Saturday, July 21, 2012

Work in Progress Weekend

You haven't seen much from me lately, but that's because I've been busy with a new job that has me really tired, househunting because we need to move, and knitting my biggest project yet... for myself.  I'm doing a sleeveless cotton sweater!

I've got the back done.

And I'm about 6" into the front.  I can't wait to be able to model it for you all!

Meanwhile, tomorrow Reef Botanicals & Fabric of my Mind will be back at the Carlstadt Fresh Air Market.    We'll be there 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., so if you're in the area, come visit!  I'll be the one hanging out behind a plethora of soaps, salts, scrubs, masks, and washcloths.

Craft Wars: Episode 4

This episode was one that one after my own heart for both challenges.

The pop challenge was to design a keepsake box from keys and locks.  From the time I was a kid, I was a collector of little boxes full of my stuff.  I'd keep old keys from my first car, the musket ball I made to a colonial town on a class trip in grammar school, a dog biscuit my little sister pretended was a gift to me from our first dog, European coins.  I've had wooden, metal, plastic, glass, and ceramic boxes for them.  I used to have a collection of little boxes on my dresser, now just two.  But I definitely understand the keepsake box idea.  Personally, I'd have grabbed some crazy glue and made the boxes of locks and keys, built them up into a small box with an unattached lid.

That's not what the contestants did, but they had some good ideas.

I still can't decide which was my favorite between the two that kept their creators in.  The one the judges seemed to appreciate most was this gnome house.

One side of the roof flipped up as the lid.  The locks and keys were slight embellishment rather than structure - again - but it was definitely cute and well done.

The other one I really liked was this sandcastle box, which I think is adorable.

I love that the locks actually form the turrets and add to the shape of the box, rather than just being stuck on randomly.  And I liked that it was nicely lined.  Dark blue and tan is a great color combo.  And honestly, unlike the judges, I see no problem with the sand-colored felt covering.  Not everything has to be hot pink and full of glitter.  Sometimes understated is the way to go.  It's perfectly reasonable for a sandcastle to look like... well... sand.  And more than anything else, I really appreciated that when the original plan to paint the box using green paint and a "stencil" of lace didn't work out, she recovered and came up with a new plan on the fly, not easy with a one-hour challenge.  I know she was criticized for trying glue and felt over wet paint, and I know you could see a bit of green seeping through the felt, but overall, she did the best she could with what she had and thought fast.  That's a valuable skill in a competition like this.

I just wish I'd been there to help with the original paint-and-lace plan, which could have been cool.  After all, I'm used to using unconventional "stencils."  I regularly use punchinella to create monster and lizard scales on my face paintings, after all.

The trick is to make the paint you're using with a stencil a little more dry than you normally would want it.  That way it won't seep under the edges.

Sorry I'm being so wordy, but I suppose I've been avoiding the third pop challenge entry.  It was... well... it was... Oh hell, it was atrocious.  I really don't like to insult people, especially other creative crafty people, but this was bad.  It was kind of a contrived idea, since I've never known a tooth pillow to need a case.  And a fallen tooth isn't actually a "keepsake," per se.  It's not like kids want to keep their teeth; they want to trade 'em in for the prize money.  I don't mind the actual theme of the box, though.

It wasn't all her fault, I suppose.  It's tough when you have to delegate.  When the friend she brought as an assistant showed her that felt tooth that was going to be used on the pillow and asked if it was OK, I could see in the crafter's face that she really wanted to say no.  She just knew she had no time to redo it.

I don't think I've ever seen a tooth pillow, though, without a pocket for the tooth.  It's not a ring bearer pillow, people.  And even those have ribbons to tie on the rings.  Think about the logistics of this sucker.  Tooth falls out, kid pouts the tooth on the pillow & closes the lid.  Kid goes to sleep, expecting a home-invading fairy to show up, spirit away the tooth, and leave some dough.  Parent posing as tooth fairy sneaks into sleeping kid's room, wrestles open the box lid, and - oh no! - the tooth has rolled off the pillow and become secreted beneath.  Parent's got to fish around, wasting time and risking waking and un-deluding the poor kid, find the tooth, leave the money, and put the lid back.

Not the best idea.  And the randomly stuck-on keys on the wings?  I didnt' get 'em either, much as I liked the keys used as a wand.

I liked the crafter, but was definitely not fond of her craft.  The judges were right to cut her loose.

So... the big challenge, also close to my heart.  Wedding!  Yes, I know Eric and have been married for over 3 years, but I can't help it, I still love wedding-related stuff.  Shows, talk, pretty much everything.  So I was happy at the concept.  And I liked the idea of using old/new/borrowed/blue in the form of baby blankets, invitations, candlesticks, and jeans to made something wedding related.  Not easy, especially those damned candlesticks that initially confounded both contestants, but cool.

So... sandcastle crafter chose to make a photo booth setting.  It was pretty nifty and a decent idea.  And I really wanted her to do well.  I loved her signs and garlands, but I think as a background for the photo booth  those garlands would be too busy.  And I agreed with the judges that the bench cover was terrible, uneven, and just thrown on and the pompoms kind of didn't work.

Her use of the candlesticks, though, was phenomenal.  I think that might've been the best single detail between both of the challenge crafts.  She rigged them with light bulbs, flipped them upside-down, and used them to light the photobooth from the top.

The other contestant chose to do a wishing tree.  It was a neat concept, though I agree with the judges that the structure of the tree itself wasn't all that aesthetically pleasing.  But I did love the fabric flowers and the garland.  Unfortunately, the only photo on the TLC site kind of sucks.

They really needed to get a photo of this against a white or black or other solid background, 'cause it looked kinda pretty on the show from some angles, much more so than in this shot.  And the candlestick holder for notecards was very cute.  I do agree that hot glue wasn't the best option to hold together the candlesticks and that more fabric flowers showing better among the garlands would've been better.  But though it was a close call, I really felt this one should win.  Yet again, I don't agree with the totality of the judges' critiques, but I do agree with the results.

I was thinking about this.  If I was the contestant, I think I would have made all the floral decor for a wedding.  Fabric & paper flowers from the jeans, blankets, & invitations... and then vases & bases from the candlesticks.  I'd make centerpieces, bouquets, and ceremony decorations.  It wouldn't be one big structure, but as far as I could see from the rules, there was no instruction that it had to be.

So whatcha think?  What would you make?

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Craft Wars: Episode 3

Yes, yes, I'm late this time 'round, but hey, bonus!  Two Craft Wars posts this week!  Right now, of course, I'm talking about last week's episode, wherein the pop challenge required the contestants to build toy boxes out of toys.

This was the biggest and most involved one-hour challenge they've tried so far.  Remember, the first week they had gym bags made from gym equipment, then birdhouses made from junk drawer items.  And now full on toy boxes.

I was really happy to see that my favorite one didn't get the crafter sent home, despite the admonitions against her use of felt and spray glue.

Her lagoon monster was just too cute, and definitely the cleanest looking of the three, at least from the vantage point of my living room couch.  I loved the mouth opening & xylophone back, as well as the cardboard brick scales and paddle fins.  I loved the colors and the concept, and think for a single hour, it was executed damn well.

I also thought the robot toy box was very cute in the end, despite his mishap with the wind.

I love the face and antenna, the spring arms, and the fact that he's got two sections for toys.  But again, like the issue I had with the birdhouse challenge, I think using foam core for the structure was a copout move.  In fact, the crafter admitted that she used it because it was faster than wood.

Also, with the initial instruction that the box has to hold up for real, it baffled me that the fact that nothing was said about the fact that foam core for a real toy box wouldn't work; a couple of rowdy kids would beat that thing up in two seconds flat.  And with how the judges harped on the unlikeliness that felt would hold up on a toy box, how could they not question foam core?  On top of that, only the briefest mention was made of those wobbly cardboard legs, when we saw right on screen how unsteady that robot was.  Filled with toys and topheavy, that box would likely land on some kid.

In the end, though, I really wanted the guy to go home.  He builds castles for a living and still didn't properly put together 3 pieces of wood to make a box.  I get that a triangle is funkier than a rectangle, perhaps, and maybe he was going for originality of design, but honestly, a triangle box just really required beveled edges to avoid his fatal flaw - those awful spaces between the sides.  Had he made a rectangle, he could have avoided that problem.  Two other problems I had with his box... for a guy who's not used to covering things in felt (an advantage the monster box creator had, which explained her affinity for the stuff), why on earth would he do that?  The judges were right:  paint.  And yeah, I know he wanted to use felt as a quickie lid for the thing, and maybe he felt that aesthetics called for carrying it through to the walls, but that lid was pretty bad anyway.  Oh, my last big problem with his - if you've read my earlier posts regarding Craft Wars, you may know what it is.  I really can't stand it when the crafters don't use the challenge items in the design, and just slap it on because they're forced to use it.  That's what it looked like this guy did.  "Oh, crap, we need to use these toys!  OK, let's paint 'em so they blend in and stick 'em on randomly."  That's not ok to me.

And something tells me that when Tori Spelling tells you you need to stretch your felt neater... you need to stretch your felt neater.  Take heed, future contestant's.  Tori told the maker of the monster box to line the inside, she did, and she stayed.

But yeah... with all the issues I saw with glitter chick's box, I still was not rooting for this guy.  Oddly, even with all my issues with the show, I do tend to agree with the judges' decisions.  We just apparently reach them from different routes.

Speaking of which, I agreed with their final decision too, on the challenge to make pet mansions from pet items.

Don't get me wrong, I much preferred the California girl's pet condo in terms of design and the clean look.  I'd own hers over the winner's any day.  It's much more my style.

How awesome is that thing?!  Had this chick had one more hour, it'd have been totally gorgeous.  But I knew she was in trouble as soon as she used spray glue for the fabric wallpaper.  See, in the first challenge, Tori said to line the inside, chick lined the inside, and she stuck around.  But the judges admonished her to only use fabric glue with fabric.  This time, she didn't listen, and see what happened?  Also, I had to agree with the judges:  the upstairs needed embellishment and there again was that fatal flaw for me:  She didn't much incorporate the challenge items as elements.  Yes, she turned stuffed animals into beds and made some new stuffies to hang in the cat's apartment.  But that was really it.  Laying bones and bowls in the joint doesn't really "incorporate" the elements into the design, per se.  But man, it sure was a gorgeous design.  And I know Meg, Hunter, and Catimus would love it.

I knew glitter chick was going to win, though.  Although she also didn't listen and insisted on using her spray adhesive for all that crazy glitter, and although her mansion was very much not my style, not as clean, a little clashy in color (I really wish that entrance curtain wasn't red), and somewhat messy... chick incorporated the challenge pieces.

From balls as front yard decor to glittered (of course) milk bone embellishments to a mat made of woven leashes, she used her stuff.  I have to say, while the judges went nuts for the leash mat, I kinda really loved the table with a base made of newspapers and tennis balls.  That's what I personally like to see; the elements used in construction, not just stuck in 'cause they gotta.

So... though I really liked the condo better, I think the glitter castle was the right one for the win.


Sunday, July 8, 2012

Artist Spotlight: Part Eighty-Five

Wow, 85 artist highlights I've brought you.  Not bad.  Today's is a new one on this blog, HippiesCreations.

The shop is on HAF, but it's based in Central Virginia.  The artist behind Hippie's Creations was raised near Frankfurt, Germany, with a diverse upbringing.  She started crafting as a child and crocheting at 17.  This is the focus of her HAFshop, and look.  The sheer diversity of what she makes is really something else.

I love her hat styles, like these two summer hats.  The one with the floppy brim is just adorable!

And her clothing is so cute!  I don't think I've ever seen a crocheted mini skirt before!

Another new one for me is this star-shaped baby afghan.  So cute!

She's got ultra useful stuff too, like this purse, laptop sleeve, and coffee cozies.

And on the other end of the spectrum are these stuffed sheep and monster, aren't necessarily necessary, but holy crow are they cute!  That monster face!

She's also been woodburning since 2005, making hemp jewelry since 2004, and fine jewelry since 2006.  I'm kind of hoping to see that stuff in her HAFshop too!  She draws, paints in watercolor, and uses polymer clay.  She makes me look single-faceted!

In between all that, she's a mom of 4 boys, one old enough that he's in the armed forces, and the youngest a special needs kiddo who's 8.  And while doing all this crafting and raising her four boys, this amazing woman had obtained her BA in accounting and MA in mental health counseling.  The woman is an inspiration!

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Craft Wars: Episode 2

I'm late blogging about this this week, though I did watch it Tuesday night.  I've just been so busy and so tired.  At any rate, on to my take...

This week, the one-hour challenge was to build a birdhouse using the contents of a junk drawer.  I thought this was pretty fun, and was happy that their junk drawers contained a lot of the same crap that mine always do, so I felt like it was legit.

I did have two problems with this challenge, though.  The first is that they say "make a birdhouse using this stuff... and it always seems like the contestants build something and then decorate it with the stuff in the drawer.  That's a valid use, I suppose, but really I'd expect the construction to include the junk drawer contents, not just the decoration.  Now that would be a challenge.  That would be more like the "turn a shirt into something new" challenge that I won oh-so-long ago when I made the puppet.

On the other hand, making the challenge more the way I'd prefer would also affect my second issue with this challenge, which is that either we as viewers aren't hearing the complete instructions the contestants are given, or the contestants aren't being given clear instructions, which isn't really fair.

Correct me in the comments if I'm wrong, but all ll I heard was something like "build a birdhouse using this junk drawer stuff."  All of a sudden during judging, the ability to use the birdhouse outside became an issue.  As far as I heard, they never said, "it has to be viable to be used outside."  There are birdhouses, after all, that are 100% decorative and can be hung in green rooms or around areas of the house that are heavy with indoor flora, just to be cute.  To not make this clear and then criticize the use of unprotected playing cards on the outside of this absolutely adorable house is kind of obnoxious.

And if usability was a big issue, then this house, although too overdone and hodepodge on decoration, should have kept its maker in instead of booting her before the big challenge.

Because honestly, the birdhouse that kept the male contestant in, while cute but not at all my style, was 100% unusable outside after the first rain.  It was made from foam board and paper, which I honestly think was a copout way to work quickly and easily while the women were hammering away at their wooden houses.

It kind of annoyed me that the chick was booted while this guy got to stay.

He redeemed himself, though, during the five-hour challenge.  Seriously.  The challenge was to make patio furniture out of beach toys.  And dude, his was genius.  And really beautiful.

This challenge he didn't shirk on.  I loved that boogie board chaise, and I love the bar stools.  Even having a couple beach balls and buckets strategically placed as decoration works.  The guy knows how to work with metal, that's for sure.  And he knows how to set up aesthetics.

Unlike the judges, though, who seemed to be looking for things to criticize in the furniture set made by the female contestant, I didn't find anything wrong.

Like the judges, I love her wave table, bar stools, and pillows.  Unlike the judges, I also love her couch and bar.  I agree that the towels shouldn't have been thrown over the netting, but disagree that the rope doesn't go.  Of course rope goes with beach themes.  Or at least marina themes.  Ropes are HUGE on boats, and used liberally in sea themes.  So I got it, even if they didn't want to.

Really, this one for me came down to a matter of taste and it was a close call.  In the end, I think the right person won, but it was by a nose.
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