Monday, August 25, 2014

Playing with clay

In this post, I'm linking up with both Celtic Thistle Stitches and Missy Mac Creations for the HO HO HO and on we sew linky party and the new to me in August linky party because this month's Christmas gifts were done in a medium that I really don't have that much experience in; clay.

After I bought a ginormous block of white clay (apparently they don't just sell little blocks), I had more than enough for everyone to make something.  I couldn't let the kids have all the fun alone so I went ahead and made a little bird bath ring holder with some left-over clay for above my kitchen sink.  Right now, it's holding some buttercups that my son picked for me, but I just want to share the results of my dabbling with ceramics with everyone here. 

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Nope, clay is not something that I work in a lot.  Turns out that the whole process is a lot more involved than I originally intended since I had to drive over an hour away to drop off and pick up the masterpieces for two different firings, but I had a few projects in mind that I really wanted to do with kiln fired clay (not oven baked) and so we bit the bullet and focused on two main projects.

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The first project was making a hand impressions for each of my children.  My mother has ones that we did as kids, and I wanted to do some too while the kids are still little.  I tried to do this a while back but someone else's project exploded in the kiln and ruined my stuff :(

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Hence, this time I rented out the whole kiln for just my stuff so that all these Christmas gifts that the kids made didn't get ruined again (plus, we made a lot of items since I had to use up a 25lb brick of clay).  I love all their little creations, and they are all excited about giving something hand-made to the grandparents.

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The main Christmas project that I got done were these fingerprint Christmas tree ornaments that my oldest helped me to paint and glaze before firing.  There's an ornament for each grandchild and one with where my husband and I made a heart shape with our thumb prints.

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I love sweet sentimental gifts like this and I think that the grandparents are really going to enjoy them.  I'm glad that we took the time to do these with kiln fired clay because the quality is just great, but it is a much more involved process than doing this same thing with oven baked clay.  I don't know if I'll be doing this again anytime soon, but we all enjoyed trying something new, and I think that everyone's gifts turned out great.  

Sunday, August 17, 2014

2 twisted wine cork wreaths

While I was in California last year visiting with my family, I got the chance to make my parents a really BIG wine cork wreath to hang over their living room fire place.  The space demanded a big wreath, so I made one using a pool noodle and larger child sized hula hoop as the wreath form.  I wanted a lot of movement in this wreath so instead of just stacking the corks symmetrically around the form, I twisted them around it.  I'm revisiting this project now because I just finished making a smaller version for my apartment door.  I love how both wreaths turned out and I have a few little tips to share with everyone that I learned along the way.

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Tip 1: Burlap

As you can see, I covered the form with wide burlap ribbon so that the corks would have something to grip onto when I hot glued them down.  The burlap is also the perfect color base for the wreath so your gaps don't show the pool noodle color (no one wants blue pool noodle poking out form under their cork).

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Tip 2: Sort your corks

The part that I found the most fun was choosing the individual corks to go on the wreath.  There are so many really cool ones out there to choose from; plus, I put a few special ones on the wreath too.  

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But, before you start gluing, sort out the small, long, and special corks.  As I put the corks around the wreath, I found that sometimes I needed a smaller or bigger one to make my row fit right.  I even had to cut a few corks down a bit to finish my row, but I always hid those ones at the back.

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Tip 3: Placement

I did a lot of looking around the internet at different cork wreaths before I designed this one and I didn't see any that twisted the corks around like I did here, maybe it's because getting the placement right is hard.  If you're using a pool noodle like I did then I found that 6 corks per row was just perfect.  Once you get your first few rows in place it's important to make sure that you re-adjust  your corks as you go so the angle stays the same all the way around.  Because corks are not all uniform in size, it's easy to loose the angle.

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Tip 5:  Add a hanger before you glue the last few rows.

It took exactly 365 corks to cover this wreath, two bags of full sized glue sticks (not minis), and three days that involved wine and margaritas.  I blame the spot that got a bit wobbly on the margaritas :)  Just a note. This wreath turns out pretty heavy so make sure to use a sturdy length of wire to make a hanger before you add the last few rows of cork.  There is no good way to wrap a wire around the corks after you finish.


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Tip 6: Support the weight at the top and bottom

Even though I loved this wreath plain, I wanted to add a few wine country touches with grapes, leaves, and even a humming bird.  I love the little hummer because my parents always have a zillion hanging around their feeders.  When we hung this wreath, we used a 25lb picture frame hanger at the top, but also supported the weight of the wreath with a nail at the bottom to keep the wreath from sagging.  The bottom just sits on a large nail secured into the stud.  

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Tip 7: Choose a very even form

When I made the smaller version of this wreath for my front door, I only supported it from the top, but I used a lot of the same construction tips from the big wreath.  I only wish that I hadn't used a straw form because it is not uniform enough all the way around to keep the corks from getting off track.  I should have made another pool noodle form or bough a foam form so that I didn't have to deal with the the wobbles in the straw.

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I love how the door version turned out too, and I'm happy to have a nice wreath to celebrate the end of summer for my door.  I hope that my tips can help you make your own wreath to decorate your home.

How everyone else is celebrating the last part of summer?  Any special trips, activities, or projects planned?  

Thursday, August 7, 2014

August Illustration

So, just doing a quick share today.  It's been a few months since I posted a monthly illustration, and this month's was inspired by our upcoming move back to the USA.  Yep, it's official.  We'll be moving back to Texas (where it all began for my family)  in November.  I'm going to miss Germany, but I'm also ready to be with our family back home.

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We just told our families today and everyone is excited.  My brother-in-law is especially happy that everyone now knows because he's been keeping the secret for the last week while I finished the moving announcement.  I think it was totally worth the wait so we could share the news in a cute way, and my husband understands my particular brand of crazy enough to go along with me.  He's a good guy :)

I really, really can't believe that it's already August!  Summer has just flown by, and I can honestly say that this is one of the best summers that I've had in a really long time even with all the rain we've had over the last month.

We went to the Alps for vacation and hiked all over for a week. I could absolutely see myself living there it was just so beautiful.

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We also visited a few museums in Innsbruck, Germany and they had the most beautiful antique spinning wheels on display.

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It's amazing the level of detail in so many antique pieces which is missing from today's utility items and tools.


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Okay, I think that I've tortured you enough with my holiday photos, but really look how much work went into carving this spinning wheel!  :)

What were you all doing this summer.  Projects? Trips?  I'd love to hear about all your adventures. :)

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