Cirque du Soleil Party!

May 20, 2015

So over on, they’re having a contest sponsored by Ticketmaster to make something related to “live events” – such as concerts, plays, sporting events, etc. One of the highlights of my bucket list is to attend a performance by Cirque du Soleil, and I knew it would make a fun and colorful theme for my creation.

After much thought and the rejection of a dozen (fairly lame) ideas, I decided to create a birthday party for someone who loves Cirque du Soleil. Mostly because I love making party items, despite that I have never even once thrown a party. (I’ve also been known to make jewelry, though I almost never wear it. Go figure!)

The first order of business was to study images and videos of Cirque performers to get an idea for a color scheme. This ended up based on the most commonly used makeup colors: lime green, turquoise, hot pink, bright yellow and red-orange.

Every party needs a banner, so that’s where I started. I drew the faces in pencil, water-colored them and added final details with a black gel pen.

cirque party face 5

The faces were mounted with foam tape onto flags made from cardstock and edged with Stickles glitter glue.

cirque party banner

The items in the corner are pinwheels made of animal-print cardstock, buttons and painted dowels.

Tip: Pinwheels look very easy to make. They are not. They will fight you every step of the way. Most of the helpful on-line instructions will helpfully suggest you use a pin. A pin is not up to the job. I had to get serious and use a stapler.

(This has been my “what Pinterest doesn’t tell you” tip of the day. You’re welcome.)

A friend from work recently gave me some apothecary jars from an estate sale. I used one to make her a “captured fairy” jar, in which the fairy was her cat with glued-on wings. (And a crown, of course, because all cats are royalty.) One day I might remember to post a photo of it! Anyway, I decided to use a couple of the other jars to hold candy at the party. These were decorated with printouts of the Cirque du Soleil logo. I printed the largest one on a transparency so you can see the yummy candy inside the jar.

cirque party candy

Candy is expensive, y’all! It would have cost about $15 to buy enough brand name candy to fill these jars, and they aren’t even that big! So my party attendees will have to settle for cinnamon disks and “gourmet” jelly beans (yeah, not those jelly beans). The important part was that it looked pretty in the jar; also, my husband is not that fussy about candy.

So what’s a party without cupcakes? They are much less messy than cutting up a cake and with a lot less clean-up afterwards. I had some vintage ballerina cupcake toppers in my stash; it took only a bit of paint to transform them into Cirque performers.

cirque party cupcakes

These little gals did NOT want to hold their new flags! I had to convince them via torture by pliers. (Who knew ballerinas could be so uncooperative?) While it was fun to give them new faces, I had to wear glasses on glasses on a magnifying glass in order to get the details right. Their tiny faces are less than 1/2″ tall!

cirque party ballerina closeup

And finally, the piece de resistance, a centerpiece made from a (Mulan) Barbie doll, air-dry clay, lots of paint and glitter and, of all things, an old bathroom faucet handle!

cirque party centerpiece

Dude recently changed out our bathroom faucets, and I realized this old acrylic faceted handle would be perfect for my acrobat to stand on. She’s held on there with a mound of epoxy clay, which I disguised with Stickles “sea glass” glitter, and the handle was attached to a glass/silver sundae dish with E-6000 cement. I filled the dish with beads from a recently-intact necklace. (Have I mentioned I don’t wear jewelry?)

The flowers were a serendipitous find I picked up at the thrift store about a week ago. They were part of a “luau party” photo backdrop and the colors happened to go really well with my party scheme, so I strewed them around to add more pops of color.

cirque party whole

So there you have it – a Cirque du Soleil party in the making! One day I’ll actually get to see the show. Maybe I’ll bring Acrobat Mulan with me; it’s not like she’s gotten out much either.

(Want to see the rest of the entries? Lots of fun “live event” themed creations here; my favorites so far are the Monkees shrine and the Rocky Horror cake!)

Compendium of Curiosities Challenge #28

May 14, 2015

Have you been following along with the challenges over at Linda Ledbetter’s blog? We’ve been working our way through Tim Holtz’s Compendium of Curiosities III book; there is fun to be had and prizes to be won! This time we’re turning to page 57 and learning how to do Alcohol Ink Ombre.

This challenge is sponsored by The Funkie Junkie Boutique and wouldn’t it be great to win a gift certificate? All you have to do is create something with the Alcohol Ink Ombre technique. Check out the Curiosity Crew’s great examples on Linda’s blog for inspiration. They always do amazing work!

Admittedly I had some trouble with this technique at first. It came down to my reading the instructions and then, in my silly mind, replacing one simple three-letter word with another. Note to self: “tap” is NOT the same as “rub”!

Once I re-read the directions and figuratively slapped myself upside the head for doing it wrong, I was able to achieve a very nice ombre effect. I made three pieces; one brown, one teal, one orange, and decided to use them all in one project. I pulled out one of my favorite Tim Holtz stamp sets; stamped one image on each color and colored one of the images with markers.

tim butterfly 1

The brown piece was attached to a black card and the others were adhered on top with foam tape for added dimension. A couple of metal corners rubbed with Mermaid Lagoon Distress Paint completed the card.

tim butterfly 2

Once I figured out what I was doing, this was really fun and I love the ombre effect!

Gelli Cats

May 14, 2015

In the Jan/Feb issue of Somerset Studio, there’s an article by Melissa Johnson explaining how she’d made a piece called “Jeweled Elephant.” You can see most of it here by clicking on the table of contents image near the bottom of the page.

I was so intrigued by the process that I wanted to try it right away. Some of the prettiest papers I have are those made with the Gelli Plate; I have a giant stack of them made on deli paper. I chose three of my favorites and glued them down to 7″x8″ pieces of manila file folders with Mod Podge.

Elephants are nice, but I’m a cat person, so I chose a silhouette of a cat from Google image search, traced around it on another piece of manila file folder, then cut it out and used it as a mask.

gelli cat 1

After brushing acrylic paint all over the folder, I removed the mask to reveal…a Gelli cat!

gelli cat 2

I added more color to each piece by applying and smearing Gelatos with my finger (actually, Gel Sticks, which are the “kids” version of Gelatos; I can discern no difference between them except the price). The deli paper crinkles and wrinkles nicely, which makes it easy to add texture. A few dots of acrylic paint at the bottom, swirls with a gel pen and stamped words completed each piece.

gelli cat 3

These were still a little curvy when I photographed them; a few hours under some heavy books flattened them nicely. They’re the perfect size to add to my art journal.

These were fun and fast experiments – all three took less than an hour total before the stamped words were added – and I’m quite happy to have this great technique in my repertoire!

Compendium of Curiosities Challenge #27

May 1, 2015

It’s time once again for the beautiful and talented Linda Ledbetter to challenge us with a technique from Tim Holtz’s Compendium of Curiosities III! This time we’re turning to page 61 in our Tim-nals and learning how to use the embossing diffusers. To be honest, I’ve had one sitting unopened in my studio for at least three months! The great thing about these challenges is that they get you motivated to make some art and discover all manner of fun new tools and media and techniques. The second great thing is that you always get inspiration in the form of amazing eye-candy artwork from The Curiosity Crew. The third great thing is that you can win prizes! This time the sponsor is The Inspiration Emporium, and wouldn’t it be grand to win a gift certificate so you can go on a wild shopping spree? I can tell you from experience – it is! :)

So, on to the challenge. I had a bit of a learning curve using the diffuser; the package directions are a bit inadequate, so it was very helpful to watch some videos on how to make this work. (This was after I made a couple of silly mistakes, one of which resulted in my Big Shot almost permanently acquiring a new part consisting of an embossing folder, a diffuser and two embossing plates instead of just one! Derp.)

Anyway, I finally got the technique down pat and just love it. I decided to make a card and since I went a little nuts and embossed not one, but ten (!) pieces, it’s likely I’ll make a few more! I started by making a card that I ended up really, really, REALLY disliking, and as it now sits in the bottom of my trash can, we will pretend that one never existed.

But then I buckled down and got serious and made a card I do like. This one uses Tim’s super fun BINGO embossing folder and the diffuser with the square opening. The window didn’t fall exactly where I needed it to, so I used some tape to hold it in place and also added a second diffuser at the bottom of the first one to cover the exposed area of the card. I inked the cardstock, which was manila colored, with Peacock Feathers Distress Ink, then highlighted the raised areas with Walnut Stain and colored each of the letters and numbers with acrylic paint.

bingo card side

The bird was stamped on white cardstock in Black Soot Distress Ink and colored with Prismacolor pencils. I mounted the piece on purple cardstock and a black card and then used a cotton swab to add dots of acrylic paint at the bottom.

I could have used this card a couple weeks ago when one of my co-workers left for another job – but as it turned out, he didn’t need “good luck” – he is quite happy where he is now!

bingo card front

So instead I’ll wish good luck to the rest of the challenge contenders. Keep those fingers crossed!  :)

Compendium of Curiosities Challenge #26

April 20, 2015

Have you been following along with the fun and exciting challenges over at Linda Ledbetter’s blog? We’ve been working our way through Tim Holtz’s Compendium of Curiosities III book; there is fun to be had and prizes to be won! The awesome part is that we’re doing this randomly, so you never know which project or technique will pop up next. This time we’re turning to page 42 and learning how to do “smudge stamping.”

This challenge is sponsored by The Funkie Junkie Boutique and wouldn’t it be great to win a $25 gift certificate? All you have to do is create something with the smudge stamping technique. Need inspiration? Check out the Curiosity Crew’s great examples on Linda’s blog. They always do amazing work; it’s worth a visit every two weeks just to check out the new Tim-inspired projects!

This technique is all about the stamping, so I decided to use only ink on my project and forego any other media.

tag upper tower

I used a large Tim Holtz Eiffel Tower stamp and four smaller “postmark” stamps from other companies.

tag lower tower

I stamped the postmarks and punched them into squares, then adhered them to the tag with foam tape for some nice dimension. I also used Tim’s harlequin stamp on the tag as an homage to Hels Sheridan, who uses it in every project!

tag harlequin

I used so many Distress Ink colors for this. Let me see if I can remember them all! Walnut Stain, Shabby Shutters, Worn Lipstick, Broken China, Spiced Marmalade, Rusty Hinge (which I used to stamp “speckles” all over), Old Paper and Spun Sugar. (Whew! That’s a lot of ink!)

smudge tag

The final touches were mini pom-pom trim and a couple lengths of seam binding dyed with Distress Ink.

There’s still time to try smudge stamping and join the challenge. If you miss this one, there’s another every two weeks and you can join in any time!

Except Mine is a Fairy…

April 20, 2015

So I’ve been watching Kelly Donovan on YouTube; she is a fun, sweet and quirky gal who loves mixed-media art and loves to share ideas and projects. Last week, she started a “folk art angel” project and I decided to follow along. I’ve been wanting to create more “original” artwork (via drawing and painting instead of using existing images) and need all the practice I can get! It’s been fun digging out all the acrylic paints, watercolor paints, crayons, pencils, etc. that I’ve had squirreled away forever. Usually I buy them for a class and then never use them again! What a waste. But – no more.

Kelly breaks up her projects into several videos over the course of several days so everyone can keep up. Well, she’s still not done with hers, but I got a bee in my behind and finished mine up last night!

Mine looks very different from Kelly’s; for one thing, I created it on a large (11″ x 16″) piece of wood that Dude cut for me awhile back rather than on paper. Also, instead of randomly placing torn scraps of various papers, I adhered wide strips of scrapbook paper horizontally. The papers all go together, color- and design-wise, as they were left over from a book project. I thought I’d see how the background turned out with the strips, and I like it!

I stamped, stenciled and then applied a light wash of gesso. When that dried, I adhered the painted face, painted the hair, then created a dress for her from more scrapbook paper, painted it, and used a wing stencil to draw the wings. I painted in the wings and used Distress Stickles in the “openings” to add some sparkle. Added some lace, a paper butterfly, a pretty flower and some stenciled words to remind me to “create magic” every day!

angel canvas

Springtime in Paris

April 14, 2015

Thought I’d share a project I worked on for a couple of weeks this past month. Michael’s craft store had a contest called Springtime in Paris, in which you could win just that – a trip to Paris in the springtime! The categories were jewelry, papercraft, art, baking and floral arrangement. After weeks of nail-biting and hoping and nervous excitement on the part of many, many contestants (there were over 11,000!), they just announced the grand prize winner last evening, and it was this beautiful watercolor painting:


Such lovely, soft Spring-like colors!

The contest was open for an entire month, so I spent a few days deciding what to make. At first I thought perhaps a pretty music box? Naw, too “ordinary.” Okay, what about a decorated suitcase?  My husband pointed out there are already decorated suitcases in the store! (He had a good point.) Then it occurred to me – what about a sketch book? The contest was sponsored by Canson, who make sketch paper, among many other things, so it seemed like a good fit, and I knew I had the technical skills to put a book together. Further, I could make it a sketch-slash-travel book designed specifically for a trip to Paris in the springtime. Perfect!

I started with 8″ square black covers from 7 Gypsies and used a simple, inexpensive crackle technique and French Vanilla paint for the background. (Of course it was FRENCH vanilla!) On this I layered wonderful images from The Graphics Fairy, including a beautiful Parisian lady (the photo features the trademark of a photography studio in Paris), a map of France, a French greeting card, which I sewed onto manila cardstock, and French sheet music for a piece called “Sending Flowers.”

just book

The flourish and crown piece are laser-cut wood that I painted and crackled. I added lace, dyed cheesecloth, crumpled tissue paper, gold ribbon and beads for the binding, and a button that I painted with alcohol ink to match the beads. Dyed seam binding threaded through the back cover is wrapped around the button to act as a closure. This was the first time I ever tried a beaded binding, and I just love the look! (Honestly, it’s bad enough I have a problem with hoarding paper, lace, flowers and ribbons – I now foresee a serious bead addiction in my future!)

Of course, I knew a simple journal wouldn’t be unique/original enough to compete against all the sure-to-be-amazing entries in a national contest, so I decided to add something special: pop-ups! I’d never tried them before, but have always loved them, ever since I was a child and had this book:

pop up riddles

I found instructions for making a simple pop-up by attaching tabs to a page and to a flat image, and used this method to attach six Eiffel Tower die cuts to a folded piece of pink harlequin patterned cardstock. I then added colorful cherry blossom patterned paper to the edges and adhered the piece into the book.

eiffel popup

I remembered from my high school French classes that “printemps” means “springtime,” but had to Google the exact phrase “springtime in Paris.” The letters are die cuts by Sizzix in a font called “Endless Love,” cut from magenta cardstock.

But somehow even this wasn’t enough! I had recently read that there are over 50 carousels in Paris, and Michaels’ gorgeous video promoting the contest even had a carousel in it. Amazingly, I was able to find a pattern for creating a pop-up carousel! I decided to create it from burnished gold specialty paper instead of plain cardstock, as I love the idea of a golden carousel. This part took quite a long time, as each of the many pieces used in its creation had to be intricately cut with an Exacto blade. The engineering necessary to put it together and adhere it exactly at the right spot so that it would fold neatly into the book was its own challenge!  But I am so glad I tackled this, because the finished book is such a treasure. Maybe I’ll start saving up to go to Paris on my own so I can actually use it! :)

carousel popup

Lil’ Houses

April 12, 2015

Most of my artistic endeavors have been what I call “dry” ones. I like to use beautiful images and enhance them with pretty embellishments (flowers, ribbon, lace, glitter and the like) and the messiest I usually get is alcohol ink on my fingers from dyeing seam binding.

Lately I’ve been wanting to try “wet” mixed-media techniques with acrylics, watercolors, gel sticks, you name it, and learn to draw my own images instead of depending on existing ones. I turned to the internet for inspiration, and a few weeks ago on YouTube I found this lovely lady named Kelly Donovan, who loves to share her mixed-media expertise. She is all about using what you have, which makes the process do-able for those who would otherwise not be able to afford the higher-end art supplies. Kelly is great fun to watch and listen to (I especially love it when she breaks into song!) and I find her refreshingly “real” and very accessible (plus, I love her accent, which reminds me of my stepmom’s!).

A couple of weeks ago, Kelly did a series on whimsical mixed-media houses, and I just fell in love with the idea. I finally found time to sit down in my studio and pull out a couple of small canvases (I believe these are 5×7) that I got on sale at Michael’s awhile back. I like the flat canvases because, unlike paper, they won’t wrinkle when you wet them, and unlike stretched canvases, the center won’t sag when you press down with a stamp or stencil.

I pretty much followed Kelly’s method for creating these, adding a few extra touches along the way and incorporating some techniques I learned from my friend, Terri, who has taken some mixed-media classes and is a fabulous teacher in her own right!

Both houses are made from a piece of tissue I got in a package sometime last year that I fell in love with and have been saving to use in a project. (Later I’ll share what I’m making with the rest of the tissue.) The roofs are embossed scrapbook paper that I painted and then rubbed with more paint to highlight the embossing. The balloons are a textured handmade paper, which I made by tracing the cap on a jar of embossing powder and the clouds were made with a white Sharpie oil paint pen and a dab of grey acrylic paint. I drew the flowers with a plain pencil and then used watercolor crayons to add the bright colors.

I worked on both canvases at the same time so they’d coordinate in color and style.

house canvas left

house canvas right

I hadn’t thought ahead about making the paths “meet” in the middle, so I messed that up a little, but if you put them far enough apart, it works.

house canvases

They won’t win any prizes, but they were SO MUCH FUN to make and I think I’m off to a great start in this whole “working wet” kind of thing! Always look forward to seeing what Kelly is working on from day to day, and hopefully I’ll find the time to follow along with her next endeavor.

Compendium of Curiosities Challenge #25

April 10, 2015

Whew – it’s been awhile since I’ve entered one of Linda’s fun Compendium of Curiosities challenges; been so busy with other projects and, ya know, life gets in the way sometimes even if all we really want to do is sit down and create! Every two weeks, a new challenge is issued as we work our way through Tim Holtz’s Compendium of Curiosities III book. Anyone can join in at any time!

The challenge this time is sponsored by the Inspiration Emporium, who always generously offer a $50 gift certificate, which is so amazing! I love shopping with them and they have a BUNCH of Tim Holtz stuff, so check ’em out!

We are using Tim’s Frameworks dies in our creations for Challenge #25 and what fun this turned out to be. I had to visit the Curiosity Crew and really study their work to get some ideas as I was fresh out of ’em at first! It’s always so interesting to see how several different artists use a specific method or material. I had an idea when I started that turned out completely different at the end!

Here are the materials I used for coloring:

steampunk necklace materials

See those little hexagons at the bottom? I used the Honeycomb die, which looks like this:

frameworks die

The hexagons are the leftover pieces that pop out of the frame. I decided to make mine look metallic, so I adhered metal tape onto black cardstock and ran it through the Sizzix machine. Ohhh, shiny silver! It looked really cool, but I wanted some color. I used the alcohol inks to dye all the little hexagons that popped out as well as the frame. Then I dabbed the frame with Antiqued Bronze Distress Paint to give it an aged look. Still didn’t know what I was going to do with it, and then I got to thinking, why not play around with the shape a little? I started cutting away some of the frame and ended up with a curvy shape that reminded me of a necklace. BOOM! A NECKLACE!

So I was off and running. I glued the frame to a piece of grungeboard to make it sturdy, then popped the colored hexagons into the spaces and added the Rusty Hinge Distress Glitter to each to tone down the metallic shine. I adhered a Tim Holtz Trinket Pin to each edge of the frame with E6000 glue in order to attach a chain. It looked all right at that point, but something was missing. Then I thought, why not make it Steampunk? I happened to have gears in two different designs that would fit in the hexagons exactly. That was just what it needed!

steampunk necklace closeup

I colored a Tim Holtz wings charm with the Antiqued Bronze Distress Paint and rubbed on some permanent black ink to age it, then adhered that to the bottom of the frame, which really jazzed it up. I then added a metal corner brad and a Tim Holtz tiny paperclip below the wings so I could hang a jump ring to add a Steampunk gear charm I had in my stash. I used the Marvy Metallics and more Distress Stickles to color the charm to match the necklace.

steampunk necklace 3

The little wings on the Trinket Pins are brads that started out bright gold; I also colored them with the Distress Paint and now they match perfectly.

steampunk necklace 1

I had totally planned to make a paper project when I started. I am not a jewelry maker by any means (despite that I made earrings for one of the earlier Compendium challenges!) and I almost never wear jewelry myself. But I’ve really been into Steampunk themes lately and the necklace almost seemed to make itself!

steampunk necklace 2

Won’t you join us at the Compendium Challenges? It’s so much fun and you can hop in at any time! I’m so glad I was able to participate in the Frameworks challenge; it was a blast!

Wacky Cats

March 9, 2015

So awhile back,  I posted this tutorial on how to make your cat into a Dia De Las Muertos character by transferring a photo and then painting over it. I recently came across one of my “Gatos” paintings and decided it would be cool on the cover of a sketchbook.

dia sketchbook 1

I started with black book covers by 7 Gypsies, bound in some Canson sketch paper and then added my original painting to the cover, adding lots of colorful embellishments. Most of the flowers are from a pack I bought to use in my cruise journal a couple years ago; I love the bright, crazy colors. I didn’t use glitter this time (amazingly!), but the sparkly rhinestones more than make up for it, I think.

dia sketchbook 2

Speaking of cat paintings…

For the most part, I’ve always relied on existing images as the basis for my artwork. I’ve made a lot of backgrounds and embellished like crazy, but when it comes to the main image, very few have been original to me. Lately I’ve wanted to try making my own images. Painting over a photo is a good start, but I want to move towards “original” stuff. While I am very poor at drawing, I can do basic shapes and don’t mind too much erasing and re-drawing.

So I’ve spent the last couple of weeks haunting blogs and YouTube and working my way up to trying something original. The tutorials helped me decide on a method; basically to make a background and draw the image separately to glue on later. Great way to not mess up a great background if the focal point is “pre-approved.” :)

I decided my first attempt would be a cat, since it’s not difficult to draw a cat’s face and the more “whimsical” I made it, the less I’d have to depend on actual drawing skills!

The background was simple; a few scraps of different papers (book text, sheet music, scrapbook paper) glued down onto mat board with decoupage medium, painted, and then some stenciling and stamping added when that was dry. I drew the cat’s face on white cardstock, cut it into quarters and painted each quarter separately, then glued them back together on the background. Then embellished like crazy, adding a stamped crown, a dress and sun border cut from scrapbook paper, and a few stick-on pearls and rhinestones. Final touch was some doodling and writing with a black Pitt pen.

wacky cat

It’s not the most exciting piece, but I think it’s fine for my first effort at something original. I may mount this on a black background to make it pop a little more. The colors on the background got a little muddied (my bad for being too impatient to let each layer dry!), so I’ll work on that next time, and maybe I’ll plan a little better and pick out what I’m going to use ahead of time instead of using whatever was close at hand on my messy table!


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