Saturday, 23 September 2017

Northern lights

It's time for another pink, red and green Christmas Card for the Christmas Card Throwdown.

I was very unsure about this combination when I first saw it, but it's proven a rich seam of inspiration! This is why I love the challenges, it makes you think outside your comfort zone.

This card will also suit the Berkhamsted Creative Challenge "Celestial Wonders".

I've been wanting to try this Northern Lights technique since I saw it last year, I think it was on a sponging technique challenge.

I started with my distress oxides and the challenge colours - fired brick, picked raspberry, twisted citron and cracked pistachio.

I sponged them onto my card in streaks.

My camera doesn't focus on these backgrounds well, this was the best photo of several!

I then took the black soot oxide and sponged round the outside, and a little over the lights. I used a torn paper mask to add a hill at the bottom.

For a focus, I added some trees along the horizon. I used memento ink as I wanted them to be crisp. These are a selection of Clarity stamp trees - I used the top half as I wanted them smaller than the full stamp.

Where the trees showed on the black hill, I sponged over again in memento to blend them in.

While that dried, I had another go, using the normal distress inks, to see how they compare. This one isn't in the challenge colours!

As I wasn't restricting myself, I added chipped sapphire around the edge first, then black soot over it.

This gives a deeper, more velvety effect to the night sky.

In general, the colours are more vibrant, and the black darker, so for this I think the normal inks are a better choice. Having said that, I didn't add water to the oxides - I suspect that a light spritz might activate them and give a whole other effect. One to try another time!

I added the trees as before, first and second generation. 

Once they had dried, I added stars with a white gel pen.

I also darkened the sky of the oxide one with normal black soot ink.

For a sentiment, I stamped the top half of a Clarity Christmas stamp, using versa mark and white embossing powder.

To finish, I mounted on card - pink for the oxide one, purple for the distress ink one, then onto 6x6 card blanks.

I think you could play around with the "shape" of the sky to be more realistic, and with the patterns in the colours. There are lots of videos on youtube with different ways to play with this kind of effect. But even a fairly basic version like this is (I think!) very striking and effective. 

To join in with our colour challenge, head to the Christmas Card Throwdown, where you'll find lots of inspiration from the design team and the other entries.

As there are 5 Saturdays in September, this challenge is open for three weeks, so you have until Friday 6th October to enter.

Monday, 18 September 2017

Live, Love, Laugh

The July theme at the Berkhamsted Creative Challenge was "Live, Laugh, Love".

I didn't quite get anything made in the month, but did make these bunting pieces while on holiday in August. And it's taken until now to blog them!

The idea of making the bunting is to use up some of the huge pile of backgrounds I have built up in my stash. I pulled out these three to use.

Let's start with "Live". The background for this was really intense, so I wanted to tone it down a bit. I used a white gel pen to draw cross hatches across large areas to break up and lighten the colour. It worked better than I'd hoped.

I then used cracked pistachio, broken china and vintage photo distress oxides, blended round the edges and applied though a dotty stencil.

I stamped the word with cobalt blue archival ink.

To finish it off, I scribbled round the edge with the white gel pen, and edged the words and some of the stencil dots.

"Love" was the easiest piece as the background was so pretty it did most of the work. It was made with purple, ultramarine and emerald green brushos, on watercolour card.

I simply edged the triangle with broken china distress oxide, then stamped the word in black archival and highlighted it with the white gel pen.

Finally, "Laugh". I used the rainbow background, made by smooshing distress ink with water between plastic sheets, then adding the card and pressing.

I wanted to add more texture, so tried out an idea on scrap card. Stamping with distress oxides and stencils. They are thick and creamy enough that it works beautifully, with a light spritz of water, and a bit of pressure through copy paper. You don't need an embossing machine like normal inks (which is as well as I didn't have one with me!)

I used the petite leafy swirl stencil from Clarity, and added colour in each rainbow colour to match the background.

As a bonus, I got this piece from inking up the stencil, which is now decorating my phone case!

I also blended colour round the edged of the triangle to frame it a little, again matching the rainbow colours.

I stamped the word "Laugh" using the Clarity alphabet and black archival ink. It wasn't a perfect stamp, and the spacing, that I'd wanted to be loose and free, was a bit too chaotic. The "a" gets lost.

I tied it in by tidying up the letters with a permanent pen, then edging with a yellow distress marker, then red distress oxide painted around with a water pen.

I'm still not happy with that "a", I might try to cover it with something else one day.

For a final touch, and to frame it more, I used a music stamp around the edge, stamping freehand without a block.

So, another three pieces of bunting for my shed. I used up some of my stash as well, although in this crafting session I made 5 more (not including the one that went on my phone) so I'm not sure I can call that a success!

Our current Berkhamsted Creative Challenge is "Celestial Wonders", do come over to Facebook to see what's been shared.

Sunday, 17 September 2017

Celestial Wonders

Our September theme at the Berkhamsted Creative Challenge is Celestial Wonders.

So I thought I'd knock up another couple of pieces of bunting - at this rate it'll take a while to have enough for even one side of the shed, but I guess there's no rush! I have fun making them, it's nice to have the pressure off a bit, if they're not perfect I'm not giving them to anyone, like a card or present. It's a bit like art journalling in that I just get to play.

The first started with Clarity stencil card, that I flicked pebeo masking fluid onto.

For the base colour, I applied dusty concord and chipped sapphire distress ink to my blending mat, added water then dipped the card in. While it was wet, I added purple and ultramarine brushos.

When it dried, this was the result.

 I rubbed away the masking fluid to reveal white "stars".

I cut my triangle out...

.... and blended dusty concord and black soot distress ink around the edge.

I then used a groovi tool to add white acrylic paint for more stars, and a white pen for joining lines, to spell out "ASPIRE" in the style of constellations.

I wish I'd planned this a bit more, it looks very scrawled. I think if I'd spread it out more and gone from top left downwards, it would have been better. But this is just play!

With some of the waste card, I cut out moons and stars using a punch. (I found the punch in the BAC sale last weekend and had to have it for this challenge!)

I cut a triangle from black card, and blended distress oxide over it - wilted violet, a bit of faded jeans and black soot. I then stamped a pattern of tiny stars all over in the wilted violet - the opacity of the oxides mean they show up on black.

With the same oxide ink, I stamped a "wish upon a star" sentiment. This came from a Christmas set I got with a magazine this weekend.

I cut more stars from the scrap card, and stuck all my punched pieces to the base.

I highlighted the words with a white pen so they stand out more.

So I have two more pieces to add to my bunting chain now.

To join in with the challenge, come over to Facebook and visit us. It's a fun group, the idea is to encourage and inspire everyone to have a go at creating.

Saturday, 16 September 2017

A bonus

As I mentioned in my previous post, when I mopped up the ink from making my Christmas Card Throwdown colour challenge card this week, I got a background in the challenge colours of pink, red and green.

So I decided that rather than putting it into the stash, I'd use it straight away to make a simple bonus card for the challenge.

This was the background I started with, trimmed to fit a 7x7 card blank. It has an orange tinge on the photo, but is truly pink and red, with crushed olive green, in real life.

I simply added a tree stamp from a docrafts Create Christmas set, and a sentiment from a Santa's workshop stamp set, I'm not sure who made them. I say simply, it took ages to select the right image and then the sentiment that fitted with it.

My local craft shop, Berkhamsted Arts and Crafts, had a flash sale last Saturday, and I did very well out of it - 18 new stamp sets for £15, as well as journals and all sorts of other bits. These sets were both from that haul. I'm also going through my stamps and trying to organise them into folders so I know what I have - still a way to go, but I'm already reaping the benefits as I have a much better idea of what stamps I actually have, and where to find them!

Then I just edged the card with a black sharpie and mounted on a 7x7 card blank.

Very simple, but my kind of card, I do love a messy background!

To join in with the colour challenge head to the Christmas Card Throwdown. You have three weeks to play this time due to the fifth Sunday in September, entries close on Friday 6th October.

Faux patchwork for a colour challenge

It's time for a colour challenge at the Christmas Card Throwdown. I think these are my favourite challenges, they offer so many options!

This time I wanted to try a technique I'd seen on telly - kissing stamps. It looks very straightforward - but isn't quite that easy!

I used the solid hexagon from Sam's shapes stamp set from Clarity, and tried a variety of other Christmas and background stamps for the "kissing" stamp. I had a long practice session on copier paper before I went near my good card!

Looked at overall, this is quite appealing, but any closer and you'd see the blotches, or the non-pattern.

Here are my lessons learned:

1. I started with my current favourite distress oxides, but quickly found they are too creamy and thick for this technique, whether on the solid or patterned stamp.

2. I used distress inks - worn lipstick for pink, fired brick and aged mahogany for red, and bundled sage, old paper, crushed olive and pine needles for green. They are not the best stamping inks, but when applied to the blending mat rather than direct to the solid stamp, worked okay. I also used cranberry and bottle adirondack inks on the patterned stamps.

3. It's obvious with hindsight, but it works best with a lighter colour on the solid stamp and a darker one on the patterned stamp.

4. Rubber stamps worked a lot better than clear ones for the pattern - they were more solid and squished less. Clarity clear stamps were the exception - they are thicker and more sturdy than most clear stamps, so also worked well.

5. Bigger patterns worked best - the smaller, more detailed patterns just got lost between the two inks and didn't transfer well.

After all that research, I attempted the actual card. This is what happened.

My second hexagon was a blotchy mess, and I got a fingerprint on the card!

Undeterred, I turned the card over and tried again, being much more careful with messy fingers!

Much better! Not perfect still, but very acceptable I think. I love the patchwork quilt feel, which has a lot to do with the hexagons, but also the varied patterns.

This is the main focus of the card, so just the finishing touches remained. For a sentiment, I used the Clarity word chains to stamp "Merry Christmas" in black archival ink. I used my Tim Holtz stamp platform. I find I get a worse stamp the first time, I'm not sure if it's harder to ink up the stamp, or to apply it compared to a block, but as I can re-stamp as many times as I like, I get a more even stamp in the end. The only hitch I've found is using card I've previously wet, so it's not 100% flat. It can mean I don't get an exact match when I re-stamp at times. I've learnt to be very careful to hold the card down when lifting the stamp off.

I then trimmed, added a line around the edge with a sharpie and mounted on a 7x7 card blank.

I'm very happy with how this has turned out. Having limited colours to play with has helped with making the hexagons coherent, I think too many colours could look a bit over the top. Keeping the rest of the card plain stops it looking too fussy.

As a bonus, I mopped up the ink from the blending mat, which gave me a background in the challenge colours. I used it to make another card here.

If you'd like to join in with the Christmas Card Throwdown colours challenge, head to the blog here. You have until midnight BST/ 7pm EDT on Friday 6th October to enter (that's three weeks rather than the usual two as there is a fifth Sunday in September!). I look forward to seeing how you use our colour combination.