Tuesday, August 31, 2010

CAS82 Delicious

For a long, wordy essay on stamp buying, please scroll down. This is today's second post.

CAS82 this week is inspired by the word Delicious!

Now that's a challenge I can sink my teeth into.

I hear you groaning. Stop that.

Anyway, I went to my stamp drawer labeled Kitchen/Home and saw my giant coffee cup stamp from Hero Arts. Delicious, indeed.

How-To Tips: Originally, I had masked the bottom of the cup and stamped the A Muse large oval to create a table for my cup. This turned out to be a huge mistake. The cup is too low on the card, and the "table" looked squashed. Urg. As I stared at it, it occurred to me that if I cut off the bottom, while cutting around the cup, I could layer a kraft paper strip in place of a table. YES! What a great save.

stamps: Hero Arts
ink: Palette Dark Chocolate
paper: kraft, white
accessories: I don't see any.

Let's Talk about Buying Stamps

Note: If you don't want to read my novel, please scroll down to the bottom to see a card.

Bahb asked an interesting question in the comments of my Stamp Storage post:

Did it take you long to determine which stamp brands were worthy of focus? I mean, do you have alot of stamps that don't yield a clean image or do you junk them as useless?

While her question is pretty specific, it got me thinking more generally about how my stamp buying has changed over time and how I ended up where I am today, with a bunch of drawers and CD cases full of stamps that, for the most part, I love, and which, for the most part, come from four companies.

For you stamping neophytes reading this, learn from my mistakes. You'll save money and be happier. I promise.

In my beginner's enthusiasm for rubber stamping, I made every mistake in the book when it came to purchasing stamps. I thought StampinUp sets and accessories were waaaayyyyyy too expensive,and while I did buy a few of them early on, I mainly bought loose stamps at Hobby Lobby during its half-price sales. This meant I bought a rather random assortment of stamps of varying quality, style, and usefulness.

Some brands were very high quality, such as Hero Arts, PSX, and Penny Black, and others were not. It quickly became obvious that when it came to rubber, deeply carved was definitely better. Shallowly carved stamps were cheap as dirt, but they stamped crappy and left ink from the flashing all over my projects. (Flashing is the part of the rubber that isn't supposed to stamp.) Those icky stamps ended up in my toddler's craft bin or the trash.

In those early days, I tried some clear stamps a friend had and was horrified at the poor quality of the images, vowing never to waste money on them.

While I quickly learned what brands at Hobby Lobby were good and what brands weren't, I was wash-out stupid about buying the good quality stamps. If I didn't have an image, I wanted it. Not a thought entered my head about how I would use it, of course. I just wanted it. After a few years, I had amassed hundreds of stamps (all bought half-price, of course...what a deal!), yet I was very unhappy with all the stuff I was making. And boy was I making stuff!

Please keep in mind that I had no idea what I was doing, so I relied on the books and magazines available to teach me. Most of these books were about artsy stamping: collage, vintage, brown. They were heavy on cool techniques, so I tried them all. I made paste paper, marbled paper, sponged paper, tea-dyed paper; I wove, distressed, punctured, tore, embossed, and smeared paper; I stamped on velvet, paper, canvas, walls, and wood. I pounded leaves and ferns and flowers into paper with a hammer, stamped with them, made collage pieces to hang in my house.

As my aviator husband would say, I was all speed and no vector. Frantically trying to teach myself everything about stamping without even a vague sense of purpose or taste or style resulted in a bunch of wasted time and money, not to mention storage space in my house.

Who was this person? Well, not me. She was a product of ignorance and the innocent and benign influence of a bunch of art stamping books and magazines. Virtually all those technique experiments either ended in failure or products that just didn't make me happy. It didn't help that I tried to save money by buying cheap products...cheap cardstock, cheap ink, cheap embellishments.

You see, I'd learned not to buy cheap stamps, but it took an embarrassing length of time for me to figure out that if you buy cheap stuff, the stuff you make with it will look cheap. Well, duh.

About this time, I discovered scrapbooking. The clean-and-simple style was right there in the scrapbooking magazines. Remember Simple Scrapbooks? Oh how I cried when that magazine went under. Well, I cried inside. Outside, I just whined about it to my husband. But still. Those scrapping magazines showed me a style that fit me, and gradually, it dawned on me that I could apply that style to my cards and perhaps, just perhaps, feel happier with what I was making.

Splitcoast Stampers helped, too, with members like JulieHRR showing me that cards didn't have to be collaged and distressed to death.

As I realized how much money I had wasted with impulse spending, I put my critical thinking skills to use. SU and Hero Arts both have huge, annual catalogs/inspiration books and both sell coordinating stamp sets and products. I figured if I studied their catalogs carefully, I could strategize purchases better and have an easier time coordinating stamps and product. So I resolved only to buy Hero Arts and StampinUp stamps.

It was the smartest thing I've ever done in relation to this obsessive hobby.

For several years, I ignored every other stamp company and stuck to Hero Arts and StampinUp. I learned how to coordinate stuff: colors, stamps, supplies. I settled into my style and started feeling so much happier about what I was making. Most of my stamp purchases made sense with my style and were easy for me to use. Of course, I still occasionally bought things I should not have, but honestly, I was wasting much less money than before.

I also started pruning down my stash. Stamps that obviously didn't work for my style went away, either given to friends or donated to our church preschool or Salvation Army.

Then I kept reading threads at SCS about how the new Papertrey Ink stamps were high-quality photopolymer, not the cheapo icky stuff I'd tried years before. At first, I bought one stamp set--Beautiful Blooms--to try them out. That was the last time I placed an order that didn't qualify for free shipping with Papertrey.

For a year or so, I seriously continued to limit my purchases to these three companies. but then Memory Box turned my idea for a WWII-era aviator penguin into a stamp, A Muse came out with their oval shadow stamps, and Clear and Simple Stamps released their Wii set. My horizons broadened a bit.

Then, Faith at Mark's Finest Papers asked me to be on their design team and started sending me their high-quality clear stamps. Oh my.

The thing is, I don't feel the need to go hog wild buying tons of stamps from tons of companies. I have so much now...and most of it useful and good for me...that I'm very picky about what I'll buy these days. When I see a cool stamp or set, I ask, "What do I have that's close to this?" If nothing, then I'll consider. But usually I can substitute something I already have. This is why I haven't bought PTI's new leaf set even though it's KILLING ME!!!!!

This whole wacky (and very expensive) journey has taught me some valuable lessons about our hobby.

1. Buy only top-quality products. Rely on reviews at SCS and blogs for guidance on this. If I'd started out buying top quality but LESS, I'd never have wasted so much money.

2. Coordinated product is worth the price. I'm much more confident about mixing and matching after 8 years of stamping, but it really has taken that long for me to feel like I really can take all those loose stamps and combine them to make stuff that I like.

3. You don't have to have every image out there to make wonderful stuff. I certainly have a lot of stamps, but I could throw two-thirds of them away and still have plenty of fun. I toy with the idea of getting rid of a bunch, and who knows, one day, I may act on that. But for now, I have the space and might as well keep the ones I like and that fit my style.

4. Trends are certainly fun, but if you buy a good image, it will last and be useable for years. Coonsider the following card:

How cute is this? Those snowflakes are from one of the first SU sets I bought called Lace Snowflakes. The sentiment is an old Hobby Lobby find (PSX I think). The border punch is a Martha Stewart one I bought this year.

If you made it this far, bless you. I hope all this makes sense and doesn't make me look too stupid or frivolous. I honestly feel it's been a useful learning experience and worth every penny. But perhaps now you understand why I don't have a Big Shot and Nesties and Copics. Self-control has been a hard-fought battle. I don't need any more temptation!

And Bahb, aren't you sorry you asked?

Monday, August 30, 2010

Evidence of Obsession

I've showed most of my craft room to you but have yet to share my stamp storage, largely because it represents the biggest annoyance of conflicting feelings in the entire room. You see, I would rather spend money on stamps than on storage, but my storage is an ugly hodge-podge of drawer units. See.


[Those of you with sharp eyes will notice two empty drawers. I plan for the future.]

These drawers are the most efficient, cost-effective way to store loose stamps and Hero Arts sets, of which I have quite a few. Each drawer has a theme, such as Cooking/House, Thank You, Birthday, Non-Christmas Holidays, SU Animal Sets, Block Flowers, etc. I love how I can pull a whole drawer out and take it to my desk if I'm not sure what I want to stamp.

This is my Leaf drawer:

And my Tree drawer:

StampinUp floral sets fit nicely on end in one of the deep drawers because I have too many of them for the flat drawers:

Wow. My non-SU animal/insect drawer is a mess, isn't it? Sorry about that.

Here are some shadow stamps:

And here are some more shadow stamps:

This drawer has sayings and quotations:

This entire six-drawer unit is full of Christmas stamps:



See. I think you get the point. I have a lot of Christmas stamps.

My PTI, Hero Arts, and Mark's Finest Papers stamp sets are in CD holders on top of the plastic units. Each is grouped by manufacturer, and then subcategorized by whatever system seems most useful for the particulars of that manufacturer. I also occasionally include the clear sets with the loose stamps in the drawers when the whole set applies to a category there. For instance, Birthday Basics from PTI is in the Birthday Drawer.

This little stack is new stuff I haven't played with yet. Don't you love that tree? It's from Hero Arts. I've had my eye on it for a while and found it on sale last week at Michael's. Yippy!

Every four to six months I completely reorganize my stamps. From the messiness of some drawers, it's obvious that I'll be reorganizing soon. If I ever hit upon the perfect system, I'll be sure to share in detail, but frankly, I believe there is no perfect system. It's just fun to move them all about every once in a while.

No. I'm not AR/OC.

Well, maybe just a little bit.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Embossed Crossword Puzzle

In the magazines lately, I've noticed lots of people embossing backgrounds in clear EP with VersaMark ink to give a really subtle effect. I decided to try it with the Hero Arts Crossword background and make a Thank You card for my sister and her family for their hospitality a few weeks back.

I love this card...it's so textured with the embossing, but the message really stands out. My one problem with using this stamp big like this is that it's sort of busy when stamped in a color. You have to get bold with the embellishments and words to balance the busyness out. By using the clear EP and VersaMark ink, that design difficulty is eliminated!

Have a happy Sunday, everyone!

stamps: Hero Arts, PSX (alphabet)
ink: VersaMagic, VersaColor
paper: Bazzill textured CS, white
accessories: clear EP, prima flowers, brads

Friday, August 27, 2010

Musical Christmas

Wow, I'm taking a trip down memory lane with this card. The Merry Christmas border stamp is one of my very early stamp purchases at Hobby Lobby. The OLW border stamp challenge got me looking at all my border stamps...even the really old ones! Can't think of a single thing to do with this stamp that's one layer, but two layers sure are pretty!

stamp: Stampabilities (copyright 2003, HR1012, We Wish You a Merry Christmas)

ink: Palette noir
paper: SU real red, PTI white
accessories: ribbon, glue dots, Bow Easy, dimensionals

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Trying a Trend

I had to try the whole doily trend for myself, just because I happened to be on the cake decorating aisle at Michael's and saw--SURPRISE--little doilies. They seemed like a good idea at the time.

This card doesn't really scream LateBlossom style, but I like it anyway. It uses an old PSX thank you stamp and some of my considerable stash of light blue pearls that have languished for too long. I do think the sentiment would look better if it were stamped in navy or dark gray rather than black, though. The black seems a tad stark.

How-To Tips: I used a circle of white cardstock to give some support under the center of the doily, which is really quite flimsy. Since I didn't glue down the lacy edges of the doily, it sort of curls off the card...an effect that I really like. The ribbon helps anchor the doily on the card; without it, the doily seemed sort of floaty. The card is 5" square, which fits into some standard square envies I picked up at Marco's.

It's more than one layer, so not appropriate for an OLW challenge, but I challenge you to look for opportunities to try trendy things outside your comfort zone whenever you can, especially when it doesn't cost much to do so. I'm not going to be slapping a doily on any ol' thing in the future, but it certainly was fun to play with them!

stamps: PSX
ink: black
paper: SU bashful blue, white
accessories: small doily, light blue half-pearls, circle cutter, ribbon

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

One-Layer Wednesday 17: Border Stamps

How many border stamps do you have? If your collection is anything like mine, the answer would be TOO MANY! So the OLW challenge this week is to use a border stamp on your card.

I loved this little diamond border stamp from Hero Arts when I bought about EIGHT years ago. And now I've finally made a card with it that I love.

How-To Tips: Dress up a border or background stamp with half pearls or rhinestones at intersections of shapes. On this card, the brown pearls add dimension and interest that are hard to see in the photo. I used a stamp positioner for the sentiment, and positioned the descenders for the letter y between diamonds so the sentiment and border would be related.

Rules for OLW17

1. A one-layer card is defined as a single piece of cardstock folded in half.

2. Use a border stamp (or, if you don't have a border stamp, either create one by repeating a small stamp or consider this an excuse to go buy one!) Remember to keep embellishments to a minimum.

3. Please share your creation by posting your card online and then using the InLinkz button in the sidebar of Simplicity to link to it.

4. Most important of all...HAVE FUN!

The cards for OLW16 are awesome...and I will have time to comment on all of them today!

stamps: Hero Arts
ink: Memento
paper: PTI white
accessories: half pearls, stamp positioner

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Giddy, I Tell Ya!

About three years ago, I bought a set of photopolymer stamps at my LSS by October Afternoon called Love Notes. I intended the set for scrapbook pages and stored it with my small collection of stamps that I really only thought I'd use on pages, not cards. Fact is, I can't remember ever using this set before.

Well, yesterday, I pulled out that sadly neglected set and made this:

I'm GIDDY! And just look at that colored card base. Go, me!!!!!!

Design Discussion: White space doesn't have to be white. All that empty blue space is really white space. Really.

stamps: October Afternoon
ink: Memories soft stone, SU real red
paper: SU bashful blue, PTI white
accessories: dimensionals, small hole punch

Monday, August 23, 2010

Stamping Off the Edge, Part Two

Large, irregularly shaped stamps present a special design dilemma. How do you use them pleasingly on a card? Stamp them off the edge of course.


This stamp from Embrace Life by StampinUp is gorgeous, but using it centered on a card in this way makes it look like a bikini bottom. Or something else. I'm censoring my dirty English major mind right now. You're welcome.


Use the rule of thirds, and, when possible, use the shape of the stamp to guide the eye to your focal point. I learned about the rule of thirds from an article on photography years ago. Divide your space into thirds with imaginary lines. The line marking one-third of the space is visually pleasing...your eye wants to go there.

On this card, I stamped the image twice to get the border on the left third of the card. Also, the pointy end (ohmygosh, I must restrain myself!) directs the eye right to the sentiment, which is the focal point of the card and is located on the line of the bottom third of the card (well, if I'd stamped it a smidge higher, it would be where it should be). Using the horizontal and vertical thirds in this case gives a nice balance to the card.

stamps: SU Kindred Spirits, Hero Arts
ink: VersaColor
paper: PTI vintage cream
accessories: none

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Lines Love Curves

There's a saying in design that lines love curves. This means that if a design is too straight and right-angled, add curves. If it's too curvy, add straight lines. The idea, I think, is to create a bit of tension between the two to add interest to a design.

This lined shadow stamp from Hero Arts is old. Very old. But adding some curvy flowers, bling, and a simple sentiment certainly freshen it up and make it happy.

How-To Tips: I cut this card down to fit the shadow, leaving an even border around it and building from there. The resulting card is 4.25" wide by 3 7/8" tall.

stamps: Hero Arts shadow lines, Papertrey Mega Mixed Messages
ink: bashful blue, Palette noir
paper: PTI white, SU brilliant blue
accessories: flower punches, dimensionals, gemstones

Friday, August 20, 2010

Stamping Off the Edge, Part One

While centering images can result in lovely, symmetrical designs that make my AR/OC heart happy, placing things off-center and edgy often makes a more visually interesting card. Such is particularly the case with large images, like the one I'm using today.


In the first example, the flower is only slightly off the edge. Less than a fifth of the image, in fact, is hanging off the edge: just the edges of two petals. It looks weird and accidental and sort of floaty.

With a roundish image like this one, it's better to have about a quarter to a third of it hanging off the edge.


See the difference? The bottom card looks settled, with the flower hanging more decisively off the corner, like I meant to put it there. The center of the flower is roughly in the lower-left sweet spot (that magic place where the lines dividing the card into thirds intersect). The sentiment balances it in the upper-right sweet spot and has a bit more room to breathe with the flower situated slightly lower.

As an added bonus, if you mess up as on the first card, you can always trim the card down a bit on the left side and bottom. That way, if you have perfectionist tendencies and are bothered by the slightly off-kilter feel of it (raising hand here!), you can change it, and no one is any wiser.

I'll have several more posts with advice for stamping off the edge, with examples of what to do and what not to do. Hope this helps!

stamps: Hero Arts
ink: SU pumpkin pie, close to cocoa
paper: PTI vintage cream
accessories: buttons, DMC floss

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Turning a New Leaf Meets Big Glittery Brads

Just a quick post because the back-to-school rush, combined with a new puppy, is KILLING me. Well, not literally. But back-to-school and Daisy are sucking up every minute of my spare time.

So here's a card with big glittery brads that have languished in my hoard for the better part of a year and my favorite PTI set.

I don't really like the colors here (seems a bit drab to me), but they were dictated by the brads. Wouldn't red glittery brads or pink glittery brads or even white glittery brads be happier looking? Well, I don't have those colors. I have green. And now I have three fewer.

At least I've got that going for me.

stamps: PTI
ink: can't remember, probably VersaMagic
paper: PTI ripe avocado, something else, and white
accessories: big glittery brads (Michael's) dimensionals, threading water punch

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

One-Layer Wednesday 16: Stamp a Scene

Often, scene stamps are sooooo pretty and soooo intimidating. Some stampers might feel like it's necessary to color them in, layer, spotlight, or do all sorts of things to "finish" them. I, on the other hand, feel no such need.

Because I am lazy. And not ashamed to admit it. To the entire Internet.

So this week's challenge is to do something simple and one-layered with a scene. You can use a ready-made scene stamp, as I have because I am lazy, or make your own scene.

[Photo Deleted by author]

Rules for OLW16

1. A one-layer card is defined as a single piece of cardstock folded in half.

2. Make a scene using some sort of simple treatment...or no treatment at all. Remember to keep embellishments to a minimum.

3. Please share your creation by posting your card online and then using the InLinkz button in the sidebar of Simplicity to link to it.

4. Most important of all...HAVE FUN!

In other business...I'm now back from a fabulous vacation with my sister and her family, and will dive into commenting on the OLW15 cards today. The few that I had a chance to look at while in Maryland are FABULOUS!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Subtle Blue

As I've said before, it's hard to photograph subtle colors. This paper, a textured cardstock from I don't know where, is so very pretty and soft, and I wanted to make it into cards. To keep things subtle, I used vellum for the butterflies, Sea Breeze ink (VersaMagic), and light and airy stamps. Hopefully, your computer screen shows the details because these really do look lovely in real life.

First up, butterflies and Stem Silhouettes. This little 4.25" square card came together quite quickly with a scrap of white cardstock (with ugly stamping on the reverse) and scraps of vellum.

Next up, a cleaner, more taylored-looking card using another set from SU (Font of You). I used clear rhinestones colored with a Bic Mark-It.

Isn't it fun to take a color and let it inspire you? Why not pull out a color of cardstock that you haven't used in a while and see what happens?

Sunday, August 15, 2010

PTI's Round and Round Set

PTI's Round and Round Anniversary set sits up and begs for a clean and simple treatment. I decided to use every image in the set at one go, and took the path of least resistance for all the circle images. Punched and popped over the lovely flourished dotted frame takes full advantage of the set, and by varying the colors and bling, I had a blast!

Hot pink and lime green need bling. Big bling.

Soft yellow and green need small, subtle bling.

Pumpkin and olive don't need any bling at all. If I had to pick a favorite, this would be it. But perhaps I'm just longing for fall and cooler weather and this card makes me think of fall. And cooler weather. And sweaters. And fleece. And no suffocating humid sticky hot air making me sweat glow.

I'm sorry. Am I whining?

Sahara sand and pink definitely need bling.

Blue and green and a butterfly positively demands bling. What is it about butterflies that makes us want to bling them? Is it that they are so beautifully embellished in real life? I suspect so.

Which version is YOUR favorite?

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

One-Layer Wednesday 15: Unexpected Colors

Why are some holidays and occasions locked into strict color schemes? Red and green for Christmas, red and pink for Valentine's Day, orange and black for Halloween, browns for Thanksgiving. You know the litany.

Let's mix it up this week by using unexpected color schemes on a one-layer card. Your card may be any theme you like, but use colors on it in a fresh, new way. Violate the stereotypes. Do something wacky like use pink and green on a Christmas card.

Rules for OLW15

1. A one-layer card is defined as a single piece of cardstock folded in half.

2. Your card must use color in an unexpected way. Remember to keep embellishments to a minimum.

3. Please share your creation by posting your card online and then using the InLinkz button in the sidebar of Simplicity to link to it.

4. Most important of all...HAVE FUN!

stamps: Stocking Prints (PTI)
ink: Memento
paper: PTI white
accessories: Scor-Pal, half pearls, corner rounder

Saturday, August 7, 2010

We Have a Winner!

The winner of our OLW14 give-away is Allison H., number 19! Congratulations to Allison and to Susan Garner, the winner of OLW13. Each will receive an upcoming stamp set from Mark's Finest Papers' August Release!

We'll have some more MFP sets to give away in the next few weeks. Oh, I do love giving stuff away!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

CAS78 Ways to Use Polka Dots

The Clean and Simple challenge this week at SCS is Way to Use Polka Dots. It made me realize how very long it's been since I used polka dots. Combined with trying to use a hard-for-me stamp set, this challenge made me very, very happy.

How-To Tips: I adore the PTI set Signature Christmas, but Dawn's handwriting is sometimes hard to get straight. So whenever I use this set, I use my gridded acrylic block and line up the typeset portion of each sentiment with the grid, test it on the edge of a scrap of copy paper to see how straight it really is. Unfortunately, with the little Noel stamp, there's no typeset portion to line up. So I stamped the stocking first, then stamped Noel, THEN CUT OUT THE SQUARE using my quilting ruler and craft knife. The Noel sloped a bit, but that didn't matter because I could tilt it and then cut.

OLW15 Announcement: Given the fact that I still haven't commented on all the OLW13 cards and very few of the OLW14 cards, I'm going to postpone OLW15 for a week so I can get caught up. I so enjoy seeing all the cards you make and gain so much inspiration from them, and I want to comment on each one so you KNOW it!

Blame Daisy. It's all her fault I've fallen behind in my commenting.

Perhaps you can forgive her.

stamps: PTI Signature Christmas, Stocking Prints
ink: SU celery, old olive
paper: PTI white, SU old olive
accessories: pearls, ticket corner punch

Thank You for your Kindness

After I announced on my other blog that our dog Hoover was dying of cancer, many of you offered much-appreciated support and kindness in the comments on QmI and here. After his death, so very many of you poured forth condolences via private email and public comments and surrounded me with comfort. Each expression of sympathy was so much appreciated not only by me but also by my husband. You have no idea how touched we were.

Several of you sent cards, and I thought I'd share some of them here.

From k dunbrook:

From kstamper:

From Susan F.:

From Debra H.:

From girlgeek101:

Thank you all.