All Aboard for Inspiration!

Despite a severe slow-down on the part of YouTube’s uploading system, I managed to get the first three videos up of the projects I shared with you last week of those non-card items from our Spark Kits!

Direct link for the feed readers: Origami Shirt Tutorial on YouTube

Direct link for the feed readers: How to Make and Embellish Fold-Over Gift Tags on YouTube

Direct link for the feed readers: How to Make a Tabbed Envelope Book

And if that wasn’t enough, we had a successful (more or less) go of the new setup for the Mid Week  Create Break live streams last Wednesday!!! I’d just picked up some pieces from the remnant table of our local home decor fabric store the day before and was itching to make a journal, so I pulled out the tools from our Bound & Determined kit and did a somewhat modified version of our Coptic stitch binding. I’m still finishing up the cover stitching (decided I wanted to top stitch all the way around) but the MWCB replay is available now.

Direct link for the feed readers: Soft-Cover Coptic Binding on YouTube

I’ll be doing another live stream next Wednesday (topic/project is yet to be determined) probably going back to the 9pm EDT time slot I was using for the Periscopes.


Combining Colors

As I work on the Spark Kits that will be officially announced in a few weeks, I’ve been considering some different color combinations. I even went as far as laying out some color sets the other night, just to see what looked right.

Spark Kit color variations

Spark Kit color variations

For this first batch of Spark Kits I’m mostly starting with what I have in inventory from the CPR Kit extras with a few more things tossed in. That gives me 6 colors to work with, and I want two coordinating colors per kit.

Does anyone else remember how to figure out the number of possible combinations from math class? The image above is a big clue!

There are 15 possible combos that I could pick three of and be done. And while it’s as simple as deciding what looks best together, the reason WHY they look right or wrong is worth discussing.

Opposites Attract

In some cases it’s important to have colors that have a high amount of contrast between them. Think about your high school colors or your favorite sports teams’ insignia. Combinations like Black and Yellow/Gold, Red and White, Purple and Gold/Yellow, Blue and Orange, etc. are pretty common. Why? Because the different in the colors are easy to pick out on a football field or sign thanks to the high amount of contrast between them!

These colors are usually across from each other on the color wheel (white and black being the notable exceptions). And this practice of color matching goes all the way back to Medieval times. I mean, just think about how hard it would be to figure out which banner you were following or fighting against if the colors blended nicely on the flags and pennants. Contrast is in!

Kissing Colors

On the other hand, colors opposite each other, when mixed in a liquid form, often make murky browns and greens, eventually edging towards black.

Remember that black is the combination and culmination of all colors and this starts to make sense. If the primary colors are red, blue, and yellow and you’ve picked contrasting colors purple and yellow for your work, the red and blue that make up the purple, when combined with yellow, are a recipe for black (but usually comes out brown because of pigment strength, binders, and other stuff).

To avoid this, you want to use analogous colors, or those that are next to each other on the color wheel. With primary colors you’ll end up with a pretty secondary color where they meet (like the red and blue making purple), or if you’re working with a fuller spectrum, you can get various shades between when you pick, say, red and purple as your colors.

Shades of Grey

Of course, just because red and blue are next to each other on the primary color wheel doesn’t mean that all versions of red and blue will look right together. That’s where white and black (or light and shadow) come in. The value of a color (that’s how bright or dark it is, not it’s monetary cost) affects whether it will look right with another color.

Glancing back up to the sample picture, look at the red and pink cardstocks together. Now we know that red and pink are pretty close together on the color spectrum, but these two don’t look quite right, do they? That’s because the pink is a full-on vibrant pop of pink with a lot of white mixed in while the red is a deeper, darker version with a good dose of black mixed in. They have distinct value differences, and while they could be pulled together if done very carefully, they’re not necessarily a good match as is.

So the next time you start to pull colors down off the shelf, consider not just what effect you’re going for, and what medium you’re using to get there. There are exceptions to everything, and ways to make even the most contentious color combinations work together with some choice additions of white or black, but a few moments spent considering your options will help your colors make a love match!

More Than Just A Snowflake

Hey guys!

Two weeks ago I did a Periscope version of a Mid-Week Create Break (MWCB).

What’s a MWCB? Well, back when I lived in Tallahassee I’d invite some crafty friends over on Wednesday evenings, put out snacks and beverages, pop in a movie, and my friends would bring whatever project they wanted to work on and we’d hang out and craft. It was a lot of fun and I miss it. It’s just not feasible for my Tallahassee friends to come up to Thomasville on a weeknight and I haven’t met many folks up here, yet. In time, I’m sure I’ll be able to restart it here, but until then I’ve decided to try a virtual version.

Which leads us back to the Periscope.

An old cake decorating colleague had this rule where, if she was going to buy a specialty pan or tool, she had to come up with as many uses for it as there were dollars in the price to fully justify the purchase. It’s a good rule, or at least a guideline if you’re waffling over an upcoming purchase. Since the stencil in our Winter Whimsy kit retails for $6.99 and the snowflake use is built-in, my goal was 6 more ways to use it.

The stencil in question...

The stencil in question…

I spent 45 minutes coming up with non-snowflake-y things to do with the stencil in the Winter Whimsy kit and the materials leftover from the 20 cards I’d already made with the kit. If you’d like to watch it, you can see it on Katch (though I warn you, the audio and video aren’t syncing worth a damn).

The funny thing is (to me, at least) that the one idea I had for sure about the stencil turned out not to work at all. But I did manage to come up with 6 more designs that could be accomplished with the stencil that weren’t winter-centric.

Then, after the Periscope was finished, I set about figuring out what I could turn those uses into.

"Leftovers" remade into new and fun things!

“Leftovers” remade into new and fun things!

So far I’ve turned the little diamond shapes into mini to-do lists which I turned into a pocket weekly planner. I want to revise one thing about it and then I’ll post an actual project for it because I think it’s pretty doggone nifty!

Then I used the snowflake “arm” that I stacked and stamped into evergreens along with the random dot pattern (created by ignoring the snowflakes and just inking the filler dots on the stencil) to make the night sky card front. The border is made of nesting frames cut out of the striped pattern paper (on the back of the snowflake paper) with the middle frame rotated a half turn to turn the stripes into chevrons.

The smaller snowflakes were a cinch to turn into flowers embossed onto vellum, and some of the more spindly snowflake “arms” made good filler. With a strip of that and a little bit of all the leftover papers I made a bookmark with window and flowerbox.

Finally, I decided one of the snowflake patterns reminded me of jacks–as in the kids game–so went with that for a simple top-fold card.

There’s one last use that I haven’t decided what to do with–the accidental gears I discovered from the tiny starbursts. I’ll come up with something, I’m sure!

I certainly had fun coming up with items from the “leftovers” in the kit, and I hope this encourages you to take another look at your tools to see what else you can make with them. It’s creative “problem” solving at it’s funnest!

I’ll be giving the Periscope MWCB another go tomorrow night. You’ll find me at 9pm EDT @thecraftybrach. I hope you’ll join me!

3 Art Journaling Archetypes

So last week, when I showed you the small art journal spread in the BOUND lay-flat album, it got my mind spinning a bit more on the subject of art journals in general. I’d brainstormed a bit about creating an art journaling kit but, wow, did that get pretty massive pretty quickly!

See, there’s just so much that can be used in art journaling–it’s pretty much anything goes out there–and a lot of different ways to approach an art journal. The more I thought about it, I realized most art journals fall into one of three categories.

And it’s totally possible to straddle two types or find yourself somewhere in the middle doing all three–that’s where I am, after all, and all the examples in this post are from my own journals going back 10 years. Here, take a look at this to get a better idea of what I mean…

3 Art Journal Archetypes

The Artist

Embossing Foam Tape Experiment, ~2012

Embossing Foam Tape Experiment, ~2012

This is probably what most people think of when they hear the words art journal, and The Artist isn’t going to disabuse anyone of that notion. Artists journal their way through sketchbooks and hand-bound books of various make-ups. Words are not quite as important in an Artist’s art journal, often their journal chronicles a journey of artistic growth and new techniques and products.

In the journal page, above, I had tried my hand at embossing foam tape. The embossing went well, the removing it from the temporary backing not so much… I ended up with bits and pieces instead of pretty strips. Still, they reminded me of building profiles, so I went with it. This is the sort of thing you’ll find in a technique-focused journal of an Artist.

Artists edge over into Alterers when they incorporate mainstream scrapbooking and card making products into their spreads. Jennifer Engle (MixedMediaJenn on YouTube) shows this particularly well in her “Strength” page. When the techniques become background for lengthy journal entries they fall more into the Illuminator arena.

Artists are drawn to kits like Print Your heART Out for the tools and techniques.

The Journalist

Draining, 2006

Draining, 2006

Focusing on the journal-half of the title, The Journalist puts the words first, recording thoughts and feelings on a sparsely embellished page. Moleskines and blank books are the foundation for a Journalist’s art journal, but the writing instrument can range anywhere from a fountain pen to a Sharpie. Images, when included, will be small sketches or maybe a word drawn in ornate letterforms.

“Draining,” above, is one of my earliest official art journal pages. It was part of an online workshop I took and the prompt for that week was, I believe, the word drain. For an artist I tend to be pretty literal (at least at first glance) and ran with the imagery of thoughts dripping down a drain. And when I pulled out this book to take the picture I was delighted to see there were a lot of blank pages yet to be filled!

No Regrets, ~2013

No Regrets, ~2013

When the journaling shares equal space and time with painted techniques and drawings, but is still the focus of the page or spread, that’s when the Journalist becomes an Illuminator (so called for the Medieval illuminated manuscripts which could be quite ornate). A modern-day example of the Illuminator might be Kara, aka BohoBerry. I don’t think she considers herself an art journaler, but if you watch her Bullet Journal Flip Through I think the case could easily be made!

If the Journalist tends towards stamped images or added paper elements, they fall into the crossover category of the Diarist. You know who might be considered a Diarist? The planner community that has emerged over the last few years that incorporate stickers, stamps, and decorative lettering into their planners.  

The coptic-stitched book in our BOUND & Determined kit is the stuff of Journalists’ dreams with its leather cover and toothy paper.

The Crafter


But First; 2015

Finally, The Crafter is the category of art journal I was most surprised to find crop up over the last few years. As art journaling has become more mainstream (not a bad thing, it means more people have access to it and are exploring it), the scrapbookers and card makers of the world have put their own spin on it. Like the Artists, the Crafters focus more on skills but these tend to use more stamps and patterned papers than paints and media.

One artist of this sort that I stumbled upon was Vicki Popaiannou of Her “Take life one cup at a time” spread is a good example of the Crafter aesthetic, and inspired my “But First” layout, above, as I tried out her background technique. Now, I’d say my layout veers over into Alterer territory rather than being strict Crafter, but it definitely has Crafter elements to it. If I’d included some journaling about favorite wines or a recent wine tasting, it might be more of a Diarist-style spread.

Another example of the Crafter style is Nichol Magouirk and her Paper Doll Art Journal project.

Crafters are naturally drawn to the patterned papers, stencils, and stamp pads in our Winter Whimsy and Classic Christmas CPR Kits.

Meeting in the Middle

Of course, in the middle is where I most often find myself: The Eclectic. As you can see from the images above, I’ve spent time in all the various realms of art journaling over the last decade and range all over the styles and hallmarks of each archetype. It hasn’t been a constant pursuit–some art journalists are very committed to the form, working on a weekly or monthly page as part of their regular art practice–but it’s nice to know a blank page is waiting for me whenever I need to work something out.

I tend to use words even in my non-journal art, so my personal feeling is that an art journal isn’t complete without at least a single word somewhere on the page. A strict Arist-journaler might disagree, a Journalist would consider that not nearly enough, and a Crafter would want a nice stamped sentiment. That’s totally fine. There’s room for everyone.

What do you think of the archetypes I’ve identified? Do you see yourself anywhere on this spectrum? If so, where, and if not, what have I left out?

Beyond the Kit | BOUND Mini Art Journal

Hey, did you know that March is National Craft Month? If you didn’t, now you do!

Of course, at TCB HQ we’re always looking for and making time to be creative and do something crafty, and last night I created this art journal spread in the little lay-flat album made from our BOUND & Determined kit.

"The Invisible Artist" by Jennifer "Scraps" Vanderbeek

“The Invisible Artist” by Jennifer “Scraps” Vanderbeek

It turns out that the little hardcover, lay-flat album is pretty much perfect for art journaling! Not even something I’d really thought about when I included the instructions in BOUND. (I figured it’d be good as a photo album for instagram prints, since the pages are 3″ square.) But in trying it out last night, I realized three things:

  1. Each page is actually a double layer of cardstock. A lot of art journalers (journalists?) reinforce the pages of a sketch book or journal by gluing 2 or more together so it can stand up to wet media. Since the construction of this mini-album does that already, you’ve all set!
  2. The lay-flat binding allows you to work across both facing pages without having to fight the natural inclination of a book to close up on itself. Sure, you get that with spiral-bound books, too, but the lay-flat album does it without a gap between the pages for seamless creating.
  3. The small size (3″x6″ per spread) is perfect for a quick project being just slightly larger than an index card and way less intimidating than a full-sized blank canvas. The spread above took less than an hour to complete, start to finish. Plus, the small size means you can tuck it into a travel bag with a few chosen supplies and be able to create on the go without a lot of bulk!

A few things I did take into consideration with this layout was that, because it’s a bound book, I didn’t want to add too much bulk. While I did a little collage, I kept things pretty much flat for this layout. I may choose to add thicker elements on future spreads (after all, it’s not the end of the world if a book doesn’t close flat), but flat worked just fine, here.

I snapped some quick cell phone shots while I was working:

Prepping my pages.

Prepping my pages.

I may not have needed to reinforce my pages, but I always like to start with some pattern tissue torn and decoupaged to my surface. The lines from the patterns add a little something to the background (if they show through–they don’t always by the time I’m done) and the torn edges and inevitable wrinkles add texture.

I used to use Mod Podge or Helmar’s Decoupage and Craft Paste for this step, but I recently picked up a jar of Matte Gel Medium and finally see why all the artists love it so much! Not only does the gel medium glide onto the page much easier than traditional decoupage pastes, the surface it leaves behind is far more workable.

And to speed things up, I used my heat gun to dry each layer. If you have more time or are crafting in between other tasks, you can certainly stretch out the project by waiting for it to dry naturally. I’m impatient.

Laying down color.

Laying down color.

I had my tube watercolors still out from the gift canvases so I used Ultramarine Blue to paint over the tissue layer. The thinned paint did a great job of tinting the page all-over, but then I used some of the more concentrated color along the corners and edges to create a vignette effect.

The focal image.

The focal image.

While I suppose I could have (and often would have) flipped through a magazine for an image to add to the spread, this time I sketched out my figure and painted the entire shape with opaque white acrylic paint to create a neutral background for the oil pastels since my background was on the darker side.

"The Invisible Artist" by Jennifer "Scraps" Vanderbeek

Finishing touches.

Again, I could have cut words out of magazines or even gotten out my old Olympus manual typewriter, but I was in the groove, had a couple strips of paper laying around, so I just grabbed a pen to write out my message. See, that’s the thing about art journaling, there are plenty of options and no right or wrong way to go about it, you just get in there as see what works.

The words are applied with more gel medium and then edged in black watercolor crayon (they worked better on this layer than the oil pastels). I also added some metallic Sharpie details to my figure–the dashed lines remind me of how the illustrator of the Casper the Friendly Ghost books I had as a child emphasized that he was there but not there, since he was a ghost and all.

This spread was all about visibility–do the people around us really see us for the creative beings we are? And if they don’t, is it their own preoccupation blinding them or are we flying under the radar intentionally? That’s where the power comes in: the power to surprise, the power to selectively share those vulnerable parts of ourselves with others (or not), and the power to create without the expectations of others weighing us down with all their shoulds and can’ts and don’ts.

Or maybe it’s own expectations and can’ts that keep us from creating?

In honor of National Craft Month, our own ongoing mission encourage you to create more, and because I had so much fun with the last giveaway, we’re going to have a contest this month. It’ll be announced tomorrow on our Instagram feed (if you’re not down with the IG, it’s okay, we’ll do another contest on another platform another time, or you could use this as a reason to sign up!) so make sure you’re following @thecraftybranch to be able to enter and win!

Wishing you creative days!