Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Cross-stitch iPhone case

Here’s a fun project I did over the holidays. As a gift I received a do-it-yourself iPhone case made to be cross-stitched with your own design—how cool is that? It's basically a plastic case with a grid of holes for stitching. 

People who know me might know that I have a penchant for big old sailing ships, the pirate-y-er the better. So here's what I made:

I made blank grids as a template for myself so I could sketch out the design. After a few iterations, I was happy with it and got stitching.

There's something about the Christmas holidays that just makes me crave a needlework project! In fact I am pretty sure my in-laws assume I am cranking on some project at all times...While I wish I were that industrious, it's just that we mostly them on the holidays, they almost never see me without a needle in my hand. :-) In any case (oops, no pun intended), it was a perfectly-timed gift!

Monday, January 30, 2012

Skinny chalkboard from full-length mirror

I decided recently that I needed a good-sized chalkboard for my work area, but my wall space was limited to a single skinny wall between a door and a window. To maximize the narrow space I needed a long, tall chalkboard, so I made this one from a full-length mirror and some chalkboard contact paper.

When we moved into our apartment, the previous tenants had left an over-the-door full length mirror. Noticing that it was just the right size for my sliver of a wall (and noticing also that it was free), I started researching how chalkboard-ify it. I was worried chalkboard paint would come off the glass too easily when scraped with chalk. Contact paper seemed like the ideal material, and it turned out that, yes, they do make one that has a chalkboard surface. Reviews on Amazon confirmed that as long as it’s mounted on a very smooth surface, it accepts chalk and erases pretty well. One review also gave a tip about prepping the surface which I'll explain below.

The most difficult thing about applying the contact paper was laying it down without any bubbles or dust specks underneath. Since the glass is so smooth, bubbles and other aberrations would be very noticeable. And since it’s not porous at all, you couldn’t work out the bubbles without peeling the paper all the way back to the bubble to let the air out (and then laying it back down without creating another bubble). On such a large surface, you could keep doing that for hours.

I developed a pretty good method for laying the contact paper down in sections so I could make sure one section was good and smooth before moving on to the next, minimizing the re-dos.

Here's a visual summary of the process from beginning to end, and I'll follow with instructions in case you want the details:

First I cut a piece of contact paper 1/8" larger than the inside dimensions of the frame. I wanted a tiny bit extra all the way around to tuck under the frame, leaving no slivers of exposed mirror around the edges.

Then, I sliced the backing only into sections so I could pull off only part at a time. (In order to do this without cutting the contact paper, you have to pull back part of the backing, cut it, lay it back down, and then do the other side—that keeps part of it anchored so you can lay it back down in the same place.)

I strategized how to divide the sections and came up with the plan in the top-right pic. I knew it would be easiest to keep the thing centered and straight if I worked from the inside out. I wanted that first center section to be small, so that I could easily reposition the contact paper until it was in the right place. I also wanted to lay the outside edges last so I could tuck them in as I went around.

Starting with the center strip, I pulled off the backing, positioned the contact paper, and smoothed out the section, working out any bubbles. Then I pulled off the backing to the next section over and laid it down slowly, a half-inch at a time, continuously rubbing back and forth to make sure there were no bubbles. Once I did all middle sections I moved on to the outside strips, using a paint scraper to tuck the edges under the mirror frame as I went.

Once I had a perfectly-applied chalkboard surface, I followed the Amazon customer's recommendation and prepped the board. All you have to do is color in the whole thing with the side of a piece of chalk, and then erase it. Having that base layer of chalk on the surface makes it easier to write on and erase later. It's a dusty process though, so you may want to do it outside or put down a sheet like I did.

Then I chalked my first design! (With the obvious inspiration of Dana Tanamachi...LOVE her.) Okay now, time for some ideas!

Sunday, January 29, 2012

How to make and hang a 100 lb sculpture (with no casualties)

NOTE: So I composed this post a long time ago, and I just saw it was marked as a draft. Not sure what happened there—sorry if this creates a repeat post, but I'm going to go ahead and publish it again!

Early in the life of this blog, I posted about an inspiring artist named Aaron Kramer. Well, Aaron recently sent me photos of his latest project, and it is quite an impressive piece. His flickr set about the sculpture, which was commissioned for a Renaissance Hotel in DC, is particularly interesting because it documents the process of creating the piece from start to finish, complete with sketches, in-progress photos, and even videos. Since the thing weighs a hundred pounds, and it's diameter equals about twice the height of a human, Aaron faced several logistical challenges. How (and where) to make the giant hoops, how to transport them from his Santa Monica studio, literally across the country, and how to safely assemble it on site, all required solutions unique to this particular project. And on top of all of that, Aaron's vision was that the hoops move, rotating within each other in a natural way, so he had to engineer a systems of bearings to facilitate that.

Here is a sampling of the in-progress photos, and for a full narrative and many more pics, visit the complete set on flicker.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Home is where the 27-inch monitor is

Wow has it been that long since I last posted here? It has been tough settling into a new creative routine…moving can be very disruptive, especially when you're as easily distracted as I am! So what's happened since March? Well in short, our temporary move to San Francisco became permanent (when Mike's job did). We found an apartment over the summer and moved our stuff from Texas, and I've spent the last few months settling us in and looking for work. 

How about, for my first post from our new San Francisco residence, a little housewarming party where I show off my new workspace? It won't take long—moving from Texas to SF requires some downsizing! But I love my new little nook beside the stairs: 

Everything I need is within reach. And it's impossible to feel cramped anyway when a look to your left brings you this incredible view…

But the two best things about my new creative space are: one, my new 27-inch Apple Cinema Display (I can't believe how long I spent working within the confines of my laptop screen!); and two, the awesome desk I scored at the Alameda Flea Market.

The vendor told me it came from an old post office, which was verified by a stamp on the underside. I love the "standard issue" gray paint color of the wooden base, the utilitarian brass drawer pulls and screwed-on metal trim, and most of all, the incredible patina of the worn greenish vinyl that covers the top surface. (Not least because it means I don't have to worry if I make a mark on it!)

So now you have a picture in your mind of where I'm writing from, or when I don't post for another six months, where I'm not writing from! :-)

Friday, February 18, 2011

More of my day job: Artwork for Camille Cortinas' latest album, Taken Apart

I'm so excited to share this latest project of mine! Some background: In the last few years, I reconnected with an old high school friend who had turned out to be a talented and successful singer/songwriter, Camille Cortinas. And, since I had turned out to be a designer, we started working on projects together. She was kind enough to hire me to do her band's album art a few years ago, then t-shirts to help launch her solo career, and now, her first solo album. It's called Taken Apart, and it's available for download at CD Baby as of yesterday. (It will be distributed next month in physical form and other digital outlets.)

So I don't have a printed disc yet, but I can share the artwork. Camille didn't want to create a bunch of excess packaging, which I was totally on board with, so we decided on a simple 2-sided cardboard sleeve:

front of sleeve
back of sleeve
disc label

When we started the project, the album didn't have a title yet, but Camille told me the theme was evolution, change, growth, that type of thing. The image of the nesting dolls just sort of came to me, as good ideas sometimes do when you're lucky! We explored a few other concepts, but decided we liked the dolls idea best. Originally we considered doing blank dolls, which they sell for crafters to paint their own designs onto. I liked the graphic simplicity, and also was having trouble finding a painted set that I liked. They all had a kind of fake-folksy feel too them, hard to explain, but just cheesy-looking. But then I found this random Russian shop with literally thousands of these dolls (called Matryoshka dolls), and the guy had this one set of vintage dolls I just fell in love with. They weren't quite like all his really old antique ones – they were probably from the 60s or 70s. And they also weren't like the contemporary fake-folksy-cheesy ones I was finding everywhere. They had much more authenticity, with kind of a retro feel, and fantastic, bright, almost neon colors. We snatched them up and staged a photo shoot in Camille's dining room. Camille looked beautiful, our photographer was her talented sister Megan Cortinas, and I stood by lining up the dolls, fidgeting with the lighting, and generally getting in Megan's way as art directors do :-) The images came out great, I finished up the artwork, and all that was left was to fill in the title. When Camille emailed me and said they had come up with the name Taken Apart, I couldn't think of anything more perfect to complete the concept.

I can't wait to see it on the shelves! I got to hear early versions of some of the tracks, and they sound wonderful. If you like beautiful female vocals with pleasant folk arrangements, you should really check it out. You can preview and buy the songs at CD Baby, and fan Camille on Facebook for the details of the big release next month.