• Let it Faux!

    Wednesday, 26 August, 2015

    That's right folks, the terrible title puns are back! This week we are going to look at one of my favourite die-cutting techniques which is the art of faux embossing.

    Faux is of course a French word meaning false or fake but there is nothing fake about the quality of the embossed effect on show today.

    I am using dies from the Winter Wonderland range and as we stand on the cusp of September I can already detect a slight autumnal bite to the early morning air so I don't think it's too early to talk about Christmas cards?

    The dies I have used today are.....

    I started by die-cutting around a dozen snowflakes from card before attaching them to a piece of mount board using spray adhesive. Next I cut my deer using the Bigz die and primed it with white gesso, this forms a barrier to stop the acrylic paint being absorbed by the mount board.

    I chose three different shades of red Distress Paint and painted my deer. Once the paint was dry ( I used a heat tool to speed this up) 

    I put a little dark brown paint onto my craft sheet before diluting it with water, I then painted this wash over the deer so that the paint settled in the cracks before dabbing the deer with kitchen paper to remove excess wash. The idea of the wash is to just leave it in and around the die-cut detail to add contrast. 

    The final step is to very delicately apply white chalky paint using a dry brush technique. Always start off with less than you think you will need and build it up slowly.

    Before adding to the face of a simple white base card I wanted to create a craft card background. I applied Distress Inks around the edges before adding a couple of Christmas postmark stamps from Lily of the Valley. I scrunched up the card concentrating on the edges and attached a length of twine around one side finishing with a bow.

    Here's the finished card, as I promised the embossed effect is pretty cool!

    Next up is the bear, as you can see I used one of the Framelits Christmas tree dies to add the detail before applying them to the mount board.

     I used two shades of grey and one of blue to get a little subtle contrast adding a dark wash before lifting it all with the dry brush work.

    Again, here is the finished card, I DO love this die!

     A slightly different spin, I am using both positive and negative die-cuts this time.

    I chose a couple of shades of pink before using a deep red wash finishing off with the dry brush technique.

    And last but not least.....

  • All time faves!

    Wednesday, 19 August, 2015

    Hearts like flowers and butterflies are universal favourites for most creative people from card makers to quilters. Hearts come in a variety of shapes and sizes and we all have our favourites and the Bigz Hearts, Primitive die is mine!

    Not only are they my favourite hearts but it is also one of my all time favourite dies too!

     This autumn I am scheduled to attend quite a few events and shows and one of the things I always like to have with me is a materials swatch which is in the form of die-cut flowers cut from several materials attached to a large jump ring the purpose of which is to show what can be cut using a Bigz die. I was thinking the other day that it is time to retire my old swatch as, much like myself it is getting a little tatty around the edges.

    Today's post will show the start of what is quite a long process. I have created three separate die-cut hearts in gingham, marquetry wood and card and attached each to a die-cut tag. When finished they will all be loaded onto a big ol' jump ring and taken out on the road.

    Card is always a good place to start so I cut the medium heart and applied a little Old Paper Distress Ink before adding the stamped detail. once dry I scuffed the edges using the blade of my scissors to add to the care worn appearance.

    The tag used is from another of my favourite die sets namely the Framelits Tag Collection By Tim Holtz very handy and versatile indeed.

    Gingham fabric has a lovely texture and is great for use in mixed media projects. I started by attaching a strip of the fabric to a piece of kraft card and die-cutting my heart shape and next, I applied a little white gesso with my brayer.

    After inking the edges using Pumice Stone Distress Ink I stencilled the number 2 using grey acrylic. Once the paint had dried I used another stencil to apply white spots in a random fashion, it's far more controllable than the splatter effect for this project.

    I also used the blade of my scissors to gently lift the edges before attaching to the tag.

    Marquetry wood is great to use but it is very brittle. I always advise backing it with card or tape to hold it together and add a little strength. I cut a few strips into 'planks' and used Distress Paints to add the colours. Distress Paints are great for this particular project because if you use the sponge applicator on the end of the bottle it's really easy to vary the amount of paint applied giving a distressed appearance without having to lift a finger!

    I attached the strips to a piece of dark card beore die-cutting the shape and I also applied a typewriter text stamp using a light grey ink, the effect is very subtle as intended and it all looks pretty cool!

    More of these on the way, I'm off to dig out some quirky materials to have fun with... Suggestions welcome!!

  • Talking Bigz

    Wednesday, 12 August, 2015

    When we mention the Sizzix brand what springs to mind, The Big Shot machine closely followed by Bigz dies perhaps? 

    Sizzix kicked off the die-cutting revolution some 15 years ago and as many of you remember, all the dies were steel rule (deep steel blade). We have come a long way since then but the Bigz dies are still as popular as ever.

    I have used this blog to highlight the versatility of Bigz days many times down the years, not just the vast range of materials that they cope with but the amount of different applications they can be used for.

    Today I want to share with you a few pieces made with one such Bigz die and old favourite of mine namely Flower Layers & Leaves (657690). This die contains seven separate elements and as well as being incredibly gorgeous it's also very, very versatile.

    Cardmaking is as good a place to start as any, not only can cut card up to and including mount board but you can cut multiples in one pass through the Big Shot, up to 100 layers of tissue paper!!!

    Die-cutting was developed for the scrapbooking market originally and it's still a must have tool for any serious scrapbooker.

    Fashion applications are many and varied. The Big Shot has a growing fanbase all over Europe amongst the textile fraternity. Some people use it for textiles exclusively!

    I cut dozens of small flowers from gold lame  (I knew it would come in handy one day!!) and folded each one into quarters before attaching them to this plain white t-shirt in the shape of a heart.

    Here I have die-cut the flowers from craft foam backed onto mount board to make our very own disposable stamps.

    Alternatively, you could use the negative shapes as stencils as shown below.

    The quality of cut that you get using felt is fabulous, here's a little layered embellishment added to a beanie hat which just happens to be the right size for my daughter!

    The flowers on this hair band were cut from voile, up to 10 layers at a time. the flowers were folded and stapled before the edge was run over the flame of a candle (this takes a little practise!)

    this brooch is die-cut from very thick felt and the edges are finished with blanket stitch which I find very therapeutic!

    Shrink plastic is an amazing material for creating jewellery, charms, bespoke buttons etc. I die-cut all the elements before punching a hole in the top of each. After inking and stamping I shrank them to size using a heat tool.

    For the 3-D flowers Simply die-cut the large flower in several shades of red/pink felt and cut from the edge to the centre in a spiral before rolling them into shape with my tweezers.

    This is a work in progress and I have another half dozen ideas to go but I thought I would share the story so far. Why not take out your Big Shot and stretch your creative muscles too?

  • upstencilling!

    Wednesday, 5 August, 2015

    I know it's not a real word but I'm a busy man and I have got time to go around talking about upcycling using die-cut stencils!

    Last week we looked at using shop bought stencils and I thought 'Why not make your own Pete, after all, we do have some dies just crying out to be used in this way'.

    I decided to take my own advice for once, especially as I have a cool idea for a house warming gift. On Saturday morning I shall be helping my good friend Wayne move house which is going to be a gradual process for Wayne and his family so on Saturday we are tackling the big stuff! 

    Some of the dies I have used today are among the most popular releases this year alongside some timeless classics....

    I have also used an assortment of Stampers Anonymous stamps and three different Americana acrylic paints...let the fun begin!

    Whilst on holiday recently I was trawling the shops for items which might benefit from a bit of Sizzix bling when I came across these lovely sentiments screen printed onto wooden backgrounds, they were a bargain at £3 each so I bought four of them. Next, I took a sanding pad and removed the sentiment giving me a blank canvas to work on.

    I used the Word Play die to die-cut the legend 'august 2015' from thin kraft card and applied them to the wood using a thin layer of spray adhesive, just enough to hold them in place but easy to remove afterwards.

    Next, I cut apertures in some thin kraft card to use as stencils. The reason I use kraft card is because it is not as absorbent as normal card making it ideal for disposable stencils. Time to choose my colours and I've decided to use Americana acrylics by Decoart.  My base colour will be Pistachio Mint and I will use Bahamas Blue and Taffy Cream to add detail.

    I am applying the paint using a round sponge applicator, it's more controllable than a stencil brush and it's both quick and easy to wash up after. I worked over the die-cut letters in applying the main body of the paint.

    Now it's time to add the detail around the edges using my home made die-cut stencils

    I lightened the green colour with some white chalky paint to add a little contrast, I then rolled out the paint with a brayer and applied it using various stamps it gives a wicked effect.

    Now it's time to add the blue and cream, it's important to get a nice balance so think carefully before adding new elements, believe me I've learnt this through experience!

    Add a little more stamped detail with the blue and cream acrylic before removing the die-cut letters using the tip of a craft knife.

    And here is the finished piece, pretty cool and super easy to do, in fact, it's hard to go wrong using this technique as long as you are careful with your initial colour selection. I think I will try to give stencilling a rest for a little while but it's just so much fun!!!

  • 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!

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