Monday, March 31, 2014

Monday Mosaic: Nowrooz Celebration

curated by Susanne Guirakhoo of enchantedhue

A few soft green new things to adorn your home, your person, and your pet in the New Year:

Tapas Dish by jilljburns
Green Mariposite Earrings by Beryllina
Handwoven Throw Rug by Loomination
Dog Collar with Adjustable Buckle by codyscreations

The first day of spring marks the first day of the Persian New Year, Nowrooz. It is one of my favorite celebrations. Lots of symbolism and ceremonies that represent the End and Rebirth, Good and Evil. Traditions include germinating of seeds as sign of renewal, cleaning the house, making or buying new clothes, lighting and jumping over bonfires in hope of enlightenment and happiness for the new year, and setting up a ceremonial table with 7 dishes that start with the Persian letter sinn (the number 7 is sacred in Iran, and the seven dishes stand for the seven angelic heralds of life: rebirth, health, happiness, prosperity, joy, patience, and beauty).

The celebration lasts 13 days. On the 13th day, Sizdeh Bedahr, every family goes outside for a picnic, games, and to celebrate the end of the holiday season. The germinated seeds are thrown into a body of moving water. They are said to have absorbed all the ill fate and pain that might be destined for the family, and the water carries them away.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

DIY Spring Project: Art and Earth

by Jessica Burko

When my 4-year-old came home from preschool bursting with excitement because his teacher told him the next day was the first day of spring, I knew it was time for some quick thinking and a springtime project. Yes, there's still snow on the ground in Boston, yes it's late March and we're all still wearing winter coats, hats and mittens, but we're forging ahead and starting spring anyway! This art and earth project is perfect for 3-5-year-olds who are getting used to using scissors, learning to read, and handling writing tools.

• seeds
• soil
• seed tray or small containers (cardboard egg cartons would work great!)
• paper
• child-safe scissors
• crayons/markers/colored pencils
• glue stick

Step1: choose your seeds
To completely invest my son in this project, I let him pick out the seeds. We spent some time talking about how we would grow the seeds indoors until it was warmer outside, then we would transfer them to our new garden, and that we would grow vegetables and fruit that we would eat. He chose all his favorites and is most excited about "growing Jack-O-Lanterns" and "corn on the cob".

Step 2: make your art
I went online and found free clip-art to make little coloring-book-style pictures for my son to color so that we could mark our rows of seeds, and because I love you so much dear readers, I'm sharing it with you here: Seed Markers PDF. Feel free to use this sheet for your own seed markers or use it as a template and add your own clip-art images based on what you will be planting. You could also just draw pictures of the fruit and vegetables you will plant. The idea is to make it fun for your little one however they best like to make their art.

Step 3: cut and paste
After making the pictures for your seed markers cut them out (we cut to a square shape) and make sure to provide a front and back for each marker. The front and back can be the same picture, or the back could be left blank, or you could use colored construction paper for the back side. Having both a front and back piece of paper helps the stability of your seed markers. Glue the front and backs to popsicle sticks and you are ready to plant your seeds!

Step 4: planting the seeds
We used a table spoon to fill the seed trays with one spoon of soil, then we put in the seed, then added an additional scoop of soil. We've been watering the seeds every day and looking forward to seeing them sprout. For some great tips on starting seeds check out this post from Organic Gardening.

I've got this theory that the more we can all act like it's spring, the sooner spring will actually get here. So please share your favorite crafty spring project in the comments section and let's all pitch in to make an end to winter!

Friday, March 28, 2014

Why Handmade: Creating a Facebook Banner with PicMonkey, Part 1

by Lynn Mohney of Prunella’s Workshop

Does your business have a Facebook Page? If so, you may be looking for ways to utilize the banner up at the top. It is a fantastic place to provide a personalized touch. Facebook allows you to change the banner as often as you like. I have seen pages where the banner is static- much like a company logo, it becomes a part of the way customers identify you. Other businesses change the banner frequently, keeping everyone on their toes. In fact a jewelry artist I follow changes their banner with each new piece they begin.

Hiring a graphic designer to change your Facebook banner is not necessary, especially if you plan to change it often. There are many software packages out there that can help you, and some are free. These programs vary from very simple to use, to rather complex. The more complex programs give you more variety in what you can do, while the simpler ones can get you up and running in a matter
of minutes.

Today, I am going to show you how easily you can create a Facebook banner in a program called PicMonkey. It is free and very easy to use. (I will also run a tutorial on GIMP coming soon, which is the opposite end of the spectrum.) You don’t even need to download PicMonkey, as it is available online at Of note, some features of PicMonkey are only available if you upgrade to Royale. This is not necessary to complete this tutorial, but if you fall on love with the program, you may be interested. It is a relatively inexpensive fee for one year.

In the opening screen shot of PicMonkey, there are four icons at the top – Edit, Touch Up, Design, and Collage. These all provide different useful functions, and I encourage you to get to know all four areas.

Edit: The editing section gives you the opportunity to do simple editing to a photograph. It is not as sophisticated as a program such as GIMP or Adobe Photoshop, but you can crop, rotate or resize a photo. You can adjust the focus, colors, etc.

To the far most left there are gray icons, each of which attaches to it’s own menu. In the above screen shot, we are in the crop menu, which allows us to utilize crop, canvas color, rotate, exposure, colors, sharpen and resize. Each of these has it’s own window that will open and allow you to make adjustments accordingly. However, there are seven additional grey icons with their own menus.
  • Effects -The “wand” allows you to place a variety of overlays that change the overall appearance of the photo, including, but not limited to black and white or sepia tones.
  • Touch Up -The “lipstick” icon will allow you to touch up blemishes.
  • Text - The type menu is perhaps the most important in the edit section. This is the only place in PicMonkey where type can be added to your banner. Of note, you are restricted to the fonts available through PicMonkey, which may be a problem if your font is part of your business’ identity. However, you can upload your type as a photograph. I will go over this in a later lesson.
  • Overlays - The “butterfly” menu includes a variety of clip art that can be resized, rotated, and the color can be changed.
  • Frames – “Borders” can be added to your photo through the border menu.
  • Texture - The “grid” icon menu has a variety of textures you can apply over your photograph, which can have interesting effects depending on your goal.
  • Themes - The “apple” icon provides a variety of themes you can use to touch up your photographs, including witches and zombies. They can be a great amount of fun if you are working with a portrait.

I recommend playing in each and every menu, to become familiar with the options available to you. If you are working with product photos, I do not recommend utilizing tools that alter the appearance of the actual product. For example, I may adjust the colors of a photograph in which copper is looking more like silver (photography is a funny thing, and this has been known to happen) to bring the color back match the real piece of jewelry. I would not want the customer to buy my work with a misunderstanding of what it really looks like because of a less than perfect photo. At the same time, this is not the opportunity to correct actual flaws in your work. Instead, you should focus on correcting the actual product.

Over time, you will find that the majority of editing tools you will want to use will not be under Themes, Overlays, and Textures, and you want to be conservative in your use of the Touch Up menu. However, these tabs are a great deal of fun, and you may like playing with them for unrelated purposes.

Touch Up: The Second section of PicMonkey takes you back to the Editing section, but directly to the Touch Up Menu. Most of the tools in this section relate to utilizing a human model in your photograph. If you are creative, these tools can be used for other purposes as well. Of note, a good many of the tools require the Royale upgrade. If there is a crown icon on the tool, the upgrade is necessary.

Design – If you hover your mouse over the design tab, a menu pops up giving you the opportunity to choose a canvas size. Take note – one of the options is a Facebook banner. You can also custom size your canvas.

PicMonkey uses pixels as its preferred unit of measurement. As you are creating an image for the internet, you too should think in pixels. A Facebook banner happens to be 851 x 315 pixels.

Collage - I have utilized several different layout programs, and nothing, and I mean nothing, does this as quickly and neatly with no fuss as PicMonkey. You may give up a little flexibility, but these ease of use far outweighs anything lost. I have spent literally hours trying to size and crop electronic images, whereas this is a simple drag and drop. PicMonkey has several different layouts available. There are swatches if you prefer one block to be empty for type. You can also change the background color. Collages are particularly attractive if you wish to show more than one product in your banner.

This is an overview. Stay tuned to next week, and I will go step by step as I create a new Prunella’s Workshop banner for my Facebook Page. In the meantime, I highly recommend playing around with PicMonkey. It is really easy to use, and you may find you already can make your own!

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Inventory: You Gotta See It To Believe It

by Jill J. Burns of Early Bird Designs

I struggle with keeping track of my inventory.  I have work in galleries on consignment, pieces that are listed in my etsy shop, and work in the studio reserved for shows throughout the year.  Work is stacked, shifted and moved around, so keeping track of what is available at any given point in time is hard for me to get my head around.

I found that creating a list of everything simply doesn’t work.  Although there are general categories of pieces, bowls, cups, platters, etc; each piece is unique and takes quite a bit of description for me to remember/locate it when the time comes. Some are similar but not exactly. They are handmade after all.

The solution for me is to create a visual inventory.   I group things in general categories and take quick informal pictures. No elaborate set up or lighting, just point and shoot.  For example one photo could be four bowls, with enough visual information that I could distinguish each individual piece.  Although not absolutely necessary I print out the pictures – 2 or 3 per page.  I am old school; I like to flip through pages instead of digital files.  Each sheet has enough space around the photos for me to make notations – if it is out on consignment, Etsy etc.   I cross out a piece when it is sold and note where and when.

Inventory is one of those chores that is easy to procrastinate. I try and do a new inventory in February – a traditional time for retail.  The whole project takes about a day.  I just finished.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Monday Mosaic: Spring Colors

curated by Susanne Guirakhoo of enchantedhue

Pink Twill Bird Lining Pleated Audrey Handbag by abigailleigh
Blue Leather Card Case by LidaBrookeDesigns
Felted Wool Sunflower Brooch by straynotions
Green Bib With Blue Polka Dot Print by StephanieCaveDesign

Every season, Pantone comes out with a Fashion Color Report. The colors chosen for Spring 2014 are a nice mix of soft, but strong colors with delicious names like:
Placid Blue
Dazzling Blue
Violet Tulip
Celosia Orange
Radiant Orchid

Friday, March 21, 2014

Why Handmade: Pets in the Workplace

by Lynn Mohney of Prunella’s Workshop

Up until very recently, we had two cats, but we are sadly down to just my boy, Oliver. There are perhaps a million reasons why a cat and my workshop are not the best combination; however, he likes to visit, and it's rather difficult to keep him out one hundred percent of the time.
There are plenty of chemicals about, the cat could decide to drink. I am careful to keep them closed when I am not around. I have never caught him trying when I am there. Hopefully this is due to an unpleasant odor. Oliver seems to understand that, perhaps, standing in front of a lit torch is not advisable given the likelihood of becoming roasted cat. He does, however, enjoy lying on top of my charcoal block once it has cooled down enough to not burn him. I don't recommend bottling the perfume smell of burnt cat fur, which he leaves behind from shedding! In addition, he loves standing on my jeweler's bench while I'm sawing, as he knocks tools onto the floor.

Is this behavior sanctioned? Of course not. Nor do I approve when he tries to walk over an active wet painting. Nothing quite like paw prints all over the piece and shop.
Inspecting the workspace at Abigail Leigh Handbags

Amazingly, despite what a pain these pets can be, a number of artists keep them around. Abby of Abigail Leigh Handbags has two cats who keep things fun by sitting in the way of her sewing machine, especially her boy, Boh. Meanwhile, Lucie  of Lucie Wicker Photography can't get to her hard drive, because her beagle, Apollo likes to use it as a head rest. She says her sweetheart is everything wonderful and negative you hear about beagles, but he's completely lovable. Susanne of Enchanted Hue has a Chow-Chow-Border Collie mix named Shadow who can cause some really disturbing results when she is snow dyeing fabric. One has to be careful of certain types of yellow snow, if you know what she means! While Liz of Lush Beads doesn't bring her cat, Miss Cleo, to the studio, she does bring her work home with her. Miss Cleo loves to try to eat thread and glue, and she is a real fan of Liz's beaded spiders. Bev, of Linkouture, has Leo, a cat who enjoys supervising the process by keeping a close eye on things!
Leo critiquing Bev of Linkoture (left) and Miss Cleo helping Liz of Lush Beads relax

Kerrie of Cody's Creations not only has two dogs, Kona and Pepe; her business involves them. She makes beautiful durable pet collars, leashes, and other pet supplies. When she goes to her studio, she will bring Kona with her. If no one else is there, Pepe can come too, but he sometimes has "people" issues. It is important we are aware of our animals' reactions to others for everyone's safety.

Kona modeling and creating for Cody's Creations

Why do we allow them into our workspace, if they can wreak such havoc? Our pet helpers do actually provide assistance. Normally, Stephanie of Stephanie Cave Design dachshunds, Berk and Ernie huddle up quietly in blankets, but occasionally they bark at passersby, who usually laugh; however, imagine you are in your studio alone in a big empty building. Your dog(s) can provide you companionship, but even more so, their ears perk at unfamiliar sounds you may not hear. They can alert you to an unwelcome intruder.

Apollo helping out in the Lucie Wicker  Photography studio

If you are an animal lover, pets have been shown to be good for your health. They provide relaxation, friendship, and they can lower your blood pressure. Despite the nuisance they can be, there is good reason to keep them around.  

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Fun Process of Collage Making

By Shannon McDonald of McDonald Mixed Media

First step: Find some fun material
Materials: Paint, paintbrush, wood, adhesive (I am a fan of Mod Podge) and last but not least paper materials. Magazines are a great source.

I ask friends to donate them to me instead of recycling them.

I am always on the look out for some interesting paper.  I saved some stamps from a package my office received from Iceland!

Prep your wood. I purchase MDF board from Home Depot. They will cut it down for  you too! However, I have used found wood such a old kitchen cabinets or wooden shelves. Most crafts stores also have an unfinished wood section. I then prep the board with paint or gesso.

Let the fun begin! I have been using lots of cut outs of silhouettes lately. That is my starting point for this collage. 

Adding color is a must! 

Don't be afraid to get your hands dirty!

I will play around with the design before I permanently glue it. Maybe too many flowers?

Almost there! Just need to fill in some holes and glue it down. Once you are ready glue everything down. Apply a generous amount of Mod Podge to the paper and wood. I use a hard plastic card (similar to as gift card) to get rid of any air bubbles. 

After it dries you can seal it to protect it from fading. I use a clear coat that can be found at Home Depot. Make sure that you apply this is a well ventilated area.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Announcing a very special line of jewelry by Linkouture

by Bev Feldman

One of the things I love most about being a member of Boston Handmade is how genuinely interested the members are in supporting one another. It is a dynamic group of people who really want to see everyone succeed, and when we come together great things happen.

At our February meet-up we each went around and gave an update on our businesses and used this as an opportunity to ask each other questions and provide feedback. When it came to my turn, Lucie Wicker, who is an amazing fitness photographer, asked if I was making any more fitness jewelry after seeing pictures I had posted on my Instagram account of a custom order I was working on. Up until that point, it really had not even occurred to me to continue making fitness jewelry, though I really enjoyed making this new piece. At everyone's urging, an idea started to form. Members started throwing out ideas, and my excitement over the idea began to form. I knew I had to act fast.

With that, I am so excited to announce the debut of a new line of fitness jewelry Linkouture will be offering. In honor of the Boston Marathon happening next month, I will be kicking off the line with a limited-edition runner charm bracelet available for order between now and Monday, April 21 (the date of this year's marathon). 

Runner bracelet by Linkouture
Made from recycled sterling silver, this chainmaille bracelet features a hand-sawed runner charm, and proceeds from each bracelet will be donated to the One Fund Boston. You can read the full story behind the bracelet here, and pre-order them on my Etsy shop.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Monday Mosaic: Boston Handmade wears Green

curated by Sharon Fischer, Stray Notions

1. Green Monster- 5x7 Photo Illustration Print- Fenway Park Wall, Lucie Wicker Photography
2. California Mariposite & recycled sterling silver Cirrus earrings, Beryllina
3. 3/8 Wide Collar for Cat or Tiny Puppy in Shamrocks, Cody's Creations
4. Green Beaded and Silver Chainmaille Necklace, Linkouture

Friday, March 14, 2014

Why Handmade: Engineering a project

by Lynn Mohney of Prunella’s Workshop

My second grader recently came home with a science project for school. He needs to create a leprechaun trap for St. Patrick's Day including at least one simple machine, such as a lever, a pulley, or a screw. Of course, it must be decorated to lure the leprechaun, and he must make this by himself with limited parental involvement.

Decorating the trap

When these projects come home, there is always a discussion regarding which parent is best equipped to help our son. My husband is an engineer, and I am an artist; however, both my parents are engineers and I am used to this manner of thinking. My parents would kid with me - they think function first, form second, and I reverse the process. We decided this project was best tag teamed. I have provided assistance through the various decorating phases while my husband has been in charge of helping our son make certain his simple machines work. As expected, my son has performed the majority of the work.

This project has me considering what I do every day. Yes, jewelry is art, and there is a strong element of form. We don't normally seek out the ugliest jewelry out there. Most prefer jewelry to be shiny, possibly colorful, or sparkly; however, unlike some art, there is a definite need for my pieces to be functional. It doesn't matter how beautiful a necklace may be; if it keeps falling off your neck, it is not very desirable. If a ring doesn't fit properly it will cause discomfort to the wearer. As such, my parents' words come back to haunt me. Which matters more? Form or function?

Tools of the trade

As noted before, my husband and I both handcraft our pieces, and there is a definite difference in how we think about our individual designs. I hadn't thought about it before, but my husband approaches his work with function in mind. As a result, he produces work that moves - spinner rings, lockets, moving rings on earrings, etc. They are very dynamic, but simple and plain in appearance. On the other hand, my designs are not plain at all. I utilize more textures, colors, and shapes. I produce work with intricate details, but it is static. If it meets the minimum requirements for function, ie. it hangs properly, fits, and/or doesn't fall off it is a success.

Engineering the trap

When my husband and I tag team a design we can obtain an equal balance of form and function, which happens often. We steal each other's best ideas and push it up a notch. My son is still young, but to date he has paid careful attention to both the form and function of his project. It will be interesting to see if, as he matures, one begins to become more important than the other.

Ready to catch a leprechaun

When you create your art, how much consideration do you give to how well it functions? A lot? Some? Or not at all, as long as it is pretty?

Monday, March 10, 2014

Monday Mosaic: Spring, the Sweet Spring

curated by Susanne Guirakhoo of enchantedhue

Black Eyed Susan - Beaded Anklet by LushBeads
Bluebell or Bellflower Brooch of Felted Wool by straynotions
Pin Brooch - Black Eyed Susan by jilljburns
Sterling Silver Lotus Ring with 5 mm Garnet by CristinaHurley

Long awaited, it's almost here:

Spring, the Sweet Spring
(by Thomas Nashe)

Spring, the sweet spring, is the year’s pleasant king,
Then blooms each thing, then maids dance in a ring,
Cold doth not sting, the pretty birds do sing:
Cuckoo, jug-jug, pu-we, to-witta-woo!

The palm and may make country houses gay,
Lambs frisk and play, the shepherds pipe all day,
And we hear aye birds tune this merry lay:
Cuckoo, jug-jug, pu-we, to-witta-woo!

The fields breathe sweet, the daisies kiss our feet,
Young lovers meet, old wives a-sunning sit,
In every street these tunes our ears do greet:
Cuckoo, jug-jug, pu-we, to witta-woo!
Spring, the sweet spring!

Friday, March 7, 2014

Why Handmade: Year Two; A Reflection

by Lynn Mohney of Prunella’s Workshop

About a year ago, I first joined Boston Handmade. I learned I was accepted into this fantastic group of artisans in the morning only moments after learning I had received my first rejection to an art show. The next monthly Boston Handmade meeting was scheduled for the evening in Jamaica Plain. I had never been to JP, to the best of my knowledge, but I put my shoes on and headed out. Two and a half hours later, I finally reached my destination, a warm friendly home, with Diane of Lady Dye Fiber Arts to greet me.

Diane of Lady Dye Fiber Arts Eclectic Cowl

A lot has changed since then. It has been over a year from the day I made the bold move of leaving a steady paying job to pursue my art as my full-time business. I have made a few small but repairable mistakes here and there, as I continue to learn and grow. I started off a bit in the dark; however, the day I joined Boston Handmade I was no longer alone in my endeavors.

Cristina of Cristina Hurley Jewely Design   Orange CZ and fire opal Galaxy Necklace
It is a difficult job. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. No one tells you when to get up, or when you have to be at work. There are no reminders when you haven’t done enough. Just when it seems you are going no where fast, a bubble of excitement will explode, reminding you why you decided to do this in the first place. If you do think you want to leave the rat race and pursue an art as your profession, I recommend you find yourself a group of like-minded people who in some way share your vision. Anything can be accomplished with a little bit of team work.

Bev of Linkoture's Simple Wedding Necklace Sterling Silver

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Local Artists Supporting Neighborhood Resources

by Jessica Burko

Photograph courtesy of Maegan Beishline

Two of my favorite things are knitting and reading, though usually not simultaneously. Knitting has been a passion of mine since I learned how to do it in 2008 at a Boston Handmade skill-share workshop, and reading has always been a joy in my life. I'm happy to say I've already passed along the reading bug to my children, both of whom (at only 2 and 4 years old) can sit for unusually long periods of time while being read to, or while looking through books on their own. My 4-year-old and I go to our local library every Friday afternoon to return the previous weeks books and select a new stack for the week to come and the trip is a highlight of the week for both of us.

Page from the book Extra Yarn by Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen

Last year I saw a connection between knitting and reading as I read a book to my children called Extra Yarn and have found knitting repeatedly represented in children's books ever since. Obviously I'm not the only one to make this connection and I'm delighted that our new neighborhood library is hosting a fundraiser based on this very premise.

The Gee-Burko family reading at the Roslindale Public Library

The Friends of the Roslindale Branch Library have organized a Yarn and Book Sale scheduled for March 6 - 8. There is an opening reception for this fundraiser on Thursday, March 6th from 5:30-8pm. Speaking at this reception at 6:30pm will be Stephanie Griego, owner of the local yarn company, Dirty Water DyeWorks. During the three-day event you can stock up on yarn, buy a cookbook, or learn a new stitch. There's also chances to win craft-related prizes from several local craft businesses who are supporting this neighborhood resource including our very own Stephanie Cave Design Studio and Lady Dye Fiber Arts. Prizes are also being donated by The Eliot SchoolJP Knit & Stitch, Stitch House, Dirty Water DyeWorks and Sip Dip and Dabble. Raffle tickets for these prizes are available throughout the sale.

The Friends of the Roslindale Branch Library group supports, promotes and enriches the services and programs the library offers to the public and I encourage you to help their efforts by enriching your own home library and yarn collection this weekend.

Roslindale Public Library
Yarn and Book Sale
4246 Washington St.
Roslindale, MA 02131
Thursday, March 6, 5:30 - 8pm, Opening Reception
Friday, March 7, 10am - 5pm
Saturday, March 8, 10am - 1pm

Monday, March 3, 2014

Monday Mosaic: Snow and ice

curated by Sharon Fischer, Stray Notions

1. Herkimer Diamond recycled sterling silver handmade ring size 7, Berylina
2. Snow Birds, North Square- 8x10- Photo Print, Lucie Wicker Photography
3. Snow Dyed Silk Scarf, Purple White, Irregular Pattern, Hand Dyed, Enchanted Hue
4. Sterling and CZ North Star Pendant, Cristina Hurley Designs
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