Friday, December 30, 2011

Best friends' handmade gift exchange

This Christmas, my bessie mate Alison decided that, as we are both even more skint than usual, we weren't allowed to buy each other pressies.  But one hand made gift was allowed. 

I went up to visit her today, so of course being a total Last Minute Lucy, I've been frantically trying to get her gift made over the past few days.

It took me a while to work out what to make...I was going to go with jewellery, but she makes infinitely better jewellery than I do (as you'll see shortly ;) ), so in the end I decided on a small handbound journal / sketchbook as she is a cracking watercolourist.  
And here it is.  My first longstitch bound book.  The binding is far from perfectly even, but hey, that's how you can tell it's handmade!

It's heavy watercolour paper with a real leather wrap and a ribbon closure.  

I actually finished it last night with a plain black cover.  But this morning - I must have been dreaming of Portlandia - I had an inescapable urge to put a bird (or three) (there's another one round the back) on it. 

So I got the spray paint and stencils out and added the birds on a wire....and I'm glad I did as they finish it off nicely.

Happy to report that the bessie approved :)

So - what did she make for me??  The world's cleverest ring, that's what!
There it is, the copper ring in the box, topped with the lovely red lampwork glass bead (made by the bessie herself)

But what makes it super clever is that you can swap the topper around for any of the other four beads, as the ring has a tiny screw set into it, and each of the topper beads encases a tiny nut:


And here's what the ring looks like on (please excuse big splodges of spray paint on my fingers!  They are from the "put a bird on it" frenzy this morning with the journal!)

All in all a most successful gift exchange!  Handmade gifts are better than shop bought ones any day.

Thanks again for the ring bww, I love it!

Sunday, December 25, 2011

My Secret Santa ROCKS!

As I write this post, it's late in the evening of Christmas Day.  We've all eaten FAR too much, of course, and opened tons of fantabulous pressies.

I hope that anyone reading this had a wonderful day just like we did.

Especially my Secret Santa from Carmen's Christmas swap - who has spoilt me rotten!

Not only did whoever-it-is send a lovely, high quality sketchbook (perfect timing as I've just filled up my previous art journal, and haven't gotten round to buying or making a new one yet), a Cadbury's Wish chocolate (I looooooove those!) and a big pack full of fantastic papers and ephemera for arting up.

But she (pretty sure all the participants were shes) also carved me some fantastic little Christmas tree stamps, and - and this was the part of the gift that made me squeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee the loudest - she made me the MOST gorgeous little quilted bag for my journalling pens (seen above modelling my Copic airbrush plus all my most used pens).  This bag is beyond impeccable in its construction - I WISH I could sew like that! - and I love it to bits!

Thank you SO much Santa - one little confession, though.  I set up a movement activated security camera last night by our tree, and, well, you're not so secret any more!  Nice moves ;)

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Scratching out a rainbow bird, or two, or three

This is my latest entry for the Artistic Licence CJ - and the inspirational artist this month is Nikki Monaghan.

Now, I have to admit I had never heard of her before embarking on this circle journal, but I do like her bold, colourful style.

As other entrants in the CJ had already largely covered off her recurrent motifs of patchwork trees and boats:

I decided to choose a slightly less typical "Monaghan" as my inspiration, this one is called "Bird 3":

I love how the bright colours pop against the black background, and I figured even with my distinct lack of drawing skillz, I could probably manage a simple birdie.

I was going to paint the bird or birds first, and then paint all around it in black - but then my creative director (otherwise known as my other half, Jay, who always has the best ideas) said, why not do it like we used to do at school - with coloured wax crayons under black, and then you scratch off the top layer.


Trouble was, I really couldn't get the wax on wax thing working for I experimented a bit with various materials I had to hand, and ended up with a method that seemed to work pretty well.

So just in case any of you would like to try something similar, here's a bit of a step by step.

Step 1 - lay down some lovely BRIGHT colours fairly randomly onto white smooth or glossy cardstock.  I used spray paints, but anything that dries flat and permanent would work well - like alcohol inks/markers for example.

Step 2 - not pictured.  Spray a coat of clear acrylic varnish over the colours to help protect them from the scratchy scratchy bit later on

Step 3 - scribble all over with wax crayon.  As you can see, it doesn't make a good enough top coat to use as is, but it's an important step as it will allow us to lift off our black layer later.  I've used a dark blue crayon here rather than black, as I'm going to be covering it over anyway, and I couldn't find my black crayon :)

Step 4 - cover the wax crayon layer with a thin coat of black gesso if you have it, or black acrylic paint if not.

Step 5 - once the gesso is completely dry, sketch out your design - in my case - 2 birds - in pencil

Step 6 - using a sharp tool of some sort - mine is a stainless steel burnisher used in jewellery making, but anything similar would do - eg the pointy end of a small pair of scissors - scrape off the wax and gesso layers to reveal the colourful paint beneath.  Ahhhhhh.  Purty :)

Leave some of the black showing in places, as this adds to the "woodcut" look

Step 7 - add another coat of clear sealant or matt varnish when you're done

And that's pretty much it.

Here are my birds (I added a third on a whim part way through to balance the composition):

And you can see my finished piece using them, along with some embossed copper leaves, at the top of this blog post.

It was fun to do something in a different style and devise a new twist on an old technique.  If any of you lot do give it a go, please comment with a link so I can some and have a peek.

I'm famous! :) :) :)

There I am, look, in my Canucks jersey (it's my white one, hence it's #17 Kesler, in case you were wondering), and, ummmm, green shorts and bare feet - standard winter wear round here :)

I am immensely proud to have been immortalised in Carol Browne's annual lego advent - I positively squeeeeed when I settled in to read today's episode, and the realisation slowly dawned that the jersey wearer was meeeee, and then again later on in the post when we all (including the cats, and Dave the gnome) sit down to do some art journalling.

Pity Will & Kate couldn't stick around to join in too :)

Thanks Carol, this really made my day :)