Monday, April 18, 2016

North County Mini Maker Faire is Coming

Another Maker Faire is coming to Southern California! Calling all Makers! And if that weren't exciting enough, this event will coincide with the Antique Gas & Steam Engine Museum's annual Tractor Show! The North County Mini Maker Faire will be a special exhibit of an already awesome and popular event, featuring steam engines, weaving, antique tractors and vehicles, and the fabulous blacksmithing barn.

On any given day, the Antique Gas & Steam Engine Museum is a terrific place to visit, to meet craftsmen, makers, weavers, engine, tractor, and history enthusiasts. I expect during the Mini Maker Faire and Tractor Show there will be amazing opportunities to connect with creative and enthusiastic makers, tinkerers, friends.

You do not have to be a participant to enjoy a Maker Faire. It's an affordable, interesting, and inspiring way to spend a day or two, to meet new friends, and discover what's new, or old, and who how things work. Very often there are hands on activities, and opportunities to explore the latest technological advances, or the basics of making, from cooking to crafting, forging to farming.

Come celebrate!
2016 Antique Engine & Tractor Show
North County Mini Maker Faire!

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Make Memories With Embroidery

When Maria doodled this darling quartet of kitties, I fell in love with their cool cat style. But, art on a white board is interim, and I really wanted these guys to last. First step: I took a picture of them. I love having photographs of my children's art, a keepsake I can share, and enjoy. But, I was still feeling a need to have the kitties around, so I decided to embroider them on a tea towel. It's easy to do, and makes a thoughtful gesture of admiration for anyone's doodle art.

*The cloth I used was from the kitchen supplies (oven mitts, and dishcloth aisle) at Target. Four cotton, square cloths were sold together, and I like them for covering rising dough, drying dishes, wrapping up baked bread, tortillas, covering bowls of prepared food at a picnic. These sort of towels come in different qualities of cotton, and this particular one was a bit too light... the weave is very lose, and almost gauze-like. In retrospect, I would have looked for something a bit heavier, more stable.*


  • Cotton cloth
  • photocopy of art
  • pencil
  • tape
  • embroidery floss
  • embroidery needle
  • embroidery hoop
  • a light box or a bright window pane
Our improvised light box.
I made a black and white print of Maria's kitties, and taped the picture to a bright window pane. Next, I centered the dish towel over the picture, so that I could trace the kitties onto the cloth with a #2 pencil (The pencil lines wash out.) I didn't change the size of the original kitties, but you can choose to increase or decrease the image before printing it, if it will look better, or make embroidering your image easier.
Here are the kitties, traced from my make shift window pane light box! Because this cloth is so light, and the weave is uneven, it wanted to shift around a lot. Holding it down, with my hands, and more tape helped to stabilize it, but you can expect it to be an imperfect reproduction; fix any wayward lines as you go.
The hoop keeps the cloth stable, so I can keep my stitches even and taut. I had to be careful not too over stretch the cloth... again, this was due to how light and open the weave was. The dish towel warped very easily. I used a slip stitch to embroider Maria's drawing, outlining each figure in three strands of black embroidery floss. A back stitch would work nicely, too.
And here they are... looking as adorable as ever. After a run through the wash and dryer, you can see this cotton is quite irregular, and wrinkly, but I think it's all pretty adorable just the same. Embroidery is not hard to learn, and there are beautiful, inspiring books out there, like Alicia Paulson's Embroidery Companion. The charm of this project is how simple it is, but if the idea of embroidering is too much, consider bringing out fabric markers. Your artist can make original art directly on the dish towels, or you can trace a favorite piece using the same light box technique!

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Make Stamps

Playing! Experimenting. Messing up. Trying again. Learning...

I am collecting supplies for stamp making, and print making. It can be as simple as having a sheet of rubber, carving tools, and an ink pad. This time, to make the pig, I traced a sticker of a pig, drawing with a pencil. Then I used my Speedball cutting tool (sold for linoleum carving) and slowly, peeled away the outline of the pig and details. The tool is too big for the tiny piece and details I want to carve, so the effect is what I like to call "rustic." Let's be clear: I am not ready to post tutorials, but I am excited to share the beginning of my journey.

The other thing I tried is making a bigger image to print from the lid of a Styrofoam food container. Humbling! I learned this method when I was an art volunteer in Maria's fifth grade class; the students made and printed portraits of themselves. Now that I've tried carving Styrofoam, (pressing firmly into the soft foam with a pencil, or blunt tool) I can see it's not as easy as it looks. It definitely seems to be something that will work better with large images, and few details. Also, I didn't roll ink on my stamp with a brayer, but just dragged it across the surface of the stamp pad. Anyway, I love the children's art, find it very inspiring, and now that I've tried it for myself I am ten times more impressed with what they made! I may be asking them for tips.

Maria and her classmates are really sweet, fun to work with. And they enjoyed this project so much, it seemed to me it could be a fun activity to bring to Maker Faire. Maybe with smaller stamps? I'm still figuring it out, playing. It's fun. Messy, too. If not Bay Area, then something for one of our mini events, here at the Bird House. There are great ideas and suggestions to be found at Pinterest. I searched "scratch foam printing" and found plenty to get things going!

**Important Update**
So, it turns out food container lids are not the same as the crafting foam the students used when they made their portraits. Happily, the stuff I ordered from Blick will be easier to use, so I am very excited to be getting the good stuff. I had my suspicions, because the styrofoam I used to make the bird was behaving very poorly... no smooth lines, only deep and crumbly, jagged cuts. But thanks to Vicki at Art With Kids, I have been reassured that Scratch-Foam printing boards will be much easier to work with.

If we do share this activity in a Maker event, it's essential to have the right tools, and nice quality materials, because when learning how to make things, it's such a bonus for things to go well. Very often in arts and crafts, especially with children, the cheapest supplies come out... of course this cannot always be helped, but whenever possible I think it's important to use the best available supplies, for greater success, and nicer finished products.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Make Carrot Cake

Make this carrot cake! Why? Because it's delicious, and also... it's National Carrot Cake Day. {As though we need another excuse!}

Lemon thyme and geranium blossoms on our carrot cake.

This cake fulfills one of my resolutions for the new year: Bake a pretty cake. In recent years I've lost my cake decorating mojo, and I've documented many of the occasions when a cake has been remarkably ugly, yet delicious. Ugly Delicious is the name of my imaginary bakery, by the way. I owe my success to a new aesthetic, a bohemian nod, a minimalist's touch. My recipe was enough for three small rounds, but I knew better than to risk a towering cake catastrophe! Henceforth, I will turn to my garden for the pretty touches, and otherwise keep it simple.

{My other New Year resolution: Make a rice pudding that I deem my favorite rice pudding. Yes, it's true, I have really challenged myself to some grueling, life-altering resolutions. I am sure I will be a better person for it.}

ChickenBlogger Carrot Cake

3 1/2 cups grated carrots... we love the colorful ones... purple, yellow, orange!
2 cups sugar
1.25 cups of oil
4 eggs

Stir these ingredients together.

2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup of pecans
1 cup of oatmeal (I like the old fashioned kind)

Sift the dry ingredients together and then mix in the nuts, and oatmeal. I love oatmeal. Start adding the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and stir 'em up. I did this by hand, since I did not want to over-mix the batter.

Choose a favorite cake pan, and I lightly oiled mine, and bake at 375 degrees Fahrenheit. A cook time would be helpful, I know, but I don't have one. Expect it to take more than half an hour... it will smell good and an inserted knife will come out clean... you'll know when it's done.

I am not capable of following directions... I just made it up.

8 oz of cream cheese + a healthy scoop of some leftover whipped cream cheese we had leftover from breakfast.
A largish, perhaps 2, teaspoons of vanilla.
Powdered sugar... more than you want to admit, less than a box... I did not make it very sweet.
Whip it. Whip it good.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

What Makers Do

Makers can do incredible things, not only with what they make, but with how they share their creations. Even the smallest gestures can build community, touch hearts, inspire more thoughtful acts. To see an uplifting story about making believe, and healing, please follow this link:
A Firefly Forest~

Monday, December 7, 2015

Make PaperClay Mushrooms

Two years ago Maria and I started playing with paper clay, making tiny mushrooms. Those first creations were planted in tiny pots, and made into gifts. Maria and I made little houses, trees, and gnomes, too. The next year I made larger mushrooms, with doors, and smoking chimneys. Paper clay is easy to work with. It dries quickly, paints easily, and even when parts come apart, a little white glue fixes everything. This holiday season we've moved into new themes, adding our mushroom collection to terrariums, and miniature potted gardens. With natural moss, twigs, and lichen, they add whimsy, charm. We gave so many away, I was eager to replenish the stash.

These mushrooms, gnomes, trees, and houses are easy to make, fun, too. There are very few supplies to gather. It only takes some time and a bit of patience to make tiny garden accessories. Maria and I have seen a lot of fairy garden pieces in gift shops and nurseries, but we still think these homemade ones are the most charming! We hope you will give this craft a try, and share your results with us!

Supply List

1. PaperClay... we found ours in a craft shop. After it's open, it will dry out easily, so keep it in an airtight bag. Also, one package is plenty, when making these little crafts; I've never run out.

2. Straight pins. I had an old box, found in a thrift shop goody bag of sewing supplies.

3. Elmer's white glue

4. Acrylic craft paints... satin and glossy are nice.

5. A bottle of gloss glaze, to seal the painted project.

6. Small tipped paint brushes.

7. Foam to hold the mushrooms while they dry.

8. Tooth picks.

The straight pin, and a pinch of paper clay. I lay the pin on top of the clay... think of the pin as a sausage on a bun, and the clay is the bun. With my palm open and flat, I gently roll the pin back and forth, until it is wrapped in the paper clay.

This needs just a bit more rolling, so the head of the pin is covered, too.

It can also be rolled between finger and thumb. Make it pleasing, but there's no need to be overly obsessed with the details, since it will be handled more, and the soft clay will keep changing with handling until it's finally dry and hard.

Next roll a small ball of paper clay for the mushroom cap.

You can flatten the ball of paper clay, to make an umbrella shaped mushroom cap.

Or turn and pinch the ball of paper clay to create a dome, or rounded chocolate chip shape.

Now, stick the pin-head mushroom stem into the underside of your mushroom cap. You want to blend the two pieces together, so they dry as one piece. If the clay is cracking, then your hands are too dry... dampen your hands. It also helps to smooth out the piece with a barely wet paint brush. I also use the wet brush to gently unite the stem with the cap. A toothpick works well for this part too. In tiny strokes, drag the clay from the cap around the stem, then you can use the wet brush to smooth any lines.

Play around with the shapes, and sizes... you'll soon find a look you like, and see how easy the paper clay is to work with. And remember: Do-overs are always an option!

We had such a cold, dry night, these mushrooms were dry the next day. Larger pieces take more time, and I wouldn't paint anything until it's as dry as possible, to discourage mold from ruining the pieces.

Mushroom house... single story, fireplace, cozy. I'm using the toothpick to blend the chimney clay with the mushroom cap roof. I make the door by denting an entry at the base of the mushroom with the end of the paint brush.

Here's an experiment: Bigger mushrooms, on toothpicks! I want to see if I can create food-safe cake decorations, by building the mushrooms on toothpicks, instead of tiny, sharp pins. I like pinching the clay at the base of the stem, so when we stick it into a cake, it will look like a wide, planted base.

Here's a larger mushroom. I want to scrunch up the base of that stem. If you look through Pinterest for red-capped mushrooms, you will find all kinds of inspiring shapes and colors for painting your mushrooms.

I add the white dots using the blunt end of a toothpick. Just a dip in the paint, then tap the red cap!

Easy Peasy Repairs!

After drying, some caps fall right off, and it's so easy to fix, I wonder why I bother assembling them while they're wet. A dab of Elmer's glue and a little more drying time is all it takes. Here's one that came apart after painting; I'll fix it with the acrylic gloss. It dries very quickly!

I paint the entire cap, and be sure to get some gloss in the hole where the stem will attach. (I have no particular attachment to this brand of gloss... it's just the one that was on sale. It goes on a bit heavy, dries fast, and shiny. It's nice.)

I glossed the stem, too, then set it into the cap. It will be dry in minutes. I like to have scraps of upholstery foam to hold the pieces while they dry. I'm sure a piece of styrofoam would work as well.

Make a Banquet!

I am sure you've figured out, you can make so much more than mushrooms! These carrots and lettuce are paper clay!

These loaves of bread and baguette are paper clay, too!