Thursday, November 15, 2018

Squid Ink Label

I've mentioned before the British library being a rich source of vintage images.  I fell in love with this squid and thought the body itself creates a nice border.  I also slightly modified this picture and this one. I haven't actually used this label yet, but maybe you can find a use for it.

I am in no way fluent in Spanish, I can't even lay claim to being able to speak "broken" EspaƱol. If my life depended on it, I could ask where the bathroom was, or recite the alphabet. Despite my failings this label wanted to be in Spanish, so hopefully Google Translate didn't lead me astray.

I often hear the phrase "speaking broken English" used in a derogatory manner, but frankly I'm impressed with anyone who can do that. The English language has a complete disregard for following rules, I can't imagine learning it as a second language.  

The label is for Humboldt squid ink, based in part on this article and also these eco certifications.

There are lots of stories of how vicious they are, but maybe that's not true.  It wouldn't be the first time a misunderstood creature was labeled a monster. Other sources paint them as relatively docile inquisitive sea creatures, as long as you're not prey, being hostile or bothering them during feeding time.  I think that's reasonable.

I don't condone annoying the crap out of sea creatures, but this video does give you a nice idea of size, inking and their color changing abilities.  Some of the latter might be due to camera lighting, I'm no expect, but I believe most of it is the squids doing.

Here's a slightly different label for vertically challenged bottles.

This is the squid picture with all the extra bits from the original edited out.

I feel like I went a bit overboard with the fonts. Besides the Old English Text MT and Onyx that came with MS Office, here are the ones used:
Nymphette and Damask Dings1 by Nymphont

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Head Shopping

For years I have enviously read about other thrifty crafters finding wonderful magical items at thrift stores or yard sales and that never happens to me. Not that it's surprising. I feel thrifting is probably akin to winning the lottery or more realistically, close to winning a small local raffle.  It seems logical that frequent thrifting would increase your odds of success and I don't put in the effort. Over the years my shopping in general has diminished (Ok, except for skeletons.), but my thrifting has trickled to almost none because I just wasn't finding anything.

Last week that all changed when a friend invited me to go thrifting with her. It turns out my wonderful magical item is a taxidermied alligator head.  It was just sitting on a shelf surrounded by knick-knacks waiting for me. It wasn't quite that easy, we went to an estate sale and four other thrift stores that were nearby.  So technically I crammed years worth of thrifting into one day to find this head.

This isn't something I would ever buy "new".  But I think it's safe to say that no one killed this little guy so his head could be sold in a thrift store in a little town in the Midwest.  And my money went to support a charity, not anyone involved in his demise.   Not that any of that will give this alligator comfort, but the least I can do is honor and cherish his little decapitated head.

This is a really good article on "ethical" taxidermy that brings up a lot of interesting points.

And while this was the most unique thing I found, it wasn't my only purchase.  I scored some great deals on items that have been on my crafting wish list for awhile.  So all in all it was a pretty successful trip and it made up for all those years of disappointment.

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Halloween Craft Party 2018

Last year marked a decades worth of Halloween craft parties, this year called for a change.  It's funny when the kids were little they took their crafting seriously, hunkering down with their projects, only coming up for air to occasionally snack on some eyeballs.

The last few years as tweens they've been a bit less dedicated to the craft and more ravenous eating machines leaving a wake of discarded supplies and half finished projects.  Not to mention, they are sooo loud.  One can barely hear the demonic voices in ones head because of the din teenagers create with their endless chatter.  

So this year it was adults only, and it was fabulous.  Don't get me wrong, I treasure the many years of adults and children crafting side by side.  And those little adolescent brains inspired me more times than I can count and for that I thank them.  Certainly once they revert back into human form they can rejoin the fold.  But for now I will just enjoy the simple things, like not having to shout to carry on a conversation or wondering what kind of savage doesn't put the cap back on the glue.

I also split the party into two days, which is weird for a party.  But I wanted to give people a chance to play with texture paste, so we needed some dry time. We spent a Sunday afternoon creating diabolical things and the next Thursday night painting them. Prior to Thursday night I offered to paint a base coat on the projects.  Choices were either black or white, and that left more time for creative painting the night of.

Before the party I premixed texture paste. [ Note: As far as I can tell for this purpose gesso and paint are interchangeable, as is mod podge and glue. Also I had used up my spackle and switched to joint compound which is thinner than spackle, so I ended up adding baking soda as a thickener also.]

Joann's carries a brand of cheap gesso (really cheap with a coupon) that worked well for our projects, both mixed into texture paste and used straight up as a base coat. I bought a 32oz white and a 16oz black.

I had containers with thin texture paste (gesso, mod podge and joint compound), slightly thicker paste (thin texture paste with more joint compound and a bit of baking soda), really thick texture paste (thicker texture paste with a lot more baking soda). Then just for fun, sand texture paste (thin texture paste with actual sand texture, but you use any sand or even glitter to get a similar texture) and of course my favorite dried tea texture paste (thin texture paste with dried tea).

Also helpful is having lots of those small 1/2cup snack size containers with lids so people can take individual portions to their workspace.  That way you can keep the large containers covered so they don't dry out. Also it helps to keep the different mixtures from getting cross contaminated with other mixtures and other crafting detritus. And everyone can customize their own mixtures as needed and keep them sealed when not in use. Even when it's just me, I work out of separate containers, nothing worse than picking up glitter or feather wisps on your brush and not realizing it until after you just contaminated a brand new bottle of Mod Podge.

The one problem I didn't foresee, even though I knew better was the plastic bugs not sticking.  If you have all the time in the world you can work one side of your bottle at a time letting it dry in-between making sure all the creepy crawlies learn their place and keep their legs in line.  When you only have 4 hours and you are trying to work all sides of a three dimensional object you don't have that luxury.  In hindsight, if you are pressed for time, I would suggest hot gluing those little bastards on first and apply texture paste around them.

Even without the usual chaos I still didn't get pictures of everyone's creations, but this time it was because I was busy crafting, so I hope that rates me a pass.

I'll start with the easiest project, the spider shown above.  It started out life as a simple plastic spider from Target.  It's a nice tarantula size, inexpensive, it has lovely legs and other details that generally get skimped on. I painted everything but the eyes with a mixture of black gesso and dried tea.  The tops of the legs got a second coat to make them a little "hairier".  Otherwise all I did was add a little red to the eyes and coat them with clear glossy acrylic paint.  From drab to fab with a little texture paint.

This book was inspired in part by some of my texture samples.  There's texture paste, plastic scorpions, bottle caps, decoupaged glass marbles, keys, swirls of scrap wire, fake petals, tiny rhinestones and even a molded piece made from a button that a friend gave me from an estate sale.  

This bottle is wrapped in what used to be my daughter's swimsuit cover up.  It didn't really cover anything, it was more of a weird holey fishnet accessory.  The picture doesn't do it justice but the texture is absolutely amazing, there is something almost Lovecraftian about it.  In the center is a molded piece from the Ornaments Mod Podge mold.  

This bottle is topped with a plastic red gem set into a cork, the lip is trimmed with...well trim.  Again one of my daughters old shirts. The piece used is just a small part of a larger design.  When I saved it, I honestly had no idea how cool it was until I saw what my friend did with it.  The bee is another molded piece made with the Royal Mod Podge mold.

I love the texture of the fun fur yarn here, like so many tiny tiny little legs.  
Also another Ornaments molded piece.

The eye is a decoupaged glass gem.  
The image is from Orestes Graphics Creepy Eyes Vol. 2   
I love the folds around the eye. 

This is one of mine. Just for fun I wanted to use as many tea bag components as possible.

The picture in the center comes from the British Library collection. If you like vintage images without copyright restrictions this is a great source of material. This one in particular is in their Ghost & Ghoulish Scenes album.

The rest of the bottle is covered in tea bags. Had I covered the entire bottle it would have taken six tea bags to cover this 250ml bottle.  Yes, that's a question that came up.  No, I'm not entirely sure this information will help you gauge the number of tea bags needed for any given bottle.  I did paint over my tea bags but I would like to say they had a lovely tea stained color that would have done quite nicely on it's own.

On top of that in some areas is a mix of  texture paste with the dried tea.  Other areas are texture paste spackled over the tea bag strings.  The purplish color is from a hair color wash that was for my son's costume a few years ago. Watching a few of Marta's Junk Journal video's has really made me think of different ways I can use things.  And it's also made me more of a hoarder.  I did force myself to toss the actual trash items I had saved for the party that didn't get used.  And I am no longer saving my used tea bags, the practice of which had me feeling a bit like a Discworld goblin.

Here we have some more plastic bugs.  Those beautiful swirls were done freehand with hot glue.  There's another bottle, another friend did, with swirls of hot glue that I didn't get a picture of. So apparently this isn't an anomaly, being able to do detailed work with hot glue, but it's beyond my comprehension.  The only thing I can consistently do with a hot glue gun is burn myself, so I'm pretty much in awe of their skills.

This is the skull I did using stenciled texture paste on tissue paper and a few pieces made with both the Ornaments and Royal molds.  

I didn't take this picture, stole it from a friend, because it shows the lovely details up close.  The rim of the bowl is decorated with pieces of a necklace she desecrated.  I just love how it turned out.

And here are the crappy pictures I took that don't quite show how lovely all the textures look in person. Besides the bits of jewelry there are some skull beads, spiders, washers, yarn and some of paper that I had previously stenciled with texture paste.

This bowl already had some great texture to start with.  It was covered in thousands of tiny little holes, like something Cthulhu's mother would keep her dead sea flowers in. Added to that is a little texture paste with a few plastic spiders and some more skull beads.

My punk vulture is an old project, but he got some new bling this year.  My lovely neighbor brought lots of bits of old jewelry to share and I snagged a pair of earrings. I couldn't believe how perfectly eye-like the dangly pieces looked.  He just has the one sparkly eye and his twin, when I finally finish him will get the other.

Another craft party come and gone and once again I'm left with all sorts of new ideas inspired by my crafty friends.  This weekend one of those friends had a Halloween party and I got see some other really cool decorations she made after the party.  It makes me happy to see that creepy inspiration insidiously spread itself around.

Also I want to know how I get Ice-T on my guest list for next year. 
The man can craft.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

How To Apply Stencils in Weird Places

Using stencils with texture paste on a flat surface is pretty straight forward.  Using them on a rounded surface gets a bit more complicated.  Using them on an odd shaped uneven surface such as this skull is practically impossible.

I've already covered flat surfaces, so let's jump right to this round bottle. This wasn't horrible to stencil. I recommend using a little tape to keep the stencil in place. The hard part here was carefully removing the stencil without mucking up the texture paste, which I wasn't completely successful at but I don't think it's too horrible.  

Next I tried to stencil onto a skull. Mind you, I only tried just a small portion of the stencil on a relatively small smooth area of the skull. I didn't do very well.  I wiped it off and tried again a few more times and decided this was not going to work.  I'm not saying it's impossible. I'm sure there are Martha Stewart clones out there that can do it, but why bother when I have a much easier method.

Stencil onto thin paper and after it's dried apply it to your project.  Yep, it's that easy.

This is texture paste stenciled onto that thin paper they wrap around your fragile purchases at the store.  I'd call it wrapping paper but that make me think of gift wrap.  Although this would be a good way to reuse gift wrap too, as long as it's the thin paper type.

Here I've applied it to a pressed cardboard shoe form, but I think it's going to be a creepy rabbit someday.  Don't see it? Maybe the following helps.  Although sadly I think I'm going to have to  build up  a lot of papier mache over the stenciling to achieve the freaky rabbit in my head, which is not this guy who is temporarily adorned with random stuff from my craft table.

But now you can see the rabbit potential too, right? Just like any decoupage/papier mache it's always better to tear around the design, the edges are easier to blend. I use a half and mixture of glue and water to apply the stenciled paper.

Next I did this skull which has more nooks and crannies and a lot of it's own texture already.

I figured I needed to use something thinner, so I tried tissue paper.  I was a little worried the tissue paper would be too fragile, but it worked great.  Stenciling on it wasn't a problem, even using old wrinkle sheets. Although if you really want a perfect stencil, a fresh crisp sheet or at least ironing over an old one would probably be best.

The only caveat was I didn't trust myself to tear around the small sections that wanted so I cut around the stenciling.  That meant having to get creative with the texture paste later to hide the edges.

Also, you don't get any second chances applying tissue paper, once it sticks there's no adjusting without tearing it.

I added a few molded pieces later, they are a lot thicker than the stenciling. Not sure I'm digging that.  Overall I'm not really happy with this guy, something is off. I'll have to figure out what it is and fix it later. Here are some more details from another angle.

Even if I'm not crazy about my skull, the technique is solid and the pre-stenciled sheets were very useful at the annual craft party.  I have another skull and a faux pumpkin in mind for having another go at this.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Fun With Stencils

I finally bought some real stencils, just in time for day one of the annual Halloween Craft Party.  I say day one because this year I split it into two days.  One for playing with texture paste and one for painting and embellishing after everything has dried. More details on that after the final day.

I ordered a few Tim Holtz stencils from Amazon because there really wasn't much to choose from locally. If you are picking out stencils specifically for use with texture paste, keep that in mind.  I really liked the Clockwork stencil, but I realized the areas that I would want to be raised would in fact be recessed and I was afraid the fine details would be lost.  I also liked Gears and Shatter but didn't get them for the same reasons. Doing a search on "texture paste" and the name of the stencil you are considering should turn up some examples of how it will look.  If you only find examples using paints or inks that might be a hint that texture paste won't work well.

Above on the left is a 3 pack of mini stencils. From top to bottom: Gothic, Latticework and Blossom.  The dimensions given are 3-1/8 x 6-1/4 inches, but the actual design measures 2-5/8 x 5.  On the right is their regular sized stencil Flourish, again the dimensions given are 4.125 x 8.5 inches, but the design is approximately 3-1/4 x 6-7/8.

For the following examples I used the stencils on thick glossy junk mail. Later these pieces can be cut, torn or layered to use in an actual project. They are flexible enough that they could be wrapped around a bottle.
The texture paste I used was a mix of 2:1, paint and glue with enough spackle mixed in to make it fairly thick.

Exhibit A on the left was not thick enough and spread after the stencil was lifted.  
Exhibit B on the right was the result of adding more spackle.  

I spread the texture paste with a palette knife but anything rigid with a straight edge will work.  
With all the stencils I played with spreading varying thickness.  In my experience a layer of texture paste the thickness of the stencils, which are quite thin, gave the cleanest definition.  

Here side by side from left to right: the stencil, the stenciled texture paste and a print of the texture paste left on the stencil.  The latter definitely has more of a learning curve, but give it a try, beats just washing the stencil off.  I suggest always keep some extra stuff nearby to experiment on tags, packaging, junk mail, etc.    

This stencil was giving off a Haunted Mansion vibe so I painted it purple and black.  The one on the far right is the one with the runny texture paste, not perfect but still usable. I tend to give everything a black base coat, but hopefully you can see from the picture this isn't always the best choice.  In this case a white base coat is a better foundation for a deep purple.  Black or white all three needed two coats of purple for full coverage.  

The Flourish stencil seemed easier to work with.  I don't have enough stencil experience to say for sure whether it was the design or the larger size, but it always came out looking great.  Even the print (far right) of the dirty side of the stencil turned out really well. 

And here it is with a quick paint job.  

The Lattice stencil on top was the hardest to work with because the fine lines are not forgiving if you get sloppy.  This one definitely works better with an even thin layer of paste. The Blossom stencil is just blah in my opinion.  Above I laid the texture paste on really thick, which made it look even more chunky and blah, but even when I spread it thin I was still underwhelmed.  Neither resulted in a good reverse print.

And here they are painted. I don't love them like the first two stencils, but I can see where they could add interest to a project when layered with other stuff.
Stay tuned until next time when we apply stenciling to things other than perfectly flat pieces of junk mail.  

Monday, September 24, 2018

Fun With Texture Paste

In a little bit I'll show you how this started out as my most failed texture attempt so far, but first lets talk about texture paste.

For texture paste I have used approximately a 1:1 to 2:1, paint to glue ratio and then tried various thickeners. Now I haven't exactly gone about this scientifically, but as far as I can tell, at least in the short term, they all give the same basic results.

Spackle was the first thickener I used because I have some old stuff to use up and when that's finished I'll move on to the joint compound. Those sort of products definitely start to degrade before I use them up fixing walls so I might as well use them elsewhere. They also seem to make the smoothest texture paste.

I tried baking soda, that seemed to be another popular choice.  It felt gritty, which wasn't that noticeable if I made a thin paste.  Making a really thick paste resulted in an end product that had a rough, sand papery texture.  Which isn't necessarily a bad thing.

Talcum powder was another one I saw in a lot of recipes.  I couldn't find plain talcum powder.  But I had some old baby powder and now I remember why I never used it on my babies. I don't like the smell.  I don't like that cloud of fine particles that gets in the air no matter how gently you try to squeeze the stupid bottle.  It wasn't as gritty as baking soda, but I hate breathing that crap in.  I guess I could wear a mask, but it seems easier to just not use baby powder.

I also saw cornstarch and flour being used.  I'm sure they make a nice consistency but I'm always leery about their propensity to attract bugs so I didn't try them.

Moving on to fun things to do with texture paste.  Again these are all flat sample pieces but any of these techniques would work on bottles, skulls, pumpkins, etc.

You can use a paint brush to lay down some texture or the tip of the handle to add some dots. Do a search on relief painting for more ideas.  
You can try this freehand or print out an image and paint over it.

You can use the texture paste the same as you would decorator icing.  I purchased an inexpensive 4 pack of plastic piping tips and used a disposable bag.  I went with plastic because all my icing tips are metal so this way I know for sure they will never get cross contaminated.  I'm not good with icing and I sure wasn't any better with this.

I can do stars.  
Most of the stuff I did was so awful I just scraped it up right away and reused it. I'm hoping someone at the craft party with actual skills will give this a try.

I'm really am awful with a piping bag.  But I found that if I dragged the tip of a palette knife through my awful piping I could make it less awful.

Last year a friend had a henna party. It was so fun and I thought if I practiced enough I could come up with my own skull designs.   Except I really didn't practice much, so that didn't happen.  But I did learn that you can use thick lotion to practice on yourself. Which is great, all your mistakes can be wiped away and they moisturize your skin. Or you can use paint on paper. I also learned how to make henna cones out of cellophane.  And that's what I used here for some precision piping. You could also use a squeeze bottle with a very small opening.

I'm not much better with a henna cone than I am with an icing bag.  
Nothing I tried doing worked out as demonstrated above.  

On a whim after all that disappointment I made this boney arm, which I have to say isn't have bad.  And then I got cocky and thought I'd make a skull which ended up a complete mess.  I still don't know why I made the teeth recessed instead of the spaces between.  

Painting didn't help.

Just knocking off the bottoms of those horrible teeth and slapping on more paint helped.  I could have completely removed them and re-piped them properly, but I didn't want to invest anymore time.  And even though it's still a poorly done skull it can be layered with so much other stuff that you won't even notice.

Case in point right here. All those random failed doodles, that I probably would have scrapped but I liked the "Halloween" on the packaging cardboard.  So I slapped on more texture paste a few skull beads and plastic bugs and gave it a coat of paint.  I used some crappy fluorescent green paint that's never mixed properly no matter how well I shake it. 

The lesson here is that in art mistakes are like a dead body, 
bury them under enough stuff and no one will ever know.  

Since with the exception of the skeleton hand, everything I did was a fail I decided to get a little help from The Graphics Fairy.  I tore out the images after printing instead of cutting for a little added texture and then I glued them onto some old school folders for a bit more structure and tore around them again. 

The following have all been piped using a henna cone.  At some point these may get slapped on a bottle. It should be easy to add lettering in the center later with more piped texture paste. Or alphabet pasta is a cheap and easy way to add raised lettering.

Here I cheated and made the thin lines by dragging the paste with a toothpick. Cheating is never the answer kids. You can see where the lines are barely thick at all and downright disappear in places. 

     Rather than cheat, pick a thicker design until you hone your skills.  
The following two were pretty easy designs to do.  

This was a small pattern and I tried different approaches, but none of them really worked. I didn't finish so you can see the original pattern compared to what I did.   

Since the one thing I really had success with was hands I decided to use a Hand Bone picture. It worked really well.  I can't wait to try more skeletons.  

I had to make another freeform hand just to make sure the first one wasn't a fluke.

All the lovely bones together. 

This is an aftermath picture of the weirdest prostate exam ever.  No.  No, it's not.  It just occurred to me that not everyone paints the way I do so I thought I'd share my fancy high-tech method.

I use this technique for highlighting raised texture.  Squirt very small amount of paint in palm of non-dominate hand.  This hand can also be used to hold the object being painted, by the fingertips of course and the palm must be kept facing up.  Rub paint in a circular  motion with pad of index finger on dominant hand to spread it out.  With just a thin layer of paint left on index finger lightly rub across textured surface to pick up highlights.

The thin small amount of acrylic will dry very fast so you will have to repeat the process multiple times.

I prefer this finger painting method to a more tradition dry brush method because:
A) I can feel the thickness of the paint, which needs to be very thin
B) I can feel the wetness of the paint, it dries quickly so I know exactly when to reload my finger
C) Precision control over how much paint is applied.  The lightest touch will deposit only a small amount, more pressure will deposit more paint.
D) The pad of my finger is too big to fit into any little crevices, so I only get paint on raised areas. 
E) It may look messy, but it rubs right off once it's dried. (The picture above is messier than usual because I was highlighting multiple pieces.)

So there's my latest adventure with texture paste.  Tune in next time when I have real actual stencils to try instead of stuff I found laying around the house.