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11  MORE ART, LESS CRAFT / More Art, Less Craft: Completed Works / Class Final: Pitch a Film - Watercolor Crayon, Pen on: December 17, 2007 01:36:14 PM
For a final, I had to pitch a film using at least 8-10 images.  Naturally, I went over the top and well beyond the scope of the project using pencil, pen, and watercolor crayon.

What I proposed was an anthology horror film with five distinct sections.  These are the main sets done in watercolor crayon with pen outlining:

Stage for an Open Call:

House in the Mountains:

Damp Basement:

Endless Loft:

Expressionist Living Room:

There were also two particularly interesting effects shots (among many others):

Destroyed screen door:

Make-up schematic:

Did I mention it was my first time working with watercolor crayon?  I think I like it.
12  MISCELLANEOUS TOPICS / Completed Projects / Zen Garden, Sailor Moon Style on: December 13, 2007 07:28:04 AM
This is a Christmas gift for my friend obviously inspired by Miss Cuddlefish's wonderful Zen Mario Garden.  My friend loves anime and one of her favorites is Sailor Moon.  She also likes black and pink.  So, it was a clear decision.

The box is stained black, the star is painted bright red/pink, both done with various concentrations of acrylic paint.

The inside cover.

The instructions read: pour in sand, rake, relax

The Sailor Moon characters.  Happy accidents in shrinky dinks, I'd say.  Somehow, they wound up curved, almost like stones, when I tested the designs.  I loved them so much just in black and white that I didn't redo them colored.

Dual-Sided Zen tool: rake side.  Made from unfinished icecream spoons and straight pins.

Dual-Sided Zen tool: level side.

The Finished Garden: the sand, decorative floral sand, was dyed pink using a very diluted mixture of acrylic paint and water.  Fill the box with as much sand as you want for the garden, then empty into a zip-top bag.  Mix in small amounts of watered down acrylic, closing the top and shake/knead until the color is uniform throughout.  Keep adding the water/paint until the sand is slightly darker then you'd want - it dries lighter.  Empty out onto a foil-covered pan (you can use a flat baking sheet, but sides help when you go to dump it out) and let dry overnight.  The floral sand will keep the color without sticking together.  The blue stones are just small plastic crystals from the craft store.

I'm going to put the sand in a nice bag when I give it to her so she can empty it out at home.  While the box doesn't leak sand when close, it does have a tendency to shift so that when the box is opened, sand falls out.
13  Halloween / Halloween Decor and Parties / House Haunt 2007: The Eternal Garden of Midnight: Completed Haunt Photos on: September 06, 2007 03:53:37 PM
Everything is finished.  Done.  Complete.  Flickr slideshow at the link.

A simple guide to pic updates:
Mostly Wired Fly Trap
Fully Wired Fly Trap
Covered Fly Trap and Carving

After a quick and easy trip to Home Depot to pick up 55 dollars worth of supplies (wood, chicken wire, and insulation board - all that's really left are new flood bulbs and paint), I began to build the first prop for my house haunt this year.  The theme's official title is The Eternal Garden of Midnight.  Basically, a freaky garden theme.  It's a very good thing.

The first prop?  The largest, naturally.  My wonderful Venus Fly Trap.

It's made of solid pine (so far) and measures just under 80 inches tall (so far).

I'll be updating this as progress continues on my biggest house haunt yet.
14  MISCELLANEOUS TOPICS / Completed Projects / Crafty Framing on: August 11, 2007 07:49:16 PM
Ever since taking that job in a brand new Michael's framing department, I haven't had much time for outside crafting.  But I have had time to put together a few totally awesome framing jobs that I just have to share.

4 embroidered patches:



5 very delicate silk leaves with wood (I think) designs on them:



Both are float mounted (the part that looks like a normal mat, red or dark teal depending on the frame, is actually raised above the background), with the patches being attached with reversible water activated gum paste strips, and the leaves being sewn on with invisible archival thread.  The glass on the leaves looks strange because the customer insisted on a non-glare glass for that collection, and it doesn't photograph well.  It looks very clear in person, though.

I'm pretty satisfied with these.

Now I just need to find some time to frame some of my own unique pieces with custom designed framing.  That's when the magic starts.
15  TOYS, DOLLS AND PLAYTHINGS / Toys, Dolls and Playthings: Completed Projects / Tragically Cute: Friendly Horror Figurines on: May 30, 2007 07:09:57 PM
I've been on a polymer clay kick, and I do plan on sending in the money any day now for a dealer table at an upcoming horror conventions, so I decided to try my hand at doing some limited edition horror figurines.

I introduced my flagship character Franky the Cute Tragic Wolfman yesterday on Craftster.  You can see the closeups there so I don't eat up Craftster's bandwidth.

With that in mind, Franky would like to introduce his new friend Steve:

Steve had a little run in with his new pet snake:

So now Steve is known as Steve the Snake Owner.
But isn't his new friend vicious AND cute?

Look how well they get along:

They really are fast friends:

What's that Steve?  You can't breathe?  Oh bother:

Franky is 3.5 inches tall, Steve is 4 inches and a little more with his pet.  And they should be making a whole lot more friends over the coming weeks.
16  POTTERY, CERAMICS, POLYMER CLAY / Polymer Clay: Completed Projects / Meet Franky, the Cute Tragic Wolfman on: May 29, 2007 07:41:26 PM
I have a thing for horror.  I also have a thing for ridiculously cute animation-styled art.  So, why not combine the two together for some polymer clay figurines.

Introducing: Franky, the Cute Tragic Wolfman.  Tinfoil base, coated in Super Sculpey, with detail work done in Katoclay.  He stands 3.5 inches tall and really is simultaneously cute and tragic.

He just came out of the oven, so I still have to go in with some paint and tools and do touch up, add a base (he stands all right, but he's a little too rocky for me, plus I want these figures to all have matching bases with names), and play with him.
17  MISCELLANEOUS TOPICS / Completed Projects / Hand Painted Ceramic Flower Pots with Polymer Clay Details on: May 16, 2007 06:47:43 PM
I had never worked with glazes on ceramic before these two flower pots, but now I'm addicted.

Here are two ceramic flower pots I cleaned and fired, then glazed and fired, and finally adorned with mini polymer clay designs using liquid transparent Sculpey.  And yes, there are drainage holes, and it is waterproof, so they can be used as actual flower pots.

The first is Red/Orange with a cute purple flower:
And inside:

The second is Gray/Violet with a bizarre alien flower creature:
And inside:
18  POTTERY, CERAMICS, POLYMER CLAY / Polymer Clay: Discussion and Questions / Beveled Edge Cutter Questions on: May 16, 2007 04:37:10 PM
I recently (as in two days ago) started to get back into polymer clay and have discovered that there is a whole world outside of making models of animals and rollercoasters out of Sculpey III when I bake them since I tend to work very very thin and with a whole lot of detail (that was maybe 10 years ago).

So, I picked up a whole bunch of toys to play with, including a cutting blade (thank goodness, those plastic tools weren't cutting it), a clay extruder, transparent liquid clay (a godsend, really), and something I found called a Beveled Edge Cutter from Amaco.

The only thing is, the instructions are almost nonexistent (pretty much: insert one side of cutter for beveled edge, other side for an impression, without even specifying which is which) and after 45 minutes this afternoon, I still hadn't cut one clear geometric shape.  Mind you, I am working with Sculpey III right now, since it was either that or FimoSoft at my craft store, and they had no black, red, or white FimoSoft in the store.

So I'm curious if anyone else has tried this beveled edge cutter, or if anyone else can figure out how they work from the pictures on the site linked above.

Here are the exact instruction if anyone else can decipher them:

1. Roll clay to desired thickness and press cutter partically or all the way through the clay.
2. Use beveled edge for a framed effect or reverse edge for impressions.
3. Bezels [sic] are easy to make using these cutters and a clay blade.

And the shapes have a thinner, smaller end on top (the impression side?) and a thicker, larger end on the bottom (the beveled side?), since it's not very clear from the photo on the site.
19  Halloween / Halloween Decor and Parties / The Best Fog Chiller - A Tutorial on: April 24, 2007 09:41:07 AM
One of my must have Halloween yard decoration tools is a fog chiller.  The purpose is to create an eerie, low laying, rolling fog effect that always earns accolades on the big night.

There are some (limited) commercial models, and they are ridiculously over priced for use once a year.  There are instructions all over the Internet for how to make your own, but they all involve a whole lot of tools, dry ice, and professional quality smoke machines.  Well no more.

I've designed and built three different fog chillers at this point, and finally found a design that I fell in love with.

fog machine (with timer, you really can't use one where you have to press a button to start it for this)
large storage tub
PVC pipe
Drill with some kind of circular cutting bit
and for the big night: lots of ice, enough to fill the tub with some left over to account for melting

A bit of very simple fog machine theory and safety to get started: the machine heats up the specially designed liquid to the point that it is between a liquid and a gas, sort of like a vapor.  Which means that the fog is much warmer than you would think, but cools down pretty quickly when it hits the exposed air.  The fog still tends to shoot up quite a bit and not move much and normally dissipates only a few feet from the machine.  It's also easily blown around at this phase.

However, were the fog to be cooled down in a contained area immediately after being produced, the fog would stay much closer to the ground, and travel much farther, because the external force of exposed air will not be able to cause as fast a change.  This results in long lasting, continually spouting rolling fog that covers your entire lawn and very well may cover your entire neighborhood with a low rolling fog anywhere from a few inches to two feet high, depending on proximity to the machine and wind conditions.

For safety purposes, when that machine is running, stay away from any exposed metal parts - you WILL get burned.  It takes a lot of heat to get that fog rolling, and the metal parts do become extremely hot.

On to the tutorial.

1. Measure the size of the metal ring on your fog machine (the part that shoots out the fog) and purchase PVC pipe just wide enough to slide over the ring.

2. Cut a length (your choice) of PVC pipe to guide the fog into the storage tub.  Just remember, the goal is to slow down the fog before it hits the air.  A longer stretch of PVC pipe will slow it down faster, but will be harder to work with.  The fog chiller pictured above had about a 2 foot length of PVC pipe.

3.  Find some kind of drill bit slightly smaller than the width of your PVC pipe.  There are many varieties of circular bits.  The best would most likely be a step drill bit, but they are the most expensive option.  The next step down would be a spade drill bit, and that would work just fine.

Whatever bit you choose, drill a hole near the bottom of the narrower side of the storage tub.  Then drill 1 or 2 holes near the top of the opposite side of the storage tub.  These holes release the fog into the air, and should be near the top so that when the tub is filled with ice, the fog has to travel through the ice to reach the holes and get out).  I strongly recommend finding someone to help you with this step, since these tubs can be very difficult to drill through.  It is a time consuming step, but one that is worth it.

There is an alternate way I wound up switching to when I broke the only bit I had the right size for the job.  Draw a circle slightly larger the size you need on the tub, then drill a hole with a regular bit pretty close to center.  Working with a sharp X-Acto knife, cut 4 to 8 lines through the tub to various points on the outside of the circle.

Step 4: Push the length of PVC pipe that you cut in step 2 through the hole near the bottom of the tub and secure with epoxy, plumber's putty, or even the all mighty king of adhesives: Duct tape.  There should be a snug fit to ensure that as small an amount of fog as possible is lost when the machine is running.  Try to keep the inserted end of the pipe as close the bottom of the tub as possible (I'm actually going to try cutting the PVC on an angle to aim more of the fog towards the bottom this year) to allow for maximum chill time.

Step 5: Decorate your fog chiller.  Either make it so that it is hidden from sight (mine is green because it was going to be hidden among some bushes), or design it to be a set piece in and of itself (a fire breathing dragon perhaps? a cauldron? you are only limited by your imagination here).

Step 6: Test it.  Put the lid on securely (don't tape it shut as you do need to get in there to add more ice as necessary on Halloween; be warned, when you do open it, you will get a face full of fog, and it will take a few minutes to get the fog going again, but if you run it for more than a few hours, you will need to add more ice or the effect will become progressively worse)  Just run the machine for a few minutes without ice to see if there are any leaks in your system.  Also test various locations in your yard to see how the architecture and wind conditions impact the direction of the fog.  You don't want to just send all of your hard work rolling into your neighbor's yard, do you?  If you have the time, pick up three or four bags of ice to see how the cooling affects fog direction/strength.  Don't open the bags, just toss them in, that way you can save them for Halloween night.

Step 7: The Big Night.  Load that sucker up with bags of ice (you don't even need to open them) and set your timer to shoot off maybe once ever 45 seconds to a minute, maybe less, maybe more; you'll be able to see pretty quickly if it needs further adjustment.  The fog will go into the tub and will very slowly roll out of the two higher holes.  The remainder will stay trapped in the tub and be far more dense than the first few minutes.  Add some colored spot lights aimed very low at the machine from various points throughout the yard (last year I dedicated three lights to this: one opposite the machine in the front of the yard, one right next to the machine and aiming away from the yard, and one aiming straight past the machine, but any light you aim low will add an eerie hue to the proceedings) and presto! Instant ambiance that makes even cheaper store bought decorations look creepy.

This shot was taken with only three bags of ice in the machine and already the fog moved slower and did not go nearly as high.  Without the chiller, the fog would shoot straight up past the second story windows.

A long post, but worth it if you get through it.  Enjoy.
20  MISCELLANEOUS TOPICS / Stitch And BOTCH / Learning the Limits of a Kenmore on: April 21, 2007 10:18:31 AM
I've been happily using my Kenmore sewing machine since purchasing it last July (August maybe?), and just now had real trouble for the first time.

I'm stitching together a new tote bag for my etsy shop, trying to put a little style and finishing on the straps before attaching them when BAM! nothing will move.  I pull out the strap, cut out all the failed stitching, and try again.  Bam!  Still won't move.  Cut off more strap.  I open up the bobbin case, brush clean it out, and re-thread the machine.  Bam!  More lost strap.  Why not try the other strap?  This went on for about fifteen minutes before I almost threw my Kenmore out the window into my neighbor's yard sale.

I walk away, pull out the bobbin thread (more than enough to finish what I was working on), re-thread the bobbin, and the machine runs smooth.  Finish the straps, decorate, attach to the bag, stitch up the sides, and....

The straps are half as long as they are supposed to be from the machine eating my fabric. Shocked

So now I have to improvise, since I have no more of the fabric I was using for the straps to make them close to the right length.  How fun.
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