Friday, 31 December 2010

Recent Projects, Reviewing the Past Year, and Plans for the Coming Year

Just as a final tie-up to what I’ve been doing, here are a couple of photos of my 3 recent projects: the Beehive Explosion Box, the Stationery Box, and the Poinsettia Explosion Box.

Here are the three boxes, closed:

3 Boxes - Closed

and exploded/open:

3 Boxes - Open

Only one has got to its destination in time for Christmas – the Stationery Box for my mum. Her response was that she was “overwhelmed” by it!! – she said she was going to take it home and spend some time looking at it properly.

I decided not to risk the Beehive to the post – my friend lives in London, and her sister lives near us, so hopefully she will be able to take it up with her when she next visits. The Poinsettia box is for a local friend who I was hoping to see before Christmas, but it didn’t happen, probably because of the snow, so she will have it in the New Year. The friend we usually spend Christmas with was away this year, and I want to make another Poinsettia one for her, so once I’ve recovered from Christmas, that will be my next, most immediate project – probably a good idea to do it fairly soon, so that I remember the areas which needed improving upon on the first one! I am also still working on my Toilet Roll Mini-Album, of course – after I’ve done the second poinsettia box, that’s next on the list for completion.

Review of the Past Year

Looking back, it’s been quite a productive year for me in the creative department, despite health setbacks, and being the first year that I’ve really got obsessed serious about it (!) I can see how my technique and ability have progressed since I started properly in May. Since then I have made quite a few cards, 3 explosion boxes, some gift boxes, and lots of flowers. I have experimented with different materials and techniques, and collected quite a lot of equipment and materials and embarked on a steep learning curve, getting to grips with Jiminy Cricut, Inkscape, and Sure Cuts A Lot, which I have now largely abandoned in favour of Make The Cut. With the help of my hubby, I have created an ARTHaven that I now really enjoy working in.

This time last year, I had absolutely no idea that all this was going to take place, and I am very excited about this new direction my life has taken, and the opportunities that have opened for channelling my creativity.

I am most grateful to all those in the blogging community and on Youtube who really got me going on all this, from whom I have learnt so much in such a few short months, and I wonder where on earth it is going to take me in the future! It’s very, very exciting.

I am hoping for a productive and stimulating creative year ahead – always more ideas than time and energy to fulfil them!

Then there is my blog itself. Several years ago I toyed with the idea of starting a blog, but didn’t really understand what it was all about and didn’t think I’d really have anything to put on it!! When we went on holiday to Kent in the spring, I wrote up a daily journal of what we’d been doing and posted it on the Brainfog (M.E.) forum and it seemed to go down pretty well, so I decided to adapt what I’d written and put it on a blog, as it seemed a convenient way to save the account of one of the best holidays we’d ever had, complete with photos.

At the time I had no idea what fun blogging would turn out to be, and how many lovely new contacts I would make through it. I have found everyone to be very friendly, and so generous in sharing their ideas and inspirations.

On the health front, it has not had such a good year, but in view of everything else that’s happened, I really don’t mind. I have been so encouraged by the support I’ve had, mostly from my dear hubby who does such a lot to help me, and from the local health team who are always there should I need them – and who have recently supported me through the process of obtaining my new wheelchair.

I look back on a full and productive year with plenty of enjoyment, and many blessings through friendships both local and online.

Plans for Next Year

Plans for next year include making butterflies for the Butterfly Effect project, the usual birthday cards and occasional thank you cards etc. etc., and a special card project for Wonderwoman’s mother. Wonderwoman is my home help and her mum is going to have a special birthday in May, and she asked me if I could make a lovely card for her, and I’ve already got some ideas shifting around in my foggy brain!! I also want to explore the Explosion Box theme a bit further, and have a few ideas for making some on different themes – maybe for me this time, but they will probably get given away like most of my projects! Then there’s the experimental stuff – I am longing to try some more melting, fusing, work with gesso and acrylic gel medium, incorporating fabrics and fibres, and doing more 3-D work.

I’ve got collage on my mind a bit, and the first major project I want to embark on is some really posh spoke guards for my new wheelchair – mixed media, and incorporating some of the new techniques I’ve learnt, with a really 3-D effect and lots of flowers and bling! Should be an interesting project, and there’s nothing like using a wheelchair as a blank canvas for self-expression, and getting out and about, carrying your Art with you! I am also going to put rhinestone swirls down the front frame.

Now I’ve got Jiminy Cricut I’m keen to explore some more things that he will do – I want to do more pop-ups and “origamic architecture” – I downloaded some designs ages ago, which I couldn’t cut at the time because their complexity requires a machine. I would like to explore the possibility of making 3-D paper mobiles and sculptures but these ideas are embryonic at best at present.

As far as other equipment is concerned, I have just ordered a Cinch binding machine, as most of my Art friends seem to think this is the best one – I am sure this will be a very useful addition to my ARTHaven. It will be good to be able to give any album-type projects a really professional finish with this machine. I also have the Cri-Kits embossing kit on order, which will enable me to emboss on Jiminy. It is coming with some embossing metal, and having seen the gorgeous and rich results that others have got with this, I am keen to get going on it myself.

As far as my ARTHaven is concerned, I’ve got my metal pegboards waiting to go up as soon as my hubby’s friend is free to come and help in the New Year, and then I shall start collecting some bits and pieces for those – shelves, hooks, etc. – and get a lot of my equipment up on the wall and hopefully generate a much less cluttered working space.

I need to think about a better way to get my video camera set up – at the moment it’s a perfect pain, trying to get the tripod to do what I want, and trying to get the light right too.  This is an area I’d like to discuss with others who are doing it successfully.

Other plans for giving my creativity an outlet in the coming year include reviving my embroidery again – it’s been quite a while since I did any, and I’d like to make some more 3-D insects as well as the butterflies for the Butterfly Effect project. I’ve got a load of resources from when I belonged to an embroidery group where we used to live, and I am sure there will be people who will enjoy these too, and I hope to do some full tutorials with video and downloadable templates etc.

On the computer front, I’m thinking of formatting the hard drive on my small laptop (not the one I use for Art) because it’s running far too slowly and loads of stuff needs to be cleared off it – and I am considering installing Windows 7 instead of Vista while I’m at it. Purchasing yet another external hard drive? Perhaps… Why is it that one NEVER has enough space for storing/backing stuff up?? (Perhaps I need to take fewer photographs…)

I’m anticipating a fun and busy year ahead, health permitting, and barring disasters!

Wishing all my blog followers and visitors a happy, blessed and productive year ahead, and I look forward with anticipation to seeing what you get up to in the coming year!

Monday, 27 December 2010

Beehive Explosion Box Pt 7

Having almost finished my Beehive Explosion Box, I put it on the back burner because of more urgent projects that I had to complete. I have now finished it, and would like to share with you the final photos, including close-ups and details of various parts, and also the video I have made.

The final step in completing the box was to add the flying bees to the outside, and to mount the whole thing on the base I had made from mounting board covered with Flowersoft, with some tiny white flowers which I cut on Jiminy Cricut.

This is the front view, showing the bees flying around the hive.

23 Box Closed - Front View

A couple of views from the sides, showing how the bees float in front of the box, on their acetate strips:

24 Box Closed - R Side

25 Box Closed - L Side

and now a couple more showing the box in its exploded state:

26 Box Exploded - Side View

27 Box Exploded - Side-Top View

I realised that when I did my original posts on this project, although I posted pictures of the graphics for the individual tags, I did not photograph each finished tag individually, but only in groups. I thought you might like to see each one in close-up so that you can appreciate the detail and the colouring. For a full explanation of the meaning of each one, see the post “Beehive Explosion Box Part 3” -

Here are the large tags from the outer flaps of the box:

28 L Tag - Food Inwards

29 L Tag - Union of Female Workers

30 L Tag - The Royal Palace

31 L Tag - Dance Academy

and the small tags from the inner flaps of the box:

32 S Tag - Drones' Club

33 S Tag - The Nursery

34 S Tag - Food Store

35 S Tag - The Cinema

The next two pictures show a couple of the tags in situ, and in close-up you can see the embossing on the tag holders, the clear embossing reflecting the light.

36 Dance Academy Tag in Situ

37 Cinema Tag in Situ

The next pictures are close-ups of the middle of the box, showing the bees and the silk flower.

38 Central Flower Detail

39 Flying Bees Detail

40 Flying Bees Detail

41 Centre Detail

42 Central Flower and Bee Detail

Finally a few giving details of the finished exterior of the box.

43 Box Outside Detail with Bee

44 Outside Bees Detail

45 Outside Bees Detail

The video:

I hope these pictures, together with the earlier ones I posted, will give you an impression of what it’s like. I do hope you’ve enjoyed this project.

Poinsettia Explosion Box – Part 4

This final post on the Poinsettia Explosion box includes the video I have made, along with the final photos, after I’d added a bit more detail.

This is the white poinsettia on the lid. I was quite pleased with how this came out, because it actually shows the iridescence of the perfect pearls, and also the Diamond Stickles along the edges of the petals. The final touch was to add a few dots of Fruit Cocktail Stickles onto the centre after the thick layer of Diamond Stickles had set – it took over 24 hours, which was probably partly due to the extremely cold weather we’ve been having.

19 White Poinsettia

This next picture shows a detail of the other two poinsettias on the lid.

20 Red Poinsettias

Both these pictures show up the hand embossing on the petals quite nicely.
The next picture is a detail of a couple of the side panels of the box, showing the Ornamental Iron embossing design, inked in black.

21 Box Side Detail

This detail shows the hand-embossing on the poinsettia petals inside the box. I did this with a ball-ended embossing tool onto a piece of funky foam; I did the veins first, from the front, and then turned the petal over and embossed the spaces between the veins. Finally I went back over the veins from the front again. Unfortunately the delicate crazed pattern that I rubber stamped onto the bright red petals hasn’t shown up at all in the photos or the video, but believe me, it’s there, and it does enhance the look of the project!

22 Poinsettia Petal Detail

My final picture is a detail of the centre, which I made from a collection of bits from a cake decorating shop; little crystals and silver beads mounted on wire, and small pink and white stamens, which are double-ended; I folded them in half, and wired everything together at the base. After attaching two little flowers I’d cut from green card on Jiminy Cricut, and decorated with gold Perfect Pearls, I pierced a hole right through the octagon forming the base of the inside of the box, and spread out the ends underneath, glueing them well to prevent them from moving. I was pleased that they were not as lumpy as I’d expected.

23 Centre Detail

Now for the video:

I am going to make a second Poinsettia Explosion Box, during the course of which I shall be amending some of the instructions given in earlier posts on this project – I need to alter the original layout plans to incorporate side strengtheners for the lid panels, for instance. Once this is done, I will change the post titles to indicate that this has been done – so if anyone is planning to follow these instructions, please bear with me until this has been done! Doing a second box will help me iron out any problems I experienced, and hopefully will give a better final result. (These amendments have now been done.)

I hope you have enjoyed this project! I really enjoyed making it, and again I’d like to thank Laura of the Paper Trail blog ( for allowing me to post my interpretation of her lovely design, and also Penny Duncan for so generously sharing her extensive collection of lovely cut files – her own designs for many flowers and other items too, which are all available for free download via her blog (

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Poinsettia Explosion Box – Part 3 - Amended

Today I made the box itself. After sleeping on the very difficult decision whether to emboss or ink the sides of the box, I have decided to do both! I embossed them with the Cuttlebug, using the embossing folder “Ornamental Iron” which is a great favourite of mine, and which has the added advantage that the pattern repeats exactly around this box. I inked the raised parts with Black Soot Distress Ink, using my brayer, and going gently so as to avoid inking the background as far as possible. Each piece was then scored 1/4 in from the end, to make a tab for attaching the sides to the base of the box.

07 Embossed and Inked Side Panels

I used double-sided tape to attach the sides to the base of the box, trimming off the corners of each tab to reduce bulk underneath. The tabs are attached to the top of one of the green octagons, so that the inked and embossed surface is outwards.

08 Box Inside

This is what the outside now looks like:

09 Box Outside

At this point, after inking the edges with Pumice Stone Distress Ink, I stuck the side strengtheners to the inside of the box sides with double sided tape, trimming 1/4 in off one end of each, because they do not need tabs. As well as strengthening the box, they also cover up the back of the embossing, giving a neater finish. As I had to line them up above the scored line which forms the hinge with the base so that the sides would fold nicely, there was as tiny amount of excess card extending above the top in each case, which was, of course, sticky on the back as well as not looking good, so I trimmed these off carefully with scissors.

10 Box Inside with Strengtheners Attached

The completed poinsettia flower was then stuck to the base, again using double-sided tape, covering up the tabs.

11 Box with Flower Attached

12 Box with Flower Attached Side View

Making the Lid

As with the box side pieces, I scored the lid side pieces 1/4 in from the top, to form tabs for attaching to the top of the lid, taking great care to score along the longer side of the rectangle – these pieces are not far off square, and are wider than they are tall, so it would be easy to score along the wrong edge by mistake! I did not emboss or ink these pieces because they would be covered by the lid band. I attached them to one of the green octagons, as I did for the box side pieces, so that the tabs were on the inside (underside).

Laura’s lid band is made of striking black and white striped paper, which really contrasts with the box and give the whole project the look of an old-fashioned hat box, which I love, and I was determined to do the same. After much searching, I was completely unable to find any black and white striped paper or card, so decided to make my own with Serif PagePlus, my desk top publisher. I have created an A4 sheet with 1/4 in stripes which I have saved as a digital paper, ready for printing out:

Black and White Stripes Quarter-Inch A4

and cut 2 lengths of this, 1 1/2 in wide, and glued them together end to end, matching the stripes. Laura specifies 2 lengths of 12 in each (obviously cut from a 12 x 12 sheet) but A4 is a little short of 12 in long, and my printer wouldn’t print right to the top and bottom of the sheet, so I am left with a somewhat shorter length, but since the circumference of the box is 16 in, that leaves me plenty, including an overlap.

15 Striped Paper for Lid Band

I have found to my cost that when I print on card with my laser printer, the black toner does rub off with a bit of persuasion – on the tags on my beehive explosion box this proved to be quite a problem as they are subjected to quite a bit of rubbing as you push them in and out, and I had to go over them with a fine permanent black marker. I have tried spraying the printed pieces with some inkjet fixative spray I have got, and this does seem to help – it’s got a matt finish, so is completely invisible when dry. Any small patches of white showing, can be inked over. I am not sure why this happens, as I always assumed that laser printing was permanent, and bonded to the paper.

I inked the edges of the last dark red octagon with Pumice Stone Distress Ink, and glued it inside the top of the lid with double-sided tape, covering all the tabs. I inked edges of the side strengtheners for the lid side pieces with the same Distress Ink, and before attaching them, I trimmed off 1/16 in from the top edge of each, to allow for the thickness of the octagon lining the box lid. I then glued them with double-sided tape to the inside of the lid sides, making sure that the bottom edges exactly matched the lid side pieces. After this, I folded the strengthened flaps to form the shape of the lid, and glued on the lid band. To make this easier to do, I cut some strips of double-sided tape and stuck these across the edges of the lid sides, where they butted together, to hold them in place, and then added more double-sided tape so that the band would be well adhered. This was probably the most difficult part of the whole project to get right; a small amount of trimming was necessary once the band was on, which was not easy to do. I think I would have got a tidier result if I had printed the stripes onto paper rather than card.

(On my second box, I made the band out of paper, and it was indeed a lot easier. It is also important not to have the join in the band coinciding with one of the corners of the lid – it has a tendency to catch and come loose. Also, I have since learnt a marvellous technique from Ikki of the Cuttlebug Cupboard (link in my Blog List), that if you run a Pritt glue stick over double-sided tape after you have removed the protective paper, it enables you to reposition the piece before you finally stick it down – it will dry as strongly as normal. Thank you Ikki – this is going to be so useful in so many projects!!)

The final stage in the lid construction was to ink the final green octagon’s edges with Pumice Stone Distress Ink, and glue it onto the top of the lid.
Here is how the inside of the completed lid looks:

14 Lid Inside

and here is the outside, with the final green octagon stuck on the top.

16 Lid Outside

Decorating the lid of the box

Using Penny Duncan’s poinsettia flower cut file, I had already cut 2 of each of the smaller ones in dark red, and all the leaves in green, when I did my initial cutting, and I now cut two of the larger flower in white. The red flowers, together with the leaves for all 3 flowers, I inked with Pumice Stone Distress Ink. I hand-embossed all the leaves and flowers, including the white ones, using my ball-ended embossing tool. and I painted the white flowers with Perfect Pearls (in Perfect Pearl colour) to give a shimmery silver finish.

17 Flowers and Leaves Inked and Embossed

Unfortunately this photo is slightly out of focus, and also the shimmer on the white flowers does not show up. I made centres for the flowers from Stickles in diamond colour, and the white flower petals are edged with the same Stickles to give a frosted edge.

I assembled the flowers in their layers, with their leaves, and stuck them to the top of the box. This photo shows the detail on the white flower a bit better than the previous one, but you can’t really see the lovely shimmer of the Perfect Pearls.

18 Lid Decorated

I shall leave it to dry overnight, and then mould the petals and leaves slightly, to give it a more 3-dimensional appearance.

Monday, 20 December 2010

Poinsettia Explosion Box – Part 2

Today I completed the whole of the inside of the box. I have cut the petals and octagons, using the templates:

02 Petals and Octagons Cut

Before cutting the petal shapes from the rectangular pieces, I drew the outlines freehand, roughly following the design of the red shape I drew on the template, so that each one is different. I then stamped the bright red petals with a background rubber stamp which I’ve got, with an all-over crazed pattern, which didn’t cover as fully as I thought it would, so after the initial stamping, I continued stamping randomly over the petals without re-inking the stamp, and got a better effect. Unfortunately it doesn’t show up very well in the photos – the colour I used matches the dark red card. I then inked the edges of the petals with Pumice Stone Distress Ink – this has to be my favourite colour of Distress Inks because whatever colour card you use it on, it has the effect of simply darkening the existing colour. It’s very useful, and I think I probably use it more than any of the other colours.

After doing this, I embossed each petal with my ball-ended embossing tool, onto a piece of funky foam. This gives the petals a 3-dimensional, realistic look, and I’m very pleased with the result. Unfortunately this photo is slightly out of focus, but you get the general idea:

03 Petals Inked and Embossed

The flowers are made up by attaching some double-sided tape to the 1/4 in tab at the base of each petal, and sticking them to the back of the two squares – one large and one small – and to one of the green octagons. To soften the look of it a little, I used my corner-rounder punch on the squares. This is the inner flower, with four dark red petals stuck on each of the two squares. I decided to make a poinsettia centre out of little stamens and some wired crystals that I bought in a cake decorating shop – I made a hole through the centre of the squares after I’d glued them together, and also made a little green centre piece from a couple of flowers I’d cut with Jiminy Cricut recently but hadn’t used – I inked these with Forest Moss Distress Ink by spreading the inkpad on my craft mat, spritzing it with a little water, and smooshing them around in the ink. After drying them with my heat gun, I painted the edges with gold Perfect Pearls.

04 Inner Flower Complete

You can see that the smaller square is laid on top of the larger one at 45 degrees, so that the petals alternate with those attached to the larger square below.
When I do my next poinsettia explosion box, I think I might make the centre a circle rather than a square. The outer one is fine as a square, but I think a circle would look nicer.

The outer flower uses all the remaining petals, the bright red rubber stamped ones, attached all around one of the green octagons.

05 Outer Flower Complete

You can see that I have also inked around the edge of the green octagon – again with Pumice Stone Distress Ink.

The final step was to fix the inner and outer flowers together, lining up the petals so that they overlap.

06 Inner and Outer Flowers Combined

I stuck the two layers together with several strips of double-sided tape. I was a bit concerned that the wire and the backs of the stamens would be rather thick and make a lump, but I spread them around on the back of the inner flower, and layered them between small pieces of double sided tape, which distributed them nicely, as well as sticking them down firmly, and it came out nice and flat.
That’s it for today – next time I am going to make a start on the box itself. I have to decide how to decorate the green panels making up the eight sides of the box – it is a choice between stamping and embossing, and I need to sleep on it to decide!

Sunday, 19 December 2010

Toilet Roll Mini-Album - Flowers

Over the past couple of days I’ve made all the flowers and leaves for the album – if I run out before I’m finished, I’ll just have to make some more!
Here are all of them together, inked and embossed, but without centres as yet, together with the leaves.

Here is a more detailed view of some of the yellow and orange ones.

Here is a close-up of the leaves.

I then added centres to the flowers, using Stickles (glitter glue) which had to be left overnight to dry.

Here is page 1, complete:

and page 2, almost complete – I have yet to add flames to the menorah (lampstand).

When I realised it was going to be quite impossible to finish this before Christmas, I contacted my friend to let her know and she was very understanding! I have temporarily set this project aside and started on another one – another explosion box, which I hope to complete before Christmas for another friend.
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