Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Iron Craft 2015 Challenge #25--Last Minute Decorations

For this challenge, we were asked to work on those projects that were floundering on our to-do list. The problem for me during this time of year is that I have so many projects that I do for other people that when it comes time for me to decorate my space(s), I am usually too tired to do something for me to enjoy. So Challenge 25 came at just the right time.

At the end of each holiday season, I try to decorate with the leftovers from other projects. These transform into gift wrapping accessories or table decorations. This year, I decided to decorate my space at the theater since I will be working Christmas night (a first for me since I have been there). 

This is the back stage area where I work and where actors' guests come to visit. Why not decorate it for the holidays?

The first decoration is our bulletin board. I decided to do a eucalyptus and branch swag tied with a silver ribbon.

Eucalyptus and branches
The second decoration was my security station. This is where I sit during the show. I decided to give a nod to the Winter's Solstice and Hanukkah with a blue and white theme. This is more eucalyptus but with white branches and blue lights This is tied with a blue ribbon. Among the branches are crystal embellishments which glitter when the lights hit them.

With lights off
With lights on
The final decoration is the area when I stand to greet guests after the show. I decided to make a red and white wreath as a nod to Christmas. This is a fresh Douglas Fir wreath that I purchased. I wanted to make my own wreath but I just didn't have the energy. I have always loved mixing fresh and artificial elements in wreaths. I am really happy with the way this turned out and the fir fills the area where I stand with an amazing aroma.

When I was first starting holiday decorating, I started with making wreaths for people. I teamed up with a Christmas tree vendor who would sell me the wreaths at cost; I would decorate them and return them to the lot where he would sell them and we would split the profits.

The hallmark of my wreaths has always been the hanging ornament in the center of the wreath. Usually it is hung with fishing line so that it appears hanging in air. I had to use thread for this wreath but the effect is still the same.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Iron Craft 2015 Challenge #24--Brown Paper Packages

For Challenge #24, we were tasked with decorating for the holidays. I decided to decorate with packages. As many of you know, one of the busiest times of the year for a paper artist is the winter holidays. I have several clients that hire me to decorate their trees, wrap their gifts, or decorate their homes for the holidays.

One client always wants his gifts wrapped with brown craft paper and then he chooses a theme or color for the embellishments. In order for him to choose, I have to make some mock gifts so he can see what  he might want. I then use these empty gift boxes to decorate under the tree. The trick is that the gifts that are to be given will have a gift tag. The un-tagged gifts are the ones for decoration.

SPOILER ALERT:  So for all of those beautiful trees that you see--most of the gifts are empty!

As I have mentioned previously, not all gifts are wrapped equally. Here are four variations of brown paper wrapping (not necessarily tied up with string).

Option One: Paper with a pretty ribbon.
I use wire edged ribbon which allows for a great looking bow. Sometimes, paper and a pretty ribbon really are enough.

Option Two: Paper with pretty ribbon and a bauble.
Here is the same package with a handmade glass ornament. I decided to use a complementary color for the glitter ornament. So here you have a gift with a gift.

Option Three: Paper with ribbon, bauble and nature
This is the same package with a different ribbon. This is a mesh ribbon that does not have wire. This allows for a big floppy bow. I used a hand painted marbled glass ornament. The final touch is a red berry garland. I have always been a fan of a monochromatic wrapping.

Option Four: Paper with ribbon, bauble and fresh nature
This is the same package as option three but with a fresh branch of eucalyptus that is tucked within the berry garland. The added benefit here is the fragrance. Fresh evergreen trimmings work well as well.

I learned my craft of gift wrapping from my years spent in Japan. The Japanese culture believes that a gift should represent three gifts: something on the package (even if it is a visual gift), the wrapping itself and the gift inside the box.

There is something very pleasing about this concept that I have taken to heart.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Christmas 2015 Wrapping Hints (Day Four)

I will be the first one to admit that beautifully wrapped gifts aren't meant for everyone. I normally don't pull out all of the stops unless I know that the recipient will appreciate the work and style presented with an amazingly wrapped gift.

Yet, this doesn't excuse the gift giver from the responsibility of a nicely presented and wrapped package. Similarly, if you have a coordinated look under your holiday tree, you can still wrap a gift so that it blends with the other ornately wrapped gifts.

In other words, you can still wrap a gift for an age-appropriate recipient that looks good under your tree.

For the next two days, I will share how to turn an ordinary gift into a thoughtful gift that still matches your other gifts.

Step One:
Wrap gift in base wrapping. In this case, I use craft paper once again.

Step Two:
Use a coordinating paper that you are using under your tree. Here, I chose to use the holiday themed paper as a belly band. Feel free to stop here or add a commercially manufactured bow. For little children, this can be sufficient.

Step Three:
Add some fun as appropriate. Here, I used baker's twine instead of ribbon. This is a great option for kids as you aren't using expensive ribbon that might not be appreciated. If you use twine, be sure to wrap around the gift several times in each direction so it doesn't seem to be an afterthought. You can stop here if you want. Even on this level be sure to make it look professionally wrapped by making sure that the loops are the same size. Similarly, make sure the tails are the same length.

Add additional embellishments as desired. Here a pair of jingle bells add a touch of shine that kids might enjoy.

Step Four:
Choose to add a personal touch/gift within the gift. In Japan, the gift wrapping is considered an added gift in addition to the item that is wrapped. Here is a handmade ornament that can be added to the tree if the recipient so desires. This ornament was made with sprinkles. The  topping is modeling paste that has been adorned with sprinkles as well.
Front view

Side view

Wrapping Tip #1
If you were sloppy when folding/measuring the flaps, cover them up with the belly band. There is nothing in gift wrapping protocol that says the belly band has to run parallel to the flaps--even though most people wrap this way. Break the rules some times.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Christmas 2015 Wrapping Hints (Day Three)

Today's entry is a continuation of how coordinated wrapping papers can be used to decorated your gift collection. I have a ton of these lidded boxes in my apartment. They are usually part of a gift of the month club or some other gift. I hate to throw them away since they are sturdy boxes.

During the holidays, I tend to use these boxes as part of my wrapping services. Unfortunately, they aren't always holiday inspired (like the box above).

Using coordinated papers, I will wrap the bottom tray in the non-holiday paper (in box making lingo, boxes are made of two trays--a top tray, the lid, and the bottom tray). The lid is usually shallower in order to have a reveal. I will then wrap the lid with the coordinated holiday paper.

The finished product
This is visually connected to the other gifts under the tree when you see all of the patterns combined. This is a great way to get rid of those boxes and paper scraps. Be sure to use thinner paper for this type of wrapping to ensure that the trays still fit together. Thicker paper will tear at the corners as you try and fit the lid to the bottom tray.

Wrapping Tip #1
Yesterday, I mentioned the grid on the back of the paper. Here is an example. I also mentioned about cutting only the piece of paper that you need and to leave the other paper attached to the roll. In the picture below, I demonstrate what I mean. As you can see, there is still a lot of paper in the sheet if I had cut the entire height measurement. Only using the size of paper that you need wastes less paper and prevents the unused paper from wrinkling or getting damaged.

Taking my own advice

Wrapping Tip #2
One of the difficulties of using commercially produced wrapping paper is the thickness of the product. Many papers are very thin and tear and mar very easily. Be care when securing your paper on the roll. Using rubber bands will wrinkle the the paper and can affect several layers below. If you can, use a ribbon or twine wrapped loosely around the roll.

More importantly, if you use a rubber band, only secure the top inch or two rather than travel the rubber band to the middle of the roll. If you secure at the top of the roll, you damage a smaller section of the paper and can use the rest of the roll for wrapping.

Use the rubber band at the top of the roll

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Christmas 2015 Wrapping Hints (Day Two)

Continuing the coordinated paper theme, today's hint is layered gift wrapping. Like yesterday, this wrapping idea uses a belly band; this time it is used twice. This is the same craft paper wrapped box from yesterday. For the first belly band, I used the coordinating non-holiday wrap as the first layer. This is the same size as the original belly band used (8 inches with a 3 inch reveal).

I then used a second belly band (usually half the size of the original) and centered it on the first belly band. This layer is 4 inches with a 2 inch reveal. Belly bands are a great way to use up all of that extra paper you might have left over.

Wrapping Tip #1
The grid on the back of your paper should be your friend. Most papers that are gridded use a one inch square. Use a cloth measuring tape to find the size you need and proceed.

Wrapping Tip #2
For gifts that aren't going to the same place, standardize your boxes when you can. Since this box is the same size as yesterday, I already had the paper cut to size along the width dimension. All I had to do was adjust the height of the top layer and the measuring was already done for me.

Wrapping Tip #3
Keep the paper on the roll. Because I cut from the back side of the paper, I know exactly how much paper I need. Many times, there is a lot of excess paper since the rolls are so tall. Rather than cut the full sheet, I simply cut the piece that I need and roll up the excess while it is still attached to the roll.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Christmas 2015 Wrapping Hints (Day One)

The latest wrapping trend is coordinated wrapping paper. This week, I will be highlighting how to use coordinated papers for your gift giving this year. Usually coordinated papers will feature one or two non-holiday papers and one holiday themed paper. The rationale is that you can use some of the papers throughout the year and then highlight the holiday themed paper for the appropriate holiday.

This week, I will be featuring the above papers to illustrate this point. These papers are available at Target, Duane Reade and Walgreens (although, I have only been able to find it at Target). The papers are printed and distributed by American Greetings.

The first design is to not use the paper as it was designed to be used. In other words, you don't have to cover the entire package with the paper that you have purchased. Instead, use the paper as an accent.

In this case, I wrapped the gift with plain craft paper rather than the purchased holiday wrap. I then used the holiday paper as a belly band around the center of the package. The package can then be embellished with ribbon or twine in a complementary color. To get the best effect, be sure to center the belly band on the package. In this case, there are three inches of reveal above and below the belly band.

Wrapping Tip
If you have a lot of gifts to wrap, go ahead and prepare the gifts to this point as time allows. Place them under the tree until you are ready to embellish them or take them with you to give. This is an easy way to decorate with gifts and wrap as time allows so you aren't overwhelmed with the idea of wrapping. I would go ahead and attach the gift tag so you don't forget which gift is for which recipient.

I always wrap until this point until I am ready to deliver the gifts to my clients. I will add the final embellishments (especially if it is fresh or silk flowers) at the very last moment. In doing so, you can guarantee that your wrapping doesn't get damaged.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Iron Craft 2015 Challenge #23--Paper Holiday Decorations

Playbill Tree Topper
For Challenge #23 we were asked to use materials that we already have--to take something old and make it new. I have a collection of Playbills from most of the shows that come to our theater. The Playbill is the free program that is given out to all of the audience members. Many times, the Playbills get updated and become obsolete so I usually will snag a bundle or two to recycle. I am always looking for ways to repurpose these materials.

So for the current show, I decided to make a tree topper made from the cover of the Playbill. As you can see above, the show is prominently displaced in the center of the star.

Never to be satisfied with only one project, I decided to try and use the Playbills for other purposes. I made two paper bows with can feature any of the small pictures featured in the Playbill. Once uses the cover artwork and the other uses the black and white pages of the book's interior.

Playbill Bow (Cover)
Playbill Bow (Pages)
Finally, since I had so much material left over, I decided to try and miniaturize the tree topper star and make an ornament. The ornament below is made from two 2 inch squares of paper.

Playbill Star Ornament

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Iron Craft 2015 Challenge #22--Fall Flowers

This is going to be a bit of a strange post. For this challenge, we were tasked to create something dedicated to Fall colors. Orange has always been one of my favorite colors so I knew which direction I was headed. I love color and color theory and people are always asking me what inspires me and affects my color sense. After reading the posted challenge, I was walking by one of the Manhattan bodegas. In Manhattan, we always have flowers and foliage available for last minute gifts. As I was walking past, I noticed the above flower arrangement and decided to immediately do a floral arrangement for this challenge.

What many of you might not know is that I have always loved flowers. One of my only regrets about living in NYC is not being able to garden. I would love to have a plot of land to grow flowers for arrangements. If I had the chance to redo my life, I would have been a gardener and/or florist.

There were so many beautiful blooms available. I found these yellow and yellow/brown Calla Lilies.

Yellow Calla Lilies
There were also Dahlias in yellows, golds and oranges.

I fell in love with these Pumpkin Trees which I had never seen before. I found out that they were actually ornamental eggplants. Unfortunately, they were out-of-stock when I went back to the store.

Pumpkin Tree/Pumpkin on a stick
These Lantern Flowers have always intrigued me. They apparently intrigued everyone else because they were gone when I went back to buy them.

Chinese Lantern Flowers
And you can't have a Fall arrangement without berries and buds. I don't know this specific variety but they definitely fit the theme.
Berries & Buds
As I was deciding what to use for my arrangement, I decided on the Dahlias and Calla Lilies as my main flowers. For height, I added curly willow and cattails. I used lemon leaves, berries and some buds to fill out the arrangement.
Raw Materials
Below is the result. I am very happy with the result and gave it to a friend who needed some cheering up.
The Final Arrangement
I am always amazed at the overhead in flower arrangements. I really don't think that a simple arrangement like this is very difficult to do. If I had purchased this arrangement from a florist it would have been between $80 to $100. I already had the vase and the flowers totaled $25.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Iron Craft 2015 Challenge #21--Butterfly Mask--Part 2

A couple of people asked me to provide a pic of the Butterfly Mask in action. This is me at work guarding the Stage Door during broad daylight. To say that I caused a stir would be an understatement.  Since our show deals with Shakespeare we were asked to dressed as a character from a Shakespearean show or to dress as one of the characters from a musical referenced during the show.

I knew that most people would take the easy way out and dress as musical character. Oh no, not me. I chose to dress up as Oberon, King of the Faeries, from A Midsummer Night's Dream. In Victorian times, faeries where always represented by butterflies. Also, Oberon is a larger than life kind of character is usually tall and statuesque.

The costume is made from several pieces some of which were handmade, some purchased, and some from my stash. The leather corset and boots were from previous years' costumes. The skirt is made from an extra piece of tie dyed fabric from my stash. It is simply tied at the waist. I made the mesh tank top from material that I had around the apartment. It is a double layer of material with holes torn into both layers for effect. The butterflies were purchased and placed through the mesh tank top and through the laces of the corset.

By the end of the night, the only butterflies remaining were the ones in the mask. I gave the rest of them away before returning back stage.

I will have to say that many people stopped and took pictures and asked if they could pose with me. I worked this door for two hours before moving backstage.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Iron Craft 2015 Challenge #21--Butterfly Mask

For Challenge Number 21 were tasked with another color challenge--The Color black. I struggled with this challenge because I always work with the color black due of my cutouts. I also wanted to do something for Halloween. So, I decided to do a Masquerade Mask with cutouts.

For Halloween at the theater, we arecasked to dress up as a Shakespearean character (our current show features a Shakespeare references) so I decided to go as Oberon, King of the Fairies, from A Midsummer Night's Dream.

I started off with a white masquerade mask that can be purchased at any craft store during this time of year. I chose the mask that simply covers your nose and eyes (as opposed to the full face mask) and is affixed with an elastic band.

The first step was to pain the mask black with gesso. I applied two coats and then treated it with a blue mica powder to give it a sheen.

The second step was to apply the butterflies. I had these store bought butterflies that I was planning on using but the scale was too small. So I decided to make three butterfly cutouts. I would crease the butterfly down the center of the cutout to give dimension and then mount the store bought butterfly to the cutout. For the center of the mask, I took the third cutout and mounted rhinestones to give it some sparkle.

One side of the butterfly mask.

I will probably make another one of the these and put red and yellow rhinestones on the center butterfly. I will also cut the bottom part of the butterfly abdomen so that the wings have more motion and lie flat against the bridge of the nose.
The second side of the butterfly mask.

I am very happy with the way that it turned out (although the picture below doesn't seem like it).
Me modeling the mask*

* this is my "it's 2 AM and the Mets lost and I need to take a picture and go to bed" face.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Iron Craft 2015 Challenge #20--Scary Lampshade

For this challenge, we were asked to create something for Halloween. One of the actors at the theater is a big fan of Halloween so I decided to make something for his dressing room. Since another actor received the moose lampshade, I decided to decorate another lampshade.

This lampshade has two faces--an evil skill and a Keith Ledger Joker face. The faces are facing opposite directions so that both of the actors sharing the dressing room can each be facing an image. Or, the lampshade can be turned forward towards the door as people enter.

Evil Skull

Joker Face

The project turned out really well and everyone at the theater seems to enjoy it.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Iron Craft 2015 Challenge #19--Wee Pandas

For this challenge, we were allowed a do-over or a Mulligan. I had several projects in mind but I decided to combine several projects into one. Last challenge, I did Pandas. So I did Pandas again. Since these are cutouts, this also qualifies for the Paper Challenge. To add some interest and challenge to the challenge, I decided to re-visit the "Wee Challenge" or miniatures.

Each of the above images is 2" by 3". Although, you really can't tell, each one is attached to the back of my business card. I purposely didn't crop the image because all eight of the cutouts are attached to a single sheet of 8.5" by 11" piece of paper.

All of the images are from a Chinese Cutout Book by Dover. Some of them are more successful than others but I am very pleased with the results. I will say--working within these parameters was more difficult than I anticipated. This took me the full two weeks and there were many discarded attempts.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Iron Craft 2015 Challenge #18--Pandas

For Challenge #18, we were asked to be inspired by animals. With things getting busy with the upcoming holiday season, I needed to (1) either do a quick and easy project or (2) do something that I could combine with one of my other commitments. I chose the latter.

My dentist has been asking me for some artwork for this office. He just finished repainting and re-designing his work space and wanted some artwork. The walls are an tan/beige color and he needed something that was visually approachable to all of his clients.

When this challenge came along, I decided to do something to meet both needs. I had done a postcard based on pandas (the middle image) so I decided to revisit this artwork. The images are traditional Chinese Cutout Designs. I decided to do a triptych of pandas that will be mounted and framed in a single frame. I haven't quite decided how to mount them on paper and the matting color. I was thinking about putting the cutouts on green bamboo paper and then mounting them with fern green mat. The other thought would be to mount them on white paper and wrap the mat in the green bamboo paper. The frame will be a thin metallic dark green.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Yet Even More Wrapping Paper

It's a Boy
This time it was a baby shower for a friend from the theater. She is obviously having a boy and it is her first child. Guys weren't invited to the baby shower so I made my presence felt in other ways. Two of my friends were invited so I guaranteed that they presents would be remembered by everyone there.

Poodle Large
My friend has a toy poodle that has been her love and joy and we don't know how Dex (the poodle) is going to react to not being the center of attention. So we decided to make fun of the situation with this gift wrap. I did this in two formats--one for larger gifts and one for medium to smaller gifts.

Poodle Small
The paper was definitely the hit of the party.