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1  OCCASIONS AND HOLIDAYS / Misc. Gift Idea Brain Blockage / How can I turn my nephews and niece into spies this Christmas? on: October 20, 2007 01:46:15 PM
So, for Christmas this year, I'd like to give my nephews and niece a big parcel of Spy Themed goodies. Trouble is, aside from some good books on the subject and maybe sunglasses and flashlights, I'm a bit short on ideas of what to give them. I'd love some help and suggestions.

The kids are between the ages of five and eleven.

Last year, I did a pirate theme. We wrote a series of clues, with an initial for each child who would solve the clues (so the youngest had as much opportunity as the eldest), eventually leading up to a box painted up to look like a treasure chest. inside the box, aside from gold tinsel and foil wrapped candies, each got a small wooden chest with a couple of personal gifts inside, including drawn charicatures of each child as their piratey altar-ego. it was a roaring success, I daresay, but a lot of work to pull off.

So, what are some simple crafts and toys that can work for the spy theme? I'd prefer to avoid franchises and movies, if possible.

2  POTTERY, CERAMICS, POLYMER CLAY / Polymer Clay: Completed Projects / A Doll Head Sculpting Tutorial! on: December 11, 2006 07:51:04 PM
A couple of people wanted to know how I sculpted the head for my Howl's Moving Castle Doll (https://www.craftster.org/forum/index.php?topic=135501.0). I decided to give it another go, this time, basing the face on one of my paintings:

I'll do the best I can to describe how I did this. Unfortunately, my camera flash obscured several of the in-process photos I took, so some steps aren't illustrated. Please let me know if you need more clarification.

I also warn you--your sculpture will go through stages of looking alien and kinda hideous. And a lot of these directions just sound sick and wrong, but that's just how it goes.

1. First, you get your tools together.
  I used:
   -aluminum foil
   -Sculpey III
   -a decorative nail (it had some kind of coating on it)
   -a fat needle
   -the end of a paintbrush
   -an exacto knife
   -a personal misting bottle
   You'll also want to trim your fingernails as short as you can stand...

2. Make an egg shaped wedge out of aluminum foil. You'll want to compress it somewhat, but not too much, in case you need to press down parts of it later. With your thumbs, create eye sockets by pressing down hard with your thumbs into the foil.
2. 3.

3. Make a very thin pancake of clay. Spread it over your foil wedge, collecting it roughly at the back.

4. Create a nose by either pinching a bit of clay at the appropriate location or creating a wedge of clay and blending it in or both. Don't worry about making the size too perfect--you can always build it up a bit later or whittle it down. Also, save the nostrils for later.

5. Make your eyeballs. You could use glass doll eyes, or you can make your own. I used white sculpey and made mine like flat buttons. You could also make them like spheres or like half spheres. BAKE your eyeballs--maybe five minutes in the toaster oven.

6. Carefully position your eyeballs. To create the lids, roll Sculpey into a thin tube, slightly narrower on the ends.first position the lower lid, then the upper. make sure the edges are precisely where you want them, then flatten the roll of clay.

7. To make the mouth, first use a needle to draw the mouth into the clay. Make two small balls of clay, shape them to be slightly triangular. flatten them slightly, then position them upon the upper and lower halves of the line of the mouth. flatten them more, starting from the chin area and from below the nose, stopping when the lips are as small as you'd like. you can shape the lips more by using one of your tools to spread them back, somewhat like spreading butter with a knife.

8. Continue to build up parts of the face by adding rolls of clay to define the features. The trick is to continually be blending the parts and smoothing them. Examine the head from different angles and different lights to make sure you've caught any unwanted indentions or irregular bumps. 8.9.

9. The neck is sculpted by wrapping the foil base with a long, thick strip of clay. Again, blend it in and build it up. Make a slab of clay to act as the breastplate/shoulders. Fold this loosly over one of your fingers and then press it against the neck, building up the clay as necessary to attach the shoulders to the neck.

10. Now, smooth the clay more, evening out any indentions and bumps. Refine the features using a pointed tool, carving the edges of the lids and the tearducts. The nostrils can be created by poking the needle up the nose and moving it about in a circular motion. If you carefully press the needle along the outside of your "nose", the sides will flare out similar to a nostril. use the eye end of the needle to carve the divet in the nose and other features.

11. To make the ears, make two balls of clay of the same size. flatten them with your finger from the inner edge, leaving the outter edge rounded still. keep pressing  on the opposite side until it is completely flattened. Position your ears carefully so that they are symmetrical, angled similarly on both sides of the head before securing them. I've not gotten ears quite right yet--you just have to sort of twist, poke and pull them as best you can.

12. to make neck muscles--more rolls of clay! I consulted grey's anatomy to get the position more accurate, but flattened and blended them so they're almost unnoticable.

13. perfecting the clavicle--again, more rolls of clay, flattened and blended on the lower side.

14. Before baking, go over your head one more time. Mist the piece with water and go over areas again--you'll find the water acts as a bit of a lubricant and a barrier, so sharper tools can be used for more delicate work. Crazy. Just try it and you'll see what I mean.

15. Place your final scuplted head in a glass baking dish. I made a ring of foil to support the head and keep the neck at an appropriate angle and place a roll of foil inside the shoulder area to keep its shape during the baking process.

Baked and painted. (all right, it looked better before I painted it)...

waiting for the next step...
can't wait to shell out way too much money to buy her a wig.

Hope this was helpful. Let me know if there are certain steps that need a more clear explanation.

I think what is best to keep in mind is to try to keep the face as symmatrical as possible and to keep the surface of the clay as smooth and free of imperfections as possible. Don't refine the features or the details until you're almost finished, as handling the head as you continue to sculpt it will only bang up the details.
3  TOYS, DOLLS AND PLAYTHINGS / Toys, Dolls and Playthings: Completed Projects / A Howl's Moving Castle Doll--NOW with in-process pix and a tutorial! on: November 26, 2006 02:04:39 PM
A friend of mine thought Howl, from Howl's Moving Castle, was a real doll, a total babe.

I secretly agreed and decided she should have a loveable, huggable Howl of her own.

I'm delighted with how well he turned out. Every step of the process was botched, my sewing skills are atrocious and I've never made a doll before.

The entire figure is roughly 20" tall, with polymer clay head, arms and legs and a cloth body. His costume and jewelry was handcrafted by myself. I purchased his wig--I know my limitations!--but I'm fairly certain it was handcrafted as well.

I created the harlequin fabric of his cape by painting the material with watered down acryllic paints. It has a red satiny lining and gold braid. I invented the patterns for his shoes, shirt and cape but used a pattern from a book to make his body and his slacks.

The jewelry is gold, garnet and glass beads. The earrings have real posts and could be worn by a human. The necklace has a clasp and is long enough that it could be worn as a bracelet. The earrings are secured with poster tack so they can easily be removed.

When I finally finished him, my husband and I strung him up with fishing line and posed him all around my folks' place. I was very pleased with how Howl's expression seemed to change in different lighting and positions.

It was my husband's brilliant idea to have Howl fly, like his animated and literary predecessors.

For more pictures, go here:

And please, any questions or comments will be most welcome! I learned a ton doing this project and would love to share. I also hope that someday soon I can give dollmaking another go and would welcome some advice.


Here are a few pix of the "making of" process...
This is Howl's head, as I was finessing the scuplt job.
His head, arms and legs are made of a blend of Sculpeys. The blend was nice for pliability, but the end strength and appearance wasn't satisfactory. The arms and legs are sculpted to about the elbow, with a wire running through them for support and attachment. The head was sculpted over an aluminum foil ball, with a "breastplate" sculpted to the middle of his chest and sewn on to the body in four places.

The body was made of a jersey knit. It has an armature made of different types of wire, including pipe cleaners. This all was wrapped with nylons and stuffed with a polyester batting. I should have used a much heavier weight of knit, although the stretchiness was good. I also should have not used pipe cleaners but a heavier, more flexible wire.
This is his body, before limbs and head were attached. The white things sticking out of his arms are the pipe cleaners

The second photo, I've drawn lines to illustrate where the armiture supports are. The "I" shaped part in the torso was made of a heavy, strong wire. The hot pink lines represent the pipe cleaners, which were folded on themselves and looped through the heavier wire. I'd hoped the pipe cleaners would make him flexible, but really they made him rather...well...flaccid. None of my armatures did much of anything to support the weight of the polymer parts.

Here's Howl with his limbs shoved in, but not actually secured.

I've done some drawing to illustrate what the sculpted parts had looked like before attached. I will scan them in the next couple of days and add them in here.

I've scuplted another Doll's head and created a tutorial for it here: https://www.craftster.org/forum/index.php?topic=138998.0. I'm sorry I didn't put it here, but I thought this post was already a bit cumbersome.
Thanks for looking!
4  TOYS, DOLLS AND PLAYTHINGS / Toys, Dolls and Playthings: Discussion and Questions / polymer clay dolls-to wax or not to wax on: November 08, 2006 07:59:51 AM
I am currently making a doll with face and limbs made of polymer clay -- Sculpey, to be precise. one of the books I've been referring to recommends dipping the clay parts in wax to give them a more realistic look. I've been in a quandary about whether or not to try this and wanted to know your thoughts.

reasons why I would bother:
-might make the doll look dramatically better
-might hide sculpting imperfections, like fingerprints and irregularities I wasn't able to sand out.

however, as the doll is made to look like an anime figure, I'm not sure this would really matter.

reasons not to bother:
-the whole trouble of buying and melting wax.
-I just want to move on with the project. I need to finish it by next week.
-something could go horribly awry. at the least, I might have waxy globs that I'll need to melt and whittle off. at the worst, I could burn the house down.
-since the doll is meant to be enjoyed, the waxed parts might attract dust and grime that would be hard to clean off.

anyone done this? any thoughts?

thanks loads!
5  PAPER CRAFTS, SCRAPBOOKING & ATCs (ARTIST TRADING CARDS) / Paper Crafts: Discussion and Questions / How do your organize your collage/paper materials? on: July 09, 2006 08:31:51 PM
For over  a decade now, collage has been one of my favorite art forms. however, I've always found it so difficult to keep my stuff sorted in such a way that it's easy to find, neat, easy to look at and be inspired. Thus, I've done relatively few collages.

So, what do you guys do?

Also, I'm curious of where your favorite resources are for materials.

Thanks in advance for sharing!!!
6  CLOTHING / Clothing: Discussion and Questions / Any suggestions on how to crop a jacket? on: May 06, 2006 09:00:12 AM
Howdy, hey!

I've got a pretty reasonable collection of velvet vintage blazers--they're the standare cut--hems landing around the butt or so, a couple button closures. I am a huge fan of the cropped jacket look, particularly as it is much more becoming on my short stature and curvier figure.

Has anyone had any luck cropping down a traditional blazer to a trender fitted one? any advice or suggestions on how to do so?

Thanks so much!
7  ORGANIZED CRAFT SWAPS / New Swap Theme Ideas / workout/exercise/healthy lifestyle motivational swap? on: April 15, 2006 09:37:09 AM
I've been thinking that a workout/weight loss swap would really be helpful and encouraging.
I'm thinking:
-fun motivational art/posters,
-nifty workout wear,
-arty meal journals,
-funky mixed cds for doing exercises
-calendars with rosie the riveter or some other classic "motivational" icons

...I'm not sure what else could be done. I just know that for a lot of us (me! me!) really struggle with efforts to create a healthy lifestyle--crafty, thoughtful gifts might really help motivate a person to keep it up. also, since so much stuff that you use or buy for fitness is generic and bland, somehow incorporating crafty creativity could make it way cooler!

I've never done a swap before, so I'm not sure of how it's done or what sort of things should be exchanged.

brainstorming, anyone?
Woo-hoo! thanks to offnlalaland54 , this swap is actually gonna happen! sign up here: https://www.craftster.org/forum/index.php?topic=16738609.msg933056#msg933056
8  HOME SWEET HOME / Crafty Housewares: Discussion and Questions / what are your best ideas for insulating partition curtains? on: February 18, 2006 11:23:53 AM
I've got a problem. my husband's office/hideout is in the basement. it's freezing down there, and because it's just a large open room, even running a space heater doesn't help much.

I'd like to come up with some kind of partition or curtain that would enclose his desk area and trap the heat, but I'm slightly confused on what might be the most attractive/effective/inexpensive way to do this. I'm open to brainstorming.

what I've been thinking is perhaps some kind of curtain rods suspended from the ceiling, with some kind of fabric/curtains to enclose the space. I'm in a quandry about what fabric would be the most cost effective, yet insulating, yet hopefully not make the area look any more dowdy than it already does. also, what kind of rod system would make it easiest to pull the curtains back when they are not wanted?

does this make sense?

has anyone tried anything like this? did it help? advice! help! please!
9  HOME SWEET HOME / Pet-Related Crafts: Discussion and Questions / House Rabbits Need Crafty Goodness, too! (any ideas?) on: January 14, 2006 01:19:20 PM
Bunnies make great pets--troublesome, onery ones, but still, great pets.
So why aren't more people making nifty neat crafts for their bunsers and telling the world (or at least, other craftsters) about their innovation and practicality?

I would love to hear about/see projects, crafts, innovations, obstacles you clever crafty folk have done for your beloved bunny rabbits.

I personally haven't made many crafts for my two house rabbits--unless cutting up toilet paper rolls counts--but I would like to try and start. My biggest problem with all things pet related is that while some things (cages, littler boxes, water bottles) are practical, they're really ugly and often gaudy. It's also very difficult to find rabbit products in stores that are actually good for them--and Target hasn't exactly had Isaac Mizrahi designing wooden chew toys yet. and the few suppliers online are pretty expensive.

Things I'm especially curious about:
--cage solutions. has anyone built something a little more aesthetic (and pleasant for the rabbit) than the standard pet store cage?
--litter box solutions
--toys! toys! toys! toys are the toughest.
--partitions/baby gate alternatives.

I haven't made much, but I have cut out gothic arch doorways in cardboard boxes for them to romp in. They also love paper bags full of hay with holes cut in them--and for my own aesthetics, I tie them closed with ribbon and cut diamonds and hearts instead of just boring holes. Erte also enjoys his pellets from a hand-potted dish.

and just because I can, here is a picture of my two houserabbits, Mena and Erte:

for those of you who don't have rabbits, but like to brain storm, here are a few hints:
--bunnies are suprisingly destructive. any toy made for them has a good chance of being demolished quickly.
--they like fun places to hide
--they can like to climb or jump onto high places. shelves, couches, coffee tables. you name it.
--they're very clever at problem solving
--if they're given anything, one has to assume it may be ingested, so materials have to be "safe"--non-toxic dyes, etc.
10  MISCELLANEOUS TOPICS / Completed Projects / Brain Pin Cushion Served Up on a Purdy China Plate on: January 13, 2006 05:02:16 AM
(Originally posted in "Occasions and Holidays as a "brainstorming" idea)

Not sure how this idea occurred to me, but I somehow have decided that the perfect gift for my mother this year is a pincushion...design ed to look like a brain. She's a former alterationist and spends a lot of time sewing...she also occasionally has a twisted sense of humour (which I've inherited, apparently), so I like the idea of a stuffed, squishable brain, about the size of a fist, that she can stick her pins and needles in. I was thinking I'd glue it to a rather pretty, gilded dish. maybe even use some slightly translucent nail polish to simulate blood...

but how on earth could I make a half-decent stuffed brain?


it would be nice if it weren't too involving, expensive or time-consuming, as there's a great chance she hate it (we are sadly beyond the phase of "anything my daughter hand-crafts is sacred"). better still if it had the separate hemispheres and ridges. I'd like to spend about five hours on it, tops, but I'm open to spending more time if it's a really terrific, workable idea.

(don't worry--I have other gift ideas that are much more Mom-appropriate--it's only fitting that someone get her back for her years of gag gifts)

so, I did end up making the pincushion.
 I had wanted to go with the upholstery trim idea, but was unable to find any at the fabric store. Also, when studying photos of real brains, I realised that a lot of the shapes and coagulations of the brain couldn't really be reprdroduced with  tube--some of them were "t" shaped, for instance.

What I ended up doing instead was buying a styrofoam cube (aproximately 4"x4") and carving it down until it was roughly the size and shape of a brain.
I further smoothed and sculpted that styrofoam, to make it even more brainy looking, with a division for the hemisphers.
Then, using an assortment of makeshift tools (inkpens, orange sticks, plastic chop sticks) I "sculpted" the styrofoam--basically, I'd poke a deep ridge in the styrofoam with one of my tools, then round it using the orange stick and the soft pads of my fingertips. The key was to follow a picture of a real  brain as closely as possible.
I then put on a few layers of my acryllic paint--enough to make it look less porous and glued the whole contraption onto a nice china dish that I'd gotten at goodwill.

Mom looked perplexed at first. I think once she figured out how much loving effort was involved, she decided to love it. Whether or not she truely does, I'm not sure. I guess I'll see if she proudly displays it on her desk or table...

Being made of styrofoam, if it gets much use, it probably won't last as long as if it were made of felt or stuffed or something. I figure it'll last as long as it needs to.


She didn't really like my mis-using her naitivity figures like this...I insisted that the nativity clan weren't worshipping the poor brain, just staggered with astonishment over it...

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