Mother of Pearl – A Gift from the Sea

Mollusk
Mother of Pearl comes from mollusks, and is naturally a blend of tan, cream and white, with an iridescent finish. It can be bleached white, or dyed and color of the rainbow. Mother of Pearl beads come in an amazing range of shapes and sizes, while the thicker pieces are carved into cameos and pins, or cut into squares as mosaic tiles. Let’s turn a few round beads into a lovely pair of earrings.

How to Make Natural Mother of Pearl Cluster Earrings
Mother of Pearl Earrings

These 1-1/2” long Natural Mother of Pearl earrings swing and shift with your movements, and they’re a neutral color, which coordinates with whatever you’re wearing. In this design, five beads orbit around a dangling two bead central core. These earrings are a little challenging in Step 6. At times you may feel like you have fumble fingers. If you are looking for an easy pair of earring for beginners, please click here.

Required Beads & Findings:
MoP Earring Supplies

Supplies:
To make this pair of earrings you will need:
12) Silver plated Head Pins – 1” length,
14) 7-7.5mm round Natural Mother of Pearl beads,
2) Silver plated Surgical Steel Fishhook Earwires with ball & coil

(Please note: Head pins are the foundation of these earrings. They are inexpensive and come in big packages. Be sure to have several on hand just in case. Craft stores carry jewelry making supplies, including beads, accents, and tools. If you get hooked on jewelry making and yearn for the ultimate selections, look no further than FireMountainGems.com)

Required Jewelry Making Tools:
Round Nose Pliers
Round Nose Pliers – the smooth, round tips on these pliers make it easy and safe to manipulate wire, pins, and small jewelry metal pieces known as findings. Please don’t use standard pliers, which have teeth that will damage delicate precious metals.

Jewelry Wire Cutters
Jewelry Wire Cutters – a sharp pair of wire cutters makes jewelry making so much easier. Do not use them for other crafts, such as floral arranging, which can damage the blades.

Earring Making Instructions:
Beads on Head Pins
Step 1: Slide the beads onto head pins as shown.

Grasp Head Pin with Pliers
Step 2: With the round nose pliers in your right hand, grip the wire just above the Mother of Pearl bead. Hold the pliers in this position for the next step.

Bend Head Pin
Step 3: Grasp the end of the head pin with your left thumb and index finger, and bend the wire toward you. Continue bending the pin over the tip of the pliers until it touches the Mother of Pearl bead.

Beads with Partial Loops
The reshaped pins will look like the photo above.

Cut Excess Pin Length
Step 4: Cut off the excess wire. Leave enough wire to form a small loop above the bead. This may take a few tries. Don’t worry if you cut it too short. Simply use a new head pin and repeat the steps.

Beads with Trimmed Pins
This photo shows the beads with trimmed pins.

Attach Earwire
Step 5: Hook the double bead pin onto the loop on the bottom of the fishhook earwire, and close the loop using the round nose pliers.

Core Beads Attached
The earring will look like the above photo.

Close the Loop
Step 6: Attach the first “satellite” bead to the earwire in the same way.

First Bead Attached
The earring now has a center core and one satellite bead. Repeat this step for the remaining four beads. If you have trouble getting the beads to lay correctly, remove the dangling two bead central core. Shift the five satellite beads with your fingers until they form a circle around the earwire, and then reattach the two bead central core.

Finished Earrings
Congratulations! You have successfully made a pair of Mother of Pearl cluster earrings.

Black Onyx Version
Here’s the same pair of earring made with Black Onyx beads. Note how the color dramatically changes the look. You could also experiment with different gemstones, glass or wood beads.

Jewelry making is a great way to explore your creativity. There are so many options available that it’s hard to choose. After making several items for yourself, keep in mind that people love receiving jewelry as gifts.

Good Luck & Happy Crafting!

Walk on the Wild Side

Triceratops
Whose turn is it to walk the dog – I mean dinosaur? Something tells me that 25-foot leash will not be long enough! Dinosaurs are real fan favorites. You can’t get much wilder than that. And what’s not to love?

Dinosaur Eggs
A Dinosaur Nursery – They’re kind of cute at this stage.

Dinosaur
Somewhere between adolescence and adulthood they seem to lose their charm! (lol)

Dinosaur Skeleton
Even when they’re dead, they instill an odd mixture of fear and fascination. Movie Director Steven Spielberg brought dinosaurs back to life on the big screen in the epic movie, Jurassic Park – an emotional roller coaster, that started with awe and wonder, but quickly escalated to bone chilling terror.

 Stegosaurus
We love dinosaurs anyway. Want proof? Look at all the books, movies, television shows, and merchandise. At some point, every kid draws and colors his or her favorite dinosaur. Here’s your chance to feel like a kid again. Grab some paints and brushes and let’s go!

How to Paint a Wooden Stegosaurus
With a little paint you can design your own dinosaur. It can be as simple as a single coat of paint, or as detailed as you like. First we need a little inspiration.
Iguana
Iguana Closeup
Since dinosaurs lived sixty-five million years ago, there’s no one around to tell us exactly what they looked like. For this project, photos of creatures living today, such as iguanas and lizards, can be inspirational. Check out those spines!

Raw Wood Dinosaur
This carved wood stegosaurus, available at AC Moore, has sturdy legs, making it a freestanding, three-dimensional piece. Both sides and all the edges will need to be painted. Due to the raw nature of wood, it may require sanding, especially along the edges. (There are several types of animals in this carved wood collection. To see a painted flamingo project, please click here.)

Paints
Supplies:
Wooden Stegosaurus (4-1/4” high x 7-1/4” wide x 1-1/4” thick)
Acrylic Paints – black, brown & metallic green
1) Bottle fabric paint – brown
Paintbrushes
Sandpaper

Dinosaur Painted Green
Step 1 – Paint the dinosaur with green acrylic paint, including both sides and all edges. The great thing about paint is that it’s cheap. Feel free to experiment. If you don’t like the results, it can be easily changed.

Dinosaur Tail Detail
Seeing it in color revealed a major anatomical mistake in the tail design. If you loved dinosaurs as a kid, you’ll remember that the stegosaurus has spikes on the top of its tail. The artist chose to curl the tail underneath, and as a result, mistakenly placed the spikes on the underside of the tail. This poor animal would have trouble walking because the spikes would continually get caught on the ground as it moved through the forest, making it easy prey.

Dinosaur with Cut Tail
Step 2 – To make it right, cut off the tip of the tail as shown.

Dinosaur Painted Black
Step 3 – Turn the cut tail piece around, and glue it in place. Paint the entire figure black as a base coat, which will help delineate the scales added in a later step. Looks much better doesn’t it?

Dinosaur with Fabric Paint
Step 4 – Paint the top of the head, the back plates, and the tail with brown fabric paint. Paint the sides of each plate with green fabric paint and add spikes along the sides of the tail.  Brown acrylic paint was applied with a brush in between the back plates, because it was too narrow to fit the tube of fabric paint.

Dinosaur Scale Pattern
Step 5 – Add brown fabric paint on top of each leg and more spikes along the entire length of body. Create a scale pattern on the body using metallic green paint, and use the same color in the sides of the plates on his back.

Finished Dinosaur
Step 6 – Add a small dotted pattern to each leg. Paint the head brown, and add a few green scales along with the eyes. Congratulations! You now have your very own pet dinosaur. Fortunately for you, he’s a “Veggiesaurus,” unlike the one in the next photo.

Dinosaur Jaws
What a view, right? Thank goodness this is only an observation tower! Because if it was real… It would be the last thing you ever saw.

Happy Crafting!

The Octopus & the Mermaids

Tropical House Closeup
A little piece of paradise – Isn’t that what we all want? That means different things to different people. For many, the idea of a cozy grass shack on a tropical island is a common fantasy. Of course it goes without saying that we’ll expect all the comforts of home in that “shack,” but that’s not important. Visualizing the dream is the focus here. This time of year so many people visit the seashore. An ocean-themed centerpiece, created one piece at a time, brings memories of vacations past to mind, and inspires dreams of vacations yet to come.

Beach House Before & After1
Before & After Photos: Tropical Home – Front Facade. What was once a home for tiny gnomes transforms into a tropical retreat with orange silk flowers, and a bamboo pattern drawn by hand on the exterior walls using a brown Sharpie marker.

Beach House Before & After2
Before & After Photos: Tropical home – Back Facade. The bamboo pattern continues across the back, giving it that island vibe.

Light House Before & After
Before & After Photos: Lighthouse. Whoever heard of a lighthouse without a roof? To make the roof shown, fold the paper into a cone and staple it as needed to hold its shape. Glue a soup can lid to the bottom of the cone and paint it gray to match the lower portion of the building. Add twine along the edge and down the sides to resemble a standing seam metal roof. Tie several knots in a piece of twine and glue it to the peak of the roof. Tint the glass votive holder yellow using a highlighter, and line the inside with orange paper to suggest a brilliant light glowing from within the tower.

Sailboat Before & After2
Before & After Photos: Sailboat. This sailboat only needed a few minor adjustments. The faded horizontal stripes needed a fresh coat of paint, and the middle stripe was changed to orange. The opposite side of the sail was unfinished, so the stripes and shells were duplicated on the back. A cute little blue bird was glued to the top of the mast.

The Star of the Show: A Blue Ringed Octopus
Octopus Before and After 2
Before & After Photos: Octopus Closeup. It’s hard to believe the monochromatic octopus on the left is the same one on the right, but it is. It’s amazing what a difference a little paint can do.

Octopus with Candles
Original Octopus Candleholder: This whole project started with this silver metal octopus candleholder. As you can see, it looks top heavy with the large pillar candles, and the octopus is rather hidden underneath. Round candles were another option, but he looked like a juggler! (lol)

Blue Ringed Octopus
As with all creative projects, it’s helpful to gather a few photos for inspiration. The blue ringed octopus is a fascinating creature. Fans of James Bond 007 will remember the movie, Octopussy, in which Maude Adams had an aquarium with this beautifully patterned octopus, and she also wore a white silk robe emblazoned with its colorful, exotic image. Each octopus has a unique pattern, and the blue iridescent rings are impressive creations courtesy of Mother Nature.

Paints
Supplies:
Octopus (7-1/2” high x 4-1/2” wide x 1-3/8” thick)
Acrylic Paints – tan, brown, black, yellow, white, & metallic blue
1) Bottle fabric paint – white
1) Bottle fabric paint – brown
2) Paintbrushes – one for base coat, and a fine brush for details
Paint Palette
Clear Spray Paint

Octopus without Candles
This is how it looks without the candles. The large metal plates are too big, overpowering the beauty of this piece.

Octopus without Plates
The plates were removed using a Dremel cutting tool, and the tips of the tentacles were filed smooth. Now you start to notice the amazing sculptural details created by the artist.

Painted Tan
The color was the next issue to be addressed with two coats of tan paint. The artist painstakingly created a realistic looking octopus, but that thick coat of silver paint had obscured all those intricate details.

Painted Brown Spots
A brown pattern was applied to the entire body and the eyes were painted black.

Painted Black Spots
Black spots were added, overlapping the brown.

Painted Blue Rings&Yellow
Blue iridescent rings were applied over the black spots. Random yellow stripes wrap around the legs and head. A white dot was added to the pupil of each eye.

Painted Brown Irises White Outlines
The eyes were made more realistic with the addition of brown irises and white outlines.

Clear Coat & Suction Cups
Two coats of clear spray paint were applied to protect the acrylic paints. White suction cups were added to the underside of the tentacles, and allowed to dry. Next brown fabric paint was applied over each of the suction cups to provide shape and depth. This beautiful sculpture now has the rich, colorful appearance it deserves, and makes an interesting conversation piece.

Finished Centerpiece
Photo: Completed Centerpiece. Black pebbles form little volcanic islands amid a vast ocean. In front of a cozy tropical home, a mermaid sits quietly reading as a sailboat glides along the water. Another mermaid leaps out of the sea with a treasured seashell in her hand. The lighthouse makes a welcome rest stop for wildlife and a sunbathing mermaid. A feisty octopus playfully thrashes about the water’s surface. Palm trees swaying in the breeze display a pair of small signs that says it all: “Beach Please!”

Happy Crafting!

The Beauty of Yarn Crafts

Yarn Skeins
Yarn has come a long way over the years, from single color wool skeins to multicolored, textured fibers, made from manmade and natural sources, suitable for clothing, home décor and accessories. Let’s look at a few of the types of crafts made with yarn.

Knitting:
Knitting
Very little is required for any knitting project. All you need is some yarn, two knitting needles, and a pair of scissors, which easily fits into a small tote bag, making this one of the most portable crafts. Knitted clothing and accessories are the most popular items.

Knitted Wool Scarf
Knitted scarves provide a cheerful pop of color to help dispel the dismal winter grays.  They’re easy to make and are great gifts too.

Needlepoint:
Needlepoint Gazebo
If you are unfamiliar with needlepoint, it consists of a variety of stitches applied by hand using a needle and yarn through a canvas, which is preprinted with an attractive design. The kit instructions include the color and stitch type to be used for each part of the pattern, and a full color photo of the finished project. Every style of needlepoint stitch is represented in the gazebo shown above.

Needlepoint Leopard
This leopard needlepoint presents the challenge to create a three-dimensional figure and a complex pattern in the animal’s fur. Gaze upon his face and you’ll realize his eyes are looking right back at you.

Needlepoint Rabbit Pillow
Needlepoint is not limited to square and rectilinear shapes. This adorable rabbit pillow has coordinating blue piping along the edges and light blue velvet fabric on the back.

Crocheting:
Crocheted Afghan
Having an extra blanket around is always handy, especially for an afternoon nap. An afghan is easy to make, and gives you a great sense of accomplishment every time you or a family member uses it.

Crocheted Jacket
Recently, crocheted jackets, sweaters, and dresses have become very fashionable, made with lightweight yarns perfect for summer.

Crocheted Lamb
Stuffed Animals & Home Décor can also be crocheted. The little lamb shown above was made in individual pieces (hexagons and pentagons) and then sewn together using matching white yarn.

Cross Stitch:
Cross Stitch
Cross Stitch is similar to needlepoint, except that there is only one type of stitch in the shape of an “X,” and an open weave cotton fabric is used instead of canvas. Many different shades of yarn create light and shadow. The photo above is a project in progress, with the yarn being matched to a detailed color chart.

Cross Stitch Design
With needlepoint, the entire background canvas is covered. In cross stitch, the base, such as this bold red fabric, becomes part of the finished design.

Embroidery:
Floral Embroider
Embroidery uses a special type of yarn called floss, which consists of fine, lustrous fibers. A washable transfer pen can be utilized to trace or draw a pattern upon the fabric of your choice. Embroidery can be done by hand, but today’s technology has developed machines to do the work for you in less time.

Floral Embroidery on Denim
Denim jackets & jeans are commonly embellished with floral embroidery, and may include additional beads and studded details.

Floral Embroidery on Velvet
Luxurious fabrics, such as velvet and lace, create the perfect background for showcasing these intricately stitched designs.

Embroidered Japanese Kimono
The embroidery on silk kimonos is not only beautiful, but also illustrates scenes from daily life, as well as mystical legends and historical events.

Latch Hooked versus Hand Hooked:
Latch Hook Balloon
To make this latch hook hot air balloon (AC Moore), yarn is pulled through an open weave canvas using a specialty tool. Latch hooked items have a tufted surface just like plush cut-pile carpeting. It’s hard to resist the urge to run your hands through the soft yarn as you admire your handiwork.

Hand Hooked Fish Pillow
For hand hooked items, such as this pillow, the yarn is pulled through to the back. The front has thick textured stitches, while the loose ends are concealed on the back with fabric. Because the yarns are more bulky, pillows are usually large-scale. No two are exactly alike.

Hand Hooked Rug
Hand hooked rugs are beautifully patterned and collectible due to their intricate handwork and lengthy time for completion. This loon is actually swimming underwater in search of a fish for breakfast.

Hand Hooked Rug 2
The imaginative designs in hand hooked rugs are truly works of art for your floors.

There are so many opportunities to use yarn for your next project. The yarn departments in many stores are brimming over with the latest colors as well as new fibers, such as bamboo, and interesting finishes such as ombré and iridescent. Do you enjoy working with yarn? What types of items have you created? Please let me know in the comments. Thanks for reading!

Happy Crafting!

The Great Frame Up

The Pink Panther
If you’re the Pink Panther, you’ll want to show off your sparkling personality and luxurious fur coat. An electric blue frame is a bold choice. Frames not only complete a piece of art, but also make an attention getting statement.

Choosing the Right Frame:
Coordinated Frame
Many elements come into play when deciding the best way to display your artwork. The subject matter, colors, style, medium, patterns, and textures should be taken into consideration. This painting is perfectly complemented by an ornate wood frame in a coordinating color. The textured bands along the frame’s perimeter are reminiscent of wild vines, which ties in nicely with the landscape scene.

Architectural Frame
This beautiful painting is a feast for the eyes. The artist’s use of bold colors, and textures calls our attention to the figures in the foreground. The softer palette in the background features delicate architectural details, such as sculpted wall ornamentation, columns, and archways. The strong geometric lines of the frame mimic those found within the painting.

Coral Frame
This unusual piece consists of sea life themed ceramic tiles and a frame that resembles coral. It’s the perfect marriage of art and frame. Two thoughts come to mind: First, you could create your own tile mural using the incredible decorative tiles on the market, which look hand painted. Secondly, you could add texture to a frame to extend the artwork beyond its borders in perfect harmony.

Framing Options:
Wood & Metal Frames
Wood or metal frames accommodate a large range of image sizes, and make great gifts.   Many include both tabletop and wall hanging hardware for more flexibility in displaying your photos.

Oval & Round Frames
Everyone knows about square and rectangular frames, but did you know there are also circular and oval frames? For every piece of artwork there’s a perfect frame.

Gold Wood Frame
Painted wood frames come in a large variety of sizes to fit most canvases with ease.

Floral Frame
You don’t have to settle for a solid color frame. Call attention to your favorite photos with colorful, patterned frames. Can’t find what you want? Do it yourself. A few leaves and flowers will go a long way to personalizing any frame in your unique style.

Distressed Wood Frame
This distressed wood frame, with glass insert, creates an instantly aged look with rich complementary colors, and visually interesting patterns and textures. .

Ornately Carved Wood Frame
Antique wood frames and replicas have lavishly hand-carved details, which lend an air of grandeur to any mirror or painting. The top layer of leaves has been rubbed with gold paint to enhance the details and showcase the depth and complexity of the carving.

Specialty Frames:
Collage Frame
This collage frame can be set up in a matter of minutes and is ready to hang.

Shadow Box
Shadow Box frames, such as this one from AC Moore, are available in varying depths to accommodate trinkets, small objects, and even memorabilia, such as a sports team jersey. Choose from open front or glass enclosed options.

Sculpted Metal Frame
Ornate metal frames include hand painted details, rhinestones, and some have sculpted figures around the perimeter. The frame becomes a sculptural piece of art in itself.

Pet Photo Frame
Whether your pet has fur, feathers, or scales, you’ll have photos in need of an appropriate frame. The frame shown above, from AC Moore, is a great solution.   There are themed frames for every occasion, including engagements, new babies, and holidays, just to name a few.

Decorative Mats:
Double Matted Wood Frame
Mats provide a more polished appearance to artwork, come in many colors, and are available in pre-cut or cut your own options. A specialty tool for mat cutting makes the process fairly easy, although you will need a cutting surface. Double mats (shown above) provide color coordination and contrast.

Specialty Mat
This double mat detail looks adorable and was fairly easy to do. Trace your pet’s foot onto paper. Draw the toe and heel pads and cut them out. This becomes your footprint template. Trace the footprints onto the tan mat board and use an X-Acto knife to carefully cut them out.   The brown mat board will show through, creating the look of footprints around the perimeter of the frame.

Needlepoint Framing
Needlepoint requires special framing. During the stitching process, the canvas becomes misshapen. The blocking process ensures the design will appear correctly. Instead of using mat board, fabric wrapped mats are often added to the frame, as shown above.

Unique Photo Op:
Photo Clip
A photo clip is a unique way to display a favorite photo, postcard, or love note from that special someone. The peacock and floral design on the base is attractive with or without a photo, and can be changed at a moment’s notice with no effort at all.

Choosing a frame is a very personal decision. Take your time deciding how to best frame your treasured artwork. You’ll be glad you did.

Happy Crafting!

Eye Candy & Memories – Creating Collages

Camera Collage
A collage is a themed grouping of images artfully arranged on poster board or mat board. This clever piece has a camera “lens” in the center of photographs placed in concentric circles. Although it’s a visually interesting composition, the individual photos would be difficult to view, especially since the majority are sideways or upside down.

Butterfly Collage
Themes can include anything from vacations, family photos, nature’s beauty, or anything else that inspires or brings you joy.

Water Lilies Collage
The first rule of collage making is…there are no rules! Anything goes! The background can be white or any color you prefer. You may want to overlap the images in a freeform design, or divide the board into a grid, showcasing each individual photo.

Postcard Collage
When you travel, you often collect magazines and postcards as souvenirs, which typically end up stuffed in a drawer. Why not create a collage? Every time you walk by you’ll relive your vacations.

Fabric Elephant Collage
Collages don’t have to be limited to photographs. Here’s an example of a fabric collage in the shape of an adorable elephant. The blue mat board complements the fabrics and brings a cheerful element to this playful character.

Seashell & Feather Collage
You could also use silk flowers, leaves, feathers, or seashells. When using heavier materials like seashells, be sure to use a strong backer board for support.

Duck Collage
If you prefer more organization, the geometric precision of a grid can be created using a T-square or a ruler and triangles. In the above example, white space around each photo defines the composition.

Travel Collage
For a freeform collage, lay the photos out upon the board, make adjustments until you’re satisfied with the arrangement, and then glue the photos down one at a time with Elmer’s Glue Stick.

French Sightseeing Collage
Usually poster board, mat board, or collage board serve as backing, but you could also use a wood plaque, a shadow box frame, or a framed slate board. Whatever you choose will personalize your creation. If you plan to frame the finished collage, be sure to select a board size that will fit into a standard frame.

Seasonal Fall Collage
Scrapbooking paper can be used to add colors, patterns and textures (e.g. faux wood grain), to an otherwise plain background. You could also hand paint details.

Collage Frame
If cutting out pictures and gluing them down seems like too much work, the simplest and quickest way to create a collage is by using a collage frame. Place a few photos in the frame and your done. No muss or fuss!

Scrapbook Vision Board
If wall space is limited or you prefer a more portable option, a scrapbook collage (vision board) can be developed over time. As your dreams and goals come true, there are plenty of additional pages for future inspirations.

How to Make a Collage / Vision Board

A vision board is a collage with goals and dreams to be manifested into your life. It gives you a daily reminder to focus your thoughts upon making your dreams come true.

Supplies:
Photos, postcards, color copies
Scissors
Elmer’s Glue Stick (All Purpose is permanent, or the Washable formula is adjustable)
Poster Board or Mat Board
Poster Frame (optional)

Magazines
Collect brochures, magazines, photos, and color copies of your wishes and dreams. Carefully cut out the pictures. It’s fine to have an assortment of various sizes, because these will fit together like puzzle pieces with overlapping edges. Lay the images upon your board. Move them around until you feel the composition is coming together. Think about the colors, contrasting textures, and patterns. It’s okay to have empty spaces.

Preliminary Vision Board
This photo is a progress shot showing the initial photo layout. Glue each image in place. Now fill in the gaps with smaller photos or inspirational words.

Completed Vision Board
Layers were added to enrich the composition, which completely covered the background. After leaning this vision board against a wall for a few weeks, it was inspirational, but the poster board was starting to bow. I had a new 24” x 36” gold metal poster frame, and decided to use it for the vision board to protect the images behind glass and to give it a more finished look, ready to hang upon the wall. I had to add approximately 8” to the length of the poster board on the right side to fit the oversized frame. Additional images were then added to blend with the existing. Now that it is framed, this simple project has become an attractive piece of art.

What kind of collage are you thinking about making? Do you have a theme in mind? Please share your ideas in the comments section.

Happy Crafting!

Spring Cleaning the Craft Studio

Organized Art Supplies
Spring is a wonderful time for renewal. We all like getting a fresh start. To that end, I decided the Crafts  Inspire Me website needed some freshening as well. Please check out the new “Crafts by Topic” page. It is divided into categories, similar to the departments found in a craft store, to make it easier to find the types of projects that most interest you. Here is a small sampling:

Baking & Candymaking

Beaded Jewelry

Floral & Home Decor

To see the new Crafts page, please click here. You will also find a new page entitled, “Color Theory,” which contains information on the magnificent variety of colors in this world, and their effects on our daily lives.   I hope these changes will inspire and entertain you. Please let me know what you think in the comments section. In case you missed a recent post, there is also a “How To Projects” page with complete instructions for all kinds of creative projects. As always, questions and suggestions for future projects are welcome. Thanks for reading.

Happy Crafting!

What do Pigs & Cats have in Common? Decoupage

Spotted Piglet
Look at that little face! Is he cute or what? The inspiration for this project is an adorable spotted piglet. In a previous post, “Year of the Pig 2019,” I mentioned my brother’s affinity for pigs. We usually find a way to include a pig at any gift-giving occasion. Sometimes it’s just a card, or a flying pig ornament for the Christmas tree. We all share the same sense of humor, and the more ridiculous the pig, the greater the laughter.

Pig Plaque Details
For my brother’s birthday this year, I decided to combine two of his favorites: pigs and cats. Believe it or not, he and his wife share their home with 11 feline fur babies. Yes, you read that correctly. That’s a lot of mouths to feed! Each cat started out in life under very difficult circumstances, but after being rescued, they live comfortable, happy lives filled with play and lots of tender loving care. Such an unusual family deserves an equally unique family portrait.

How to Create a Wooden Pig Photo Plaque
On a recent visit to AC Moore, I noticed a large wooden pig plaque. It was really cute, but I held off buying until I could come up with something my brother would appreciate, and ended up liking the idea of a family portrait. The pig is large enough to accommodate photos of all eleven cats with my brother and his wife in the center. Any  size or shape plaque will work as long as it is large enough to fit all the images. You could also create a plaque to commemorate a special event, such as a graduation, a birthday, or your favorite vacation. Let’s get started.

Raw Wooden Pig
You may need to do some light sanding to ensure the surface and edges are smooth.

Pig Photo Plaque Supplies
Supplies:
Wooden Pig (20-1/2” wide x 11-1/4” high x 1/2” thick)
Acrylic Paint – tan & black
1) Jar of Mod Podge Gloss
1) Oval Mop Paintbrush
1) Elmer’s Permanent Glue Stick
2) Paintbrushes – one for base coat, and a fine brush for details
Heavyweight Matte Finish Photo Paper
Sandpaper
Scissors

Photo Layout
You might want to print a quick draft version of your photos to make it easier to layout on the plaque. This will also give you a chance to experiment with different ways of cutting them out to make your design look more attractive. Be sure to reprint your photos on heavyweight paper for the final project. If you try to use regular printer paper, it will bubble and curl as soon as you apply the Mod Podge, and you’ll have to peel it off and start over. How do I know this you ask? Because it happened to me! It was awful!

How NOT to Complete a Photo Plaque
I watched a tutorial video to learn how to use Mod Podge for decoupage. They made it look sooooo easy, but looks can be deceiving. They mentioned you could use laser printer color copies but said nothing about needing heavyweight paper. All my photos had been meticulously cut out, and glued down using Mod Podge on the backs. Initially there was a little bubbling, but it smoothed out as it dried. While the Mod Podge does dry clear, the recommended sponge applicator leaves streaks behind and it dries that way! Instead I recommend using an oval mop paintbrush, which produces a smoother finish. Next I applied an even coat over the entire plaque. This should have been the finale, but I knew I was in trouble after the first few cats had been coated. Within seconds, the photos bubbled and curled up into little blobs! It was horrifying! They didn’t mention that in the how to video! Frantically, I scraped the photos off and then used soap and water to clean the surface of the plaque. Back to the drawing board!

The Correct Way to Create a Pig Photo Plaque
This time I suggest a few changes to the process:
First, print your images on heavyweight matte finish photo paper.
Apply one coat of Mod Podge over the entire page of photos, using an oval mop paintbrush.
Allow drying time.
Cut out the individual photos. I chose to cut out the cat’s ears and round the bottom edges so that they would resemble spots on the pig.
Lay out the photos upon the plaque.
Trace the photos to determine the locations of the spots.

Painted Black Spots
Paint each of the black spots a little larger than the photos. I ended up making all the spots solid black to prevent tan paint from peeking out from behind the photos.
Paint the pig’s face, ears, hooves and tail. A painted smile goes a long way to give this little guy some character.

Glued Photos & Sealer Coat
Trim the photos and/or adjust the painted black spots as needed.
One at a time, paste each photo using Elmer’s Glue Stick.
Place a clean sheet of paper on top and firmly rub the surface and edges to ensure a good seal. Repeat this process. Let dry.

Finished Plaque
Apply a coat of Mod Podge over the entire plaque. Congratulations! Mission accomplished!

This is a fun and unique way to display family photos. Although pigs may not be for everyone, there are plenty of interesting wooden plaque shapes to match your family’s unique style and personality. Deciding which photos to use is a fun and adventurous activity. Let your creativity soar and be open to new possibilities as you create this memorable family portrait for everyone to enjoy.

Happy Crafting!

Save Room for Dessert

Assorted Desserts
There’s a reason they say: “Life is short. Eat dessert first.” It really is the best part of the meal. Now that spring has arrived, there will be plenty of entertaining opportunities. Why not offer to bring dessert? Many people don’t realize that craft stores have large baking departments with specialty pans, cake decorating tools, glassware, cake plates, fondant and many other useful tricks of the trade to make your desserts the hit of the party.

Apple Pie
Apple Pie – Hot apple pie a la mode is a favorite any time of year. Layering the apple slices across the top in a creative spiral design adds to the visual appeal.

Birds Nests
Chocolate Birds Nests – Kids and adults love the taste of Rice Krispie Treats but these have a wonderful springtime chocolate twist. Simply follow the recipe using chocolate rice cereal.  Drop spoonfuls into cupcake wrappers and shape into nests. For the finishing touch, place a few malted milk eggs or jellybeans on top as eggs.

Brownie
Brownies with Heart – Everyone has a recipe for brownies. To make them extra special, bake them in a specialty pan with individual compartments. Cut out a paper heart and set in on top, and then sprinkle with powdered sugar. It’s so much more impressive than the usual square cut brownie.

Caramel Flan
Caramel Flan – This delicious egg custard has a caramel glaze poured over the top.

Raspberry Cheesecake
Raspberry Cheesecake – Any flavor of cheesecake is a delicious choice year round.

Chocolate Fudge Cake
Chocolate Fudge Cake – This chocolate lover’s dream has a thick layer of chocolate fudge icing, chocolate filling and a chocolate graham cracker crust. Yummy!

Chocolate Roll
Red Velvet Roll – Moist rich chocolate cake filled with vanilla cream and topped with chocolate shavings, coffee beans and a dusting of chocolate powder – Who could resist?

Chocolate Truffles
Chocolate Truffles – To make these decadent truffles, you will need to fill the candy mold one layer at a time. Form the outer shell by coating the mold with chocolate. Next add the filling. Popular favorites are hazelnuts, butter cream, peanut butter, caramels, chocolate liqueurs and cream fillings. A piping bag can be used to make filling easier. Refrigerate the mold to allow the filling and chocolate to solidify. The last step is adding another layer of chocolate to fill any remaining voids and seal the top of the mold. Refrigerate and carefully un-mold. If you want a more colorful treat, dip each truffle in melted chocolate and then dip in candy sprinkles.  Your candy making skills will be the envy of all your guests.

Cookies
Assorted Cookies – Dress up your next batch of cookies by using fanciful cookie cutters, and embellishing with icing, sprinkles, nuts or dipping chocolate.

Cupcakes
Cupcakes – These are easy to make party favorites and kids love to help with decorating.

Fruit Tart
Fruit Tart – This is a beautiful, eye-catching dessert. It’s all about the pattern and colors. The brightly colored plate creates the perfect frame for this artistic piece.

Fruit Yogurt
Yogurt Parfaits – What could be easier than mixing yogurt and fresh fruit?

Muffins
Muffins – Decorative paper wraps add pizzazz to simple muffins and cupcakes. Use a piping bag to apply whipped cream icing and top with a few berries and a sprig of mint.

Raspberry Vanilla Pudding
Raspberry Vanilla Pudding – While this may appear fancy, it’s easy to make. You’ll need an empty egg carton to hold the glass dishes at an angle. Mix the pudding, pour it into the tilted dishes and refrigerate. Puree raspberries and pour onto the firm pudding. A little whipped cream, a few chocolate pieces, a fresh raspberry and a mint leaf complete this visually intriguing dessert.

Strawberry Cream Puffs
Cream Puffs – Two dessert favorites in one: cream puffs and strawberry shortcake.

So many delicious choices! What’s your favorite? The only challenge in making dessert is preventing your family from devouring it before the guests arrive. Oh well, you can always make extra just in case.

Happy Crafting!

Birds of a Feather – Decorative Wood Crafts


For some reason, I often find myself drawn to the wood crafts aisle at my local hobby store. Maybe it’s the quick reward for very little effort at an inexpensive cost. Who doesn’t enjoy a little instant gratification? There’s always something new to discover. New trends and seasonal favorites compete for your attention on the shelves.

Painted Inspirational Words
The popularity of the television show, “Fixer Upper,” has brought farmhouse chic to the forefront of home design trends. As a result, oversize wood letters and words have become very popular wall art. If a particular word or phrase has special meaning for you, spell it out on a wall as a daily inspiration to share with your family and friends.

Birds on Wire
Looking for a quick and easy way to add some pizzazz to any flat wood surface? Apply contact paper or left over wallpaper for interesting colors and patterns.

Wooden Bird & Fish
For a distressed look, keep the color palette soft as if they faded over time, allow the paint to dry, and then use sandpaper to “age” the surface.

Painted Wood Boxes
The base coat for decorative boxes can be painted using brushes or spray paint. Intricate details and complex designs can be applied using fine point paint pens in solid or metallic finishes. Rhinestones and beads will provide a touch of sparkle.

Wood Owl
This adorable little owl has a painted face and the patterned wings were created with contact paper. For clean, crisp edges on the eyes and beak, use stencils.

Wooden Eggs
Painted eggs are a tradition in many cultures. Applying wax in intricate patterns and dipping the exposed areas into dyes created these beautiful designs.

How to Paint a Wooden Flamingo
Now that you’ve seen several woodcraft examples, it’s time to try your hand at decorating. AC Moore has an excellent selection of freestanding wood animals, including a flamingo, rhino, hippo, stegosaurus, peacock, elephant and more.

Flamingos
As with all projects, it helps to have a little inspiration. Seeing live flamingos really helps with color and feather pattern decisions as well as basic biology.

Raw Wood Flamingo
As you can see, the thick wood has been cut out in the shape of a flamingo and has the advantage of strong, sturdy legs, making this a freestanding, three-dimensional piece. Both sides and all the edges will need to be painted. Due to the raw nature of the wood, it may require a little sanding, especially along the edges.

Supplies:
Wooden Flamingo (7-1/2” high x 4-1/2” wide x 1-3/8” thick)
Acrylic Paint – orange, black, & white (plus optional yellow for eyes)
1) Bottle fabric paint – orange
1) Bottle fabric paint – pink
Paintbrush
Sandpaper

First Coat of Paint
Step 1 – Paint the flamingo with orange acrylic paint, including both sides and all edges.

Second Coat of Paint
Step 2 – Apply a second coat of orange acrylic paint, and add details to the face. The legs have been painted gray.

Textured Paint
Step 3 – Create a feathered texture by applying orange fabric paint. The paint on the head and neck was applied in a random dotted pattern because these areas are smoother than the lower body. Use long strokes on the torso, ensuring to go in the direction of the feathers. Refer to the inspiration photo as needed. Allow the paint to dry overnight. Using a small paintbrush, and orange acrylic paint, add the thin leg and feet details on the sides, front and back of each leg. This gives the illusion of thin legs like the live birds.

Second Coat Textured Paint
Step 4 – Create more texture by repeating the orange fabric paint process in Step 3. Add additional details with pink acrylic paint: Dot the pink over the head and neck, and create the wings on the torso. Refer to the inspiration photo as needed.

Finished Flamingo
Step 5 – Apply a second coat of pink fabric paint, thickening the wings and increasing the pink highlights on the head and neck. Allow the paint to dry overnight. Using a paintbrush, give the beak a second coat of white and black acrylic paint. To give the eyes more dimension, add a large dot of yellow fabric paint. Remember to add a black dot in the center of each pupil.

This completes your flamingo project. He may not take flight, but the bright colors and cheerful expression are sure to make you smile.  For more painted wood crafts, please click here.

Happy Crafting!