DIY Alert Blog
This Week's Giveaway: Tasty Yarns from Traveling Rhinos
We have some samples of touchy, feely, warm and fuzzy yarn from Traveling Rhinos up for grabs this week. Eling hand-dyes and hand-spins her yarn creations, and they are lovely. There's enough in each of these bundles for a bit of stitchery or a jewelry project. And one lucky subscriber gets 'em.
PDX Profile: Shannon Conrad, of Rubygirl
I'm a big fan of Shannon Conrad's unique metalwork. She makes jewelry that manages to be a little industrial, a little whimsical. Her business is called Rubygirl, and you can see more of her work on Etsy and Lov.li.
How did you get started working with metal? I (like many metalsmiths) started with beading and basic wirewrapping. While I enjoyed it, it wasn't enough - I wanted more. About a year and a half ago, I signed up for an evening metalsmithing class at Mount Hood Community College. That night I picked up a torch for the first time. I had this totally "aha" moment and knew that finally (in my mid 30's) I had found what I wanted to do with my life.
What kinds of things influence your jewelry designs? Anything and everything! Seriously, anything from a leaf on the rhododendron in my front yard to whatever animated program that is currently playing on my TV. Truly, one of my favorite pieces was inspired by the swirl of the antenna on a character on a preschool program my three-year-old loves.
Most often though, I would have to say that I am inspired by my materials. I find a great stone or a cool bead and I just see what it needs to be made into. I am unusual in that I don't sketch my designs - I can't draw! I just see them in my head and figure out how to create them in metal.
What do you think makes a piece of jewelry successful -- meaning, something you find yourself wearing all the time? I think a great piece of jewelry should be effortless. Does that make sense? I think it should be something comfortable and stylish - not fussy. Something you find yourself reaching for over and over without even thinking about it.
Do you have a favorite among all the pieces you've made? I think it would have to be a piece I made for my sister for Christmas right after I started metalsmithing. I was trying desperately to get it done in time and nothing seemed to be going right. I even blistered my thumbs while polishing it (note: metal goes from warm to HOT really fast)! I did finish it in time and she loved it - it was the first time I ever got to hear someone say, "You made this?" with that sense of wonderment in their voice. It was an awesome feeling. She wears it every day.
How do you define the difference between "Art" and "Craft?" I see it as the difference between form and function - art being the form and craft being the function. Art is all about aesthetics, while craft has a useful purpose - but there is a huge crossover, especially with the resurgence in popularity of the handmade. Craft is not just your grandma's crocheted toilet paper cosies anymore. I think craft can definitely be art. It's kind of like the square/rectangle thing. A square is a rectangle, but not all rectangles are squares. Craft can be art, but not all art is craft. Now I'm just rambling...
What are some of your favorite creative spots in Portland? I would have to say my studio. I have small children, so I don't get out much!
This Week's Giveaway: Crafty Prize Pack!
Here's what's up for grabs this week -- a pack of crafty goodness:
- An adorable felt monkey, from Gifts Define. He has a string and a bell for hanging on your rear-view mirror, or in a kids' room, or for taunting your cat.
- A cool little parrot magnet from Head Full of Pixies. Suitable for holding up your most important refrigerator love-notes.
- A layered polymer clay pendant, from Emerald Earth. Beautiful workmanship -- a textured background, topped with an intricate cane-slice. Ooh!
- A spiral notepad, from Cute as a Button. The cover is made from one of those torrid romance novels -- you get the picture on the front, and the delightfully salacious back-cover text on the back.
One lucky subscriber will win . . . .
PDX Profile: April Alden, of Rosewebs
This week, we're chatting with April Alden, whose business, Rosewebs, makes wonderful sturdy accessories from those strips of material that old-school lawn chairs are woven from. What a great use of reclaimed materials! See more of April's work at her Etsy store.
How did you first discover lawn-chair webbing as a craft material? When I first moved to the Northwest I started to find it everywhere.....usually at thrift stores or garage sales, even in free bins. Honestly, at first I was not sure what it was, taken out of context. I just collected it thinking I would do something with this stuff someday. It is just such a cool material, in such fun color combos I could not resist. And your materials are all reclaimed, right? Why do you prefer to use reclaimed materials in your work? I usually categorize my items made from reclaimed and recycled material. Instead of actually ripping apart old lawn chairs (that seems counter productive), I find that it is much easier to use the re-webbing kits [which used to be sold so people could repair worn out chair seats]. These kits are what has actually survived the throw-away culture over the years. It is unusual to find the chairs themselves, most having been tossed and replaced with newer models. Besides the obvious environmental aspects.... I prefer using reclaimed materials in my work because it is wired in me. I have always sought out to use what is available to me as opposed to going out and seeking new materials. When I was in art school I started using primarily "trash" as materials in my projects simply out of budget concerns... that wired me to always reinvent, and try to give things new life, free to be! I also think it is fun, and challenging, makes people think about everyday objects differently.
What kinds of bags do you make with this webbing? And why is it a good material for bags? I make bags of all sizes: little zipper pouches, clutch style bags, magazine tote bags, beach bags, diaper bags, man bags. I have branched out to wallets as well. The material is so durable, it maintains its bright colors and wears incredibly well. Someone once said to me when viewing my stuff: "these have got to last, I mean this stuff holds asses!" We had a good laugh about the material holding the largest of relatives in the lounge chairs for years on end. How do you define the difference between Art and Craft? There is a fine line between the two. It fluctuates with time, societal acceptance, and also depends on who you speak with. Art is something that is unique to a particular person, time and thought. Art is an expression from a soul, art is life, art is release, art is therapy whereas craft is something that is made to serve a purpose or function which in it's higher forms can be done artfully. Such a fine line... For me they are both all of the above and then some.
What are some of your favorite creative spots in Portland? Last Thursday on Alberta is by far my favorite. So many people just putting it out there, no holds barred, free expression and playfulness exudes out of every nook and cranny, all ages and styles, very inspiring. Another spot is The 100th Monkey Studio.... I have been to several events there that really impressed and inspired me, and I had a great time too. It is a wonderful neutral ground for meeting and having a good time making things, meeting people, and trying new things. RCT Fabrics, hands down is the coolest, lots of seconds at great prices and super friendly service.
This Week's Giveaway: Crafty Chica's Art de la Soul, by Kathy Cano Murillo
This week, we're giving away a copy of Crafty Chica's Art de la Soul: Glittery Ideas to Liven Up Your Life, by Kathy Cano Murillo. It's a book of projects, stories, and advice on living a crafty life.
. . . So I hope you win! We'll find out next week.
UPDATE: Congrats to winner Karen Hohndel!
PDX Profile: Jen, a Wizard with Duct Tape
This week, we're meeting Jen of jDUCT. She makes duct tape wallets and other amazing goodies -- with a crazy-inspiring level of attention to detail. Who knew duct tape could be so elegant? You can see more of her work at her website, and her Etsy Shop.
How did you come to discover duct tape as a creative medium? Back in the high school days, I remember seeing a couple of kids with wallets made out of silver duct tape. I was totally intrigued and marveled at how they were able to make it work. Then, years later, I saw two kids going to the prom in a tuxedo and gown made from silver duct tape. How creative, and a bit crazy, I thought. (Can you imagine going to your spring prom as a nervous, sweaty teen in a duct tape shroud?)
I appreciated the creativity, but wasnt too thrilled about the fact that there was only one color to work with. However, when I discovered that duct tape came in all kinds of colors, I got really excited and started making everything from wallets to drink cozies to garbage can covers. I even reupholstered my office chair with the stuff.
I think you've taken duct tape to a whole new level of technical skill. Do your wallets contain materials other than duct tape? My wallets are 99.99% duct tape. The only non-tape component is the clear vinyl that I use for the ID window. I attempted to use clear duct tape for this purpose, but the result wasnt ideal because its a little more like cloudy duct tape. There is no cardboard, paper or cloth inside, just somewhere around fifteen feet of tape folded and finagled to create each wallet.
. . . . And your designs are so intricate! How do you force duct tape into all those intriguing little shapes? The answer is pretty simple: A little blade a lot of patience! I cut each design out of tape on a self healing cutting mat using a small, surgically sharp art knife. The hardest part is being able to pull the design up without destroying it in the process. Its a bit like neurosurgery. I cant tell you on how many occasions Ive spent a lot of time cutting out a really intricate design only to have it turn into a sticky random blob when trying to pull it up. It can be a bit frustrating to work with tape because once a sticky part of your design touches another sticky part, its done. Its challenging, but thats one of the reasons I like doing it.
What kinds of things influence your designs? Inspiration for me doesnt come from any one place; its something that I find everywhere, both in the past and the present. Some of my designs are inspired by things that I remember and love from growing up in the 80s like unicorns, Atari, and records. Other times, Ill see a combination of colors that I really like and incorporate it into a design.
Its funny and interesting to see which designs people like. Sometimes Ill make something that I think is great, but people dont respond. Other times, Ill try something that Im not too sure about, and it turns out to be one of my most popular designs. This is why I like doing custom orders because I get some insight in to what people find interesting and fashionable. It keeps things interesting.
How do you define the difference between Art and Craft? This is an interesting question. If I define each by saying the first thing that comes to mind when hearing each of these words, it would be something like:
Art an aesthetic piece created by people who have the gift to see things on a different realm and then express it in some way for others to see. (Something way too lofty for me to aspire to).
Craft reminds me of the tole-painting and puffy paints my mom used to do when we were kids. It also brings to mind camp creations involving lanyard or pine-cones.
I think my stuff would fall somewhere in between like Crafty Art. Which I would define as pieces with both fun and function.
What are your favorite creative spots in Portland? Portland is such a great city because it fosters creativity of all kinds. One of my favorite places to see it all come together is at Last Thursday on Alberta Street. Not only do you have vendors showing and selling a varied spectrum of art, craft, and crafty-art; you have just as much variety and creativity in the people who come to enjoy it. Its a really energized atmosphere, and a lot of fun to be a part of.
This Week's Giveaway: A Paper-Crafty Prize Pack
Happy 4th, everyone! Here's this week's prize pack:
- A set of adorable "Hello" and "I Love You" cards from Papered Together. There's even a set of little "Lunchtime Hello" cards that you can tuck into the lunchbox of someone you love.
One lucky winner will win all these goodies. Hope it's you!
UPDATE: And the winner is . . . Linda Dodson!
PDX Profile: Dress of the Month Club
Dress of the Month Club gets my vote for Coolest Business Idea. Liz Cowin and her partner Kirsten produce a bi-monthly catalog of cute dress designs. Then you give them your measurements, and choose a dress and fabric, and they'll make you a custom frock! See some samples of their work here and here, and read on for Liz's story. . . .
Dress of the Month Club -- what an awesome idea! How did you come up with this concept? This is how I remember it: Sitting on the back patio at Mississippi Studios and chatting with a bunch of girlfriends - they were trying to convince me to make dressmaking more of a career. I think the silly name came before we solidified any actual ideas. I liked the idea clothing Portland, but also really wanted to create a monthly catalog - so it's not merely about constructing a dress. It's designing a whole mini-line, fusing fabric selections, and creating images and photographs.
What is your background in sewing, and how did you get involved with dressmaking? My mom sewed. In fact, she had a whole sewing room, lucky lady. I just sorta picked it up from her. I don't really remember her teaching me. I've never taken a class . . .
How does the club work, exactly? In a nutshell, every month we design a dress, or whatever, and pick a couple fabrics. If you dig the design, you give us your measurements and pick out the fabric you like best. We make it for you. [Editor's Note: you can get on the Dress of the Month Club email list by sending a note to email@example.com.]
What elements do you think make for an ideal dress? I have to admit that I love ruffles and bows. Maybe not together. Also, a retro touch is neccessary.
What kinds of things inspire your dress designs? For me, the fabric often designs the dress. That, and I think about what I would really like to be wearing. I love poring over magazines and old fashion books.
What is your take on the difference between "Art" and "Craft?" That's a tough one. Dressmaking is an art, but it seems awful crafty - especially now, in our infancy.
What are your favorite creative spots in Portland? Right now? My living room. Although I might replace "favorite" with "neccessary" and "messy." It's where I am doing most of the work right now. Actual favorites include any fabric store, the downtown library, and while bicycling the Springwater Corridor Trail.
This Week's Giveaway: A Tasty Sushi Bracelet, by Amyville
. . . Seriously, how can you not love jewelry that comes packaged in a sushi container?
This cuter-than-cute bracelet is up for grabs this week. It's made by the Amy Secrest of Amyville.com fame. And she is a wizard with the tiny polymer clay sushi. Check out this close-up:
If you're the lucky winning subscriber, you'll be wearing this everywhere all summer. We'll announce the winner here next week!
UPDATE: Congratulations to Renee Hyatt, our lucky winner!
PDX Profile: Tamara, the Sock-Monkey Queen
Seriously, who doesn't love sock monkeys? Our profile this week is of Tamara, a true sock monkey artist, whose creations can be found at SockMonkeyFun.com. Or, you can visit her other website, SockMonkey.net, and learn all about how to make one of your own.
How did you get started making sock monkeys? I first really noticed sock monkeys at a friend's house. She had two very cute sock monkeys and would pose them in front of her web-cam in funny, clever ways. I sorta fell in love with them and had to have a sock monkey of my own. Being a crafty type person, I wanted to make my own. So, I ordered 3 packages of the red heel socks in sizes S-L. I didn't know what size of sock monkey I wanted. I figured I'd make up all six monkeys keep the one I liked and give the other five away, thus began the sock monkey making addiction.
For the uninitiated, will you tell us a little about where sock monkeys originated? Sock dolls and monkeys have been around in America since the late 1800's. They were said to have become popular during the depression because they could easily be made from used materials. The Red Heel sock came about in 1932 when the Nelson Knitting Company sought to distinguish their socks from the knock-offs that were being made by other companies. These red heel socks became very popular for making sock monkeys because they gave the monkeys that cheerful grin. By the 1950's the Nelson Knitting Company, in a smart marketing move, began including a free pattern for sock monkeys with the socks.
How do you get inspired for all your sock-monkey personalities? Do you start out with a fixed idea, or does the monkey evolve as you make it? Yes, to both. Sometimes I start with a definite idea of what I want to make, for instance, a cowgirl sock monkey with red pigtails, wiggle eyes and freckles. Other times, I just find a neat pair of wild socks and let the monkey 'tell' me who it wants to be. I find inspiration for the sock monkeys from people I know, people I see in media, my cat, my craft stash (like a funky ribbon, yarn or pom-pom).
You also make custom sock monkeys -- so what's the most unusual custom order you've ever done? Probably Don Quixote. He was ordered by a gentleman working at the U.S. Embassy in the Dominican Republic promoting Democracy in that country. He thought Don Quixote would make a good mascot for his team. I get a kick out of hearing the reasons or stories for unusual requests like that one. And Don Quixote was certainly the most challenging sock monkey to date. I needed to make armor, but I wanted the monkey to still be somewhat huggable. It took me a few experiments to come up with something that looked like armor, but wouldn't poke your eye out if you hugged it. (I ended up using that very stiff fusible interfacing with crepe satin and some metallic trim) I love doing custom orders. Some of my best sock monkeys came from ideas I would never have even thought of.
What is your take on the difference between "Art" and "Craft?" I think it's mostly a matter of attitude. I kind of relate it to one of my other passions in life, running. I love running. I run pretty slowly, but I still call it running, not jogging. Professional runners would be at a very slow jog at my top speed. I don't take myself too seriously about this though, and would never be offended if someone else said they saw me jogging. I think "Art" is more about your own (and other people whose opinions you value) attitude toward your work.
What are your favorite creative spots in Portland? I love the outdoors, travel and beautiful design, this being the case, my favorite creative place in Portland is the Japanese Gardens. Portland is a fantastic city for parks and I love all the ones I've visited. I am always inspired by their natural beauty.
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