Saturday, May 16, 2020

Wormless Mother's Day

I don't like to brag, but I didn't have to make Dirt 'n Worms for Mother's Day this year.  Either my children have finally outgrown it or just forgot because we're all in this weird limbo of depressing Covid19 funk.  Don't get me wrong, I am truly grateful to be riding this low grade fog of gloom.  It means that so far we've been spared the horrors that so many others have faced. 

I am also grateful my kids are old enough to be self-sufficient, but still young enough to be here at home with me. Not that I normally go for a bunch of fanfare, but this Mother's Day was definitely more subdued than usual and it wasn't because of the absence of gummy worms. But there's two things worth mentioning as they pertain to this blog.

First, my son got me the Pumpkin King. I haven't paid attention to the Disney line of minifigs, because I could care less about princesses or Mickey Mouse. That it would also include The Nightmare Before Christmas, never crossed my mind. It's a good thing my son is looking out for me. He also special ordered the white spider web with the clear blue spider because he thought it went with the theme. Obviously he has good taste. You'll be sure to see a reappearance of Jack this Creepmas. I do hope they come out with a Zero minifig.

The second thing is a request I got from a friend. She had a last minute Mother's Day gift idea and wanted to know if I had any bottles of a certain size that she could use. I might have had a few... Can I just take a moment to say it's not hoarding if you put it to good use? Maybe one more time for those in the back row? IT'S NOT HOARDING IF YOU PUT IT TO GOOD USE! Obviously my super power is holding on to things until the universe requires their services.

So this what I, and a number of other mothers who are lucky enough to know this wonderful, creative woman received for Mother's Day. I almost feel bad that every Halloween I practically make her pee her pants by scaring her. I said almost. Her screams are much too delightful to give up.

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Custom Creepy Earrings & My Bestie Niobium

Gone are the days when I could wear safety pins as earrings. My ears or should I say my ear piercings are fickle. I have cheap earrings made of who knows what, that don't give me problems and others with labels like nickel-free, hypoallergenic or surgical steel, that do. Which makes sense, if you actually try to make sense of the little regulation there is concerning costume jewelry. It's not surprising that seeing if my ears start to burn and turn red is a much more exact science then trying to figure out if those labels actually equate to any kind of standard or not.  
That's why niobium is my bestie, it's non-allergenic. I've also never had a problem with my titanium hoops, but then body jewelry standards are more stringent.  For this post I'm only using premade earring wires and those are readily available in niobium. I'm just going to show a few easy earrings you can make, but it's also just as easy to replace earring wires for that pair of earrings that you love, but are allergic to.

For the whys and what's of stainless steel, titanium and niobium this is good info.

I've successfully purchased niobium earring wires and other things from, and They all carry relatively the same earring wires, at similar prices and they all offer free shipping for purchases over $25. The only factor determining which one I buy from, is who has what I want in stock. And no, there is no incentive for me to push any of these vendors, just stating my experience.

The following earrings all follow the KISS method. Keep It Simple Stupid. And if you do that, you too can have mildly fabulous allergen free earrings with minimal effort. So prepare to be underwhelmed and I say that with all sincerity. These examples are not meant to wow you or make you wonder in awe at the time or talent it must have taken to make them. This is a quick and dirty way to make inexpensive kitschy ghoulish earrings that won't burn your ear holes.

This is the simplest way to create an earring. One earring wire plus one charm equals one delightfully macabre earring. The loop of the earring wire is opened and closed just like a jump ring. To do this you need two small pliers. If you are worried about scratching the earring components smooth pliers are better than ones with teeth or you can cover the tips with painters tape.

You'll see I use this style of earring wire a lot. I like the look of the decorative wire coil. It almost looks like it's a wire wrapped loop, but it is not. The only disappointing thing is I've only seen it available in bronze.

I believe my desire to wear bugs on my ears was influenced by this movie, Bug. I was 3 years old when I saw it at the drive-in, with my parents of questionable judgement, in a double feature that also included the movie The Food of the Gods. In my parents defense I'm sure they thought I was too young to grasp what was going on. Which is partly true, for years I had no idea what movies were responsible for the various horrifying scenes that played through my memories and certainly no context of the storylines.

Even if you don't plan on going crazy making jewelry, having the superpower to open and close a jump ring is priceless. If you have jewelry that's too long, too short, too busy, or has a stupid clasp, a lot of the time you can easily modify it by adding, removing or replacing components via jump rings.

Here we have three tiny charms on three tiny jump rings (3mm) joined to the earring wire with a small jump ring (5mm). Again all you need is two pliers to open and close the jump rings. 

Almost the same as the previous earrings, the difference with these earrings is they used to be part of a necklace and the oval jump ring is a link from a chain. Note, that sometimes chain links are soldered and sometimes that solder can be broken by grasping the link on either side with pliers and wiggling them back and forth. I would not do this with a really expensive chain. 

In fact I wouldn't do any of this with anything expensive. I'm too much of a barbarian to have expensive or dainty things. My husband bought me a wedding ring with the diamonds channel set for durability.  And I still don't wear it, because I'm always do stuff with tools or my hands are covered in messy or gross stuff. I was always taking it off and I figured that would end with me permanently misplacing it. So my ring stays safe in a box and I occasionally bring it out to wear when I know for sure I won't be playing in mud, paint or salmonella. So like once every three years.   

But I digress, the take away from these earrings is you don't necessarily have to buy charms, you can rape and pillage jewelry you might already own. Or clearanced Halloween jewelry, but more on that in my next post.

And same concept again, this time a large decorative chain link shares the same jump ring as the charm. This earring wire came with the bead already on it.

The possibilities are endless, there are charms for every creepy crawly, or Halloween thing you can think of. 

Do keep size in mind when ordering online. Actually get out a ruler, see what 15mm looks like. Draw it on a piece of paper and hold it up to your ear. 

Also think about weight, which is a little harder to gauge online. Back in the old days you could just walk into a store and hold a charm in your hand. A small charm shouldn't be too heavy, but if you start getting more into pendant size, it might be a problem. Unless you like that look where your earring wire is weighted down so far it appears to be only a hairsbreadth away from ripping through your lobe.

Sunday, April 19, 2020

Creepmas Came Early...

…or at least that's what it feels like.  Last week Lady M expressed interest in my pandemic masks and one does not want to disappoint the mistress of The Haunted Parlor.   By way of thank you, she has gifted me a box full of goodies!  Thank you Lady M for putting a smile on my face!

I am now the proud recipient of one of Lady M's coveted miniature Ouija boards.  So much detail in a thing so tiny, it's amazing.  I can't wait to start summoning micro demons.

And more of her laser work, bats...

…and witches & webs.  The webs are so incredibly thin and beautiful. 
It almost looks like quilled paper but with the sturdiness of wood.  

The lovely bones...

I'll have to think of something fabulous to do with all of these but you can see all the cool stuff she's done at the Haunted Parlor.  A few of my favorite posts are here, here, and here.

Also included in the mix, these tiny little potion bottles.

Pretty little bat earrings.  

And these cool skulls.

And there's still more.  It all came in this custom Haunted Parlor box, covered in vintage newspaper, where they can all reside while I'm waiting for my brain to kick in with creativity. I love the skeleton hand!

There are lot's of interesting ads and articles.  A reminder this is not our first rodeo...

Not sure if ice cream would even be the first thing anyone recovering from Covid19 would want, but all the local ice cream shops are closed anyway.  Which is a shame because the Chocolate Shoppe makes Exhausted Parent (bourbon-spiked espresso ice cream swirled with bittersweet chocolate chunks), that I'm sure everyone, not just parents could appreciate right now.

As an adult I generally pass on ice cream unless it's coffee flavored, that seems to balance out the sweet for me, although I occasionally indulge in Babcock's orange custard chocolate chip. Now as a kid, and up until my late twenties, it was always blue moon, which I didn't realize was a regional delicacy until I was older. 

Even though it's not my favorite thing, at this moment the simple indulgence of going out for ice cream would be heavenly.  Is it too much to hope Covid19 decides to take the summer off?    

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Tales of a Pysanky Virgin

Last year I was introduced to the Ukrainian art of egg decorating, Pysanky. Since our group didn't get together this year for obvious reasons, I thought I'd share the ones I made last year.  Note that even though I used the traditional methods to decorate my eggs, they are not an accurate representation of this traditional art form in the least.  Pysanky eggs are created by alternating applications of wax  drawn with a kistka and dipping the eggs in dyes going from lighter to darker colors, then warming the wax and wiping it off to reveal the whole design.

I thought traditional Pysanky eggs looked too intimidating.  I'm not good at symmetry or uniformity, so I went and did my own thing.

I will say, having looked very closely at more than a few eggs trying to figure out my failings, I was surprised to see a lot of "perfect" designs, had flaws.  I'm not saying this to knock the artists, nothing will make those eggs anything less than the incredible works of art that they are.  I'm pointing this out because it's easy to look at someone else's work and see nothing but perfection and then look at your own work and see nothing but the mistakes.  If you're an artist, I know, that's what you do, but knock it off.  If you try this, cut yourself some slack, have fun and roll with the mistakes.

I don't have enough knowledge to write a tutorial, and I couldn't do better than what's out there.  I don't even have enough experience to say what's a great source of information, everyone seems to have a slightly different way of doing things. If it's a site dedicated to Pysanky, and there are many out there, it's probably written by people that have been doing this for decades and it's as good as any for a place to start.

What I'm prepared to offer here is a few insights from a Pysanky virgin's point of view and a few examples of non-traditional eggs. For instructional purposes I will be pointing out all my mistakes.

This was my first egg.  The dying process was blue, then pink (making a purplish blue), then black.  You can see fingerprints (bottom pic, center is the most noticeable) where I accidently touched the egg bringing it out of the first dye.  Human skin is gross and oily.  Wash your hands thoroughly when handling eggs, even when cleaning the eggs to prep them.  Don't apply lotion or hand sanitizer to your hands they will leave a residue. Really try to handle them as little as possible. And have a paper towel handy when you lift the egg out of the dye so you don't have to grab it to keep it from falling.  And watch that you don't set the paper towel on fire with the candle flame you are using to heat your kistka.  I'll say that again because it's really important, don't set paper towels on fire, especially when doing the final wax removal.

After you heat the wax in the kistka, make a test mark on a scrap piece of paper.  If the wax doesn't flow, it might not be heated enough or the kistka might be clogged.  If it flows too fast, you'll be thankful that big blob is on your paper and not your egg.   Test again until it flows evenly.  Do this each and every time you heat the wax, because the one time you don't, you will ruin your egg and consequently you're entire existence. No you won't, just keep going and pretend you meant to do that and most people wont even notice. Also regardless how careful you are, you might still end up with an uncontrolled blob, this life. (Bottom pic, left upper corner, big blob that was not part of the design)  The people using electric kistkas didn't seem to have this problem, but again too limited exposure on my part to be making any definitive statements.

It's helpful to sketch a design on the egg with pencil.  The process of removing the wax usually also gets rid of most the pencil lines.  But you can see here the marks on my spider's eyes are still visible.

In my limited experience, it seemed in small areas or thin lines where there wasn't a lot of wax to remove, the pencil marks were more prominent. I also found it's best to draw very lightly with a regular pencil.  I love my mechanical pencils but it was hard to write lightly with them.  The rough shell against the thin lead, left a lot of graphite in it's wake.

No you can not wash or rub the marks off a dyed egg.  The dye will rub or wash off also.  If the pencil mark is on an area that's been left white you can carefully try to remove it, but you might muck up a dyed area in the process and ruin your whole day.  A lot of things about Pysanky can ruin your whole day, such as the fragile state of eggs in general.  It is still a worthwhile pursuit, that can be fun as well as rewarding.

Here I tried making a few highlights on my web by randomly picking lines to cover with wax before the egg was dyed.  Obviously it just looks stupid and I should have made the whole web red.  What I discovered later is there is a whole other method Dryapanky, where you dye the egg and then scratch off a design.  I think that would produce the highlights I was hoping for but I haven't had a chance to try.

I found that besides doing a rough sketch on paper, doing a rough sketch in color was very helpful in trying to figure out the order different elements of the design needed to be waxed.  In the sketch I started with a black outline and then added details.  In the dying process, black will be the last color so you have to work backwards.

The hardest part was the black lines for the eye.  Doing that in the negative was obviously really difficult for me.  I wish those lines were much bolder. Also since the cat and the outline of the eye  were the only black components, the rest of the egg needed to be covered in wax.  You can see all the places I missed.  I think it works with the design, but I learned later a trick for covering a large area is to tip the wax out of the top of the kistka and smear it around.

Both images are on opposite sides of the same egg.  The order of colors for dying was white, yellow, orange, red and black.

The skull egg below is my favorite and it's just one egg with three designs.  This is the top view. 

For this I sketched my skull drawings on paper and then used graphite paper to trace them onto the eggs. You can see a lot of graphite lines are still visible on the finish egg.  The skull's were covered in wax so they would stay white, although I really liked the look of the soot infused wax and kind of wished I could've kept them like that.  Then the egg was dyed yellow.  The flower details where hand painted with dye.  Yes, you can do that.  And then the flowers were covered in wax.  This time I used wispy strokes of wax to cover a large area on purpose, and that's how I achieve the look of the top and bottom of the egg.  Then the whole thing was dipped in black.  

If you like my little egg stand it's a gold Lego dish on top of a clear inverted radar dish.  Fancy.

This last egg was done pretty much the same as the skulls.  All the small details are hand painted.  Doing that may require multiple applications to get the saturation of color you want. The only two colors the egg was dipped were blue and then black. 

 Yes siree, spring is just bursting forth from this egg.  

The biggest thing I haven't figured out and was hoping to work on this year, is what to do about the insides.  Technically you don't have to empty the eggs.  Over time eggs will eventually dry out, unless they leak or explode.  Adds a level of excitement you weren't expecting right? I liked working with full eggs because they sink to the bottom of the dye and once the inside is dry you will have a fully intact egg.  I followed these guidlines and every single egg eventually went bad.  Luckily none exploded, they only had small leaks.  But small leaks can make big stinks.

The other option is to empty the egg, either before or after dying. There's pros and cons to both and then there's the issue of varnishing them, but I don't have experience in any of that

Or maybe I did find the best method of preservation, pictures.  Because you never have to worry about pictures exploding or leaking noxious gases.

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Pandemic Flair

I made a couple of masks with stuff I had laying around so I can go grocery shopping in style.  My greatest fear, aside from people dying a horrible death isolated from their loved ones, is unwittingly spreading this thing.  No one wants to be a Typhoid Mary.

Speaking of pandemicing with flair, HuffPost has compiled a bunch street art that is worth a gander.

For the masks I used the instructions from Joanns.  I should know by now one size doesn't fit all.  I wear a size small gas mask, so I probably shouldn't be surprised these are a bit big on me.  I had to shortened the elastic a lot to snug them up.  If you have a smaller, or larger noggin this link provides measurements for small, medium and large.

I would try my hand at making a small mask, but I've exhausted my supply of sewing patience.  I've always wished I would like sewing, there's so many amazing things I could make, but it's not going to happen.  My three stages of sewing are 1) excited anticipation 2) frustration 3) for the love of all things unholy this will have to be good enough because I can't take it anymore.

I don't know if this will help other sewing illiterates but I didn't have fusible interfacing and substituted that with a cotton sheet.  Months earlier I had salvaged sections of a sheet with a tear in it, saving the cloth to later make mummy wrappings.  It's a good quality tight weave.   The first mask I used a 12x9 rectangle for both the cotton sheet and the cotton graveyard fabric.  Folded over that's four layers and really bulky.  The second one I used a 6x9 rectangle of the sheet in-between the folded layers of the graveyard material and that was much easier to work with.

I'm sorry some of the print is lost in the folds, because it's a lovely pattern.  My son picked this fabric out a long time ago when he made a drawstring bag in Home Ec class, which only old people still refer to as Home Ec.

In other Covid19 news, the Bicycle playing card company predicted the toilet paper crisis years ago.

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Biohazard Tentacles

It appears I had one more biohazard egg mashup in me.  Hopefully this is last because quite frankly aside from being cathartic, I don't see the point.  I'm not actually going to send out Corona Easter cards or frame these on my wall. Also there are just too many possibilities, and I'm awful about making decisions.  Photoshop is like being at the eye doctor. "Which is better one or two?  One or two?" Which is why there is also the following version.  

The octopus is from the Biodiversity Heritage Library.   They have many lovely tentacally pictures.  

And there's this one, that's not even eggy or Eastery at all.  
Frame and corner scrolls are from the Graphics Fairy.

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Coronavirus Flavored Easter Eggs

I'm still playing around with photoshop, inspired by the cloud of impending doom hanging overhead. If I seem flippant, I truly don't mean any disrespect.  Sarcasm and art are my coping mechanisms.  I also been watching "So bad, they're good" horror movies.  

Garden Party Massacre - It's utterly ridiculous, but in a fun way.

Killer Sofa - I admit this one isn't great, ok it's really hokey, but I love how sinister the recliner is. It's expressions are priceless, this deadpan menace that's kind of adorable, achieved with a couple of mere upholstery buttons.  Actually you can save a lot of time and just watch the trailer.  I really love the song during the end credits, that's worth a listen, You're Cold by Bernardo Rao.

Wacko - This is my favorite bad movie during the lockdown so far.  I can't believe I didn't see this on a rental VHS, like I saw most of my horror back in the day.  And I'm kind of glad I didn't, because I think I appreciated it more now than I would have then.  It came out in '82 and it's a spoof on the horror movies that came out prior.  So for an old fart like me it was a nostalgic laugh down memory lane.  Julia Duffy is wonderful.  I would watch it again just to see the delivery of her lines.  She carries that perfect level of seriousness that's needed to balance the absurd context around her. The running pervy dad joke is wrong, but it comes up so often you find yourself reciting along like an audience participation film.  

Back to our regularly scheduled program, I can't decide which version I like better Corona Egg in Angry Red or Puke Pastel and either with or without a framed border.  Here they all are for your viewing pleasure.

My interpretation of the coronavirus is actually a picture of a Sundew leaf, again from the wonderful pictures made available by the British Library. 

Friday, March 20, 2020

Easter Pestilence

This is what my brain spits out when Easter coincides with a pandemic.  I think this would make a nice commemorative 2020 Creepster Easter card.   This year I imagine the Easter Bunny will be wearing a biohazard suit and giving out hand sanitizer.  Just kidding, he'll be practicing social distancing like a good rabbit and not even the Easter Bunny can get his paws on hand sanitizer.  

Flowers found on flickr courtesy of the British Library.

Friday, March 13, 2020

Framed Butterfly Curio

This is one of those projects that I've been sitting on for years. It's not that I'm a procrastinator, or a hoarder, I am merely extremely patient when it comes to waiting for the powers that be, to converge upon my little brain with divine inspiration.

This time inspiration came via Oddity Asylum. Do check out their etsy shop, they have beautifully framed specimens, all ethically sourced.

I obtained my specimen the way I usually seem to procure dead things, from a friend cleaning house and deciding it's probably something I could use. But here is the origin story for my specimen:

I'm a little surprise there's no mention of the species, but it would appear it belongs to the Morpho family. Not to be confuse with Morpheus who belongs to the Endless family

As I mentioned, I've had this for quite awhile and I've also been making a conscious effort to not buy any new art supplies. To make this project happen I had to cave and buy the metal filigree corners and I couldn't even find what I wanted local.

I bought this mix from Amazon, actually, so at least my favorite charity could benefit. Every little bit counts.

This is what my random selection ended up being. The metal is very thin, easily bent by hand. An attribute that I think will come in handy if I use them to adorn a round bottle or ornament. I wouldn't use them to embellish anything that didn't have a solid surface to give support.

And if I didn't plan on painting over them anyway I would be disappointed in the color selection. The gold was the only finish I didn't like, which is just my personal taste. But there's no way to predict if you are going to get enough pieces of the same shape and finish for a project.

I forgot to take a before picture, but this is close. Here I've just laid the embellishments on to see if I like them.

Here's everything but the embellishments painted black. I actually had enough of the same finish that I could have left them as is, but I like everything all black, letting the butterfly take center stage. I toned down the gold on the original mat, both by painting it champagne gold, and by adding and wiping away black paint.

I don't know anything about, nor did I research, mounting butterflies. I don't know if painting the mat with acrylics will have any long term affect on the butterfly. I did let the mat and frame cure for a week before reassembling.

The butterfly was actually mounted onto a thick glob of rubbery white stuff, so the butterfly doesn't actually touch the mat. I used a box cutter blade to shimmy underneath it and separate it from the mat, which thankfully it did easily. And I was careful to move the butterfly by handling the white glob only. After painting and curing, I used craft glue to re-adhere the white glob to the mat. And this is what it looks like in proper lighting without the glare of the glass frame.

One more project down to add to my collection of oddities.