Monday 29 November 2010

If chance will have me King, why, chance may crown me ...

OK, now that I've got the Shakespeare [Macbeth] quote out of my head and into my post title .. I'll move on ...

I had half a snow day today. Which is to say I only worked in the morning as the University decided to close at 1pm due to the sheer amount of snow we've had.

Trust me ... there's nothing half about the snow itself. Even now where I wait with baited breath to see if I get a full white-stuff day off tomorrow. [Fingers crossed!].

But today, rather than run home to make snow angels in the back garden, I was good and stayed in town to start my Christmas shopping. And while mooching around The Works I spotted this little gem amongst the super-cheap jewellery:

Crown ring

It cost £1:00 ... so I didn't need to debate for too long whether or not to buy it.

And, while it does actually fit my finger:

Crown ring

I mainly had this sort of thing in mind when I bought it:

Crown ring

It really does make a splendid crown for the little porcelain head I found at a carboot sale for 50p in the summer.

So, if you have a branch of The Works near you, and you like making shrines or angels or any altered characters [yes, I do mean you Effie!] you might want to rush down there and buy up the remaining stock of crown/rings ...

... weather permitting!

Take care out there.

Julie x

Thursday 25 November 2010

Experimenting with ... Mica tiles

Hello again.

This may sound sad to some, but I've just spent my bus journey and walk home in the snow thinking about getting home to a cosy house, a cup of tea and ... some blogging. Seriously, I really do enjoy thinking of things to share here then scurrying off to take the photos and craft the sentences ... and now I've got that off my chest ... I'll get on to the business of my first experimentation with mica tiles.

My Copy+Paste consort Kirsty [Neale] and I occasionally swap with each other a box of random crafty-bits which we no longer want. It's an act based on the combined theories of:

[a] Using what you have / recycling / shopping at home [even if the items come from someone else's home!] and;
[b] someone else's stash is always more interesting than your own and is always worth a good nosey through!

This time, amongst the fabric and paper 'new-to-me' treats in the box, Kirsty had included a packet of 'Mica Tiles' which both intrigued and bamboozled me as I had no idea what they were for.

So I asked turned to Mr.Google and enquired as to what on earth one does with a mica tile. Then, after much trawling through things I really didn't want to do with a mica tile [or with anything else for that matter!] I landed upon a lovely project on Sarah Anderson's blog 'The Art of Moodling' [do hop over there to see the inspiration behind my experiments]. And with her method of trapping a collage between the tiles in mind I ended up with this tiny wall hanging fixed to a card for my sister's birthday:

Tartan, Converse and Mica - birthday card

I began by prising apart a mica tile [which, is a natural mineral substance consisting of various layers] and applied some Glossy Accents to one of the laters. I then placed a vintage paper napkin [decorated with a Converse boot rub-on from Cosmo Cricket's 'The Boyfriend' collection] and an ArtChix image [both from 3DJean] into the gloss smoothing it all out with a glue-spreader.

A few hearts and a final layer of gloss were added before pressing another tile ontop of it to seal in the finished collage, amber-like, between the tiles. Once it was dry I punched a hole in the top, gave it a wire hanging loop and temporarily fixed it to the front of a card using 3D foam:

Tartan, Converse and Mica - birthday card

I think it's worked pretty well and there's something about it being a natural product that I really like, it has some really interesting colours and markings of its own which contribute an additional element to the finished result. They're probably better seen on these ... my subsequent mica experiments:

Usefulness - collaged mica tile

This one consists of a dressmaking pattern, a quote and a few magazine snippets:

Usefulness - collaged mica tile

And this last one is the one which taght me that using Stickles on top of a select area of the collage doesn't really work [it eventually gets watered down by the glaze and spreads everywhere!]:

Bird cage - collaged mica tile

But allis not lost, the bird stamp is still cute and .. the back looks nice!:

Bird cage - collaged mica tile

What with these mica experiments, my badge making and the mini paper collages I'm working on for my etsy shop I'm definitely in the thrall of small-scale art at the moment.

Maybe it's due to, as the saying goes, small being beautiful... but maybe at 5ft 2in I'm somewhat biased on that front ...

Thanks for looking in on me today - if you have any links to other mica projects, throw them this way - I still have most of a packet left.

Julie x

Tuesday 23 November 2010

Plastic bags, patterns and a small gavotte to finish.

At the start of the year I chose 'pattern' for my word of 2010 and I began taking photos of the interesting surface patterns around me. The main aim was to take and upload 365 of them to my 'Chasing Patterns' set on Flickr but I'm afraid I've stalled somewhere around 122 ....

This isn't due to running out of patterns to photograph, that would indeed be a dark day, but rather I've run out of free time and brain space to keep up!

However, the things occupying that spare corner of my brain now are the very things I referred to in my original post back in January. There I mentioned that 'pattern' also meant wanting to create and stick to a way of working which could help me achieve the things I wanted this year ... building on my freelance work, running online workshops, opening an online shop etc etc ... and I'm happy to say that those patterns are still decorating my life, day to day.

I'm managing to make new items for The Carousel Zebra [my etsy shop] - not at the rate I'd like to ... I'd need staff for that! - but I am updating the shop at least once a month so I'm pretty pleased with myself for that.

Did you hear my inner over-achiever trying to force her way out there with a begrudging 'pretty pleased'? I did! So ... quickly, before that happens ... I'll try to distract her with something pretty ....

Recycled carrier-bag brooch - Elfin Cheer [large]

My latest shop update happily combines both versions of the 'pattern' theme:

  • they're evidence of my working pattern as I managed to upload these to etsy during a break in my day job - yay me!
  • plus, the brooches themselves have a layer of pattern interest from the printed plastic bags they began life as:
Furthermore, while making these four I developed a technique which, while extremely low-tech [it involved, amongst other things, some tweezers, a lolly-stick and a plastic place-mat] it really did streamline the process for me.

Recycled carrier-bag brooch - Elfin Cheer

Another thing I've missed about not updating my 365 Patterns, is the biut where I would blog about them with an appropriately themed musical interlude ... so today I'm bringing it back ...

While I was making these final two brooches:

Recycled Plastic-bag brooch - Monochrome Dahlia

... which meant staring at that black and white pattern for quite a while, all I could think about was the Ascot Gavotte scene from My Fair Lady ... bear with me ....

I [foolishly] said to James "You know that scene, where they're all dressed in black + white at the races and they're all singing about it being exciting but they don't lok excited?"

Needless to say he didn't know that scene and was mildly bemused that I'd thought it at all possible that he might ...

Anyways ... my point was, that all the way through making them:

Recycled plastic-bag brooch - Monochrome Dahlia [large]

.. the words "What a thrilling, absolutely chilling running of the Ascot opening race" would simply not leave my head!

And now you can have the same:

Enjoy the show [and those amazing costumes] and you know, if you ever need a brooch-shaped stocking-filler ...

Thanks for reading me today.

Julie :-)

Thursday 18 November 2010

It takes a crafty village ...

Hi, hi, hi.

You know the phrase 'It takes a village to raise a child'?

Well, while I may not have any children, I am acquiring something of a collection of zebras and, trust me, the same can be said about raising a Carousel Zebra ...

A Carousel Zebra of my own

On my recent crafting weekend with friends, we were each given a blank shadow-box by Dusty Attic to decorate [but not before Hannah had taken a photo of me peeking through one ... obviously ...]:

The thing with going away to the cottage, and having to work on top-secret surprise projects is that you never seem to have the brought the thing you suddenly want to use.

Having brought my zebra stamp with me, I decided to create a bright little carousel-influenced box for him to live in, and considering how ornate the frame is, there was no way I was going to cover it with paper. So I needed to paint it.

Except I hadn't brought any paint ....

Which is where that 'village' comes in useful!

"Sid" I asked sweetly ... "Can I use your pink Dylusions paint please?".

A Carousel Zebra of my own

Then, after two coats of lovely pink I wanted to add white paint to give it a more distressed / Mexican [which is not the same as a 'distressed Mexican'!] feel and pondered on how to get a true shabby coating on it.

Gail suggested splodging lip balm onto it, as a resist, then once the white had dried I could wipe it away revealing brightness beneath. Great idea ... except I hadn't taken any lip balm with me ...

"I think I've got one in my bag you can have" said Jan ... and a new use for a stick of Lipsyl was born!

A Carousel Zebra of my own

The green bow and the embroidered flower came from Andrea who, after setting up her own ribbon shop [The Ribbon Girl], was happy to donate all her old ribbons to the baying mob those of us sharing the cottage. And the decorative Dew Drops around the edge came from Jean's shop.

A Carousel Zebra of my own

Jean was also indirectly responsible for the zebra's carousel pole as she'd packed the skewers which were intended for roasting marshmallows by the open fire! But I put one to an alternative use! [Or at least I did after Jan loaned me a gold paint pen ... ]:

A Carousel Zebra of my own

My final touch was to stamp the wording [using my own alphabet stamps!].

"What goes around" ... and subsequently 'comes around' is one of the philosophies I try to live by, it's the tagline and philosophy of my etsy shop The Carousel Zebra ...

... and if it's really true that your actions are somehow returned to you ... then my generous friends / stash-donors are definitely in line for something craftily karmic heading their way!

Thank you 'village' ... me and the zebra couldn't have done it without you!

Julie :-)

Tuesday 16 November 2010

Overheard: You know who I mean. Big woman. Spiky hair.

Hi again. How about another little something I overheard on campus [if it makes you wonder about the competence of University students in this country I can only apologise ...].

I was in a room where the students were working on altering stock-images using PhotoShop when, presumably after having named and saved the document she was working on, one female student did a spot of fact-checking amongst her friends ...

Student 1: What do you call that woman anyway?

Student 2: That? It's The Statue of Liberty.

Hannah and the halo.

Student 1: Oh. I just called her 'New York woman'.

Nothing much I can add to that is there?

[My photo is my friend Hannah ... who likes to put things on her head. And who reminded me of that New York woman in this shot!]


Friday 12 November 2010

Wholesome weekend activities

Morning all.

I'm going away for a few days which means leaving James to his own devices.

Luckily I have just the thing to keep him out of mischief in the shape of a vintage children's book I found in a Whitby charity shop:

Perhaps this page will come in useful for all those household tasks which need finishing off:
At first I'd planned to cut it up and use it on the badges I sell in my etsy shop ... but I'm not sure I can bear to cut into it now:
And, if after he's finished his puzzles ....
... he begins to miss me a smidge... there's always this little zebra to keep him company [along with the real thing which I've also left at home!]:

I'll see you [and James!] very soon, but now I'm off to catch up with some good friends.

I hope you've got a friend, a James ... or even a zebra to spend your weekend with too. If not, you can share this one: Take care.

Julie x

Monday 8 November 2010

2 Years. Page 9. 1 happy blogger.

Hi you.

I really couldn't wait until the end of the month and my regular Month in Numbers post to share a few special numbers with you. So here goes ...

I'm 2 today!

Well, actually my blog is. I began writing these here notes on paper on the 8th of November 2008.

Somehow though, it feels like longer, in a good way ...

Since I began blogging, my creative career has moved on so far. What with regularly freelancing for crafting magazines; opening an etsy shop and delivering my own online classes ... I'm actually doing what I've dreamed of [throw in a book deal and I'm done!].

And I have the dark circles under my eyes and the smile on my face to prove it.

In an oddly appropriate coincidence, the exact day of my 2nd blog anniversary just happens to be the 1st time I've featured in a newspaper!

Before you ask, yes, that is me looking through a coathanger and holding out my pom-poms for all to see ... but apart from the awkwardness of seeing myself in print the feature, about the Copy + Paste 12 Days workshops, is more than I ever could have hoped for.

Especially when it all came about as an optimistic tweet to the paper's Family Life editor!

Two years ago I began my blogging-life with a post titled: 'Yes ... We Can'... and do you know what?

I still believe that that's true.

Thanks for keeping me company over these last two years.

J x

Wednesday 3 November 2010

Meet the gang

Hi, hi, hi.

In honour of tomorrow being the first day of class in the 12 Days online crafting workshops I'm running with Kirsty [Neale], and seeing as how we've been fortunate enough to have lots of lovely new participants sign-up this year, I thought I'd write a post about some of my acquaintances ... starting with a very recent one ...

Can you spot her? Bottom corner; second from the left? Maybe you can just make out the box beneath the flying angels?

The new home of the kitsch Christmas angel I showed you last month is the top of my shelving unit, snuggled up against the wooden nutcracker from my childhood.

And while settling her in to her new home up there I was reminded me the post I wrote about my new shelves in which I mentioned that I should probably introduce you to all the little folk who live amongst the spray inks, embossing powders and general 'stuff' in my craft room.

I'd already captured some of them on this layout some time ago: But consider this your formal introduction:
Remove formatting from selection[NB: If you're scrutinising this photo and wondering why I have a bottle of hair conditioner amongst my treasured friends then really, you're going to have to read my Month in Numbers for last March. I can't promise it'll make complete sense afterwards .. but it's a start ...].

OK then, let me introduce you to another angel who, like my recent kitschy cutie, was also a charity shop find:Except this one was found by James's Grandpa who took it home, lovingly sanded and repainted it and placed her in pride of place on top of a carriage clock on their mantlepiece for the next 30 years. We're very proud to be taking care of her in our home now.

As for this little poppet: He/she? was a handmade gift from my sister Jo several years ago and I just find that handstitched face completely adorable. I have a talented big sis. Feel free to agree with me ... and maybe together, we can set her into full-blown production of cute stuffed creatures!

Like this one ... He's a little chap, who I think looks right at home cosied up with the adorable velvety creature Jo made me, which I bought for James last Christmas.

Please note: that's 'bought for James' not 'knitted'. Me no knit. Me not inclined to take on yet another craft right now thankyouverymuch!].

On now to the Lady of Lourdes figurine who is certainly no fake kitschy nik-nak. No, she's the real thing and is indeed filled with holy water:I think she was a gift from my late [really great] Great Auntie Dot.

Throughout my childhood Dot's home housed a fascinating cast of Catholic characters which included everything from a statue of The Infant Jesus on the window ledge to a nun in the back bedroom.

A real nun.

Now from the sublime .... to the ridiculous ...

I'd like you to meet Collie and Dinkton Wallis - two of the Heroes of Burgertown :

[Do you think that to think that Collie is looking so perturbed because I choose to store sticky tapes on his head?]

They're part of range of figures designed by artist Jon Burgerman. a man with whom I spent an interesting summer a couple of years back corresponding with in an attempt to convince him to design a range of scrapbooking items.

And, do you know something? I think I had him interested for a while ... and while he never quite dived headlong into scrappy-ville ... he did bring out a colour-in wallpaper which is almost the same thing!

So, consider yourself well and truly introduced to my pack. It would seem polite now for you to tell me about some of the noteable folk in your life ...

Whether they're cute and velvety, small and plasticky, filled with holy water, covered in fur ... or ... [dare I say it?] even real people, I'd love to meet them.

Over to you ...

J :-)

Monday 1 November 2010

My Month in Numbers: October

Hello you.

Hello November. Are you planning to be just the 30 days long then? Because I think October snuck in two extra weeks on me. It was a long month. Very long.

How come July didn't feel like that? Or any of the warm, lovely, working-from-home months in the summer? Mmm? How come? I think it's a conspiracy ...

But before I get carried away ... at least I managed to collect some numbers during the unfeasibly long month ... and these are they:

4 = the number of weeks I've had back at the day job [do you think that can explain why the month felt oh so very looooooong?].

£4 = The price paid for [yes, yet another] vintage bird ornament:
Splendid. Wouldn't you say? [btw, however you just answered that question - I'm going to pretend you said "Yes, he's entirely splendid Julie, and for only £4 plus P+P he's a veritable lustre-ware jewel and you're an amazing treasure hunter" ... just so you know.]
And ... in case you needed any additional convincing of my treasure hunting capacities ...

99p = the amount I paid for the vintage pheasant who as I type, is winging his way to me all the way from ebay-land.

2 = the number of witches and 4 = the number of zombies who attended the Halloween party organised by my Mam and sister ... [my sister is the wicked tooth fairy being sneaked up on by our zombie mother dearest below]:
But, there was only 1 pumpkin:
Although you wouldn't believe how long it could take to perfect a stalk sprouting from the top of your head!

As for the dress ... well, despite what some people at the party seemed to think, I didn't buy it originally as a costume. No, I bought it mainly because I liked it and it was in the summer sale: However I will admit that I was swayed a little by the idea that, eventually, it could form the basis of a great Halloween scrapbook layout! Plus it helped me get over the other associations it's vivid colour first stirred in me ... namely that while wearing it, I could be mistaken for someone from either Guantanamo bay or the Hare Krishna movement. And I'm neither.

But in spite of this ... I do still plan on wearing it on non-costumed occasions because orange dresses are for life, not just Halloween!

2 = the number of decorating jobs which, after a period of several years, have finally been tackled in our dining room and kitchen.1 eternal mystery = why James decided that amid the turmoil of the re-plastering re-decorating, now was a good time to make meringues for the first time: !!!???

Maybe it was the sight of that plaster and filler that gave him the idea?

5 = the number of packets of Midget Gems which I decided needed emptying out into one bowl so that, after having been in a drawer since James's birthday in May, they'd finally get eaten. And my plan appears to have worked ...

A few dozen = the amount of Midget Gems left at the end of the month:
However, there were enough left in the bowl to catch the eye of the professional photographer from my local paper who came to take photographs of me and my some of my handmade projects ....

1 = the number of midget gems eaten by the photographer whose photos are going to accompany a feature on the 12 Days online classes which Kirsty and I are beginning again this week!

6.5 hours = how long I had to prepare [mentally, physically and cosmetically] for the photo session at my house.

And, while I'm sure that sounds like a reasonable amount of time to get ready ... please bear in mind that for 5 of those 6.5 hours I was actually in work and had to rush back, straighten up my craft room and curl my hair!

2418 = the number of Tweets I reached on Twitter. One of which was vital in attracting the attention of the journalist who wanted to write-up the 12 Days feature! I love Twitter!

Speaking of 12 Days ...

100 = the number of postcards we had printed:
... in order to spread the word around the non-virtual world [if you can remember such a place ...?].

So there we have it, the sum total of another month. A month which ended in a more relaxed place than when it began ... and what more can anyone ask?

As with every Month in Numbers post I write, I'm always waiting for you to throw a few of your own statistics into the equation too ... so if you feel like sharing then leave me a number or 2 of your own in the comments below.

Right then, I'd better step out of the way .... there's a November about to rush right by ...

Julie :-)