Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Horizontal Sketch by Lucy Abrams

I love figuring out how to make sketches work with just one layer. Jessica Witty's sketch on Monday was just one example. Today's sketch by Lucy Abrams in the new Papercrafts Card Ideas magazine made me put on my thinking cap and do some problem solving.

The sketch calls for a layered border treatment on the front right side of the card, with the sentiment in the sweet spot (lower right third). All the sample cards in the magazine use multiple layers and embellishments like ribbon and lace.

To eliminate layers, I punched the front flap of the card with my bracket border punch, stamped two different strips from Papertrey's Faux Ribbon set to create the border, and added the sentiment from Define Your Life, a cool SU definition set.

Several things were wrong with my first card, which I didn't photograph. Sorry about that. The white punched edge didn't stand out enough against the white inside of the card. Plus, the left side of the sentiment looked nekkid and unbalanced. I tried adding the bracket in blue, but stamped it a bit too close to the sentiment. Then, I added a strip of brilliant blue cardstock to the inside of the card. The cardstock was so solid and dense looking, but the stamped strip definitely looked, well, stamped. The contrast was visually jarring. Not exactly what I was going for.

On the corrected card, I masked a 1" strip on the inside flap of the card and sponged the Danube Blue ink on it. It looks just like the stamped strip now...a perfect match and it keeps the card a full-up ONE LAYER!

Here's the corrected card, lying flat on the table to show the contrast between the white punched border and the sponged inside flap..

Here's a top view, so you can see the inside strip of blue.

So even a sketch that appears to require multiple layers can be adapted to a single layer!

stamps: Papertrey Faux Ribbon, SU Define Your Life
ink: Memento baby blue, tuxedo black, Danube blue
paper: PTI white
accessories: Fiskars bracket border punch, stamp positioner, post-it, sponge

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Simplicity Is Easy Sometimes

In case you hadn't noticed, the name of this blog is Simplicity. Simplicity means...well, it means keeping cardmaking clean and crisp in a back-to-basics, ya-don't-need-much-to-look-good sort of way.

Some stamps lend themselves to pure simplicity. Others take a little more imagination to get there. Two recent releases from Papertrey definitely fall in the first category. These are Harvest Berries and Beautiful Blessings. The ginko branches in Harvest Berries have a fabulous shape and several sizes, and the font of the sentiments and verses in Beautiful Blessings couldn't be cleaner, simpler.

Put the two sets together, and cards practically make themselves.

See what I mean?

That sentiment is my new mantra. "In every ordinary day there are a thousand miracles." Indeed.

And why not do the same with a Bible verse from the set?

And what if your verse is a bit larger? Just use the big ginko branch. It works.

A lot of the time, making a simple card isn't simple and definitely isn't easy. But this time, it's a walk in the ginko park.

Thank you, Papertrey, for such wonderful stamps!

What are your EASY stamps to work with?
stamps: Papertrey
ink: Memento New Sprout, Rich Cocoa
paper: PTI
accessories: not a blessed one

Monday, August 29, 2011

Vertical Sketch by Jessica Witty

FINALLY, I had a chance to try some of the sketches in the magazine Papercrafts Card Ideas for Paper Crafters. The one by Jessica Witty on page 134 caught my eye, and I made a simple, one-layer card intended for a friend who is battling cancer.

The rainbow was created with a long-neglected shadow stamp from Hero Arts (discontinued), and the sentiment is from Papertrey's Beautiful Blessings. Inside, I stamped the verse "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." (BTW, the orange isn't quite so bright in real life; it's Memento Canteloupe...darn Picasa!)

I love the image of the rainbow as an image of hope and God's faithfulness. What images do you enjoy using on cards for people battling illness? Do you stick with flowers or trees, or do you make the cards with images that the recipient will find funny, cute, serene...depending on the situation?

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Stuff, Things, and a Card

First, let me remind you that I have stamps for sale, as well as a stack of random sheets of StampinUp cardstock (current and discontinued). Just go to this page to see what's there. Many thanks to those of you who have already purchased stamps from me.

Second, a few words of explanation about my Thanksgiving cards. You noticed that yesterday's first official Thanksgiving card...was baby blue and black and didn't have the word Thanksgiving anywhere on it. My purpose for sending out Thanksgiving cards is to tell friends and family how much I love them and how grateful I am to have them in my life. This frees me up artistically a bit from sticking with fall colors or motifs, and makes thank you, thinking of you, blessings, etc. all very appropriate for the occasion. So I'm labelling these posts Gratitude Collection. Some will be more traditional Thanksgiving/harvest-themed cards, and some will not.

Third, I challenge you to create your own Gratitude Collection. Make a certain number of cards and send them out before Thanksgiving (which means you Canadians need to get crackin'!) to your own loved ones. It makes no difference if you live in a country that doesn't celebrate Thanksgiving; gratitude doesn't have to be an official holiday to take root in your heart. Think of Thanksgiving as a state of mind rather than a turkey-and-stuffing federal holiday. Have I preached enough? Are you converted? Are you going to share your love?

I'll shut up about Thanksgiving now.

Today's card uses two colors that have long been favorites of mine: Papertrey's Aqua Mist and Memento Pear Tart. The clean design suggested itself because of the tall, skinny sentiment from Beautiful Blessings, which contains all sorts of wonderfully inspiring Bible verses and inspirational sayings in a crisp, CAS font. As simple as this is, it took two failed attempts to get everything just right.

Isn't it lovely how the ginko branch descends from above just like our blessings?

In the comments, please feel free to share a blessing you're experiencing today. For me, right now, it's a wonderful dinner prepared by my honey-bunny.

stamps: Papertrey Beautiful Blessings, Harvest Berries
ink: Memento
paper: PTI white, aqua mist
accessories: dimensionals

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Harvest Berries and Thanksgiving

My Papertrey order this month included the set Harvest Berries, which is fabulous...and fabulously easy to work with.

Here's the first installment of my celebration of Thanksgiving. Some of you may already know my irritation with the fact that Thanksgiving gets lost between the hyper-commercialism of Halloween and Christmas. That's why I send so many Thanksgiving people know how grateful I am to have them in my life.

So expect to see a lot of cards with this theme.

stamps: Papertrey
ink: Memento
paper: SU bashful blue, black; PTI white
accessories: dimensionals

Friday, August 26, 2011

Before and After: Color Contrast

Sometimes the mess in your craft space can lead to inspiration. This apricot appeal card base was already cut and lying on my table, as was the Think Big #7 set from Papertrey that came with my order on Monday. I looked in my orange embellishment drawer and saw a package of Hero Arts paper flowers...and this card was born.

It's not the best card I've ever made. In fact, the more I looked at it, the less appealing that apricot was. At first, the lack of a mat bothered me, which made me wonder why sometimes mats look better and sometimes they don't. Which made me think of color contrast.

In the card above, the apricot isn't dark enough to provide adequate contrast to the white panel...there's simply not a stong enough break in color. Plus the giant orange brad in the center of the flower doesn't quite match the pumpkin pie ink or the flowers and just stands out like SU's ugly only orange color.

Which explains why the card above does not work and the card below does.

I wish I had a button dark enough to match the pumpkin pie exactly, but alas, I had to use a lighter shade. Please repeat after me: "I will not go out and buy more buttons. I will not go out and buy more buttons. I will not go out and buy more buttons."

Thank you.

At least the button is not that dreadful only orange color of the brad! Anyway, the flowers look a tad washed out in the picture but aren't in real life. I wish the flowers hadn't jumped into my cart a few months ago (it was a moment of weakness and they were on sale!). Fact is, I don't really enjoy using paper flowers...I just like looking at them, especially when other stampers use them so wonderfully. But they work for me on this card, so it wasn't a total waste of money.

Have a lovely weekend!

stamps: Papertrey Think Big #7
ink: SU pumpkin pie
paper: SU apricot appeal, pumpkin pie; PTI white
accessories: Hero Arts paper flowers, giant brad, button, white DMC floss, glue dots

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Pet Sympathy and Tips on Stamping Solid Block Stamps

Some people are not pet people. When my husband's boss--a perfectly nice person in all other respects--found out we had to pay big bucks to get Daisy's knees fixed, he asked why we didn't just get another dog.

Like I said, some people are not pet people. This card is not for those people. In fact, it's for my aunt and uncle, two pet people if there ever were any, who recently had to put two elderly dogs to sleep within two weeks of each other.


For those of you who have followed my other blog for a while, you know how devastated we were when our golden retriever Hoover passed away from cancer last year. I remember how comforting it was to receive cards from so many of you, and even though I've sent pet sympathy cards before, this time I truly know how comforting and appreciated they can be.

These stamps are from a mini set from Papertrey Ink. That single paw print says it all, I think.

Stamping Solid Block Stamps

Several people have asked how I got such a good image of the silhouette stamps from Hero Arts' Greatest Gift set on yesterday's card. Here are some tips for getting good images with solid stamps.

1. Experiment when the stamps are new. Sometimes, clear and rubber stamps have a residue on their surface that makes even thicker inks like Memento bead on their surface. A simple white eraser can remove the residue and make the surface accept the ink better. Rub vigorously with the white eraser; then clean the stamp well. Rubber stamps generally will work nicely with any quality-brand ink after conditioning.

2. On the other hand, some inks just won't work well with clear stamps, no matter how you condition the stamp. Clear stamps work best with thicker inks: Brilliance, VersaColor, VersaMagic, VersaFine, Colorbox pigment, and SU craft ink all work well with clear stamps, although I don't like the blacks for any of those brands. (My favorite blacks are Palette noir and Memento tuxedo black. The Palette stains, though, which isn't a problem for me but some people don't like that. Lots of people like VersaFine black as well, but it has not become my go-to black.)

3. If you're having trouble with SU classic ink beading on stamps, ink the stamp in VersaMark ink (which is clear) and then SU ink. It works great!

4. If you stamp a block image in black ink, and it's blotchy, you can take a black marker and fill it in. I had to do that with the shepherds on the left of this card because I didn't condition the stamp before using it, and as that was the last thing I stamped on that scene, I was pretty miffed at myself for not having checked the stamp first. But I pulled out a black marker, filled in the blotches, and no one is the wiser.

Or no one was.

Until I just told the entire internet.

This filling-in tip hasn't worked with other colors, even when I have the matching brand marker. Not sure why, but for me the corrected image always looks doctored in any color other than black.

5. Don't underestimate the ickiness of a poorly inked pad. If you're not getting good results, the problem may very well be the pad. Pads can be over-inked or under-inked, either of which can cause problems. If a pad is over-inked, take a clean paper towel (Bounty is best because it doesn't leave lint) and blot the pad until it works well. If the pad is under-inked, either buy a reinker and add ink, or buy a new pad.

6. If you're still having issues, the problem may be the paper. Which leads me to harp on the fact that buying quality paper is critical if you want to make quality cards. The cheap stuff from Michael's or Hobby Lobby or JoAnn's is, well, cheap. There are LOTS of high-quality cardstocks out there, and if you want to know my preferences, I'll be adding my findings to my Favorite Products tab in the next week or two.

And that's all I know about stamping solid block images.

BTW, I thought I'd already posted my musings on paper on the Favorite Products tab, but apparently not. Where is my head? I've forgotten where I put it. Anyway, I did a search and found an old post from 2009 on cardstock that is out of date for my paper-use habits, which have evolved a bit since then. I have some to add to the list, so don't take that old post as the Cardstock Policy According to LateBlossom.

I don't have a Cardstock Policy unless is it to try what looks good, keep what does, and collect as much as possible before I die so I win.

I imagine a lot of you can relate.

Also, thank you all for your comments on my question about holiday stamps. It was a very interesting discussion!

Sorry this post is so long.

Shutting up now. 

stamps: Papertrey Ink
paper: PTI kraft and white, SU chocolate chip
ink: Memento 
accessories: dimensionals

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Royal Christmas and a Question

I'm exhausted.

Early wake-up for the 6th-grade bus. First day of school. Son's birthday. For which I did all the shopping and wrapping today. For which I redecorated his room today. For which I am eternally grateful because he's one awesome little kid who deserves an awesome room.

And I'm exhausted.

Today's card takes its color scheme from the color of royalty--purple--to portray the King of King's birth in a very humble stable. There's a bit of bling on the star that's hard to see in the photo, but it totally makes this card.

Now, for the question. Someone emailed me about the mistaken placement of the wise men at the nativity. Technically, yes, the wise men didn't visit Jesus until much later. But this anachronism never bothers me because the symbolism trumps the facts for this English major. Kings and shepherds bowed down to worship a baby born in a manger. I like the balance in that iconic imagery, mainly because it speaks to the spirit of the occasion perfectly.

So here's today's question: Are you bothered by inaccuracies in holiday images, such as wise men at the manger or 8-pointed snowflakes? Why or why not?

stamps: Hero Arts Greatest Gift
ink: Memento
paper: PTI white
accessories: dimensionals, purple rhinestone

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

I Sponged!

My father-in-law spent last weekend in the hospital. Everything is looking far less scary right now, but this is the get well card I sent him yesterday.

Yes, I sponged.

The resist technique is lovely, plus it's relatively easy to make a masculine card with it.

How-To Tips: The stamped panel (white cardstock) was cut to size first. Then, I stamped the sentiment in Memento rich cocoa, followed by the ferns randomly around it with VersaMark ink, which was then embossed with clear embossing powder. Sponging was done with a variety of green inks (SU celery and olive and true thyme...yeah, I've still got that old pad lying around!) using both a swirl and a blot motion with the sponge. I wanted a smoothish background with hints of textured speckle, and it turned out just as I wanted it to! Finally, there's a bit of Memento rich cocoa added to the edges with the sponge for just a bit more definition.

What do you think? CAS sponging. It can be done!

stamps: Hero Arts
ink: SU celery, olive, thyme; Memento rich cocoa; VersaMark
paper: white, SU river rock
accessories: sponge, dimensionals, embossing powder, heat gun

Monday, August 22, 2011

One-Layer Christmas

Hero Arts' new set Greatest Gift is awesomely easy to use and perfect for the clean-and-simple stamper who wants to make explicitly Christian Christmas cards. The sentiments are all faith-based, and the images are silhouettes of the nativity.

My first instinct with this set is to emboss it in gold or silver, but for some reason, when I contemplated making this layout, black and white came to mind. It just feels right, somehow. And those three clear gemstones make me so very happy. It's rather bold, don't you think?

This would be an easy one to mass produce, if you go for that sort of thing, LOL!

Have you started your Christmas cards yet? Would you even consider using black and white for Christmas?

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Light Blue and Cantaloupe Make an Awesome Pair

Yes, pair. Most assuredly NOT pear.


We're continuing the idea of solid block flowers with this Hero Arts sentiment which, by the way, is an old, wood-mounted stamp that was discontinued long ago. Sorry about that.

These flowers are also from Papertrey's Beautiful Blooms. See, Sue. You really do need this set.

The flowers are arranged in a visual triangle, very much on purpose. The triangle keeps the focus on the sentiment while adding balance and unity to the design. The sentiment is stamped in SU Pumpkin Pie (oh how I love that color!), the flowers in Memento Baby Blue, and their centers in Memento Cantaloupe. In retrospect, I wish I'd layered the white panel in a thin mat of Pumpkin Pie, but when retrospect occurs after adhering the panel, it must stay in retrospect.

All aspects of retrospect leave the prospects looking suspect.

That makes no sense, but it was fun to type.

Tomorrow we're back to Christmas. That Hero Arts clear set I got last week totally captured my attention. LOVE it!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Determined to Persevere

Okay, so as I showed yesterday, that big Hero Arts sentiment was a challenge. I knew I had to make a decent card with it or how else could I look at myself in the mirror?

Yeah. I'm weird that way.

I realized that outline flower stamps wouldn't work (at least for me...feel free to prove me wrong), so I started looking at my block flower stamps. My favorite flower stamp set ever is Papertrey's Beautiful Blooms. If I could only have one flower set, this would be it. Maybe. Well. Sort of. Wouldn't it be horrible if we could only have one? What would be the point?

Where was I?

Oh, yes. I pulled out Beautiful Blooms and made this:

That's much better than yesterday's painful-to-look-at efforts. I tried to mount the stamped panel on an apricot appeal base, but it just didn't work. Tomorrow, I'll show you a similar card with a colored card base that works beautifully because it's a complementary color scheme.

Awww, I'm such a tease.

Happy Sunday.

stamps: Hero Arts, Papertrey
ink: Memento
paper: white
accessories: dimensionals, button, DMC floss, glue dot

Friday, August 19, 2011

Before, Before, and After: Evolution of a Bling-Worthy Card

You know how sometimes you have an idea? It seems like a good one, to make the sentiment the focal point and have the flower in the background, and so you dive right in. And something like this happens:

What NOT to Do.

Ahhhhhh!!!!! My eyes!!!!! Too busy, too heavy, too blech. So you try again, figuring that a different layout and color balance might help:

Still What NOT to Do.

Ewwww. Not so much. Only now do you realize that this particular sentiment will NEVER work with this particular flower because the sentiment is too heavy and the flower too whispy.

It was a good idea that shouldn't have seen the light of day.

So you fall back and punt. (Yes, I'm mixing metaphors. Sorry about that.)

Ding! Ding! Ding! We have a winner!

Now you're onto something! Something worthy of bling. The flower, not the sentiment, is the true focal point, and the sentiment takes its proper place. Balance, harmony, and pretty lines. What isn't to love?

Thanks so much for all the emails and advice regarding my friend. I've passed some of them on to her and will pass others later. Blessings to you all.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Excuses, a Request, and RAKs

Believe it or not, I've only been able to make one card since I returned from vacation on Sunday.

I KNOW!!!!

But coming back from vacation and jumping straight into the back-to-school chaos has inhibited my mojo and made me fall into bed wiped out every night, when I would ordinarily retreat for an hour of cardmaking after everyone else is in bed. Since I posted the one card I made yesterday, I have nothing of mine to post today. Never fear, however! Scroll down for some lovely inspiration in a few more RAKs I received last month.

Awkward non sequitur: I have a friend who's going through a very bad time right now. If you get a chance, please pray for all cancer survivors who are trying to move forward with living. It seems to me that the doctors nearly kill you, declare you cancer-free, and abandon you? How the heck do you process all that and move forward with living with the uncertainty that the cancer might return? As if that weren't enough, my friend's husband left her the day she was declared cancer-free. Um, yeah. Sometimes life just sucks.

Now for the request. If anyone knows of online cancer-survivor resources that might help my friend, please let me know. Links would be muchly appreciated.

And now the truly fabulous RAKs...

Check out the outlining on Linda's pretty rose...I could never do that!

Sue used one of my favorite stamps, colored beautifully, and a bit of bling, plus a great color combo!

kegbo (Sarah) definitely made me laugh with her cute nurse and blinged ribbon

Perfect coloring and outlining (again!) from Sue Berker

Thank you, ladies, for brightening my days with your lovely work. All of these will join the other handmade cards I've received this year...on my inspiration board in my craft room.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

In Memory of my Vacation

The first (and only!) card I've made since returning from vacation was inspired by that vacation, which was to northern Minnesota. A resort on Lake Vermilion, to be precise.

Before I show the card, however, take a look at my order from Creative Play. I ordered on Monday, and it arrived today, with a bit of Flowersoft Silk Ribbon thrown in gratis. How fun! Quick service and a little pressie!

It seemed appropriate to use one of the stamps for my vacation card. Obviously the Christmas set wouldn't quite work, so I used the woodgrain background (Hero Arts) to simulate...


Yep. Have you ever noticed that woodgrain looks like ripples on a pond or lake? Mother Nature is amazing, isn't she? And I saw first-hand this effect while kayaking early one morning as escort to my insane husband who swam across the bay, around an island, and back to the resort...about 1.5 miles. In a wetsuit. He could have been run over by a boat, hence the kayak escort.

I definitely had the better gig.

Anyway, back to the card. The water is represented by the woodgrain stamp, the relaxation of the vacation by the flip-flops, and the sentiment because it's true. The punched label is curvy and reminds me of hearts for some reason, and I hearted my vacation.

As for the woodgrain stamp, it works like a dream. I tried it on my stamp pad (sort of like a giant, extra-thick mouse pad) and it worked great with just pressure! Most big backgrounds require me to stand on them to get a good image. Have I ever showed you how I do that? Basically, I have a 1-foot square piece of good-one-side plywood, protected by copy paper. Ugly, but useful. And cheap. It slides under the baker's rack next to my desk so I can pull it out as needed.

But I didn't need it this time because that woodgrain background stamps beautifully!

Remember to check the For Sale Tab to see what stamps I have for sale.

stamps: Hero Arts (background), Papertrey (Day at the Beach)
ink: Memento
paper: PTI kraft, SU bashful blue, MFP white
accessories: dimensionals, label punch, rhinestones

All Stamps for Sale Are Now Listed!

See what I'm selling on the For Sale tab on the main page of Simplicity!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The Last Christmas Card for a While

Today's Christmas card should be the last for a while. I'm itching to try to some other themes, and should have time Wednesday to create something new. Coming back from vacation a week before school starts feels a bit like drowning in details, if you know what I mean.

Today's card demonstrates the principle that lines love curves. The frankincense definition is very linear and block-ish, and the flourish from Papertrey's Silent Night balances that blockiness (is that a word?) nicely. The bling, of course, needs no reason, although I deliberately used an odd number of them as odd numbers generally look better than even numbers. Generally.

I have no idea who made the definition stamp. It was on a cube with three other Christmas definitions (gold, myrrh, and Christmas). I unmounted them because the cube was hard to store and hard to stamp. Ah, the hazards of trying to store a hoard of stamps most effectively!

And speaking of my hoard of stamps, the For Sale Page should have everything I have for sale at this time posted on it Wednesday morning. It's a tab page on the blog website, so if you read Simplicity in email, click over to the blog and check out the tabs, which don't show up in your emails.

I'm giving DARLA one more chance for the $20 SU paper stack. Darla, your email address was undeliverable, so I need you to send another email with a correct email address if I'm to sell you the paper. I need to hear from you by Thursday at midnight Eastern time, or I will have to post the stack for sale again on Friday.

Announcing For Sale Page

If you click here, you'll go to my new For Sale page, a tabbed page on the main blog (for those of you who read Simplicity via a feed). I will be adding more in the next day or two, so keep checking back. There are some very good deals!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Simplicity Is the Key to My Artistic Happiness

What fun reading all of your responses to yesterday's questions! Thanks so much to each and every one of you who took time to respond. I love how this hobby fills so many different needs and how we all figure out what works for us--both in technique and attitude--as we go along the path of creative self-expression.

The responses got me thinking about how we all have different values. My sister-in-law mentioned how the women in her level of management (she's high up in hospital administration) get bigger diamonds every few years. My SIL doesn't understand the desire for ever-bigger bling, and neither do I. But it makes these women happy to spend loads of money on shiny rocks, just as it makes me (and you, if you're reading this) happy to spend just $50 on stamps. I got giddy yesterday, although I did spend slightly more than $50. But not much. Honestly.

Some of us stamp to please others, some of us stamp to please ourselves, and most of us are somewhere in between. Today's card was totally made to make me happy.

I love how the curvy letters and curvy corners mimic the dotty circles on the tree and how they contrast so well with the angles and points of the three tree segments and trunk. I love how clean the whole thing is, how white and crisp and totally focused it is. I love how simple it is. Just popping the tree segments was enough to add interest. Nothing else was needed.

Cards like this are why I stamp. I value simplicity.

You, however, are free to value whatever you want in stamping. Jump in, revel in it, be yourself. There's a cool song that says, "Be who you are; that's a part of the plan."
This might just be my new motto.

So what is the key to your artistic happiness? And please come up with something other than the ever-present "I like to make other people happy" key to happiness. That's important but not the point of this post. No, tell us what satisfies your need to express yourself with paper and ink and whatever embellishments you choose.

stamps: Papertrey Merry and Bright
ink: not sure
paper: PTI white
accessories: dimensionals, corner rounder

I Feel Shame....

Just placed an early-morning impulse order at Papertrey. And Creative Play.


I'm so weak.

And happy.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

A Personal Note; Design Discussion; A Question; More Questions; A Shockingly Long Post

A Personal Note

Happy Monday (or Sunday night, depending on when you read this). We're home safe and sound and will get our Furry Golden Sunshine out of the kennel Monday afternoon. I can't imagine the wagging and whimpering and shedding and licking that's about to happen to us. She's never been separated from us for this long.

Design Discussion
 Let's discuss the concept of unity. It's Monday, and I have two cards that illustrate the idea pretty well, so why the heck not?

First, I made a white-based card, with a white stamped layer and a cherry cobbler scallop border. My idea was to play with two sides of a card space...image on one side, sentiment on the achieve balance.

Sadly, it was a good idea that shouldn't have seen the light of day, mainly because the resulting card lacks unity. Unity is what brings a whole card together. Unity comes from all the parts relating to each other in a pleasing way. Unity is vital to clean and simple design.

Unity is the same as a happy marriage; everyone relates, everyone gets along, everyone sleeps in one big bed. On the above card, there's a big strip of duct tape running down the bed.

This is not unity.

So I used the same basic layout but brought the image and sentiment together on a single panel, or bed, if you will. Also, using the colored card base helps tighten the focus on the image and sentiment. Please note that the green ink matches the card base much better in real life...for some reason, the camera or editing software makes it look much darker than it is.

Another thing I like about this card is how the scallops make more sense, echoing the dots of the tree much better than the swirls on the tree in the first card. That echo enhances the sense of unity, too. A more graphic font on the sentiment might have worked better, but I really like Papertrey's Signature Christmas, and this little Noel fit. Plus, I like the curvy contrast to the graphic dots of the tree.

My marriage is a little eclectic. But we get along surprisingly well.

So here's an informal challenge for you: make over a card you've already made to enhance the sense of unity. It's fun!

Reader Question

Some of you have told me you opt for mass production of a single card design for your holiday cards because you would spend too much time deciding who got which card. I, on the other hand, would go certifiably bonkers making more than about five of any single design, so I end up with about 120 unique cards to mail.

Cassandra asked if the amount of bling on a card affects my choice of recipient. Well, Cassandra, the short answer is no. In fact, I have no system for who gets what cards because it would take a ridiculous amount of time to fret over it, and I prefer my holidays to be as fret-free as possible.

Sometimes bulky cards with big bows or knots or lots of bling go to people who are also receiving packages from me, or they are hand-delivered to local friends and neighbors to prevent damage in the mail.

For some recipients (very close family and friends), I do pick a Christmas card that I think they would that might be special for them or that, as soon as I finished, made me think, "Gee, Liz would love this card!" Often, these are the simpler cards because so many of my artsy friends and family have said they love my simpler designs. But I truly don't worry about how much money or product goes into a single card destined for any particular person. For me, every handmade card I send is special.

Once Christmas cards leave my hands, their fate is decided by the recipient. I don't worry about it. Some people keep them forever, most probably pitch them as soon as Christmas is over. My sister actually frames my cards and uses them as Christmas decorations. That's pretty cool, but she's my sister. She HAS to love me. I seriously wonder if I would have a different attitude if a single Christmas card took three hours to make. As it is, the CAS style means that I rarely have more than an hour in a single card (and most are WAY quicker).

I keep all the handmade Christmas cards I receive, posting them on my inspiration board in my craft room for a time and then putting them in photo boxes to keep.

My Questions

Do you consider the amount of time/money/product you put into a Christmas/holiday card when you make one for a specific person? How do you feel about your cards' fates at the hands of recipients? What do you do with handmade cards you receive?

Saturday, August 13, 2011

When Inspiration Strikes

I was reading some random craft or home decor magazine, or maybe a blog, I really can't remember. Well, now that I think about it, it was probably a blog. Anyway, someone took gold paint and painted individual petals of flowers (fake, I think, but maybe real) with gold paint. So while I was staring at this Christmas tree stamp, I decided to paint parts of swirls with gold Smooch. Click on the pic and see it better.

Of course, then I had to add the pearls, which are sort of brownish, shimmery goldish. Just a few wouldn't do. I used a bunch. As you can see.

We're heading home now after a positively wonderful vacation. I can't wait to get back into my craft room though, and also can't wait to pick up my golden retriever at the kennel. We miss our furry golden sunshine!

Friday, August 12, 2011

Shimmery Gold Cardstock and a Swoop

Let me begin by apologizing to everyone who insists on traditional Christmas colors for Christmas cards. Gold, brown, and cream may not be traditional, but I really like them on this particular card. You could make this card with red and green if you wanted, even though somehow I think it would look a bit odd. But that's just me. ;)

I love this set from StampinUp (sadly, I am on vacation and can't remember the name, but it's in the current catalog), but the image is just a little too big...if it were a little smaller or even a little bigger, it would be much easier to design with.

At least that's my excuse for having trouble with it.

This gold cardstock was a lovely surprise gift from my friend Lisa. It's so pretty and makes a fab base for this image and the punched star. I cut the swoop on the PTI vintage cream stamped panel, and popped the panel with dimensionals.

Autumn Goodness

Autumn is my favorite season of the year, and Papertrey Ink is having sneak peeks of their autumn sets HERE.


I'm not sure I'll be buying all the sets, of course, because I already have some amazing fall stamps that need love, but seeing Nichole's gorgeous post, I feel my will weakening. Plus, her post gets me all excited to see what the other companies I love will come up for this autumn.

Halloween, however, is NOT my favorite holiday. I'm a bit baffled by the number of sets StampinUp, PTI, Hero Arts, Mark's Finest, and other companies come up with every year. My objections to Halloween are not religious but rather focus on the fact that Halloween--a holiday that used to happily occupy one night of the year--has taken over autumn, leaving Thanksgiving--a much more meaningful holiday--disappearing between a commercial Halloween and commercial Christmas. Greed has taken over gratitude, and if you're a regular reader of my other blog, you know how I feel about gratitude.

I'm all about the attitude of gratitude. And right now I'm grateful PTI and other companies give us so much beautifulness with which to celebrate autumnal gratitude.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

A Cup of Good Wishes

Playing around with my coffee set from A Muse, I decided to do a one-layer card colored with Copics/Bics/Sharpies, executed on Gina K Deluxe cardstock, which will not let the markers bleed through. Can't remember which colors I used, but I love how the cup and saucer turned out.

I'm no coloring expert, but I think that cup is, as we say in our house, good enough for government work.

The gingham background (from Papertrey) was stamped over the masked cup with turquoise gem VersaMagic ink.

Design Discussion: This card is decidedly bottom-heavy (a little like me, actually). I first tried to put the red ribbon on the top of the card, the idea being to balance the design more. But that looked...odd. When I moved it to the bottom, it looked less odd., so there it stayed. Despite the uneven balance, I still really like this card, mainly because the colors make me happy.

stamps: A Muse, Papertrey
ink: Versamagic, Memento
paper: Gina K deluxe cardstock
accessories: post-it (mask), ribbon, rhinestones, markers

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

CAS Collage Strikes Again

Using yesterday's Twinkling H2Os technique, I made a background that simply screamed for a collage-style Christmas card.

So that's what I made.

I couldn't get a picture of yesterday's card that showed the pretty shimmer, but for today, I do have a close-up. The colors are a bit off from real life (not so pink, more of a red), but you at least can see the shimmery effect.

The card is 5" square that will fit some ready-made square envelopes I have.  The words are taken from various sets, including Mark's Finest and Ali Edwards (Technique Tuesday). The snowflakes and tree are from Hero Arts.

If you're looking for an unofficial challenge this week, consider making a similar collage card yourself. It's fun to play around with a different look every now and then, and you can still challenge yourself to keep it simple with limited layers and no embellishments, as I've done here.

Must say I'm enjoying my vacation. Just wish I could get some decent pictures of the many bald eagles flying around the lake. It's so wonderful to see them soaring over the cabin and teaching a juvenile to fish. If you're at all interested, I'm posting a few vacation pics on my other blog.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Quirky Technique Yields Pretty, Shimmery Results

Some techniques are just too complicated and/or messy for me. Stamping acrylic blocks to create backgrounds, however, is relatively easy and makes only a limited mess. Vicki Dutcher's blog post here inspired me to give it a try, although I didn't follow her directions exactly.

Call me a rebel.

Acrylic Block Stamping Tutorial for Twinkling H2Os

In concept, this basic technique is easy. Ink up your acrylic block using some coloring medium (Vicki suggests watercolor crayons, which certainly yielded lovely results on her card), spritz with water, and stamp. But it's also unpredictable, and you might waste some paper getting the effect you want. Repeat the mantra "it's only paper" as needed. My tutorial focuses on shimmery results with Twinkling H2Os.

1. Paint your acrylic block with Twinkling H2Os. I imagine each medium has its own persnickety quirks, but a wet medium like Twinkling H2Os will bead up on the block and look nothing like what it will look like on paper. The idea is to make sure you have enough liquid on the block that the paint pigment will spread around attractively under the pressure of the block.

2. After spreading a bunch of paint on the block with a brush, spritz the block with water and stamp it onto heavy cardstock or watercolor paper. 

3. Keep the block resting on the paper for a few seconds so the paper absorbs the pigment. If you lift the block too early, the pigment will pool into veins...think about what happens when kids fingerpaint and lift their hands off the paper. Of course, the veining might be a very cool look, depending on what you're doing. 

Troubleshooting and Suggestions

1. Experiment first, and keep an open mind. This is a technique for which an attitude of play is essential. Loosen up and enjoy the process because you might get something amazing when you least expect it. Also, you might punch shapes or images out of backgrounds that don't quite work as backgrounds.

2. Too little water on the block, and the pigment will look spotty and dark and, well, diseased. At least, that's the look I got. Too much water, and it'll look more like my card above. The color I used on this was actually a fairly deep goldish red, and because of the amount of water, I got shimmery, watery mauve, which led me to use the dream sentiment. The best "artistic" results, I think, come from a little less water, which I'll show you on tomorrow's card.

3. One variation to consider might be using regular watercolor or acrylic paint, ink or reinkers and spritzing with Glimmer Mist to add shimmer. Smooch would be another source of shimmer: just pour a bit onto a plastic plate, thin a bit with a wet brush, apply to the block, and stamp. Clean the block quickly, though, as the Smooch might stain. Stains on blocks come of (usually) with a little rubbing alcohol.

4. Paper matters here. Depending on how much water you use, you might need watercolor paper. I used heavy cardstock (PTI's vintage cream), and it buckled a bit.

Now, go forth and have fun! 

stamps: Papertrey Happy Trails
ink: Versacolor
paper: PTI vintage cream
accessories: Twinkling H2Os, brush, acrylic block

Monday, August 8, 2011

Of Pear Tart and Bad Memory

Memento's Pear Tart looks so festive and modern with SU's Real Red, doesn't it?

This card resembles others I've made using solid and outline images off-set from each other. To the best of my memory (which is notoriously bad, by the way), the idea came from one of Jennifer's OLW challenges using a line of greeting cards for inspiration. If fact, it wouldn't surprise me in the least if I made an almost identical card last year as part of that challenge.

I'd look it up except I am on vacation and feeling rather lazy. Whether I've done it before or not doesn't change the fact that I love this card immoderately. Fresh colors, classic white-on-white layout, sentiment in the "sweet spot" of the upper right corner...happy sigh!

Amy K. thought of me when she came across the following quotation, and I'm so glad she took the time to share it with me. It's wonderful, and it now resides in the subtitle of this blog because it really speaks to my philosophy of design.

"Style is a very simple way of saying complicated things." --Jean Cocteau

Sunday, August 7, 2011

A Stamp Too Far

First, you should know that this card came out of a mistake. I stamped a sentiment in the upper right sweet spot (where the horizontal and vertical lines dividing the card into thirds intersect), and pressed a little too hard. The blurry letters that resulted frustrated me, so I set aside the card base and redid the original card, which I will show you, tomorrow maybe, because it turned out pretty cool.

This card base has that blurred sentiment under the stamped panel. You wouldn't know if I didn't tell you, which is part of what's brilliant about this hobby. Mistakes create opportunities for embellishment.

So, I stamped the snowflake stamp from Papertrey's Merry and Bright set repeatedly on a narrow white panel. I matted it by stamping the wide ribbon from Papertrey's Faux Ribbon on the base so the mat would perfectly match the shimmer of the Brilliance sky ink used on the snowflakes. Then, I went a little crazy adding bling. The sentiment came next, and I thought, hey, wouldn't it be cool if I added the little single snowflake next to the sentiment?

A stamp too far.

I really loved the card before I stamped that little flake, which might have made me happier if I had placed it a bit closer to the sentiment, but probably not. Since I added SO MUCH BLING to this card, no way was I pitching it. Perhaps you will like the little snowflake.

Or not.

And that's all I have to say about that.

For those who pray...Please keep Janelle in your prayers as she battles brain cancer. She's an amazing stamper and an amazing human being.

stamps: Papertrey Merry and Bright
ink: Brilliance sky, Memento Black
paper: PTI white, SU bashful blue
accessories: Hero Arts rhinestones

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Washed Out

Some of my favorite color schemes don't photograph well. They are subtle, soft, natural, soothing, dreamy combinations...washed-out, subdued colors that lend a peaceful, calm tone to a card, and can invoke memories of times gone by.

Part of me wishes I'd win the lottery so I could travel the world and see those landmarks and museums I can only read about. My only international trips have been to British Columbia (Mother Nature at her finest) and a one-week high-school trip to Great Britain (but Big Ben was decorated with scaffolding at the time).

When I bought this stamp from Hero Arts, I wondered why it appealed to me so strongly. It's not exactly a practical stamp for me. But it speaks to my longing to travel, my desire to see the past in the present, to catch a glimpse, however weathered and worn, of another world. Travel--just the thought of it--makes me nostalgic for places I've never been.

Mellow moss, kraft, and ivory. They many not photograph in the most exciting way, but they convey how I feel about my journey: dreamy, hopeful, realistic, nostalgic. And yes, I'm enjoying my journey. Enormously.

If you could travel to one place you've never been on this blue and green marble in space, where would you go? For me, it might be Rome. I loved the layering of history I saw in London, and I imagine it's even more amazing to stand on a spot and see 2,500 years of human history stratified in one place. But ask me again in another moment, and I'll likely give a different answer. This world has more than enough amazement for many lives. We only get one life (unless, of course, you're Buddhist), and we might as well enjoy our journey through it.

Now it's your turn. Where would you go?

P.S. I will be taking a little blogging vacation this weekend. Be back on Monday!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Tweaking When Something Almost Works

Sometimes, you have a great idea. You know it's going to look super-cool and make you giggle with glee. Then, you execute the idea and, well, it just doesn't turn out quite as you wanted.

Sometimes, the mistake is insurmountable and requires the services of a circular file. But most of the time, you can work around it or cover it up, if you just think outside the box.

When I sat down to make this one-layer card, I expected to use the rock-and-roll technique to ink the oval table so it was shaded like the copic-colored coffee mugs. But when I stamped the oval, it looked icky. The darker tangelo ink didn't blend well with the canteloupe and looked awkward. It's a one-layer card, so there's no place to hide the mistake. Instead, I pulled out my colored pencils and created the shading the rock-and-roll technique did not give me.

And it is good.

Don't you love this sentiment? Caffeine sure makes me feel this way!

What is your drink of choice? I'm generally a black coffee drinker, but I also enjoy some herbal teas, hot chocolate, mochas, frappes, and other foofy drinks. 

I like wine, too, but that's a whole different stamp set, LOL!

stamps: A Muse
ink: Memento
paper: Gina K (perfect for coloring with copics because it doesn't bleed through!)
accessories: Corner Chomper, copic markers, colored pencils

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

For Those Who Prefer Red and Green Christmas Cards...

The subject of colors and Christmas is always interesting. Some people get all excited when they see non-traditional colors used on a Christmas project. Other people lock onto red and green and cannot stand to see Christmas polluted by any other colors...or even non-traditional shades of red and green.

As I make so many different cards for Christmas, I feel a certain nudge to vary the colors. If all my 120+ cards were red and green, I'd go crazy. So my apologies in advance to the purists. You'll be seeing some wacky color combos in the coming months. But today, I'm here for you.

What are your preferences for Christmas card colors? Do you get creative or play it traditional or are you somewhere in the middle?

stamp: unknown...there's a logo on the stamp, but it's so badly designed I can't read it
ink: Memento
paper: Mark's Finest 120lb white
accessories: red ribbon, dimensionals

Monday, August 1, 2011

Freaking Out in August

I hate August.

First of all, it's hot. As if July wasn't bad enough this year.

Second, the mad rush of back-to-school creates total chaos in our house. September is always so much calmer. So much more peaceful. So much quieter. And September is the prelude to my favorite season of the year: autumn. Oh how I love autumn! Pumpkins! Mums! Turning leaves! Crisp blue sky! Cool breezes! Corn mazes! Apple fritters from Hidden Valley Farm! 

August, however, does not deserve so many exclamation points.

Where was I?

Oh, yes. Third, it's August 1st, and I have only made 10 Christmas cards. Last year by now I had probably 100 cards. I need at least 120.

I'm  FREAKING OUT, people!

So expect to start seeing a number of Christmas cards here on my blog. I don't do mass production, and I have a ton of Christmas stamps, so I can get all sorts of jiggy with Christmas cards. Of course my favorites are the simplest ones. Like this.

Uh, huh. Oh yeah. Blue, baby.

So do tell. How many Christmas/Holiday/Solstice/Whateveryouwanttocallthem cards have you made for this December? How many do you need? Do you mass produce, make small batches, or make one-of-a-kind cards?

stamps: Hero Arts Swirl Christmas, Papertrey Ink Signature Christmas
ink: Memento Blue Danube
paper: PTI white
accessories: rhinestones, because bling is good