Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Envelopes Part 2

Front View
Today we are continuing the week with handmade envelopes. Here is a second attempt to try and find the balance between materials and aesthetics. The above is the front of an envelope utilizing some dried leaves. The evergreen sprig to the left looks much better than the washed out leaves on the right. Unfortunately, the placement of the leaves provides limited space for addressing the envelope.

Back View
For the back, I decided to not line the top flap with card stock. The card that is being sent will provide enough heft for the envelope to be sent through the mail. Without the additional card stock on the flap, the dried leaves (or flowers) will show through the glassine flap. This will allow a larger variety of dried flowers to be used. Also, this will provide easier access to open the envelope. The bigger difficulty here is how to secure the envelope without glue or tape being visible.


Monday, October 16, 2017

Envelopes Part 1

Front of envelope

This week will be dedicated to envelopes. I have been making handmade envelopes for quite awhile but I haven't really shared my latest version. Right now, I am experimenting with glassine paper and dried flowers. This is my first attempt and while I am happy with some aspects of it, other issues have me scratching my head.

The first question is "how much is too much"? As you can see, it is easy to go overboard with the flowers and leaves.

Back of envelope (open)
The second question is "How do you secure the envelope"? Normally, I would be but a piece of double stick tape across the back flap horizontally. The problem with doing this is how to open the envelope without tearing the envelope and without destroying the flowers.

Back flap (top)
The third question is "how much overlap do I allow for the flowers"? Should the entire flower show on the back side of the envelope? If so, then this limits how many and what type of flower is used. If part of the flower is covered, do you get the same effect? Is anyone else going to care about it as much as I do?

Back of envelope (closed)
The fourth question  is "how to I tell the recipient to open the envelope carefully" and finally, "how do I prevent flower dust, parts, and other detritus from getting glued to the card." As you can see, the envelope is made in layers. There is the glassine paper and it is strengthened by white card stock. The flowers are glued directly to the card stock. The card stock is then placed in the Xyron machine and glued to the glassine paper.

This was a mock up for a bridal announcement. Of course, the bride changed her mind after the presentation.

Friday, October 13, 2017

More Mail Art

Another bird in the mail (front)
For today's mail, I had to do some research to determine the largest sized postcard that can be sent in the mail. The answer is 6 1/4 inches (short side) by 11 1/2 inches but you have to use first class postage. To use postcard postage, the postcard can be no larger than 4 1/4 inches (short side) by 6 inches. I was OK in that my postcard was 6 by 9 inches.

I had a leftover piece of this decorative paper that I wanted to use and it fit perfectly on the postcard. The image is too large for most applications but this worked out perfectly. I then used a hummingbird stencil to alter the paper. The recipient also likes used postage stamps so I looked through my stash to find bird postage stamps including a US hummingbird stamp to match the stencil.

Another bird in the mail (back)
Because I was afraid that the postcard wasn't sturdy enough to make it through the mail, I glued a piece of card stock to give it some heft. I then used some clear stamps to stamp the images. I colored the stamped images with Copic markers. I added two more used postage stamps to complete the postcard. I wanted to add more stamps but I realized that I needed room for the address and the greeting. Sometimes deciding when enough is enough can be very trying.

Since I had never dealt with this card stock, I didn't know how the Copic markers would react with the paper. Whenever I am unsure, I do a color study on a scrap piece of the same material. This way I can finalize the colors and see how they react with the paper and the paper's color.

Color Study 1

Color Study 2
The color designations refer to Copic markers.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Mail Art

Birds in the mail (front)

I realize that I have been away from blogging for an extended period. With the holiday this past Monday, I just couldn't get things together to post. The biggest problem is that I forgot what I had already posted so I had to review the blog to see what I had already done. I have been sharing posts on Instagram so I get a little confused as to what has already been posted and where.

Today's and tomorrow's post will be mail art that I am sending out. This week it seems that everyone on my swap-bot feed is into birds. This person likes birds and bird houses.

Birds in the mail (back)

For the front of the envelope, I lettered the address and then used a stencil and alcohol inks to decorate. The recipient likes blues and pinks.

For the back of the envelope I did something a little different. I outlined the images with a Micron .01 pen. I then placed the stencil back on the envelope and sprayed alcohol inks to color the images. This was done in three stages. I used brown for the bird and bird house (while masking the bottom of the stencil). I then covered the top of the stencil and colored the pink flowers on the bottom of the stencil. I removed the stencil and sprayed a purple ink over the entire envelope.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Studio and Craft Hacks--Day 5

This is probably one of the hacks that I am most proud. I am forever shopping at Target and I will buy many items not knowing exactly what I am going to do with them. This was the case with these plastic trays that were available prior to this new school year. I was attracted to them because I thought they would provide a pop of happy color in my studio.  They were on sale for $3 each so I thought they were a bargain. They came in five colors (the four above and a nice blue). I bought the four colors shown and called it a day.

I didn't know exactly how I was going to use them. I got frustrated digging through my shoe box of washi tape every time that I wanted to use it. Unfortunately, if I don't see something, I won't use it. It was simply taking too much time to sort through my washi tape that I would just use something else.

I was searching online for a different product and I came across this image:

and I thought I can do that. I had the dowels and I was going to make my own box/case when I remembered that I these Target trays.

I decided to use my heavy duty bookbinder's awl to make the holes. I widened the holes to accept the size of the dowels that I already had. I then cut the dowels to size using my Exacto mini-saw and I was in business.

As you can see in the original photo above. The green tray was the first to design and I didn't realize how much space I needed between the dowels. Once I figured it out, the second and third trays were easy to assemble.

Tray one
Tray two
Tray three
Tray four
As you can see in the last tray, I left one without dowels so I could store my oversized rolls of tape. I really like how these worked out. I can see all of my tape at a simple glance. I don't worry about the size of the rolls or widths of the rolls as they are easy to access. There is also room for extra rolls that I have been too lazy to put back on the dowels. More importantly, this limits the amount of tape that I can get. I have started to follow my "new book" rule--before I can add a new roll of washi to my collection, I must get rid of one roll.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Studio and Craft Hacks--Day 4

Postage Envelope

OK. So this might not be an earth shattering hack like an IKEA hack or something. But it is an organizational tool that is really helpful if you do a lot of mailing like I do. This is my postage envelope. They are really called check accordion envelopes in that they are supposed to be used for storing and sorting cancelled checks--but really, do people still write checks?

Some people use them for coupon sorting which is where I got the idea. Not only do I collect used postage stamps, I also collect current US postage--mainly because I mail lots of stuff. I have always needed to find the correct postage quickly and I came up with this idea.

Each of the folds holds an envelope with different postage. I keep the forever stamps nearer the front. After that, the stamps/envelopes are put in ascending order according to price.

Forever stamps up front
Stamps in ascending order
Marked stamps
On the outside of the envelope, I also label the special needs for certain type of stamp so it is easier to calculate postage. Additional ounce (Forever stamp plus additional ounce stamp).

Square cards cost more (and even more if they are overweight)
The big denominations are in the back ($1 and $2) plus all of the oversize stamps.

Also in the back are extra envelopes should I need to mail something out in a hurry (like bills, etc.). I have regular envelopes, decorated envelopes and handmade envelopes depending on the need and situation.

Special Envelopes

So, I always travel with my postage envelope. I just throw it in my bag or backpack and away I go.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Studio and Craft Hacks--Day 3

My stencil album

This is another craft room hack that is a little too easy but it is a great and useful way to organize my massive collection of stencils. Originally, I was storing my stencils in a 12 by 12 inch paper bin. The problem is that I would have to untangle and go through all of the stencils to find the one that I wanted.

As I was wandering through Michaels, I came across a photo album that  held scrapbook pages. Also, I came across plastic top loading sleeves to hold individual scrapbook pages. I went home and researched the products and found some nice scrapbook albums and storage sheets at Amazon. Each sleeve has a piece of 12 by 12 card stock and there is a stencil on both sides of the card stock. This makes it easy to quickly view and choose the stencils that I want.

Plastic Sleeve with card stock and stencil

I have two books (although the 12 by 12 book is almost filled). One book is for full sized stencils and the second book is for stencils smaller than 12 by 12. In the second book, I put several stencils on a page and use washi tape to keep them in place.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Studio and Craft Hacks--Day 2

This is a continuation of the craft room hacks. This one is so easy that I am a little embarrassed to share it. I have several stations in my studio that are in need of paper towels. One is the wet station where I do painting and pasting. The other is the spray station where I do splatter painting, spray gluing and alcohol ink spraying. It is a major hassle to go and get paper towels from the kitchen when I need them since I tend to forget until I am in the middle of doing something.

I have some extra dowels in my stash and when I was at Target, I came across these 3M adhesive hooks. I bought them not know how I was going to use them. I noticed that the poles for my storage unit was just about the same width as the the 3M hook backing. Following the instructions, I placed a hook on each pole of the storage unit. I cut the dowel using my Exacto mini-saw and now I have a paper towel holder. I placed one at each of the stations where they were needed.

3M Hook and dowel
The beautiful part of this is that it can easily be taken down. The dowel is easy to remove so that the paper towel roll can be replaced. More importantly, the dowel and paper towels can be removed if access to the shelf is needed.

Easy access to the shelf

Monday, October 2, 2017

Studio and Craft Hacks--Day 1

My stamp box(es)

This week's theme on the blog will be everyday hacks that you can use in your studio or craft room. These are out-of-the-box uses for everyday day items or repurposing items for uses they weren't necessarily intended.

If you have been following along, you know that I collect stamps. I have a wide variety of them and I always had difficulty in deciding how to organize them for when I need to use them for craft purposes. I don't collect stamps for monetary purposes. Because I use them for crafting, I decided to organize primarily by color and some themes which I have purposefully purchased from curators. Themes include: Christmas, Love, Birds, NYC, etc.

In order to find the stamps that I want quickly, I purchases a photo box organizer. The box holds 16 individual 5" by 7" boxes in slots. For me, individual boxes hold a separate color. Some of the themes have their own box.

Brown stamps
I usually buy stamps in bulk and it makes it so much easier to sort when you know where they are going and how they are going to be organized. The first step is to sort out the stamps based on color. As I am sorting, if I notice that a stamp will fit in one of the theme categories and set it aside.

Beginning Sorting
Sorted by color
Once the color sorting is finished, I then move to sorting by theme.

Many times, there are still stamps that have no place to go. All of these stamps go into stamp holding pages that fit in a three ring binder. I sort them into three categories: animals, people and general. These stamp sheets are divided into rows and each row has a sheet of acetate to cover the stamps. The bottom of the acetate is affixed to the page and the top of the sheet is open so it is easy to place, and remove, the stamps. These sheets are an easy way to see the stamps quickly.

When I need a stamp for crafting purposes, I usually go to the binder at first so see if there is something I can use. If not, then I will go to the stamp storage boxes depending on theme or color.

Sometimes, I buy storage items because they are on sale, I have an expiring coupon, or I need some retail therapy. I don't always know how I am going to use the item. The photo case is a perfect example of this. I am always looking to organize my craft room. I didn't know exactly how I was going to use it and initially thought that I might use it for paper ephemera but this worked out perfectly for me. I might go back for another one or two to have on hand.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Day 30--30 Day Coloring Challenge

Well, this is the last day of the 30 Day Coloring Challenge. I decided to share with you the beginnings of my holiday card this year. For the past 10 years, I have been sending out a variation of the 12 Days of Christmas. It begins with coloring the image, scanning it, and then printing it on vellum. I prepare a trifold card and place the vellum within the fold. These are called stained glass cards because they are meant to be displayed with a battery operated candle within. The below images were from the card sent in 2011.

Four calling birds
Four calling birds with light
The Nine Ladies Dancing image will get the same treatment. The glossy paper is filled in with colored pencils and then blended with Gamsol.

And with that I leave the 30 Days of Coloring Challenge completed. I will take Sunday off and will return to regular blogging next week.

Friday, September 29, 2017

Day 29--30 Day Coloring Challenge

Today's coloring challenge is another extra large postcard from the postcard watercolor block discussed here.  I also wanted to discuss some new handmade watercolors that I ordered from Rachel Beth at her etsy store. Disclaimer here: I have purchased these watercolors on my own and I am not receiving any compensation for this review. To get straight to the review of the product just skip to the end of this blog post.

I have started collecting the watercolors and I am working with the ones that I have on hand. I purchased the half-pans which will be plenty for my use. This is the first time that I have used pan watercolors. Normally, I use Dr Martin's concentrate.

As you can see, 14 half pans can fit in a regular sized Altoid tin. Each pan is labeled with the color and has a small sheet magnet on the bottom of each tin. Using a small tin is the perfect way to carry your watercolors when traveling (which was one of the primary reasons I chose Rachel's shop).

When I work on a project and decide on a palette, I get a scrap of paper similar to the paper that I will be using. I then make a color sample to reference the colors used.

Today's color palette
Here is the sample color palette.

Sample palette

Rachel provides you a reference color dot of each color on the outside of each pan. She also provides you a color sheet for each set. In another post next week, I will share with you my storage system for the unused pans and why these color dots are so important.

Water color tray
When I get started, I mix colors in my tray. To get these colors, I add water to the tray and then lift color from the half-pan. If I want an undiluted color, I work directly from the half-pan with water on my brush.

The first step of any painting for me is a color sample on the actual paper that I will be using. Here, I mist the paper to remove any sizing and to get the paper to relax. I also mist the back of the paper so it is easier to manipulate. Usually I will tape down the project but today's project had no margins so I had to work on a loose piece of paper.

Paper and watercolor sample
When I work on the sample, I try to work wet on wet and let the colors blend themselves to see how saturated the diluted color is. I am a big fan of diluted colors. If I had know how well the above sample would have turned out, I would have masked out a monogram or something. Once I know how the materials work with each other, I set up my station.

Today's project
Here is my setup. The tin of half-pans are just to the left of the color tray. To begin, I outlined a stencil onto the watercolor paper with a Micron .05 black marker.

All color added
The above image are the shapes with all of the colors from this particular palette. Each color was used in some way or another.  The image below shows the differences in colors from the half-pan (undiluted), those from the color tray (diluted), and those colors that were blended (two diluted colors layered on top of each other, wet on wet). If there is no designation, then the colors fall into the third category. See below for the designations.

Pure vs Diluted vs Layered Colors
Once the colors were dried with a heat gun, I decided to add color to the background with water soluble crayons from Caran d'Ache.

Finished Project
I can't explain how pleasant of an experience that I have had when dealing with Rachel. The dedication and presentation of her product cannot be overemphasized. The colors are amazing and a dream to use. Usually when product lines are in this amount (I think she has nearly 100 color choices), many times there are so many similarities in colors that it is hard to distinguish one shade/color from another. This isn't the case here. The blues aren't interchangeable. The greens aren't either. The colors have a creamy consistency that make them easy to remove them with your brush from the pans. The colors are colorfast and blend beautifully together. More importantly, for me, is that I tend to layer colors rather than blend them. This product is perfect for that and then when they are are the page they are easy to feather into one another. Because they are so easy to layer, this product is perfect for creating shadows similar to those available with blended colored pencils. Several of the arcs above where done with this procedure: base color (often diluted), layer of shadow color (vanilla frosting), third color. Once excess moisture was removed, I feathered the colors into each other with a dry brush. In closing, I can't recommend this product any more highly. Great product, great shop, great seller/owner.

N.B. Please disregard any fault with my watercolor technique. My lack of technique should cause no adverse critique of the product.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Day 28--30 Day Coloring Challenge

For today's coloring challenge, I wanted to complete the Women in Orange series and my experimentation with masking fluid. This is similar to yesterday's masking technique in that the same areas were masked. You can see the original color wash in the open areas (the areas under the crosshatched areas). In today's postcard, the red box wasn't added until after the top color wash was added. Different today was the application of the masking fluid. Yesterday's masking fluid was painted in the open areas. Today, the masking fluid was applied with a credit card over the stencil. Because some of the fluid gets under the stencil you can see a more distressed effect when the dried masked areas are removed.

Also, yesterday, the top color wash was only added within the red box. Today, I applied the second color wash over the entire card. I added the crosshatching and the red box after the card had dried.

Similarly, I wanted to do something different on the reverse of the card.

As you can see, I was a little heavy handed with the Sharpie marker when making the box and the marker bled through to the back side. I decided to glue a second piece of scrap paper to cover the bleed through and to give the card an extra heft.

I have been trying to come up with alternatives to alcohol inks for use of the reverse side. For today, I used a stencil and used pastel colors to fill the card. Although a strong dark pen would work, I was afraid that any writing would be hard to read.

Pastel Copic markers
I needed to make the card a little more translucent so I used my Zyron machine to apply a piece of vellum to the card. This would provide a smooth surface for writing and would mute the design/colors underneath. I have to say that this turned out better than I expected.

BTW, the mottled look of the markers was intentional. I wanted a watercolor effect with some of the white base paper showing through. I thought the mottled effect would be amplified by the vellum.

Markers with vellum overlay

Tomorrow is a different project and product.