Friday, April 13, 2012

Spring Renewal

I know, Valentines and Easter went by and I neglected to post. Much happened. Some good, some bad and some sad.

First, my lovely Mac finally went belly up. But I managed to save my files and now have a new PC. So, it has taken some time to figure the new computer out. It is much like buying a new car, the dash is reordered and you keep reaching for the gear shifter (automatic) in the wrong spot. I have shelved the old Mac in hopes of getting a new Video Card, since it had all my licensed and very expensive software and quite frankly, still ran pretty well after 4 years of college (2007). The new laptop is fine, I have nothing against PCs, but admit not too fond of Windows 7 (yeah, I said it). Not to mention again, that expensive graphic design and photo software that I no longer qualify for the student discount for.

Shortly after the Mac broke, I received a very sad phone call. My brother died on Valentine's day from complications due to his Type I Diabetes. He was 32 and a web developer in Virginia. There was an age gap when we were kids, but as we got older, we grew closer. It is hard to explain, but it was more than a sibling dying, I held him and took care of him as a baby and as a teen, was his babysitter and nanny. Watching him graduate from high school.... Sorry for the run on sentence.

The biggest thing about my brother was his humor and strength. He was diagnosed as a young teen and had a very difficult time with it. He never married, or had children because his health was always so delicate. Even still, he touched so many people, was generous and always had a smile, or a joke for the world. His life taught me much about HOW to live and what is truly important. It really is about who we love and how we love, not about how much monetary or material success we try to achieve.

There was some good as well. I also got a new camera recently. I went from a Nikon to a Canon, and the "new car" analogy works there as well. Above is one of the first images I took. Trying out all the features and the two lenses, I did something simple.

Tulips are my favorite flower. I like that they are still "alive" in the vase. For a few days, I get to watch them open and close and seek out the light. They burst from the ground, seemingly dead, tired brown bulbs, that wake each Spring with a burst of fresh green and satin petals. They shine and smile and say Life Goes On. 

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Valentine's Altered Canvas

How do you get 11 photos in a 12 x 12 inch space? Easy! Frame everything!

I have a habit of collecting bits and pieces of this and that. Tiny brass doll house frames, old 35mm slide mounts, chipboard, photo mats, ribbon and the finished piece even has a framed fortune cookie paper fortune above the paper "love".

I started by picking a color scheme, and then pulling everything but the kitchen sink. Then I set about altering nearly everything. The canvas was painted black and then a Ranger gold metallic paint dauber was brushed along the top outside edge. The Prima paper flowers were sponged with ink because they were too pink before a bit of Tim Holtz' Distress Ink in Vintage Photo (used that technique ALOT in this project).

The slides, the photo mat and the cut out were stamped in CTMH Bamboo with a paisley Tim Holtz background stamp, the heart is the same stamp in Ranger's Cranberry ink. Everything got sponged with Vintage Photo ink. Overstamped the mat with a script stamp, the slides with some words from various Inkadinkadoo stamps.

The chipboard and Grungeboard wings were first colored with Ranger's gold metallic dauber paint. The Believe got a second coat in a pouncing motion to make it look like beaten brass.With a bit of glue and gold foil, I added some sparkle to the Love, the edges of the heart and most of the wings.

I found some brass filigree flowers in a jewelry store, these are attached with tiny brass screws - didn't realize they made screws that small.

Photos were taken by friends over the past 18 months, converted all of them to black and white and shrank them to fit various frames, slides and the film strip. Ribbons, trim and even a few red rhinestones finish off the piece. 

I created the word Love by using Cricut Craft Room and my Classic Font cartridge. It allowed me to weld the letters together, and slant the word, even add a swirl to the bottom of the L - that later got covered...oh well.

The keys were sticking to a simple color palette: black, red, ivory and gold. ALL metallic elements are brass or gold. All the photos are black and white, making even really small ones (tiniest is .75 x 1 inch) "readable" - they are also of the same subjects and in similar pose. Instead of journaling, I took red ink and stamped the month the photo was taken.

We're both divorced and over the past 18 months, he's taught me to believe in Love again. Happy Valentine's Day Love!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Tea Time Birthday

My sweetheart's little girl turns 8 soon. She is into "tea parties" and her father lovingly goes along with this past time. As a birthday gift, I am making some tea sandwiches (egg salad, chicken salad), scones and mini quiches, perhaps a few mini tarts. I also made a couple of tiny tea themed crafts.

These tiny tea lights are made from printed scrapbook paper and some embellishments. The tea lights I chose come in a tin holder. Obviously, you would not leave one of these burning unattended. They were quite simple and easy to do.

Measure your tea light. I cut a strip 1.5 inches wide and scored .5 inches from the top edge and folded this down, so that the "inside of the cup" is printed. Rolled and glued around the tea light. The "saucer" is a 2.5 inch circle. I cut a ring from chip board about .25 inches thick and 2.25 inches in diameter and used this to emboss the rim of the saucer for a bit more dimension.
The handle is a 1 inch wide strip, folded in thirds and glued to create a slightly wider than .25 inches. Adhered first inside the cup, curled and adhered to the bottom, then trimmed. Adhere the tea cup to the center of your saucer.

I bit of velvet ribbon bands the cup. I made a simple ribbon bow, a paper flower with a half pearl center. The chipboard crown is from an old scrapbook embellishment. You could use a sticker or charm or just leave it as is. You could use a slip of paper as a place card as well. Each teacup used just a 6 x 8 inch piece of paper, so you could make many of these for a luncheon!

I found tiny flat wooden coffee stirrers and with some very tiny stamps, put "happy birthday" and a tiny daisy flower to decorate the tops of the stirrers. There will just be 4 of us for tea, so stamping a half dozen stirrers was not a daunting task.

For her gift, I am making a felted tea cozy that "folds" over the teapot. I also made a simple banner with her name on it - later a decoration for her room. I found some cute "faux" crystals to hang.

This teacup was made from a bit of cardboard tubing, some chipboard for handle and saucer. Just a larger version of the tea light tea cups and filled with tissue and hard toffees.

I encourage everyone during Winter's bleak days to brighten them with a spot of tea!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Happy New Year!

 A wonderful New Year is wished for all. I wanted to share some simple and not so simple decorations in my tiny apartment. Above, a small sparkly bouquet of silk holly and poinsettias, a swirly mask, and a wooden sentiment, candles in stone in glass containers. A bit of sparkle and shine. The handmade and embroidered table cloth was actually a find in a "junk shop" in Indiana. Creamy white with taupe stitching, the piece is very elegant without being too lacy or frilly. The "vase" for the "flowers" is actually a bamboo shaped clay tea cup from my trip to Japan in the 90's.
 This banner is a labor of love. I used my Cricut Expression and several cartridges to make the tags and letters. Lots of Bazzill shiny metallic cardstock in black, pewter, gold and copper. I cut the top most layer of speckled "muslin" cardstock and using browns, tans, and gray inks, stamped every clock face stamp I had. There is a polka dotted swirl stamp in brown under the letters (cut from metallic purple cardstock) that was accented with rhinestones and Ranger's Distress glitter glue. TIP: the rhinestones were clear, but a dab of Ranger's Rust and Golden alcohol inks made a great match. Ribbon scraps of silk, and velvet tie the tags together. A final touch were Tim Holtz gears and brads in copper, pewter and antique gold.

Oh, the "mobile" underneath the tag banner is Memory Glass, Memory frames filled with stamped transparency, "crystal" look plastic beads, waxed thread and a bamboo skewer. I forgot to take it down before taking the photo.
My holiday plans this week were modified at the last moment by the death of a family member of my boyfriend. So while he was away, I made this simple ripple afghan in my New Year's holiday colors of Muslin, Chocolate, light Grey and deep Indigo Blue.

Last thing to make is Photo Booth Fun 'Staches and Glasses, Lips for New Years fun photos. These are popular on Etsy and simple die cuts adhered to bamboo skewers to hold up in front of your face. I'm also going to make and decorate some tiaras and bow ties to go as well. Some champagne glass cutouts and noise maker cutouts would be fun too.

 I have many hopes for the New Year, and I wish all of you a Happy and Blessed 2012. - Anna Banana Justice

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Happy Holidays - last minute details

Above is an easy and quick ornament gift for a couple close friends of mine. A simple to construct pyramid box of green cardstock, stamped, filled with candies (or any small items), tied and embellished.

To create this box you'll need cardstock, swirl or flourish stamp, versamark watermark ink pad, gold interference pigment, brush, misc. paper flowers and leaves, velvet ribbon, metallic cord, rhinestones, glue dots.

I created the box by drawing out on graph paper a simple pyramid box, 2.5 x 2.5 inch square bottom, and each side is 3 inches tall. I added a .25 inch tab to each side of the four sides of the box. Punched holes in the apex of each triangle and scored my fold lines.

I stamped with my watermark pad the flourish on each side and brushed the ink with the pigment powder. The interference colors look white in the jar, but shine brilliant gold, better than any gold ink. You could also heat emboss with gold embossing powder. I then threaded cord thru the holes to pull the sides up and close the box. You can put small candies, lipgloss, etc. in the box.

With glue dots, I added flowers, leaves and a ribbon bow. NOTE: I had clear rhinestones, so I temporarily adhered them to masking tape and used a golden yellow alcohol ink to color them a light amber color. This works for any alcohol ink color and you only need to store one color (clear) of rhinestones. A nice budget friendly and storage friendly embellishment.

I want to wish everyone a beautiful and creative holiday. When we make a gift, we also give a piece of ourselves.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Photography: The Art of Artifice

     I don't have a craft post today, but it IS related to what I do. I am a photographer, and the majority of my work is portraiture (families, teens, children, even some actors and fellow artists).
     Here is a link to a young woman recently featured on television. The young lady suffers from severe acne. The short video shows how she artfully applies makeup to hide the scars and blemishes to create a flawless face and then is able to model professionally. It is a simple How-To, but it touched me greatly.

    So, WHY am I pasting it here on a blog about crafting and art? Because, it reminds me that modern photography has changed. But the view of photographs and video has not. There are thousands of websites devoted to exposing the "evils" of Photoshop. Models shaved down to wasp waists, extreme lithe limbs and skin to rival the backside of any newborn.
    People complain that it sets unrealistic standards of beauty and injures the self esteem of developing teens and young adults. I say this is a societal excuse to remain uneducated about an art form that has developed beyond it's scientific birth.
   I've also been watching perhaps too many period pieces on Netflix, and enjoyed my art history classes a bit too much. (Alas, my college did not offer a Art History degree...). This exposure to ancient and contemporary art, be it painting or sculpture also taught me the art of artifice. No matter how realistic a painting or sculpture may be, not a single one was True. Even the Roman emperors in a time when artists worked hard to depict every flaw, every sinew, bulging vein and muscle - had their images "edited" to create the Image they wished to project. Active follicles were added to hairlines, the invention of the six-pack ab, even manicured toes and better teeth. Renaissance masters perked up breasts, whittled waists and bleached the skin of Royalty. Gray hairs were corrected with a simple paintbrush, and other flaws were simply omitted from the Official State Portraiture.
    A recent special on the History Channel exposed the vanities of our First President. His white wig, shapely calves and even stature were enhanced as part of official PR. The real man more closely resembled a war ravaged and scarred Soprano brother, than the angelic statesman perched atop pedestals that decorate my neighboring city in DC.
    Photography has moved into the Digital Age. Images are a file composed of edited Pixels, dots of electronic paint. I have a tablet and stylus and with the flick of my wrist I am able to create a mark or remove one. I am painting. I may "sketch" with my camera, the sensor picks up the basic shape, signal of the object in front of it, but even the RAW file is not the finished image. The computer itself will interpret what the data says - and converts the 3D object and renders on screen a 2D image. Often straight and plum items develop an angle, lights that looked white suddenly become orange or yellow. My "sketch" does not look like the thing which I took a photograph of.
     I change the white balance, I correct distortion. I remove a blemish, but try to leave the freckles sprinkled across the nose. I remove a stray hair, soften a line on the face that the shadows and flash made more obvious. I have already removed the photograph from its original.
     Even before I pushed the shutter, artifice was at work. The "black velvet drape" is actually cheap black fleece blanket material. The flowers are silk, the vase looks like bronze but is really cheap plaster. I raised the lights to shadow a soft belly, raised a hand to diminish a bit of loose skin at the neck, hid the other to hide a bandage on a finger. Rotated the shoulder to make the subject look slimmer. Stood on a ladder so the perspective will make the head larger, the body smaller in proportion.
    Even my subject has used artifice. She wore Spanx under her dress, she curled her naturally straight hair, or straightened her naturally curly hair. She is wearing lipstick to redden her lips, mascara to lengthen her lashes. She may even be faking her smile, appearing cheerful, when she is really sad.
     The image is True to the Person who created it or wished its creation. Because when we wish a photograph to be made, especially a portrait, what we really want is the Magic, the Illusion. To see reflected in the frame the image we carry in our own head of who and what we are. When we accept that the image is not scientific, but artful, then we learn to accept that other images are artful as well.
     Our self esteem is not damaged by that image. Our self worth is not in that image. Our worth, our value is in what that image stands for. When we expect others to be that image then we put on them an unrealistic expectation. When we say that because they don't look like the image that they are flawed, then we have put the blame on the wrong end. We have forgotten that true beauty is an internal thing, that the image tries only to make manifest and show that beauty in a flawed way. No artist, no matter how skillful, can show or render a Soul onto a lifeless material.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Altered Domino Set with Carved Box

The Holidays have a tradition of handmade gifts. I made this set of altered dominoes for my boyfriend and I'm very happy with how they came out.
My boyfriend and I love to play "analog" games - from Cribbage to "Bones". After seeing a bracelet I had made with altered dominoes as charms (very tiny ones) - he was intrigued by what he thought were imported tiles. So, I took a cigar box that had been in my craft stash and a set of "double 6" tiles and with stamps and a lot of work, created a one of a kind set to entertain ourselves with.
First the Box:
I first painted the box with a mixture of sienna, umber and red acrylic craft paints. The box was plain pine, and I wanted the look of lacquer. I then took a Ranger Paint Dauber in metallic gold and brushed the surfaces of the box with gold. The top has a second layer in a cross hatch pattern. I let this dry over night. I had a large bamboo stamp (from Plaid) that I stamped on the box with black Stazon. I then took my gouges and etching tools to remove all the stamped image. It isn't very deep, just to the raw wood.
With Twinkling H2Os, I brushed in light blue and light green into the exposed wood and let dry. The "antique coin" is from Tsukineko and is adhered with burgundy faux sealing wax (actually a colored glue stick). I then sealed the outside with a light coat of Kumar Varnish for a shiny but NOT high gloss finish. The Varnish seals the watercolors and brings up the colors, the box really does look like it is lacquer.

 The inside of the box is lined with suede paper. You could use fabric or felt. The suede paper reminds me of jewelry boxes and silver boxes. Small cork dots on the bottom make sure the box sits level and stable on the table surface.
 The dominoes inside were altered with rubber stamps I have collected over a period of several years. I used Versacolor pigment inks in Sand, Oasis, Black and metallic gold. The key is to make sure you place the stamps in the same place on each domino, or after a few rounds you will be able to "mark" the tiles and they will be no good in actual play. The design is a base of green bamboo, over stamped with a Japanese paper lantern, then Japanese script (don't worry, the lettering is far too small to be able to read), lastly a solid gold fan stamped on top. I heat set each image before stamping the next.
I did give them each a coat of workable fixative and then a nice soft light coat of Kumar Varnish to seal. I've done this for brooches and pins made from gaming tiles and this is quite durable.
If you are worried about stamping each tile exactly the same, you could design and adhere a Lazertran decal. Or stamp tissue and decoupage to the backs.

My favorite part was the idea to stamp and then carve the box lid. The box was very inexpensive, but the carving really made it more than just a container for the dominoes, it is really a nice display piece. I have plans to try a similar idea on other plain wooden items such as cigar box purses, jewelry boxes or other wooden containers.