DIY, embroidery and textiles, paints and pens, stuff i've made

Personalised canvas tote bag

personalised canvas toteWas binding a dozen or so journals today, for a craft market later this month; at some point the books went between boards for pressing, and waiting for the glue to dry I started on this little project. It was so much fun that the books are still in the book press, several hours later! I just decided to keep going with the canvas bag until it was done.
personalised canvas toteThese handy canvas artist’s bags were on special at work, so I bought one. They’re a good size (you can fit an A3 sketchbook into one of these, as well as lots of art supplies) with three roomy pockets, and a whole row of narrow brush or pen pockets on one side of the bag. I want to use it as my art tote when I am traveling (I am going to make more of an effort to paint, or draw, while I am out and about, than I have before now. Yeah, right.) But the bag needed some colour, I thought…all that plain canvas just begged for some paint.
personalised canvas toteI used a black Posca brush-pen to doodle the designs, then painted in with acrylics. I fooled around with glitter fabric paints, too. When the paint was dry, I loaded some flow acrylics into a gutta applicator bottle, and put in fine details like faux stitches and stems and leaf veins. (Note: want to give this a try? Everything you need for this project is available at Jackson’s Drawing Supplies)

personalised canvas toteI used the same applicator bottle to write the text on the reverse side of the bag…after trying to use a Posca marker and not getting the desired results (you can see the pink lines here and there).

personalised canvas toteThis is just going to be something that I drag around with me, getting dirty, battered, and worn, so I was just playing around with the doodles, not planning ahead, and not trying to get anything perfect…I acknowledge that my writing could have been spaced better!

personalised canvas toteI couldn’t resist giving the little painter dude an easel, a canvas, and an unimpressed nude model…and throwing in a bit of naughty humour, too.

personalised canvas toteBefore you try something similar, please note that I broke all the rules about painting on fabric with this one: I didn’t wash the bag first, and I didn’t mix textile medium with my acrylics, or use fabric paints. No idea whether it will all come off when the bag is washed, someday. I will let it dry for 24 hours, and then iron the bag underneath a layer of baking parchment, for what it’s worth, to try and heat set the paints. But it doesn’t have to last, so I don’t mind; it was just a bit of fun, and something to do while my books were in the press. ;) 

personalised canvas tote

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DIY, journaling + mail art

more about DIY Postcards : : customising the address side

Whatever fabulousness you end up creating on the front of your postcards for iHanna’s DIY Postcard Swap, you’ll need to keep the back side reasonably clear for writing the address and attaching the necessary stamps. Addresses are being read by computers, these days, and they are programmed to search a certain part of the postcard for relevant sorting information, like zip codes and countries.

You can, of course, just write the address and attach the stamps in the usual places onto a blank back, or stick a clean label over the messy back so that computers don’t struggle with reading things that turn out to be doodles and embroidery stitches. Or you can print the backs of your postcards up with customised fields for the address, for a message, and even little “Place stamp here” squares, like on postcards back in the day (when people needed instructions on how to fill up a postcard!)

On her blog, Hanna has designed a reverse side specifically for the DIY postcards swap, and you can download the PDF template here.

Another option is to design your own postcard backside. A really easy way to do this is using Picmonkey. Here are a couple of postcard backsides that I designed using that most lovable of online photo-editing programs (incidentally, I designed these without checking the postal regulations, and so my designs violate the rules for computerised sorting…please see the template at the bottom of this post for which areas you may and may not  put your stuff…words, designs, doodles, phone numbers, etcetera…when creating a postcard) :

postcard back: valentine's day

postcard back: nautical

These were easier to make than you think. You don’t have to be a Premium Picmonkey user to make something super-special. Just pick a size for your postcard backside under “Design”(a 5 x 7 postcard printed at 150 dpi, means you set a customised canvas to 1500 x 1050 pixels, for example)

Then just have a play with all of Picmonkey’s amazing textures, effects, fonts, patterns, whatever you like. Don’t forget to pay a visit to the Overlays section of the editor (the butterfly symbol) and use the lovely vintage graphics under the heading ‘Postal’ to add lovely little postcard-ey details to the design.

design your own on Picmonkey

(N.B. Do NOT use the franking stamp design, the cancellation wavy-lines design, or anything else that may confuse computer—and even human—readers into thinking your postcard has already been posted and/or cancelled. You have some creative freedom, here, but there are still rules to abide by if you want the system to work!)

If you have any questions regarding which parts of a postcard’s backside are to be reserved for official use and relevant information like names and addresses, here’s a template where the greyed-out areas indicate which parts to leave clear, and which parts you can  go wild in…

PostalGuide_5x7

I wrote about iHanna’s DIY Postcard Swap here, and you can read much much more about it on her swap’s home page, here.

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art journal tricks, journaling + mail art, philosophy

Out with the old…

planting broken and bent needles in a bed of soft tofu

“All the things have their own soul.”

From a combination of aspects of Buddhism and Japan’s traditional Shinto religion comes the belief that both living and inanimate objects have a spirit and soul.

The idea is that objects that have had a hard life can, having reached their 100th birthday, awaken to life and acquire souls. These monsters or “artefact spirits” are called tsukumogami, and are largely considered harmless, though many of them can band together and turn into a dangerous mob when they reflect upon how badly they have been treated after so much hard work and loyal service. They then set out to punish people who are wasteful, ungrateful, or who throw their tools away thoughtlessly. Wikipedia has a list of “known tsukumogami” that includes a “possessed tea kettle”, an angry-looking “animated umbrella”, and “A furry creature formed from the stirrup of a mounted military commander that works for Yama Orochi.”

tsukumogami

To prevent any of this from happening, Jinja ceremonies, such as the hari-kuyou, are performed in Shinto shrines of Japan. Kuyou are usually held for the spirits of dead people, but have also been held for things such as toys, weapons, and tools that were used for a long time and have been broken or rendered useless.

The hari-kuyou is a memorial service specifically for old sewing needles (hari) and pins. Prayers are offered to console the bent and broken needles. Each year, on February 8th, broken or damaged sewing needles are stuck into slabs of soft tofu or jelly—sort of as a reward after years of being pushed through tougher material—and these are offered to a Shinto shrine (or taken home and buried, with salt, in the garden). No needlework is done on this day, to give one’s needles a holiday of sorts. This ceremony still brings needleworkers and women together, today; in addition to the original purpose of consoling and thanking their tools, women are urged to take some time to console themselves, as well, and bury secrets too personal to reveal.

An old journal is a somewhat different matter…

Unlike broken needles and tattered umbrellas that have become useless, I think a journal becomes more valued and important with time. It is, after all, time and the act of writing in it regularly that transforms an empty book into a treasured record of life, and an heirloom for future generations. Not so much a useless corpse, your journal is more like your amazing hundred-year-old great-grandmother. She’s been a force of nature for over a century, and what she could really use right now is a cozy, everything-taken-care-of, bells-and-whistles retirement.

A home.

With this in mind, I think that a nice way to retire your used-up journal is by making it a special container of its own to live in…buy a decorative box that fits the book well, or try your hand at making a clamshell (or any of the other boxes bookbinders use to house precious volumes). If you can use archival, acid-free materials, so much the better…preserve your journal for your descendants, if you’re at all into that sort of thing.

A book box too bulky for you? If you’re one of those people that goes through 6 journals a year, perhaps a wooden chest or trunk to store them all in would be better. Or how about wrapping it in a knotted silk scarf, or stitching a simple calico bag with drawstring closure? Just something to keep the bugs from eating the paint off the pages, to confer some dignity on it, and keep it clean.

Any last words?

There’s not much point doing lots more writing in this journal—you probably don’t have any space left to write in, or (like me) your heart is already set on starting the next journal—but if writing a good closure makes you feel better, here are a few things you can use those last pages for:

  • An index…this doesn’t have to be a tedious page-by-page account of what’s in the journal, but you could write down major events and other things you’re likely to need someday (Ex. “Trip to Penang, p. 56-97”, “Peter’s death, pp.48”, or “Sabi’s roti paratha recipe, p.11”) My own journals only feature a practical list of schematic diagrams or design plans for book binding, so I can find them quickly without having to read through all the pages of blah-blah-blah. Which is why I still can’t remember the exact date of Peter’s death…

“Don’t talk about the things you care deeply, or feel intensely, about to every friendly stranger or fair-weather acquaintance. 1) Their insensitive questions or frivolous reactions may hurt, 2) your attempt to put the intangible into mere words will cheapen it, and 3) exchanging confidences in order to “win friends and influence people” is despicable.”

  • Finally, it might be nice to write a short paragraph at the very end, thanking the journal for the time it has served you and the ways it has helped you.
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DIY, embroidery and textiles, stuff i've made

DIY: : a simple softie pattern

Most softie patterns for sale over the internet specify “For personal use only, not for commercial resale“, and I am happy to comply because 1) I always think about how I would feel if someone took a pattern I’d designed and made dolls from it, and then put the items up for sale as her own creations, and 2) I like the challenge of coming up with something, myself…after all, if others can do it, so can I. It’s not about being born with amazing skills…skills are learned. Using a spoon, tying shoe laces, driving a car, making a softie pattern… ;)

My homemade softies are not as extraordinary as something created by a fabulous Mr. Finch, though I am sure that with practice and lots of time spent making, making, making, even I could get my softie-making skills up to that professional level. There is nothing stopping me from learning what I want to learn (and there’s nothing stopping you from mastering anything you want to learn, either!) It all depends on whether we want to invest a few months/years in becoming an expert—and, right now, I don’t fancy making stuffed dolls my life. Not really. I just want a school of handmade stuffed Flying Banana Fish to hang in a small gallery corridor for one night at the end of this week.

I looked at photographs of flying fish, and then drew the softie I envisaged, at the actual size.

making banana fish

I shaped a lump of plasticine clay into the body of the fish, comparing it to my drawing to get the scale right.

making banana fish

I cut an old T-shirt into a continuous strip (round and round the body, starting form the bottom edge of the shirt) and put it in a yoghurt tub with some PVA glue, and squished the glue into the fabric until it was all worked in. Then I wrapped the strip around my simple fish shape, using dressmaking pins to hold the ends in place. I let it dry.

making banana fish

With a fresh, sharp scalpel blade, I sliced the shape open along the lines where I thought the seams should go on a fish. These are easy to figure out: a fish is basically two fish shapes joined along the edges…

making banana fish

The fabric peels away from the oily plasticine easily…

making banana fish

I pinned the shape down to some board, and traced around it.

making banana fish

I smoothed the crooked lines out using a Flexicurve flexible ruler, though you can use a french curve, or just freehand the lines, too. I added the seam allowance all around.

making banana fish

To help with positioning my pattern piece on the marbled fabric (so the print resembles scales) I cut the body shape out of the pattern, leaving the seam allowance as a border. You can skip this part if you don’t need to know exactly where the fabric designs will be on the finished softie.

making banana fish

Here’s the finished pattern piece, and I have found a great area of marbled fish scales through the window to cut the fabric from…

making banana fish

Crude but serviceable.

nutmeg

I used the wrapped plasticine method to make my Nutmeg the Wren pattern, too. It took a few prototypes in fabric to get it, as there were more seam lines and I wanted the bird’s head to cock to one side, but it’s basically the same thing. You can’t beat patience—spending time making, adjusting, re-making—for getting a pattern that is just right. Seems like a lot of work, I know, but once you have it, the pattern is original, re-usable, and it’s all yours.

Go make something unique!

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blogging, DIY, projects

DIY : : Bunny & Cow Romper Babies

Bunny & Cow Romper Babies DIY

Jacksons Drawing Supplies in Darwin has a new staff blog!

Our first offering, anticipating Easter, is a little DIY for these cute Bunny & Cow Romper Babies…there are photos and a PDF for the pattern pieces. You may remember that I made one of these for my goddaughter some time ago. This time I took photos and re-drew the pattern pieces. Naturally, it uses materials sourced from Jacksons Drawing Supplies. We work there, after all, and what’s good for the shop is good for us. :)

The shop has been at #7 Parap Place for over 20 years, and still we get locals coming in to tell us that they never knew we were there. No wonder the business is struggling! So, in an attempt to drag the one and only proper art and technical drawing shop in Darwin into the 21st Century, we’ve decided to start a blog.

There’s not a lot on there yet; it’s hard to find the time and coordinate with each other—we can’t do this stuff on the job (that’s why it’s called “the unofficial staff blog”) we do our blogging at home, photographing the steps and projects on the weekends, using our own cameras, laptops, and internet connections.

But that’s okay, we really want to do this…we’re all creatives and, as the main art shop in town, we know so many of the local artists. We’d like this blog to serve as an outlet for our own creations and projects, to feature profiles of Darwin’s artists and art organizations, to keep track of local art events, and to even maybe answer of the many, many Frequently Asked Questions that we get about paints, mediums, materials, techniques, and so forth.

I hope you’ll take a minute to check it out, maybe download and give the Easter project a go, and even subscribe to the post feed so that you’ll know when the next few goodies come up!

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blogs and sites, DIY, stuff i've made

Cut Out + Keep

Pleated Paper Flowers
Cool cool! Am Featured member on Cut Out + Keep today. There’s an interview, some pics (you’ve probably seen before, here or on Flickr), plus a few of the more popular projects I’ve posted on CO+K over the years.

Thanks ever so much, Cat Morley and the rest of the folks who make CO+K such a great site for every DIY project you can imagine!

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blogging, DIY, paints and pens, stuff i've made

The Cheap & Nasty Sketchbook Makeover, on ilovegifting.me

The Cheap & Nasty Sketchbook Makeover

Last weekend I put together a guest DIY post over on Sarita’s blog,  i love gifting that you might want to go over and look at; it comes out some time today.

In it, I’ve taken one of those generic cheap & nasty sketchbooks (must be hardbound, though; I got mine from Jackson’s Drawing Supplies for AU$12.00) and added a little bit of reinforcing to the binding (so that it is a little bit stronger than the factory-made version, which used something for the mull that really resembled thick loo paper). I replaced the plain white endpapers with caramel-colored Canson Mi-Teintes, and then performed a series of quick techniques with acrylic paints to make the cover colorful, quirky, and very unique.
finished spread

It’s not a bad project for young people, and those of you who don’t want to get into the fiddly process of actually learning to bind books from scratch. Make a dozen for the holidays and give them to people who like to doodle, or compose poetry, or collect quotes, or to your friend who has a very bad case of list-making syndrome. It’s not an heirloom-grade book, the paper will probably disintegrate in 20 years, but not everything we need blank pages for will end up in the Victoria & Albert Museum. This book is for those other things.

This song came on when I was about to start painting the covers of the book, and I just let it take over. A little bit of 80s nostalgia, anyone?

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art journal tricks, DIY, paints and pens, stuff i've made

Art Journal Tricks : : s’graffito with acrylics

art journal page: squid music

sgraffito |sgraˈfiːtəʊ|
noun ( pl. -ti |-ti|)
literally ‘scratched away'; a form of decoration made by scratching through a surface to reveal a lower layer of a contrasting color, typically done in plaster or stucco on walls, or in slip on ceramics before firing.

This technique is pretty much like scraperboard work…or those oil pastel drawings you made in primary school art class that you covered with a thick black poster paint, and then scraped back to reveal the colors…with the advantage of being fully smudge and waterproof once dry, because you only use acrylic paints, which makes it a great technique for the art journal.

Untitled

Start by painting your page with the background colors. You can paint it solidly in one color of acrylics, as I hurriedly did today for this post, or you can execute an actual design—shapes, letters, whatever—in blocks of solid color.

N.B. Remember that when you cover the background with another color to start the sgraffito, the background color will only be seen in the lines you have scratched out. So if you want a pink lily, for example, with fine black lines, you would paint a black lily, first, and then cover it all up with a very opaque pink, and then scratch lines to reveal the black underneath.


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Untitled

When the acrylic is dry, give the page a single coat of gloss or semi-gloss acrylic medium. This seals one color from the next, keeping the layers of different colors from sticking to each other, and so keeps the colors and lines distinct.

Untitled
Let the coat dry.
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Take the color of your next layer, and mix it with retarder medium. Don’t use any water, just the medium, and try to use a paint to medium ratio of 2:1…too much retarder medium and your paint will take forever to dry. Also, it will sit in a wet puddle that is no good for scratching because every time you draw a line through it the wet paint will simply flow in to fill the line again. You want the paint smooth but not runny.

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Untitled

Fill in the shape, or letters, or whatever that you’ve drawn. Don’t do the whole page at once…remember that even with retarder, the thin film of paint will start to dry, and if the shape is so big that it takes you a long time to scratch your designs into it, parts of it may be dry before you get to them. Scratching only really works if the paint is still wet. I work on patches the size of a playing card, scrape my lines into it, then paint the next patch, scrape into that, and so on.

I didn’t have a design planned,so I just kind of doodled this rather underwhelming shape: yet another tentacled creature…every time I try to paint something spontaneously I end up with tentacles. Damn limited imagination. Anyway.

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Untitled

Experiment with scratching tools. From top to bottom are a thin brass rod, a sculpting tool with a soft rubber cone on the tip (I think polymer clay artists use these things?), and the wrong end of a thin paintbrush. Personally I find the rubber-tipped tool too yielding…the very end of the cone tends to wiggle, but you may like that. I prefer the metal rod and the paintbrush…firm sticks that draw consistent lines, each of a definite weight. Find what you like.

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s'graffito

Keep a wad of tissue in your other hand, and start scratching your design into the wet paint. Every inch or so, wipe the tip of your tool off on the tissue paper, as a glob of wet paint will collect there. The term “scratching” here isn’t quite accurate…it implies more force than necessary. There’s no need to bear down or tear the paint and paper beneath. If the paint hasn’t dried yet, it’s like drawing in butter. If the paint has dried, you can still revive it with a tiny dab of retarder from a small brush. Spread that dab of retarder around the dry area, wait a few seconds, and try again.

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s'graffito

The rounded tip of a paintbrush makes good dots…hold the brush vertically and rotate the handle between your fingers, rather than try and ‘gouge’ the dot out from one direction. It makes nice round dimples (albeit small ones)
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art journal page: squid music

If you have made your paint too wet and runny—with either water or retarder—you will know it right away, because the paint will form wet patches, and scratching into it will not leave behind a clean path, but the liquid paint will creep back into the lines you scratched, which is what happened in this toxic green speech bubble I painted next. Wait a bit for the paint to dry a little bit or, if you used too much retarder and it looks like the paint won’t dry for hours, blot it up with paper towel, maybe a slightly moistened one (the acrylic gloss medium will protect the background layer) and paint the shape in again with the right consistency of paint.

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And that’s it. Nothing special, really, but it produces a nice effect of its own, distinct from painting fine lines onto a background with a brush or mapping pen. It was often used by the old masters in their oil paintings to hint at, without actually detailing, the intricate lines of lacework or leafy shrubbery. It allows your drawn line to variegate from color to color, too…just paint the background with rainbows or whatever, before covering up and scratching through.

I wish I’d given more thought to what I was going to draw for this post…this tentacled thing has turned out pretty fugly. Hopefully you see the potential of the technique without being put off by Squid Ugly, here. ;)

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For all posts on art journaling techniques, click here.

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