Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Craft Book Challenge Week 22: Patchwork

Well, the boy is graduated, the cake is eaten, and the ink on the diploma is dry. Whew!

All last week, in between the baking, cooking, and cleaning, I doodled and found a little bit of relaxation.

I chose to doodle on a piece of cloth with fabric Sharpies just because I wanted to try them out.

So this week, armed with my new fabric, I'm going to try a little patchwork stitching. I'm also going to relax.


Saturday, May 26, 2012

Let them eat cake

My son is graduating this weekend. I thought about the cake on Wednesday. Yeah, go me. Granted, I have been busy.

I baked my own cake in a 14–in. pan, frosted it, and realized that I wasn't going to produce legible frosting writing.

Freezer paper + electronic cutter + sprinkles = Crazy idea that just might work

Edible and readable. Son, your mother loves you A LOT!


Friday, May 25, 2012

Where is the Zen?

Dear doodles,
You are supposed to help me relax. Please work harder.
Thank you,

(I'm doodling on white fabric with Sharpie fabric markers.)

Monday, May 21, 2012

Craft Book Challenge Week 21: Doodling

My son is graduating from high school this weekend, which means we're all in overdrive mode to get everything done before friends and family arrive to celebrate. I hung his robe weeks ago hoping the wrinkles would fall out on their own. I haven't had a moment to check. Would you trust a 17–year–old boy with a nylon robe and an iron?

This week I chose four books (what?!?) to help bring me some peace between cleaning marathons.

Doodling is calming, and these Zentangle® books are full of complex patterns that are easy to execute. After I finish stripping/rewaxing my dining room floor, I'm going to zone out for awhile with these patterns. I'll need time to recover from the fumes before I tackle the next job.


The Five–Minute Rock

My garden is edged in stones, but not all of them are real. After dropping a few bucks on real rocks and scrounging reject rocks from friends, I still didn't have enough edging stones to ring my expanding gardens. 

Last year I found an idea on the Garden Web forums where user wendy2shoes plopped wet hypertufa concrete mix into a plastic bag to make "rock" edging. I didn't have a bag of concrete at the time, but I did have grout left over from a bathroom tile project. And look, grout works too!

The process is easy. I like to mix 4 parts grout to 1 part water. Sometimes I add kitty litter or craft sand into the mix.


I plop my mix onto the side of the bag to avoid the wrinkles at the bottom before I twist up the bag.

I set the bag either twist side up or down depending on whether I want to add extra texture to the stone. I then let the "rock" set up a day or two before I unwrap it and place it in the garden bed.

I sometimes rub the "rock" with a real rock to make a sandstone texture.

I still have to make about ten more rocks, but the mixing literally takes 5 minutes. I knew those 5 bazillion grocery bags I had saved would come in handy.


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Saturday, May 19, 2012

DIY Cast Concrete Tiles

My garden took a hit last year from the extreme drought Texas suffered. I'm slowly building back my beds, but I'd like to look at something other than mulch while I wait for the glories of summer.

Jewelry takes people's minds off your wrinkles.
  ~Sonja Henie

Why not add some pretty tiles and stepping stones to fill in some of the bare spots?

I loved the artwork in Color Cement Handicraft, so I took screen captures of the chapter headings and simplified some of the drawings. I also added a word just to see if it would work. Notice that the drawings are not flipped in reverse.

I cut squares of insulation foam to fit each potential tile. I just eyeballed the tile shape. I'm trying to break myself of perfectionism.

I found that taping the image to the foam and simply drawing over the lines with pressure to make an indentation was adequate to transfer the image.

I then retraced all the lines in ballpoint pen to make them stand out. Don't press the paper so hard that it tears as you're tracing. If you hear a crackle, you're tracing hard enough.

Now for the magic. Get a mask, go outside, and heat up a wood burning tool or a soldering iron. Running a hot tool through insulation foam is like running a hot knife through butter, except with more fumes. This process is smelly. But look!

In the book Color Cement Handicraft, the authors make a plaster tile and incise it with a sharp object to transfer the designs. I just did it with foam instead.

The foam tile is the master design. I had to make a mold from the master before I could pour the cement. I cut 2–in. bars from the foam and duct taped them around the tile. I also used wire brad nails pushed into the foam on the corners to add more pressure to the sides.

Spray vegetable oil makes a great mold release. I sprayed the boxes and wiped out the excess oil. I am not a master plasterer, so I can't tell you how to mix up plaster. I basically mixed it so it was pourable without being watery. I poured each plaster tile to about ¾–in. thick.

In my dry heat, I was able to unmold each plaster tile after about 15 minutes.

You have to let the plaster molds dry thoroughly (for at least 48 hours) before you can move to the concrete casting step. When my molds are dry, I will spray them with clear enamel or shellac to protect the lines from rubbing off during casting.

I started another tile earlier. Here are the concrete casting steps:

1. Place the foam spacer bars around the plaster mold using duct tape to secure the spacers to the bottom and wire brads to secure the sides. Use the same process as you used to make the foam mold.

2. Spray the shellacked plaster box with spray mold release or vegetable oil and wipe away the excess.

3.  Mix the concrete, topping sand, OR sanded grout until it is thick but pourable. Protect your hands with kitchen gloves. Protect your lungs with a dust mask. I used sanded grout because it is a cement mixture that already contains color pigments, and I wasn't planning to step on the tiles. I have several bags of grout left over from previous tiling jobs. If you need weight–bearing tiles, use concrete ready mix. The added aggregate gives the cement strength.

4. Pour the cement mixture into the mold and let it set for 24 hours. After the initial setting period, you can unmold the cement tile. It will continue to gain strength as it cures. Keep it misted for at least three days after unmolding.

5. If the plaster mold and cement mixture do not want to release after 24 hours, use a thin piece of metal to pry the two apart (which is what I had to do). Once you get it started, it will release.

6. You also can cast the cement in the foam mold. Follow the same steps used to cast the plaster mold.

Stag tile in sanded grout. Cast from the plaster mold.

Stag cast in sanded grout. Cast from the foam mold.

Stag cast in sanded grout with craft sand and graphite powder added to the foam mold prior to casting.

As soon as the first three plaster molds are cured, I'll be pouring more tiles. I have more sanded grout and I bought a bag each of topping sand and concrete quick mix.

Sanded grout can stand up to the elements. I have proof here.


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Monday, May 14, 2012

Craft Book Challenge Week 20: Casting Cement

I'm still working on a project from my favorite design book from last week, but it's time to move on to another book.

Not only do I fill my shelves with craft books, I also fill my virtual shelves with online inspiration. Have you ever explored Tons of books, music, audio, journals, etc. from yesteryear are available right on your desktop. It's time to blow the virtual dust off Color Cement Handicraft (copyright 1922).

The formulas for concrete have not changed much since Roman times except for specialty mixtures. Did you know that the art of concrete was lost during the Dark Ages? (source: Historical Timeline of Concrete) I love history!

The text is sprinkled with gorgeous late Art Nouveau line drawings.

I need to make some stepping stones for my garden this week. We've been deluged with rain, and my clay soil sticks to everything. I'm not complaining. After last year's drought, I'll take the rain. Last spring there was little point in planting a garden. It's so nice to see green!

Off to play in the mud (literally).


Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Tempera Resist Portraits

I really like the tempera resist technique, so I thought I'd try a photograph instead of a drawing.

This is my daughter being silly and horning in on her brother's senior picture session. I took the photo file into a photo editing program and changed it to black and white using the threshold adjustment.

I printed the result and traced the black outline to watercolor paper. I then simply painted the thinned tempera in the areas I wanted to resist the acrylic paint wash.

I washed over the dried tempera with two different acrylic paint washes.

When the wash was dry, I rinsed the watercolor paper under running water and rubbed away the tempera.

Both of the photos I used of my kids were outtakes. They weren't perfect photos, but they make interesting art. They're easy and quick to do. Mother's Day, anyone?

I framed these paintings in simple black frames. I think a gallery wall of modern silhouette portraits would look great. I need to do one of the dogs. They're family too.


Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Tempera Paint Resist Drawings

My daughter is in the throes of final project week. Art classes do not have final tests. Instead of studying all night, art students make art all night and pray the paint is dry by their deadlines.

She had to make a tempera resist for her illustration class, so she let me play along too. Besides, I bought the tempera paint.

I chose a kitchsy owl design from A Treasury of Design for Artists and Craftsmen. My daughter was mortified because owls are now officially "hipster." I sketched my hipster owl onto water color paper.

My daughter's project was to draw an animal and render it in multiple formats. She chose a rhino. Apparently, rhinos are epic. She scribbled pencil on the back of her original drawing to transfer the rhino to the watercolor paper.

She mixed the washable tempera poster paint with water to thin it to the consistency of heavy cream. She then painted the areas she wanted to remain white. She said that it's better not to be too precise with the brush. The imperfections give the lines interest. (That's art school talk.)

Back to my owl. I thickened the lines so I could keep track of the areas I wanted to protect from the overwash.

When the tempera is dry, paint over the drawing with NON–water–soluble ink, which we didn't use.

Use ink that is not water soluble.

Let the ink dry.

When the ink is dry, rinse the drawing under running water. The washable tempera will wash away, theoretically leaving the dark ink. Our ink washed away too. Oops.

Thinned acrylic craft paint makes a good substitute for the permanent ink, thank goodness.

My daughter salvaged her drawing by repainting the tempera and then washing over the orange–tinted paper with its complementary color.

I washed over my owl with thinned raw umber acrylic paint. (Don't overwork the paint wash. Also, don't be too generous with the paint unless you want the tempera to start washing away, which could be interesting too.)

The white areas show where I painted the thinned tempera paint.

I love my hipster owl! He looks like a wood cut.

This bunny design is also from the best design book ever. Blueprint bunny!

I highly recommend hanging out with art students.