Friday, March 28, 2014

Fancy schmancy picture taking

I need a new camera. Mine is slowly deteriorating and there's now a lovely blotch of something on the lens. It's not terribly noticeable... but I know it's there. Although it's time to move on, I'm reluctant because I love my camera. It's a just a little compact Sony BUT it gets the job done and I'm not terrified of dropping it.

Before this bad boy goes into semi-retirement, I thought I'd talk a bit about photography. I get a number of questions about shooting and to be absolutely honest this is set up for 99% of the things I shoot...

 ... a dinged up camera, a window, and a thick piece of white cardboard. That's it. I do have a lightbox but I only use it in emergencies or when I'm shooting glass objects and dealing with reflections (I'm just too damned lazy to iron the backdrop).

Before I go any further I should note here that I am NOT a photographer so the 'tips' I'm about to share will make anyone with any sort of knowledge shudder. Take everything I'm about to tell you with a grain of salt. I'm just trying to pass along a few pointers that work for me when shooting my work for the web.

So, my 'product' shots are almost always set up something like this:

I simply place my item on a large opaque white piece of cardstock. If I can not shoot outside, I find the brightest source of NATURAL light in the house, preferably with the light hitting the front of the item. I shoot on "Auto" mode, with my macro setting turned on (because I often shoot close-ups of detail), flash turned off. I also shoot larger than I need to just in case. You can always shrink your images, but you can never make them larger.

So, this is the untouched shot from the above set up.

You can see there's a bit of a funky shadow happening on the lower right of the photo. Look out for details like this  when setting up. Fiddle around and adjust until there's nothing terribly ugly going on. Bright but slightly overcast weather is great, it reduces harsh shadows. Now take LOADS of photos! It only takes a few minutes to shoot a dozen extra shots and it's absolutely worth having those extras to choose from.

I don't mind that the photo is a little grey because I adjust all of my photos before publishing them. I use Photoshop. The two adjustments I almost always make are to the 'Levels' (to brighten and add depth) and 'Selective Colour' (to remove excess colour from my whites). Here's my pic after being jumbled around in Photoshop and slapped with a watermark. There's still some cyan in the white but you get the idea...

But not everyone has Photoshop! Luckily there's a number of free online photo editors. Below I'm using to fiddle with this image. Now, sometimes just selecting "Auto Levels" will be enough to improve a photo... but this can also have strange results at times. Don't be afraid of playing around to see what all of the different 'adjustments' do. That's exactly how I learned. Here I am fiddling with the 'Levels'...

See that box with the graph looking thing? It's really not that scary or complicated. Let's take a better look at that box...

Those little house looking things slide from side to side. The black box on the left represents black/dark colours, moving it to the right makes them darker. The middle box represents midtones/neutral areas and moving it left will brighten your midtones, to the right and they will darken. The box on the right adjusts the lightest areas, sliding it to the left will lighten the lightest areas of your picture.

I was taught that you should adjust using "Curves" not "Levels" ... but I've never seen eye to eye with that method and this works just fine for me. I suggest you do the same, experiment that is, and do what works for you... even if that means ignoring everything I've just said. Whatever gets the job done is the right and proper way to do things.

Anyway, the point of this whole blabby post is just to say that you don't need loads of fancy equipment to take fair shots of your work. Natural light, loads of pictures, a little practice and experimentation editing can help you tremendously without investing in loads of fancy equipment.

All that said, I would not sneeze at a nice fancy camera that had loads of bells and whistles to fiddle and have fun with :) My birthday does end in a "0" this year so that means an extra nice prezzie right?

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Petaloo redo with Marion Smith

A while ago... a long while... my friend gifted me this sweet little house to play with...

It has sat quietly for a very long time, waiting patiently for attention.

Not quite so long ago Petaloo asked if might like to be a guest designer during their Marion Smith blog hop. I love Petaloo's products so I jumped at the chance! As soon as I saw the Marion Smith papers I knew they were destined to transform this cutie into a shabby chic abode.

So with a bit of love, products and a bucket of glue, here's the after:

You can see more pics over on the Petaloo blog but here are a couple of my favourite details:

The copper drain pipe. It's simply a bendy drinking straw painted with copper enamel paint but I sort of love it. I'm also pretty proud of that roof tpp! I made a slew of those tiles and still ran out halfway through and had to make a second batch. The effect was totally worth the effort.
And finally a peek at the interior which is very fancy indeed with loads of beautiful floral products from Petaloo and a very important tea box hedgehog :)

It was an absolute pleasure to design for Petaloo during the Marion Smith blog hop. And, just in case something strikes your fancy, here's a list of the products I used...

Botanica Blooms Pink & Teal
Botanica Mini's Pink  & Teal
Botanica Chantilly Mixed Blooms Cream

Spring Berry Clusters Pink
Flora Doodles Velvet Hydrangeas Cream & Pink
Marion Smith MOTLEY
Off the Wall
Not too Shabby
• Darling
Marion Smith NEVER GROW UP
• In the Garden
• Treasure Map
• Never Never
Other Products
Flower and Leaves Dresden Borders
Chipboard Window Frames
Bendy Straws
Wooden Stir Sticks
Miscellaneous buttons and other vintage 'junk'
Acrylic Paint

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Castle Gormenghast

Another swap item I shouldn't be sharing... but I will... because I'm cheeky ;)

This time a representation of Castle Gormenghast from the Mervyn Peake series.

Here's his description of it:

"They sprawled over the sloping earth, each one half way over its neighbour until, held back by the castle ramparts, the innermost of these hovels laid hold on the great walls, clamping themselves thereto like limpets to a rock. These dwellings, by ancient law, were granted this chill intimacy with the stronghold that loomed above them. Over their irregular roofs would fall throughout the seasons, the shadows of time-eaten buttresses, of broken and lofty turrets, and, most enormous of all, the shadow of the Tower of Flints. This tower, patched unevenly with black ivy, arose like a mutilated finger from among the fists of knuckled masonry and pointed blasphemously at heaven."

If you've never read the books they are beautifully written. Truly, astoundingly, pretty and witty but certainly not everyone's tastes. And that's ok... I can't even count the number of titles I've seen on 'Books to read before you die' lists and rolled my eyes. Life would be awfully boring if we all loved the same things :)

Monday, March 24, 2014

221B update and a terrible something

No. 5 in the series of 221B Baker Street tins will be listed on etsy tomorrow. (UPDATE: the 5th tin has sold). It will likely be the last one listed for a fair while. At least one more time will be available for purchase, for the time being reserved for the Undershaw Preservation Trust, to (probably) be auctioned when they are ready to accept donations. I'm not sure when that might be... if I knew, I pinky swear that I would tell you.

Work has slowly started on another set of tins. This set will be even more limited than the last and I'm turning my attention to horror. Besides being a big fan of sweet daydreams and fantasy... I freely admit to enjoying a bit of bloody fun.

Anyway, I'm still working out the "this and that's" in my brain (which takes ages upon ages)  but I have started with this gruesome thing:

I think it'll be a fun piece when complete... if my brain and fingers can agree to get along. :)

The Tiniest Teacups

A friend gifted me a collection of tiny tea cups and saucers. In my dimly lit studio, late into the night, I set to work filling them with little flowers, mossy cottages and handmade toadstools.

They measure between  2.25" and 2.75". They are quite tiny and rather precious.

Now, available in the etsy shop.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

A pretty pouty something

This month's kit at Alpha Stamps is all about feminine, frills and corsets. I've gussied up a plain wooden plaque with the March kit supplies and few extra bobs and made something perfectly suited for a quiet corner of a boudoir.

Did you know that the word boudoir come from the French verb bouder, meaning "to be sulky"? You can hardly blame those poor gals for being a little pouty... having to wear corsets all day and afforded so few bubble baths. Sulking would be completely understandable! Still, there is something so very pretty about the blasted things ;)

March French Corset Kit 
Embossed Paper Oak Leaves
Purple Iris Paper Flowers*
Antique Brass Wreath
Vintage button
5 x 7" plaque

Peace, Love and Art

When Graphic 45 asked if we might make a little something in the name of peace I hoed and hummed and thought about how busy I am... and then I shook my head and slapped myself silly. Of course I'd be honored to craft in the name of peace and spread a little love!

And so I created this small altered canvas to hang as a hopeful token for peace for our friends in the Ukraine (sending loads of love to fellow design team member Olga!) and all areas affected by war and strife. What a beautiful world it would be if all people lived with dignity and respect and without fear of war or retribution.

More pictures and more fabulous peace projects by Annette Green and Rhea Freitag on the Graphic 45 blog today.

And here's the supply list... you know... if you want to spread some love too xoxo

Friday, March 21, 2014

Adventures and abandonments

First thing's first.

My friend is moving away to become the event coordinator for a polar bear habitat. I know. Isn't that the craziest dream job title ever? Anyway, I made her this little brooch to send her off with a sweet 'goodbye and good luck!' as she embarks on her new adventure.

The supplies come from Alpha Stamps... go... look at all the pretty things... make stuff!

The quote is her favourite, from a poem by J. R. R. Tolkien in The Lord of the Rings. Here is the full text:
All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.
From the ashes a fire shall be woken,
A light from the shadows shall spring;
Renewed shall be blade that was broken,
The crownless again shall be king.
Now on to the abandonments. If you aren't familiar with art abandonment, the nitty gritty is this: make something then leave it for a stranger to find. It can be a lot of fun and a very freeing experience. The group I belong to is HERE on facebook.

I haven't participated in a while but I picked up this bunch of frames from the thrift shop, gussied them up and filled them with little collages. This weekend they'll be hidden here and there with a tag, waiting for lovely curious people to pick them up and take them home. Here's the finished pieces...

Hopefully they'll each find a nice home.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Wishes, Moons and Miles

I was thinking about someone far away the other night and it made me just a little sad. I'm one of those strange souls who prefers solitude, but my heart ached just a little bit from the distance nonetheless.

When I stepped outside and looked to the moon and stars above... well, it was a comfort to know that we share them.

So I set to work on finding some sweet words to convey that sentiment and created this little collage to bridge the miles.

Vintage papers collaged on chunky canvas. The piece measures 4" x 12" and is listed HERE.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

The Owl and the Pussycat

Once again I am sitting on a pile of projects that cannot be shown. Again, I am showing off a swap item before it's proper peeking time.

This little piece is based on the nonsense poem, The Owl and the Pussycat written by Edward Lear. I seem to have misplaced all of my 27 rulers so I'm estimating that the piece measures 3". And once again I had a fight with the E6000 adhesive in which there was much swearing. I think the moon may have blushed from the blue streak of my foul mouth ;)

Graphic 45 By the Sea > Splash
Layer Cake Paper Mache Box Set
Bag of Shells
White Plastic Pearls
Jute twine
Blue glitter
Vintage owl and cat images from The Graphics Fairy
Handmade polymer clay moon
Glue, paint and all that stuff...

Sunday, March 16, 2014


So we bought this wardrobe from an online auction. Our winning bid was $10. When we arrived at the auction site to pick it up we were asked if we were sure that we wanted the items we won. We assured them that, 'Um. Yes' Yes, we would gladly pay $13 for a wardrobe and working chest freezer.

This is that wardrobe.

It sat like this in my studio for a few days. The more I looked at it, the more it reminded me of a passage to Narnia. That was it! I was determined to transform this into some sort of gateway to a magical wonderland. Then my husband reminded me that the kid was without a closet in in his room and needed a place to hang his fancy clothes. Poof, just like that my Narnia dreams went up in smoke.

"Boy, what colour do you want your wardrobe?"


Ug. Not a fan of purple so I wait a few days and ask again because I KNOW the answer will be different. Sure enough, by the time we visit the paint section of the hardware shop he's changed his mind and to blue.

And as I'm painting the wardrobe whispers in my ear.... "I'm not a passage to Narnia you ninny, I'm a time and relative dimension in space." It's a TARDIS! I grab the boy and explain the situation to him. He's not entirely a Whovian but can certainly appreciate the situation that has presented itself.


Excellent! We have lift off. Permission to create a geek closet has been granted! And so we end up here... it's not completely done but its well on the way and I thought I'd share the progress.

The mirror and wood insert doors will be replaced over the next couple of weeks, as will the hardware. The kid is most excited about finding a light for the top. But what really matters is that the kid is happy and finally has a place to hang his suits (and hide his junk when I tell him to clean his room).

ETA: Here's a Tom Baker doctor portrait that I painted EONs ago. It's still floating around here somewhere.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Making messes with little artists

I love making with kids. While some may be blind to the absolute beauty in the artwork of children, we could all learn valuable lessons from the makings of young artists.

Despite their differences... boys, girls, shy, funny, loud, neat, messy... they all seem to leap over the hurdle of creative inhibition and are fearless in their making. They explore new mediums with true curiosity, like tiny mad arty scientists.

They will not be rushed or forced. "Are you done yet? Is it finished?" Kids relish the process of making. With little tongues sticking out, they focus on the task at hand and the clock be damned!


Want to make some messes with little fingers? Here are few tips for creative exploration with younger kids:

• Give as little direction as possible. This may sound silly but by providing only the necessary instructions you encourage creative play. Absolutely help when asked, but give them the opportunity to do it for themselves.

• Work in stages. Putting a huge variety of materials out all at once can be overwhelming. By working in stages you can ease in new materials and techniques.

• If you are worried about mess don't provide glitter, glue, stamp pads or paint. If you don't mind being messy, plastic tablecloths, paper plates, and sponge brushes make messy work a little more manageable.

• Don't put anything you don't want used within eye-shot. Kids have a built in radar for the most expensive, the sharpest, messiest or dangerous objects. If you don't want it used, keep it hidden.

• Offer a variety of materials to work with. Stamps, paint, buttons, tags, paper, trims, ribbons, stickers, tape, scraps. I like to always provide at least a few nice quality supplies because I think it's important for them to have that opportunity if possible. Children can absolutely tell the tactile difference between inexpensive and quality supplies. Even as adults it's nice to have a crafty treat once in a while.

• Expect everything to be completely obliterated. It's just easiest to have this mindset from the get-go.

• Bring extras. At the end of every workshop I have done with kids, many want to make seconds. Because time is usually an issue, I tell them they can take some supplies home to make another there. Kids are great and generally not very greedy.

• RELAX! Art, craft and creativity isn't always about a pretty end result. Sometimes it's just about the joy of gluing this to that. Don't pressure, don't push, don't criticize. Guide, praise and play. Offer help, give suggestions, but don't be grabby and do not take over and do it for them.

Finally, a word of thanks to the little artists that came out today! You were so much fun to work with and your blocks are amazing!


Thursday, March 13, 2014

Late nights and sticky fingers

I was up late last night. Really late. Late even for me. When I finally went to bed it was after 4 in the morning. When I woke up this morning my hands were still sticky and rather inky from my late night crafty escapades.

It can't be helped! I was on a crafty roll. Everything was going swimmingly and I had to finish just more thing... and then one MORE thing... and then... well, you get the idea.

I can't show you what I was up to or the work in progress, although I think I'm safe to post a 'Before' picture.

What do you think? What would you do? What do you see when you look at this thing-a-ma-bob?

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Whovian WIP and more art blocks

A while ago we bought a beat up old dresser for $10 and as it sat in my studio I began to envision it becoming some sort of wardrobe to Narnia. After daydreaming for a while I was told reminded that perhaps it was more important for our boy to have somewhere to put his clothes. I agreed... reluctantly.

So the boy chose a shade of blue and I set to work. Mid-way through painting I realized that the dresser was not a portal to Narnia...

... but a TARDIS in waiting! So over the next short while this messy thing will (hopefully) become a very cool bedroom time machine.

Something I have completed are this set of art blocks. They really are the most fun things to make and you should definitely give them a try!

These blocks are all embellished with Typography and Good Ol' Sport from Graphic 45.


Lastly, a reminder that I'll be hosting a kids' workshop for making mixed media art blocks this Friday at the Brighton Public Library. If you're near, stop by and let your budding artist get their mess on!

ETA: The art block size is... 2.5" x 3.5" x 1.5" Just cut segments that are 2.5" wide from a 2x4 and they'll be the perfect size. I have no idea why 2x4's aren't 2x4.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Graphic 45 Typography Print Tray

It's National Craft Month in the good ol' USA and I'm proud to take part and spread the crafty love with Graphic 45 and this project... altered print tray embellished with loads of fabulous junk (or 'la junque' if your pants are fancy) and the magnificently classically graphic Typography.

I love altering things, making assemblages and mixed media pieces. The process I go through when creating most of my mixed media pieces is almost always the same. Prep, base, gather, play, layer, finish! If you hop over to today's Graphic 45 blog post you can play along with an easy peasy tutorial!

Supply list:

Small wooden printer style tray
Acrylic paint
Ink pad
Misc items for embellishing: wooden spools, wire, twine, Glass Bottles and vintage vials, buttons, miscellaneous rusty bits, old pen nibs, metal letters, Tim Holtz Clock Keys, metal brads,  Reversible Round Metal Number Tiles, Scrabble tiles, metal corners

Monday, March 10, 2014

Warming up with pretty cards

After that stretch of focus on the 221B tins (psst, another will be listed on etsy some time this week) I'm ready to get my mess making mojo back and move on to other projects. A bit of a warm up today making a few cards before starting in earnest and altering a few bits and bobs this evening.

I'm planning on doing some card tutorials for Graphic 45 and thought a practice run might be the ideal way to get those juices flowing again. So I grabbed a 12" sheet of Coredinations colour core stock and chopped it into three bits to create three different sized cards.

All of these were created with Botanical Tea. I love this collection. It makes me long for summer and hot breezes with Tom Collins by the pool :) My favourite of the bunch is this one...

Dreamy butterflies and gorgeous Petaloo flowers... swoon!

Products used:
Graphic 45 > Botanical Tea > Botanical Tea
Graphic 45 > Botanical Tea > Spring Duet
Graphic 45 > Botanical Tea > Just Because
Graphic 45 > Botanical Tea > Love Notes 
Botanical Tea Tags & Pockets
Botanical Tea Banners
Botanical Tea Chipboard 1
4 Inch Paper Doilies
Signature Series / Graphic 45 Lights
Coredinations Graphic 45 Lights - Precious Pink

Signature Series / Graphic 45 Lights
Signature Series / Graphic 45 Lights
Petaloo Hydrangeas n Mixed Blooms Chantilly-VelvHydrangeas - Cream 
Petaloo Whites  Botanica Blooms - White *THESE ARE OUTSTANDING!*
Self adhesive pearls