Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Have you ever been in a manatee mood? I love these peaceful and gentle creatures. The babies are especially sweet, as is the relationship of the adult manatees to their young. They are so nurturing and protective toward their babies, as are nearly all human parents!

I felt like celebrating baby manatees, which I hope comes through in the any-occasion cards shown above.

The manatee and text stamps are from october pumpkin. Click on the link to the right if you want to know more!

It's a wonderful spring evening in Ohio. Tulips, hyacinths, and a few late daffs are blooming everywhere in our yard and the yards of our neighbors. Lots of you are probably out doing a bit of gardening before night comes on. It's not really dark until around 8:15 where we live. Don't you love springtime's longer days? It seems like we can get so much more done!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Mirror Images

Do you know it's easy to make mirror images with one rubber stamp?

Make 2 identical impressions of the same stamp image. Using a lightbox or taping one image to a window, face down, you can easily trace the image on the blank side. Color and outline in whatever color of ink you used for the original impression.

There are lots of ways you can use mirror images. Today I made the card shown above for our granddaughter Jenna's birthday. The two crabs symbolise Grandpa and Grandma bopping around on the beach celebrating this momentous occasion.

But we aren't old crabs - really!

The crab and castle stamps are from october pumpkin.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Evolution of a stamp design

As you know,I design for an emerging stamp company called october pumpkin, which is the happy brainchild of my daughter Stephanie. A couple of friends have asked how a stamp design is "hatched". How does it become a rubber stamp? I just created a new stamp design yesterday and thought some of you might like to follow this process.

As you see above, there are many rejected designs on the way to an acceptable end result! I rejected all the drawings you see in the gathering of nine starfish. They are all rough drafts, but even in that state I could see there was something in each one that made them "wrong" for various reasons.

In the set of two seashells with a sand stamp in the upper left corner, you see the finished design I finally came up with. This piece is ready to go to the stamp manufacturer.

(Note to any stamp design pirates - the stamp designs are copyrighted!)

To get going with a stamp design, you start with a sheet of blank white cardstock and a black ink pen. It's helpful to look at a number of photos of your subject to sort of get in the mood and understand the basic structure of your subject. In my case it was a starfish, to continue my seashell series. I needed to review starfish anatomy, which isn't easy because there are lots and lots more kinds of starfish than you'd imagine! If you want to design a stamp, your own subject might be a flower, a snowman, a logo, a tea cup, or anything else that appeals to you. Whatever you choose, the process of development will usually be the same.

Next, I spend a few hours experimenting with different approaches. I incorporate
original interpretations at times, or stay with a literal image at other times, trying to put together a visual presentation that will tell me where to go with my drawing.

It's fascinating and often frustrating how a design can seem to be going so well, but suddenly the addition of just one false note, one wrong line, ruins the whole thing! Then you have to discard it and start over! Never try to rush this process, but take as much time and effort as needed to get the best result possible.

It's part of the fun to keep trying until you finally end up with that one final drawing that you can consider your best effort.

The drawing is then refined, a long process of redrawing it again and again with nearly-invisible corrections until it's just right. At this point I use a light box to trace my design onto the final cardstock to be used in photographing it for stamp manufacture.

Then it is sent (either as a single design or as part of a sheet of other designs) to the manufacturer, who then uses the paper drawing to fashion a metal mold known as the matrix. Rubber is poured into the matrix. When it hardens you have a sheet of stamps! Ta-daaaah! Ours have a cushion applied, though this is optional, but we like the way the cling cushion allows for a much better stamping impression.

The sheet of cushioned stamps are then cut apart with a scroll saw and packaged to mail out to our customers and our online retailer. By then I am busy with the next run of stamp designs!

Whether you're a wannabe stamp designer or a stamp user, it's satisfying to know how stamps are produced. It's always a big thrill to be creative with rubber stamps, both in the designing and in the use of them!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Easter at Stephanie's house was lots of fun! We had a full house of teens, parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents. There was so much food that I don't think anybody got "some of everything", or at least not on one plate. It was all delicious. Bet it was the same at your house!

We had a beautiful Easter Sunday in Ohio, though today you'd never know. It's bone-chilling cold and very dreary outside.

I'm staying in, working on a series of lighthouse drawings for october pumpkin stamp designs. I've already finished the first set but wanted to do several more designs to have on tap for future additions to the series.

Though I'm not sure when I'll be doing Pensacola Lighthouse, I've been looking through some photos taken of it while my husband David and I were in Florida this past winter. I'll share a couple with you here!

Saturday, April 11, 2009

It's almost Easter Sunday! Today is a very busy day in our household, as I'm sure it is in yours if you celebrate this holiday. With a million things to do, I went to the supermarket to get those last-minute perishables and it took hours - that place was crammed with other shoppers! Carts were going every whichway!

Our family has a tradition of little table favors at holiday dinners. We use them in lieu of placecards. Our daughter Stephanie is having Easter at her house for everybody so I volunteered to make the favors.

I bought some cellophane bags at the craft store and filled them with holiday candies, then with very little time left I decided to make tags for the bags instead of the more elaborate crafty presentation I had planned on earlier. This always happens. Everytime I'm going to impress everybody, I don't get around to it until too late and have to think up a quick substitute! Luckily it always works out fine, and no one knows the difference.

My two minute tags are shown in the photo above. I had some readymade tags on hand, then used Uchida oval scallop punches in two different sizes to cut out the medallion shapes, grabbed Martha Stewart's rabbit punch and made a bunch of those out of white paper, then glued bunny to small oval to bigger oval to tag, threaded a 9 inch strip of ribbon through - and voila! - it's done! I'll write each person's name at the bottom of the tag and we're ready to place one at each table setting. I think they'll add to the festive atmosphere.

A huge HAPPY EASTER to each one of you tomorrow! Enjoy your day and never mind the calories!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Before anyone else brings it to my attention, the times listed for my posts are
incorrect due to a timing glitch within my PC. When I correct it manually, the computer immediately defaults to the incorrect time again. I'm still working on it. For now, just disregard anything that appears to be a time discrepancy!
It's pretty late in our neck of the woods. In my old age I'm falling into a goofy habit of catnapping through the evening news, then waking up at 11:30 rarin' to go another few hours.

When this happened tonight I ended up in the kitchen where I made a batch of frosting for Easter cookies yet to be baked. That's a project for tomorrow. They'll be sugar cookie cut-outs in the shape of carrots (you all know the Easter bunny loves carrots, don't you?) I divided the frosting into a large and a small batch, then colored the smaller batch green for the carrot-top part of the cookies, and colored the larger batch orange for the carrot itself. It was kinda festive making green and orange frosting in the night. It brought back a happy memory, too.

When our grandson was barely two, Grandpa and I took Tony and his mom Stephanie for a visit with the great-grandparents who lived out in the country. It was fall, harvest time, and great-grandpa, who is known to all of us as Poppy, always had a big thriving garden. He took Tony outside to review the garden and decided to pull a few carrots. Baby Tony was absolutely amazed and thrilled to see this! He ran to us waving carrots in the air and yelling, "Poppy pulled cawwots out of the dirt!"

We have a picture of Poppy, Tony, and the magical cawwots, but I don't know precisely where it is at the moment.

After the frosting event, I looked outside and noticed we have fog moving in. This reminded me of the sea mist on Pelikan Beach, so I am posting a photo of that for you all to see. It's moving in from the east, at the left side of the picture. My husband David takes most of our photos and does a great job. He was chief photographer of our daily newspaper for 29 years, until his retirement.
Here is the Easter card. Normally we don't send out Easter cards but I have a friend across the state who got sick last week and Easter at her house won't be quite as festive as it usually is, so I thought she needed a little cheering up. I didn't have any Easter stamps so I drew a bunny based on an old-time postcard that I saw awhile back. It showed the Easter Bunny as a lady bunny - unlike the more common Easter Bunny guy of recent times.

Have you ever heard the tradition of Amish ladies who make quilts and include a deliberate mistake in the making? It's to show they aren't trying to out-perfect in their work the perfection in God's work, a gesture of humility. I don't try to make mistakes on purpose because I make enough of them from natural causes. Do you see the worst one I made on the bunny drawing?

It's the basket. The handle is too far forward. I didn't notice this until it was already affixed to the card, and then I thought oh well, there's my holy imperfection for the day! Bet I could find lots more if I looked again!
Got a crab in your cabana? A grouch upon your couch? This wild and busy mix of color and doo-dads should put a smile on anybody's face.

It's been a busy time around our house, for sure, playing catch-up with overdue errands, household chores, paperwork, and all the other stuff that piled up during The Dread Virus. Easter made a good deadline. Everything is pretty much caught up except the housework. . .we live in a big old house that's hard to keep organised. I told my daughter yesterday that the last time I remember having the entire house spic and span at once was when she was six years old. I won't say her age now, but even Stephanie's own kids haven't been six for a loooooooong time!

My craft room is still scary, but there's time to deal with that. It should only take an hour if I don't start any new projects and mess things up again. How do you all manage to, um, have a space to work in? I mean open space! It seems like my work table gets piled high as soon as I start that sorting, snipping, and gathering. I have to have nearly everything I own available right there to make choices. Not a pretty sight, especially the inevitable fall-out under the table.

When I went upstairs to organise, I ended up playing instead (you know us card fanatics), and knocked out a couple of sorta-quick cards. One is shown here. The stamps for the words, the cabana, and the crab are from October Pumpkin. I'll show you the Easter card next.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

It's April 1 and my computer has already made a fool of me. For unknown reasons it is refusing to "get pictures from camera". I resorted to the scanner even though some clarity and color
had to be sacrificed.

As all you midwesterners will know, the end of winter is prime time for "mizzeries" in our part of the country. I recently came down with an upper respiratory virus that segued right into pneumonia. Fortunately it's all gone now, but if you've ever had this experience yourself you know that even after recovery you still have the blahs for awhile. All that hacking & wheezing seems to cough your creativity right outa your brain!

Where did that inspiration go? Has this ever happened to you? The first time I felt well enough to sit down at my craft table again, my papers, pens, & paints all looked like toys from outer space. Were these really mine? What do you do with them? This was maybe a week ago. Now it's just barely starting to seep back into my brain. . .oh, these tools are mine. They are fun to use. They make pretty cards and stuff.

I'm still not too inspired or competent. But it's almost our granddaughter Tory's birthday. I couldn't buy her a card because - well - like many of you, I always make our family's cards by hand. It's a tradition. So I spent 3 hours yesterday trying to come up with something passable.

I don't think I did, but time's running out so it'll have to do. Maybe she'll be distracted by the $$ inside (that's why the card is long and skinny - money holder, y'know.) If not, I know she'll appreciate that Grandma made her a card and not be too critical of its appearance.

Thank goodness for rubber stamps - they make images easy! I combined two from october pumpkin's Beach Kids set. This little girl, with her straw hat tied around her neck and her cheery polka dot sundress, barefoot in the sand, reminds me both of our daughter Stephanie at maybe 10 yrs old, and of her own daughter Tory. After stamping and coloring the images, I contour-cut both kite and girl and adhered them to the sky-colored background.

But is the polka dot cardstock too much with the polka dot dress? Or is the scalloped card edge too much for the bunches of polkadots and rickrack trim? Why didn't I come up with a smaller embellishment than that shell, and is the color of the shell ok? As I struggled with all thse questions in my totally un-creative fog, somehow I decided to stop before it got more complicated. Notice I didn't even attempt any text.

I'm showing you this not-my-best-effort in cardmaking to ask if you've ever had the same experience - didn't feel up to par, couldn't come up with anything stunning, so had to go with
your best effort under the circumstances. Or did you have a different way of handling this
rare but iffy situation?