Friday, November 29, 2013

On My Bookshelf

As you read this, I will returning home to the United States from spending 10 days in traveling Japan. I will have visited Nagoya, Tokyo and Sapporo. Last week, I mentioned an ebook that I purchased as a guide to fabric and notions shopping while in Tokyo. The second book that I purchased was the Kindle version of Tokyo Shopping Guide by Marceline Smith.

This guide is very similar to the Tour Guide Books that are available for any major city but the beauty of this book is that it highlights the craft stores of Tokyo and other major cities in Japan. The book highlights the major, and many minor, craft stores in Tokyo. There are also shopping guides to Tokyo areas for shopping and sightseeing. The author also provides many opportunities for other non-shopping excursions (many of which have the possibility of buying souvenirs). The primary excursion that I tried to fit into my itinerary was the Ghigli Museum.

The author also provides a limited mini-guide to Osaka and Kyoto. Finally, the author provides very insightful tips to make your trip to Japan even more meaningful. Highly, highly recommended.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving everyone. As part of my friend's Thanksgiving Dinner, she asked me to create a "Give Thanks" Card for each person that is attending the dinner. The card is backed with white card stock. On the card stock is mounted ecru linen paper with the words: "I am thankful for  . . ." Each person is to write 10 things that they are thankful for and as dinner progresses, each person will read through their list to share with everyone. This has been a holiday tradition for her family but this year, my friend wanted to formalize the process so that each person can take their Give Thanks home as a hostess gift.

So, Happy Thanksgiving everyone and please be grateful for all that you have.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Menu Card

Sample Menu Card

This is the beginning of the menu card that my friend will be using tomorrow for her Thanksgiving Dinner. Unfortunately, I won't be there since I will still be in Japan but I have been preparing everything for her while I have been away. I will send her these menu cards in a PDF format and all she will have to do is print them out. This is the prototype and I will fill in the actual menu while I am overseas.

This post was actually schedule a week ago before the menu was finalized.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Thanksgiving Place Card. Week 47

So after weeks of trying, I have finally been able to cut a miniature version of the turkey that I have been working on. This turkey was glued to a pumpkin colored card stock and will be used for place cards for the holiday table. This turkey almost made me lose my mind.

UPDATE: This is a makeup card for the card that I missed on March 25th.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Week 46

This is the invitation for my friend's Thanksgiving dinner. The theme of the party is Turkey Pardon where we will not have a single turkey dish. The theme of the party was decided when a local newspaper mentioned the limited supply of fresh turkeys this year.

The menu will include pork, beef and fish. The turkey stencil was purchased at and is adapted from one of their pumpkin carving designs.

Friday, November 22, 2013

On My Bookshelf

By the time you read this post, I will have spent almost a week traveling in Japan. I decided to get two e-books to research some of the craft shopping in Tokyo. The first book is Tokyo Craft Guide (available here) by Frances Arikawa and Angela Salisbury. Although the primary topic of crafting is fabric and notions, there are a variety of other crafting supplies presented in the book.

Rather than featuring specific stores, the authors highlight "shopping adventures" that are condensed into 6 shopping excursions. Within each area, the authors list stores of interest as well as other tidbits of information that turn a shopping trip into a shopping excursion. The authors provide information about cafes and eateries, other interesting places to shop, parks and rest areas, kid friendly areas and those secret spots to find air conditioning, dry spaces and heated areas when the weather isn't cooperating.

This is a well researched book and is presented in a concise, friendly manner. A must have guide for those fabric shoppers out there who are visiting Tokyo.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Paper Ribbon

I wanted to finish the discussion of the Iron Craft Wrapping that I did this week. Today, I wanted to share with you the paper ribbon that is featured on the package. I simply took a piece of white craft paper and cut it into long strips that were two inches in width.

Taking strips of paper cut from security envelopes, I glued the strips in alternating patterns onto the white craft strips. I varied the width of the strips and their orientation.

Horizontal stripes
Diagonal stripes
Horizontal stripes

Once the glue is dried, you simply cut the length of the ribbon to size and use like you would a regular ribbon, although you can't loop it or tie it in any fashion.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Handmade Wrapping Paper

Finished project in
White and Silver
Today, I wanted to share with you how I made the handmade wrapping paper that I used for my Iron Craft Challenge this week. I wanted to use recycled products to make this paper. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I didn't want to take up too much floor space for this project so I decided to place the blank paper on the wall so I could access it more readily.

For this project, I used paper packing sheets that were recovered from my office before it was going to be thrown away. My co-workers are used to seeing me digging through the trash to recover items that should be recycled or in my case, paper products that can be reused for other purposes. The paper used here was a rolled thin craft paper made from perforated sheets.

Step One: Secure the sheet of paper.
You want to secure the paper so that it doesn't move while you are painting it. Since the paint will be applied with a dry brush technique or with a paper-blotting technique, you don't want to pull the paper from the wall or other hard surface that you are using.

Step Two: Applying first coat of paint.
Using a wide brush, dip the tips of the bristles in the acrylic paint that you are using. Brush most of paint off onto scrap paper (I used old newspapers). Lightly brush the paint across all sections of the paper and be sure to use a light touch.
First coat of paint
Step Three: Take paper down and wrinkle it.
Wrinkle the paper and tape it down again so you can add the second coat of paint.

Wrinkled and Re-positioned
Step Four: Add another layer of paint
Using the same dry brush technique, add another layer of paint. Try to highlight the new wrinkles and crevices made by wrinkling the paper. I used another layer of white paint since I was doing this for the color challenge in Iron Craft Challenge #23.
Second Layer

Step Five: Add third color of paint
Taking a plastic shopping bag that is crumbled up and placed in your hand, use this to dab paint onto the paper. You want to use an up-and-down motion to add paint. Do not use a wiping motion because you will smear the paint.

Step Six: Let Dry and Iron
When you are ready to use your paper, take it down and let it dry. Once it is dry, place a piece of newsprint or waste paper on top of the painted surface. Take your iron (without using the steam/water setting) and iron the pieces of paper. Be sure to use a lower heat setting (cotton blends setting works for me) and make sure that you iron directly on the waste paper. Also, be sure that the painted paper is face up when you place the waste paper on top. You don't want to ruin your iron or your ironing board.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Iron Craft Challenge #23--Wrapping Paper

White Themed Wrapping

For this Iron Craft Challenge we were given a color challenge--WHITE. According to the instructions: "So, your challenge for this week is to make something white. White doesn't need to be the only color in your project, but it should be prominent."

For this challenge, I knew that I wanted to do a recycled/upcycled project. I have a friend who has hired me to decorate her house for the upcoming Christmas season. Her theme this year is a "Recycled Christmas." They have vowed to donate all unused clothes and toys to those in need. They will be exchanging homemade gifts to each other and family and have vowed not to buy any gift--only to buy the materials to make the gifts they decide to give.

To decorate the gifts, I came up with this idea of taking pre-used package stuffing materials and painting it. The brown paper was packaging paper from work that I have been collecting for several years. My co-workers are always making fun of me since I will hoard/collect any paper product that I might be able to upcycle.

The paper was painted with acrylic paints in white and silver. 

I then made paper ribbon by using the interior of security envelopes. Once again, I have been waiting for the right project to use these security envelopes. I have been saving envelopes for many years. I have always been infatuated with the different patterns that appear.

Paper Ribbon Detail

I am very happy with the way this package turned out and my friend has signed off on the decorating scheme. More importantly, this gift is actually a gift for my boss' wife as a Hanukkah gift. Both the paper and the ribbon can really be adapted to any type of holiday/gift.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Weekly 45

This week's card is another in my script series. I always find it difficult to make good Thanksgiving cards that can also be used during other times of the year. When my friend asked me to make some invitations for her Thanksgiving dinner, I decided to make this card as part of the festivities. Although we won't be using this card during the dinner, I think that it is a good all around card that I will be able to adapt for a later use.

Friday, November 15, 2013

On My Bookshelf

Today's book is a compilation of ideas from PaperCrafts magazine called The Big Book of Holiday Paper Crafts. This isn't so much an instruction or technique book than a gallery of paper crafts--namely, handmade greeting cards (which is the basis of the PaperCrafts magazine).

Similar the to the magazine, the book provides photos of card fronts that are decorated with a variety of styles, ephemera, and techniques--the primary techniques being stamped and college images. There are sections for decorating, gift giving and wrapping with paper crafts.

This is a nice reference book for when you get stuck or are in a creative rut. The beauty of the book is that all cards are required to list the products that were used in each project so if you see something that you like it is very easy to track it down.

Simple decorations:
Cards, glass vase and ornaments

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Life Lessons Learned from Bookbinding--Part 2

Today's post is a continuation of yesterdays discussion about Life Lessons Learned from Bookbinding.

6. Always check measurements before cutting.

Part of this lesson stems back from working with limited supplies. When I was first starting out with paper crafts, I only had a limited number of good supplies to use. Sure, there are many different and cheap kinds of paper around, but when I really wanted to impress someone (or was doing something for someone that was special to me), I would use more expensive supplies. Full sheets of Japanese paper can average $20 a sheet. Some of my Japanese book cloth costs as much as $50 a yard. So, in those earlier days, I was always very careful when measuring.

What I find funny is that I never used to trust my memory and I would make countless trips back and forth to my drafting table to check measurements. When I was taking a class, someone finally said "Why don't you just take your measurements with you to the shearing machine?"

7. Always start with a fresh blade.

This lesson came to me outside of bookbinding but has been reinforced through bookbinding. When I was younger, someone cut me with a butcher knife. I wasn't taken to the hositpal until several hours later. When I arrived at the emergency room, the surgeon said that the person that cut me did me no favors because he used a dull knife. My shoulder wouldn't have been as mutliated if he had used a sharp knife. As a result, the scar was extremely noticeable. I have since gotten tattoos to cover the unsightly scar.

In other words, a dull blade tears. It does not cut. When you are using expensive materials--this is a big difference. Also, blades are very, very cheap-- a lot cheaper than having to replace materials. So when I start a new project, or new take a break and return to a project, I always change blades. If I have doubts, I cut a piece of scrap paper to test the sharpness of my blade.

8. Know the measurements on the ruler you are currently using--especially if you have more than one ruler

Lordy, Lordy, Lordy have I learned this lesson the hard way. I have a bunch of rules--duplicates, different types, different styles, clear, metal, cork backed, etc. etc. etc. Plus, there are cutting guides, my paper guillotine, and my board shearer--ALL OF WHICH differ in their markings. 

Some rulers start at the edge. Some rules start at zero. Some rulers that start a zero are indented from the edge. Some rulers start with 1/32nds of an inch for the first inch or two and then break down into 1/16ths. Some start at 1/16ths and then break down into 1/8ths. I have some rulers that have 1/8ths on one edge and 1/16ths on the opposite edge. More frustrating is that I have some rulers that have inches on one edge and centimeters on the other edge.

So--take an extra second to notice the unit of measurement for each of the components you are using. For example, I might use a ruler in 1/8ths but my board shearer is in 16ths. I always make sure to take the extra second to look at the unit of measurement--especially when cutting materials.

9. Breathe

I know that this might seem strange but I tend to hold my breath before doing important parts of a project. I think part of this has to do with the certainty of dealing  with a project (explained more in #10). Some of it might have to do with not wanting to mess up expensive materials. But I had a wonderful instructor who would always wipe her hands against her jeans (to make sure she had clean hands--which is really important when doing gluing projects), take a deep breath, and then proceed to the task at hand. This is a lesson that I still utilize today.

10. Sometimes you just gotta jump in and do it.

When I first started Paper Arts classes, I would become so tense with the fear of screwing up projects. I had an excellent teacher explain to me that the classes that I was taking were for learning purposes and NOT to produce a perfectly finished project. At the end of some of the classes, I would have perfectly finished projects which were always a pleasant surprise but I learned that it should be the goal of the class--I was there to learn/reinforce techniques. This was a very liberating idea for me and one that actually made me much more confident in the long run.

A second instructor taught me that being creative is more about tearing apart (when it doesn't go right the first time) or more about fixing things that go wrong. As I continued in my studies, I was building a repertoire of techniques that I could use to make corrections or adjustments when things didn't go just right. More importantly, I learned that sometimes creating is "just figuring things out" or "how things go together."

A third instructor proved to me the importance of making prototypes out of regular materials, and how to play with the materials that I would be using (i.e., seeing how the materials would react) before delving into the actual project. By doing so, many of the measurements would be finalized (with maybe minor tweaking) and I could then concentrate on some of the unforeseen challenges of the project. I have saved more money by working with prototypes than anything else that I have done.

In closing, I think that these lessons can be applied to a variety of artistic and non-artistic endeavors. More importantly, I have learned more about myself by doing these self-assessments and have realized the effects that my teachers (in all disciplines) have had on me. So thank you to every teacher I have had to date.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Life Lessons Learned from Bookbinding--Part 1

I posted the following list on my Facebook page and a couple of people asked me to explain what I meant. So, I thought that I would expand on these ideas.

1. Sometimes, you just need a hammer.

Sometimes I need to get away from being absolutely perfect in my creating and concentrate on the process or the outcome. I was taking a class on box making and I just could not get the lid to fit on perfectly. The instructor came over, analyzed my problem, took out my English hammer and banged on the corner of the lid, and Voila--it fit. She said--sometimes, you just need a hammer. She later went on to explain--the recipient isn't going to know, or care, how the materials where put together. As long as you are proud of the final product don't overly concern yourself if it isn't exactly perfect.

2. Use the restroom before doing an extended project.

This is more of a practical issue than anything else. The problem for me is that I get so wrapped up in a project that I don't think about other practical matters. I was in the studio and couldn't understand why I had such a headache--until I looked at the clock and realized that I had already been in the studio for 10 hours and had forgotten to eat breakfast AND lunch. In other words, don't lose sight of the practical issues that need addressing.

3. Always start with a clean workspace.

This is a throwback to my mother. My mom was always sick when I was growing up. Often, she would be hospitalized and she hated to come home to a dirty house. Her rule--you never should return to filth. One time, she came home from the hospital a day early and we hadn't had time to clean the house. I thought that we would have to return her to the hospital because she was so mad. If you start with a clean workspace, then you aren't fighting over stuff you don't need. Or, you can find those items that you really need because they are in their "starting" place. Finally, a single mess at the end of a project is certainly easier to clean up than multiple messes because you were too lazy to clean up the last time.

4. Start the complicated stuff after a break or in the morning.

I learned this lesson when I was studying during college. I have always been a morning person. I am one of those obnoxious people who wake up happy. I would always retain information or write better when I woke up in the morning (even if not well rested). Conversely, after 8 pm, I am unable to retain any information so I have to do work upon which I can really focus (like balancing checkbooks, or minutiae). So, if I need to cover something in book cloth, or use expensive materials or calculate/measure, I always do these things after sleeping or taking a nap. If I need to do repetitive work, I do it late at night before going to bed. Cutting strips of paper, or folding paper or sewing signature are all projects done at night while listening to the TV.

5. Lots of small coats are always better than one large coat.

Bookbinding has taught me patience. I can have the patience of a saint for others or while teaching but I have absolutely no patience with myself. I have learned that rushing projects, especially while using expensive materials, can become very costly or frustrating because you usually have to start all over. Thinking that one big smear of top coat will be better than several lighter coats with time to dry in between is simply a lesson in futility. Trust me--I have definitely learned this lesson the hard way.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Turkey Fail

I am trying to make this into a paper cut--Major Fail. Maybe if I enlarge the image, it might be easier. I want to make these into name cards for Thanksgiving Dinner but I just can't get the hang of it. Maybe I will change the design into a stencil.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Week 44

Front of the card

This week's card is another in the edge card series. While this card doesn't exactly wrap around the edge of the card, it has the same  effect. I am still working on finding a font that will allow me to wrap over the edge of the card.

I think part of the problem is the salutation that I am using. The letter "y" in birthday doesn't really allow for the works to be stacked on top of each other but I will keep trying.

Inside of the card

Friday, November 8, 2013

On My Bookshelf

This week's book is another one of those books that offers no new information or techniques but still is a must have. If you have been following this blog, you will know of my infatuation with Image Transfers. This addition to my bookcase is another book to add to my collection without adding a greater understanding of the topic. Today's book is Playing with Image Transfers by Courtney Cerruti.

If you are interested in learning how to play with Image Transfers then this is a great book for you. This is a no nonsense explanation of five different transfer techniques: packing tape, blender pen, acetone, gel skin medium and acrylic transfers. Once the techniques are clearly explained, the author offers 19 projects to illustrate your newly learned skills--or as I like to say, projects upon which to practice. For anyone that has any experience with image transfer will say--you must practice until you master a particular technique or practice until you find a technique that works for you.

The most interesting part of the book for me (since I had already learned, and practiced, these techniques) was the gallery and resource sections of the book.

Gallery Sample

This is a great book for any beginner to image transfers. For those already familiar with the process, this book will add no new content to your library.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

More Space

Painting on the wall
Sometimes you just need more space. When living in a NYC apartment (actually, I live in da Bronx) you try and find as much space as possible. Rather than take up floor space for a future Iron Craft Challenge, I decided to put newspaper on the wall and then paint on the paper on the wall. This has a variety of advantages, namely you can paint while standing rather than while on your knees. Secondly, it frees up floor space so you don't have to worry about stepping on your project in the middle of the night as you run to the restroom.

More wall space
Another example of using my wall space is my curling ribbon storage. I simply hammered 3" nails into the wall and hung the ribbon spoons from the nails.

Elfa Storage
A final examples is an over the door frame Elfa storage unit that I use for a print drying rack. I shared this example years ago but I wanted to include it in this post as well. Sometimes, you just gotta find space where you can.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013


Today's project is a prototype for a card that I am developing for Thanksgiving. There are two variations of the basic business sized card. For the example above, I forgot to make some of the connectors for the letters "e" and "a" and the "k".

For the second prototype, I made the connectors and think that I prefer the second style over the first style. I will probably make the card out of a different color card stock rather than the black used here. I backed the card with a gold card stock. In the final edition, I will probably use patterned pattern.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Iron Craft Challenge #22--Hanukkah Card

Scanned Card
For the 22nd Iron Craft Challenge, we were given the Hindu festival of lights called Diwali as the inspiration. We were asked to "create something using light. It can be something related to candles, electric light, a picture of light or even something that reflects light."

I was inspired by a different festival of lights--namely, Hanukkah. Because Hanukkah happens so early this year (actually, it coincides with Thanksgiving in the United States), I had a couple of people approach me to make some cards but I needed the extra motivation of the Iron Crafters to get me going. Having just completed the 31 Days of Halloween challenge, I was a little late in starting the project.

For this card, I decided to cut a menorah stencil for a 5" by 7" card. There are three layers of paper here. The menorah is lined with silver mirror paper. The candles are lined with the white liner paper which also becomes the salutation page. The flames are lined with orange vellum paper (see the scanned image above)

Backlit card with lights on
So, to meet the requirements of the challenge, I have the light theme. A battery operated tea light for the electric light, and the silver paper that reflects the light.

Backlit with the lights off

For me, the beauty of the card appears when backlit and the room lights turned off. The candles seem to float in the air. Overall, I am very happy with the way this card turned out. I don't know if I will mass produce this card for selling since it was fairly time consuming.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Week 43

Front of Card

This week's card is a variation on the folded greeting. Previously, I showed how to make a folded greeting in which both words of the greeting appeared on the front of the card. This card is the same concept but the first word (Happy) appears on the front side and the second word (Birthday) appears on the inside front flap. The words are folded on the front edge of the card so I called this new series--Edge Cards.

Inside Left of open Card
I still have some logistics to work out but I like the concept. I want to see how it looks with a different font and a different greeting. The major problem that I have is that the word birthday is a little difficult to read with this particular font. I want to see how it looks with a different font.

Friday, November 1, 2013

On My Bookshelf

Today's book is reviewed in preparation of the upcoming holiday season--Ruby Star Wrapping by Melody Miller and Allison Tannery. The basis of the book is the Japanese concept of gift wrapping--where the wrapping and the thoughtfulness put in the process of gift wrapping are more important than the gift itself.

The authors advocate for using materials that can be re-purposed for future use or wrapping that re-uses or upcycles materials. While most of the project are fabric based, several of the project use paper or can be adapted using paper products. 

This is an excellent book for anyone interested in gift wrapping, recycling, fabric, sewing, or paper goods. Highly recommended.