Monday, January 31, 2011

Broadway Boxes #2

The weekend was full of making more boxes to give away as members of the cast left the Broadway musical American Idiot. The actor that left on Sunday was a featured actor who did not have any program inserts. Therefore, a new style of box was necessary. The above sample uses reversible Unryu paper from Thailand. The lid of the box is debossed with a symbol from the show--a heart grenade. The interior of the box is capable of holding 4 x 6 photos or postcards. The interior is lined with black Prestige paper.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Tartan vs Plaid vs Gingham (Part 2)

In terms of paper weaving, I wanted to illustrate the differences between Gingham, Plaid and Tartan. Using solid colored strips of cardstock, I set out to show the difference between these three designs.

Gingham is two colors of stripes, usually the same width. One color is usually white. Think of picnic tablecloths. Below is an example of a gingham with the strips being 1/2" wide.

A plaid is usually two colors and the width of the stripes can be the same or not. Below is my example of a Buffalo plaid (think flannel shirts) using the traditional red and black. Notice that the widths of the stripes vary--the wider stripes are actually two widths of the same color. All of the stripes are 1/2" but are combined in different patterns to make them wider.

A tartan is usually more than two colors on a solid background. The widths of the stripes change. In this case, I used 1/4" and 1/2" strips in both directions to give the tartan look. Also, I used four different colors to mimic the tartan look. The base color is the dark purple.

Next week, I will discuss using patterned strips and uses for your weaved paper. Have a great weekend.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Tartan vs Plaid vs Gingham

I opened a total can of worms when I mentioned in my last post that I was trying to mimic a tartan design with my paper weaving. First, I must designate that the terms that I am using are based in America and have a totally different meaning in the UK. In the UK, tartan is the pattern and plaid is a piece of tartan fabric that is worn over the shoulder.

In the United States, I was told that plaid is a pattern that uses two colors usually in consistent perpendicular patterns. Sometimes, the patterns can be different of different widths. When I think of plaid, I think of the buffalo plaid that is common in flannel. Below, is an example of a plaid.

In this case, the widths of the stripes are consistent. When the stripes are the same color and when they appear on a white base (sometimes the base will be a color other than white), I was told that this was classified as a gingham. Usually, the stripes in both directions are the same width, although the widths can be different.

(l) small weave gingham pattern.
(r) large weave gingham pattern.

Tartan, on the other hand, are more than two colored stripes that appear on a solid background. The widths of the stripes are different widths. When we think of tartan, we think of kilts. The patterns below are examples of tartans.

Tartan images courtesy of Plaids and Gingham images courtesy of

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Iron Craft--Week Four

This week on Iron Craft, we were supposed to make our own coffee cozy. I don't drink coffee or tea but have randomly stopped by the overpriced coffee store that appears on every other Manhattan street corner in order to get some hot chocolate.

Of course, I knew that I wanted to do something out of paper. So I stopped by the overpriced coffee store that appears on every other Manhattan street corner and acquired (stole) a couple of cardboard cozies to use as templates. I really started to admire the engineering involved with making the cozy because you have to take into consideration the many angles, slopes and tabs.

I have been toying with the idea of trying to use more of my scraps on a project. I decided to do a paper weave with some of my scraps. I used a palette of yellow and red and used two different sizes of strips--1/8th" and 1/2". I was trying for a tartan look and should have used more colors rather than more patterns. All in all, I am pleased with the way that it turned out.

BTW, the cup shown above was thrown away by a co-worker and is acting as a model before rejoining the trash can.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011


There are several projects that I continually work on--some with and some without a closure date. I have been commissioned by Penguin books to create 10 cutouts that will be used to illustrate a children's story of my choosing. The collection of stories will be illustrated by 10 different artists using 10 different media. My medium will be silhouette cutouts. I have until the end of next week to decide which fairy tale that I will choose. I am leaning towards Jack and the Beanstalk. After viewing this silhouette movie by Lotte Reiniger, I also am intrigued by doing Cinderella and The Three Little Pigs.

I am also working on designing a special Broadway box for Billie Joe Armstrong when he leaves the cast of American Idiot. I hope to cover the box in green leather and feature a logo from the show.

Another project that is in its design stages is a pentagon box with lid. I want to work out the angles and master the logistics of covering the box.

Finally, I need to finish my Iron Craft project this week. This week we are supposed to make a cozy/belly band for a cup of coffee. Of course, mine will be made out of paper but figuring it out will take a little bit more time.

Monday, January 24, 2011

New Year's Resolution #5

This year, I hope to be better organized with my materials. As I have been designing products for sale in my Etsy store, I have been deficient in labeling the materials being used. In the product descriptions on my items, I would like to be able to say the type of book cloth, or the type/weight of the paper that I am using, etc.

The problem that I have is that I get so excited about the creating, I just move forward and make things. Once I have the prototype/example, I file the details regarding the making of the item. In other words, I notate the dimensions etc. but never annotate the materials themselves.

Another problem that I have is that I have loads of materials that simply aren't marked. I have rolls of book cloth that I have no idea (1) where I bought it, (2) how much it cost, or (3) its name. I got so excited and folded hundreds of sheets of paper so I could put it in the book press but then forgot to label it so that I could remember the name/weight of the paper. I can still use the paper but I only feel comfortable selling those journals in person because I can't fill out the details in my online store.

Oh well, this is the way one learns the ins and outs of owning your own business.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Paper Fridays--Butterflies, Fans and Cranes, Oh My. . .

More of my paper stash for you to love. Have a great weekend.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Broadway Boxes

Left: Japanese lift top box
Right: Japanese lift top box with inserts

On Broadway, there are several traditions that happen when one of the actors leaves the production. On the final performance, the cast usually sings the song Happy Trails before the curtain raises on the final performance of the leaving actor. Another tradition, especially if the actor is an understudying a role in the show, is to give the actor copies of the program inserts (stuffers) as a memento of their participation in the show.

One of the problems with receiving the inserts is that they are usually loose pieces of paper. Many Broadway shows simply recycle the inserts when the actor leaves the show. For our production, I used to make notepads by using padding solution to glue all of the loose pieces of paper into one solid notepad. We would hand a couple of the notepads to the exiting actor for their own personal use.

For our current production, I have been making handmade boxes to hold the inserts so that actors could have a nicer way to keep their inserts as they use them for scratch paper. This past weekend, I made a prototype for one size of the inserts. It is simple a lift top box to hold the loose inserts inside.

Notice the dimension of the boxes--there is a 1/8th inch reveal of the bottom tray

Here are the two prototypes of boxes that I made for one type of inserts. I am a little partial to the blue box. Both boxes use papers from a marbler in Germany that I will be featuring next week. I am still waiting for his permission to feature him online.

The top and bottom trays are covered in bookcloth and the decorative paper is cut to size.

These boxes are based on a Japanese design that I discovered on my last trip to Japan. I will detail the differences between Western style boxes and Japanese style boxes in a later post. Right now, I just want to bask in their beauty.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Iron Craft Week Three

I was so excited when I saw the title for this week's challenge on Iron Craft--Just bunt. I was thinking baseball and you know how fanatical I am about baseball. My world came to a crushing halt when I read the description--bunting and garland.

I have to say--I am not a big bunting fan. When I think of bunting, I think 4th of July and those red, white and blue streamers and swags, etc. When I think of garland, I automatically think about Christmas and stringing popcorn and/or cranberries and then the ants that get attracted to such live edible decorations (at least in Texas where I grew up).

I was actually going to skip this week due to a lack of imagination and a backlog of custom orders. Then, I got a shout-out and then boasted that Thing1, Thing2 and I were going to represent the male crafters of the world--I felt a little pressure to come up with something.

I decided to revisit the tradition of 1000 cranes. In Japanese culture, it is good luck to receive 1000 folded origami cranes. Usually, 40 cranes are tied on a single string and you give out 25 strings. Most people add a few extra cranes just in case someone miscounted. A newer tradition is for families to give new parents 100 cranes to hang over a baby's crib. In this tradition, 9 strings of 11 cranes are suspended from a larger crane.

(Here you can see the detail of three of the different strings of cranes. Glass beads are used to keep the cranes from sliding down the string. Traditionally, three separate types of beads are used on a 100 crane project--pewter, brass, and pearl. Each signify a traditional wish for the child).

Here are my cranes hanging around my bulletin board.
I apologize for the spooky lighting for these pictures. It looks like an Alfred Hitchcock movie but I couldn't get a good picture without the shadows.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Pamphlet Stitch Hard Bound Book

I wanted to work on some bookbinding projects this past weekend. I have a supply of Khadi handmade watercolor paper that I wanted to use for a project. The paper is handmade in India and is 100% cotton rag. The size is A4 which folds in half to a size of 4" x 6". I wanted to create something simple and fast so I decided to create a hard bound pamphlet stitch book.

The book consists of two signatures of 5 sheets of paper each. I could have stitched all ten sheets together into one signature but because the paper is so thick, the swell would have caused the usable space on the page to diminish too much. Instead, I sewed two signatures onto a piece of book cloth to act as the spine. The casing-in process is the same for any hardbound book with the exception that there is no actual spine board. Instead, a gap is left between the front cover and the back cover. I glued the text block into place and then pasted down the end sheets. I used some of the marbled papers from my Rhonda Miller stash.

The end result is a small watercolor/sketch book that fits comfortably in a pocket or handbag and is ready for quick and ready use. The book cloth cover is very durable and the book lies flat for easy access while sketching, writing or painting. I hope to sell these at my store in a couple of different sizes.

Monday, January 17, 2011

New Year's Resolution #3 & #4

My third New Year's resolution is to keep my Etsy store open and stocked. I want to average 10 items available for sale every week. Right now, I have only been using my Etsy store for custom orders and credit card payments. This year, I will change that. I guess what has been hindering me from selling on etsy is the fear of putting myself out there for every to see. People who see my products seem to like them but dealing with complete strangers buying your work online is a little bit daunting.

My fourth New Year's resolution is to keep better records for my online and greeting card business. Every year around tax time, I am stumbling alone looking for receipts, and checks, and invoices, etc. for my business. Being the procrastinator that I am, I usually start dealing with all of this in December. My resolution this year is to stay on top of it all and enter everything on a monthly basis.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Paper Fridays--Rhonda Miller Marbled Paper

I am revisiting an old feature of previous years--Paper Fridays. Today, I am featuring more of the artistry of paper marbler extraordinaire--Rhonda Miller. I have gushed in previous posts about Rhonda's papers and I recently received another batch of her papers (in all fairness to Rhonda, I purchase all of the papers that are shown here. In other words, I am not on her payroll).

Truth be told, I have to prevent myself from visiting Rhonda's etsy store because I feel that I have to leave some paper for others to buy. I will be using Rhonda's papers this weekend for some journals that boxes that I will be listing on my etsy store. I am sorry to say but I have to release Rhonda's papers to the world and hope that others will enjoy it as much as I do.

Of the papers above, the orange and purple samples are my favorites. I hope that you enjoy them as much as I do.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Iron Craft Week Two--Part Two

Since I didn't have any fabric to make a door snake, I decided to use Tyvek as my fabric. Tyvek is a synthetic material that envelopes are made of (think of those FedEx envelopes that you can't tear). I use Tyvek for my large scale silhouette pieces since it is black on one side and white on the other. It acts like fabric and is waterproof (which for some reason this is important when being a door snake). Since I didn't have a sewing machine available at the moment, I simply hand stitched the Tyvek.
The bigger problem was that I didn't have any materials to fill it with. Not wanting to lug around a big bag of cat litter or aquarium gravel, I started walking around my kitchen to try and find something to use. I looked at the recycling center in my kitchen when the light bulb went off. Rather than close off the Tyvek tube, I would leave one end open and sew in a piece of elastic so that it would shut (just like the waist band of swimming trunks or sweat pants). I could then fill the tube with those plastic shopping bags from the supermarket. This way, the materials would be waterproof and I would save the bags from entering the landfill for life.

So here is the final project:

I decorated the outside of the door snake with hand cut letters (I needed to practice my scalpel skills). I thought of the first five positive verbs to use as a motivation when looking at the door snake. BTW, it is much easier to glue the letters when the snake is flat. Also, it is much easier to turn out the Tvyek if you scrunch/wrinkle the material before trying to turn it out. The material becomes much more pliable when crinkled. I was able to stuff 25 plastic shopping bags into the door snake.

The final item in place in front of the door.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Iron Craft Week Two

This week's challenge for Iron Craft was to make a "draft dodger" or "door snake." Having been raised in Texas and having lived in Tampa, I had never heard of such a thing. Even when I went to school in Indiana, I never came across such an item.

For the uninitiated, a door snake is something that is placed in front of a window or door that blocks the cold air from entering (or the cold air from the air conditioning from escaping). I had a roommate in college that would do the same thing with his sweatpants. In our case, it was a signal for me that I would probably be sleeping in the dormitory lounge or with a friend for the evening.

After doing some research, it appears that this would be an easy project for most people. You simply take a piece of fabric 4 " tall by the size of the opening you want to cover (my door is 31" wide), and add 1.5 inches for seam allowances and turn downs. This would make my piece of fabric 4" by 32.5". Fold in half on the long side, with right sides together and sew on the three open sides leaving a seam allowance of .5" to 1". Turn out the tube through the opening so the right side of the fabric is showing. You leave a small gap in order to pour in your filling material (usually beans, rice, cat litter, etc.). Once filled, you hand stitch the opening shut, decorate the outside as you please and Voila--you have a door snake.

The only problem for me--I didn't have a piece of fabric long enough to make the project, and I didn't have anything to fill the inside with. After mentioning my New Year's Resolution, I was bound and determined to make a draft dodger out of materials I already had.

Tune in tomorrow for my solution.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

New Year's Resolution #2

As promised, I wanted to share another of my New Year's resolutions. My first resolution was mentioned here. My second resolution is linked to the first--Don't buy art supplies in bulk.

I don't know from where it stems but if I need double-sided tape, for instance, why do I buy 10 rolls when two or three are sufficient. The rationalization that I use is "I don't want to stop a project because I don't have the supplies" or "I don't want to have to go into Manhattan" or "I don't know if I will have money when I need to get the supplies that I need." I think part of the problem can be attributed to not having money for a good portion of my life--not that I am living in the lap of luxury right now. I remember living from paycheck to paycheck and not having a lot of extra money for non-essentials.

The problem with all of the excess is (1) storage, (2) shelf life and (3) boredom. My studio is lined with rubbermaid containers that have my supplies. Sometime the containers are labeled--usually, they are not. The problem is when I need to find the replacement supplies sometimes I can't find them as fast as I think that I need them. Therefore, I go to the store and buy more rather than taking the time out to find where they are. I don't know why I am so insistent on getting the project finished NOW. Secondly, some of the items that I have probably have a shelf life that expires while they are on my shelf. Most of them don't--thank goodness glitter lasts forever and that stamp pads won't dry out (if you keep them tightly sealed). Finally, I have found out that I get bored with my current supplies. Right now, I don't think that I will be using glitter for quite a while. Mainly, because it gets everywhere--no matter how careful you are. I found red glitter in my underwear while I was changing at the gym--Try explaining that to the other guys in the dressing room. "Hey Mr. Sparkly, how many reps did YOU do today?"

So, in closing, my New Year's resolution is to survey my supplies before starting any new project. Should some essential item be needed, buy only the item needed and no more than ONE extra.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Last Minute Profile #1--Finished

I am happy to say that I finished the coordinating journals that I talked about in this post. I am very happy with the way they turned out. Friend C was quite happy with them as well. I delivered the items on Saturday, January 8. I am starting to require more of my commission work to be paid through my Etsy store. I figure if my friends feel comfortable enough to request last minute work then they should feel comfortable helping me out my boosting my online sales. In all actuality, it lose a little bit of money by having them go through the Etsy store because I have to pay for listing feels, commissions, and credit card processing but I feel that a better online presence will help when it comes to IRS and tax time.

Here is the bride's journal. The yellow Prestige paper is brighter than probably shows here (all computer monitors are different). There is a gold metallic ink on the paper so that it shimmers when the light hits.

Here is the groom's book. Even though it has the Prestige paper on it (used as book cloth here), I think that it still has a very masculine look. The book actually feels very luxurious in the hand. The decorative paper has a very matte look to it which I believe adds to the look.

All in all, I am very pleased with the finished product and Friend C is happy as well.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Weekend Posts

In order to try and maintain this blog in a consistant and interesting manner, I only plan on blogging Monday through Friday. This will allow me to work on blog related matters on the weekend so that I don't feel so overwhelmed trying to keep the blog running.

Now granted, there might be some weekend posts if I get bored or when I am overly excited to share something with you. But mainly, I will use the weekends to prepare for the following week and to re-charge me creative and artistic batteries.

Have a great weekend and I look forward to seeing you on Monday.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Last Minute Profile #1--Coordinating Bride and Groom Journals

I try and treat my friends in the right way. Many times, they are my biggest supporters when they buy my handmade items. Unfortunately, many times they know that I can be their last minute gift provider when they procrastinate buying gifts for special occasions. My friends know that I take my craft seriously yet they have no problem in calling me for immediate Mother's Day cards, Valentine's cards, or last minute wedding gifts.

I would like to start a new feature to this blog--Last Minute Profiles. These are the last minute requests and briefings that I get from my friends when they want me to make something.

Last Minute Profile #1

Purchaser: Friend C

Date I was contacted: January 3, 2011

Date needed: Wedding on January 15, 2011

Special Situation: Leaving on January 14, 2001 but wants to mail the item before he leaves.

Item requested: Coordinating journals for the bride and groom.
Briefing I received: the bride is girlie, girlie but he does not know the groom.

Here is the wedding invitation:

In this case, I will case in a text block that I have bought from Hollanders. Friend C has requested that the journals should have lined pages. I keep several text blocks from Hollanders on hand for situations like this. Normally, I would hand sew signatures and make a book from scratch but with such a quick turn around needed, an already prepared text block is the answer--especially since he wants the pages lined.
I looked through my stash of papers and prepared several options for Friend C to choose from. I wanted to mainly concentrate on the bride since she is the actual friend and the one that he wants to please the most. I chose a yellow Prestige flocked paper that will act as the book cloth (because the paper is thick and lined it can actually be used as book cloth without worrying about cracking at the gutters). The yellow Prestige paper approximated the yellow mustard color of the invitation and envelope. The decorative paper is a Florentine print that mimics the swirly pattern of the invitation. For the groom, I simply chose a navy Prestige paper with a different Florentine patterned decorative paper. Together, the books will coordinate nicely due to the similarities in the papers chosen.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

A confession & New Year's Resolution #1

When I watch television, I get into such a reflective mood. Some shows inspire more than others and since my television time is limited to when I work at the theater, I don't watch a lot of the popular shows that others gossip or talk about.

Recently, I have been hooked on a show called Art Race; it appears on the Ovation channel. Two artists must cross the US by only selling their art. The artists start in NYC and LA respectively and must travel to the opposite cost by selling or bartering art that they make while they are out. While the premise of the situations seemed staged, the creativity of the artists is inspiring.

Another show that I have been watching via the computer and television is Hoarders. I am afraid to say that I am addicted to the show. While the psychological trauma associated with hoarding is heartbreaking, the realization that many people can easily become hoarders is rather frightening. Every time that I watch, there is a little voice inside my head that keeps on shouting--Russ, are you really a hoarder?

I do collect stuff. Not the tschotkes that other people do. But I do collect crafts and craft materials. When I see a craft technique displayed or explained, I buy all of the materials needed to replicate it. Not only do I buy all of the materials, I buy them in all colors and sizes available. For example, I have 32 vials of ultrafine glitter in 26 different colors because I saw a glitter demonstration on the Carol Duvall show. I have every color inkpad (in two different sizes) that Stampin Up! makes. I could go on but I don't want to depress myself any further. Don't even get me started on paper and bookbinding supplies.

So, one of my New Year's resolutions is this: When starting a new project--even when dealing with a commissioned work--go through all of my supplies before purchasing any new materials. I seem to have the habit of going to the stores to get motivation and inspiration when starting a new project. Unfortunately, I also seem to be drawn to the same materials and patterns. On my last shopping trip before the new year, I went to one of my favorite paper stores and returned home with five sheets of beautiful decorative paper. When I got home to put the papers in their respective flat file drawers, I realized that I already had three of the five patterns that I had just bought. After doing an inventory of the books in my craft library, I realized that I had 7 books that were duplicates. I now carry an Excel spreadsheet on my smart phone that has all of my books listed.

I am very happy to say that I have so far kept up with this resolution. I was asked to make coordinating journals for a bride and groom. I went to my stash of papers and took samples of the papers that I wanted to use when I had the consultation with the purchaser. I am happy to report that he accepted my recommendations (from my already purchased papers).

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Iron Craft Week One

Here is my entry for the first week of the Iron Craft Challenge. As mentioned yesterday, the theme is Lighting the Winter Gloom.

Here is my card for the Fourth Day of Christmas--Four Calling Birds. The card is made from chocolate brown card stock (80 lb) that is cut into a tri-fold card. The first two panels (the left and center panels) have matching ovals cut from them. The artwork is then place on the center panel and the first panel is then glued shut and enveloping the artwork.

The artwork is from a Dover Stained Glass Coloring Book. It is reduced in size and printed on vellum. It is hand tinted using colored pencils and blended using a blending stick.

The below image shows the card with a candle resting behind the artwork.
The image below shows the card with the candle and the lights out.

Can you image what the winter gloom will look like with all Twelve Days finished. No more winter gloom here.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Iron Craft #1

This week's entry in the Iron Craft Challenge is called Lighting the Winter Gloom. My design for this project will be one of my stained glass cards. When the card is upright and a tea light is placed behind the card opening, it looks like stained glass. The subject of the card will be one of the 12 Days of Christmas.

We are supposed to post our images on the Flickr account starting on Wednesday.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Welcome to 2011

While I know that I haven't been blogging much since September, I have been busy with the holiday season and travel. I was also trying to recover from the latest in a string of burglaries where both of my new cameras were stolen. Santa said that I was a good boy this year so he brought me another camera for Christmas.

After reading one of the blogs that I frequent, I found this crafting challenge. A theme is announced each week and you post your response to the challenge on their Flickr account. Fifty-two projects for 2011. I figured that this could be a catalyst to keep me blogging each week. For at least one entry, I can share with you my design for the weekly challenge.

I hope that you and yours are well in this new year and hope that the holidays weren't too stressful. Here's wishing you a prosperous and crafting New Year.