TJ Fox On Redbubble: Photo/Art Prints And Fun Products

One of my most recent and ongoing projects has been setting up a Redbubble store. The goal was to have a place to offer prints of many of the photos I post here, but there are so many other cool things you can get from them as well.

This is ongoing because I still have a ton of photos to get modified and uploaded, but I’ve gotten a small start. You can now find prints and more in the TJ Fox Redbubble Store. I plan to get some art and design style pieces mixed in along with the photos as well (only a couple at the moment), but those are going to take just a bit longer.

So yes, you can get photo prints in all the typical shapes, sizes and formats: art prints, framed prints, canvas, cards, etc. But you can also get other fun stuff as well.

And these are just a tiny sampling. There are SO many more items.

Oh and masks! Did you see the fun masks?!

Funky Flowers On Green Mask
Funky Flowers On Green Mask

Even though I ended up with all the trials and mistakes on the masks I made for everyone else and I already have a good size stash, I know I’m going to still have to get a couple of these. I love the fact that I can wear my personality and my art in such a way.

I think that was part of my issue with Fine Art America when I tried them. While they offered a lot of fun stuff, there weren’t a lot of things I’d actually want myself. I’m not finding that an issue on Redbubble, which is probably unfortunate.

There are even puzzles!! And yes, I’m evil enough to make that repeating pattern from the mask above into a puzzle.

End of an Iris Puzzle
End of an Iris Puzzle

And if there is ever something I’ve posted here on my blog that you’d like to see in the store and isn’t, please feel free to send me a note and I’ll do what I can to get it out there for you. I do currently have a long list of images I intend to upload, but I’ll bump any requests to the top of my to do list.

I’d also be willing to discuss any custom art or art for a specific product if you like the idea of something but aren’t finding a design or image you love.

Please take a few minutes to go browse all the other awesomeness that’s in the shop. Feel free to brag about that awesomeness to others and share the link until someone yells at you for spamming (or not, don’t want you to get into trouble).

All the love that is spread is greatly appreciated!

Elongation

I spent the majority of my day yesterday going through the 150+ photos I took of MC and making necessary edits. I’m still not quite ready to send them off for prints as I still have to go through them and decide which ones I’m getting for his final “package” of senior photos. I’m hoping to get that done today and crossed off my project list so I can start on getting a few others marked off as well.

I had played around with another project before I did his photo shoot. It’s started, but I still have a whole lot I want to get done, sooner rather than later, so that’s next up on my list.

Sadly, or maybe not, that project list is ever evolving and growing as it is my creative project list more than anything. I think I’ve taken it a bit to the extreme as I’ve set up an MS Excel workbook to keep track of it all. I have a sheet in there for my list and then additional sheets for the bigger, more detailed projects and all the ideas and pieces that go along with it.

It is kind of a hilarious example of how incredibly organized I can get and how utterly contradictory I can be at the exact same time because so many other things in my life are the antithesis of organized. Organized chaos is really the theme for my life.

Dance Masks

And… they are frickin’ DONE!

I absolutely love them, but they were a bear and a half. I broke/bent 5 of the 6 needles I had originally thought I’d had. Right before I started sewing yesterday I wanted to have the others on hand but couldn’t remember where I put them and ran across a couple more packages while I was hunting. It relieved a whole lot of stress when I did, but I still panicked when I managed to mangle two of them back to back early on.

Working with the sequins material was a pain because of the needle issue and I had to go so slow over the thicker areas making it take longer. These also produced a lot of fuzz  and dropped a ton of sequins making me stop and clean out the bobbin area a couple of times.

Between the issue with the needles, having to stop to coat the needle to try and prevent that issue and the stops to do a little cleaning, I think I was having to hit pause about every 5 masks.

I had expected a more solid sequins material when I ordered it, but it is really transparent and the cream lining shows through. While I still think it is an amazing look, I’m extremely lucky that it still works with the costumes or I’d have been up a creek.

When I went to bag these up, my heat sealer shorted out and died on me as well. I had to yet again get creative to solve the problem. I don’t think I’ve ever been so grateful to have an iron.

These will be getting handed off this afternoon with the full understanding that there is a very big chance that almost no dancer will actually choose to wear one on stage since it isn’t required. I’m okay with that. If by chance even one chooses to, then I’ve helped. If someone decides it is just really pretty and opts to wear it off stage or anywhere else, then I’ve helped.

It would be stunning if the entire group loved them so much they wanted to wear them on stage (they really would look amazing even if it is SO different), but this is reality and the chances of that are sitting down near zero.

BG really likes it and is strongly considering wearing hers on stage. I’m overjoyed that I’ve been able to give her something to make her feel better about making that decision if she does go that way.

Yes, it was a whole lot of effort and stress for the end result, but every single tiny bit helps and I’m okay with that.

June: Month Of The DNF

Lately, I’ve been doing more of a month end followup with a listing of books I’d recommend from the month rather than packing the month with reviews. Not for June.

June kind of crystallized why I’ve been changing all of my book blogging and reviewing habits lately, including stepping down from the staff position at Envie! Magazine. Something is shifting for me.

Last month, I had 6 DNFs. That is more books in one month I didn’t finish than in the entirety of 2018 and almost half of my total for last year. In one month. And I’ve already added one to that so far in July and we are only on day 3.

What I did read and finish, I mostly wasn’t loving. They weren’t awful, but I just wasn’t as into them as I thought I’d be. Including books from authors I’d thoroughly enjoyed in the past. I found that new peeves are peaking their heads out and partying with my old peeves, making a nasty mess of an awful lot of books lately.

Apparently, I just need something different from my reading. Something I’m not getting and, at the moment, don’t even know what that something is. It is frustrating beyond belief. At the same time, I’m not looking at it as an entirely bad thing.

I know that a portion of that (only a small portion) is feeling a bit burned out at the “required” part of reading that I was starting to feel. Between having to have a review every month for the magazine (a positive review, mind you), the deadlines to get any NetGalley reviews completed and the personal push to post reviews on the majority of books I read, I over did it. And it’s not the first time. You’d have thought I learned the last time.

I needed the reminder and that is why I don’t see this weird state as so much a bad thing as it is an opportunity for me to shift my focus. I need to get back to why I was writing about books in the first place, writing about them because I felt like I actually had something to say, good or bad, and not just writing about a book because I read it.

One thing I’ve learned along the way is that as cool as it is to get books ahead of release day via NetGalley, I’d much rather have the official version rather than the not-always-clean ARC version. That peeve about not great editing or mistakes is amplified when you combine it with imperfect or non-existent formatting (definitely not all books from there are this way, but many have been). It makes it really hard to look past sometimes and just get to the story. And that is ultimately all I’m really after anyway, the story.

The other piece to this is when I get like this, not feeling all that satisfied with the books I’m reading, something else seems to spike in its place. It seems like this time it is going to be the drive to be really creative, in a number of ways. The photos are absolutely still a huge focus, but I want to try and dig a little deeper into them. I’ve also really been loving spending a lot of my time in my studio, whether it has been working on the masks or any number of smaller, “fix it” kind of projects.

Hubby and I have talked about actually finishing out that space. The lighting is atrocious. Any effort to rectify that will require a lot of other kinds of work, so might as well go all the way. With that in mind, I’ve been brainstorming what my ideal craft room/studio space would actually look like rather than a couple of random, crappy free standing cabinets on bare concrete floors and walls with an equally crappy folding table with probably a dozen storage bins in different locations across the basement holding all the various different bits of fabrics, yarn, and I’ve forgotten what all else that didn’t make it into said cabinets. The only really great thing I have in there is my workbench, which creates all kinds of other difficulties.

All that just means that I’m going through a shift. Where all the crafty, creative stuff has taken a backseat to the books the last few years, it may be going the other way for a while. I’m still not sure.

I want to spend some time trying to come up with a plan for my studio that is doable without being too much. Enough that I don’t feel like I have to put protective sheets over every surface to keep the cat hair, dust and pesky multi-legged creatures out of my space and make it more functional and appealing to spend time in. I want to spend more time there doing the creative bits and not the clearing things off so I can work bits, or the hunting down the materials bits.

I want to do that and still read, but I’m needing to rebalance my time. All those DNFs just managed to drive it home that it’s past time. I have a list of projects I want to work on or that I’ve considered. As soon as I get through recital next week, assuming I survive the stress, I’m going to start working on prioritizing and planning. And, hopefully, getting creative.

 

 

Yesterday’s Project: Laptop Bag

Apparently working on all those masks inspired me to keep sewing. Also apparently, making 35+ masks wasn’t ambitious or challenging enough, I had to find a project even more difficult and time consuming.

I had been thinking about getting a bag for the new laptop (which finally came!!) when I ordered it. My old computer was too big for any standard laptop bag and I didn’t bother trying to find one that would fit because it was rare I took it anywhere. Bigger does not always mean better and my old one was heavy and way too big for comfort even if the larger screen was awesome. My new one is smaller and so much more versatile, I knew I’d want to take it with me, especially for those times I’m having to sit at dance, so I needed something to carry it in.

I considered making something when one of my items showed up with some foam padding around it, but it turns out that was too small to work. The idea of doing one myself stuck with me though and I spent the rest of the time until it finally arrived working on trying to figure out how to make something that was also padded enough to give it some protection.

Something clicked and I remembered an old insulated bag I used to use when the kids were playing baseball years ago. It was one of those “potentially useful” things that I couldn’t force myself to get rid of even though I probably would never use it again. I’m glad I held on to it, because it was perfect!

Laptop Bag: Insulated Bag To Re-purpose
Laptop Bag: Insulated Bag To Re-purpose

I had fun ripping this apart to get to all the pieces I needed. It also made it easier to wash everything before I used it because baseball grime was not the aesthetic I was aiming for in this project.

Laptop Bag: Insulated Bag Broken Into Usable Parts
Laptop Bag: Insulated Bag Broken Into Usable Parts

At first, I thought I’d use almost all of what came out of the bag except the outer printed fabric. I ended up using the black fabric that had been the outer base of the bag, most of the foam insulating pieces, one of the strap webbing pieces and the zipper. The rest didn’t work for this project or was more than I needed.

I didn’t have a pattern, so I looked at some bags online that I liked and made a few modifications, then traced my laptop on craft paper. After adding room for the seam, a little extra and then tossing in another inch or so “just in case” (SO glad I did because things fit with just a tiny bit of extra room, so any less may have been too much less), I used that for the starting point and made a pattern of my own with the plan for the finished piece.

All of the fabric I used is fabric I had on hand. There wasn’t a single piece of this project that I had to buy. I even did the edging material on my own instead of going and getting bias tape.

Laptop Bag: Cut Out Pieces & Midway Point
Laptop Bag: Cut Out Pieces & Midway Point

All of the main layers are padded. The main outer pieces have the foam from the insulated bag, including the narrow sides. The main outside pockets (one on each side) and the inner divider have a layer of blanket batting. The only pockets that don’t have any padding at all are the two smaller outside pockets.

Laptop Bag: Finished Inside
Laptop Bag: Finished Inside
Laptop Bag: Finished With Goodies Shown
Laptop Bag: Finished With Goodies Shown

I have room in this for almost everything that I’d drag with me to sit at dance with the exception of my camera. I can easily fit my laptop, my tablet, my phone and any number of other things in here. Pockets are amazing! And I made sure to have plenty.

I have never done a project that was this complex. It really pushed my problem solving abilities to the max trying to figure out how to get all the pieces together and keep clean, finished seams on the inside in all places. Turns out, it is absolutely impossible to do that in its entirety on a sewing machine.

I had to do the last main seam by hand and it ran the outer edge from the zipper, along the base and sides and up to the other side of the zipper. By hand. I absolutely despise sewing by hand. There would be way more nudist colonies if we were still forced to sew our own clothes by hand. I’m absolutely certain of that fact.

Getting that zipper to curve over the corner and down the side was a massive challenge as well. So was trying to get ALL those layers sewn together and not have any slip and get missed. I think I pushed the max sewing depth on my machine with this project.

Laptop Bag: Finished Back
Laptop Bag: Finished Back

Even though this was a massive challenge and a pain… literally, my fingers feel beaten up and bruised today!! … I’m insanely pleased with how well this turned out. I’m kind of shocked at how well I managed to not only create a pattern that would work, but pulled off some of the kinds of details I did, like those “pleats” that give the small outer pockets extra depth. Not only did I figure out how to make it work, but I manage to actually get it to work. It is so rare that what is in my head comes out the way I expect or hope!

It took about two days start to finish. This is so not perfect and there are quite a few little goofs, but they are all so minor. Even my horrid hand stitching doesn’t look too horrid. I am so happy with this. I won’t EVER do one again, but… I’m so happy with this!

Laptop Bag: Finished
Laptop Bag: Finished

I learned a few things from this and the mask making project. One was a well needed reminder of how much I love sewing and I really miss doing it. I also learned that I have a decent handle on creating and/or modifying patterns, though this was really more of another reminder because it is rare that I do a sewing project and not modify the pattern at least a little.

Another? I WAY over buy fabric when I’m working on a sewing project. I have so much extra scrap fabric, and bigger pieces too, that it is ridiculous. I have one massive storage container full of extra fabric and a couple of smaller ones that have fabric in them as well.

Lastly? I still really, really HATE hand sewing. It hurts to type right now because the tips of the fingers I was using, or stabbed with a needle… there were lots of stabs… hurt to put even that much pressure on. Ow!

But hey! I have a cool new bag to haul all my goodies around in!

 

Mask Making

A couple of caveats:

  • This post is only for those that find wearing masks to be useful and isn’t intended to debate the merits or efficacy of masks.
  • These instructions are based on my personal trial and error and the design modifications are intended to work for me and my Hubby. They are based on the original design found here.
  • I take no responsibility for any efficacy or lack thereof of this design.

I had needed to make a couple of masks for Hubby a couple of weeks ago and did some digging around on the internet to find a pattern that I thought would work well. There are so many different ones floating around out there it is hard to weed through them all to find one that works best.

After making a couple of these for him, I decided that I needed to have one or two for myself as well as make a couple more for him so I wasn’t scrambling to get his washed and dried when he needed to run an errand.

One of the things that I liked about this pattern is that the design creates a “pocket” in the front that you can put some type of filter in to give you added protection. I’ve seen a variety of things suggested for this purpose including a folded paper towel or even a coffee filter. If you are interested in using this, I recommend doing your own research as to what it is the best practice to use for that. The same recommendation goes for fabric choices.

I just used scrap fabric that I already had on hand, which this project was ideal for using up some of those scraps. All are basic cottons often used in quilting. If you feel that the fabric you have or want to use is too thin, you can very easily just add another layer of the “Face” piece if needed.

Face Mask Project - Lining Layout
Face Mask Project – Lining Layout

You really only need the 3 pattern pieces if you layout your fabric in two layers, alternating right and wrong sides. You can use the same fabric for the front and inside or different ones. For these, I used different ones, but I’ve done some for Hubby in the same fabric.

Face Mask Project - Outside Layout
Face Mask Project – Outside Layout

Using Hubby’s original finished masks as a base, I had to cut this down a bit because it ended up covering my ears instead of resting on the side of my face in front of my ears. I cut off about a inch and a half from the ends of the original “Face” and “Cheek” pieces and slightly changed the top angle so that it narrowed to about the same width as the original.

I sewed the seams at what I consider “foot width” in that you line up the edge of your fabric with the point of the sewing foot. That works out to be about a 1/4″ seam. At this point, I’m following all the instructions on the original design up to the point where you are attaching the face piece to the mouth and cheek pieces. This is where I made a more drastic modification.

When I made the original ones for Hubby, we discovered has “floppy” ears that just folded over when he tried to get any elastic over them in the back like the original design calls for (and many other options and designs are similar) making it impossible for the mask to stay on. To fix the issue, I made 2 straps of elastic that ran across the back of the head and neck instead of the loops that go over the ears. To get it to fit him, the top piece was 10 1/4 inches and the bottom was 8. Putting together mine, I ended up with about a 1/4 of a inch more for both since the sides of my mask were shorter.

Face Mask Project - Attaching Elastic
Face Mask Project – Attaching Elastic

Unless you are really experienced in sewing, this may be the difficult or confusing place as the right sides of all pieces have to be pinned together in the correct order or your pocket doesn’t work the way it is supposed to. Once it is turned right side out, you want the central mouth piece to be the top layer on the inside (shown below when finished), but you need to pin the elastic in place first. You can either rely on pins, or you can run a seam along the elastic to hold it in place (as seen above).

Face Mask Project - Inside Pocket: Finished
Face Mask Project – Inside Pocket: Finished

I just pinned the outer edges of the face and cheek pieces with the elastic in between first, then gently folded them back so I could put the mouth piece in place, pinning the center seams before going and pinning the overlap (and I JUST realized that the below image is incorrect as this is the one I goofed on. That mouth piece should be pinned underneath the cheek pieces. See, I said it could get confusing!)

Face Mask Project - Pinning Front To Back With Elastic
Face Mask Project – Pinning Front To Back With Elastic

This part was a bit of a pain to get right because those elastic lengths are shorter than the face piece, so it wants to bunch up the fabric when you go to pin the pieces together. I had to be careful to make sure the pieces laid smoothly so I could pin the front seams together and then line up the sides in an overlap to create the pocket. You have to be careful as you sew to ensure that there is no bunching at the point you are sewing. There was a lot of shifting where it was trying to bunch so I could work in a smooth area.

Face Mask Project - Double Seam Elastic
Face Mask Project – Double Seam Elastic

Once I sewed the entire piece together, I went back and added a secondary line on each end to ensure the elastic was double secure since this is where the most stress is going to be put on the mask as it is worn. I then clipped any corners that were too large and would bulk up when turning.

The last thing is turning this right side out, which that lovely pocket makes incredibly easy as you have nothing to close up after you turn it. If you have any corners that didn’t fully turn, you can the eraser end of a pencil (anything narrow and not sharp) to push the corners the rest of the way out. You might need to finesse your seams a bit to get it to lay correctly, or if you prefer, iron it so the seams are crisp.

Face Mask Project - Finished
Face Mask Project – Finished

These aren’t completely perfect as I wasn’t going for any seamstress awards (even had to pull out at least one seam and redo it), but they are functional. As I said earlier, it is a great project to use up some scraps if you are already a sewer. If not, you can reuse old tea towels or articles of old clothing that would end up in the trash because of stains or holes in odd places if the fabric is the right type.

Face Mask Project - Final Result (My Masks))
Face Mask Project – Final Result (My Masks)

*I apologize for the crummy photos. I took them with my phone in less than ideal lighting down in my studio. Hopefully it is enough along with the original design and instructions for you to do your own if you are interested.

Stretching The Creativity

This is MC’s last official week of high school. Most of his classes are already done and he has very little work left. He will have an AP final later in the month, but that was always set for that date. It will just be an online version instead. That’s because he is finishing out his high school senior year at home, which has made it one hell of a different experience than anyone expected.

It also means I’m having to really push my creativity when it comes to finding ways to acknowledge such a huge accomplishment. Not that we were intending much anyway as he isn’t much of a social person. If anything, I thought he and his gamer friends would get together for one of their gaming nights as a way to celebrate, but that can’t happen now.

I can’t do nothing because he deserves to be honored and recognized for all his hard work. With so many other things that have been canceled because of the pandemic, including his chance to get to take his girl, MCG, to prom and see her face to face for the first time or the senior walk through the grade and middle schools to see old teachers, I couldn’t let this slip by unrecognized.

The importance of this is something that has really been driven home while I’ve helped MC edit and polish one of his scholarship applications. It highlighted some of his biggest accomplishments throughout school and showed me how proud he was of his own hard work, something he so very rarely ever shows, so I really needed to make an effort to acknowledge all of that.

If things were normal, we’d still keep it small. Probably just taking him to out to eat at a restaurant of his choice. But that isn’t an option. I’ve been wracking my brain to come up with something fun that we can do here and that would be special for him.

I decided to kind of do a week of awesome for MC. It started last night with me making one of his favorite meals and will finish up on Friday, his last day, with a night of the family favorite finger foods and movies, capping it off with some death by chocolate.

While this is all very food heavy, that is kind of the main way we tend to do celebrations, so it is perfect. I’m going to try and squeeze in a night or two during the week to play some games. I have a feeling Fibbage is going to be coming out since that is one of MC’s favorite games to play as a family. Mostly because we get completely stupid and ridiculous in the process.

It might not seem like a lot when it is all said and done, but it is a way to show him how much he means to us and how proud of him we are. He not only survived high school, he kicked its butt in epic fashion. He will be going off to college with all 4 years of his tuition paid for and a potential for a one time scholarship of $5k (just submitted this one, so we are in wait mode on that, but chances are good), all because he set a goal to do his absolute best and he excelled at every single class.

He seems to be stoked for our little celebration, so that is really all that matters. Now I just have to figure out what I’m going to do for his actual graduation. My creativity muscles are getting one hell of a workout.

 

Mother Of All Invention

Since everything is so far from normal right now, my usual plan for Easter for my kids isn’t happening. For one, it really snuck up on me and I didn’t have time to get some of our traditional things. When Hubby did go for our grocery run, the candy section was absolutely wiped out. He managed to get a single bag of basic jelly beans because it is the one thing BG asked for (though we all much prefer the Starburst jelly beans, we aren’t complaining).

Not that the candy even matters to the kids. MC has even said over and over this last year that he just really doesn’t want any (for any event). It is more about having or doing something for them. They opted to still do their traditional scavenger hunt, which doesn’t require anything but time, so we will do that as it has always been their absolute favorite thing about the day.

When we talked about alternative options, I was trying to brainstorm something for them that they would enjoy. Dying eggs crossed my mind, but my kids have never been that into doing that and I didn’t want to use a bunch of eggs. Then I mentioned sugar cookies. They both jumped on the idea of doing egg shaped sugar cookies that they could decorate. Perfect!

Except… I didn’t have a cookie cutter. I tried to find something that I could still use and make it work, but didn’t have anything. I considered doing a card stock template and just cutting around it. I’d done it before and it worked, but it was a little bit of a pain. Then I remembered I had a bunch of copper plate in my stash of jewelry making supplies. I’ll make my own cookie cutter!!

Yeaaahhhh… easier said than done.

I don’t know why I was absolutely convinced that I’d used copper in a solder project in the past, but apparently I remembered incorrectly because my solder does NOT work with copper.

What should have been a relatively quick project took me forever to figure out that I couldn’t solder this before then needing to spend some time trying to figure out an alternative. I finally figured it out and it works, but because I attempted to fire and solder this, there is some fire scale that I didn’t want to spend any more time than I did buffing and polishing out.

So, it isn’t the prettiest thing in the world, but I now have an egg shaped cookie cutter and I’ll be working with the kids on making sugar cookies later today.

It was a fun learning experience, though. I might try to make some other simple shapes in the future because it really wasn’t all that hard once I figured it out.

Makeshift Dance Floor Project

Absolutely amazed at how impressive this turned out. Seriously didn’t quite expect it to look this good. And.. it was relatively cheap to do!

I used the most inexpensive wood laminate flooring I could find for the surface. Normally, if you were actually installing this as a permanent floor, you would use an underlay material. Since this wasn’t intended to be permanent, my only concern was making sure the flooring didn’t slide or attempt to separate, so I found some, also inexpensive, rug gripper mats to put underneath the flooring. I ended up using 2 different pieces to get to the size I needed, but it works.

Gripper Mats for Floor Base
Gripper Mats for Floor Base

Also because this wasn’t intended to be permanent, I didn’t need to worry about any cutting. Just put the pieces together and done.

Start of Dance Floor Project - First Rows
Start of Dance Floor Project – First Rows

The first couple of rows were an absolute bitch to get together. BG helped as she had already finished up all her school work for the day and we did some trial and error on the best way to get this going before we got into a rhythm. Once we figured out the basic trick, the rest of the project flew together in no time.

Dance Floor Project - Half Way Done
Dance Floor Project – Half Way Done

I went down around 12:30ish to get the floor cleaned up and mopped then had to wait for a little bit for it to dry before I could get started. I finished up around 2:45. That is how easy this was.

Wood Laminate Dance Floor Area
Wood Laminate Dance Floor Area

The really cool thing about this? As long as the edges don’t sustain too much damage, I will be able to take this apart when she no longer needs it and put it together in my craft area so I have an even nicer space to work in than I do now. I even have another box of flooring that didn’t get opened that I can use to cover more area.

As with any construction type of project, it cannot be done without at least a little injury. FYI… don’t be leaning on a seam when you knock it together. It really doesn’t feel all that great. (Skip the following image if you are even a little bit squeamish as blood blister pinches aren’t very pretty) Of course it is on my forearm in the area that I normally lean on and keeps hitting on every single damn thing this afternoon. Oh, well. Project done and it is a HUGE success! I’m a happy momma today.

Construction Injury - Blood Blister Pinch Area
Construction Injury – Blood Blister Pinch Area

Wet And Rainy

Our wonderful streak of warm, sunny days has ended and today is wet, rainy and dreary. Not the least little bit conducive to getting my camera out past the overhang on my porch.

It is a good day to go hole up in my studio and see if I can actually manage to get that little project finished. I’d love to get it done and get that mess put away so I can start on the next item on my to do list. At the very least, I need to get a photo or two because I’ve promised and haven’t pulled through just yet.

Also, it would be good to take a few steps away from the books for a bit as I’m getting rather frustrated with what I’m reading lately and I’m not entirely sure how to fix that. I have a few books coming out this month that I’m looking forward to, but there are still a few days before the first one hits my reader.

For now, I’m off to play with metal clay.

Playing In The Studio

I’m playing with sterling PMC for the first time in years. I had forgotten how much I loved it. It is amazing that a small lump of clay can be fired into a finished sterling silver piece. It doesn’t look like much yet, but it is going to end up being a book charm for my charm bracelet.

I REALLY need to spend more time in my studio creating things rather than just sitting around thinking about it.

Decent To Better

So, I’m still playing and trying to learn more of the ins and outs of the new software, though I don’t have nearly enough time each day to play as much as I’d like. The above image is the altered version of the photo below. I wanted to see how much better I could make a not great photo.

I don’t think this was the best choice as part of the reason this wasn’t great was the focus was off in addition to a lot of other factors. Still, I’m surprised I was able to get it to look as good as I did. It will be interesting to try this with a photo that had other issues to see if I can turn a meh image into a really good one.

Unedited Pathway Image
Unedited Pathway Image

 

While I’m loving that I have a lot more options, I’ve always been kind of a purist when it came to photography. I liked the challenge of getting an amazing photo with only my camera, with no additional help other than a simple crop or shift to black and white along the way. Yes, being able to manipulate a photo with software still takes a certain skill, but it kind of felt like cheating a bit.

I’m torn, but I love the idea that I can end up with photos that are so much better than what I’ve done so far or that I can potentially take a photo that would have been amazing “if only… ” and still get that amazing through software instead.

Last Year’s Rose

I’d say that I’m planning on playing more with the new software today, but I’m starting to accumulate projects that I need to be working on. While my calendar for March isn’t nearly as full or as colorful as April and May, March is when the crazy starts to really seep in and I need to get those projects done before that happens. The projects are all creative in nature and I’ll be sharing those when I get to them.

I’m also struggling to come up with my next submission for the magazine. I’d had plans in place and fingers crossed for a book on my TBR, but it didn’t work out. Now I’m scrambling to find one that will work and I have to work that in along with the projects. I still have time, but I was really hoping that I’d have a whole lot more cushion to that time.

If I don’t get all of that at least planned and organized, time is going to sneak up on me and bite me in the ass and something is going to slip. That means, I’m going to probably going to be busy. I have a feeling that between the upcoming projects and the insanity that is my calendar in the next several months, I might just be a bit of a mess for a while.

Now I’ve Done It

I finally caved.

I’ve been using an old version of Photoshop. In software terms, it could probably be considered an antique because of how many new versions have come out since my version was released. I had originally bought the suite when I had intended to do graphic design. It had all the programs I wanted to play with, but any Adobe products are expensive as hell. Worth it if you are going to be doing that kind of work.

Years later and I’m not doing graphics work. I have still used many of the products to work on any number of projects over the years, but almost all of them were for fun stuff, not make money stuff, so I’ve never been able to justify upgrading. What I had still worked great and the version of files I was using didn’t matter, so I saw no real need to fork over the cost. Especially since they moved to a subscription model.

With the work I’ve done for Envie! and as into photography as I’ve gotten lately, I’ve been incredibly tempted, but still couldn’t justify how much that stuff costs. Especially because there are 3 different programs in particular that I’d really want, so would be forced to do the entire suite of programs for the full price.

I’m beginning to think that Adobe can read minds now because I got an email offering an incredible discount for a year and I absolutely caved. I now have the latest and greatest products.

I haven’t had a ton of time to play just yet, but the little I’ve seen, especially with Photoshop… I feel like I’ve been trying to create a masterpiece using crayon. It could probably be done, but with a crap ton more talent and work than really necessary. I’m really kind of blown away. I knew it was different to an extent, but not to this extent.

I’m crazy excited to dig in deeper. I haven’t even had a chance to look at the other programs yet. It is going to take me a bit to figure out all the differences and all the fun new things I can do. The photo above was just me messing around trying to learn some of that. Below is the one I posted before so you can see the difference.

Dried Up Maple Leaf
Dried Up Maple Leaf

Graphics For Envie! Magazine

So… that graphics project I mentioned? I was asked to redo the logo for Envie! Magazine as well as work up a badge for their blog awards. In the process of working on those, we decided it would be really awesome to make a badge for any of the staff members that wanted them for blogs or websites.

The designs are now officially done and I can share them, even though they haven’t been put in place everywhere just yet and the staff badges still need to be personalized.

It has been a while since I had the opportunity to really play with any graphics outside of creating a t-shirt design for science club. Getting to work on this was such a blast! Yes, it was technically work, but for me it was fun. This is the kind of work I love to do. I especially love it when I’m working with great people that make the project even more fun.

I’m so thrilled with how these turned out and so grateful that I got the chance to work on these.

New logo:

Envie! Magazine Logo
Envie! Magazine Logo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blog Award Badge Example:

Envie! Magazine Blog Badge
Envie! Magazine Blog Badge

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Staff Member Badge Example:

Envie! Magazine Staff Badge
Envie! Magazine Staff Badge

 

Northern Lights Cake

I finished!

Northern Lights Cake
Northern Lights Cake

Seriously glad it is done, though. It was a blast and, for the most part, it came out really well. I was hoping to add more color, but with that base teal, it didn’t work out. I had several of the issues I kind of expected to have with some color bleeding and in not being able to use the pink or purple because it changed the color too drastically when I attempted to paint it on the base (looked more muddy than pretty).

Northern Lights Cake - Base Paint
Northern Lights Cake – Base Paint

I started by painting the whole thing a lighter version of the sky color I was going for. I realized really quickly that this ended up working in a similar way to my favorite drawing method, the eraser technique, where you put a base color down and either add more to go darker or remove color to go lighter (you can see a tiny bit of that on the left edge of the above photo).

Northern Lights Cake
Northern Lights Cake

I don’t love the tree silhouettes, but they aren’t total garbage. One of the issues I ran into is that my base fondant started to bubble on the bottom tier making my cake look like it isn’t level or that I jacked up the alignment on the top tier. It really isn’t. I didn’t notice until I was taking pictures, so it wasn’t something I could go back and fix.

 

Mostly, I’m thrilled with how this turned out. Even more so after BG finally got a look at it and saw what it was. She is kind of crazy over the northern lights like some teenage girls are over the latest boy band so when she saw this she went nuts. As far as she is concerned, I knocked this one out of the park.

Northern Lights Cake
Northern Lights Cake

Just A Hint

Here is a tiny peek at what I’m working on. It will be finished later today. So far, it is turning out really well. The next step is the part where it could all go wrong which is making me a nervous wreck. If I don’t screw it up, this may just be one of the cooler cakes I’ve ever made. If I do? It could be the ugliest. No pressure.

It’s That Time Again!

I’m in full on cake mode, working on BG’s birthday cake. She still has no clue what I’m doing yet. This is going to be so fun if I can manage to pull it off.

The cake got baked yesterday along with getting the icing mixed up. I have to make my fondant and start putting it all together today. I am limited to working on this while BG is at school so she won’t see it until it is completely done. That means I have to get off my butt and get busy!

Keep your fingers and toes crossed for me that this doesn’t turn out to be one of those projects where my creative ambition outstrips my actual ability. Pictures of the finished cake will be posted tomorrow after BG gets home to see it for the first time.

Snow & Ice

I am hopefully wrapping up my work on a graphics project sometime today and will have the amazing finished project to share soon. I’m really excited about what I’ve been working on and that I got the chance to do it.

I had honestly thought that things wouldn’t really start getting crazy around here until at least next month, but things have popped up and seem to be just cramming themselves into my schedule. I’m going to be a giddy mess in a few weeks if things work out because I’ll get to take BG to see Swan Lake performed. I have never seen it and thought it would be a perfect time since their pointe performance this year is to one of the songs from Swan Lake. I’m just waiting on confirmation from her dance friend’s mom that they are going with us.

I also have MC’s scholarship awards ceremony coming up in a few weeks. I’ve shuffled things and made arrangements so I actually get to go. There was a conflict with dance, but our dance friend will be taking BG to class for me that night so I can see MC being rewarded for all of his hard work and determination.

I may complain left and right about feeling like crap with this stupid cough, but… when I stop and look at all that is going on and what my kids are doing, the amazing guy I pulled on all the lucky stars to get, I’m one seriously happy girl and I’m surrounded by some incredible people that keep the joy flowing all around.

Powdered Sugar Tree

Okay, so not really powdered sugar, but it reminds me of what it looks like if you dusted something with powdered sugar. Can you tell my brain is shifting into cake mode?

BG’s birthday is coming up soon. My girl will be 16! Ugh! Another driver and way too soon and not soon enough. Anyway… since she is the only one that lets me make an actual cake anymore, I spend a lot of time trying to come up with a great idea that she will love and I get to play the way I want.

For a little while, I thought I’d do another costume inspired cake since her point costume this year is a really simple, but elegant white with black accents (they are doing a piece from swan lake). I didn’t want to do a full out costume, just a small layered cake that mimicked the black applique from the costume. When I mentioned this idea, she didn’t seem thrilled as I’ve done a couple of ballet costume cakes now.

I went back to brainstorming and I came up with an idea that, if I can pull it off (which is always a question), she is going to absolutely squeal over. When I told her I had an idea that she would love and asked if she trusted me to just make it without her actually knowing what I had planed, she gave me the go ahead. I love that she has no clue what I’m going to do and it will be a surprise for a change.

I won’t say specifically what I’m going to do yet in case she decides to get nosy and drop by here, but I’m so excited about working on this. I won’t really be doing anything new as far as basic design or technique really, but it is also unlike anything I’ve done so far from a finished project standpoint. I’d say the chances of it turning out like I imagine are on the high side.

I still have a little over 2 weeks to get the design planned out and I need to find a few reference photos to help with some details, but I’m so excited and can’t wait to work on this.