Saturday, December 26, 2015

Trinket Boxes

Things I Learned:
  • You get what you pay for. The smaller, inexpensive boxes aren't really the best quality. The other boxes were too big for my nieces right now though. If I were to do this again, I might look elsewhere for some similar size, but higher quality boxes. That said, with a little sanding, they came out fine.
  • Flockin' ain't easy. Well, maybe it is, but putting the unused texture back in the bag isn't. The person who originally told me about it suggested that I use a sponge brush to apply the adhesive (bottom left) so that there would be no chance of the brush shedding bristles. The guy at the store handed me some brushes and since he did that, I figured they would be fine for the project. Let's just say that I will be using a sponge brush next time. The actual flocking was fun though (bottom right).
  • Choose your images wisely. Google images makes it pretty easy to find images. If you're making a box with some kind of insert, make sure that you notice whether or not portions of it will be covered and leave a border if necessary. 
  • Choose your design strategically. I made the Minnie Mouse box first and discovered that it was pretty hard to paint different parts of the same section different colors. So both the box and lid had red and black. With the Frozen box, I made the box one color and the lid another color and it was a lot easier to get it painted. Also, I used holes from a regular hole puncher for the polka dots on the Minnie Mouse box. I should have tried stamping snowflakes on the Frozen one but it didn't occur to me until I had already used my star punch.
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This project had a lot of steps and wait time (mainly because of the painting and flocking). It was tons of fun though and my nieces loved them.  #missionaccomplished

Monday, December 21, 2015

Photo Canvas Transfer

So, you may have noticed that I tried to transfer a photo to wood with my boyfriend and the first attempt didn't go too well. The fact that I now have the gel medium and a ton of 5x7" canvases for other crafts, made me want to try the same thing on canvas which I have also seen on Pinterest. I also recently saw a pin where you use Mod Podge to just attach an actual photo to canvas. So . . . in the interest of blogging scientifically . . .  I did the same picture with two different techniques and blogged about the results!

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Here is the picture I started with and you can see how much I had to trim to get it to fit on the canvas without extending beyond it. After looking at the actual version from my phone, I noticed that a lot of it got cut off when I uploaded it and forced it to be a 5x7" on Shutterfly. I may start resizing my images using Lightroom in the hopes that they'll come out a little better.

I started by painting the sides of the canvas black. I bought those "cookies" at a place called Rockler Lumber. They're amazing! No more having to balance what I paint on a paper plate and hoping the item doesn't stick--or worse, balancing it on my finger/hand and hoping it doesn't fall.

Next, I put a layer of Mod Podge on the actual canvas followed by another layer on the photo itself. You can see that I got a little of the glue in some spots, but I didn't worry too much because I knew I would eventually add another layer to seal it.

The finished version is down below. (Please know that it came out better than it looks in the photograph.) 

I like transferring photos to canvas a whole lot better than I do wood. I really like the way it looks with the sides painted black. (I ended up doing the same thing  for two Christmas gifts.) This has made me think that maybe I could sell some of my photographs this way. I'm just worried that my photography hobby won't be fun if it seems like work. For now, I think I'll stick to just doing this for gifts here and there.


Science called. It wanted to know what happened to the other experiment. Look at the picture below (yes, I forgot to reverse it) and then let's never speak of it again.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Photo Wood Transfer "Project"

The boyfriend wanted to craft! Excuse me--I mean, the boyfriend wanted to do "a project."

Yesterday, while we were driving to dinner and I was talking about some crafts I wanted to make as Christmas gifts, he mentioned that he had seen a  photo transferred to wood and that he would like to do something like that for his mother this Christmas. This morning at breakfast, he showed me How to Transfer Prints to Wood: An Awesome Photography DIY Project and we talked about a photo that he had sent me for another craft that failed. (Future blog post!) Two hours later, we were at Michael's getting wood [insert adolescent male joke here] and the gel medium we needed. That's really all we needed for what we planned to do. That and a boning tool [insert another adolescent male joke here].

The Picture: We sized the picture to be as close to 8" x 10" as we could. Before printing it, we also made it black and white and upped the contrast because the site said to do so. He had already started applying the gel medium before I could take my usual nice picture of all the supplies. (He's not impatient or anything.) The picture below was the best I could do.

The Project: He applied a medium layer to the wood with a sponge brush (not pictured) and then placed the picture over it. He smoothed out as much as he could and then went to go lie down, leaving me with a few minutes to sit down and start typing this blog. 

The Outcome: We had to wait overnight for it to dry. When we revisited the project, we wet a sponge the way I saw in another video and between that and his fingers, my boyfriend did his best to wipe the paper away. As you can see in the picture below, he was able to pull off big strips of the paper. 
What we eventually discovered, however, was that there major areas where the photo didn't really transfer. There's a good chance that we didn't use enough of the gel medium, because subsequent videos on Youtube have shown people using a good amount of it and encouraging us to do so. It might also be because the wood was too soft. I watched a video with two British guys who had a similar result and commented that the wood was too soft. (Am I the only who thinks it's hilarious that "soft wood" doesn't work?) Then I watched another video, where the lady said to use birchwood because it has a smooth finish and will transfer the image nicely.

The pictures below show the project in various stages of "being done." While I had initially convinced my boyfriend that the some of the imperfections were perfect and part of the project, he eventually convinced me this was not something we could give his mother for Christmas. He started another one and I will either update this blog or do an entirely new one because I used the same technique and gel medium to try this on an actual canvas.

As fun as it was to "project" with him, I think I enjoy crafting solo a little better. My boyfriend is just as stubborn as I am and leaves my office/crafting room a mess. I can't complain too much though: the wet sponge he left on my long desk (not pictured) soaked through the bottom of the protective paper and ended up helping me take off some glue I thought was stuck on there permanently. Maybe I will let him "project" with me more often. 

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Melted Crayon Art

I have been waiting to post this because I didn't want to pin it until the birthday girl had actually received and opened her gift. Six months later, I STILL haven't given it to her, but I have been dying to share this post about my first time working with melted crayons!
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I have been wanting to try melted crayon art FOREVER so when I saw that a birthday was coming up, I decided to try it out and make a gift. I had 2 pins and a lot of ideas so after simply skimming some websites, I decided to jump in and do it.  After trial and error (the best teacher?), my directions are below, along with some notes . . .

Step #1: Assemble your materials. If you prefer bulleted lists, I have a more complete one below the picture.
  • canvas
  • crayons (the cheaper, the better?!)
  • cardboard
  • heat source
  • craft knife
  • stickers (optional) 
  • tweezers (optional)
  • newspaper/canvas to protect your work area

Step #2: Set up your canvas by applying the stickers. I chose to do a word, and I was really happy to see the letters I bought included lowercase ones. (I hate gratuitous capitalization!) You could also do shapes or even leave the canvas blank and simply melt the crayons on it.

Step #3: Choose your colors and line up your crayons. I've noticed some people choose to incorporate them into the art and attach them directly to the canvas. I chose not to so I taped them to a piece of cardboard. I ended up applying another strip of tape (not pictured). Some people suggested taking the crayon labels off and I do wish I had done that now. If you choose to do that, make it easier by using your craft knife to make a slit down the label--the longer, the better!

Step #4: Use your heat source to melt the crayons. I propped the canvas up at an angle (against a candle that I have in my office) and simply held the cardboard with the crayons above it. I used my embossing gun, but next time I might use my hair dryer so that I have different heat levels. 

Step #5: Use tweezers to remove the letters soon after you finish applying the heat. The finished version is below. Please keep reading for my second (and more successful) attempt.

Step #4 DO-OVER: Hold a peeled crayon over the wax and apply heat to melt it. Once you have some wax on the canvas, use the heat source to move it around. I actually found that some cheap crayons worked better than the name-brand ones. (You know what name I'm talking about.) Keep doing this and cover most of the canvas. If less really is more, than a few white spaces are probably okay. 

Step#5 DO-OVER: Again, use your tweezers to pull off the stickers (if you used some). The area may not have been perfectly masked, but I think this one of those projects where a little messiness is part of the beauty. (I suppose you could use white paint to make it perfect if you really wanted to.)

Step #6: Clean up the back of the canvas with the craft knife. The edges of my canvas had some drips and I left those, but I did get rid of the chunks of wax that had re-solidified where they had pooled. Be careful not to cut the canvas. If you are very careful, you could also use the knife to clean up the area that was masked. Again, be very careful.

Caution: I noticed I was creating smelly smoke while applying the heat. Knowing that crayons are in the hands of kids, I'm hoping it was non-toxic. I did feel a little "funny" while I typed up this blog so just to be safe, you should probably do this outdoors in a well-ventilated area. 

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Growth Chart Ruler

I'm lucky enough to have an entire week off in November. I vowed to do at least one craft during that time and I wanted it to be this growth chart ruler that I had seen--and pinned--a while ago. Here's how mine came out and the steps I took are down below:

Here are the materials I used:

  • 6' plank of wood
  • sawhorses
  • medium sanding block
  • painters tape
  • measuring tape
  • pencil
  • black sharpie
  • ruler
  • 3" stencils
  • wood stain (with brushes and a rag)

Step #1: First, I sanded all six (6) edges of the wood. (I still ended up with at least one rough spot that I didn't discover until later.)

Step #2: I laid a strip of painters tape down the middle and marked off the feet and half-feet using a pencil. Then, using the ruler and sharpie, I made the lines for the feet 3" long and the half-feet 1 3/4" long.

Step #3: I laid down another strip of tape closer to the edge and marked off the inches. I made those lines 1" long. Here's how it looked with all the lines drawn:

Step #4: Next, I used my stencils to draw the numbers and then the sharpie to fill them in. Be strategic as you color them in! I ended up with sharpie on my pinkie that smeared the outside of the three. I was able to sand it off but I ended up having to fill in the rest like a lady with my pinkie extended.

Step #5: I applied one coat of wood stain and left it on for about 15 minutes per the directions on the can. Then I had to wait about 4-6 hours for it to dry before I applied the second coat. Here's how it came out with two coats of the pecan stain I used: 

I stained the top first and then the following day, I wrote a message to my 9 month old nephew who will be receiving it for Christmas along with a Ralph Waldo Emerson quote about growth. Then I stained the back with two coats as well.

Final Notes and Comments: The entire project took 2 days because of the hours for the stain to dry. Steps 1-4 took about an hour and a half to two hours, but that was probably because I kept stopping to take pictures and text.

The one in the original pin that I followed started with 2 because it will be mounted 1' above the floor. I just made mine to be propped against a wall because I felt like it could be a cute decoration in the room too. Also, I did not put a finish on it because I was worried that my cousin and her husband wouldn't be able to write on it if I did. It's supposed to be a growth chart, after all. It would be cute to attach a picture every year too and I'm pretty sure it would adhere better sans finish.

This one is simple but you could stain it pink or blue if  you really wanted to match a bedroom décor (or gender code it). You could also decoupage images of whatever the kids are into (e.g., Minnie Mouse, Frozen, Big Hero 6, Cars, etc.).

Monday, August 17, 2015

Thoughts and Shots: August 15, 2015

About three months ago, I attended a Photography 101 workshop. It was great! I learned how to use my camera and shoot in manual. I took my SLR to Puerto Vallarta over the summer and took some photos, but I had an issue loading them into Lightroom and never really edited them. Recently, I had a chance to walk around locally and shoot some pictures. In the time since both the workshop and my vacation, I've read--and pinned--lots of photography articles and tips. I'm learning that too much reading can be overwhelming though. I've realized that I won't improve my skills, unless I put down my phone/iPad, pick up my camera, and shoot!

I spent a week in a dark house (which I'm sure affected my mood) recovering from gallbladder surgery. My boyfriend insisted on airing me out during the weekend so we hopped on  the train and headed to LA. We went to my alma mater first, then to the Walt Disney Concert Hall and later Hollywood. Finally, we stopped at the Claremont Village before returning home. (No pictures from the Walt Disney Concert Hall made the cut for this blog and I didn't take any pictures in Hollywood.)

I took 165 photos. I thought 49 of them were decent. I chose 21 of those to possibly share on FB, but I haven't yet. (I edited 12 of those.) From those 21, I whittled it down to these photos. I wanted to arrange them in a grid but I guess I'm not very well-versed in HTML. At any rate, here are my top five photos (plus a bonus one because I originally wanted my grid to be even). I guess it worked out because I was able to blog a little before each picture . . .

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Getting around LA is so easy when you "Go Metro." I read some articles on street/city/urban photography while we rode the train in and one suggested using a long exposure to capture public transportation that is coming or going. I had a hard time finding the right exposure length but I ended up liking this one because it has the yellow poles that clearly aren't going anywhere and you can see "through" the train. I'm not exactly sure what's going on here photographically speaking, but I'm proud that I tried something I read about.

I learned ballroom dancing in the building that surrounds the fountain below. (I was constantly being scolded for leading instead of following. Go figure.) I don't think I ever really noticed how pretty the fountain was or the quote along the perimeter of it. In the photo below, I adjusted my aperture because I wanted some bokeh. I used the rule of thirds to put the actual fountain off to the side, and then while I walked away, I started second-guessing myself and wondering if I should have put it in the center. At any rate, I'm pleased that you can see the arches in the background because I wanted some of the architecture to be in the picture too.

I absolutely love the Cinema School building at USC. It wasn't there while I attended but I think it's gorgeous! I took this picture because I wanted to capture the architecture AND have diagonal lines. (After reading the aforementioned articles, I got the sense that lines can make for really good pictures.) I have a 35mm lens and I want a 50mm or 55mm one, but I'm forcing myself to make it work with the lenses I have for now. (The other is a 55-200mm one that I bought for my boyfriend's son's t-ball games.) At any rate, I'm learning that it's okay to cut things off. I'll be taking a 201 workshop later this fall where I'll learn a little more about composing so until then, I'm just shooting first and figuring out what questions to ask later.

I LOVE this next picture. Heritage Hall at USC has been completely remodeled and it is amazing! Before every football game, the drum major marches to the center of the field, stabs the ground and poses like this. I love that it's been incorporated into Heritage Hall and I'm hoping that my sports lens (see above) will help me capture an image of it this season. I did some major editing on Lightroom in this photo. I used a filter to emphasize the cardinal and gold colors and then got rid of some letters by the SC. It says "Hall of Champions" twice around the panel, but I thought the letters that were in the shot would be too distracting. Doing all this, was only a few clicks so it wasn't really that bad. (I haven't formally learned how to use the editing software. I just leave my left hand ready to press Ctrl+Z at all times.)

The commons area at SC was redone (after I graduated, of course) and my favorite part is the staircase they added. The Steps of Troy are more than a staircase though. Unfortunately, I don't have time to wax metaphorically about them. The photo below is the top of the stairs. I tried to compose my shot so that it had movement (read: diagonal lines?). It was hard to get all 5 qualities of a Trojan in the shot, but I'm wondering if I should have gone up a step to make "faithful" a little bigger. Then I would have gotten more of the blank landing though. Or maybe I should have cropped that out while editing. More questions to ask during the 201 workshop, I suppose.

The final picture below was my last shot of the night. To access the eastbound trains at the Claremont Metrolink station, you have to walk across the tracks on a small concrete walkway. I shot a  photo facing east that I liked a little better because you could see a bunch of red lights and only one green light down the track. That spoke to me (must be the English teacher in me), BUT I ended up including this shot facing west because of what I did to take it: I knelt down. On the train tracks. I know that probably doesn't seem very exciting or groundbreaking but nearly all the articles I read that morning mentioned changing your elevation in some way, either getting down or going up to take pictures from different perspectives.

Something else I love about that final shot is that it captures where I am at this point with my photography. I know enough to be able to start asking questions about what I don't know.

That's a pretty good place to be.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Wood Craft Anniversary Gift

Check out what I made for my cousin's 10th anniversary!

Here is a screenshot of the original pinspiration (sic):

I bought a wooden canvas and word at Michaels. Maybe it was cheating, or maybe it was an example of crafting smarter, not harder.

Next, I used wood glue to attach the word to the canvas. 

Finally, I spray painted the entire thing white. I don't know how taggers and urban artists do it because no matter how hard I try, I CANNOT use spray paint without it splattering and making a mess. 

And here's the finished project!

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Scrabble Tile Art Fathers' Day Gift

I am currently waiting for my hot glue gun to warm up so I figured I would start typing up this blog post about my Fathers' Day gift for my dad. (Yes, it's July.)
* * *

Step #1: Figure out what words you want to spell and purchase enough letters. I bought these on Amazon. They were great quality and I would buy them again.

Step #2: Assemble all your materials. You will need:
  • Scrabble tiles
  • paper for background
  • frame or shadow box
  • other embellishments (optional)

Step #3: Figure out how you are going to arrange the words. I suggest doing it on the glass because it will be your guide for the size and layout even though you may not use it in the finished project. Also, choose a word letter to be the first one you glue and make sure you know exactly where to place it in relation to the paper. I chose the G in "game day" since it was close to one of the numbers on the field. I took a picture of it so that I would be able to recreate the placement.

Step #4: Cut your paper to fit the frame (if necessary).
Step #5: Use the hot glue gun to glue the letters. I did NOT glue the paper to the cardboard backing for the frame, but I DID put it under the paper while I was gluing because I did not want to mess up my crafting desk (any more than it already is). 

Step #6: Assemble the frame again. If I were to do this again, I would probably use a shadow box, because I think the frame looks a little funny without the glass. Also, if you are going to add embellishments, I would do so AFTER you assemble it because the frame might cover a little and you don't want your spacing to look off.

Here's my finished project: