they toppled over and buried me while blogging.

Tim Holtz recently launched storage boxes for his Alternations line and I bought 2 each of the 2 different sizes of Die Storage Boxes. I was super-excited about these boxes when he sneak-peeked them for CHA-Summer 2013. My local store finally got some in stock and I ran right down and bought some. I found some great and some not so great features for both.

The boxes are very sturdy, they have a good solid feel and are covered with a very thick beige linen. Since most of my craft supplies are exposed to the public, these boxes will look nice while storing!

Not so great!
The boxes came chuck full of plastic die holders. There went my New Year's resolution to reduce my carbon footprint. The die holders adhere to the bottom of the boxes to hold the dies. I found the die holders completely unnecessary for most of my storage needs. In the box for the BIGZ dies, the holders actually cause you to store fewer dies than if you just stack the dies in the box.
The box on the left has the die holder and fits 8 dies. The box on the right doesn't have the die holder and fits 11 dies while still allowing for space to get my fingers in to actually take one out. 

You'll note that I keep my dies in the plastic. I like being able to quickly identify my dies visually. I don't work with them enough to have the title memorized so I keep the dies with the label in their plastic. By trimming away the top closure and leaving the top open, I can quickly slide the dies in and out of the sleeves when needed. 

The plastic die holder that comes in the long box used to hold the Decorative Strips is actually necessary and very helpful. I don't have enough of the strips to fill a box, so the holder keeps them upright and nice and tidy. The same long box also holds the smaller On the Edge Dies. Again I don't have enough to fill the box, and it comes with the same space-taking plastic die holder which I immediately "recycled" threw in the trash. *My carbon footprint just went up a size. 

I chose to also store my little Movers and Shapers Dies in the Decorative Strip/On the Edge Die Storage Box. The box on the left has my Decorative Strips as well as the cutting pads and extended platform - nice and convenient in one box. The box on the right has my On the Edge and Movers and Shakers as well as my mini Texture Fades - more on that in a sec!
Not so great!
The Movers and Shapers Dies are meant to be stored in the BIGZ Dies boxes, using metal trays - sold separately - that fit into the plastic die holders. **Carbon footprint increases 2 sizes on this one, one for the additional metal trays needed, and one for the plastic holders.

Instead I chose to store my Movers and Shapers in the longer box - the width of the box is perfect for the Movers and Shapers packaging. Again you'll see that I keep these in their packaging with labels for fast visual reference.

Not so great!
Storing the Texture Fade folders means buying heavy plastic storage envelopes that are sized to fit in the BIGZ Die Box. ***There goes that carbon footprint again, I'm going to give up counting how many sizes at this point.

Instead I decided to stack them upright in the front of the BIGZ Die Box. That left my mini-fades, which I stored in the long box, using the plastic holder that is actually supposed to fit in with the Decorative Strips, filling that left-over space in the front of the box. The box is longer than the strips, so something has to go in there right? Have a plastic holder!

Anyway I used that holder to hold my mini-fades and it works perfectly. The only challenge will be remembering that they are there, when the big folders are in the other boxes. It would be great to have all my folders in one box……I might have to buy those envelopes.

My dies now take up a substantially smaller space than before and the boxes look awesome. I went from a huge pile under my desk, to a trim footprint of 7" wide x 15 1/2" deep.

Not so great!
No insert is provided for the lovely metal bookplate on the front of the box. There's no template to make one either, leading me to guess, cut, swear and recut until I got one that fit. A small detail, but if cheap binder divider sets can come with little cardstock inserts, why can't these?

And call me anal picky, but I really love when sizes match up. It would have been awesome if the length of the long box, equaled the length of 2 BIGZ boxes. For people with limited storage space, having the box sizes coordinate for easy mixed size stacking would have been an awesome design feature.
Overall I do like the boxes and will be buying at least one more (ok and maybe a metal tray and an envelope or two don't shoot me). But I can't help wondering if there were some better design decisions that could have been made with them.

Come back soon as I clean the heck out of the Creative Corner, battle the dust bunnies, and finally settle down to crafting.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Wonderful Shadowbox

Xmas always makes me nostalgic, and as the old year fades I feels like looking backward and remembering our family traditions, and Xmases past. Shadowboxes are a wonderful way to spotlight your treasures for yourself, or to collect together important bits of this and that for others.

Keys, pen nibs, notes to Santa, a jingle bell, a vintage watch, Xmas snow. All ingredients for Xmas memories. Don’t be afraid to stuff the cubbies of your shadow box. The backs of these cubbies have all been covered with papers, then layered with more bits of paper or stickers before the actual trinkets were put in.

Trees, a snow drift and icicles complete the look of a wonderful Xmas.

The Santa was cut from a larger piece of scrapbook paper and adhered to the outer edge of the cubby for extra dimension.


Happy Holidays Gypsies! Take some time to create a Xmas keepsake to have for next year. Because it will be here before you know it! 

~ Materials ~
Shadowbox by 7Gypsies
Bits of this and that by Tim Holtz
Papers by Authentique Paper
Trees from Michael's

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Life around the studio

So I have a big life and a small house. Also a family, two cats, a rabbit and two Saint Bernards. (Now go back and reread that last bit because I really do have two Saint Bernards). Which means that space is always a premium and creative storage is a must.

This is my studio - aka where the magic happens. Technically it's the corner between the living room and family room that's been stacked with plastic bins and a desk made from two file cabinets and some plywood. My craft table is a very cool, vintage kitchen table that has fold-down wings.

It takes some ingenuity to fit all of my craft supplies in this space. Actually there's a lot of chaos that has been cropped out of the shot for today. When company comes over I typically shove as much as possible under the desk and then tuck the chair up to cover it. By folding down the wings of the table and turning it against the wall o' supplies, I can pretend that the corner is tidy. Delusion is essential to working in the corner.

Working in the main part of the house also means I get a lot of help. This is Daisy, hanging out while I climb a chair to take this pic to share with the design team at Authentique Paper. Daisy wanted to make sure I had something (someone) to fall over when I was done shooting. Her favorite position was actually right up against any chair I sat in, making it impossible to leap to me feet and run for coffee at a moment's notice.

Photographing projects can be a challenge too. Before I bought fancy lighting, I used the natural light in a couple of strategic locations around the house. Early mornings, I would shoot in the dining area on top of the sideboard. Pumpkin decided I didn't have enough stress just meeting the deadline, I needed the stress of him helping me redrape the drapery. Note the drape is truly that - it's the curtain panel from the window to the left, where the natural light is coming from.

I try to shoot outside in the backyard as much as possible for true natural light and more space to work. However, the backyard has its challenges too.

Working in such a small space means a certain amount of sprawl is inevitable. Here both Pumpkin and Loki decide to help me out by sprawling for me.

2014 is going to be the "Year of the Reorg" for me. The family room is getting finished off with cabinets, bookcases, and a real desk for me. Which means lots of organizing and purging of extra supplies - I actually get a little turn-on by organizing and getting rid of old stuff aka brilliant ideas I never brought to life.

So stay tuned as the studio gets a facelift, and my studio assistants Sparkles and Pumpkin (aka Kitties of Destruction) and Loki and Thor (aka Pups of Doom) continue to support me the best way they know how. By lying around, nibbling edges and shaking drooly faces right over my fresh new project.

Life is grand.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Merry and Bright

Hello Gypsies and Merry Xmas!
Now that Xmas Day is done it's time for the crazy Day-after Xmas shopping. But in between bargain hunts, take some time to create a keepsake or two for this season. This is one of my favorite seasonal projects, featuring one of my favorite subjects – my little gal. 
This is a 12x12 canvas with a base cover of olive green paint – note that I didn’t paint all the way to the edges, but left an uneven border all the way around.

Next I layered strips of paper – don’t forget to tear and shred those edges for extra grunge!
The letters are made using Tim Holtz Grunge Letters. I like to mismatch the letters to the backing so some letters hang off the edges of the backing and nothing is perfect. 
  The backing is painted with chunky paint – I used a sponge brush to get extra chunkiness - the letters are painted olive green and dappled with gold Stickles. I used my “finger-tool” for the Stickle application. 

The Xmas tree is made from paper curls. I love curling paper and it’s such a quick and easy way to create dimension in a piece. The heavier papers work best for this one. Cut strips of paper and use the edge of a scissor blade – like you curl ribbon. Gentle pressure while pulling the blade over the paper and voila! Paper curl!
I built the paper doll using basic shapes and a mix of papers. The collar, hat and mitten trim is actually net ribbon scrunched and shaped to fit. Brads decorate the hat. And the arms and legs are accordion-folded, and only tacked down on the ends for movement and bounciness.
For the photo, I printed a pic on canvas – the canvas adds another texture and is more interesting that plain old paper – then cut to fit. Go for a headshot that is slightly larger than the paper doll for a more whimsical look.
This is a great gift for the holidays, or a sweet way to celebrate a birthday – change the color scheme and voila! Instant birthday celebration canvas. I added random buttons and brads but you could also add personal keepsakes or tiny pics too.
Thanks for stopping by the caravan today. Be sure to come back for more fun, and don’t forget to have a very Happy New Year!
~ Materials ~
12x12 canvas
Paper and brads by Theresa Collins
Grunge Blocks by Tim Holtz

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Where the heck have I been!?

Hello Gypsies!

It’s been forever since I’ve been able to spend time crafting and blogging. The challenges of real life, real job, and real-world commitments became pretty darn overwhelming this past year. But I’ve made a pledge to put myself first a little more for the new year, and I’m starting here with my blog.

Way more than a year ago I made my very first video tutorial – Paper Chain Mania! It was a blast to make and lots of  fun to watch, so I’ve dusted it off for the blog today. Hi to my peeps at Authentique Paper, who featured this video as part of their Xmas in July blog last year.

Some people were curious about how I shot the video. Here’s my high-tech video studio. Note the iTouch perched on a stick – very sophisticated!

The papers I used in this video are Xmas colors, but you can easily substitute gold and silver for some festive New Year’s Eve decorations. Paper chains are a great substitute for streamers at birthday parties and can make quick garlands to dress up a simple get-together.

Check out the video for all the steps, then grab some paper strips, your stapler and maybe a little champagne and get yourself chained up!