Saturday, March 24, 2012

Saturday Steam 3/24/12: More Sparklies!

It may sound like a contradiction when I say I like my steampunk either covered in rust and rivets or blinding me with sparkly gems, but to quote the Dowager Countess, "I'm a woman. I can be as contrary as I choose."

Now, on to the sparklies!

Spotted by Julia S.; Seahorse Earrings, $36 (but already sold! Boo!) by Hedgerow Rose

I realize these have no gears or cogs or watch bits on them, but they still have a Victorian vibe with those large gems. And I could totally see Captain Nemo giving them to a lady friend. But mostly I just reeeeally love seahorses.

Ok, here's something more on the gears-and-rivets side:

"Wind Up My Heart" $145 by Lost Wax

The little hatch opens! And the heart is filled with a wind spring and gears! Ack! SO COOL.

Another design from the same company:

"Mechanical Heart," $145

I'm really digging that copper patina with the tiny brass rivets; it's perfect for adding a little steam to your casual everyday wear. I think I'd rock this with a white tank top and jeans. And a leather corset.

(Just kidding.)
(It's WAY to hot for leather right now.)
One last piece from Lost Wax, because I could only narrow my favorites down to three:

"Heart Flight," $60

Rivets and keyholes and winged hearts, oh my!

Last month "Nararabbit" (if that's her real name) designed this custom gear ring for her husband for Valentine's day:

That's the CAD design on the left, and the actual ring on the right, which was made with rose gold. Pretty sweet, right? Here's a close-up:
You can get all the specs and more details on the thread here. (And thx to Abbey for the link!)

Jyl A. found a reproduction Victorian locket that is surprisingly cool:

Rotating Locket Trio Necklace, $29
It has three separate lockets! And it rotates!
I'd say the "nifty gizmo" factor alone is worth about thirty bucks, amirite?

Amanda U. sent me a link to Red Peacock Designs, which has lots of nice watch movement jewelry like this:

But they also do some neat things with vintage wristwatch cases:

(Not their steamiest design, obviously, but omigosh so cute!)

I recently snagged a few small wristwatches for $2 each from an antique fair to try something like this. I'd love to fill them with resin and tiny charms or gems or even watch gears, like Red Peacock does, but I think I'd hang them sideways to take advantage of the watch band brackets already there.

Anyway, the moral is: never throw away your old watches!

This next one isn't exactly steampunk. So sue me. :)

His and her anniversary pendants - together they form a heart!

I just love the shiny copper and silver together, and that stylized wing design is fabulous.

Made by DeviantArt member kry1, who has a jewelry store here. (Sadly these aren't available, though, since this was a commission piece.)

I think this next one is my favorite of everything in today's post:

Hot Air Balloon Earrings, $20 at ElainaLouiseStudios
(More colors at her store, & thx to Liz S. for the link!)

Glass hot air balloon earrings! Aren't they AMAZING?! Whimsical and steamy and fun and elegant all at the same time.

Plus, the same shop has these:

Orange and Copper, $14

Mmmm, steamy orange goodness.

She also has a hot air balloon necklace for the sad people like me who don't have pierced ears. [sad face] Although those orange earrings are so awesome I'm tempted to get them anyway and convert them to clip-ons. If only I could find copper clip-on bases...

Well, that's it for today, 'punkers! As always, if you spot a steamy sparkly somewhere, please, send me the link!

[UPDATE: Lisa from Elaina Louise Studios just e-mailed to tell me she can convert almost any of her earrings to clip-ons! She uses these fabulous bases:

They're screw-back, which I've found to be the most comfortable option, and the added spring clip is just genius. Huzzah! My bank account is in so much trouble right now.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

And the Winner is...

Amanda R. of the blog Spartan Abroad, come on down! You've just won the Dan Aykroyd Word-Art print!

Actually, you can stay there. Just e-mail me your mailing address. And congrats!

And for those of you who didn't win, if you e-mail me I'll send over the full-sized file so you can print your own. Deal?

Sweet DIY Butterfly Mobile

Here's my latest project, made for the cherry blossom nursery we just painted for friends:

This is quite possibly the girliest thing I have ever made, but what can I say? I love me some Swarovski crystals.


This wasn't too hard to do, and other than the crystals, cost very little to make. If you substitute cheaper beads for the crystals, you should be able to make your own for $15 or less.

Here's how:

Julianne, the new mom-to-be, had an old but never used Winnie-the-Pooh mobile stashed in the closet, which gave us the perfect base to build on. It looked like this:

I've noticed a lot of mobiles are like this: plain plastic with stuffed animals hanging off the arms. Take the toys off, and you've got a perfect blank slate to work with. (And fortunately Julianne's two-year-old loves WtP, so the toys won't go to waste.)

Of course, you don't need a mobile at all: you can also hang this from the ceiling with ribbon. The wind-up mobile base just allows it to rotate and play music.

Oh, and remember how I said the mobile is old? Yeah, look what we found in the box:


That is all.

Ok, to start we need a grapevine wreath to fit on the mobile arms. Actual grapevine wreaths tend to be too thick and twiggy (you don't want branches cracking off and falling into the crib), so instead, get some brown wrapped floral wire (which looks exactly like branches, btw) and make your own:

I started by wrapping the wire around a five-gallon bucket (which was the perfect size for the mobile) four or five times, then had John help me hold it all together while I spiraled the wire around the ring once to secure it.

Next bend two long sprays of silk blossom branches into half circles, and wrap them in more wire to attach them to the wreath:


I was amazed by how quick and easy this was to do. Now I'm tempted to make some cute floral tiaras for our next Ren Fair! That big bundle of wire was only $3, the floral spray was $5, and between the two you could easily make at least four or five "crowns." Hmm....

Getting back to our mobile: Use more of that fabulous branch wire to attach the wreath to each of your four mobile arms:

It's hard to see, but I made my strip of wire into a "U," brought that up from under the white mobile arm, and then wrapped each edge around the wreath. It's completely secure; the wreath won't budge no matter how hard I try to wiggle it.

Ok, the base is done - now to the butterflies!

If you have a butterfly punch (or better yet, several in different styles), use those.

If you *don't* have a butterfly punch, do what I did: buy two sheets of laser-cut butterfly paper from the scrapbook aisle for a dollar each. (I found mine at JoAnn's, but sadly it's not on their website. Drat.)

My way will take a little more work, but it's also only $2 to get 5 different styles of butterflies. Not too shabby.

As far as I know these particular sheets only come in blue, so before cutting them, paint them in the high gloss spray paint of your choice:

The high-gloss gives the butterflies a thick, shiny coating that makes them look like enameled metal. Paint both sides to make the card stock super durable. (I'd advise painting your punched butterflies, too, but of course that's up to you.)

Now the hard part:

Cutting out each butterfly was harder than I expected since the design overlaps, forcing you to choose which butterflies you want to save and which to cut through to salvage the others. Tricksy. Just take your time & use a pencil to sketch out the harder areas.

Then use a ruler & the blunt edge of some scissors to make a crease and fold all the wings up.

When you're done, your work space should look something like this:

Next: Prepare for stringing.

Attach the mobile to a chair so you can gauge the height of your strings as you go. You don't want them too long, so aim for the length of the original hanging toys.

To string your butterflies, you'll need:

(Plus some small pliers.)

That's non-stretchy bead cord/mono-filament on the green roll. Make sure it's NON-stretchy. In the plastic tub are crystals and tiny crimp beads, which you'll need lots of. Fortunately they're cheap and easy to find in the bead section of your local craft store. (Buy the smallest size crimps, which I believe was 1.3mm.)

Balance each of your butterflies upside down on a needle to find the sweet spot where it hangs level, and then pierce the paper with the same needle. Keep the holes tiny.

Start each strand with a crimp bead (use small pliers to crimp them in place) then start layering from the bottom up with your butterflies and crystals or beads. Sandwich the butterflies tightly between two crimp beads to ensure they hang level.

Make as many strands as you like, keeping the arrangement somewhat random. I made sixteen, most of which had three butterflies and two crystals on them. The rest had two butterflies and one crystal.

You can hang each strand as you go or wait until you've made them all. Your choice. Knot each strand securely around a single "branch" of the wreath and top the knot with a dab of superglue, just to be safe. Then trim the strand edges, and stand back to admire your work!

I had a hard time photographing the finished product; most of my walls are too light to show the contrast very well. Here's a few more shots taken in my office:

And now a quick video of it in action, just to show the butterflies don't tangle up as it spins:

(Turn your sound down, unless you want to be blasted with Winnie-the-Pooh music box chimes.)

I hope you guys like it! I'll have more pics of the mobile in the nursery once it's completely finished, since I may have one or two more little projects for it, assuming Julianne will let me. (I'm not having kids, so I basically horn in on all of our friends when *they* do. So far none of them seem to mind too much. :D)


Come see ALL of my craft projects on one page, right here!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Wild Kingdom

So I just made a daring foray into the outside world (aka my backyard) to photograph my latest craft project, and check it out: I made a friend!


This little guy was on the arm of a cruddy old deck chair I was moving out of the way.

"Come inside! Meet the misses!"

Doesn't he look like a cute little snake? I did a little googling and discovered that's their natural defense mechanism. (Looking like snakes, I mean. Not googling. If they googled as a defense mechanism, I'm pretty sure they'd sound like those annoying Bing commercials.)

Anyhoo, when I first saw the little guy I could have sworn he had antennae. On a hunch, I jiggled the chair... and lookie lookie!

He even has a little forked tongue thingy!

Now that is some dedicated snake cosplay, Mr. C.

And because I know you're curious, here's what he'll look like in his next life:

This is a Spicebush Swallowtail, and it has orange on it. Looks like he picked the right backyard.

This has been Wild Kingdom, with Jen-the-blogger-who-never-leaves-the-house. Tune in next week when a rampaging lady bug blows in through the front door and chaos ensues.


PS - These are my very first pictures taken on our new camera! It's a Canon 7D with a 28-135 lens, and John was like a kid at Christmas when it arrived in the mail the day before yesterday. (He handles all the camera research and decreed this was the best model for us.) So far, I'm really liking it. In fact, I think I may have finally found an acceptable upgrade for my trusty Canon Rebel XT. Now we'll just see if you guys notice any improvement in my photos. ;)

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Word Cloud Art!

Remember that "art project" I made for Dan Aykroyd to sign? Well, here 'tis:

(Click for the larger size)

I actually made two options, and was debating which one Dan should sign up until the very last minute. Here's the other one:

(I know, I know: I should have gone with this one. Maybe. Or not. I still can't decide.)

I'm sure you've seen word clouds before; there are several free sites out there that will scan your website and spit out the most frequently used words into a design like this. I've had some of you send in examples that used Epbot before, so while brain-storming something unique to bring Dan to sign I thought of making a Ghostbusters-themed cloud.

In addition to scanning websites, these cloud generators also allow you to cut and paste in large blocks of text, which is where I hatched the plan of manipulating the input text to get only the words and phrases I wanted in the cloud.

First I went through the Ghostbusters script and pulled out every line of dialogue Dan/Ray utters. From there I grabbed only the most relevant and/or interesting words, making sure to include my favorite phrases like "GET HER!" and a reference to the mass sponge migration.

(Another color variation.)

Once I had that block of raw text, I went through and selected which words and phrases I wanted to be larger than the rest. These bits I copied and pasted a few times over. (The more often a word appears in the input text, the larger it will be. See?)

Helpful Tip: To make the words in a phrase stay together, you have to use a ~ between them, with no spaces. Like~this. (And I'm not going to tell you how long it took me to find that symbol on my keyboard.) Sadly there's no way to make punctuation transfer, though.

Once that was done I plugged the whole mess of jibberish into Wordle (my free services of choice) and commenced playing. There are so many design options, from word orientation to fonts to custom color themes, that this took the bulk of my time. Not to mention IT IS VERY ADDICTING.


The final obstacle was getting our printer to spit out something that looked even remotely like the colors I was seeing on screen. For some reason it dulled everything down to the point that you couldn't read some of the smaller words. (Grrr.) This is when I called in John, who took each file into Photoshop and bumped up the colors like crazy:

This made everything clear and legible, but sadly all my lovely muted pumpkin tones turned into neon carrots. I say again: GRRR.

Oh, sure, NOW you match the screen. JERK.

(I'm talking to my printer here, not Dan Aykroyd. I hope that's obvious, but you never know.)

Still, it was great fun to make, and Dan's signature looks nice on the black background. Besides, my office has so many crazy colors already that I doubt this will look too out of place.

Oh, and there's another word cloud generator called Tagxedo that looks even more fun than Wordle, but sadly I couldn't get it to work on my Mac. If you own a PC, though, Tagxedo allows you to shape your cloud into a star or heart or whatnot, which presents SO many more fun possibilities. (And technically it's *supposed* to work on most Macs, so maybe give it a try just to see regardless.)

Anyway, I'm pretty sure both sites allow you to save and print your own creations from home, so I highly encourage you to try them out. These would made great art pieces for kids' rooms (with their name in the largest font), or you could make fan art like I did for your favorite literary or movie characters! (I'm already working on companion pieces for Venkman & Spengler.)


P.S. I have an extra glossy print of the colorful word cloud - the version Dan signed for me. Any of you want it? Let me know in the comments, and I'll pick someone in a few days.

{Update: Just to be clear, the extra print I'm giving away is *not* signed by Dan. I'm keeping that one. ;)}

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Saturday Steam: 3/17/12

Hands down, the best steampunk build I've seen in weeks:

Steampunk Portal gun!! And it lights up!

Made entirely from scratch by DeviantArt geek girl batman-n-bananas, who constructed an entire steampunk Chell costume to go with it, thereby making her my new hero.

For her long-fall boots, she incorporated a giant spring into the heel:

If you need me, I'll be over here poring over her list of gun materials and plotting ways to construct my own. (Mwuah-ha-haa!!)

Next, Arthemise spotted this spiffily steampunked Dalek :

Believe it or not, the Dalek itself is a plastic bottle of bubble bath! (Also, I don't think "spiffily" is a word. But I'm going with it.) Made by Alex Holden. (More details on how he did it at the link.)

Here's a steamy way to store your kitchen spices:

Danielle W. found this spice rack tutorial over on Instructables - perfect for a touch of "mad scientist chic" in the kitchen! (I wish there was a pic of it full of test tubes; that must look pretty darn awesome.)

Steampunk already has some fabulous titles to its name, but now the genre is breaking into children's books in a big way. Author Emilie Bush actually e-mailed me about her "steampunk bedtime story" last month, and though I haven't read it yet, Her Majesty's Explorer is getting nothing but rave reviews from everyone from The Bloggess to Captain Robert of Abney Park.

$11.95 over on Amazon


That is all.

And just look at these amazing illustrations from Thaddeus the Boss, by Heather Theurer:

$13.22 for the hardcover right now at Amazon
Christina A. sent it over just for its amazing illustrations, and in fact you can buy prints of some of them at Heather's website here.

There are a lot of artists out there doing steampunky things with insects: beetles in pocket watches, dragonflies with gears on their wings, etc., but I haven't posted any 'til now because, well, bugs give me the creepy-crawlies. (I blame the grade school project that forced me to catch, kill, and mount something like 50 different insects. Yeah. Traumatized for life.)

Still, while looking through a link one of you sent in this week, I stumbled across Mike Libby's Insect Lab, which I think may be the gold standard in steampunk insect art:

He's either replaced or surrounded the body with springs and gears, and I like how the long coil on the front mimics the butterfly's natural...uh... coil thing. (Clearly that project taught me so much.)

Libby has plenty of squirm-inducing beetles and spiders and stuff, too, for those of you with braver constitutions. Me, I'll just stick to looking at the pretty butterflies.


And finally, I have to show you guys the awesome sketch Ruth D. sent in:

The monocle really gives him a distinguished air, don't you think?

Have a steamy Saturday, everyone!