Thursday, 30 December 2010

My Month in Numbers: December

Hello and Happy New Year!

We've spent the afternoon taking down the decorations and de-Christmassyfying the house. All the angels and Santas have now all been replaced with blackbirds and robins and finches .. in the form of all the new bird ornaments and pictures I received. The furniture has even been polished for the second time in a month which means that I'm in need of a rest ... and the furniture may need time to recover from the shock too ...

So now's an ideal time to sit and put last month to bed and with it
a whole year of rounding up my month and then blogging it in numbers! So allow me to begin with a typically English way, with the weather ...

Minus 8, 9, 10, 11 etc = the kind of temperatures we had here, during the day, in the weeks before Christmas:

When I went out to take this photo I actually had to scrape away the frost on the plastic before I could read the figures, by which time I'd already guessed that it was going to be quite chilly!

1 degree = the kind of temperatures we've had this week. Isn't that a bit of a leap? No wonder we English never quite get tired of discussing the vagaries of the weather. I mean, I spent the whole of Wednesday pottering about at home inside without a cardigan on ... which may not be an especially scientific gauge of the climate but let me tell you ... that's been impossible over the last few weeks!

2 = the number of times the temperature plummetted so low that our water pipes froze overnight leaving us with only one, cold, tap downstairs working. Luckily they thawed before they burst and the worst we had to contend with was a morning without a flushing toilet:

Well, when I say 'we had to contend with' I actually mean 'me' as James left the scene of the great freeze and went to work departing with the comforting words:

"If anything bursts we might have to rip the bathroom walls out and ... if you're going to go to the toilet today you'll have to use a bucket to flush it away".

If I had to choose ... my favourite part of that lovely scenario he painted for me was the word 'if'. 'If you go to the toilet today'. 'If'. Not 'when'. But 'if'!!!!

If that was the case there'd be other pipes in danger of bursting ... that's all I'm saying ...

3 = the number of mice we've spotted feasting on a ciabatta I left out for the birds. Here's one of them [the others look pretty much the same!]:

They're just so cute and several times I've even squealed the slightly obvious phrase: "Awww look, it looks just like a mouse".

But you know what I mean don't you? It's just such a mouse-y looking mouse. Like a storybook mouse ... in fact at one point there were the mice feeding - plus starlings, sparrows a blackbird and a robin - all piled in together in our tiny garden it reminded me of this scene from Enchanted!

33cm + 1/2 pint = the circumference and volume of my new mug which, if I'm ever left unattended, I could be in danger of drowning in:

Well, either I'll drown or I'll overdose on tea with just one cuppa.

But I do like a big mug, preferably straight sided and definitely one I can get more than a dainty little finger through the handle. As you can see from the photo I can fit my whole hand through this one ... plus it's got a cute sparrow on it so ... it ranks up there with the best of mugs in my opinion. [There available
here from SurfacePhilia if you like it as much as I do ... especially you Effie - I know how you like to start the day with a gallon of tea too].

6 = the number of [humongous] pizzas eaten with friends this month:

Any papercrafters reading will know that, unlike the rest of the population, when we order something which comes delivered in a pizza box ... it's not usually as edible is it?

£15 = the price paid for my bargain silk Christmas Day frock:

Except ... it's not silk. It felt like silk when I noticed it in a pre-Christmas sale, but between carrying a million shopping bags and getting a lift home in a matter of minutes, I had neither the time or inclination to try it on. Don't get me wrong, I love it despite it not being silk. I just thought I'd bagged a true bargain.

Do you know what tipped me off that it wasn't silk after all? The amount of static it created when I finally did get around to trying it on! Natural fibres tend not to crackle and make your hair dance do they?

Approx 25 = the number of handmade gift tags I made and tied to gifts:

Lots = the amount of wonderful gifts recieved in return. Some of which will no doubt feature here soon, starting with ...

120 miles / 3 hour round trip = the secret journey James made to fetch me a blackbird:

No, it's not real. But it does look spookily life-like doesn't it? I'd seen it - and fallen for it - in a gallery in Corbridge we'd visited in September and unbeknowns to me James had phoned the shop, asked the to reserve it for him and took an afternoon off work to go and collect it for me last month.

And yes, unlike Mr.Blackbird, James is real. And fabulous.

I'll just sit back now and count the number of times someone mistakes the ornament for a real bird and screams when they spot Mr. Blackbird on our hearth!

Well then, that's enough numbers for one day, except to suggest maybe this year you join me in collecting and sharing some monthly statistics of your own. You wouldn't regret it!

Never in my life have I managed to keep a regular diary beyond January ... and yet look!! here I am a full 12 'Month in Numbers' posts later with a whole year of figures to look back on ... plus the stories behind each of them, the memories they bring back and everything that all of that means to me!

Thanks for dropping in on me in 2010 I always appreciate your company. Here's to a wonderful 2011.

Julie x

Blog Hop: Fashion doll art-journaling

Hi there.

Welcome to the last Banana Frog Design Team blog hop of 2010. And, in a manner befitting such an occasion, believe it or not, I have actually managed to stick to the assigned theme!

I know! It's practically a first for me!

This month's brief was to showcase a project using our favourite colours or set of colour combinations, and here's how I rose to that challenge: It's a double spread in my home-made art-journal featuring a favourite colour combo of mine: turquoise and yellow. If you want proof that it's a favourite of mine, you need look no further than the rug/ cushions/ ornaments in my living room!I made this page earlier this month right after I'd been creating the 'Crazy Bird Lady' art doll tutorial [which you can read all about here]. Here I've used the same technique of dressing my model in the height of Banana Frog couture stamps ... but rather than make her into a 3-dimensional, moveavble doll - I've simply pasted her into my journal.

Here's a few photos of the process ....

Once I'd decided on which image to go with, I used the clear sheets with the printed designs which come with the stamps, to check which stamps would make suitable clothing!In doing this I realised that one of the rockets from the 'Retro Space' set would fit her perfectly as a fabulous dress ...
So I stamped it onto a scrap of patterned paper. When it came to cutting it out I trimmed off some of the uneccesary stamped lines:
My art-journal pages are made from brown packing-paper so I gave them a rough basecoat of gesso follwed by some strips of turquoise paper and pearlised white acrylic:
Next I glued my model directly to the page, softening the edges with a little more paint and a spritz of a yellow spray-ink ['Vanilla Custard' from Dylusions] which I then smeared across the paper using a wet wipe:
Then I began adding layers of interest several of the wording stamps from the same set and also a series of stars around the model and the page.
[The stamped sea-glass in the photo was something I made for a Banana Frog tutorial back in Sept 2009. It was all about craeting keepsakes by stamping on pebbles etc and it's here, if you'd like to know more.]

I also added detail using black + white pens, including giving my model wavy hair and outlining that fabulous space-rocket dress: All of the other items were ones either laying around my desk or were what was inside a stash-swap parcel from a friend, proving art-journaling is really more about hainving an idea / colour / theme in mind .. rather than having just the right item in your supplies.

Here's the finished page again: That journal is becoming more and more tactile and generally 'squishy' with each page I complete ... which is a perfect excuse for me to start another page ...

While I do that, don't forget to leave a comment below if you want to be in with a chance of winning a set of Banana Frog stamps.

[Winners are drawn at random and are announced on the BF blog usually within the week. To see which other DT members are taking part in the blog hop - visit here.]

Thanks for dropping by today, see you soon.

Julie :-)

Friday, 24 December 2010

Vintage book: The Wise Robin

Hi, hi, hi ... or should that be Ho, ho, ho?

Either way, welcome in, come and get warm in front of the fire and I'll show you my latest second-hand treasure, found in a charity shop last weekend:

Finding a Ladybird book with original 1950s illustrations for 50p is good deal any day of the year ... but to discover this amazing, festive title only one a week before Christmas?It was such a rare treat it had me grinning and clutching it to my chest from the moment I spotted it's battered torn matt paper spine [the newer books with their shiny coated covers just don't have the same charm do they?].

You probably don't need to have been a longstanding reader of my blog to be able to identify a few of the reasons this was a perfect book to have found its way to me ... let's just say there's something rather magical in the combination of:

1. the 1950s illustrations;2. the birdy-ness of it all! [especially as my Mam's always told me how robins remind her of me ... her story to tell, not mine]. And ...

3. ... did you spot it in the photo for #1? I didn't! Not until I took these photos anyway ... OK, how about now?:My old friend the zebra even managed to sneak in there! Such a nice surprise!

Anyway ... the book tells the tale of a Mrs. Robin who has her eye on the tinsel on the Christmas tree and basically emotionally blackmails Mr. Robin to go fetch it:
Then he gets captured by the family: Bur - have no fear - he does manage to escape:

And after Christmas, when the tree is thrown away, Mrs. Robin gets her beak on the bling anyway:It was ever thus ... no? Watch out chaps, those ladyfolk and their interior design desires will get you locked up if you're not careful ...

Errm, no perhaps not. Maybe I like the drawings an awful lot more than the gender politics of it all ... I'll probably just look at the pictures from now on!

So, Merry Christmas to you. I wish you everything you wish for yourself ...

... just be careful of chasing that shiny tinsel. Take a leaf from Mrs. Robin's book ... wait until after Christmas when you can get it for next to nothing in the sale! OK?

Thanks for reading me. Have a wonderful time and I'll see you as soon as soon.

Julie x

Thursday, 23 December 2010

Overheard: I think I'd have remembered ...

Hi you.

For my final slice of overheard bizarreness for 2010 I've decided on something I heard quite recently and which, in a week in which our water pipes have frozen twice in the night, is also thematically appropriate ....

A couple of weeks ago I was using a computer on campus before starting work while two male students were on the computers opposite me within earshot.

While I was typing away one of them came out with the following line which is so brilliant I think it was made especially for me and delivered as my early present from a Santa who'd seen the request for a 'perfect overheard' on my Christmas list ...

Here goes ...

Male student to friend: Did I ever tell you about the time my boss let me sit in the fridge? I just need to repeat that for you so you get the full joy of it:

Did I ever tell you about the time my boss let me sit in the fridge?
Turns out that no, he hadn't told his friend about that time his boss had let him sit in the fridge so he spent the next 10 mins explaining the whole thing ...

... but I think I'll keep that to myself for now. Like when Dorothy discovers the truth behind the wizard in the Wizard of Oz, I think it's better if I leave it to your imagination.

But feel free to speculate ...

Julie :-)

p.s: if you need a good excuse to take a break from Christmas preparations ... take a break, put your feet up on the sofa and draw a man in a fridge. Worked for me.

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Christmas comedy pitstop: David Sedaris

Hi, hi, hi.

I know this is a ridiculously busy time of year but ... have you got 20 minutes to spare?

If you just shook your head, shouted 'No' and shot me a contemptuous look then let me be clear ... it's only your ears that need to be free for the next 20 minutes. Your hands can be as busy as you like.


OK then, now I that have your ears, allow me to treat them to one of my all time favourite pieces of comedy writing from David Sedaris, which he reads from in the videos below [ I can't find it in less than 3 sections on Youtube but it is only about 20 mins in total though - you don't need to see the pictures - they've just been added on after].

It's a very funny look at Christmas tradition and the stories told to children around the world about exactly who it is who brings their gifts.

While I can't promise you will cry laughing, I can assure you that I almost stopped breathing from the point where he says 'You might want to pack a few things ....'

So, if you want or need a break for the next 20 mins then put your feet up and press play. If you haven't got time to stop ... then put this on while you wrap gifts / bake cakes / spray the oven with fume ridden cleaner / wait for the fume ridden cleaner to magically transform your oven into a shiny new one [that's what I'm doing as I type!].

Consider this an early Christmas gift from me to you ...

Julie :-)

Sunday, 19 December 2010

Kitsch Christmas deer cards

Good evening to you. How's things?

When I signed off yesterday's post by declaring that the snow hadn't reached us this time around ... I spoke to soon. It fell softly and silently overnight and we awoke, once again to a white blanket and the sound of shovel on driveway.

Luckily this new snowfall seems to have put many people off shopping today, so we actually managed to buy most of our last minute gifts without being surrounding by marauding hoards. We also got to drop in on a shop which, after standing empty for months, has now been handed over to local new businesses to support and test out their venture. This included several handmade craft sellers which makes such a welcome change for our town centre ... I hope the it's extended beyond Christmas time as it's only a two minute walk from work ... and could see myself becoming a regular! [To anyone local - it's the shop nextdoor to HMV].

Anyway, here's what's likely to be the final installment of my Christmas cards I think. Because [a] I'm not planning on making many more [but I MUST remember I need to make one for James!] and [b] I've been making Christmas projects for magazines ever since July and now ... well, this month I'm beginning work on Spring/Easter commissions so I'm really out of synch with the calendar!

However, the coquettish little smirk on this Stamps Away deer's face has managed to keep me interested in this last batch of cards:

Like the cards I shared yesterday, this batch all use the same stamps, but have been coloured-in with different shades of ProMarker and have been given a splash of Stickles glitter and a length of co-ordinating ribbon: The 'Merry & Bright' sentiment is from Banana Frog.

I didn't only stick to natural deer colours ... how about a little turquiose and pink version for that kitschy Christmas feel?Which reminds me ... I must go and get the cutie-kitsch angel I found in a charity shop [who I blogged about here] down from my craft room shelf.

This is the perfect time for her to be freed from her original box and allowed to stretch her wings while the house looks as glimmering and sparkly as it does right now.

Who knows, she may even end up in her rightful place on top of a tree for the first time in who knows how long ...

I hope you get time to spread your wings and sparkle this Christmastime too.

Julie x

Saturday, 18 December 2010

Simple stamped Christmas Cards with 'colouring-in'.

Hello hello.

Rather than dwell on the important presents I've still not bought ... and the others which have been despatched but not due until the last possible minute ... I thought I'd share a small success I've had this Christmas season.

For the majority of my Christmas cards this year [by which I mean the majority of the handmade ones ... I certainly didn't make all the ones I'm sending!] I've taken a leaf out of my friend TinkerTaylor's book to make simpler, speedier cards by stamping an image directly onto the card, rather than get waylaid in layering and fanciness! You can see her original blog post on this idea here.

The image I used is from Stampendous and is described on their site as a stamp which depicts a villa in the bright Italian sun ... so it's not strictly a Christmas stamp!

But I reckoned that, with the correct use of colour and a good dose of glittery Stickles ... the scene could pass as a festive one:
As usual, when I'm let loose with the ProMarkers, I had a high old time sitting down and spending time colouring-in. Which is the main reason they're all different ... so that I could play with artistically express myself with more colours ...

The final touch was a 'Merry Christmas' sentiment stamp from Banana Frog and that's it.

If you're expecting a handmade, hand-deliverd card from me this year ... errm ... I guess you know what to expect now. As for me ... I'd better get a move on delivering them to you hadn't I?

If there's a world of snow outside your door, stay safe and warm. It hasn't reached us [this time round] quite yet ... so hopefully I can go back out tomorrow to finish up my shopping. And if my last-ditch efforts fail?

... then expect to see a tutorial on 'hand-stamping a grovelling-yet-attractive I.O.U' on here in the near future ...


Julie :-)

Friday, 17 December 2010

Gift tags: Personalised + pretty

Hi, hi, hi.

I guess some of you might have something more adventurous to do on a Friday night than blog about gift tags ... but not me. Which is kind of how I like it. Anyways, I've had enough thrills already tonight in watching The Mentalist [well, yeah, OK, I was watching Simon Baker more than the plotline ... ] but I promise that you have my undivided attention for the next few blogging minutes.

For some reason, like I don't have enough to do, I decided that I ought to be handmaking my gift tags again this year. So armed with samples of my gift wrap, for obsessive colour-matching purposes, I raided my stash for suitable bits and pieces.
So far they've all been made from off-cuts of card I've been keeping for just such an occasion. I then decorated them with ribbons; punched snowflakes and snippets of vintage paper, old dictionary pages and quotes die-cuts: While reading through some of the definitions on the random dictionary pages I had, I realised some of them suited some of the gifts I'll be giving: While others picked out something of the personality of the recipients:
I'll have to make more than these few, but I couldn't make lots of this particular kind of tag though as I ran out of the really appropriate dictionary entries.

After I'd used up the best ones, there were certainly other words left behind on the pages I had but, well ... they weren't necessarily the best for this festive occasion.

I mean, would you want the definition of 'lice' tied to a gift beneath your tree next Saturday morning?

No. Thought not. I guess I'll be changing the design for my next batch ...

Julie ;-)

Monday, 13 December 2010

Tutorial: 'Crazy Bird Lady' Art Doll

Hi, hi, hi.

Do you ever make a project which takes you by surprise? Something which you had the germ of an idea for, which you hoped would work, then you experimented with it and finally finished it ... and yet still after all that time it manages to take you by surprise purely because you like it?

You're not just 'happy' with it or contented at having completed a task. No, you actually really like it.

Well, that's how I feel about my Crazy Bird Lady plaque:

Crazy Bird Lady - Wall plaque

The initial thought came to me when I was wondering what to make for my Banana Frog Design Team 'LilyPad Lesson' tutorial and I landed upon the idea of 'stamped art-dolls'! Then I sat with all my sets in front of me working out which stamp designs could be re-imagined as items of clothing.

Crazy Bird Lady - Wall plaque

I've posted a full step-by-step tutorial showing how I put this doll together here on the Banana Frog blog, so do hop over if you'd like all the details.

Once I'd finished the doll I realised that rather than just photograph her for the tutorial then file her away as finished project I'd really like to have her on display.

So I:

  • took a spare blank wooden page from a KaiserCraft album I made last year;
  • covered it with Crate Paper and LilyBee patterned papers;
  • added a few bird companions, a nest and a hanging ribbon; and finally ..
  • gave her a title using October Afternoon MiniMark alphas and letters cut from an old sheet of Tim Holtz paper mounted on chipboard.

Crazy Bird Lady - Wall plaque

She's now hanging in my living room. Where most of my flock of bird ornaments roost too.

'Crazy bird lady' you say? Whoever can you be referring to ... ?

Make sure to check out the full tutorial here and then drop by Banana Frog again tomorrow [Dec 14th] as my Project of the Day is another version using the same technique.

See you then then.

Julie :-)

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Tutorial: Wired tissue paper leaves.

Morning all.

I've got a day off work today which I intend to fill with finishing off some crafty bits I've had lingering around for weeks now. But first I need to to move it all away from the rug in front of the fire where I've been huddling on a night after work, and where I'm ever-vigilant about not spray-inking my cream fire surround.

So, bit by bit this morning, I'm hauling it all back to the confines of the desk in my craft room which is no longer virginally white nor ink-free!

One of my first tasks of the day has been cathcing up with blogs and I loved my friend Alexa's post on how she's approaching her gift-wrapping this year ... it really made me wish I had a heart-shaped paper punch! You can check out the post on her beautiful blog 'Trimming the Sails' here.

Inspired by Alexa I thought I'd re-share [which probably isn't a real word!] with you a little paper-leaf gift-tag tutorial I made this time last year:

Also, I've made a compilation of all the festive flavoured projects and photos I've ever uploaded to Flickr. I'll be updating it with each of my 25 advent tags throughout the month too. There's a link to it in my sidebar over there >>>> or you can just click here.

Right then, I must be off ... that pile of paper, pastels and stamps won't move itself upstairs ...

See you soon.

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Overheard: Are Santa's Elves in a union?

Hi there.

One reason not to wear ear-muffs despite this wintry weather is that they'd block out all those potentially amusing overheards I like so much!

So, with cold ears, I bring you one stretching back to early 2008 from the first seminar back on campus after the Christmas break.

I was in place, poised to take the usual class notes for a student, when the lecturer welcomed everyone back and posed the following question:

Lecturer: Did everyone have a good Christmas?

Here the look on one of the students faces must have indicated that no, he hadn't ...

Lecturer: No Ben? Why not?

Ben: I had to work Christmas Day didn’t I?

Lecturer: Why? Who do you work for? ..... Santa?

And at that punchline I had another one of my 'hopefully no one can see what I'm actually writing down' moments!

So, while Ben didn't work for Santa after all [apparently he worked in a pub!] ... this little guy certainly does:He's a Sweet Pea Stamp design available from 3DJean and, if you're that way inclined you can hop over now to this post on the Scattered Scarlet design team blog where I've made a few other versions of this card using different colour-schemes.It's a nice stamp to colour-in ... plus he's cute ...and he has a dog .... so what's not to like?

And coming from me ... someone who doesn't usually do cute ... and is terrified of dogs ... then he really must be nice!

If you think you might have missed any of my overheard conversations you can always catch up by clicking on the 'Overheard' tab at the top of the page ^^^ up there!

Thanks for reading today.


Saturday, 4 December 2010

Tutorial: Alcohol Inked tags ... without the alcohol inks.

Hi. So you've come back to see the technique was I was teasing you about in my post yesterday have you? Good,good ... here goes ...

The softly blended background to the Mica tile collage from yesterday:

Sparrows - collaged mica tile

... and also the background on this acetate tag are both made by sandwiching the same material in between two transparent layers:

And that material? Well, believe it or not that material is inky used kitchen roll!

I first discovered the usefulness of a roll of kitchen paper when spray-inking when I attended Dina Wakley's Art Journaling workshops at Art from the Heart.

She demonstrated how, after spraying, if you gently roll the errrm 'roll' across the area you've just sprayed it removes a lot of the wetness that can crinkle your pages and slow down your layering process. Soon I started to see how beneficial this was but also ... how this often led to interesting colours and designs being imprinted on the kitchen roll, especially after you've rolled it across a stencil or mask before lifting it from the page:

And as I admitted in this post in August, about my Art Journaling workshop experience, Iwas so enamoured with this particular sheet of paper:

I saved it from the rubbish bin and took it home with me to make merry with another day.

And now that day has come!

Here as poomised is the tutorial so you too can make use of your used inky kitchen and, let's not be coy about it, toilet paper too!

Turning inky kitchen roll /toilet paper into alchol ink-esque tags

1. Don't worry if you don't have Mica tiles. While Iused them on my 1st attempt at this technique - the sparrow collage above - after that I've simply used scraps of acetate:

And, if you don't even have any plastic packaging handy ... just wait a few weeks as there's bound to some in amongst your Christmas presents!

2. Whatever type of transparent material you end up using, cut two pieces to the same size before you begin. Next:

I used a gel medium in this photo but have also used Glossy Accents and Anita's 3D Gloss. As long as the glue is one that dries clear it should be OK.
3. Select the specific section of inked-up paper you want to use. It's proabably best if the paper is dry for this part - to prevent tearing before you get it in place: 4. Smooth out the paper as flat as you can. Then:

You only need enough to cover the paper. Any excess will squeeze out the sides at a later stage!
6. Select any images and/or text you want on your tag:
7. Once you're happy with their position:
This will take a little gently wiggling and sliding about but once you've got the sides all lined up, press down on the tag to clear any air bubbles. Have a damp cloth / wet wipe on hand to remove the excess gloss which will escape from the sides.

I added some metal tape to one side for a stained-glass type feel, before punching a hole using my Crop-a-Dile.
It's in this sort of light that the similarity between this technique and that of using alcohol-inks comes through I think.

Plus, for someone who doesn't really like getting her fingers stained by alcohol inks ... and who doesn't actually own any anyway ... I think it's a pretty attractive alternative!

You can either leave your tag like that or ...

9. Glue a few embellishments to it:

Select some co-ordinating ribbon and tie on a charm using raffia: And finally ...

10. Add it to a gift for someone special:

Oh, OK then, yes, you can keep it for yourself if you like your finished result that much!

So, what do you reckon? Will you think twice before throwing that sheet of inky paper out now?

For me, it's an exciting new discovery and one which I already have plans for ...

I think it would make the basis for some beautiful unique jewellery. Something based on the shape of the anklet I made in this earlier tutorial
but using a thin strip of kitchen-rolled acetate, rather than muslin, and with a hole punched in either end with a ribbon tie through each! And then there's earrings ... and pendants ... and ....

And I'll stop there for one night!

I'd love to know what you think. I know not everyone likes the idea of saving scraps let alone re-using kitchen-roll ...

... but it is very lovely kitchen roll ... wouldn't you say?