Tuesday, April 30, 2013

NY Journal #13


At times I really have to pinch myself to realize that I am living in NYC and the theater capital of the world. Today, the Tony Award nominations were announced and I was so please to know that many of my friends were either nominated or were in shows that were nominated.

As I walk down the streets of NYC at night, I always want to hum the tune to the song "On Broadway." This picture reminds me of some of the lyrics:

They say the neon lights are bright on Broadway
The say there's always magic in the air

This picture reminds me of those times.


Monday, April 29, 2013

Week 16

Side One
This week's card isn't really a card. Finally, the candle holders that I designed for a Mexican food restaurant here in NYC finally made it to the tables. I had designed these several months ago based on a greeting card that I had made for the Opening Night party for one of the shows at the theater.

So really it should count as a card for the weekly Monday series.

Side Two
I am really happy with the way they turned out. The only aspect that I am disappointed in is the fact that they were shipped to Mexico to be manufactured. I would have liked for them to have been made in the United States but since I only in charge of the design rather than the manufacturing I have to go with the flow.

There is a glass cylinder which holds a battery operated tea light so the design is very practical as well.

Friday, April 26, 2013

On My Bookshelf

I have always been interested in Math. I was a double major in Mathematics and Music when I was first in college while working on my undergraduate degree. There is a high correlation between music and math and many musicians are/were very good at math.

When I started working in paper, I stumbled upon flexagons. I was always interested in turning a two dimension product into a three dimensional one with as few tools as possible. I became interested in origami and other folding models. As a kid, I became obsessed with learning how to make Origami Fortune Tellers (what we used to call Cootie Catchers). These led me to become interested in flexagons.

Flexagons are flat models made from pieces of paper that when folded reveal different pictures. They usually are folded onto themselves to reveal a never ending kaleidoscope of interweaving surfaces. To see how to make the most basic flexagon and to see how it works, visit this video.

This brings us to this week's book from my bookshelf: The Magic of Flexagons by David Mitchell.

This book provides 15 examples of flexagons from the most simple to extremely difficult. The beauty of the book is that the author provides you with the actual flexagons printed on cardstock for you to cut out and assemble. He provides you with detailed instructions on how to do so.  More importantly, he provides you with eleven challenges on how to play with the flexagons and gives you challenges on what specific pictures are supposed to appear. He allows you to play with the structures on your own to try and figure out how they work. If you get too frustrated and just want the answer, he provides you step-by-step details on how to solve the puzzle. For me, these are great drunk party favors and people will spend hours trying to watch you fold and re-fold the structures to make the pictures appear. Yet when they try on their own, they usually end up throwing it at you--which is one thankful reason for them to be made from paper.

This is a great book for people interested in paper constructions, puzzles and math. Highly recommended and highly entertaining.

Full Disclosure: Neither Amazon.com nor the author have provided any compensation for this review. This book was purchased online without a personal perusal before purchase.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Jacob's Ladder Tutorial

As promised, today I will provide you with some insight into making a Jacob's Ladder toy. I scoured the internet to find a good tutorial for making one of these toys. The best that I found was here. You should start by looking there and that will make my explanations below a little more clear.

What I will be able to add are orientation of the pictures (in necessary), how to determine ribbon length for your project, and a helpful shortcut if you are working on this project alone.

Project Materials
Tiles to use (keep in mind that each tile as a front and back).
Three lengths of ribbon (grosgrain usually works best)
Images to adhere to the front and back of tiles (optional)
Double sided tape (VERY helpful)

Getting Started
Step One: Cut out tiles. You can use any size tiles that you want. Be sure to cut them out to identically the same size. You will need a front and back for each tile. I prefer an odd number of tiles but even or odd would work.

For the sake of illustration, I have numbered the tiles so you can keep track of them. The tiles are made from leftover card stock from a previous project. I would recommend something thicker if you are doing this project for real.

Step Two: Separate the tiles into front and back pieces. Make two stacks of of tile pieces (fronts and backs). I have labeled these pieces 1-12 so I have six total tiles. Also, keep in mind that the orientation of these pieces are always vertical (or portrait orientation if you are using photos). Although we are working left to right, the toy works from top to bottom. Now is a good time cover one side of the tiles with paper or pictures. So for me and the illustration below, the "picture" side will always be the side with the numbers showing and the "working" side will always be the side without picture or paper or more importantly--the "gluing" side.

Step Three: Take half of the tiles and mark the ribbon lines on the "working/glue" side. With the picture side down, take half of your tiles and put them in one stack. Take the remaining half, paper side down, and lay them out side by side as shown below. For my project, these will always be the even numbered halves. In the middle of these mark a line down the center of each tile. Make another mark above and below the center line that is one half the remaining distance between the top edge and the center line . Similarly, do the same along the bottom edge. Do this for all tiles in this stack.

Mark lines for half of the tiles
Step Four: Make two piles of front and back tile pieces. Take your tile halves and separate them into two piles. One pile that has lines marked and the other pile that does not have lines. All piles should be paper side down. For illustration purposes, the lined tile halves are even numbers and the odd numbered tile halves have no lines.
Odd numbers on left,
Even numbers on right
Step Five: Cut ribbon to length. Cut three lengths of ribbon. To determine the length of ribbon, take the dimension of your tile in the vertical orientation. For example if your tiles are 3" by 5" you would use the 3" dimension since that is the vertical dimension. If you are using a 5" by 7" inch card turned vertically, you would use the 7" dimension. Take the vertical dimension and double it. In my case that would be 3" times 2 which is 6". Take this number and multiply it by the number of tiles that you are using--in my case, 6 tiles. 6" times 6 tiles is 36". Take this number and add an additional 6" inches. So my length of ribbon would be 42". I would need three separate lengths of 42" ribbon. The additional amount of ribbon will be determined by the thickness of your tiles once they are assembled. Unless you are using very thick materials, this measurement should be good for most projects and you will probably end up trimming some of this off.

Step Six: Start Weaving.  Because all of my cardstock is identical, I have numbered them and have placed arrows to indicate where the top of the image should appear. So, in my example, the top edge is the left edge. If you are placing pictures then the top edge of the picture should run parallel to the left edge.

Please keep in mind--the even number cards are marked with the lines. The odd numbered cards are unnumbered. Place your first numbered card paper side down (with the lines showing up) on a flat surface. Take three pieces of double sided tape and stick them on top of your marked lines. This is an optional step but it keeps the the ribbons in place and prevents them from twisting.  Take two ribbons and adhere them to the tape from the right side (with the excess ribbon moving to the right). In my example, these are the pink and red ribbons. I have used three different ribbons so it is easier to track them. For the third ribbon, adhere it to the tape from the left side (with the excess ribbon moving to the left). In my example, this is the blue ribbon.

Starting the ribbon weaving
Put glue on the non-picture side or glue side on one of the unmarked tiles (in my case, this would be the glue side of tile half #1). Keeping the orientation correct, place the glued side of this half down on top of the ribbons.

The first complete tile
Now is the most important step for the Jacob's Ladder to work--before adding or touching any more tiles, reverse the ribbons on top of the first complete tile.

In other words, take the ribbons and move them across the completed tile in the opposite direction. Remember, the red and pink tiles were trailing off to the right of the completed tile. Take the tale ends of the ribbons and fold them across and to the left of the completed tile. Similarly, take the blue ribbon and fold it across and to the right of the completed tile.

Before adding or touching the tile--
reverse the ribbons.
Next, add your second tile half (one of the tiles with the lines) paper side down on top of the ribbons--DO NOT GLUE. So in my case, I added tile half #4, paper side down so the lines would be facing up.

Add the beginnings of second completed tile
Once again, add double sided tape to the marked lines. Pull the tape tight under this half and reverse the ribbon to the other side of this half. In my case, the ribbons would be pulled tight and move across the tile half so that they are trailing again off of the right side of the tile half.

Reverse the ribbon across the tape--
this is happening across the tile half marked #4
Take the corresponding tile half (in my case, this is tile half #3) and glue the non-paper side on top of this tile half. Before moving on, reverse the ribbons again before adding the next layer.

Keep layering and reversing the ribbons until you get to the last set of tile halves.

When you get to the last pair of tile halves, place the ribbon on top of the final set of marks (this is the glue side of tile half #12 in my project). Trim the edge of the ribbon so that it finishes on the card rather than hangs over and off the card. This is done so that the ribbon disappears between the two halves of this final tile.
Final set of tile halves--
ribbon trimmed
Take the final half and place glue on the glue/non paper side and place on top of the final tile half and you have a completed Jacob's Ladder.

Final notes: While you are gluing the halves together try and align all of the corners in a nice and neat pattern. Be sure to stack the tiles on top of each other when working so that your ribbon does not get loose in the process.

When you have competed all of your tiles, it is best if you place the entire stack under a heavy object while the glue sets.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Safety in the Craft Room/Studio

I know that I promised the tutorial for the Jacob's Ladder and I will get it to you but I wanted to share something with you first.  I got an "Ouchie."  A chef friend of mine (I used to cater) once told me "Sometimes you get reminded that you work with sharp objects." As a paper artist, I would add--sometimes you get reminded that your work with sharp and pointy objects.

Regardless of how careful you are when working with cutting and piercing tools, sometimes accidents happen. So today, I wanted to share with you some safety precautions that I observe in my studio.

Observation #1: Try to save the cutting and piercing for a time when you are not tired. Mistakes dealing with precision tend to happen I am tired. If I am on a deadline, I usually save the assembly aspect of the project for when I am tired. I try and do the cutting, trimming and poking when I am fully awake--since I am a morning person this usually happens when I first wake up or after my shower. I have been known to take a nap prior to cutting.

Observation #2: Always use a sharp cutting utensil. Clean cuts always heal better and a sharp utensil does less damage. Dull blades tend to rip flesh rather than cut it.

Observation #3: Always have band aids on hand. I have a variety of types available: traditional Band Aids, new skin or liquid band aid (from my bowling days) and finger condoms for those times when you need to continue but don't want to get blood on everything.

New Skin--great for blisters and cuts
Traditional Band Aids
Finger condoms
Observation #4: Don't throw away those dull blades. I have made my own sharps container out of an empty peanut can. I simply cut an opening in the plastic lid. When I am done with a blade, I simply put through the slot. When I have completely filled the container with dull blades, I tape shut the opening and tape the lid to the container and then throw it away. I had a friend mistakenly reach in the paper trash to retrieve a paper piece she has thrown away and cut herself when she found an old blade before finding the paper piece.
Homemade sharps container
Observation #5: Store your sharp objects. I always try and store my awls, knives, and scissors when not in use. When I travel to class, I always carry them in a separate container with lids. For my Exacto knives and scalpels, I usually store them in a single cigar holder (below left). I usually store my awls, needles and paring knives in a plastic pocket protector (below right).

Sharps holding containers

Observation #6: Working with hot materials. When I work with a glue gun (especially if it is a hot glue gun rather than a low heat one), I always have a saucer with a wet sponge handy on my work station. I have always had one of these nearly because I usually use it to wipe bookbinding glue off my hands when working and found that having one when using the hot glue gun was very helpful.

Glue anyone?

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Iron Craft Challenge #8--Jacob's Ladder

Jacob's Ladder (Image from Yahoo! Images)

For this challenge we were asked to make something based on a childhood toy. I didn't have a lot of toys as a kid but I do remember the magic and awe that was inspired by a wooden Jacob's Ladder. I would sit for lengths of time just sitting in awe while watching it work. So for this challenge, I decided to make one using paper products. To see a toy in action,  you can watch one here. Unfortunately, my arms weren't long enough to video my toy in action.

My toy was made using binder's board, Japanese papers and illustrations of koi. For the sample below, there are five tiles with a front and back. Each tile half was covered in a different Japanese paper. The koi were trimmed and then glue to each half. Some of the tiles have the same image on front and back and others have two different images.

Once the tiles have been prepared the ribbon is laced through tiles and then the tile halves are glued to each other. I will have a post tomorrow on how to make your own Jacob's Ladder.

Side One

Side Two
The beauty of this project is that you can use any image you want for the front and back sides of the tiles.I have seen these painted in primary colors (like the top image) and others that use postcards or family pictures.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Week 15

Card Front

This week's card is something that I have been working on for quite a long while. I never get tired of making Valentine's cards. The problem with this card is that it is so time intensive. I know that it looks like a simple card but getting everything to line up has caused some issues.

I love the size of the card. The heart is punched through on the front side of the card to make the peep hole. The punched heart on the inside is punched from watercolor painted cold pressed paper.

The card itself is from Fabriano and is laser jet friendly. The problem that I am having is getting the sentiments centered on the interior of the card because the card does not feed through the same way each time. I think that I might Gocco print the sentiment and see how it the paper holds paint although I do like the simple black lines.

Card Interior

Friday, April 19, 2013

On My Bookshelf

Oh.My.Goodness. What a day, what a day!

This is the first opportunity that I have had all day to create and post on the blog due to some craziness in the office and due to the demands of a client.

So, anyway--now the best part of my day: sharing one of the treasures that is found on my bookshelf.

Today's book was recently published in the United States and comes to us from Japan: Decorative Papercutting by Akiko Murooka.

I can say that I have had the pleasure of meeting Ms. Murooka at one of my exhibits in Japan and she came over and introduced herself. She was a little surprised that I knew who she was and I think that she was flattered and taken aback because of it.

I had collected the Japanese versions of her first two books that were only available in Japan and in Japanese. When it comes to papercutting you really don't need to read too many instructions--you simply need to follow the folding and cutting instructions. Please keep in mind that this is the Japanese concept of papercutting. In other words, this is Kirigama which is the tried and true form of folding paper and cutting a (usually repeating) design. Think snowflakes on a much more artistic scale.

There are 150 patterns in this book and for those people who are interested in this type of cutting then this book is a must. My only complaint is that none of the patterns are shown in unfolded templates for people who do the style of papercutting that I do.

Regardless, this is a wonderful for any paper artist or craftsperson.

Full Disclosure: Neither Amazon.com nor the author have provided any compensation for this review. This book was purchased online without a personal perusal before purchase.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

NY Journal #12

One of the reasons I moved to NYC in 2002 was as a tribute to two people that I loved very dearly. My agent always tried to get me to take the plunge and to move permanently to NYC. I was living in Tampa at the time and I was flying in and out of Tampa for screen tests, performances, filming and interviews. Fran always wanted me to move to NYC to take the pressure off of myself while trying to co-exist as a college professor and NYC performer. On 9/11/2001, Fran died as debris from the second plane struck her car as she was being driven to her office. In 2002, I move to NYC in memory of her wishes.

When I moved to Tampa to become a college professor, I had just finished defending my dissertation and I took a job to teach while I did the final re-writes for my dissertation committee. While it was not desirable to be working while doing re-writes, I took the plunge for the new adventure. I moved to Tampa with my college possessions, by books, and my desire to teach the future leaders of the world. In the process, I met the love of my life--Tommy who was a police detective in the the drug squad. On July 4th of 2002, he was killed in the line of duty during a drug bust that went terrible wrong.

So, in order to start my life over, I moved to NYC to live unapologeticly. After the recent bombings in Boston during the Boston Marathon, these pages seem all too recent.


Wednesday, April 17, 2013

NY Journal #11

I love the surprises that can be found in NYC. When I first arrived here in 2002, I couldn't afford to spend a lot of money because I moved here with $1000, first month and last month's rent, and my few possessions that I could fit in the remainder of my friend's U-haul that she has already packed.

I didn't have a job, wanted to be an actor, and was going to make it big on the NYC stage.

Because I had a lack of funds, I tried to find everything that was free to do in NYC and I stumbled upon the Public Art scene in NYC's subway stations. This journal entry was a tribute to two of my favorite pieces of subway art.

The first piece is the Roy Lichtenstein mural at Times Square which is 6 feet by 53 feet and is installed at 42nd street and Broadway.

The second piece is Nancy Spero's diva from the Artemis, Acrobats, Divas and Dancers series. This can be found at the 66th Street/ Lincoln Center subway station


Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Not your grandmother's tissue flowers

I am still in the midst of playing around with tissue paper and making more tissue paper flowers. The idea is that I would love to do a piece of wall art that is framed in an acrylic box. Or to suspend them from the ceiling or make a mobile out of them. So many ideas.

I am changing the flowers by changing the  number of layers, how they are folded, how they are cut and how to tint/color the white tissue. In the future, I will move toward combining colored tissue with these painted layers and even painting the colored tissue.

Experiment #1--Coloring with ink pads
I thought that I could slide the ink pad across the tissue to implant color. Well, the color didn't transfer very well. If I used an up and down motion, I got better success. The coloring is very subtle because only one layer at a time gets the ink.

I don't hate the outcome but it is a little too subtle for me. 

Ink pad coloring

Experiment #2-- Carnation
I showed my version of the carnation in an earlier post that I did for the Iron Craft Challenge.  This time, I decided to use six layers of tissue of varying length. The top two layers were fringed and cut the shortest, the second two layers were an inch longer but were fringed as well (which was the difference from the previous attempt) and the last two were not cut but had their ends rounded.

I really liked the way that this turned out. The muted pastel colors I find very pleasing as well. I lost patience with separating the top four layers so next time I will cut them a little longer and I will start peeling the layers from the bottom which will work out a lot better, I think.

Carnation--second attempt
Experiment #3
This was an experiment with color and petals. I wanted to try and use more saturated color to see how strong the final product would look. While I really like the colors, I think that they might be a little too strong. The second part of the experiment was using 8 layers of tissue and making the top three layers very short and the second three layers a little bit shorter. For the top six layers, I hand tore the edges rather than cut them.

I like the fullness of the flower. What I started to realize is that when you reduce the bulk of the flower by shortening the top layers the flowers get a little too thin on top. So when removing bulk--use more layers, although I wouldn't use more than 8 layers.

Changing color and petal structure
Experiment #4--Changing colors and petal structures
I have to say that this is my most satisfying product. I like the colors and I like the way the final flower turned out in composition and form. This is an 8 layer flower as mentioned above. The top three layers were shortest and had hand torn edges. The second three layers were a little shorter and had their edges hand torn. The final two layers had their edges torn rather than cut.

I will have to say that this is my favorite.

My favorite

Monday, April 15, 2013

Week 14

This week's card is a blank Thank You card for an eight year son of one of my friends.  My friend wanted me to make a set of cards that his son could send out as Thank You notes for the gifts he received on his birthday. He is a big fan of Sponge Bob so I decided to use some Sponge Bob scrapbook paper.

The insert has the writing lines needed for an eight year old still struggling with cursive writing.

Friday, April 12, 2013

On My Bookshelf

This week's book is one of my favorite new books that has been recently added to my collection--At Home with Handmade Books by Erin Zamrzla. As the sub-title indicates, there 28 easy and accessible projects for all levels of bookbinders or those who are interested in learning basic bookbinding.

By being easy, please don't be fooled about the outcomes being amateurish. These are traditional bookbinding techniques that are explained in a clear, deliberate and concise manner. The illustrations and instructions are superb.

The book is divided into three sections: A gallery of all of the projects; a discussion of basic bookbinding techniques, terms, and materials; and detailed instructions.

There are two overall bookbinding styles here: accordion books and Japanese Stab Bindings with variations on each style. This is probably one of the most accessible treatments of Japanese Stab Bindings and I highly recommend it.

I have always been a fan of the accordion book and the image below shows how a simple accordion binding can turn a travel photo album into memorable wall art.

p19. At Home with Handmade Books
by Erin Zamrzla

I highly, highly, highly recommend this beautiful book and would recommend it to anyone interested in bookbinding or beginning bookbinding. This book would be a great introduction to the great craft and art of making books.

Full Disclosure: Neither Amazon.com nor the author have provided any compensation for this review. This book was purchased online without a personal perusal before purchase.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Tissue Paper Supplies

Photo from Nashville Wraps

A couple of people asked me where I got my tissue paper for the flowers that I made for this week's Iron Craft challenge. First of all, not all tissue is the same. There are perfectly fine tissue papers out there that you can buy from any craft or convenience store--especially if you aren't going to alter the surface of the paper. Most commercial tissue papers that you buy have a plastic coating on one side to give it a shine. Since most people just use the paper as is, this doesn't affect the use of this paper in gift giving, wrapping or flower making.

For me, I knew from the beginning that I wanted to paint or treat the paper myself so I needed tissue paper that was not coated because I knew that I was going to use watercolors of some sort to tint/color the tissue paper that I was going to use (wow--what a long sentence).

I finally found the paper (in the quantities that I needed) at Nashville Wraps.Nashville Wraps has been meeting my gift wrapping and paper needs for years. They have all kinds of materials needed for gift wrapping and decorating. They are reasonably priced and definitely worth a visit.

Full Disclosure: Nashville Wraps has not compensated me in any way for being mentioned in this post.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

NY Journal #10

These pages are dedicated to The David Letterman show which tapes at the Ed Sullivan theater which is down the street from where I work. I walk by this building at least 10 times per day and I can certainly tell when the show is taping.

People are always stopping me to take their picture either in front of the theater, down the street with the marquee in the background or in any number of other options.

It is times like these that I realize how much I take for granted and how lucky I am to be living and working in New York City.


Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Iron Craft Challenge #7--Tissue Flowers

The classic flower

This challenge was dedicated to Ethnic Crafting which translates to crafts inspired by, or dedicated to, a country other than your own. I remember my grandmother making these tissue paper flowers several times throughout the year. She used to make them to replace bows for presents but more importantly, I remember her making these for the Annual Church Bazaar that would happen around Memorial Day.

The flower she would make is similar to the one above. It is made from 8 layers of tissue paper that is cut in half on the long side. In other words, if you lay out the tissue paper left to right where the fold is on the right (long edge in front of you before you fold it) you can cut the paper at the fold.

I then decided to start playing around with dimensions.

The next flower is eight sheets of quarter cut paper. So cut the paper in half as described above. The fold the paper again left to right with the fold on the right and cut lengthwise again.

Smaller, but fuller version
Then I decided to change the number of layers and decided to hand paint the tissue. The next flower is cut from six sheets of paper but cut in 1/8ths. So after cutting the paper in quarters, bring the top edge towards you and crease. Rotate the crease to the right and cut.

6 layers of hand colored tissue
Finally, I decided to cut the layers in different widths. So, using 1/8th sheets discussed above, I decided to cut 2 sheets 1.5 inches shorter in width. I then cut two additional sheets 1 in shorter in width. For the shortest    layer, I cut fringe so that the inside of the flower would look like stamens.

6 layers of hand colored tissue with
layers of different widths.
 I will definitely play with these dimensions and other factors in the future and will share the results with you. I am really happy with the way the flowers turned out.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Week 13

This week's card is a set of monogram cards for a Sweet 16 party that will be used as Thank You notes for the gifts the young lady receives. The monogram is made from a cut out letter than is then mounted on a larger letter. These mounted letters are then mounted on printed paper that wraps across the front and back of the card. The colors are more orange and citrusy than the yellow that it seems to appear on screen.