HUGE SELECTION IN STOCK
CALL TOLL FREE
1 800-332-4474

Making and Decorating Soy Wax Candles

Making non-toxic soy wax votives at homes is so ridiculously easy and fun that we just had to share it with you!  Plus we'll show you how to beautify pillar candles using alcohol inks!

November 03, 2017 — Karen Bullaro

Jellyfish Lanterns

 

Spooky festivities are just around the corner and we decided to have fun with some string lights by dressing them up in something a little more interesting. Using polymer clay, they have been covered up to look like little glowing jellyfish. Here we'll show you how you can enjoy these little guys too!

Materials:

  • Translucent polymer clay (Fimo, Sculpey brand etc...)
  • one small light bulb
  • string of small indoor or outdoor lights
  • non-porous smooth work surface (like glass for example)
  • smooth non-porous roller (not wood, it will stick too much)
  • thin crafting or jewelry wire
  • thin flexible blade
  • tinfoil
  • tinfoil pan x2
  • wipe out clay tool, or just a butter knife will do too
  • alcohol inks (totally optional; it's for decorating )

Step one:

Set up your work area with materials at the ready. Dust very easily shows on the clay surface so when working; if it's a bother for you definitely have a paper towel and some rubbing alcohol handy to wipe down surfaces and tools.

Cut yourself a small slice of clay not even a quarter of an inch thick. Start  conditioning the clay by kneading and squishing it, being careful not to trap air bubbles inside. This is important as it will make it easier to work with and do what you want. Once it's warmed up (literally) and feeling malleable roll it between your palms into a ball. Doesn't have to be perfect, just watch out for air pockets- those are bad.

 

Step two:

Place your ball of clay down on your work surface (I just used an old piece of glass from a cheep frame with the edges taped for safety) and roll it out into a flat circle. The circle also doesn't have to be perfect. When you've got it about 2mm thick take a tool or butter knife and trim any uneven edges, again not worrying about perfection just going for fairly circular.

 

In the center of the circle cut out a small hole the same diameter as the lights your using. (The light bulb from the string lights will fit inside this opening to hang the jellyfish later.) This too doesn't have to be perfect and you can poke a light through there after making your hole just to be sure it's the right size. If your unsure, shoot for smaller rather than larger as it's easier to take away clay than to add it.

 

Step three:

Gently lift your circle of clay off the glass and get your little light bulb out. Place the clay over top so the little hole you made is in the middle of the top of the bulb and fold down on two opposing sides and then the other two so you have a little diamond shape as pictured.

 Now we're going to pinch together the sides all the way around like so. Lift up one side and crease it in the middle making a little fold. Repeat the process all the way around. See snazy video below....

 

 

 

Step four:

You can smooth down the folds with your fingers.

 

Gently lift the edges away so you can remove the light bulb. Once it's out, tuck the ends of the folds up inside of the body. You can use thumb and forefinger to give them this little curl like so. You can smooth down the ridges with your finger and now we have our bell shaped body of jellyfish.

Step five:

Tentacles. We're gonna need those. So, now take those extra clay bits you trimmed off earlier and reconstitute them together. Roll them out into fairly thin little sheet. Then take your tool and slice them into little strips.

Peel up a strip and start to pinch little segments back and forth, the idea being to create folds and waves rather resembling a lasagna noodle. See video for a better visual description...

 

 

Turn over your jellybody and attach the tentacles to the underside of the curl of the jellyfish body. They should stick with a gentle pinch.
  

Step six:

Alrighty now, in order to bake this little fella to completion it'll need some help in the oven. We'll need to make a little tinfoil form for it to sit upon. Taking some aluminum foil scrunch up a ball a smaller than the light bulb you used. Add a sheet of foil over top and let the excess hang below. Gather and twist that excess foil together to form a cylinder to stand up the ball which is what the jelly will rest over. Then flare out the bottom stand part so it has a flat surface to stand on; like a tiny tinfoil volcano. Add any necessary extra foil if you feel it wont stand straight up in the oven. The stand needs to be able to fit in the tin foil baking pan for later so don't make it taller then the edge of the tin pan.

 

Step seven:

Place your jellied friend over the tinfoil stand you've made by gently putting the rounded foil end inside the domed body. Let the tentacles dangle below.

Here is where you can take out the alcohol inks (or markers) and decorate the outside. While on the stand I painted on a colored fringe. Here you do whatever you want I just took some inspiration from photos of jellies online.

Step eight:

Take out the foil baking tins and place your jellyfish & stand in one and place the other baking tin over top, like a lid. You can put as many as you like in there (I'm just doing it one at a time for a demonstration). You can clamp the edges together with metal clips or some tinfoil scraps. This is going to protect your creation from burning while in the oven (translucent clay is pretty susceptible to that) while creating a nice evenly heated prison. Preheat the oven to the temperature on your package of clay and bake for the time directed. My suggestion is to set a timer for yourself so as not to forget about it. Let them sit in the tin when you take them out to cool down slowly.

Step Nine:

Once they're  cooled off take out the wire and a marker or pen. Take one end of the wire and wrap it around the marker a couple or times making a coil. Slide it off and leave yourself 4 or 5 inches of excess wire then cut.

Take your baked jellyfish and slide the straight end of the wire up through that hole you left for the lights. The coiled bit acts like an anchor and should be larger than the hole thus preventing the jellyfish from slipping off.

You can squeeze the rounded bit of wire into a more angular shape as well to keep it from slipping through the opening. Take out your string lights and slip the jellyfish over one bulb with the wire part poking out the top. Wrap this excess wire around the base of the bulb and wire to keep the jellyfish in place.

Hang your lights and enjoy!

 

 

 

 

October 20, 2017 — Jasmine Ashlie

Crackle Effect For Crafts

There are many painting techniques that create different textures or effects with the paints you're using. A popular one is creating the antiqued look of crackling paint. This effect does work best on a harder surface so things like wood show this effect off well. There are a fine number of products that can do this for you, Kroma Crackle or Golden's crackle medium for example. However these aren't always very cost effective, especially if you're doing a large project or just wanting to play around. For any craft or home decor project here is a way to achieve that same effect for your crafts by using a simple inexpensive ingredient: white school glue.

*Small note; since our main ingredient is school glue I can not comment on the archival quality of this so it's not recommended if your creating masterpieces.

Materials:

  • acrylic paint -two colours at least
  • white school glue (we found classic Elmer's worked the best)
  • a couple of flat brushes, one at least that you don't mind getting glue on.
  • newsprint or something to lay out your project on- this can get a little messy.
  • something to paint

 

 

Step 1:

Lay out some newsprint on you work area to catch the inevitable drips. Having a rag or paper towel handy is a good idea too. Take your piece and do a full coat of paint over the item. This is the colour that will show through the cracks, your under layer. Keep that in mind for choosing which color to use. Let this dry completely. It doesn't need to be a thick layer, just make sure everything is evenly covered to your liking. Here I'm trying different colours to see how the results vary.

Step 2:

Get out the white glue and a brush. Depending on the size of what your working on it may be easier to squeeze out some lines of glue directly onto the surface or have an open tub to dip a brush right into.

 

 

This is where it got trickier than I anticipated. This is an easy and simple process but there are a few things that will affect how the effect turns out. You want to brush on an good layer of glue but not too thick. Too little, and cracks will not appear very much; too much and I got this weird ribbon effect. Which could be fun too but not what I was going for.

 

This can be a hard thing to judge by eyeballing but I have some images to give you and idea how it will turn out. Visuals are great so here we go. The thinner my layer of glue was the greater the number of cracks appeared in fine detail. Just keep in mind what you want.

 

 

Step 3:

Let it start to dry, but only so the top layer that you can touch becomes tacky. Use the finger test if you touch it and it fights back a little and gives you a peak of glue then that should be good.

You don't want to let it dry too much because then we won't get the cracks. It can be tempting to do it too soon as well. This is what happened when I did just that, ribbons.

The paint I used on top was pretty thick too so that effected it as well. When I gave myself at least five minuets or more that seemed to work well but judge on how tacky it feels to you.

 

Step 4:

Brush over top an even layer of the other acrylic colour you choose. Use smooth even strokes that go in one direction. Your trying to layer the paint over the glue without mixing them together.

 

This too can be a bit tricky: My suggestion is before you do your main project, try out your techniques on a small area (either in a less visible spot or on a scrap surface). You know you've done well if after a minute or two cracks start appearing. I found different types of paint cracked differently and so did different colours. 

 

 

 

Thinner paints like a fluid or high flow acrylic cracked more easily. Chalky colours also did well to increase the overall cracking detail. To speed up the process I used a hair dryer on a low setting to get things going. It was magic I highly recommend but only for drying the layer of paint over the glue. Don't use it on the glue layer as it's too easy to overdo it. The paint cracks because the layer under it is taking longer to dry than the paint ontop.

Here is the result of applying this project to something a little more interesting. See what you can give a little touch up and have fun gluing!

 

 

 

September 14, 2017 — Jasmine Ashlie

Oven Bake Polymer Clay Beads for Beginners

Ever wanted to make your own jewelry? Polymer clay can do just that! Polymer clay is a great versatile craft material for people of all ages and all skill levels. In case you're wondering what that it is, it's the kind of clay you oven bake to harden (such as Fimo & Sculpey). You can be as complex or as simple as you wish with polymer clays. One fun way to use them is to make your own beads

Beads can be intricate or simple; whatever makes it a fun experience for you. Whether you want to make your own jewelry, or fun crafts with the kids, this can be a project for anyone.  We'll show you a few techniques for making several types of beads... (There are some Adults Only instructions for the bits involving heat and sharp pointy objects.)

Materials:

    • polymer clay of some variety (here I'm using Sculpey)
    • A flat clean smooth non-porous  table area with parchment paper taped firmly down. (The clays can leave stains while working with them so it's best to have your work area covered up.)
    • a smooth hard non-porous roller (no wooden ones)
    • either a fairly large sharp pin, knitting needle, or skewer
    • a small, smooth, hard non porous slab (smooth is going to be a theme here) A small glass sheet from a cheap frame with tape on the edges can work.
    • tin for baking in at the end. If you don't want to use your nice cookie sheets a disposable tinfoil one will work great. We will need it as hat......you'll see.
    • some plain, not shiny paper
    • a sharp, thin blade large enough to hold comfortably
    • paper towel with rubbing alcohol (for cleaning tools and surfaces any time you see too much clay build-up)
    • oven thermometer

      There are many kinds of beads you can create so we will be showing techniques for three different beads here. Piercing of the beads will be shown at the end.

    For the first bead, we'll start with a simple jelly roll bead. For many beads, what you will have to do is make what's called a cane; a roll of clay arranged in different patterns to achieve different kinds of looks. 

     

    Project 1 - Jelly Roll Cane:

    Step 1:

    Set up your work area with your flat, smooth, non-porous working surface and have your supplies handy.

    Step 2 - Conditioning:

    Pick out at least two different colours of clay. Highly contrasting colours work well for this one. To make them easily workable we will condition them first. (This is just kneading and squeezing them to warm up the clay.) These clays are made with plastic so if you've ever heated up plastic, you know it gets softer when warm; same thing here. Be sure in this process not to trap air bubbles (by folding it over) as these can pop during baking and ruin your project. (Keep that structural integrity field up.)  Roll or squeeze the clay from different sides to soften it up. When it starts to feel softer and a bit warmer in your hands you're ready to go to.

    Step 3:

    Roll out each of your conditioned clays into a flat sheet, somewhat square in shape. It should be about 2mm thick, but you don't need to be too fussy.

     

    Tip: start with the lighter colour first so it doesn't pick up bits of the darker colour while rolling it out. (You can clean your roller with a rubbing alcohol towel in between too.)

    Step 4:

    Place one sheet on top of the other with a gentle rolling motion, again making sure not to trap air bubbles.

     

    You can take a knife and trim the edges to give yourself a more square shape. (Don't worry, you can use those end bits later) 

    Step 5:

    Roll over the layered sheets with your roller to get out any air bubbles. Tuck in one end as shown and begin rolling up the sheets. It will look just like it's namesake dessert..... jelly roll, mmm. Leave one edge exposed just slightly so you can see the line. This is a handy marker to see if your cane is strait or twisted.

    Step 6 - Reduce:

    As you've probably noticed your jelly roll may be quite large now. We are going to reduce it by gently rolling it out. This is why we need that line to see if it's twisting while rolling (which we don't want). Twisting will ruin the pattern you've created inside the cane. Don't roll it out too small; we will need to skewer it later so keep it a reasonable size. Slowly and evenly roll it back and forth to lengthen the cane and reduce it's diameter.

    Step 7:

    Set aside your cane for a bit to let it cool off and stiffen up; refrigerators work great for this if you're in a hurry. Twenty minutes in the fridge or 10 mins in the freezer. Heat from your hands will have made it super squishy and pliable. If we were to cut into the roll right now the pattern would get distorted.


     

     

    When the roll is cool and you're ready, take your blade and slice off a segment of cane. The slice itself can be a bead all on it's own so make the slice a thick one; 1/4 inch or more should do. You can also take thin slices and use them to cover the outside surface of a bead.

    Or, reduce the cane to even thinner and cut into several lengths, stacking them together to create a repeat of the pattern.  Roll them together gently and reduce, then slice as desired. Be sure to keep an eye out for air bubbles, we don't want those so keep your stacks tight. You can do this by rolling over top of them to press them together. If you do this on 4 sides you will end up with a square cane that you can slice up  and use; or roll it back and forth to round it out again.

     

    Don't be too worried if your end looks like this, it can just get cut off and used for another project; it happens to everyone. Also be prepared to get experimental. Some things may not turn out perfect the first time you try -that's ok.

     

    Step 8 (optional):

    If you're going with thin slices to make a pattern covered bead: roll out a small ball of leftover or scrap clay from your cane. To make a good round shape hold the ball in the middle of one hand (which will remain still) while moving the other hand over it in tight circles in one direction then the other will give a nice round shape.. Of course it doesn't have to be round, just be sure it's a good size to skewer and string later. 

    If you want to make sure that various beads are the same size, use a small cookie cutter tool to cut out equal amounts from a flat sheet of clay to use for your centers. Taking your thin slices, gently press them onto the outside of the ball. The ones I used here are kind of thick but they are easier to see. They don't have to cover every single bit so don't be worried about that too much. Using your finger tip smooth the edges down. Then once they're on we will carefully roll them between your palms using those same tight circles- but slowly.

     

    Project 2 - Bull's Eye Cane:

    This uses a technique referred to as a "skinner blend" (invented by Judith Skinner) but there is more than one way to do this. The teardrop blend here was invented by Cindy Lietz (Clay Ninja) and is much faster.

    Step 1 - Set up:

    Get out your supplies and set up your working area. There should be a clean and flat hard surface to work on that is covered.

    Step 2:

    Condition your clay. (See Project 1; Step 2)

    Step 3:

    Here we will show you how to make a blended colour. This just means we are taking two or more colours of clay and putting them together to make a gradient of colour.

    Tip: Colours will mix together so keep in mind what colours you are mixing. If you mix blue, red and yellow together you will get brown so keep that in mind when choosing colours!

    Take each of your colours and portion them out into even amounts. Roll each one into a ball between your palms. Once it's round roll it down to the edge of your palm where your pinky is and gently roll it between the two edges of your palms until it forms a teardrop shape.

     

     

     

    When they're finished lay them opposing end to end as pictured. Gently squeeze to stick them together.

     

    Step 4:

    Take your roller and begin to roll them out into a flat sheet. Once it's getting thinner fold it in half, keeping your lines of colour vertically strait so they are still in line with each other. This is important to keep the same colour folding over itself. Roll it out flat and thin again. Repeat this process over and over.

     

    To speed this up you can roll it up instead of folding in half. This is just like doing many folds at once. But keep those colours in line. You will begin to see the colours blend together with a gradual gradient. It will begin to widen more and more as you do this. Just squish it together a bit with your fingers at the ends to keep it from getting out of control while your blending. You will do this many, many times; so be prepared.

    When you are happy with the blend, and be forewarned this will take awhile, take the strip you've created and roll it up very tightly; still keeping those colours in their rows. You should have created a round tube; now lay it out and roll over the top to flatten it out the length-wise way. This will be just like when you were blending it together but this time we are going to stretch out our blend into a long strip. This is just to stretch out the blend a bit more. As you roll, hold the end of the strip to keep it from sticking to the roller, as it will be getting very thin as you go.

     

    Step 5 - Making A Cane:

    Tuck in one end of your sheet so you have a little roll to start with. You could also add a little thinly rolled strip of that same colour to bulk it up. Start rolling up your sheet just like a little sushi roll until you reach the end. If you look at the end of the cane you will see the gradient you've made

    Step 6 - Reduce:

    When you have your cane rolled up it will most likely be quite bulky and short. We are going to lengthen and thin it out by gently rolling. It's important not to let the cane twist while your rolling because this will mess with the lovely pattern you've just created. Keep an eye on the edge of the clay (left exposed from rolling it up) to see whether it's twisting or not. When rolled to the desired size (remember you have to be able to skewer a hole in it later so don't go too small), set it aside to let it firm up by cooling off for a bit.

    Step 7:

    Once firmed up it can be sliced into a bead on it's own, rolled out further and doubled up or added onto a rolled ball as mentioned in the jelly roll project. See Step 7 & Step 8

     

    Project 3 - Lentil Bead:

    This one works really well with scrap bits from other projects so if you have leftover pieces from the other two you can use them here, so no wasted bits. Yay!

     

     

    Step 1:

    Take ends from other canes or bits from at least two colours of clay and roll them into a ball. It doesn't have to be perfect but rolling tight circles in the middle of your palm works well. When assembling your ball it's helpful to keep in mind that any colour on the equator of the little globe you just made will be drawn into the center like a little vortex.

     

    Step 2 :

    You will need a small, flat, non-porous slab of some kind that you can hold. Acrylic works great and so does glass (no sharp edges! You don't need to julienne yourself!). Place your ball on your work surface and then take your slab and place over top, we're going to be rolling it in a special way. Make it level by holding your slab in both hands on either end so your fingers are touching the work surface like little table legs. Begin rolling in a circular motion clock-wise or counter clockwise. It doesn't matter which direction you pick but once you've picked a direction you must stick with it. Use even, medium sized circles applying very little pressure. Using smaller circles with more pressure will give you a flatter bead, bigger circles will give you more of a conical/diamond shaped bead.

     

     

    Tip; it's very important to keep your slab level with your work surface as you roll. It's equally important to keep the circular motion the same size or you will get wonky shapes.

    As you roll you'll begin to see the colors twist towards the center. (It's going to look like one of those striped mint candies.)  If you start to see the ball's shape go astray adjust the pressure down on that side slightly until you see it round out again.

    Bead Piercing... As Painlessly As Possible:

    Step 1:

    Take whichever bead you're going to be skewing and get it lined up directly under your line of sight as best as possible. Make sure the beads are cool and firm and have been sitting awhile. If they're super warm and squishy they'll deform when we try to pierce them. Putting them in a bowl of ice water, the fridge for 20 mins, or freezer for 10 mins works great. (Especially if the temperature of your workspace has reached apocalyptic levels) You may also wish to wear some latex gloves or whatever magic non-latex gloves are made of. This prevents fingerprints. Make sure you're looking straight down onto your bead.

     

    Step 2:

    Take your skewering instrument of choice and line it up with your best judge of the center of your bead. Very slowly begin gently twisting your needle downward.

    When the needle is a tiny bit in hold up the bead to again judge if you're in the center. If not, remove the needle and start again. The hole can be smoothed over with your finger. Replace the bead directly under your line of sight so your looking down and return to twisting.

    When you come through the other side pull the needle back in slightly to pull any puckering back in. If you're doing a lentil bead, hold it in your hand as pictured and be sure to use virtually no pressure. Coming out straight can be challenging so as you get near the end slow down. If you come shy of your mark just back out and flip it around to come at it from the opposing side. Place your needle where it was supposed to come out and gently twist in. The needle should fall into the tunnel you've made. Remember to be gentle as it is super easy to squish these guys.

    Baking:

    Step 1:

    Get out your baking sheet or pan and cover the bottom with plain paper.

    IMPORTANT SAFETY NOTE: Be very sure this paper is well inside the lip or sides of the pan so it does not touch any surface/element inside the oven. The Sculpey bead making kit came with this surface for baking on so I'm going to try out both.

    Tip: Don't leave your beads on the tinfoil to bake as they will come out with flat, uneven shiny spots.

    Step2:

    You can leave your beads on their skewers and hang them on the edges of you pan. A foil pan will be easy to pierce or you can use a bit of tin foil to secure your needle ends on the edges of the pan. They can also just go on the paper to sit and bake, especially if you don't have skewers for them all.

     Step 3:

    Cover the top of your project with the foil baking pan. This will give a protective hat for your items, keeping them from toasting like marshmallows dropped in a campfire. Follow baking instructions for the time and temperature as per the package of your clay. All ovens vary in temperature so to get an accurate read it's a good idea to use an oven thermometer to see that the oven really is the temp it says. Too much and your project can burn, too little and it will be structurally unsound. Let them cool gradually in their little tinfoil cage, then string them up with wire, ribbon, string or whatever other jewelry product you like. There is no need to seal them once baked but you can coat them in a varnish or resin if desired.

     

    July 05, 2017 — Jasmine Ashlie

    Making a Flower Press

    Pressing flowers is a lovely way to remember a moment in time.  Pressing flowers in a large heavy book (such as an encyclopedia) is one way of doing it, but it's a rather unkind thing to do to a book. If you press a fresh flower in a book, the flower will literally squish and permanently soil the pages of your book!

    An actual flower press is a very simple, purpose-built contraption that is very easy to make

    (and your books will thank you!). 

    The basic anatomy of a flower pressing apparatus is a sandwich of rigid layers, absorbent layers, and fresh flowers, all held in place with bolts and wing nuts which allow you to apply even, consistent pressure.

    Materials:

      • Masking tape
      • Double sided tape
      • A drill plus 1/8" and 3/8" wood drill bits
      • Watercolour paper
      • 5 x Birch 1/8" plywood sheets (5x7")
      • 4 x Wing Nuts (1/4")
      • 8 x Washers
      • 4 x Carriage Bolts (3" x 1/4")

      Regarding Watercolour Paper: If you have more time than money, you can use an inexpensive large format (20x26") sheet of watercolour paper (approximately $3 each) which can be cut down to the necessary size (4x6").  If you have more money than time, the pad of watercolour postcards is pre-cut to 4x6".

      Step 1: Marking

      • bundle the plywood and mark across one edge with a pencil, like so...
      (The reason for doing this will become obvious shortly.)

        Step 2: Taping

        • Align the birch boards in a stack and securely wrap all five boards with masking tape
        • In each of the four corners, make a dot (approximately 1cm in from each side)

        Step 3: Drilling

        • Grab your drill and insert a 1/8" drill bit
        • drill a "pilot" hole in each corner, where each dot has been placed (pilot holes will make it much easier to then drill a more substantial hole)
        • switch the drill bits to the larger 3/8" (if you don't have access to a 3/8" bit, a 1/4" bit will work, but its not ideal... its a bit too snug to allow the threaded carriage bolt to slide freely through)
        • drill through the pilot holes

        Step 4: Affixing the Paper

        Now that the holes are drilled, you can remove all the masking tape and separate the boards. You'll need to grab your 4x6" sheets of watercolour paper and double-sided tape as well.

         When you lay the 4x6" sheet on the birch board you'll notice that the paper's corners intrude into the drilled holes. 

        • Using scissors, nip the corners of the watercolour paper so they're clear of the drilled holes
        • tack the paper in place with the double-sided tape

         

        The tape doesn't need to be a strong bond, it just serves to keep the papers from shifting about while you get your flower, paper & board sandwich in order.

        Continue nipping edges and taping down watercolour sheets to both sides of the birch boards. (The birch boards that will serve as the top and bottom of the press only need paper on one side)

        Step 5: Assembly

        • Once the bottom board is finished, place a washer on each carriage bolt then thread the bolt through the drilled hole in each corners.

        You will probably notice at this point that while nipping corners and attaching the papers to the boards, your boards were flipped over, turned around and mixed up and now the corner holes no longer match up when stacked... Never fear! This is where the pencil line from step one comes in very handy: Find the pencil marked edges on all the boards and align them, then begin to assemble the press, layering like this...

         

         

        A helpful hint when pressing flowers: Layer bulky flowers together on one layer, and lay thin leaves and flowers on another.  The dandelion leaf (on the far right) is too thin to be pressed next to the thick dandelion flowers so it was moved to the next layer with other thin leaves and flowers.

        When everything is assembled, place a washer and wing nut on each bolt and begin tightening.  The washers on top and bottom will help distribute the pressure over a larger area, preventing the wood from splitting as you tighten the nuts.

         

         The 3" bolts give you enough space to stack and press multiple layers of paper & flowers/leaves between birch boards, pressing dozens of flowers in one go!

         

         

         

         

        May 04, 2017 — Karen Bullaro

        Making A Viewfinder

        “How do you decide what to paint when there is so much to choose from?”

        This is a very common question when it comes to painting from real life (whether it's a landscape, a portrait, or a still life)  The answer?  Using a viewfinder can help enormously!  

        April 05, 2017 — Karen Bullaro

        Creating a Deckle Edge

        What is a Deckle Edge?

        A deckle edge refers to a piece of paper with an old-fashioned rough, irregular edge.

        What's so great about a deckle edge?

        Once upon a time the deckle edge was an unavoidable feature of the handmade paper-making process.  In reality, the uneven deckle edge was often a source of annoyance to publishers and print-makers because it makes aligning things a bit of a nightmare.  Later in the 19th century, the industrial revolution changed the paper-making process to mass production by machine.  However, after many decades of machine-made papers there has been a gradual change of perception.  Now-a-days, papers featuring a rough deckle edge are assumed to be handmade and high quality papers; a status symbol of sorts.

        Materials:

        • papers (mixed media papers that can handle water applications work best)
        • small-ish paint brush (1/4" - 1/8")
        • water
        • ruler - not cork backed (you want it to lay flush against the paper)
        • water-proof work surface

        Step 1

         

        • choose your paper and lay it on your non-absorbent work surface
        • decide where you want your deckle edge
        • leave yourself roughly a one inch margin on the edge

        Step 2

        • hold ruler firmly in place
        • soak brush in water and generously apply water along the edge of the ruler
        Helpful Tip: The aim is to keep the water in check, allowing it to soak in only along the ruler line.  By pressing down on the ruler as you apply the water it will keep the water from oozing underneath the ruler.
        • repeat this several times for thicker papers until you can see the paper getting wet all the way through
        • let it soak in a few minutes

        Step 3

         

        x

        • press firmly on the ruler and begin to pull away from the ruler

        Helpful Tip: Pulling away from the ruler will give a very rough and irregular edge.  Pulling up towards you will give a more uniform, slightly fuzzy edge. 

         

         

         

         

         

         

        x

        x

        Our DIY Deckle vs. Arches

        The best and most well-recognized example of a modern, handmade, high-quality paper would be Arches watercolour papers.  Arches has been making papers in the same way for hundreds of years; by hand.  The irregularity of the surface texture and the deckle edge are two of Arches most desirable attributes.

        Let's see how our pseudo deckle edge compares to the real thing...

         Looks like the real thing to me!

         

        March 02, 2017 — Karen Bullaro

        Make a Paper Bowl with Stiffy!

        What is Stiffy:

        Stiffy is a fluid craft medium that will allow you to work sculpturally with paper or fabric.  Stiffy is non-toxic and water-based and is easily applied with a coarse-bristled paint brush, drying to a clear, non-yellowing satin finish.  Stiffy works by soaking deep into the fibers of your paper or fabric. As it dries, Stiffy becomes very hard and strong, holding whatever shape you've left it in.  Stiffy dries/cures in 24 hours at room temperature.

        What makes Stiffy unique?

        Stiffy has much in common with both a traditional papier mache mixture (made with flour and water) and acrylic medium/school glue.  The differences lie in the feel and the intergrity of the finished project.  

        Stiffy vs. Papier Mache

        Papier Mache is very brittle and inflexible when dried. It has a tenedency to crack and break instead of bending (which is why papier mache is ideal for making a pinata - it breaks and lets the candy fall out quite easily).  Because of the addition of flour to the papier mache mix, it tends to dry very matte and quite chalky looking which can dull the appearance of your paper or fabric (if coloured).

        Stiffy vs. Acrylic Medium

        Acrylic medium or school glue can be used in the exact same way as papier mache but results in a far more flexible, almost plastic-feeling and unbreakable finished product.  If you were to make a pinata using acrylic medium/glue it's so strong and flexible it would require extreme force to bust it open to get the candy out (obviously not ideal).  For some projects flexibility may be good, but for getting fabric or paper to "stand-up" on it it's own, flexibility is the enemy.  Compared to Stiffy, acrylic medium is dense and heavy, even when dried.  A hollow paper structure (like a paper covered balloon) made using acrylic medium will not hold it's own weight for long because It's weight combined with it's flexibility will result in a collapse.  Acrylic is also very temperature sensitive, so in a very warm environment a paper structure made using acrylic medium will sag and/or fall flat entirely.

        Stiffy is very strong, lightweight, not too brittle, not too flexible, and won't dull the colours of your paper or fabric.

        Making a Paper Bowl

        For ages 3+
        This project is easy to accomplish regardless of age and skill level.
        (You can also use fabric scraps instead of paper scraps for this bowl project)
         

        Materials Needed:

            Step 1 - Bowl Prep
            • wrap mixing bowl in plastic wrap
            • secure plastic wrap in place with painter's tape

            Step 2 - Start Collaging

            • squirt a generous amount of Stiffy onto palette or lid from plastic container (something like a yogurt or sour cream container)
            • use your paintbrush to apply Stiffy to an area of the plastic covered bowl
            • quickly adhere a scrap of paper to the area moistened with Stiffy
            • apply more Stiffy over top of the scrap of paper
            • continue layering Stiffy and paper scraps

            Step 3 - Smooth Down

            • for a stronger, more functional bowl, apply at least two layers of paper over the whole surface of the bowl
            • use the stiff bristles of your brush to smooth out any bubbles or ripples in the paper as you go
            • if any areas of paper are lifting, apply more Stiffy and smooth down with the brush as needed

            Step 4 - Dry It

              • leave in a warm spot to dry for 24 hours ... and try not to touch it!

                Step 5 - Remove the Mold

                • once dry, gently peel back the plastic wrap from the edges and ease the paper bowl and plastic lining off of the mixing bowl
                • remove the plastic gently
                • in this state the bowl is could be considered finished.  It wiil have a rough/rustic top edge.  To create a smooth top edge continue to the next step...

                Step 6 (optional) - Trim Edges

                • place the dried paper bowl inside the mixing bowl you used as a mold
                • run a pencil around the edge
                • remove paper bowl from inside the mixing bowl and trim along pencil line using scissors
                Done!

                   

                  February 16, 2017 — Karen Bullaro

                  Needle Felting Critters

                  Needle felting is a very simple craft that is both easy and inexpensive and is an excellent cottage hobby as it takes little space, allows one to work slowly (when you have the time) and on a small scale.  The lovely thing about 3D felting is that its soft and lightweight and you can do it anywhere.  Even if you feel you have zero artistic ability, needle felted critters always seem to have an undeniable charm to them, making them very rewarding to do!

                  Felting

                  Felting is the act of tangling/matting many loose fibers together, creating a non-woven structure.  The most common materials to felt are wool, fur, or hair.  Felting can create fabric-like sheets or three-dimensional forms depending on the felting method you employ; such as using heat, moisture, great pressure, and/or barbed needles. 

                  Needle Felting

                  Needle felting (as you may have guessed) uses a barbed needle. The needle has many little notches in it so it grabs and tangles the hairs as you push the needle into a ball of wool, and back out again.  Because the needle is dragging fibers to and fro, you'll feel a little resistance as the needle goes in and out.  This poking is the basic movement for needle felting, it's an oddly satisfying repeated stabbing motion.  

                  Other Materials

                  The other materials required to needle felt are roving (wool that has not been spun into yarn), a thick foam or cardboard mat (measuring 4x6", about .5" thick), and possibly a thimble or two ...or three!

                  Getting Started

                  Making a Felt Ball

                  Wad up some of the roving and hold it  between your thumb, index, and middle finger like this... 

                  It doesn't matter how much wool you start with as we can always add more volume later.  Take the wad of roving, hold it in place on your foam pad and begin stabbing through the wad and into the pad like so...

                   

                  This is where the thimbles can come in handy.  Although this can be a meditative or calming activity, if your attention strays from what you're doing, you will poke your finger eventually.

                  In very little time, the wad of loose hairs will begin to stay together on their own.  Begin to rotate the wad as you poke it, pinching and rounding areas as needed until you have something self-contained and ball-like.

                   

                  Making a Felt Skeleton - Attaching Felted Pieces Together

                  There's two basic ways of attaching felted pieces together.

                  Option 1: leave a part of one ball loose and frazzled, like a ball with a skirt.  Poke the needle through the skirt to attach it to the other ball (repeat as needed until all loose ends are poked down).  This option allows you to seamlessly attach two elements together and gives a very durable and secure bond between separate elements.  I used this technique to attach the head to the body...

                   

                  I also used this method for attaching the legs, arms, and ears to the body like so...

                   Option 2: finish both balls, leaving nothing hanging loose.  Stack one on top of the other and poke the needle directly through one ball and into the other, repeat as needed until they're attached. 

                  This method doesn't create as strong of a bond between elements but does preserve a crisp seam and allows elements to keep their original shape.   used this technique to attach his poofy cotton tail to his bum.

                   

                  Once individual elements are felted together,  your critter will begin to take form and then the sky is the limit in terms of shape, colour, detail and the eventual size.  You can continue applying wads of roving and felting it directly onto the felt-ball-skeleton you've created.  Continue to fill in areas and add volume as needed.

                  Have fun and wear thimbles!

                   

                   

                   

                   

                   

                   

                   

                   

                  January 18, 2017 — Karen Bullaro

                  Mask-Making

                  Mask-making is something that truly anyone, of any age or skill level can accomplish and feel good about.

                  Masks have been used since antiquity for reasons like protection, disguise, entertainment, storytelling, or for spiritual purposes.  A mask is something that is normally worn on the face, transforming the wearer and allowing the viewer's imagination to soar.  Masks are the perfect blend of art & craft, form & function.

                  For more information about masks, check out this educational colouring book - North American First Nations Masks,

                  For this D.I.Y. project, six Cowan's staff members of varying artistic comfort levels each chose a mask blank (either quarter-mask, half-mask, or full-mask) to take home and decorate.

                   Mask #1- Collage & Washi Tape

                  - created by Annette

                   

                   

                   

                   

                   

                   

                   

                   

                  Materials Used:

                  Steps:

                  1. Using a paint brush, apply gesso to the mask, and allow to dry
                  2. Begin applying pieces of torn tissue paper using the gel medium as glue, and smooth the tissue down with the paint brush and your fingers
                  3. Using the brush, apply a layer of Iridescent Pearl acrylic paint over the paper
                  4. Once dry, strips of washi tape can be added for extra detail

                   

                  Mask #2 - Googly Eyes & Feathers

                  - created by Catherine

                  Materials Used:

                   

                   

                   

                   

                  Steps:

                  1. Using the paint brush, paint Titanium White on the bridge of the nose
                  2. Once dry, apply googly eyes to the mask using the Pritt glue stick
                  3. Once dry, apply feathers using the glue gun, adding googly eyes where necessary to hide hot glue spots
                  4. To attach the mask to your face, thread string, elastic or ribbon through the provided holes at the edge of the mask

                   

                  Mask #3 - Papier Mache Osprey

                  - created by Karen

                   Materials Used:

                  • Pulp Half Mask
                  • an old phone book
                  • white flour
                  • water & bowl (not pictured)
                  • Acrilex Acrylic Matte Medium
                  • assorted colours of acrylic paints
                  • masking tape (not pictured)

                  Steps:

                    1. Using the phone book cover, cut out a beak shape
                    2. Using masking tape, affix the beak to the mask blank like so...
                    3. Fill the beak with crumpled paper to keep it structurally sound during the papier mache process
                    4. Add flour, acrylic medium, and a teensy bit of water to a bowl and mix until it achieves a thick gooey consistency
                    5. Dip strips of paper into the goo and using your hands, begin layering and smoothing out paper strips on the mask blank  
                    6. Continue until the mask is covered. Allow to dry for a full 24 hours
                    7. Paint as desired using acrylic paints

                   

                  Mask #4 - Plaster Gauze Rabbit

                  - created by Jasmine

                         Materials Used:

                        • Cloth Quarter Mask
                        • Plaster Gauze Roll
                        • Golden Coarse Molding Paste
                        • Golden Soft Gel Semi Gloss
                        • Golden Heavy Gel
                        • tinfoil (not pictured)
                        • assorted colours of acrylic paints

                          

                           

                           

                           

                           

                           

                          Steps:

                          1. Cut the plaster gauze into manageable strips and have a bowl of warm water nearby.
                          2. Form the ears and muzzle out of tinfoil and tack them in place with school glue, masking tape or just hold them in place with your fingers. To create volume in specific areas (such as the nose and muzzle), crumple the tinfoil
                          3. Dip the gauze strips in the water and begin smoothing them onto the mask using your hands, working up the ears and over the muzzle area. Once covered, allow to dry for 24-48 hours (depending on the thickness of the plaster gauze layer)
                          4. Once dry, apply Golden Coarse Molding Paste to even out the texture. The Coarse Molding Paste also give the surface an appearance of fur. Allow to dry 12-24 hours
                          5. Golden Soft Gel was used inside the ears to make them glossy and smooth, and the bunny nose was sculpted with Golden Heavy Gel (which holds deep texture and sharp edges).  Allow to dry 12-24 hours
                          6. Paint as desired using acrylic paints
                          x

                            Mask #5 - Forest Nymph Mask

                            - created by Kass

                             Materials Used:

                            • Cloth Quarter Mask
                            • Low temp Glue Gun & Glue sticks
                            • assorted bits of forest moss, lichen, twigs etc (not pictured)

                             

                                 


                                   

                                  Steps:

                                  1. collect bits of natural and interesting materials from the forest or roadside.  Shells, flowers, pebbles and seed pods could be used as well.
                                  2. Apply dabs of hot glue to the mask and gently press the forest bits into the warm glue. For a seamless look, start filling in a small area and work outwards

                                  x

                                  Mask #6 -  Painted Mask

                                  - created by Mishka

                                  Materials Used:

                                   

                                   

                                   

                                   

                                   

                                   

                                   

                                   

                                   

                                  Steps:

                                  1.  To even the texture of the mask, paint the entire mask with gesso.  Let dry, and apply a second coat
                                  2. Using Golden High Flow acrylics, paint as desired. Allow paints to dry for an hour or two between coats. (This mask is "No Face", a character from the anime Spirited Away)

                                   

                                   

                                  We hope this was inspiring!

                                          October 01, 2016 — Karen Bullaro

                                          Subscribe to our mailing list

                                          * indicates required
                                          Choose your interests