27 Oct 2011

Audio Books: A Stephen King Review

As lots of you who regularly read this blog will know I'm an avid audio book listener. I spend very long days in the studio by myself making my work and I found that listening to a book while I sew/draw/paper craft makes the time go a lot easier, sometimes it even makes me work longer as I want to hear what happens in the next chapter.
Over the past while I've been listening to a lot of Stephen King, with the exception of the odd book here or there,he is someone I hadn't read since my early teens. I've discovered he is the perfect author to listen to, the story hold enough intrigue to keep me interest, but it's not too difficult that it will distract me from my work. His stories usually involve some element of psychic ability or other worldly phenomenon. But the key to their appeal is how he writes his characters. They genuinely feel like real people, so when something fantastical happens to them it somehow feel plausible. The worlds he creates are full of all the tiny nuances of daily life which make them fuller and more believable than lots of other books in this genre.

Some of the highlight of my listening have been:

Under The Dome: This is a Mammoth sized book that King had original tried to write in the 70's and 80's, which he eventually published in 2009. It is set in the small town of Chester's Mill in Maine, which is mysteriously cut off from the rest of the world by at dome that appears out of nowhere. It shows what might happen to a small society when they are cut off from society, and all the responsibilities and strictures that go with that. It has a sprawling and varied cast of characters, giving us a fly on the wall view to a Lord of the Flies type situation. I loved the scale of this story, and the believability of the towns inhabitants/prisoners.

Hearts in Atlantis: This book is a collection of two novellas and three short stories, that all weave around the same interlinking characters at different points in their lives. It is set in the baby boomer generation, and their journey and failures in their lives set against the promise and hope of that age. It was interesting to read characters of this age as I'm only in my late 20's and only have a token understanding of Vietnam and what it did to that section of society. The tale hops from a small group of friends in their early teens and their friendship with an unusual elderly neighbour, then to an all consuming card game marathon in a college dorm room, and then to a begging Vietnam Vet of the streets of New York. King artfully weaves them all together, while also sewing in the threads of an ongoing story from the Dark Tower, something that pops up a lot in his work. A film was made of the first part of this book, it was a pale picture postcard version that hacked the story beyond all recognition, something that happens a lot in the film adaptations of his work.

The Stand: The Stand is probably one of King's more famous works as it tells a doomsday tale between good and evil in a world consumed by an apocalyptic virus that kills of most of the population. I think I prefer the first half of the book when it shows people carrying on obliviously while people drop off life flies around them, then how they grapple with the realisation of the reality around them. It's the popcorn blockbuster bit to the story and it's lots of fun. It is another epic story from King that spans endless characters, weaving them together seamlessly. I'm not so thrilled with the latter end of the book when it all gets a bit God-ish, which as an atheist all rings a little tinny.God comes into a lot of Kings work, which is fine, but in this book it kinda slaps you in the face and there is no ignoring it.

Bag of Bones: Bag of Bones tells of Mike Noonan a writer who is suffering from writers block after the death of his wife, he goes to their Summer house in Maine to tackle his problem. There goes a series of psychic visions which unfold a darker history to the village he is living in. The description sounds a little corny, but it creeped me out on quite a few occasions, while still really enjoying the Noonan character. Also the added bonus to listening to the audio book version is that you get to hear the lovely/ghostly blues music of Sara laughs which is part of the hidden background in the village. On the down side there is some bizarre,meant to be eery, music at the start of every chapter, but all it manages to do is make it difficult to hear the first few sentences of each chapter.

The Dark Tower: The Dark Tower is a seven book series that is King's Magnum Opus, it somehow manages to span the genres of Western, Sci-Fi, and Horror. It centres around the 'Gunslinger', a kind of western version of an Aurthurian Knight, who is on a life long quest to find The Dark Tower. Most of the books are set in another world that is a blend of the Wild West with magical dystopian feel to the latter books. There are also cross overs to our own world in New York and Maine, from which three central characters come to join in the Gunslingers journey. The story is so long an varied it's nearly impossible to describe it any further without meandering off. The interesting thing about this vast story is that it spills out into Kings other books, with characters from 'our world' popping up, showing their lives before they appear in the Dark Tower. During my Googling for this post I just found out the there is an eighth book penciled in for next year, which is pretty exciting, as when I finished it I got that sense of sadness when finishing any good series; that it just wasn't long enough, that I wanted them to go on forever.

26 Oct 2011

Halloween Badge Party Packs

I eventually got around to making some new Halloween badges, they are incredibly late for online sales, but at least I'll have them make in time for next year! I will have them with me this weekend at the Milk Market though. I made up four different sets of 10 Party Packs, with the idea that people could give them as party favours or give them out to kids who call to the door(instead of sweets). A set of 10 is €10, which is kinda crazy cheap but I wanted to encourage people to buy them rather them price them too high and not sell that many. You can also buy them individually at the usual price of €3 each or 3 for €6.

If anyone is looking to buy them online from Ireland, just email me and I can post them out to you today/tomorrow. ruthcrean@yahoo.ie

To see more images, go to the facebook album here.

I expanded some of the ones I made last year I did a set of creepy characters.

 I had fun making these carnivale style badges, I really like the palette, it's something I've never tried before.

 This is my Zombie and Vampire set, I particularly like the Zombie pin-up one.

This is another set I expanded from last year of some spooky night time scenes.

25 Oct 2011

Handmade Button Hairclips

I mentioned last week on my post about Pinterest that I was going to make some button hair clips inspired by this great blog post. I went through my HUGE collection of buttons and made about 30 pairs of hair clips. The problem is finding matching buttons, so I might make some pairs of odd clips in complimentary colours. The simple clips are €3 for a pair and the ornate vintage button clips are €4.50 for a pair. I looked on etsy to compare prices and I think I'm being pretty reasonable, most of them that I looked at are €5 for a basic pair, and they are just glued not stitched. To make sure the slides are really secure I sewed them on first and then held them with a little hot glue. This also means that with the flat button slides you get to see pretty thread, not ugly glue. It involves a little extra effort, but I think it makes all the difference.

To finish off the sets I made the cute little tags very simply with some Kraft card, some coloured pens, and a corner cutter.

I'm not sure yet if I'll list them in my etsy shop but I'l definitely be selling them at the Milk Market this weekend. To see a full album of images, go to my facebook album here.

24 Oct 2011

Handmade Rubber Stamps

 Last week I mentioned that I was going to do a stamp making post inspired that this blog that I found on Pinterest. I actually did Printmaking in college for my degree, so I'm pretty used to doing this kind of thing. I'm far more familiar with using lino for block printing, but lately I've started hearing about this carving rubber which is lots easier to use. I ordered some online, but funnily enough a few days after it arrived they got some in my local craft shop Silkes.

I cut my 6"x4" piece into 4 sections easily with a scissors.

 I then did some quick sketches in pen. If you are not used to doing block printing it might be helpful to use a marker to block out the bits you won't be carving, these are the areas that will be black. Also don't forget that your image will be reversed, so write it backwards if you are doing any text.

 The area you will be carving is the white part of your picture. Go slowly and carefully, as my tutor said it's not a race, once it's carved you can't fix it. The rubber is much easier to carve than lino, and it also doesn't crumble at the edges which is good. I did have a box of beautiful carving tools but over the years I must have lost them when I moved house, I used these very basic tools which you can pick up in any craft shop.

Use a scissors to cut off any excess rubber at the edge, but leave an outline of your image.

 I used the ink I use for card making, it leaves a mottled texture (rather than using printing ink) but it's faster a cleaner and I quite like the texture anyhow.
 Press firmly onto your paper, the nice thing about the rubber it that if you hold it really still you can lift it up at the corner to peek and see if it's printed properly.
 My end result! I think I'll be using these to make lots of Christmas stamps, they are fun, quick, and most importantly they make your cards totally individual.

NOTE: Be careful to keep your fingers behind the tool when carving, this is lesson number one in Printmaking, I can't believe I made such a rookie mistake! Morto!

20 Oct 2011

Budget Shopping Spree

I love a good pound shop shopping spree. Look at the haul I got in town yesterday.

I got:
Pink box for my shelves in my studio: €4.50
3 rolls of gaffer tape for my Halloween costume(I'll be blogging about that next week): €2 each
Two 4 packs of double sided tape for card making: €2 per pack
12 sheets of photo paper which I use for card making: €2
12 sheets of printable canvas paper(no idea what I'll use it for but it sound intriguing): €2
Blue tack to hang more pictures on my walls: €1
5 Sticks of glue for card making: €2
Hip flask to bring to the wedding tomorrow in my handbag: €2
2 packs of colourful clips which I'll make into these: €1.50 per pack

Wonderful sense of coming home as a successful recession busting hunter gatherer: €Priceless

19 Oct 2011

What I Will Be Wearing

I'm off to my friends wedding this weekend. even though I had told myself I was going to wear a dress I already owned I couldn't resist when I saw this dress in Awear. It's part of their Closet selection, and is a little pricier that their normal line, but I got it on sale for €50. It's got an unusual cut to it, it's high at the front and low at the back. I have a black netting underskirt that will go nicely under it. I've to take it in a little at the sides as they only had one size left, but it's worth it as I really love it.

A few months ago I got some shoes that look really like the ones pictures above for only €10, but the soles of them were really slippy (which meant that I would never wear them) so I got them soled for about €20, which still meant that the shoes were cheap as chips. 

I was just down town about an hour ago when I realised I don't have a black evening bag...which is what I went looking for. But this little red bag called to me instead. It's retro enough that it still fits in with the dress, and I'm far more likely to use it again than a boring black evening bag. I got it in Pennies for only €3, and the best part is that it has funky yellow lining. The bag is big enough that I can fit my purse, a camera, some makeup and a naggan (weddings are expensive drinking days so I'm just being recession savvy).

I have one of these fab glass rings from Spleodar(not in the picture above but it's read and amazing). I'm still undecided about my earrings, but I'm sure I can hunt something down, or maybe make something at the last minute. I also have some pretty black lace tights that should finish it all off nicely.

18 Oct 2011

Shrink Plastic Brooches: How-To

I've been making shrink plastic earrings for several months now, they've been really popular at the stall You can read here about my first adventures in shrink plastic, but since then I think I've moved in a bit. I've been meaning to expand my range for a while now, and when I discovered this white shrink plastic it meant that I could make brooches and necklaces. Because of the nature of the clear one you can't pin a brooch on the back, and I found that necklaces the design rubbed off a bit. Whereas with the white plastic the image is on the front, it is not reversed, and the back remains plain.

Here is a quick guide to how I make my brooches:
1. As you can see here I use the whole A6 sheet for my brooch image, where as with the earrings I cut it in half horizontally. I use a black sharpie market for my outline, but with the white plastic a pencil works well too, but the maker makes it pop a bit more. I'm comfortable drawing my designs out freehand with a marker, but you could pencil draw it first, then use marker, and after it has dried use an eraser to take away your pencil drawing.
Because I'm making these to sell them I build up a catalogue of my drawings, which I can then use as a template, this make production a little faster, and if I'm having a creative block it's handy just to refer to my templates. Because the white plastic is not transparent I used John's light box to help me see my template drawing underneath.
 2. After you have finished your drawing then use some colouring pencils to colour in your image. I noticed with the white plastic that you must colour in quite lightly as the image can get blurry/fuzzy if you colour too heavily at this point. Don't worry if they look a little pale at this point, I promise they will be bright when you're done.

 3. Cut around your image leaving a 3mm boarder, you don't have to be too fiddly at this point, just get the basic shape. Any regular scissors will do the job just fine. If you are making them as a pendant or earring use a paper punch at this point as you won't be able to cut a hole after you shrink it down.

4. I didn't take any pictures of the shrinking process. There are two ways of doing it either in the oven, or with a embossing heat gun, which is what I use. Below is a quick video tutorial on how to use the heat gun. Two things to note: I have no idea what this ladies fingers are made of but DO NOT hold your plastic while using the gun,it's incredibly hot. Secondly sometimes the plastic folds and sticks to itself, give it a few seconds to see if it will flatten by itself. If it doesn't you'll have to pick it up and quickly but carefully pry it apart, you will burn your fingers, but hey you gotta suffer for your art sometimes.

5. See how much the pieces have shrunk down? They get seven times smaller and seven times thicker, it's magic. You'll also notice how much brighter they are too. Use a good silicone glue to attach your brooch backs and leave to dry. If you are making a necklace or earrings attach a jump ring and earwire/necklace.

6. Brooches and necklaces are open to the elements a lot, so to protect them from the never ending Limerick rain I used a coat of varnish that I got it the hardware. You'll know at this point if you over coloured your image in the initial stages as it will blur when you put on your varnish. I tried using clear nail varnish but it disrupted the image, so this water based varnish worked way better. Leave them to dry over night.

I will be adding my brooches to my etsy shop over the next week or so, in the meantime I have them for sale at my stall for €7 each (bragaintastic I think, now that you can see how much work goes into them!). I can also take commissions if you want a particular image drawn. To see a full gallery of images go to my facebook album here.

13 Oct 2011

Craft Inspiration from Pinterest

It seems like I've become completely addicted to Pinterest(an online pinboard for endless pretty thing,ideas, and craft projects). It has been a really great research tool, but the last thing I need in my life right now is another online distraction!

On the upside though I've found loads of new craft blogs, sometimes I feel the internet is this amazing party, but I'm lost and I can't find the right address. I read an article recently that said that the online community is made up a an endless series of small circles, just like society. Most of us go to our usual 10 favourite sites, rarely dipping our toes out beyond that. I'm guilty of this just like everyone else. Pinterest(like Stumble Upon) is a great tool for escaping this never ending cul-de-sac.

Here are some great projects I found through Pinterest:

This is a fab suitcase upcycling project. I'm always seeing old ugly cases in charity shops(it's a rarity to find a pretty gem) and this is a perfect way to use up my scrap paper and make some pretty storage for my studio. See the project here.

I have tonnes of fabric and paper scraps that I refuse to throw away. I also have lots of canvases that I had great intentions for, but have never gotten around to filling them with master pieces. I think this collaged canvas would look pretty nifty in our front room, especially if I used varying sized bits of paper, and maybe did some aging on the canvas. I was really into collage when I was in college, and this would satisfy the scrap hoarder in me. See the project here.

It's insanely sinful that I've had a shadow box for years and I've done nothing with it. I think I love them so much I can'decide what I want to do with it, there are just too many options. I don't think I'd like to make something as ornate as this, as I still want the box to be the focus, but I still thought it was pretty cool. I got mine from a skip in college, they were throwing out an old letter press machine...shocking I know! See the post here.

I've been doing lots of research on card making, as it's always good to have fresh ideas. Whenever I used to Google card making I came up with the cliche ugly do-it-yourself house-wifey stuff...you know what I mean?? I'm delighted to now have an endless supply of cool blogs to look at. After I read this post I ordered some stamp carving rubber. It arrived yesterday so expect a stamp making post soon! See the post here.

I'm always looking for new things to make each year for Christmas. I made something similar before as a tree decoration, but I love that this one is in a pot. Yesterday I got some dinky red pots in a discount shop that will be perfect for this project. See original Flickr image here.

Now I just need to find gallons of spare time to make all this stuff!

10 Oct 2011

My Studio

Here are a few pictures of my new studio set-up, for more pictures and a full interview head on over to this post on Where People Create, a great blog that profiles different makers and their work spaces. 

7 Oct 2011

I Heart Photoshop Brushes

Over the past year I've started to use Photoshop Brushes a lot more. I remember my friend Ken Coleman trying to convince me to use them years ago,I wish I had listened to him sooner, they are a total Godsend.

Basically they are premade images that you can use in photoshop with just one click, a lot of the time they are an outline,which you can use in any colour, and resize to suit your needs. Used very basically, like I have above, they look a little boring, but when you introduce colour, texture, and shading they come to life. The key is to use them with layers, colouring in the background while keeping your brush layer on the top. The images above are just a few examples of a few hundred brushes I downloaded yesterday, I went looking for wedding style brushes, and of course I got distracted by other pretty things.

 Here is an example of an image I made which I use on my cards. The top image is with colour, and shading, made with simple texture brushes. In the second picture you can see the image brushes that I used to make the piece. Combined together to make a nice Olde Worlde piece.

This second piece has a few more layers to it, I separated out the colour and texture layer so you could see what I'm talking about. I used a mix of dripping paint brush with a bristle one. I print out these pictures on glossy paper and use them as embellishments on my cards. It's a lot lot of work at the outset, but I can continue using them, and in the long run it works out more economical then buying card embellishments.

Some good and free brush websites:

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