• Sunshine!

    Wednesday, 29 July, 2015

    Didn't see too much sunshine on the Llyn Peninsula last week but that's OK because we didn't see too much rain either!

    I'm back from holiday refreshed and raring to go and this week...... I'm bringing my own sunshine!

    A couple of weeks ago I used a Bigz heart die as both a stamp and a stencil. This week I am using die-cut letters as stencils but in a completely different way.

    I am using an old favourite in the form of the Bigz XL Word Play Alphabet Die which is not the cheapest die on earth but it is an investment that you won't regret. I am also using one of the Bigz dies from the recent Echo Park collection namely the Sun and Clouds die.

    I found a wooden plaque in a local charity shop and sanded off the sentiment which was printed on the front, if that proves too much of a challenge you can always paint over it. Next, I die-cut the word 'sunshine' from textured paper. I chose textured paper because I wanted to apply it to the plaque as shown using a thin mist of adhesive spray, having a slight texture makes it easier to remove when I'm finished with the die-cuts as you will see.

    I took a rectangle of card and die-cut the sun stencil. I used Acrylic Distress Paint but any acrylic paint will work just fine for this project, the colours I have chosen are Wild Honey, Mustard Seed and Antique Linen. I placed my die-cut sun stencil just above the letter 'N' and used a sponge applicator to apply the colour.

     After removing the stencil I applied move colour to cover the letters. Now it's time to dig deep into my box of goodies and reach for some of my favourite Tim Holtz Layering Stencils, I chose Speckles, Splatters and Dot Fade, they should do the trick.
    I was quite happy how this turned out so far but now it's time to remove the die-cut letters using the tip of my craft knife. Once the paint is completely dry I'm taking a fine line marker and drawing around the inside of each letter. Hand lettering is all the rage at the moment and it's not as easy as it looks but this technique is so simple because it's the imperfections that make it special!

    Once I had finished the letters it was time to complete the sentiment using a typewriter alphabet stamp set to spell the word 'You are my...' and again the imperfect placement of the letters is..... Perfect!!!

  • Bear Necessities!

    Wednesday, 22 July, 2015

    There is a wonderful new collection of dies that go by the collective name 'Winter Wonderland' which have just been released for all you crazy people who like to make your Christmas cards six months in advance.

    I know it's a little early for the rest of us but I love this die so much that I couldn't resist sharing it with you. The die in question is a Bigz die called Loving Bear..... isn't that sweet?

    Bigz dies mean BIG possibilities, especially when it comes to cutting a ridiculous range of materials. I attached an off-cut of natural calico to a piece of mount board and die-cut the bear and his snout.

     Next, I attached more calico to a piece of ivory card and die-cut the parts to make the scarf, the nose and the inside of the ears. I applied my Broken China and Shabby Shutters Distress Ink pads directly onto a craft mat and spritzed with clean water before dipping the parts of the scarf into the ink.
    Next, I applied Old Paper Distress ink around the edges of the die-cuts. 

    To add a little more texture I rolled out a pea sized blob of white chalky paint with my brayer before applying to the die-cuts. Always start off with a little paint, you can always add more if you need to.
    I die-cut the eyes from black card and assembled the various bits & pieces before mounting onto a pink base card using adhesive foam pads. It's really simple but the effect is pretty cool. I do hope you share my enthusiasm for this die because I will probably be using it quite a bit between now and my 51st birthday, or Christmas as most of you call it!

  • Stamp n' Stencil

    Wednesday, 15 July, 2015

    They say that we only use 10% of our brains, or 5% in my case as many would argue! Sometimes I feel the same about die-cutting. There is so much potential which remains untapped so I thought It would be nice to share a couple of techniques which I haven't used for ages.

    I am using  the Bigz Heart Trio die. This is one of eight fabulous Bigz dies that have been designed for Sizzix by Echo Park which are perfect for a huge range of applications, I know that Angela, our textile guru is very excited about them!

    I love the shapes of these hearts and they are so big and bold offering a blank canvas ready to be explored. I am using a selection of Distress inks as shown below and at this point I only have a sketchy idea of how they will turn out.

    I attached some self adhesive foam to a square of mount board and Die-cut my shape... Aren't Bigz dies great!!!
    I applied the ink pads directly onto the foam side of the die-cut shape before gently spritzing with clean water using a mister. Next, I pressed the shape face down onto a square of white card as one would do with a stamp.
     For my next technique I die-cut the same heart from paper and used the negative as a stencil. I placed the stencil onto white card and applied the same inks using foam applicators.
     I removed the stencil and lightly spritzed with clean water before drying with a heat tool. Next, I replaced the stencil and used a text stamp to add a little detail.
    Finally, I die-cut a 3-D flower and some leafy foliage from white card before forming the flower and curling the leaves to add a little dimension. Click on the highlighted text to see the dies used.

    Here are the finished cards. As you can see I have distressed the edges of the white card and attached each to a kraft base card secured with some suitably wonky stitching very kindly provided by our Angela although I feel I should point out that the 'wonky' stitching was by my request!

    I applied PVA to the foliage and dipped it in gold glitter and I used a postmark sentiment stamp from the good people at Lily of the Valley (great set, very versatile!)

    One card is for a wedding and the other for a special birthday girl. Hope they like 'em?

  • On the tiles!

    Wednesday, 8 July, 2015

    I feel I should begin with the genesis of this weeks blog. About three years ago my good friend (and incredibly talented designer) Paula Pascual made the most wonderful tiles and coasters using an assortment of techniques featuring different inks, paints and the humble embossing folder. A year later I was teaching in the beautiful city of Porto where many of the old buildings are decorated with blue and white tiles and the entrance to the central railway station is just stunning as you can see below.

    I used the photographs that I took in Porto as inspiration for a blog at the time and I always meant to revisit and develop the idea when I stumbled across a mosaic picture frame in a junk shop last week and...... here we are!

    I used the following folders to create this blog but there are many others that would work just as well... check your stash!!
    I started by measuring my chosen frame which is flat and unadorned. Next, I created a random tile pattern which I then numbered. I also filled the individual rectangles with shades of blue to help with my composition.

    I Printed out the sketch and attached it to a piece of white mount board using spray adhesive. It is quite important to use a thick material like mount board because it doesn't warp when the glaze is applied later. I then cut the board into individual tiles with the numbers on the rear.

    Before starting, I separated the tiles into four piles according to the colour chart that I had created. Next,I chose a selection of Distress inks in various shades of blue namely Tumbled Glass, Broken China, Faded Jeans and Stormy Sky. Starting with the lightest shade (Tumbled glass) I applied the ink pad directly to the inside of the folder on the positive side only. This will now act as a printing plate while embossing through the Big Shot.

    Here are the results alongside another set of tiles printed/embossed with Faded Jeans Distress ink.

    For the glaze I applied both Glossy Accents and Crackle Accents to get some variety, it looks a bit milky to begin with but it dries perfectly clear. Here's a little tip; put your pot of glossy or crackle accents into a cup of hot water for about 30 seconds, this will help it flow smoother from the bottle.

    The tiles are best left until the next day before using. I started to attach them using the same glossy accents which also makes the most fantastic glue!

    The next step was to mix some texture paste (or Modelling Paste) with a little Tea Dye Distress ink just to kill the bright white finish. I then applied the paste in the gaps between the tiles with my fingertips while wiping away any excess from the tiles using a damp cloth. 

    Believe me, it's much more fun than grouting the bathroom!

    Here is the finished frame complete with  a picture of a little lady who is far more photogenic than her Daddy! I love the random imperfect nature of the inking technique it makes the final piece all the more authentic. The grout between the tiles has started to shrink and crack which only adds adds to the effect.

    Below are a few close-ups of the tiles....enjoy!

  • 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!

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