Sunday, March 11, 2012

The Cherry Blossom Nursery

As promised, I have the first shots of my (mostly) completed cherry blossom tree mural!

Now, there are tons of cherry blossom tree murals and wall decals online to choose from, so after looking at a bunch my friends Ray & Julianne decided they wanted a modern style, like this:

So here's what I ended up doing:

You can purchase the inspiration wall decal from the original artist on Etsy for around a hundred bucks with shipping, (and you should check out the rest of her store regardless; all of her kids' murals are soooo cute), which really isn't a bad price. I just wanted to try my hand at painting a kids' mural myself! When we were faux finishers I did lots of things: stripes, stencils, every finish you can imagine...but I never sketched something free-hand on a wall before this.

To begin we painted the room a very pale pink. Even with high quality paint, it took three coats to cover the dark beige already on the walls. (Blurgh.)

We did all our work over three nights, so most of these process shots will be blurry iPhone pics. Sorry.

Next I used one of the decal photos as a reference while I sketched a tree shape onto the wall using pink sidewalk chalk:

Chalk is great for this, since it wipes off easily and doesn't mess up the paint sheen. (Keep in mine we used satin for the base coat, though. Flat paint wouldn't be so forgiving.)

Next I filled in the trunk with a soft brown paint:

The trunk isn't really that small; that's just a giant paintbrush on the ground.

For the blossoms I found a simple clip-art shape of a five-petaled flower. I printed out three different sizes (I winged it on the sizes), traced them onto clear plastic report-cover sheets (the thick ones, not the flimsy page protectors), and cut those out to form stencils.

From there it was a matter of plotting out the three different sized flowers and filling them in with the two shades of pink we picked out. (We pulled colors from the crib bedding.) I used chalk again to get the flower placement started, and then later John marked some areas with blue tape:

For the stencils I used two tiny foam rollers - one for each shade of pink - and rolled from the edges in to avoid the paint bleeding underneath. I still had to touch up a few with a small brush later, though.

The final touch was adding centers to some of the larger flowers for a little added detail, plus a few buds to some of the branch tips.

Which gave us this!

Taken in daylight so you can finally get an accurate idea of the colors. :)
And here's a close-up of those flower centers:

I used a pencil eraser to make the large center dot, drew the stamen lines out with a small artist's brush, and then tipped each of those with another tiny dot made by dipping the wooden tip of my brush into the paint. It was a little time consuming, but the extra detail really made the flowers pop.

Next I'm working on a coordinating mobile, and we plan to add more painted flowers around the room once we get the furniture placed.

I gotta say: even though I'm not a kid person, I love working on nurseries. I'll take one of these over a boring formal dining room ANY day.

Speaking of which, this room is just across the hall from the Ninja Nursery we did a couple of years ago. I think the occupant approves; Julianne tells me that two-year-old Isaiah actually tried to hug one of the ninjas on his wall the other week. :D

When this nursery is completely done I'll be sure to take more pictures, so look for that in another month or two. (I just got an LED cherry blossom branch to use for a night light. Woot!)

Oh, and if you're looking for a much simpler way to make cherry blossoms, check this out:

Mind: Blown. Check out the full tutorial here. (And thanks to whichever one of you it was who sent me the link last week!)

Friday, March 9, 2012

In Which I Attempt to Embarrass My Cat

Today I'm working on a cherry blossom tree mural for a friend's nursery, and the pressure's on because I already mentioned it to those of you on Facebook, which means I'm committed to posting pictures of the end result, and I've never free-handed a big tree on a wall before, and this could end up being that thing we're still talking about ten years from now in a "Wow, I never knew a tree could look like a demented platypus doing interpretive dance" kind of way, as opposed to a "JEN IS THE NEW DEMIGOD OF CRAFT PAINT" kind of way.

So, to distract us all from the impending judge-Jen's-artistic-talent-a-thon, here are some *other* really embarrassing pictures.

Of my cat.



If this angle confuses you, just know that John took the picture, and Lily (the cat)(obviously)(I hope) is wedged in between my belly and my desktop. Because like most cats, Lily has determined that where there's a will, but no lap, there's still a way.

She's also determined that my hair is an acceptable cat toy:

"I don't always bat playfully at dangling objects, but when I do, they're attached to my owner's head and I'm sprawled out on my back like a drunken weasel."

I'm not sure any of this is having an affect on Lily's dignity.

So how about a video of her SNORING?

(Turn up your sound!)

She sounds like a happy Tribble. Which is kind of awesome. And while I still refuse to believe that *I* snore (AHEM JOHN AHEM), I will accept the term "Tribble purr." As in, "Wow, Jen, last night you were Tribble purring sooo loooud!" Then I could be all, "Heck yeah I'm even adorable in my sleep! LL&P, bee-yotches!!" And so forth.

Ok, I think I still have some cherry blossoms to paint.

Wish me luck, and happy Friday, everyone!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Craft Inspiration Roundup

I've been in a craft funk lately. I have several projects started, of course - what crafter *doesn't* have half a dozen stalled-out projects stashed in the closet? - but nothing that's really stirring the ol' creative juices.

In times like these I turn to you guys for inspiration, so here are some of my favorites of what you've been sending in lately:

Erin B. found this Pottery Barn-inspired candle mod over at Can't Stop Making Things:

The trick is printing your design on tissue paper, which then gets saturated with the wax and looks like a part of the candle. Get the full tutorial (plus the sheet music .pdfs) at the link.

Katelyn found a fun wand tutorial that's perfect for Harry Potter party favors:

Believe it or not, they're made from rolled paper, paint, and hot glue!

You know this one caught my eye:

A chalkboard cake play set! This would be a fun gift for junior bakers, or a perfect re-usable centerpiece. Just draw on new decorations to fit each occasion!

Heather V. spotted the tutorial over on Craft: All you need are nested hatboxes and some chalkboard paint. Hit the link for step-by-step pictures.

I tried some simple quilling once years ago, and remember it being surprisingly easy with almost instant gratification. The fact that it looks like it took you a million years to do is the two-ton cherry on top.

So when Stephanie sent over a link to this gorgeous quilled monogram, I started hearing the siren call of swirly paper strips again:

The contrast of the delicate swirls with a nice bold font outline is just gorgeous, don't you think?

Here's another example by Michelle of A Can of Crafty Curiosities:

(You should also check out Michelle's quilled Koi fish. Sooo cool.)

Head over to Craftastical for the full monogram tutorial.

And finally, here's something I've been wanting to try for ages: Perler beads!

From what I can tell, you assemble the beads on a grid and then apply heat to fuse/melt them together. Because of the grid they're perfect for 8-bit designs, which is why there are so many fabulous Mario and old-school video game designs out there. I found this one on Craftster; it's a set of coasters that fit inside the question mark box.

Decoy's Dork Decor sells a bunch of different designs, plus a sweet Nintendo controller box to hold the Mario coasters:

Most of the small perler bead sprites you see are pretty simple, but there are also some massive, jaw-dropping pieces out there:

By ShampooTeacher (several more gorgeous works at the link.)

This makes me want to pixelate some of my favorite movie scenes and make them out of beads. Like the elevator scene in Ghostbusters. Or the Dread Pirate Roberts looking down his sword at Humperdink. Or the Back to the Future poster. :D As much as I love jigsaw puzzles, I think I'd enjoy the tedium of putting them all together.

Plus, I bet you could use cross stitch patterns for these. I know there are programs out there you can buy to convert photos into cross stitch patterns, so really, you could make almost anything. Your only limitation would be finding the right color beads to match. (Speaking of which, anyone know of a good cross stitch conversion program for Macs?)

Oh, and earlier today I emptied out my first burnt-out lightbulb, despite John's assurances that I would "slice my face off." I'd like to use it as a mini cloche to display a tiny paper flower or other origami shape, like a crane, attached to a small wire. You know, something sort of along these lines:

By Jochem van Wette, via SuperPunch

(And isn't that beautiful?)

Anyway, do you guys have any other suggestions? It'd have to be super tiny to fit through the opening. (And I'm not interested in making a terrarium or bud vase, since those are pretty overdone.) I'd make a wooden base so it stays upright. Of course, I still have to make this steampunk heart lightbulb, too. Hm.... (Is it wrong when you start hoping your lightbulbs burn out?)

Friday, March 2, 2012

A Night in the Magic Kingdom

Last week both Disneyland and the Magic Kingdom were open for 24 hours straight to celebrate Leap Day. A lot of fans viewed this as a kind of endurance challenge, but I was more interested in being there during the hours between midnight and dawn. So, camera and tripod in tow, John and I set out around 9pm to go document a night at the Magic Kingdom.

Parking was pretty crowded, and since all three ferries were running to accommodate the masses we had to hang out on Bay Lake for a while, waiting our turn to dock. By the time we made it past the turnstiles it was nearly 10:30.

The crowds were thick on Main Street since the parade had just wrapped, so we made a beeline for the top of the train station to get a few wide-angle shots.

We also watched the castle projection show from here, but none of those photos turned out well. The construction screen jutting out from the right spoils the view, anyway.

As the crowds dispersed towards the hub, we hung around taking tripod shots around the station. I especially liked the view up the stairs:

For this next shot I had to sit on my knees in front of the tripod craning my neck up at an insane angle. I probably looked a little crazy, but I like the end result:

(John tells me he can't see a difference between these two shots, so let me assure you: they're different. I just can't decide which one I like better.)

Note that I could take this shot - with no people in it and while kneeling next to a tripod in a major walkway - at around midnight. At that same time Disneyland in CA was shut down due to capacity crowds. So, yeah, we didn't have it nearly so bad.

From there we wandered over to Tomorrowland:

I made a point to take theses shots while the TTA (aka People Mover) was rounding the corner, so I'd get the motion blur. I still have so much to learn about photography in general and night shots in particular, though. I think a longer exposure would have looked much better.

A few minutes after this an astoundingly eagle-eyed reader named Ric managed to find us. In the dark. In a big crowd. And all from my single tweet about the music in Tomorrowland. Seriously, this guy deserves a medal.

Anyway, after we chatted for a while Ric invited us to join him in the Touring Plans Scavenger Hunt, which got started around 1AM. I'm so glad he did: it was a small hunt with maybe a dozen teams, and it was so. much. fun. We raced around the park doing things we usually skip like the Tree House and Autopia, and there were even a few trivia bits that allowed me to flex my useless-knowledge muscles.

I'm not so sure the hunt was good for John, though, who is still recovering from his round with strep & that ear infection. It was only about 70 degrees, but so humid we were all pretty sticky and funkafied by the time we finished power-walking around the park 'til 4am. We also came in dead last, because CLEARLY everyone else WAS TOTALLY CHEATING. (Kidding, kidding. We figure the ride wait-times did us in.) Regardless, we had a blast.

After an ice cream cone and parting ways with Ric, we set up in Fantasyland by the carousel. (Well, I set up, and John sat on a bench playing Teeny Wings on his phone.)

I took approximately a billion photos from this vantage point, give or take a hundred or so. I couldn't help it: as you can see, the concourse was mostly empty, and it's all sooo pretty.

I wanted my shots as empty of people as possible, but funnily enough my "test shot" when a couple was standing in the way turned out to be my very favorite:

Isn't it sweet? She even had her head on his shoulder for a second, but I wasn't quick enough with the shutter. I also love that the exposure was slow enough to get a solid ring of light inside the moving carousel.

Here's another:

(You can click any of these for the full-size, btw. Blogger's upload keeps them pretty small.)

And for something different, here's one in black and white:

Because we were there so long, we got to witness a rare treat: Cinderella's two wicked stepsisters came out - making plenty of noise along the way - and rode the carousel for several trips.

They were loud and funny and surprisingly sweet, considering they're the "wicked" stepsisters. Mostly they just carried on like a couple of three-year-olds. (Which, come to think of it, is actually perfectly in character.)

Here they're saying goodbye to the horse:

Like I said: surprisingly sweet!

In fact, there were *tons* of characters out all night, including a photo spot with all seven dwarfs and Snow White, another with the cast of Pooh, and Rapunzel & Flynn over at the Storybook spot. I don't collect photos with the characters, but for anyone who does it was heaven. (My only regret was not going into the Town Hall to see Mickey & Minnie in their PJs.)

The only other thing of note for the night was the "dance party" in front of the castle, which started around 1am. It consisted of three parade floats - the generic ones shaped like giant gift boxes - parked around the hub with a DJ on top playing tunes and talking to the crowd. It was funny hearing a mix of "Hokey Pokey" with stuff like "Can't Touch This."

Hey, you know what this post needs?

More carousel!

A little after 5am the sky started to redden a bit:

So we wandered towards the hub to see if there were any good pre-dawn shots. I think this one is the best:

From there we wandered up Main Street again:

Everyone seemed to be gathering around the flag pole in Town Square, just waiting for the clock to strike 6 so they could escape to their beds. There was a hazy mist descending, so you couldn't quite see the top turret of the castle.

I grabbed a few more shots of the main buildings, sans crowds:

Wish I'd used the tripod for this one; it's super grainy.

Precisely at 6 we made our way out. Everyone was fairly subdued, but happy. Since John and I stay up all night most nights, we were in fairly decent shape for the drive home.

For some reason Disney chose 6am - the official closing time - to take all but one monorail offline, so while we were in line they told us all to turn back. A bit of a mess, but fortunately they brought all the ferries back online. Plus that meant I got this shot from the dock:

And then this one while we were on board:
That's half of John there on the left, bowed over and looking positively bedraggled. Like I said: this might not have been the best thing to drag him to while he's still on the mend. (If it helps any, he's been sleeping a lot since.)

And one final shot looking back as the sun started to come up:

Oh, and when we docked a few minutes later, the captain came on the intercom and started whistling "The Imperial March." Which was the perfect soundtrack for a sea of sleep-deprived zombies staggering out into the morning light. ;)

Hope you got a vicarious sleepy thrill out of our shenanigans! As always, I'll have all these pics and a few extras over on my Flickr account, in case you want to just see the slide show.

Update - Since some of you are asking: I use a Canon Rebel XT, and most of these shots were taken with our new wide angle lens.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Clay Day!

I've always had a weakness for polymer clay creations, whether they're fun Mario earrings or tiny robot sculptures, and you guys just keep sending me more awesome links! So here's my most recent roundup of Etsy goods attempting to drain my bank account:

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle Robots:

$80 for the set, by the bots

This shop has tons of cartoon and pop-culture characters (The Katy Perry one is especially hilarious) all recreated as tiny, one-inch-high robots. They average a little over $20 each, which could be seriously detrimental to my wallet.

Retro Cereal Necklaces:

Pac-Man Cereal Necklace $22.50 by TheMenu

Anyone remember PacMan cereal? The shop also offers Frankenberries and Fruit Loops, and I seriously can't get over how real that "milk" looks. (Tinted resin - who knew?)

My fellow Etsy shoppers know you can't toss a tiny plate of sushi over there without hitting another amazing tiny food shop, and mini cupcake charms are *everywhere.* That said, these are some of the best I've seen:

Cupcakes with Vanilla Frosting, $35 by Roscata

And believe me, I see a LOT of mini-cake charms.

There is a way you can make a cupcake charm better, though:

Salvador the Batty Cupcake, $31 by MonsterKookies

Make it a vampire cupcake!

I'm in awe of sculptors who can make the clay look glass-smooth and like a cartoon character come to life. Which is why I am so, so tempted by these adorable wedding topper sets:

Love Angels, Raccoon & Fox $120 by Kikuike Studio

Love Angels Dinosaurs, $140

She makes every kind of animal pairing imaginable, from corgis to bumblebees to sharks, and they are all SO STINKING CUTE. Expensive, but cute! And who needs the cake anyway, right? Right?

Here's one for those of us with just a few bucks to burn:

Rainbow Lolly $5.75 by KooKee Jewellery

I bought a rainbow lolly charm much like this on Etsy years ago, and it's still one of my all-time favorite necklaces. It goes with everything! Mine's getting a little grungy, though, so I've combed all of Etsy looking for a replacement. It's between that one, or this one:

Rainbow Lollipop, $10 by SugarCubeCorner

I like the extra white swirl in with all the other colors. But I may just have to get both. :D

I'm also itching to snag this bitty jar of lollipop sticks:

Tutti Frutti Pendant, $21 by MonsterKookies


Ok, let's bring the sugar high down a notch with this gorgeously macabre, Labyrinth-inspired necklace:

Masquerade, $20 by Purplerhino's Place

Can you believe that mask is sculpted clay? Those iridescent baubles really seal the deal, too; I can't think of a single way to make this necklace fit the masquerade scene more perfectly. And only $20?! If this thing isn't gone in two seconds, then I don't even KNOW you people anymore.

I've seen these Mario piranha plant earrings a lot lately, and I think I know why:

By LizGlizz Shop

'Cuz they are FREAKING AWESOME, that's why.

(I don't miss having pierced ears often, but when I do, I'm looking at earrings like this.)

Liz will be accepting more orders starting tomorrow, so prime your engines, shoppers: these things keep selling out!

And finally, while searching for the perfect Companion Cube I stumbled across this delightful set:

The Cake is a Lie Gift Set, $40 by Kelly's Keychains

That's the best clay Portal Cube I've seen, and the custom cake gift box really raises it to "stellar gift" territory. (You can also purchase the cube and the box separately, if you don't have $40 to spare.)

Well, that's my Clay Day round-up, peeps! As always, share your links (embedded, if you please!) to anything I missed in the comments!