Monday, September 29, 2014

The Meta Blog...OR a Blog about a Blog

This past week I took advantage of my unemploymentness and headed down to NYC for some great food, great sites, and some fantastic time with friends. I spent a lot of time with the coolest art-girl on the block (aka I slept on her couch). I hung out in the studio working on my new website (coming soon!) while she worked on her Art Journaling Everyday video. 

Julie is adjusting her camera and checking the battery life. The camera is on a long arm attached to her tripod.

I thought you might like to see some of the magic behind the scenes. These pictures are a little dark but I wanted you to see how a great blogger sets up her studio for filming. Her room isn't terribly bright when she's working normally so she has set up a great set of task lights around the room so that she can see whether she's painting, filming, or making some other beautiful creation.

All ready to tape. Note the great lights Julie sets up for a well-lit video
For this blog, Julie is taping a time lapse video of her working on a journal page. I can tell you, she doesn't know what it's going to look like before she gets started. I think you can learn a lot about art by watching videos like this. It's like watching her brain on fast forward. 

Julie dripping ink down a page.

Here Julie is playing with some new inks (I think they were called IZINK.) Because she had never used them before, she didn't know exactly how they would work, but that didn't stop her. If you follow her blog, you can really gain some great tips on how to experiment fearlessly. It's just a journal page, right?

It's good to be tall--I took this on my tip toes so you can see the camera set up. Julie can look up at the camera screen at any time to make sure she's capturing exactly what she wants.
Here Julie is contemplating the face and the details. Note how the woman she is journaling has curly hair?

See more photos and the time-lapse video on Julie's blog.

Here is the page after--no more curly hair. I love the yellow pops on her face and the red dots in her hair. I don't think you could plan something like this out. Everyone loves taking classes from Julie but  I love how she teaches people to be themselves in their art making. Be unique. Be brave. Be experimental.

Dim Sum in Chinatown with Julie, Nathalie Kalbach, and Birgit (not Brigit) Koopsen.

And when you're all done...go out for Dim Sum!

Hope you enjoyed this look behind the scenes! What does your "photo or video set up" look like?

Monday, September 22, 2014

My 50 Shades of Gray and Green and Blue

If you haven't had a chance to watch Episode 101 of The Mixed-Media Workshop yet, here is the video. You can watch more episodes at the subscription site

In this episode, I was showing off some RIT dyeing methods to Julie. Since then, I've been dyeing to experiment with more things to colorize. I needed to dye a pair of purple tights to a purple-black ombre for my daughter's Comic Con costume (Check that out in an upcoming post!) so I grabbed a few other things to play with.
  • Orange polyester ribbon (accordion folded with a binder clip)
  • Teal embroidery floss (wrapped in a loop and then bound with waxed linen thread)
  • White pom-pom fringe
  • Plastic faux rhinestone trim
  • Ivory vintage grosgrain ribbon

Photo of items ready to dye
Ready to dye!
Each item got a little different treatment but each started with getting a warm water bath first.
Next, I mixed hot water with dye--all different ratios but I used more than the bottle suggested.

The ivory ribbon is pretty wide so I rolled it up loosely and then just put it in about an inch of dye bath. You can see in this picture that the wet ribbon is wicking up the dye out of the bath.

The Mixed Media Workshop Video

The tights were the most complicated and required a very technical set up (a wire hanger). I tied the toes together and let it hang into the dye bath. I wanted to create an ombre so I dipped them a little extra in the bath and then immediately pulled some out of the bath. Once again, I was taking advantage of the wicking technique.

For the pom-poms, I just used a lid of a plastic takeout container and a little of the water/dye mixture and then carefully set them in the dye. These guys started wicking immediately.

And then the orange ribbon was dunked one end in to hopefully get a cool striped effect. (Remember, I had accordion folded the ribbon.)

And this is the final result.
  • The tights came out more navy than black but will serve their purpose. 
  • The pom-pom fringe, once it was washed, is a very interesting blue, green, and gray combo. 
  • The vintage ivory ribbon is probably my favorite, as it really is about 50 shades of gray. 
  • The teal ribbon ended up having a undyed core once I removed the waxed linen thread. 
  • The rhinestones have a magenta tint to them now.
  • And the orange ribbon? Didn't dye at all. Still orange. I noticed after the fact that the cardboard roll said 100% polyester.

So what did I learn? A lot! Here's my list:

  • Unless you really don't care how dark it goes, leave it in longer - be patient.
  • Try the floss again but scrunch it up differently and wrap it more.
  • Don't use polyester. (I knew that but forgot to check).
  • I still want to try the folding technique that didn't work with the orange ribbon.
  • I'm going to try to dye my own tights.
  • Some things dye like the old coffee filter science experiment where the colors separate.

Friday, September 19, 2014

You got your Stencils in my Stamps!

I was reading a great blog post by my art partner in crime, Julie Fei-Fan Balzer this week and I just loved it. She wrote it to kick off a week of stenciling so you'll want to check out this post (click on the photo), and every post for the whole week. She even challenged her readers to share their cool stencil techniques in a quest blog.

 Picture from Julie Balzer's blog
Click on the photo to read and subscribe to Julie's blog!

Which got me thinking. What haven't I tried with stencils yet? (I love a challenge!) I immediately thought of carved stamps. I actually couldn't wait to try it out and see what I could come up with this morning. So here is what I came up with:

I used Julie's small cloud stencil (by The Crafter's Workshop), and carving supplies from Speedball.
Next I traced the reversed of the stencil with a permanent pen so that it's easy to see.
Thickening the inside of the line gives me a strong bold look to start with.

I like to go around my stamp first with the smallest v carving blade. This gives me a "safety" zone.

I started carving away the center of the stamp until I got the semi-woodcarver look I was going for. I kept checking it with my stamp pad until I was satisfied.
I used my watercolor paper from this post for the background and stenciled light clouds with white acrylic paint.

You can just barely see the clouds...but just you wait!
I gave the clouds a squirt of Dylusions spray ink by Ranger. (Maybe, too much!)

Next, I quickly wiped over the piece with a baby wipe and the clouds resist the ink!
And now it's time to stamp! I cut my stamp down to exactly the same shape of the stencil so that I could easily line it up. I also cut it a little smaller than the stencil shape so it would be easy to get it all registered.
This piece really reminded me of one of MY favorite things...sunshowers. So I used white Enamel accents by Ranger and a  pin to make glossy, 3-D raindrops and then layered white and orange PanPastels in the upper corner and used a pencil eraser to erase some definition in the rays.

And here is the finished happy sun shower!
Are you motivated by challenges like I am? Are you planning on making something this weekend? Dinner, baking, artwork, art journaling, art quilt, or something else? If you're stuck, think about what two items in your arsenal you haven't put together in a while and see what ideas come from the pair-up.

If you've had great learning successes or even failures from your pair-ups, let me know! I'd love to hear what a fellow challenge-lover has done!

Have a great weekend!

Monday, September 15, 2014

How to make an animated GIF for your blog! And 5 reasons to try!

Bindi Jumps for Beggin' Strips - A furry animated GIF

Today I'm sharing a quick and easy tech HOW-TO!
"Uh, Jenn, why are you going all tech on us?" you ask.
Because I'm on a mission to keep you all young and hip. I know you are either a teenager, or you have one in your life who you would like to think that you're not obsolete. Am I right?

You may have caught Friday's blog post where I needed an animated GIF to show a Thaumatrope business card in motion. It only took me a few minutes to figure it out and I knew I wanted to share the process with you as soon as possible. My apologies to the non-iOS users, this is a how-to on an iPhone. There are hundreds of ways to make animated gifs, if you don't have an iPhone, I recommend you take 30 minutes to give it a try on your Android or other smart phone app.

First, let me take a second to share a little extra knowledge about the .gif file format. I have always pronounced it (even from art school) with a hard g, but it actually is supposed to be pronounced like the peanut butter (JIFF). Here's the proof. But, I'm not going along without a gripe or two.

Why should you make an animated gif for your blog or website? I'm so glad you asked! Here is my list of 5 reasons to try making a .GIF:

  1. You'll learn something new and you'll be a little smarter
  2. You can show a technique like folding paper or hand stitching in a loop for your reader
  3. You can have fun showing something in fast or slow motion
  4. The draw attention to something specific in your blog with motion.
  5. Sharing GIFs can go viral in social media

Are you ready to try? Here are the directions. Read them then turn a short video into a gif and post it! tag it #MakingGifs. I can't wait to see them all!

To get started, I downloaded the FREE 5secondsapp (@5secondsapp) from the iTunes App store.

Then I wanted to shoot a quick video. Bindi, the Wonder Pup, said I should definitely shoot her getting some Beggin' Strips.

Clip of Bindi in motion

The whole clip in my photo stream.

Tap the Camera button to get this
options. Choose Video from
Your clip may be too long. If so
you'll get this warning. Move the
yellow slider to adjust the section.

Once you have the slider
where you want, tap Choose.

The app will then trim the video.

Then the app will convert it.

There are multiple editing options
along the bottom of the screen.
First tap at the top to add a title.

Like this.
Note the speed change along the
bottom, too. That can make
a crazy jumping dog!

Then use the crop square option
 and crop the video to where
the action is.

Now you can share or save it.

Mail it to your friends!

Friday, September 12, 2014

Sharing the Love - Looking for Artists and Makers!

My slowly growing collection of Tilla Rodemann Pottery and business cards!

If you follow me on Facebook, you may have read my recent post about my ways to use dry cleaner bags. One of my very talented artist friends, Tilla Rodemann mentioned that she could use my extra bags for her ceramic work and, by the way, would I like to see her new business card since I had also just posted this post on calling cards vs. business cards.

Of course I said, YES! and this is the little surprise she brought to my door this morning!

See the chickens IN the cup? 

Tilla created these cards based on an optical illusion called a Thaumatrope from a site called She created the Thaumatrope with a lot of trial and error. (She didn't divulge her secrets to me but I know it required twisting and plying the very nice string that she used. She says she enjoys just sitting and working on these kinds of projects in her free time and I'm sure it's worth it! I know I'll be hanging on to my copy of Tillda's card for a long time--and isn't that what we all want?

Which brings me to the point of today's blog...
My 5 years of working for Interweave and Cloth Paper Scissors (a branch of FW, a content and ecommerce company) has really shown me how much I love to share what I know about artists and makers, and their extremely innovative lives, techniques, and projects with others. I don't think this blog can continue without you all! I don't want it to!

If you keep a blog and would love to have me follow you, and perhaps occasionally write about one of your posts, be it a project, a class, a video, a book, or some other wonderful accomplishment. Please leave your blog address in the comments section and I will add you on my super special list of people to feature. That's all you have to do. If I fall in love with a post, I will use one photo from said blog to link from my blog back to your blog and will add my own additional thoughts, ideas, or insight. I'll also be sure to let you know I'm talking about you so you can share it if you feel so inclined. Please note that my blog is a place of positivity so only good can happen here!

Thanks to all of you for a great 5 years working with you, I couldn't have done it without you and I look forward to helping you all continue to grow and thrive in any way possible.

So share the love and leave your blog URL in the comments if you're interested!

p.s. If something super special has come up that you don't want me to miss (like an upcoming event), you're always welcome to email me! with SUPER SPECIAL LIST in the subject and I'll do what I can. 

Happy Friday All!

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Mini Collage Magnets with Adopted Ancestors

Some of you may know that I wrote a book called Art of the Family Tree. I am a lover of genealogy and I really enjoy looking through old photos at flea markets. I call my photos "Adopted Ancestors". I think it's a bit ironic that I don't have the same kind of photos of my family, but I do have really great photos of other people's family.

So these little magnets came about after I collected a bunch of teeny tiny little photos that were sweet and interesting but not terribly useful for a collage.

I found these magnet at an office supply store and thought they'd be perfect for little collages. I also love to collect interesting old books to use for text. I really enjoy reading and skimming through books looking for the right words to tell my story. I think it's too easy if you can just type up something like BELIEVE or SPREAD YOUR WINGS. I like the search.
I'm sure just by looking at these, you can see how easy it was to put these together. A correctly sized circle punch would make it even easier!  Simply cut your circle, and adhere it to the magnet with gel medium or matte medium. Add your text if desired and let dry before you start hanging up your shopping list with it!

Of course, if adopted ancestors is not your thing, here is a list of other great art you could add to make your own set of magnetic beauties.

  • Scraps from gelatin prints
  • Hand-printed fabric
  • Carve a circle stamp and print it on paper
  • decorative paper
  • Glitter and Ice Resin (prop it level with lentils or rice while drying)
  • Little mini-circle quiltlets
What would you put on one of these? I'm excited about getting some of the small pieces to use with scraps of my art work! If you make some, be sure to post your pictures and let me know!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

5 Ways to Creatively Upcycle Dry Cleaner Bags in Your Art Space

I'm a pretty good recycler but I'm not as good at upcycling. Whenever I do find a great idea, I just have to share it. I also love a challenge. I like to take an art supply or a tool and come up with a whole bunch of new ways to use it. Some people would find that weird, I call it a hobby. So, when faced with a pile of dry cleaner bags from my husband's side of the closet, I decided to take it on as a full-fledge challenge.

Dry cleaner bags have a couple of problems. 1. the plastic is very thing and can rip easily. 2. they have a hole in both ends so they can't be used as a bag. So what can you use them for? Lots of things! I came up with 5 quick ideas for using them in an art space, but I'm sure you'll come up with even more ideas.

Here's my list:
Texture tool (I used it for gelatin printing.)
Resist tool
Non-porous surface
Brush saver


Roll out some Golden Artists Colors fluid acrylic paints on a Gelli or gelatin plate with a brayer. Here I used the brayer to blend the two colors to make a nice ombre effect.


Next, crumple up a piece of the bag and then press it into the wet paint, working quickly. Move from the light color to the dark and back again.


Then it's time to print. Place a piece of paper on the printing plate, apply overall pressure and lift up!


Finished print with Dry Cleaner Bag Texture


Paint a piece of water color paper with water and then a wash and spray or splotches of paint. While the paint is still wet, spread out a piece of dry cleaner bag and scrunch it up a little so create interesting resist sections. Let the paper dry completely and then remove the bag to reveal the resist.


Finished Paper with Resist
Non-porous surface

Use tape to secure a piece of dry cleaner bag to a piece of cardboard. Make sure it's nice and taught. Use a palette knife to spread a thin but not transparent layer of paint on the fully covered side of the board. Let dry completely to create a acrylic skin for use in painting or collage.



Acrylic skin ready to peel and use.

Brush saver

Don't let your brushes dry up. Just wrap it tightly in a small piece of dry cleaner bag until you can come back to your work. This is great in the studio but also for house painting. Use a larger piece wrapped around a paint roller and one laid over a paint tray to keep it from drying out when you need to take a break.

Brush Saved!
And last but not least...a Dropcloth!
 What other ideas can you think of to upcycle your garbage into your next favorite tool?