Monday, December 12, 2011

Snowflakes in the Round

I'll be the first to admit it- my wreath talent is pretty much nonexistent. The general ideas are there, to be sure, but when they're done, they are just missing too much. So, I've faced the fact that wreaths and I are just not going to be BFFs. We barely know each other and that's that.
So, why do I keep trying?
Wreaths are just so cool, so neat, so simplistically homey. Who doesn't like a wreath?

A few packages of cute snowflakes from the dollar store called my name, with a blank grapevine wreath whispering at me from home. The idea for a Christmas wreath was born.
This is a simple project, and it didn't tax my tired brain so much that I gave up. It was Plain Jane from the start.

To start, I spray painted the wreath white, then added my silver glitter/Mod Podge mixture, just to give it a little more zing.

Adding some tiny snowflakes from a strand of garland to the center of the snowflakes was almost too easy. I cut off the silver strings and put them aside for my homemade tags.

When the glue was dry, I added more glitter to the tiny centers, this time a color more like freshly fallen frozen snow in the early morning sun.
After everything was dry, I placed the snowflakes around the wreath until they looked right. Out came the glue gun. One by one, the snowflakes got glued down. A small length of heavy cord is the hanger. Done!

I know fancy, and this isn't it, but it gets the job done.
And everything came from the dollar store!


Cowland Studio

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Make a Glittered Ornament

the fast and easy way!

Here is what you will need:
      a blank ornament (glass or wood, plastic, or handmade)
      Mod Podge Gloss
      glitter of your choice
      a brush to apply your mixture
      a toothpick to stir your mixture
You can make your own design and transfer it to your ornament, or you can just use your imagination and let the brush go.

Let's get started. Christmas is coming- fast!

Pour some Mod Podge into a small container that has a tight fitting lid, so that you can use  your mixture again. You'll be surprised at all the places you can put a little glitter on to spice up the holiday.

Add some glitter to the Mod Podge. I always use half Mod Podge and half glitter for that full on shiny effect!

Great! Now, stir them together with your toothpick. Does it look like the right consistency to you? Will it be enough? Don't worry. If you don't get the coverage you wanted the first time, wait for it to dry and apply a second coat. It's so easy!

Okay! Before you start to apply your glitter, make sure your ornament is clean. If you are painting on glass, use isopropyl alcohol to wipe it clean and let it dry. That only takes a few minutes. Make sure you don't have any grease on your hands, unless you intend to wear latex gloves. You don't want all your hard work to slide off the glass, now, do you?
If you have a design that you want to paint, transfer it to the ornament. With glass ornaments, I recommend resting the ornament on a soft surface while you are painting, and have something to set it in to dry. Paint small sections at a time. Let it dry (say- 15 minutes), and then paint another section. It might sound tedious, but the end result will make you smile! You'll be glad you put in a little extra time for drying in between painting.

Here's the ornament I started.

The design goes all the way around the glass, and there's room for more around the middle. Don't feel obligated to paint the bottom of the ornament if you don't want to. I don't recall anyone turning them to see what's on the bottom! You're going for effect here. Glitter is the key, and that's what you concentrate on. For a little splash on this one, I used gold metallic for the dots, just for something different and to accent the glitter. Metallic pens work, also. The type of glitter pens I have come right off, so I reserve them for tags and cards.

Mod Podge can tend to be tacky, even after it's dry, but with a half glitter, half MP mixture, I haven't felt any tackiness to worry about, and the glitter hasn't lifted off at all.  A rainbow of color mixtures, all ready to use, line the back of my work desk. And, there are so many places you can use this simple little mixture for some major flashy effects. I put some on a Snowman nightlight. Here's a picture of gold glitter just around the edge of a candle holder.

Once the glitter bug bites, you are all set and ready to go!

And your ornament will look stunning on your tree!

I hope this little post helps you along with your special projects this holiday season. Let me know what you've glitzed up!


Cowland Studio

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

This Doesn't Happen Often...

But, it did just a few days ago. Normally, when I see something in my head, the project comes out almost exactly as I pictured it. Trial and error, experimenting with paints and mediums, and all sorts of other activities can go into something that I've thought of. Thinking of all the in and outs, ups and downs, and major booboos that can happen take up time, often to the point where I just put the project aside and move on. The discarded project will 'float' around in my head. Either I find a way to do it, or I don't.

Usually, I do.

Not so this time. Here's a picture of what I had hoped would look more like an icicle than it does.

Pretty sad, huh?
Ah, well. The hook didn't do what I wanted it to, either. I'll leave it around for a while to remind that not everything I think of is a good idea!

I hope your handmade Christmas ornaments are going well!


Cowland Studio

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Recycling Solves Simple Problems

More and more, I find myself finding uses for items that have already been purchased and used once. Is there another use for the used? Everyone seems to be coming up with some ingenious ideas for things that would ordinarily end up in the landfill, and that's a great happening!

Here is the dish with the stone spray, now sporting a coat of gold metallic glaze.

In a pinch, use it for wrapped candy or shelled nuts. Who doesn't have shelled nuts in a dish hanging around at this time of year? Somehow, without one bristling with nut crackers and picks and shelled walnuts (that no one eats), it's just not the holiday season. Sort of lower case and dull.

We have a love affair with bath soap in this house. The lower ledge of the tub had been filling up with pieces and parts that hadn't made it to the soap sock (made with a real sock!), and the risk of them spilling into the tub had been growing daily. Finding a soap dish to hold all those pieces and parts was a lost cause, and I gave up looking. I didn't want to chance getting a glass dish. None of the plastic bowls suitable for the job matched my bathroom. So, I went into my 'zoning' mode and let my brain sort it out without me.
It finally did.
My stash of gently used, fairly heavy plastic dishes is towering in my studio, filling up an apple tote. One day, I pulled out a round bowl and immediately decided this would make the ideal soap dish for the tub ledge. But, it needed some decoration. There is a narrow dividing wall in my bathroom with a pretty glass panel painted with art nouveau flowers. This design has been in the back of my mind for a long time, and someday I intend to decorate the shower curtain and toothbrush holder with those same flowers.
Why not start now, just to see how it goes?
The 1st step
Matching colors was easy, so I started with the bronze metallic for the petals. Copper metallic was the shading color, with expresso and royal gold for the remaining parts.
Here is the finished soap dish:
Disjointed, I know, but who said I had to follow the flower pattern exactly? There is no clear spray on the tray, so we will see how long it lasts. And who needs more chemicals on their skin? Certainly not me!

This little project isn't recycled, but it wanted to be featured on this post.
I purchased a package of small Christmas sun catchers at the dollar store. They were cute. I didn't already have them. And I knew just what to do to spiff them up.

Cute, aren't they? They came with their own tiny pots of sun catcher paint, but that wouldn't do. Nope. Not for these cuties destined for the bedroom window- to catch the sun!
I used some metallics, but I wanted glitter on them, too. Their window faces south. Enough said. All of my many pots of glitter clutter my work desk right now, and they fit the bill. Using tiny paint pots I had recently bought at the dollar store, I starting mixing. Over the past couple of weeks, I have discovered a few mediums to suspend glitter in, but this time I used Mod Podge Gloss as the medium. Each pot is half MP,  half glitter. More glitter, more bling! They're now ready, sitting on the shelf waiting for decorations to be hung.
It was one of those 'I need to do some no-thinking painting' days, especially after a major disaster with a frosted glass ornament.

Can you guess what this will be?

One hint- the middle piece is cut from an empty milk jug. Note the paper clip.

You'll see the completed project in the next post.


Thursday, November 24, 2011

On Thanksgiving Day

You've raped our Dear Mother,
    degenerate child,
And you've done it for dollars
     with a lie and a smile.
You've poisoned her breath
     and polluted her blood
With your urban erections
     and the scars that you've dug.
In arrogant homage,
     for pillage you pray.
Tell me- who thanks the Red Man
      on Thanksgiving Day?


Is it you, mister banker,
     or your well padded son?
Is it you, mister lawyer,
     for some appreciation?

For the Nations you've leveled,
     for your plastic display-
Just who are you thanking
     on Thanksgiving Day?
                                                                                Copyright 2011 W. D. Ahl

This poem was written by my husband, and given to me as a gift. It is the most profound and moving gift I have ever received.
Thank you, baby. I cherish it always.

Have a wonderful day, everyone!


Cowland Studio

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Experiments and Projects

Clay is fascinating.
Clay is fun.
Clay is frustrating.
But I keep at it. And now with Stroppel Cane on the scene, it doesn't matter how absolutely awful my canes are! They can be put to use in the process called Stroppel Cane, developed by Alice Stroppel. Thank you, Alice! After playing with cane and nearly throwing it at the wall, I tried Alice's method and here is what it looks like:
Right or wrong side
Wrong or right side
When I decide how to apply it, I'll get back to it. Until then, clay is on a vacation, cooling its jets in the cabinet.

Ever since I read a post or two on making stamps, I've been on a journey of experimenting and testing. Pictured next are the finals I have found to be the best for me.
All they need is mounting, which will be on hard packed styrofoam.
Wanting them only for backgrounding, I started going through my millions of designs, both new and from my tattoo artist days. Talk about unlimited! I've drawn my own Native American designs for decades, and they're all compiled in a few file folders neatly tucked away in my file drawer. They'll be wonderful for making leather projects. Here's a little shot of some that are ready to make:
As always- the possibilities are endless...

Sitting still in dialysis is hard on me and very cold for my left arm, so I set about crocheting an arm warmer. After finding my favorite purple shade, I got right to it and finished it in time the next morning for a trial run.
Chaining 30, I used half double crochet stitches across and for all successive rows until the piece reached from my finger tips to elbow.
The hook size- 'J'
Now it's ready to stitch two sides.
A few minutes later, it was done.
The Arm Sock- aka The Purple Flipper.
It works for me.

Hubby likes the Marie Callender meals on those days I'm too tired to cook (bless him!), and I started washing them to keep for anything they might be used for. Who knows? I happened to look at my stock of spray paints, and the Stone Spray caught my eye. Hm. Why not?
Two coats, and here is what it looks like now:
It seems to want something more, so I think I'm going to try a gold metallic varnish over the spray. What do you think? Any suggestions? I'm open.

Working on a Christmas order, I got to the point where I had to wait for paint to dry, so I decided to see what could be done for Christmas tags. Grabbing some leftover recycled paper from a card I made, the contoured (?) scissors went to work. Only two of the four I bought work well enough to use, but all four were only a dollar, so no complaints here! I had just picked up a tiny snowflake punch, so it went to work, too. This is what I whipped up in five minutes:
It's a start. The labels I designed will be put to use on this end. Don't you love double duty?

Not long ago, I came up with a simple process of applying glitter. It's been under evaluation for about two months now, and it hasn't lost any glitter or shine. Finally!! Something simple and fairly cheap to use on ornaments. It also works on fabric, because I tested it there, also. Can you guess what I'll use on my two new purple Tshirts?
So, here is a start on an ornament I'm working on. It's more or less experimental, as I'm testing graphite papers for transfers. I'm looking for the easiest way to transfer a design and have the lines disappear during the painting process, even if I'm using transparent paint. So far, it looks like the grey graphite paper, when traced very lightly, is the winner. Take a look:
Click the picture to enlarge to see the detail.
And so, experimenting goes on and on. I don't think I'll ever exhaust all the possibilities in my studio. There are so many things to paint on and so many things to paint with! And I love it.

Today is cookie day for me- great grandma's Soft Molasses Cookies are on the menu. Then, I need to take some pictures, now that my old Singer and Shiny Brites are here. How did we accumulate so many boxes of Christmas stuff? Really- it was a truck load!

The sun is out.


Cowland Studio

Sunday, October 30, 2011

A Leather Story

This picture is slightly blurry, but it's of my favorite bag. It's deerskin and painted by yours truly, and there are no machine stitches holding it together. Only deerskin lacing and knots do that. I added an antler button on the shoulder strap, enabling it to become a waist pouch in a flash. I like to wear this at the county fair. It frees up my hands, takes weight off my shoulder, and shows off my work! You just can't beat that!

The next two leather shields I picked up at a dollar store. The leather was blank and cried for an image, so I painted my own interpretations of Kokopelli on them. They and a handful of dream catchers grace to walls of our hallway.

Luckily, there's been a long stretch between birthdays, Halloween is tomorrow and the decorations are done. Now, it's time to figure out what to do for my Mother's birthday. This is always a very tough nut to crack. I like to make it a personal gift- not like Christmas where almost anything goes. So, this year I decided to try something different. I'd make her a card. How hard could it be?
Thinking fast, I picked some recycled paper from a sketch book I had in my 'go' bag. This is a beautiful, almost paper bag-ish color, mixed with delicate fibers throughout. It would lend itself well to the delicate lettering I wanted to use. I have about 700 fonts at hand, but I knew just the right one, and it didn't have to be enlarged. We're cookin'.
I won't bore you with details, but the card came out fairly well. At least I think so. I used only metallics on the design and lettering, which complimented the paper nicely. Here's the card:
The design is mine. Lettering, not.
 Now for the gift.
Mom reads alot. I do, too. So does my sister and my husband. Books are either at my house or hers. We're constantly juggling them back and forth. Our favorite authors write 'The People of' series. Superb reading. The next book-switch is coming up soon, and that thought led me to an old leather coat I recycle by making small pouches, earrings, whatever is needed at the time. That leather circled back to the book, and a leather bookmark would be the gift. I know she needs one. And I've made them before.
I started off with this piece:
This is a trial run. To see what I could do.
Pardon me, but I used someone else's art as a guide for this bookmark. There was no way to draw and transfer it to the leather, so it was freehand all the way. The progression of pictures show it's evolution.

This was all play while my mind was bouncing around ideas for Mom's bookmark. Her design just popped out of my hand to the brush, from the brush to the leather. I looked up and saw this out my studio window-

As is the first one, this bookmark is freehand. Nothing fancy or ornate. A bookmark serves a purpose and needs to be durable. What better than leather? And why not make it nice to look at?
Here's the progression of pictures to show it's creation:

Stopping here, I wanted to come up with something different, so I started trimming the leather. Rectangular is fine. It's predictable. My scissors seemed to naturally glide around the flowers and leaves. The bottom became the bottom of a leaf. A little more...
Gold metallic did the trick, and it was the same color I used on the card. Bingo! Out in the mail it will go to reach her on time. Happy Birthday, Mom! I love you.

Meanwhile, it's still snowing! Somehow, Halloween decorations and snow just don't mix!


Sunday, October 16, 2011

When Did October Get So Busy?

Geez. October. Half Over. Sounds like a sad country song. And since when did it get so busy and go so fast I can't get caught up? When the garden was in full swing, October was canning month. Not so in our new place. Not much grows in clay and rocks. The deer like the produce, but I do not. But, at least the apples put in a good show this year. Enough lamenting.

My Halloween projects are coming to a close, finally. I've loved making each and every one of them. If the weather holds, I will set up the front porch on Tuesday, adding a few more embellishments during the next two weeks. I put the skull on hold when the Bead People sent in the swat team to wake me up. Now, these little creatures have taken over the work desk in full force. And I've let them. Yes, indeed. May I present them to you?

The next three are here, with three more enroute to my location. They range in personality like we humans, but don't like to travel much after they've landed on their chosen perch. But, their numbers are dwindling due to lack of water and proper food. Their lifelines have been cut, so they need a place to call home for the rest of their short lives. They want to have fun, make people smile, and watch the pretty leaves blowing around in the cool air. Lighting, to them, can be soft or brilliantly glaring- it's all the same.
All this they have told me as they materialize into our world for their last hurrah.

Today is a day that I am looking forward to, if only for the scenery on the road north. The Transplant Seminar is this afternoon and I must attend this meeting if I am to complete everything needed to be done before a kidney transplant. And if I don't do it now, I'll have to wait until spring next year when the weather clears. So today is the right time. The tourist trade has slowed down enough to allow my husband the day off. He will be the one to handle things if a transplant does happen and must be there for this seminar. Things are getting complicated, but I'm managing to hold it all together so far. My artwork, constant experiments, this blog, and Bill all contribute to the brain power I need (both left and right!). I'm bringing my camera in case I see anything interesting, which I probably will considering we haven't taken this route in many long, long years. I love watching the scenery, don't you?

I must cut this post off early. It's time to be getting ready. My coffee is tasting mighty good this morning, too! Breakfast, as always, was yummy and healthful with lots of protein.
Anyway, I will be posting again soon.

Have a wonderful day. Get your nose in the air and fill it with all the fabulous scents of Fall.
The 's' word comes all too soon.


Saturday, October 8, 2011

First Frost, a New Tool, and Our Extended Family

The first frost here in central New York State effectively put the gardens to sleep until next year. As a matter of fact, it was closer to a freeze than a frost. Everything was crunchy. It was expected. It always comes this time of year. The leaves left on the trees will now start falling like this summer's rain- not gently, but in buckets. And on my calender, Christmas is tomorrow. At least it feels that way. Apples are landing like bombs on the porch roof, creating a growing puddle beneath their trees. I found out that now is not the time to try to pick them unless you want to do the whirly-legged dance like a cartoon character! The fallen ones are round, and they roll if you step on them, and you can't help but step on them if you come near a tree. But, at least it smells great outside. The last hurrah before the 's' word starts.

After much reading, thinking, experimenting, and frustration, I have finally figured out how to make my own stamps. There are times when I need a certain something for backgrounding, and many times a little stamping would work to fill in backgrounds, or embellish a border. You get the idea. Now that the stamp problem was solved, I needed a tool to apply the paint to the stamp. Brayers are commonly used, but I didn't want to buy one, and really didn't feel it would suit my purposes. So, I decided to make my tool.
Tools, for me, are fairly easy to make. I've made them for many years. I even trim my brushes for certain paint applications (tedious). Thinking about the different types of foam I have collected, I decided to use a dollar store foam kneeling pad. Here is how the assembly starts:

This type of foam is fabulous for rounding its own edges when it's cut with a pair of scissors. No trimming at all. The foam does not suck up paint, so clean up is easy and fast. You are able to apply the exact amount of paint you need on the stamp. If you need to use a different color, you can wipe off the applicator and go on without muddying up the next color.
Next, trim your foam, making sure you leave it long enough to insert your handle and insure stability. Use your craft knife to make a slit in the foam, just wide enough to hold the handle snugly.

Put the nozzle of your glue bottle down into the slit and gently squeeze in some glue.

Then insert your handle. Be careful not to push too far- just far enough for stability, but not so far the bottom and edges of the foam are distorted. That area should stay flat for proper paint application.

Let the glue dry and you're done!
The wonder of this foam is that you can cut it into any shape to fit any occasion. Size is up to you. They are so quick and easy, you can have a few done in about five minutes. And they can be used in other ways- not just for stamping. For example, I have a handful of them in different sizes for dotting tools, placed on the ends of dowels. I've also used them for shaping clay. They're cheap to make, easy to use and clean, and most of all- you make them!! How awesome is that? Go ahead. I'll wait while you make some...

Our extended family came close enough to the house to get some pretty good pictures. I thought you might enjoy seeing them.
This is 'Momma'. She had twins this year. Her grown daughter had a baby and then adopted an orphan (Orf), so at any given time I've got 4 kids running around the yard!
 She's sniffing the new bird feeder! It seemed to fascinate her.
Momma was right outside the kitchen window.
Here's one of the twins in the front yard, very close to the front porch.
And here are the twins at the porch, wading through the pool of apples!

Aren't they cute? They've gotten so big and have lost their spots. I hope they stay in the area and come back with their own babies. Here, we humans are IN the zoo! I swear they like to watch us through the windows. With a parting camera shot, I must say TOODLES for now.

Eat lots of apples!