• Smile!

    Wednesday, 1 July, 2015

    I am not the world's greatest photographer, I do have a decent camera but it is always set on automatic. These days most of my snaps are taken using my phone and some of them are great. Its so important to compose your shot and get the light right  because without those two things being in place all the fancy equipment and Photoshop trickery is a waste of time.

    Having said all that, I do love old cameras from the fifties and sixties. It's a time when photography was becoming accessible to all and companies were fighting for a share of the 'cheap and cheerful' market with ever more colourful plastic creations. 

    Some of those cameras look fabulous today, I even have a private Pintrest board dedicated to 1950's consumer goods featuring many such cameras. It makes me smile!

    And so to today's blog, Sizzix have just released a new collection of Bigz dies designed by the good people of Echo Park. I had so much fun with these big, bold shapes while making projects for our trade shows and they are perfect for appliqué too. But today is all about the camera die.

    Today I have used the Bigz camera die, the Thinlits alphabet set Alphanumeric and the Textured Impressions Butterfly Lattice set. Click on the highlighted text to see the individual products.

    I started by die-cutting all the elements to make up my camera, the main body and the focus ring are backed with mount board to add a little depth to the shapes. I love this dusty pink, it's one of those classic American 1950's colours which I love so much so I used it for the body of my camera. as you can see, I embossed the pale metallic gold card with my lattice folder, it gives the perfect gold anodised look so popular at the time.

    I trimmed about 5mm from the top of the embossed rectangle and mounted it onto the brown rectangle before attaching to the main body of the camera.

    Next, I added the other elements. I used a hole punch to pop out a tiny pink circle which I added to the lens to create a highlight effect. 

    While I was taking the individual letters from the Alphanumeric die set I had a revelation! I saw a word within a word which changed my approach to the whole card. I cut a rectangle of the lovely retro green/blue card and rounded off the bottom corners with a punch before placing all the letter dies across the base spelling the word 'SMILE' before removing the letter 'M' and 'E' and passing it through my Big Shot machine.

    I die-cut the letters 'M' and 'E' from the pink card and attached them to the rectangle using thin strips of adhesive foam to add dimension. Next, I used my trusty Dymo machine to print out the legend 'YOU MAKE...'  above the word 'SMILE'; the 'ME' of course is part of the word. 

    Here's the finished card, I think the Dymo strip adds to the retro vibe? 
    it makes me smile anyway!


  • Leather and metal

    Wednesday, 24 June, 2015

    Before we start, I would like to say a big thank you to the staff and customers of Pink Tulip in Warwickshire, not far from Stratford-upon-Avon, I had a wicked day demonstrating all things Sizzix and we had a bit of a giggle too. It is a fabulous shop, full to the brim with all the latest craft goodies so if your ever in the area its well worth a little excursion.

    NOW! from the title of this post you could be excused for thinking that I am writing an Iron Maiden fanzine and thankfully for both of us you would be wrong.

    I have always been fascinated with combining different textures and materials to create amazing effects with die-cutting and embossing, sometimes the simplest combination of materials can yield some very surprising results. 

    I think it is so important to keep exploring the endless possibilities of our chosen medium otherwise we get stuck in a creative rut which would drive me nuts!!!

    All this brings us back full circle to leather, metal....... and embossing!

    Metal is too tough and leather is too soft for embossing (although there are ways!!) so I need to look for ways to create the illusion of both materials.

    metal is easy, but this is a great technique because it is very simple to do and the results can be incredible. I decided to apply the embossed effects to a couple of picture frames.

    I am using the new PLUS embossing folders. Excuse the capital letters but they are huge! The folders themselves are A4 in size which opens up so many more creative avenues to explore. The folders that I am using today are Field of Diamonds and Botanical Swirls

    I started by attaching a sheet of craft metal to a sheet of heavy weight card, this makes the metal sheet more rigid and less prone to damage when applied to your creation. Next, I used the empty picture frame as a template to mark out the size. It's always good to make it about 5mm longer than needed to allow for shrinkage after passing through the machine, you can always trim off any excess.

    I cut the metal/card to size with a Stanley knife and placed it into the folder before running through my Big Shot Plus machine 

    I used Black Soot Distress Paint moving quickly over the entire embossed area (any acrylic paint will work for this technique) the Distress Paint is just easier and less messy to apply. Before the paint starts to dry I took a piece of kitchen roll and wiped most of it away. I accelerated the drying time using my heat tool before using a kitchen scouring pad to remove much of the paint from the raised surface using circular motions, this also polishes the metal to bring back the shine.

    All that is left to do is to mount the metal onto the frame and insert your chosen photo. Hard to believe this little monster is 18 years old....where does it go!

    Let's move onto leather. This is a technique I developed after looking at some beautiful spanish leather wall coverings at a place called Plas Newydd in my home town of Llangollen. I wanted to mimic that rich, deep emboss using paper and this is the nearest I have come so far.

    I started by taking a piece of kraft card slightly larger than my chosen frame before scrunching it into a ball repeatedly until it was covered in cracks and creases much like a piece of leather would appear. Next, I used my picture frame as a template to mark out my area before cutting to size using a craft knife.
    The next stage was the inking of the folder, I used a StazOn Timber Brown ink pad because for this technique, I prefer the way that solvent ink pads transfer from the folder but feel free to explore other alternatives. I placed the card frame against the clean side of the folder and closed it carefully before passing through the Big Shot Plus debossing and transferring the ink at the same time.

    The surface of the leather that I was using for reference is a rich mixture of tones but I didn't want to overdo it so I restricted myself to Wild Honey Distress Ink to add a little warmth. I used my sponge applicator in a random fashion brushing gently over the surface. Next, I used Vintage Photo Distress Ink applied with a tiny piece of Cut-n-Dry foam. I worked around the embossed detail to enhance the effect.

    Before mounting onto the frame with double sided tape I used a little Walnut Stain Distress Ink around the perimeter. Be very careful with the darker colours and apply gently to begin, building up the depth gradually. The little monster is magically transformed into a little angel for this picture, funny how they are either one or the other with no grey area in between?

    See you all next week!

  • Punch Fun!

    Wednesday, 17 June, 2015

    Father's Day in the UK is here in four days and counting and if you haven't made your card yet then Sizzix is here to help with another set of those fabulous free downloadable paper sets, just click on the highlighted text to follow the link.

    I am introducing a brand new Sizzix product today which has been created in conjunction with the creative juggernaut that is Mr Tim Holtz, but before I do.....

    I started by strategically cutting a piece of the grey chevron patterned paper before inking a 95 x 140 mm rectangle of kraft card. Incidentally, the stamp sets used on all the cards for this particular blog post come from the Precious Remembrance Shop

     I next cut a rectangle of the green patterned paper, a strip of the orange glasses border and the Father's Day banner which I attached to the kraft rectangle using adhesive foam pads to mount the banner.

    Die-cut one of the 11 heats on the Bigz Heartfelt die and ink the edges before adding the splatter detail with a stamp.

    Now!! remember that I mentioned a new product well here it is! a new range of fab paper punches from Sizzix/Tim Holtz. There are a great range of shapes with more on the way and they cut beautifully! The punches feature a really comfortable ergonomically designed soft grip handle and the cool locking switch on the top which is great for storage as it means that they can be stacked. 

    I had forgotten how much I loved using punches, they are so much fun to have around, every creative home should have a stack of them, I can't wait to introduce them to my daughter.

    I punched out a couple of bows from heavy weight ivory card using the Bow, Medium punch before trimming the ends of the ribbon from one of the shapes which I then inked together with a strip of the same ivory card. Next, I wrapped the strip of card around the heart before mounting the two bows together using tiny adhesive foam pads to add some dimension before attaching over the strip.

    Nice quick make this one, I'd be a happy Dad if this appeared with my 
    cup of tea on Sunday morning!

    I thought I would introduce you to the rest of the punch family so I made the following cards in a frenzied four hour spree yesterday! that's the beauty of punches they are so quick and easy and perfect for quick mini makes.

    The leaves were punched, inked and scrunched before being creased and folded down the centre.

    Same technique to create the leaf dimension but I used a few different
    Distress Inks to add the colour.

    Glitter card butterfly.....'nough said!

    Distress Inks again, Love the sentiment, I have to remind myself of this on a daily basis!

    Nice shape, nice colours!

    Same flower inked and layered.

    And finally......

  • Fan(tashe)tic!

    Wednesday, 10 June, 2015

    Terrible pun I know, but for once I'm not responsible. It is a word that I would use if I were trying to teach someone how to do a bad Sean Connery impersonation!

    Moustaches will appear at some point in this blog even though we don't have any moustache dies.... you know what that means, it's Framelits time again!

    Father's Day is just around the corner here in the UK so I thought I would create a nice vintage style card, in the sense that it has an abstracted art deco vibe.

    I started by making a tri-fold base card from heavy weight cream card. Below is a template with a rough guide on how it was made including the all important measurements.

    After folding the card I sketched the face/nose profile onto the front (if you have any french curves they are a great help!). Next, I cut around the lines with my craft knife before Inking around the edges using Antique Linen Distress Ink and a foam applicator. This should be done with care as the effect needs to be quite subtle. Antique Linen imparts a lovely warmth when used with cream card.
    To hold our card flat we are going to create a wrap with a difference and there is a diagram below with all the measurements etc.
    The Wrap will not only hold the card flat, it will form a retro style wing collar.... very Downton! After cutting the shape from white card I creased and folded back the collar before wrapping around the bottom of the base card. We don't want it to stick to the base card so I removed it before securing at the back with a glue gun where it overlaps.

    To create a bow tie, I folded a rectangle of black card in half and cut the shape with my scissors to create the perfect mirrored image. I gently curled the bow tie before attaching to the collar using adhesive foam pads.
    In case you have forgotten, this is a Sizzix blog and you have probably noticed that we haven't been doing much die-cutting yet. I always save the best till last!

    I am using two of my favourite Framelits die sets namely Labels, Fancy and Hearts. I die-cut a medium sized fancy label from black card before placing my large heart Framelits die over the die-cut as shown. One swift pass through my Big Shot later and we have a perfect moustache, Lord Kitchener would have been proud of that one! you can also use the Scalloped Hearts Framelits as we will see a little later

    Next, I used my beloved circle Framelits (remember, I have combined two sets)  and I used two to create the silver ring before die-cutting a cream circle using the largest of the two. I inked around the cream circle using the Antique Linen pad before attaching the silver ring over the top to create a monocle. I curled the ends of the moustache before slipping it under the nose and attached the monocle using adhesive foam pads.

    Now all I need to do is slip on the collar and there you have it, a card fit for a......Dad!

    I didn't forget the centre, I stamped and inked a rectangle of cream card which was then matted onto a brown plaid background before mounting onto the centre panel all ready to write on.

    Here are a few more styles of moustache that we could have chosen. The top one using two Framelits hearts, the centre using the Fancy labels and hearts and the bottom using hearts and scalloped hearts. I'm sure there is a lot more mileage in this idea. If you have any ideas why not pop them along?

    Lastly but by no means least! Our friend and colleague Hannah gave birth to a beautiful baby daughter named Alyssa Ivy last week, she was a little early but Mum and baby are doing fine as is Dad Aaron, who will be receiving his first Father's day card in the not so distant future. 

    But for now here's a little card I made. Hannah loves Tim Holtz dies and any excuse for me to revisit some old favourites!

  • Foxy Lady!

    Wednesday, 3 June, 2015

    I am a big fan of the late, great Jimi Hendrix and I am particularly fond of the song Foxy Lady which I once played in a band 'back in the day!'

    The song was used to good effect in the movie Wayne's World in a scene which never fails to make my wife and I laugh. With that in mind I thought I'd create a card in her honour.

    I have made a few animal cards using the hearts dies alone and I couldn't come up with a convincing fox until I turned my attention to my beloved Framelits Circle dies. My circles are made up from two sets as well as a couple from the Big Shot starter kit so I've got about 14 different sizes to choose from, don't worry, you won't need that many today!

    I'm using a rusty orange bazzill card and some plain ivory/cream card to make my fox and to make it a little easier for the instructions I will refer to the circles dies in sizes from 1 to 10. One being the smallest and ten the largest just to give you a better idea

    I drew two lines perpendicular to one another on a square of the orange card and placed a circle die (4) as shown before cutting. This will be reversed and used as the foxes face.

     Next, I used a larger circle die (8) and cut away each side of the foxes face as indicated by the white dashed lines below.
    Once the orange face was trimmed to size I used the same (4) circle die to cut an ivory circle and attached the face over the top.

    To Make the ears I die-cut an orange (7) and ivory (4) circle before placing the same dies back onto the die-cuts thereby cutting two leaf shapes which I matted together before cutting in half using my scissors. Keep the rest of the orange circle as you can use it for the body later.

    At this point I thought it best to reach for one of my scalloped Framelits (2) and I die-cut a scalloped circle from ivory card before attaching it to a square of Orange card. I placed my Circle die (4) onto the card as shown and die-cut the circle. Next, I placed the same die onto the circle and cut as shown to create the tail. Now I have all my bits I can start putting them together. I attached the ears behind the head before adding three black adhesive pearls to the face for the eyes and nose.

    And here she is! I added a rectangle of patterned paper at the back and created the text using a trusty old Dymo. In truth there are several ways of composing the body/head/tail combo, I just like the graphic simplicity of this one 

  • Simplicity...

    Wednesday, 27 May, 2015

    .... is Beauty! That's what is says on the rubber stamp and who am I to argue?

    Although we love to marvel at incredibly intricate works craftsmanship, nothing quite compares to a simple artistic statement.

    At times I love to listen to a fabulous symphony orchestra yet nothing quite compares to a simple 12 bar rock and roll tune bashed out by young musicians on cheap instruments.

    I adore the complex flavours of a great curry with it's careful blend of herbs and spices creating a fireworks display on your taste buds but you can't beat fresh bread and olives?

    I have made many large ornate projects for trade shows and magazines, most of them have been very well received but it's the still simple things that excite me.

    Today I'm going back to the Thinlits Die Set 15PK w/Quiling Tool- Tiny Tattered Florals by Tim Holtz which we used last week, this time I'm using just ivory and green card and letting the dies do the talking.

    I set out by die-cutting about 30 separate leaves before curling them on a foam mat using a large ball end stylus. This softens the card and adds those lovely little creases around the edges. Next, I creased each one down the centre. 
    I die-cut each of the three spiral rose dies three times each from ivory card. To see how the flowers come together you will have to skip back to last weeks blog.

    I cut an 11 x 13 cm rectangle of the same ivory card that I used to cut the flowers and stamped my sentiment across the base in grey ink using the New Day Stamp Set from the Precious Remembrance Shop before marking a circle in pencil using a circle Framelits die, you can use a compass if you don't have one!

    I attached the leaves individually following the circle while trying not to be too precise. Next, I distressed the edges of the card with the blade of my scissors and added a faux stitched effect around the perimeter using a pattern makers wheel.

    Once the flowers where all assembled, I attached them one at a time using my glue gun.

    All that was left was to attach the rectangle to a  12 x 14 cm base card. It's tough to resist the temptation to add a few adhesive pearls or a little Distress Glitter but I managed somehow!

  • "What's in a name....

    Wednesday, 20 May, 2015

    ....That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet" 

    One of Shakespeare's most quotable lines from Romeo and Juliet. Lets hope this blog post ends better than the aforementioned play?

    In case you haven't guessed we are working with roses this week, paper roses that is. I first used this Thinlits die set back in December and I am sure that it is going to be a huge success because it's such stunning value for money.

    The set comprises of 15 separate dies, six leaves and nine spiral flowers three of which are the roses I have used today. The set is called Thinlits set 15pk w/Quilling tool - Tiny Tattered Florals and is the brainchild of Tim Holtz. I didn't have access to the quilling tool at the time of writing this blog which is a shame because it makes things a whole lot easier; if you want to see the set together with the tool, follow the link above. Although spiral flower dies are nothing new the style and scale is perfect for smaller more intricate detail so beloved of mixed media and collage fans.

    There are three sizes of rose in total and I die-cut a couple of each from medium weight white card. To turn the flat spiral flower into a beautiful miniature rose couldn't be simpler. First grip the end with your tweezers (Quilling tool is preferable) and start to twist in a clockwise direction until you arrive at the centre. At this point, you can allow the rose to relax making it as tight or as loose as you prefer. I like to use a hot glue gun to secure the flower as it is both quick and permanent. Once secure you can then use your tweezers to curl back some of the individual petals to create a more realistic bloom.

    Crease each leaf down the centre and pinch in the centre as shown below to add realistic detail and dimension before attaching a couple to the base of each assembled rose. For the next stage, I wanted the card to be less absorbent so I painted each assembled rose with white gesso which dried in no time at all. To add a little vintage colour, I pressed my Broken China Distress Ink pad onto my craft sheet and gently spritzed with clean water to thin the pigment down before brushing it onto each flower allowing the colour to pool in places. this gives the flowers a shabby chic appearance.

    To create the background, I started by applying Broken China and Shabby Shutters Distress Ink to the white base card using a sponge applicator.

    Next, I applied clean water using a mister allowing the water to run down the front of the card as shown below.

    Next I used a combination of stamps from the Tim Holtz Stampers Anonymous range, the grey splats which you see are actually created using a rubber stamp!

    Finally, I used a Dear Lizzy roller stamp to add the multiple phrases.......

     ...... Before attaching the roses to the face of the card with a glue gun, 

    I'm sure that if Romeo had given his fair Juliet a card like this one, the story would have had a very different outcome? If only the bard had access to a Sizzix Big Shot! I guess we'll never know?

  • Tribal inspiration

    Wednesday, 13 May, 2015

    I have been looking forward to using the dies from the new Tribal range since I first used them in December to prepare for our upcoming trade shows. Tribal textiles and designs are all over the high street as we speak and this range is perfect for both paper crafters and textile artists with the inclusion of so many gorgeous Sizzix Bigz dies.

    The dies are all designed by my good friend Debi Potter who has a wonderful eye for the next trend in die cutting.

    I'm using just one set of dies from the Tribal range namely the Elephant Duo Thinlits set which comprises two super cute elephants and a couple of heart dies.

    I had the great pleasure to be demonstrating at Sprinkle Twinkle in Kings Lynn last weekend, we had a wonderful time and it's so nice to see a retailer which goes that extra mile for it's customers. 

    It's a great shop full of inspirational ideas and products. While I was there I fell in love with a couple of stamp sets from a US company named Precious Remembrance Shop. Apparently, Sprinkle Twinkle are their only UK stockist at the moment but I'm sure they are going to be huge. The set I used is called Positive Thoughts Stamp Set which is just one of many great collections.

    Don't you just love it when you stumble across a great new product and want to share it with the world?

    Anyway... Back to the cards! I die-cut the large elephant from a warm grey card and applied a little Distress Ink around the edges (Pumice Stone). Next, I die-cut a strip of rust coloured card across the heart detail on the die. I Attached a couple of strips of sticky tape to the rear of the main elephant and  lightly inked the top of each heart before attaching them into their corresponding aperture holes

    I continued with this process until I had decorated the whole elephant. Next, I cut a 12 x 12 cm square of ivory card before rounding of the corners with a punch. I applied some Old Paper Distress Ink around the edges and added some stamped detail. Next, I stamped my sentiment onto ivory card before colouring the heart using markers before trimming it to size, inking the edges and attaching to the rectangle using a stapler.

    I attached the rectangle to a deep blue base card with staples and added a couple of Die-cut hearts from the same set.

    I was only going to make one card but then I looked at the other cute little elephant and it seemed a crime not to make another! I die-cut the elephant in two shades of brown and inked the edges as before. Next, I cut an 8 x 14 cm rectangle of ivory card before rounding off the corners. I inked and stamped as before and applied my sentiment using adhesive foam pads.

    I die-cut three large and two small hearts and I placed the large hearts and the elephant onto the rectangle, roughly in the position where I want them to sit before using a marker to make a dot at the top of the elephants body and at the bottom of each heart. Using a ruler I joined up the dots with the marker and added some bows to give the illusion of balloon strings.

    And here is the finished card, I love the combination of the contemporary shapes and super cool stamps, hope you do too?

  • Flower Power

    Wednesday, 6 May, 2015

    This weekend my wife and I went for a picnic with some friends and our children. We climbed a steep woodland path which brought us out at a place called Bluebell Wood where the trees start to thin out and either side of the winding path is carpeted thick with..... bluebells!

    I love being in the woods this time of year because the colour of young leaves and bluebells combined with slanting sunlight is nothing short of stunning so I thought that it was time for some rich floral colour.

    I have only used one die, Flower layers & Leaf #2 from the good people at Doodlebug Design which is one of my favourite releases in recent months. If memory serves I used a little while back for some textiles projects (very versatile!)

    You are going to love the papers that I am using today and you are probably wondering where you can buy them and more importantly, how much they will cost? well, they are FREE!!! all you have to do is follow this link and you can print them off to your hearts content!

    This weekend I will be visiting Sprinkle Twinkle in Kings Lynn demonstrating all the latest Sizzix goodies so if you are in the area why not pop in and say hello! You wont be disappointed because it's a regular Aladdin's cave of all the latest and greatest crafting gizmos.

    I started by creating a 12 x 17 cm cream base card before cutting an 11 x 16 cm rectangle of floral card and rounding off the corners with a punch after which I attached it to the face of the base card. I could happily send this card as it is I love this paper so much!

    Next, I cut an 8 x 10 cm rectangle of cream card, rounded off the corners and wound a length of natural twine around the top before securing with a double bow.

    I chose the phrase 'Bloomin' marvellous' from the embellishment sheet because it reminded me of my Aunty Blod! Using a craft knife I trimmed one end into a banner.

    I attached the banner to the cream rectangle using a staple and die cut the parts of the flower from some of the assorted FREE Papers. Sorry to put it in capitals, but you don't get much for free these days!

    And here is our card assembled. I also added the little die cut star burst to the centre of the flower and finished it with an adhesive gem.

    Here's another one just for fun using the same die and papers and of course my old friends the circle and scallop circle Framelits.

  • Little animal!

    Wednesday, 29 April, 2015

    Leo is a little animal! He is the eldest son (almost five) of one of my best friends and since he was born I have called him 'Leo the lion'. when we meet, rather than exchange pleasantries we both bare our claws and growl at each other which is swiftly followed by a fight to the death (I always lose).

    For his birthday this year I have bought him a lion watch but what I really needed was something cool to wrap it in which brings me neatly to this weeks blog post.

    As you are all probably aware by new Sizzix have unveiled the Big Shot Plus which is the same as your beloved Big Shot but in A4 format. You can use all your existing library of Sizzix dies but now you can also use larger format dies and embossing folders. 

    It also comes as a starter kit which has everything you could ever wish for to set you on your creative journey including a fabulous Thinlits box die and I know that there will be many more box dies released in the near future.

    For my project I needed to cut two cream coloured boxes from a good heavy weight card, I know that the illustration below shows a box cut from kraft card but I used this because it photographs better! As you can see, the die both cuts and creases the box which is all one piece with a hinged lid....Ingenious!!!

    I took one of the cream boxes and added some Distress Ink in a random fashion (Tea Dye and Wild Honey). I flipped the box over and labelled the parts before cutting it up along the crease lines using a craft knife.

    I started with the top of the box which I cut into 3 separate strips. Next I placed them into the new wood grain folder designed by Doodlebug and debossed the wood grain texture.

    I darkened the edges of each strip slightly using Vintage Photo Distress Ink and applied a rubber stamp which comes from a set called Sentiment Circles by Autumn Leaves. I attached the three strips to the top of the other assembled cream box. Next, I applied the same treatment to the front and sides of the lid before working my way around the whole box.

    After popping the watch into the box on a bed of paper straw I applied the finishing touches. Firstly a length of chain from a piece of old costume jewellery wrapped twice around the box to secure the lid. Secondly, a mini padlock charm and finally a tiny tag printed with my PC. I love the overall effect and I hope both you and Leo do too?

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