Monday, March 31, 2014

Square Simplicity

Today's card shows how easy it is to balance a design with two elements on a square. The strong vertical feather and strong horizontal sentiment balance well, but the black draws the eye strongly to the sentiment, which is, after all, the main idea of this card. The feather is support here...pretty support, but support nevertheless.

I adore this sentiment from Emily Dickinson, and it's so useful on a card to send to someone who is struggling. (And who doesn't struggle, at least every now and then!?!)

I chose a simple silver-and-black color scheme, and though the picture doesn't show it well, the silver Brilliance ink is absolutely stunningly shimmery. Rounding the corners of the raised panel definitely enhanced the soft feel of this card.

Is there someone you know who could use a little lift of hope right now? Perhaps you could make them a hopeful card and send it. April is the cruelest month, and the timing might be just right.

stamps: Waltzingmouse Fine Feather
ink: Brilliance silver, Memento Luxe black
paper: Papertrey Ink
accessories: dimensionals, corner rounder

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Minimalist Monday

Let's call this a Minimalist Monday post. I'm throwing this one out there to remind you how little you need to make a powerful card.

Isn't all that white space GLORIOUS? Or perhaps you're starting to break out in hives thinking about using so little to say so much? Either way, part of what makes this work is the overall triangle shape of the sentiment and the row of hearts. Also, its placement on the bottom third line works best because the hearts extend higher above the sentiment than below. If I'd placed it on the top third line, it would have looks squished.

Hard to believe anything could look squished with all that white space, right?

Heart-shaped bling. Love it so much!!!

Look for the new One-Layer Simplicity Challenge on Tuesday...and that's no April Fool's joke!

stamps: Gina K
ink: Memento
paper: Papertrey white
accessories: heart-shaped rhinestones

Friday, March 28, 2014

Variation on a Sketch and Jonah Update

I lifted the sketch for today's cards straight from Card Creations Vol. 12, which is full of all sorts of good inspiration. Besides, this sketch gave me a chance to play with washi tape again with, as you will see, varied results.

My first take on the sketch followed it exactly.

As you can see, this layout is perfect for using washi tape, and I love how my first card turned out. To make the center of the flower, I put two strips of the narrow orange plaid tape onto a piece of scrap paper and punched a circle from it. Then, I put an epoxy dome sticker over that and glued it to the center of two layered daisy punched shapes. The result is fresh and fun and colorful!

Also note how I used three orange elements: the sentiment, the bottom stripe of tape, and the flower center. That helps unify the whole design, don't you think? I do!

Then, I decided to repeat the sketch with different tape, and that's when things got...wonky.

Try as I might, nothing I used in the place of the flower looked good (including another flower!). I tried punched hearts, larger hearts cut with Fiskars ShapeCutter templates, red hearts, white hearts, single hearts, pairs of hearts. Whatever I tried made the whole design look chaotic and busy. Something black might have worked to draw the eye, but a black heart? Some pretty scary symbolism there, don't you think?

I decided to make the sentiment the focal point by adding bling, but it's not enough to create a strong draw for the eye.

Why the difficulty? These tapes are wider and busier and bolder than the ones on the first card. The fact that they are all red (such a strong color!) creates an overwhelming dominance that takes over the card, and because the red prints are so busy, your eye simply doesn't know where to go. In the first card, the yellow, orange, and teal play nicely together. Here, you're bowled over by red.

Which may not be such a bad thing, considering. Despite the obvious design flaw, I like the red card. It certainly conveys its message of love in a big way, and it feels purposeful and unified.

Which goes to show that not every card you make has to be "perfect" to be successful!

Jonah Update
Jonah is doing well with his treatments, but he recently asked his mom when he will get more cards! It took him a LONG time to open all the Christmas and Valentine cards, and once he'd opened them all, he looked for more. It's so nice to know that the little guy appreciates all the love and card hugs he's received. His fifth birthday is April 12th, and the cards are already starting to come in.

Remember to check the tabbed page at the top of the blog to see if your card has arrived yet. If you want to send a birthday card, please send it to Jonah, c/o Susan Raihala, 7430 Waterway Dr, Waynesville, OH 45068.

To see recent pictures of Jonah and the updates his mother has posted, visit his Facebook page, Jonah Eleison.

stamps: Year Round Sentiments (Hero Arts)
ink: Memento
paper: Papertrey white
accessories: assorted washi tape, daisy punch, 3/4" circle punch, epoxy sticker, heart-shaped rhinestones, dimensionals

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Layout Inspired by Heather Stolar

Today's cool layout comes from this colorful card by Heather Stolar published in the spring issue of Take Ten.

Heather used texture very effectively on her card, but what caught my attention were her layout and use of stitching to unify the three squares.

Here is my first card, which sticks pretty much to Heather's layout, although the focal point is shifted slightly down because my squares were a good bit smaller than hers. Pulling everything down gets it in the "sweet spot" of the card, which I felt was important given how much less of the card my three squares take up than Heather's.

My one-layer version of the card uses pops of color on white with gray images and stitching. I chose the images for their curvy nature, as it contrasts so prettily with the straight lines of the squares and stitching.

Also note I added a sentiment because I wanted to do so.

Then, I wondered what would happen if I lined up the squares top and center.

Heather's original layout is much more dynamic, with the triangle of squares lending wonderful movement to the design. My adaptation is linear/static (although the zigzag stitch was chosen to give some movement here), but the static layout allows the color gradation to really stand out.

Which of my two versions do you prefer?

BTW...These inks are all from Hero Arts, and I've had a blast playing around with them!

stamps: Hero Arts, Papertrey
ink: Hero Arts
paper: Papertrey
accessories: bling, alcohol markers to color the bling

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Inspired by Heather Campbell

Heather Campbell published an absolutely adorable card in the recent Card Creations Vol. 12. Isn't it adorable?

Of course it is. It's also beautifully designed, from the subtle ground of hearts behind the not-so-subtle baker's twine to the delightful mix of patterns on the tissue boxes. And the speech bubble with the heart? ADORABLE! And notice how she has three red elements forming a nice triangle (bow, top tissue box, heart). Love how that adds stability and unity to the design.

I recently received an order from Waltzingmouse Stamps with their two feather stamp sets and a freebie because I had to wait so long for the backordered sets (over two months). Thanks, Claire!

I decided to duplicate Heather's layout using a couple of the feathers cut out as Heather did with the tissue boxes. My ground is Text Style from Papertrey and twine (because baker's twine looked busy). Because I lacked the speech bubble (my feathers don't have faces...and their words are the text background anyway), I centered my panel rather than off-setting it as Heather did. Her offset of the mat balances that bubble nicely, but an even mat serves my feathers better.

My card lacks the nice triangle of Heather's card, but the position of the two feathers and the softer colors generate enough unity (in my opinion, at least).

And don't you love how the feathers could have written the text background?

Many thanks to the always inspiring Heather for her card, without which my card would not have been possible!

stamps: Waltzingmouse, Papertrey
ink: Hero Arts cornflower blue, soft blue, soft lilac
paper: white 110# card
accessories: dimensions, twine, glue

Monday, March 24, 2014

Cards from Friends

Today, I'm spotlighting three gorgeous cards I've received from friends. Check them out!

Sue sent me this beautiful card and a copy
of the adorable flower stamp,

Sheila sent this fun card. I love the colors
with the kraft base.

Joan sent me her fab card with wonderful gold-pen detailing
and gorgeous soft color!

I am always so grateful when people send me cards! It's happy mail, quite literally. It makes me happy!!!

And if you wonder about your contributions to Operation Write Home...take a look at this video. Amazing what a card--or a card a week--can do to lift a person's spirits.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

IC433--Ruth Bleakley Book Art

This week's IC challenge at Splitcoast is simply delightful! The site for inspiration is Ruth Bleakley's Flickr portfolio.

(And can I say how hard it was to type Flickr without adding the missing e? Annoying how my fingers type without my brain...correctly.)

Ruth's portfolio is filled to the brim with all sorts of inspirational goodness. I made two cards in record time, inspired by two of her books! I'm not sure why my cards are so lacking in color, as Ruth's overall color sense is bright and happy and smart. She makes some amazingly colorful and pretty marbled papers, for instance. But I needed a sympathy card to restock my stash...why does the stash always empty so quickly?!? :(

Anyway, her little gray book proved the inspiration for this sympathy card highlighting stamps from Gina K.

My second card is a masculine birthday card. Can we ever have enough of those? Ruth's banded agate book got me thinking about natural patterns, and this Hero Arts wood grain stamp popped into mind. Add a band, a sentiment (Papertrey Botanical Silhouettes), and some bright blue bling, and you've got proof that bling works on guy cards.

I hope all of you are having a lovely weekend. My own has been nice, although I happily ruined a lot of paper yesterday before I went to the IC and finally found my groove, thanks to Ruth.

So you could say I was figuratively kicking down the cobblestones, looking for fun, and feelin' groovy.

Love that song.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Catch-Up Post

Note: Jonah is turning 5 on April 12. If you would like to send him a birthday card, address it to Jonah, c/o Susan Raihala, 7430 Waterway Dr., Waynesville, OH 45068. I will deliver cards in batches once a week as they come in. He likes animals and bright colors.

As I scanned my January and February picture files this morning, I realized there are a number of cards that never made it to the blog, so this post will include the best of those poor, neglected rectangles of card stock from January.

Papertrey Beautiful Blooms II, Hero Arts Year Round
Sentiments. An experiment in placement.

Lily Bee's Memorandum set has a row of
typewriter key-like numbers, so I experimented
with making a border of it. Sentiment from
Papertrey's Birthday Bash Sentiments.

Inside of It's Just a Number card.
Hero Arts Dauber Bunch clear set using circle stamps
since I have no daubers. Look for ways to improvise!

Avery Elle's Fun with Letters set is very geometric, so
I wanted to play with an organic shape in the background.
The bling is hard to see in the photo, but it made a big
difference in real life. Leafy stem is from Hero Arts.

More fun with Avery Elle's Fun with Letters. The
patriotic colors were intended for OWH. I like this
totally flat card but think it needs bling.

That's better! The card has a side fold, so I couldn't
get the lighting right to show the orange bling on
the hot pink flowers, but it's really bright and pretty.
The polka dot circles and flower come from Paper Tray,
the first set released by Papertrey Ink.

Hero Arts Vintage Alphabet combined with decorative
tape, not washi. Scotch brand now sells deco
tape that's the texture/feel of its regular clear tape.
I don't like the feel of it, and it's harder to work with
than washi, but these colors and patterns are awesome!!!
And there you have it. We're caught up for January! Not too bad for the second half of March.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Spectrum Ink Pads and Water

When Leslie (Crooked Stamper) learned that I was enamored of Kaleidacolor spectrum ink pads, she dug out some old, long unused (and a few unopened) ones she had and gave them to me.

Can you believe not a one was already in my collection? Yippy!!!!

I pulled out an old Hero Arts shadow stamp and went to work, incorporating the OLS#3 Challenge, Just Add Water.

Can you believe the intensity of the color of the Calypso pad?

Even the Pastel pad has intense color!

But Caribbean Sea is my favorite...greens and blues, oh, my!

I positioned the shadow stamp on the edge of the card, one third of the way up after inking it and spritzing with water. Then, I put each sentiment half-on, half-off the stamped area, and added a triangle of little flower stamps with color-coordinated bling added for a bit of shine.

Easy, fun, and colorful!!!

If you don't have a spectrum ink pad, you could always color a shadow stamp or acrylic block with water-based markers and spritz. If you don't have a shadow stamp, you could improvise your own with, say, a piece of craft foam attached to a block with temporary adhesive. Would the foam give added texture to the image or would enough spritzed water even it out? I challenge someone to give that a try this weekend and share the results!!

Thanks again to Leslie for giving me these glorious inkpads. I assure you, they are well-loved in their new home!!

stamps: Hero Arts shadow, Papertrey and Gina K sentiments, Hero Arts flowers
ink: Kaleidacolor, Memento Luxe black
paper: Papertrey white
accessories: water spritz bottle, rhinestones, various permanent markers to color the rhinestones

Thursday, March 20, 2014

What Does "One Layer" Mean?

Let's start with an example of a one-layer card that makes me utterly, completely happy.

This card makes my minimalist heart go pitter-patter. But for some of you, if you made a card like this, you might respond by breaking out in hives. "Is that it?" you fret. "Doesn't it need something else?"

Not for me. But for you, it might need more to feel finished. And that is okay!

I recently had a great lunch with Leslie Hanna of The Crooked Stamper blog, and we had another marathon gab-fest about all sorts of things but mostly stamping as I rarely get to talk in person with another obsessive dedicated stamper. She's taking a one-layer design class online, and we discussed differing opinions about what constitutes a one-layer card.

Have you ever noticed how such questions can lead to pretty extreme responses in people? On the one hand, you have the legalists (or, as I like to call them, the Pharisees) for whom a rule is law and if you break it you're going to hell. On the other hand are the "it's all good" hippies who do their own thing no matter what.

And then you have the LateBlossoms of the world. We're in the middle. We recognize that rules help the world run smoothly so we respect them, but we're not about to let them become oppressive either. Sometimes they need to be broken in the interest of truth, justice, and the American way.

Or just because it makes more sense in a particular situation.

In other words, we middle-grounders consider the big-picture perspective, and often, we feel there's not a lot of point in getting worked up about these things.

Leslie makes cards on a quarter sheet of card stock and then mounts that on a card base. This saves her having to do what I have to do, which is have a drawer of scraps that are mostly the backs of failed cards. I like my scrap drawer and use the scraps well, but just because I do something doesn't mean everyone should do it. Leslie does what works for her, and I do what works for me. In spirit, we end up with the same result.

My personal commitment to one-layer cards is extremely minimalist because that's what makes me jump up and down like a giddy schoolgirl. I don't consider a card of mine one layer if it has washi tape or punched shapes on it. In my mind, those constitute additional layers.

But an extremely valid argument can be made that washi, punched shapes, and die cuts are embellishments, not layers at all.

At the One-Layer Simplicity Challenge, we stick to stricter standards of one layer (no washi, no punches, no die cuts) for one reason only: it's a CHALLENGE. The whole point is to push people outside their comfort zone to try something that is surprisingly difficult and surprisingly satisfying. That doesn't mean we're establishing the definition of one layer for all time and all people. It's just a simplicity challenge, and I hope people take it that way. I also hope they'll jump in and play along. Certainly we've had excellent participation so far!

We still have four days left in this month's challenge, hosted by Karen Dunbrook. I'm going to post a few more cards for the challenge tomorrow that I couldn't have made without Leslie's generosity.

Thanks, Leslie, for lunch, the goodie bag, and excellent conversation!

stamps: Papertrey Dot Spot, Gina K sentiment
ink: Hero Arts soft blue, Memento tuxedo black
paper: Papertrey white
accessories: rhinestone

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Abstract Art and a Call for Cards

Today's card looks strangely abstract to me, but I like it anyway! The colors really appeal to me, and the layout is, well..., let's call it interesting. That's better than weird, bizarre, or nuttier than squirrel poo.

We're gearing up for Jonah's birthday in April (the 12th), so if you would like to send him a birthday card, drop one in the mail to this address:

c/o Susan Raihala
7430 Waterway Dr
Waynesville, OH 45068

I hope all his chemo treatments will be finished by that date (with no further complications), and also that he gets the dog he wants!

Blessings to all who have sent Jonah cards in the past. What a great way to use our hobby!

stamps: Mama Elephant Trifecta, Gina K sentiment
ink: assorted Hero Arts, Memento black
paper: Papertrey
accessories: rhinestones, dimensionals

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Design Team Thoughts

Reader Joyce Lau asked a poignant question about design teams that has had me thinking all week. I'm not an expert, having been on only one design team temporarily a few years ago. But when has not knowing much kept me from expressing my opinion and offering advice? Right.

Please, if you have experience on design teams and have a different perspective, add your comments at the end of this post. It would be great if wanna-be DT members had a place to come for well-rounded advice, not just my very one-sided advice. Thank you in advance.

Here is Joyce's question:

"Would you share your path of getting onto the design team and making the decision that it is not for you? The broader question is: how did you know it wasn’t for you until you worked as a design team member. I can’t help but wondering how I can decide if my goal is unhealthy or unrealistic if I have not achieved it. I worry that if I quit too soon I will regret that I didn’t try hard enough. At what point should we let go and move on because it is an unattainable goal? To me it is an extremely difficult question. The harder I try, the more self-criticism, frustration and unhappiness will result; but it is just equally sad to learn that the goal has not been achieved. It will then lead to more blood and sweat which does not necessarily transform to success. Isn’t it a vicious cycle?"

Joyce's question makes my heart hurt for all who struggle with the issue of design teams. I very much wish I had an easy answer, but of course, I don't. All I can offer is my own personal experience (which is of limited help, actually) and provide some things to think about as a person grapples with this question.

Periodically, I look for ways to shake up my crafting. Several years ago, I was contemplating either trying to get on a design team or trying to get published. I was very much in the contemplating phase, though, and hadn't started acting on either impulse, when I was contacted by a company asking me to be on its design team for six months as a representative of clean-and-simple style. I didn't try out or compete for a spot.

I chose to accept the offer because of the timing and because it was something of a challenge. It was also temporary, with the option to extend if both parties were satisfied. The company's stamp style was not obviously CAS (the reason they wanted me on board), and I knew it would be interesting to adapt it to my style. But I felt safe that if I didn't like being on a DT, I had an easy out in six months. I can do anything for six months, right? Yep. I'm a big girl that way.

The company had excellent lead times for its DT. I had my stamps months ahead of time and never once felt pressured by last-minute requests or production delays, as can happen on other design teams. I also felt that my compensation in free stuff was adequate to what was expected of me as far as projects and number of posts.

But I knew after the first month that DT work wasn't for me. I disliked the blog hops for monthly releases and also disliked putting marketing copy on my blog that I hadn't written. I worked in marketing for years and have very strong opinions about it that were not in line with the company's philosophy. Let me stress there was nothing wrong with the copy the company provided...except that I didn't write it. Most DT members likely don't care about that at all.

Also, while it was both fun and educational for me to use the stamps and product I had to use, it was also work. After a few months, I knew I preferred the utter, absolute freedom of being a hobbyist. As a hobbyist, I do what I want, when I want, how I want. Being on a DT let me know how important that was for me and my creative identity. I'd suspected that about myself, but didn't know for sure until I tried.

So, if my very individual experience helps you feel better about trying to be on a DT or about giving up on it, well, then, YAY. If not, here are some more, ahem, intellectual things to think about.

1. Why do you want to be on a design team? There are lots of reasons a person might want to become a DT member. She might want free product. She might want the exposure in the stamping community (who doesn't want to be popular?). She might want or need recognition and validation of her talent. She might want to stretch her creative boundaries and feel that the structure of a DT will push her in good ways.

All of these reasons ignore one fact about DTs: companies create design teams to promote product. Ideally, both the company and the DT members get exposure and gain popularity, but the DT's job is to promote and sell product by representing the company's interests in inspiring ways. It's work, not fun and games.

So in my opinion, the best reason for wanting to be on a DT is that you love the product you'll be promoting. Adding a work element to what is, for most people, a fun hobby can kill the joy you feel creating.

2. Don't take anything personally. Selection processes for DTs vary from company to company. Some have competitions, and some just ask the people they want. And you can bet your bottom dollar the people who are usually asked to be on DTs are those who already have an established presence and following in the stamping community. If you're not that well known, it's going to be hard to break in. And even if you are well known, if your style or skill set doesn't fit what the company wants at that moment in time, they won't pick you. It's nothing personal. They just want to sell product.

3. Are you good enough? This is the question that causes people the most angst, and the uncertainty over the answer can shred egos in the process of getting the DT spot. Some people love the hobby and want to take their participation to the next level because they live in a capitalist, competitive society and assume that is the natural next step. But are they good enough for professional-level design work? Some are, some aren't, and others could be good enough with a little work.

If stampers don't get on DTs, they might start questioning the quality of their work. As Joyce expresses in her comment, self-criticism escalates when we don't feel successful. There is a huge difference between healthy self-criticism and unhealthy self-criticism. Healthy self-criticism makes you try harder and fills you with determination. Unhealthy self-criticism makes you feel beaten up and depressed.

I believe there are more "good enough" stampers for design teams than there are spots. In other words, plenty of people who are good enough will never, ever get spots because there aren't enough spots to be had. If you judge your creative worth by whether you get on a design team, you're definitely selling yourself short.

I also believe some people could easily be "good enough" if they took a design class or two. Not everyone is good at self-teaching, and putting yourself in a classroom setting (there are some great online classes) can improve the quality of your work. Ask a few people (not just one) you respect and trust to be honest for their opinions about your work.

Finally, I believe that we all should do what we love: make pretty stuff. Who cares if your pretty stuff is professional quality or not? It's your stuff. Own it. Love it.

4. Is your personality right for DT work? There are some personality characteristics that make some people more suited to DT work than others. For example, DT competitions are often intense, with quick turn-around times. You have to be creative on demand. Some people struggle with that while others thrive.

Also, we carry around all sorts of unconscious expectations of what the judges want to see in competitions, and in trying to fulfill them, we can totally miss the mark. During my time judging for the CAS challenge DT on Splitcoast, I saw perfectly talented entrants miss the mark, sacrificing good design to "dazzle" with a "creative" use of a product or pushing limits on requirements. Others just didn't read and follow the rules.

5. Are you valuing your joy highly enough? I'm going to tell you a story about my sister, Lisa, who started taking ballet lessons in second grade. In eighth grade, she went to the North Carolina School of the Arts. After she graduated high school there, she was an apprentice at the Pennsylvania Ballet. She auditioned for lots of companies, but never got a call-back.

Finally, one of her mentors at Pennsylvania called a friend at the American Ballet Theater, then under the artistic direction of Mikhail Baryshnikov. Lisa's mentor told her friend to pay attention to Lisa at their next cattle-call audition.

Lisa's name was one of seven called at the end of the that audition. She swears no one looked at her on the stage with 70 or so other dancers. It was her mentor's phone call that got her a call-back, not her talent. So many lesser companies had turned her down, and she felt that she was nowhere near talented enough for one of the top ballet companies in the world.

Plus, Baryshnikov, people!!!

The seven dancers were invited to take classes for a week at ABT. At the end of the week, some of them might be invited to join the company. Lisa fully believed she couldn't make the second cut, but she had a once-in-a-lifetime chance to learn from the best, so she grabbed it with joy. She focused on having fun and soaking the experience all in, not on impressing anyone.

At the end of the week, she and two others were asked to step outside the classroom. Lisa expected to be sent home, but instead, a woman looked her in the eye and said, "Misha would like you to join the company."

Lisa's graceful response was a snort and "You've got to be kidding!"

She spent the next five years of her life touring the world and sitting through physical therapy sessions with Misha on the table next to her. Her amazing success came out of years of hard work, sweat, sacrifice, blood, and pain, but it was her joy that clinched it.

So my advice to Joyce and all the other stampers who are trying to get on design teams is this: focus on your joy, not the competition. Stamping won't make your feet bleed (though it might bloody up your ego), but it can bring you incredible joy to create stuff. Never lose the focus on that joy in favor of approval-seeking through design teams or publications or other measures of popularity or success.

Because it's your joy that will clinch it.

And now it's your turn. What are your experiences with design teams? What advice do you have for those who are trying? How can stampers break what Joyce aptly calls the "vicious cycle" of hard work not leading to success?


Monday, March 17, 2014

IC432 Again

I had so much fun with Packaging of the World's website...and will continue to have fun with it for a long time to come. There's just so much there!!!!

Here is another card (in three versions) I made for the IC432 challenge. The clean simplicity of the inspiration packaging BEGGED me to convert it to a card design.


Have you had a chance to play along with the IC432 yet? I hope you do. Click on over and have some fun!

stamps: Hero Arts Year Round Sentiments, Papertrey Beautiful Blooms II
paper: Papertrey kraft, white, assorted colors
ink: Hero Arts sand, SU whisper white
accessories: embossing powder, pearls

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Why Bling?

I love bling. Love. It.

Here's a card made without bling.

Here is the same card with bling added.

Subtle. But a definite improvement.

Bling makes everything better.

Note also that the brackets on the sentiment are reinforced by the brackets on the border. I just love that bracket border punch from Fiskars. Definitely a keeper!

stamps: Papertre Birthday Bash Sentiments
ink: Memento
paper: Papertrey white
accessories: baker's twine, Fiskars bracket border punch, dimensionals, rhinestones

Saturday, March 15, 2014

IC432: Guess Who's the Guest Host?


Audrie asked me to host the Inspiration Challenge at Splitcoast again. YAY!!! You'll find the challenge here:

IC432 - Packaging of the World

I hope you'll click on over and play along. The website I chose came from Ardyth's Pinterest board. As soon as I clicked on it, I knew it would be packed full of fabulous inspiration...and it is! So thanks to Ardyth for introducing me to it.

Here's one of the cards I made for the challenge:

It was inspired by the wine label in THIS PHOTO. The alphabet is from Hero older, whimsical, clear set. This was so much fun to make!

Why don't you play along? No reason not to, you know.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Lateblossom Plays It Loose

If you've been reading this blog for a while, you've probably noticed that I'm a little tight when it comes to design. Everything must have a place on the card and be in that place...and not a millimeter to the left or right of that place. As a result, I rarely make whimsical or juvenile or cute cards.

When I bought Springtime Doodles from Papertrey, I hoped to change that. The set's whimsical, loosely sketched images are just so cute! My first run at the set was...unsatisfying, but my second take on it feels much more like me...but loose.

Well, a little loose. I think that's probably the best we can hope for, don't you?

After trying to color in these images with Copic/Bic/Sharpie markers and throwing away most of the efforts, I noticed several cards in several different magazines that took the approach of black outline images with only splashes of color. The first and third cards reflect that influence, and I really do like them. The first uses only three rhinestones for color, and the third uses a healthy spot of yellow Stickles. A little sparkle really can go a long way toward carrying a card.

The middle card utilizes my favorite classic CAS layout of all time, but after I'd colored the bugs, they still needed something. Stickles would have covered up the dots and the lines dividing the wings, so I needed something clear. Crystal lacquer is such a mess and takes forever to dry, and as I was contemplating the need for it, I remembered these clear epoxy dome stickers. Sure enough, the smaller ones fit! So much easier than crystal lacquer, and no waiting time!

I love my stash.

stamps: Papertrey Springtime Doodles
ink: Memento
paper: Papertrey
accessories: Stickles, rhinestones, epoxy stickers

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Using Stuff: Pearl Edition

There's an old, discontinued rubber stamp from Hero Arts that's just a circle made of dots. Here's what happens when you use up a bunch of pearls to cover those dots:

Colorful, simple, and oh so fun!

Go forth and use your pearls this weekend. Because you can!

stamps: Hero Arts, Papertrey Mega Mixed Messages
ink: black
paper: white
accessories: half pearls in various colors, corner rounder

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Plus Is Positive and Negative Is Negative!

Can you name that Pixar movie?

Today's cards show the difference between positive and negative.


The positive card was made by stamping the background stamp twice on scrap paper, once in Soft Lilac Hero Arts ink and once in Grape Jelly Memento ink. I cut the cross out of the Grape Jelly scrap and layered it on top of the Soft Lilac scrap. That way, all the words are there, if dimensionally offset.

I actually prefer the negative version, however, which was entirely an accident. I envisioned the first card quite clearly in my head, and then made it. Then, I saw the scraps of the Grape Jelly layer lying on my desk and thought, "Why not?"

And so it happened.

I love how you can still read the words and know what they are, even with the missing cross. His body isn't with us, but He sure is.

Can I get an Amen?!?

stamps: Stampabilities
ink: Hero Arts, memento
paper: Papertrey white
accessories: dimensionals, quilting ruler, craft knife

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Sometimes, It's All about Color


I have no idea what these arrows mean, exactly, but I love the effect of them with this spectrum ink pad from Kaleidacolor. Red to orange and back again. Then I found the sentiment from Waltzingmouse's Blessed by You set...with its staggered two lines and the word "warmed" to reinforce the warm colors of the arrows.

Abstract? Yes. Random? No.

Works for me.

Do you ever make cards that are all about color? If not, give it a try!

stamps: Mama Elephant Trifecta, Waltzingmouse Blessed by You
ink: Kaleidacolor
paper: white
accessories: not a one needed

Monday, March 10, 2014

UYS...Third Card with Summer Silhouettes

Quick post tonight after yesterday's epic long post!

I wanted to try using the tiny flower stamp instead of the blossoms that are supposed to go on the stem. I'm not sure it works (perhaps a bit more off-stamping to blend in the darker flowers better might help), but I adore that lattice stamp border on this card.

A. Dore.

And now I've used all the stamps in that set, and in the SU flowers box, so I'm that much closer to using all my stamps!

Just chugging along like the little stamper who thinks she can. I think I can, I think I can, I think I can....

Can you?

I know you can!

stamps: SU Summer Silhouettes, Papertrey Mixed Messages
ink: Memento Luxe black, Hero Arts cornflower, soft blue, lime green
paper: Papertrey white
accessories: corner rounder, dimensionals

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Finding Joy

This post started off as "random thoughts" and became something...else. I write to know what I think, and it turns out I think a LOT about this subject. My apologies for its length, but I hope those of you struggling with finding joy in stamping will find some inspiration here.

At the center of our joy in stamping lies this deceptively simple question: "Why do we stamp?" For me, the reason boils down to this:

That's right. Even if nobody cares. Of course I'm thrilled when people care, and I'm fortunate enough to have a family and lots of friends who appreciate what I give them. I'm also fortunate to have you, my readers, who encourage me and keep me blogging. But I don't make stuff for accolades or to blog. I make stuff because the creative act makes me happy.

That it makes others happy is icing...not cake.

Several world religions teach that humans were made in God's image, and God is first and foremost the Creator. In other words, we were created to create. Psychology confirms this idea. Multiple studies show people who indulge their creativity through hobbies are often happier and healthier and live longer than people who don't give free rein to their creativity. I haven't read any studies about professional artists, but I know that adding the pressure of capitalism and competition to creativity adds stress and anxiety to the picture...the opposites of happy and healthy!

Take, for example, the stamper who thinks she needs to be on a design team. She applies and applies and finally gets on one. She's happy at first, but slowly loses the joy of producing under the stress of tight deadlines, too much product, too much pressure. Other parts of her life--family, friends, work--feel distracting and intrude on her stamping time. She loses that sense of balance we need in life. The design team work becomes disproportionately important in her life, and the whole point behind creativity gets dislocated.

It's a type of cognitive dissonance that often forms without our conscious permission, and it can lead to creative funk and loss of mojo, not to mention deep unhappiness.

Our stamper got what she thought she wanted, and it killed the joy. If you're not feeling the joy, perhaps you need to think about why you're stamping. Why are you investing time, money, and energy in this hobby rather than some other hobby? Why do you have to get published, or have 1,000 followers for your blog, or be on ten design teams, or enter twenty challenges a day? Why?

When we deviate from our honest why, we lose our joy.

Some people honestly want to turn their hobby into a profession. Nothing wrong with that...after all, if the Claires and Nicholes and Jennifers and Julies of the world didn't commit their careers to paper crafting, we wouldn't have Waltzingmouse or Papertrey or awesome classes or amazingly diverse product. And other people honestly want to be on design teams, to publish their work, to be part-time demonstrators, to teach an occasional class, to blog (*raises hand here*), or otherwise to stick their big toes into the profession of stamping without anything close to full-time commitment.

Find a level of involvement in the hobby that reflects your why, and pay attention to how you respond moving forward. What feels right for a few years might get stale or change over time. I know at least one stamper who happily submitted for publication for a while and then moved on when it got to be too much. I personally felt the need to shake things up a few years ago, participated on a design team, decided it wasn't for me, and quit. The whole experience from beginning to end was fun...because I paid attention to my feelings and realized I'm just not design-team material. I learned something about myself. It was all good.

Bottom line...figure out your why and pay close attention to it over time. Don't get caught in cognitive dissonance and go rabbiting off in an unhealthy direction for you. If you do go rabbiting off (and we all do, from time to time), stop and think. Redirect. Take care of yourself and forgive yourself for your lapse. Nothing you choose has to be permanent. Learn from it, and move on.

I find, even if my why is healthy and I'm not victim of cognitive dissonance, creativity is like a ebbs and flows. When it was ebbing, I used to become beset with insecurities and worries. Will it come back? Will I have fun stamping again? Ohmygosh, will I ever make anything but pretty (and expensive) trash?

When my productivity waned, I worried about having enough to blog about. I worried that the blog was becoming boring or uninformative. 

And speaking of blogging why is actually quite different from my stamping why. I blog for two reasons: 1) because blogging connects me to other stampers in a positive way, and 2) it fits my personality. I'd never have started a stamping blog except several people at SCS asked me to start one, so even at its beginning, the blog was about social bonds. Creating a place where a few people with like-minded stamp addictions could come together to support and encourage one another seemed like a really awesome idea...and it is.

Pretty soon after starting, though, I realized that a blog was the perfect place to give expression to the writer, teacher, and humorist in me, as well as the card maker. I got hooked. Blogging fit me, and I fit blogging.

But no matter what a good fit blogging is for me, my creative muse goes on holiday sometimes, and the joy of stamping and blogging fades a bit. What makes Ms. Muse disappear? Not sure, really, but I do know that stresses in other areas of my life scare her off sometimes. At other times, she gets bored and needs me to shake things up a bit with new product or new techniques or maybe to try to get published or do some challenges or dabble in a different style. During these times, I have to seduce her back to my side, and eventually she does return.

Last fall, Ms. Muse went away, and she has stayed away for quite a while, largely because of stress and anxiety that has nothing to do with stamping. The joy wasn't there for crafting, not like it was when Ms. Muse was hanging around whispering in my ear. In the past six months, I discovered that this pin is very, very true.

Discipline and perseverance and experience got me through the last six months without Ms. Muse. I still produced pretty things (and a lot of trash you never saw, too), but the joy was...elusive. For once, I didn't get discouraged or upset by the loss of my stamping joy, which is proof that I can learn from past mistakes! Yay, me!

Instead, I suspected a natural ebb was at work, and not once did I think about sending all my craft supplies to the landfill or burst into tears because I couldn't make a sketch work, although I did bang my head on the desk frequently.

I chugged determinedly forward and trusted that things would get better. I trusted the process.

The results came even when Ms. Muse was away because I really do love the process of creating. And eventually the joy returned, too.

What, specifically, made the joy return?

That's tough to explain. Partly, it was that I trusted it would, so it did...a perfect self-fulfilling prophesy. Partly, I'm dealing with the stress in my life better. Partly, I found inspiration again. Too often, I succumb to pride and start thinking, "I do it MYSELF." Shouldn't surprise you, but that was my first complete sentence, spoken at the precocious age of 14 months.

But the truth is, it's all been said and done before. To tap into creativity, I find inspiration in the work of others and do my best work when riffing off of them.

There's an improvisational jazz metaphor in here somewhere....

A friend recently asked me to host a challenge. At the same time, another friend pinned a link on Pinterest that sent me orbital with inspiration. The combination of these two events had me stamping for joy again, reminded me that I'm truly happiest when modifying and adapting ideas that are already "out there."

Ms. Muse is back.

Your own path to stamping joy might be blocked by pride, too much self-criticism and perfectionism, too little confidence, a misdirected why. If so, here's what you can do to knock down those barriers and learn to trust the process.

  1. Revisit your why. Be honest with yourself. What do you want from stamping? Why do you want it? Is it healthy? Should you be going in a different direction?
  2. Make stuff. Lots of stuff. Don't be afraid of mistakes or of throwing them in the trash. 
  3. Try new things. Buy a stamp set in a completely different style. Try a new technique. Dive into a color you've always hated. Stir the pot. Even if your new thing fails spectacularly, you will have learned something. Then try another new thing.
  4. Rest. God spent six days creating and rested on the seventh. Walk away from your work when you need to walk away, refresh your mind and soul and body, and come back to it with a fresh eye. You might walk away for a day, a week, a month, or more. Take the rest you need to stay balanced. 
  5. Clean up. You may find your inspiration in the bottom of a drawer, forgotten and neglected. You may also find that getting rid of the trash in your craft area lightens your spirit and frees your creativity.
  6. Engage in community. Join a new crafting forum or re-engage with an old one you're neglecting. Go through your blog reader or subscriptions and ditch the ones you no longer find interesting. Go in search of new ones. Leave comments. Encourage others. An awesome way to feel better about yourself is to lift others up. Take a class; online ones are super easy and fit into any schedule. Connect with other crafty humans in meaningful ways. We are not islands.
  7. Remove barriers to play. If you act like every card must be blog-worthy or publication-worthy, you've forgotten that hobbies are about playing. Let go of expectations and standards, and spend time just playing. I bet you'll make mistakes, and I also bet you'll make some of your best work under the influence of play.
You'll get there, to that place of creative joy. You will. Eventually.

And that's all I have to say about that. What are your thoughts about finding joy in stamping? Are there things you do--not listed here--that help you snap out of a funk?

Friday, March 7, 2014

UYS Continued with Summer Silhouettes

Here's my second card with Summer Silhouettes:

And yes, I did use a stamp positioner to get the placement of the blossoms right...because I'm AR/OC and rubber isn't see-through. But it's worth it, totally, for these beautiful flowers. Just love them.

I've had several people ask for details about finding my stamping joy again, and I'll post more this weekend. Right now, I'm pooped. Must go to bed.

And I'm hoping that "pooped" isn't just a Southernism I grew up with and that the rest of the world knows it means "tired."

Bless my little heart.

stamps: SU Summer Silhouettes (flowers); Gina K Hello Sunshine
ink: Hero Arts tidal pool, lime green; Memento tuxedo black
paper: Papertrey Ink white
accessories: rhinestones, Copic marker, dimensionals

Thursday, March 6, 2014

UYS Challenge Going Strong


I guess pink erasers will work just fine for conditioning clear and rubber stamps! Thanks to everyone who took time to answer that question.


As I went through my SU Flowers stamp box for the Use-Your-Stamps Challenge, I found Summer Silhouettes, a gift from a kind reader a few years ago. I'll show the cards I made with it over the next few days.

To be honest, I'm not a fan of cling rubber stamps and have sold or given away most of the ones I own. This set, however, is an absolute keeper. The stamps are beautiful, and they are also easy to make pretty cards with. I don't think I've made a bad card with this set...a sign of intelligent design. And not my intelligence, mind you. Whoever made this set knew what s/he was doing!

So first up is a card using the leaves and flower blossoms in the set. I inked and spritzed these using Hero Arts inks and Glimmer Mist. I'm finding that the Hero Arts inks turn into distress inks when spritzed with water or Glimmer Mist. They turn very blotchy, and some of the colors are unattractive.

Lime Green and Pale Tomato, however, work nicely!

The sentiment is from an old, discontinued Hero Arts clear whose name is lost to time (at least in my craft room). But it's a useful set, and I plan on sending this to a good friend whom I've neglected lately.


Finally, I want to offer up thanks to Audrie Magno Gordon and Ardyth Percy-Robb. Though they don't know it, they helped me find my stamping joy again, and I am grateful.

So very grateful.

stamps: SU, Hero Arts
ink: Hero Arts lime green and pale tomato; VersaMagic gingerbread
paper: white 120# cover
accessories: dimensionals, Glimmer Mist (the Dazzling Diamonds color, I think)

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

A Reader Question AND More UYS Challenge Cards AND a New Challenge Blog

Reader Sue asked if a pink eraser will work for conditioning stamps, or if one must use a white eraser. I honestly don't know the answer, although I dislike pink erasers as ordinary erasers (they tend to be rough on paper and smear rather than remove pencil lead). I only buy white erasers for my own use. Have any of you used pink erasers to condition stamps, and if so, did it work? Sue (and probably a few others) would like to know!

Now, for a couple of Use-Your-Stamps Challenge cards. It took two cards to use all four of the stamps in the StampinUp Garden Silhouettes set.

This blossom branch is so pretty but really needs to be used horizontally. I paired it with a sentiment from Gina K's Hello Sunshine set and added some touches of Sakura Stardust sparkle to the centers of the flowers.

Here, I used the three other stamps in the same random way as on yesterday's card, but on a portrait-oriented base rather than landscape. The sentiment, from Hero Arts Year Round Sentiments, looks like it's being pushed up by the flowers, and the three rhinestones serve to unite the flowers and the sentiment.

Also, that the rhinestones appear on the single Tidal Pool stem rather than scattered over the other flowers helps reinforce the sentiment of being special.

On a completely different note, I encourage you to check out Virginia Lu's new challenge blog: Virginia's View Challenge. Her challenge right now is Watercoloring, which is broader than Karen's OLS challenge but still related!

stamps: SU Garden Silhouettes, GinaK and Hero Arts sentiments
ink: Hero Arts, Memento Luxe tuxedo black
paper: Papertrey white
accessories: Sakura Stardust pen, rhinestones