Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Christmas Sweaters

Momma's Earrings
My mother takes full advantage of having a jewelry designer at her beck and call.  Today, she saw some of the pieces in the next phase of my controlled marbling tutorial, the black and red pieces, and asked me to make her some Christmas-y red and green stripedy (see, Jules, I get it honest!) earrings in the upside-down teardrop shape that I call the "hot air balloon" cut.  

Dutiful daughter that I am, I dropped everything and proceeded to make my Momma some red and green earrings.  

Now, other than her E-reader, which we forced on her (the one she would hurt you over now if you tried to take it from her,) there isn't much about my Momma that is "modern."  She is very old-fashioned, from her hair-do to her clothing to the furniture in her house.  Striped earrings, and in a funky shape?  Nuh-uh, I know her and I know better, or thought I did.  

North Pole Snowflake Earrings
The times, they are a-changing, though.  Apparently, she went out last week and bought herself a (gasp!) Christmas themed sweater!   Just the thought sends shudders through me.   She has never done the Christmas sweater thing!  Never!   What is happening here?  What's next, a turkey loaf for Christmas dinner?  It's that senior citizens group she plays cards with on Tuesdays.  They're a radical bunch, those women... drive themselves everywhere they want to go, wear red hats and purple clothes in public... you know the kind...

North Pole Snowflakes Teardrop
Well, there was nothing for it but to hunker down and create something to match the Christmas sweater.  Since I was marbling, and wanted to stay in the marbling frame of mind, I decided to blend some custom Christmas red and green and a snowy white.  

I don't like to use regular white clay because it is flat.  Instead, I add a few drops of white alcohol ink to Pardo Translucent.  It is much softer and has a sweet luminescence.  Marshmallows come to mind when I look at it. 

I blended the colors and marbled a batch, but the earrings looked too abstract and modern.  This is a pair I decided to leave that way.  I love these, but they aren't Momma and no matter what she says, she wouldn't wear them.

Ribbon Candy Earrings
Then the light bulb went off over my head and I decided to stamp the rest with a snowflake texture sheet and highlight the stamping with a whipped cream colored acrylic paint (custom blended using eggshell and white and the teeniest touch of yellow.)  

Yep, I did good.  She saw these and almost choked up.  She said "Those are EXACTLY what I wanted!"

They remind me of Scandinavian sweaters or the Fair Isle sweater patterns.   Maybe I'll let my fingers do the walking through the internet and see if I can find a Christmas red and green Fair Isle patterned sweater.  For her, of course, not for me... I don't do Christmas sweaters.  Nope, not me.  

Now it's back to the studio to work on the red and black, which frankly, aren't coming together as I had hoped.  I'm going to sort through my waxed paper wrapped stash of blended clay to get some inspiration for more color combinations.  

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Working On A New Tutorial

If you have looked at my flickr photostream the past few days, you have probably guessed I'm working on a new tutorial because of all the similarly colored pieces.  I normally work in color batches that yield 2 or 3 pieces at most, but my studio is an explosion of aqua and burnt orange at the moment.

When I'm working on a tutorial, I work in much larger batches of the same colors so I have enough in case I screw up (often) and have to recreate steps.  I am terrible about forgetting to photograph a step until I've gone on to the next one.  I probably shouldn't admit that, but it means I have to go back and recreate the step again.  

I usually write my tutorials first, then follow the instructions to create pieces, but this time, the creation comes first, then the writing.  

For this new tutorial, which is about how to use my controlled marbling technique, recreating steps isn't possible, because each piece is unique.  If I forget to photograph, I have to scrap the photos of it and make another.  So, you can see why a lot of the same colored clay would be needed. 
Right now, I'm working primarily with aqua, burnt orange and snowy white.  I have some other color combinations planned, so next you'll either see a bunch of red, black, silver and white pieces; or a bunch of  plum, indigo blue and gold pieces.   

I have promised to have this new tutorial ready to publish before Christmas, so I'm working every day to be sure I can meet that deadline, but since I have all day, every day to work on it, I don't think that is really going to be a problem.  

Working non-stop like I am, though, means new posts on the blog might be sparse for a couple of weeks.  One of my lovely customers (hey, Donetta!) emailed me about the sewn paper bag tutorial she purchased recently, and her sweet email prompted me to drag myself on over here and write a little something new.  

Here is a sneak peak at some of the new pieces made using my controlled marbling technique (all of these won't make it into the how-to, or else the tutorial would be 50MB large) but I'm trying to get as many in as I can and maintain some variety.  

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The Art of the Surcee - My Newest Tutorial - How to Create Nostalgic Sewn Paper Gift Bags

In the Southern United States, we are raised with a wonderful tradition called the "surcee."  I've talked about them before, but if you don't know, a surcee is a gift given for no other reason that to show the recipient that he or she is special. These little gift bags a little surcees in themselves, but they make the most delightful vehicles to delivery surcees to your friends and loved ones, too. 

I wrote this new tutorial in response to several requests from my customers, who all receive these gift bags with each purchase of a piece of jewelry from my shop.  They often tell me they recycle the bags by passing them along to another gift recipient. One of my customers told me it felt like Christmas for her when she opened the box, and she found herself wrapping the box back up and opening it again and again, just to see these gift bags nestled inside. That is exactly the feeling I hope you will get, both from making these beautiful little bags and by giving them as well.  

One customer even told me opening the box they came in was such an unexpected surprise, she cried.  I don't want to make anyone cry, of course, but that is what a surcee will do for you.  She kept closing and opening the box they arrived in, just to repeat the feeling.  And the vintage buttons!   One of my very good customers, who has a couple dozen by now, has confessed to hoarding them for herself for the buttons alone!

The bags also make fabulous party favors when filled with candy and are the best way to give a gift card.  Who wants to use a boring old envelope when you could use one of these?  You could also slip in event tickets, money or a folded check.   I also had a request for 10 to be embellished with vintage kitchen images for a bridal shower.   Taking that idea a little further, wouldn't these be great to hold bridesmaid gifts?   You can make them masculine or feminine in theme.  The possibilities are almost endless.  

In the tutorial, I instruct you how to create these charming, whimsical, nostalgic sewn paper gift bags using vintage dictionary pages, vintage buttons, and a few other inexpensive materials and tools, none of which are hard to find or expensive, with the exception of a sewing machine. You will need the use of a sewing machine to complete the project, but advanced sewing skills are not necessary. If you can sew a zigzag stitch in a straight line, you can create these delightful gift bags.  The lesson is 14 pages total and contains step-by-step instructions and lots of clear, color photos.  It is also extremely easy to follow.   If you prefer a CD version, I can also burn a copy for you onto CD for a small additional fee for postage and the cost of the CD. 

I can tell you first hand that creating these beauties is also addictive.   I make them in batches of 50 or so at a time.  Speaking of which, I only have 11 left from the last batch.  I better get crackin' on some new ones!  


Saturday, November 10, 2012

I'm a Proud Daughter

I am so proud!  My 80 year old mother listed several Christmas ornaments she made today at Etsy.  We converted my 2nd shop, which has been dormant for awhile, into a new shop she is calling Carolina Homespun.   Since my mother is a fabric and needle artist, the name fits, and we do live in Carolina!

I helped her with the listings and the photos, and will be adding more of the felt ornaments in the next day or two as she finishes them.

These sweet little wreath ornaments, which she calls "puff wreaths," are her original design.  She has been making and sharing these with family and friends and our community for more than 30 years.   I doubt there is a Christmas tree in this county that doesn't have at least one of these wreath ornaments on it.  They also make fantastic napkin rings which guests can take home as a party favor or as we like to call them in the South, "surcees."   They also make wonderful thank you gifts or teacher gifts.  I've never met anyone who didn't love them.

Here is a peak at a few of the items Momma has made.  I hope you'll check out the shop and email us your comments on how you like it.  She's gotten a few views already and that gave her a huge thrill.