Sunday, December 2, 2012

Last-minute Christmas Orders!

If you're looking for last-minute Christmas gifts from Punctuation Studio, you need to contact me soon! Choose from hand-stamped necklaces in sterling silver or nickel and stamped spoon-handle necklaces. As always, I can customize them with meaningful words, names, phrases and charms. And don't let the chains distract you. I have several different options, so you can mix and match.

Spoon-handle Necklace ($50):

Sterling Silver Compass necklace ($75):

Name Necklace (sterling - $45 & up; nickel - $25 & up):

Phrase Necklace (sterling - $45 & up; nickel - $25 & up):

Precious Metal Clay - this is 99% pure silver that comes in clay form. I shape it and stamp it by hand then fire it in a kiln and polish to get the results below (necklace $65; earrings $35):

Friday, October 5, 2012

A Non-artist's Art Show

I have no illusions about what I do and who I am. I'm not an artist. I don't sit down at a blank canvas and make something from nothing. What I am is a finder of things, a rescuer of cast-offs, a person who can see potential and make things that already exist into much better things. I don't "create" so much as "assemble."

And I'm fine with that. 

I recognize that it's a gift not everyone has. Some people can't see beyond the dirt or scratches or broken pieces. My eyes, for whatever reason, see what could be. I love bringing pieces back to life or putting components together in interesting ways.

But that doesn't mean I think I'm an artist. So when I was asked to take part in an art show -- even a church art show -- it made me nervous. Still, I was in a bit of a rut and really needed a challenge to get me through the sweltering southern summer. Before I had time to think too much, I accepted and set to work gathering pieces that I could rescue and redo. 

After several months of collecting at flea markets, yard sales, estate sales and my own personal stash, I ended up with 15 pieces total -- a combination of distressed mirrors, repurposed chairs, old trim pieces, frames and wooden drawers -- all painted, sanded, glazed and messed with in a variety of ways. 

It felt good to know that I could actually finish that many pieces at once, but that didn't mean anyone would like them. Sleep-deprived and worried, I loaded my car and headed the few miles over to The Village Chapel, my church home, which meets in a cool old convent. I'd be sharing space in our gallery room (aka The Living Room) with my longtime friend Kim Thomas, who IS a real artist. She had done a series of abstracts for this show, and I wasn't sure how my crazy creations would mesh with her very adult artwork. 

Even through our bleary eyes, we could see that our pieces complemented each other in a way that made it seem like there was some advance planning on our part, which there wasn't. That hurdle overcome, we set about figuring out how to best display everything. It took the better part of the day, a few Chipotle burritos and several of my beloved McDonald's fountain Cokes to get everything hung (full disclosure: I mostly just supervised and made Coke runs while the talented Elizabeth Foster did her thing). In the end, it looked like this:

It actually looks like a gallery, doesn't it? I was as surprised as anyone, not that I don't have pieces that I'm proud of. I think my favorites (aside from the NYC mirror above) are these three chairs. We hung them with little wooden pulleys I found during a recent flea market outing, and I have to say they actually look like art! 

Here's a before picture of the chairs, so you can see how far they've come: 

The next day, we had a reception after each service and people said nice things and even bought a piece or two. Everything will remain on display through November, at which point I'll bring it home and the unsold pieces will migrate to my antique booth at Tennessee Antique Mall. 

I still feel a little uneasy about the whole thing, like I'm masquerading as something I'm not, but if beauty is in the eye of the beholder, I guess art can be too.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Silhouettes Aren't Just for People

I have wanted to make a silhouette portrait for AGES, but I kept putting it off. I was afraid it would be hard. And complicated. Or worst of all, I might waste a bunch of time only to have it end up not looking good. Also, I didn't have an overhead projector, and that's how we did it in elementary school, so I had it stuck in my head that that's how it should be done. 

Well, I hate to admit this, but often my biggest motivator is having something else I should be doing. So while I was procrastinating on another project (probably a writing deadline or laundry), I decided I would try to make a silhouette of my Puglet, Conner (in case you're wondering, a Puglet is a Pug-piglet combo, i.e. a food-obsessed, piggish little Pug). 

I was curious to see if I could find an easy way to do this, and still wind up with something that I wasn't embarrassed to show others. To start, I pasted just a regular old digital image of Conner into a Microsoft Word doc. I stretched one corner and made it as big as I could fit on the page. Then I printed it out on some grey cardstock I had leftover from my church's women's retreat. (It wasn't even a good printout because I was running out of black ink and the grey paper made the whole thing look a little muddy. Fortunately, that didn't matter.)

Here's the picture I used:

He's adorable, right? Conner was a rescue, and it's true what they say about rescues being so grateful to finally have a good home. He's so cuddly and sweet -- even if does like to pee in the laundry room because he's too lazy to go outside.

Now back to our regularly scheduled project ... While I sat and watched TV, I used a small pair of embroidery scissors to cut out Conner (you can also use manicure scissors or any craft scissors that can handle fine details). I did one of his whole body and one of just his front half, cutting a fancy, silhouette-y swoop at his neckline. When I was done, I flipped them over and was pleasantly surprised to see that they actually looked like Conner! 

Just one problem: They were on that icky grey cardstock. Before you get carried away and think you can just print on black paper, think that through. It's important to use a light colored paper so you can see the image you're cutting out, but that's not the best finished look. I knew I wanted my finished project on a dark background, so I grabbed my trusty matte black spray paint, headed outside and applied a few squirts. I wasn't sure what it would do to the cardstock, but it worked great ... until the wind came up in my front yard and blew my masterpieces behind the trash can. Ugh. They survived, though. Whew!

Next up was mounting and framing. I found this great oval frame at a local estate sale for a few bucks, but I can't leave anything alone, so I covered it in glossy red spray paint. Much better, right? Then I cut some patterned craft paper in an oval and attached my cutout of Conner's head. 

Here's the finished product:

Isn't he handsome? Yeah, I know.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Decisions, Decisions

To quote the band Gomez, "at least I've got options."

You see, last year, after more than seven years in this house, I finally put a table in my kitchen. I'm embarrassed to admit it, but as a single girl, I usually just eat in the living room, often in front of the TV. Then I fell in love ... with a cool, used butcher block-like round table top at a local restaurant supply warehouse. They wanted $50 for it, which seemed a little pricey to me, but it was so solid and in great shape. Plus, it easily fit in the back of my Rav4, so I assumed it was destiny and brought it home. I thought I might go the "diner" route and use a black metal base to finish it out. After all, it was a cheap option, readily available, and I could always paint it. Here's what that looked like:

Then, just a week or two later, I stumbled upon an oak pedestal base at an out-of-the-way antique shop. It was languishing on the porch and they let me have it for the bargain price of $25. So for $75 total I would have a pedestal table that was less than half of any I had found online, and it was smaller, which was a bonus because my cottage kitchen stretches the definition of "eat in." The metal base was out. This was definitely the way to go:

Now I just needed to paint it. I used a gray primer and then tried several different colors of aqua before finding the right one. Next up I distressed the table a bit with my palm sander to get the wood and the primer to show through in spots. After that, I rubbed in a gray-tinted glaze, wiping most of it off. (Confession time: I didn't want to buy more paint and didn't have any gray, so I actually just mixed some of my gray primer with a glaze base and it worked fine). I finished with a coat of poly. I'm usually too lazy impatient to seal my painted pieces, but I knew that a kitchen table would get a lot of wear, so I took the time. Here's the result of all my hard work:

I know, right? Even I was surprised by how much I loved it. If you're an observant reader, you might have noticed that I just used the past tense to describe my feelings for my table. That was no mistake. I still really like it, but now I'm thinking maybe we should just be friends. You see, a new table came on the scene this week. It's a teeny, tiny bit bigger, has an apron (which makes it look more finished) and really cute curvy legs, not to mention the tiniest casters ever (Confession #2: I'm obsessed with furniture on wheels).

I won this amazing pedestal table in an online auction for $80 and I'm definitely in love. This find was a little harder to get in the Rav (it involved sweet-talking a biker into letting me borrow his Swiss army knife to undo a few bolts and take it apart before it would fit), but nothing comes between me and a great find. I'll end the suspense now and show you a picture:

Of course, I don't need two tables, so I'm planning to sell one in my antique booth and keep the other. At this point, I'm definitely leaning toward keeping my new find and selling the painted table. Then I'll paint the newcomer, most likely the same hue as it's predecessor.

So what do you think? Am I crazy? Are you secretly pulling for table #1 to stay put? What color would you paint my new find (or would you leave it unpainted)? Inquiring minds want to know.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Riddle Me This...

I bought these vintage film containers at the Nashville Flea Market a few months back for $8 each. 

You're jealous, right? I thought so. But the big question is, what to do with them? After all, I don't have a real need for old reel-to-reel storage. Fortunately, inspiration struck and I came up with a (hopefully) great idea for transforming them. Before I proceed, though, I thought I'd give you guys a chance to weigh in. How would you repurpose this cool recent find?

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Signs, Signs, Everywhere Signs!

If you get that musical reference it means you're old like me -- or you're a classic rock fan. Don't worry, though. Naming that song isn't a prerequisite to tackling this project (although it WILL earn you extra credit). 

I love the rustic-looking signs I see at craft fairs and in local shops. Unfortunately, the prices aren't quite as "rustic," so I decided I would just need to figure out how to make my own. (Heads up: You'll find this is actually the inspiration for most of my projects.) This is what I wanted to make: 

I started by checking out other blogs for ideas on how to do the lettering on my sign. Here's what I came up with...

Option #1: If you have a fancy Cricut machine or the equivalent, you can print out vinyl letters in a variety of fonts and sizes. I don't, so that wasn't an option for me. Then again, I'm all about bartering lately, so I considered doing a trade with a scrapbooky friend, but I was too impatient and wanted my letters right now. 

Option #2: Stickers are a quick and easy option, and they're cheaper than a Cricut machine. The fonts and sizes are more limited, though, and larger ones can be pricey. For this project, I found some large block letters at my local Michael's that ran 50 cents per letter. Not horrible, but they actually came in a pack of two for a buck, so if you only need one "Q" or "J" it makes the price even higher. (Look for a future post in which I try to use up all my leftover mismatched letters. It will be like a weird, crafty version of Scrabble.) Using a coupon, I think I spent $15 for the stickers needed to spell out my desired message.

Option #3: After making the version you see above with the aforementioned Michael's stickers, I decided I needed to find an even cheaper option. Enter: my computer printer and some Contact paper. The computer gave me the variety of fonts and sizes I was looking for, while the roll of Contact paper was free because I had it left over. If you don't have extra, you can snag a roll at your local Target for a few bucks. Of course, I need to note that I did use up an entire black ink cartridge printing out my different options, but I still think it's the most cost-effective option. 

Next up, I needed some wood. My imaginary husband is quite the woodworker and has a full workshop with a miter saw and tons of scrap lumber that he freely gives me for my projects (oh, and he's also a bit of metal worker). Sadly, this man has yet to materialize in my waking life, so I still have to buy my lumber or scrounge it. Sigh.

Option #1: I headed to Home Depot and bought some thin slats of wood along with one fatter piece to cut in half and use as the backing to attach my pieces to. I spent around $12, which was well worth it because I was feeling impatient. If you have more time and less cash, go for the next option. 

Option #2: I quickly realized that larger signs would get a bit pricey, so I'd need to find a source for free or cheaper wood. That's how I started cruising back alleys looking for wood pallets. I scored a few quickly and hoisted them into the back of my Rav-4. There is some debate about whether pallet wood is bad for you because it could be treated with chemicals or contaminated. I say, "wash it and risk it."

Now we can FINALLY get to the project! 

First, lay out your two slats for the back and then arrange your boards on top, nailing them to the back slats. Here's how it will look from behind when you've done that: 

Next, turn it over and admire the front. If you want it be a bit more rustic, now is the time to do some distressing. Use hammers, nails, screws, files, chain or other tools to beat up your wood. 

Now it's time to paint the entire front with your lettering color. I opted for a cream-colored matte spray paint. Here it is, drying out in my front yard (sorry, neighbors!):

Finally, it's time to attach your letters! I used a quilting ruler to lay them out and get them spaced evenly, but you don't need to worry too much. Since you're going for a rustic look, it doesn't need to be perfect. In fact, you might even want to purposely make your words a little squiggly. (Yes, that's a real word. I'm a professional writer/editor so you can trust me.) Getting them to stick can be tricky, but just do your best. Remember: Perfection is not the goal.

Once my letters were all adhered, I covered them with another coat of my base color. That way, it helps seal the letters down and if any paint sneaks underneath, it will be the base color. (Genius, right?) Once that dried, I was finally able to paint my main color. I covered the whole mess with some leftover gray sample paint and then headed to the 6 pm service at church. Friends invited me out to dinner after, but I knew I HAD to rush home and peel those sticker letters off so I could finally see the results of all my hard work. 

The paper sticker letters were messy to remove and my fingernails got a workout, but it's doable. I was sad to see that some of the gray paint had managed to sneak under the letters (despite my genius trick), leaving blurry edges and a few smeary patches. I refused to give up, though. I grabbed my Dremel tool and attached a sanding tip. It allowed me to clean up the mess, although I ended up sanding down to the bare wood in some places. I decided I would just pretend I meant to do that, in an attempt to add character. I finished up by spraying something called "Walnut Ink" on the whole piece and then dabbing/wiping. (Note: This is another scrapbooking product I found at Michael's. I'm not a scrapbooker, but I love to misappropriate their tools and supplies.) You could also use a wood stain to add some age to your finished piece. 

For my first piece, I opted for a line from my favorite hymn, "Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing," but you could use quotes, song lyrics, whatever. Anyway, here's the final product, hanging in my guest room: 

If you decide to try one yourself, let me know how it goes!

Monday, May 7, 2012

An Ode to Simple Tools

Is it just me or have you wasted time trying to find boxes, paint containers or jars to balance your projects on while you paint them? Enter: these little yellow triangles! They're called Painter's Pyramid and I found the for a few bucks at Home Depot, near the putty knives.

So far I've used them mostly to repaint picture frames. For some reason, I'm always buying old wood frames or mirrors and changing the colors. (Don't judge - you know you have your own obsessions.) It may seem like a small thing, but they make it possible for me to paint all the way around the back edges without any waiting. 

What can I say? Sometimes it's the little things that make us the happiest. 

Here they are in action on my kitchen countertop:

Monday, February 20, 2012

From Passe to Personalized

This past weekend, some friends and I took a road trip to Atlanta to visit the magical land of IKEA. After hours in the car, some Zaxby's for fortification, and several more hours in the store, we headed home with my RAV-4 packed full of fun, budget-friendly pieces. The problem is, I'm not the only one who has discovered IKEA, which means you can easily end up having the same furniture as all your friends. Fortunately, it's not difficult to personalize your purchases -- even as you're putting them together. 

I started with the Hemnes table, purchased for $59 and destined for  guest bedroom. I wanted the gray finish, but they were out (one of the hazards of hitting IKEA on a busy Saturday). Instead, I opted for a dark-brown finish and started plotting how to add some gray. 

Sunday morning, I ripped the package open and began assembling the table. When I got to the drawer, that's where I deviated from the directions.

Start by getting your supplies ready. You'll need: 
- wrapping paper or wallpaper to cover the drawer front and bottom
- Spray Mount or a glue stick
- an X-acto knife or rotary cutter
- a ruler, straightedge or quilter's square
- a protective mat or piece of cardboard to protect your cutting surface
- a pen or pencil

I started by tracing the drawer bottom (it came with those cute yellow stripes already printed on it, but they didn't match my room) then cutting it to size.

I then sprayed the drawer bottom with a light coat of Spray Mount (get this at your local craft or art supply store). I did this outside and used the box the dresser came in to set it on because Spray Mount is messy. Line up your paper carefully and smooth it down. If you have a brayer or small roller, it can be helpful in getting out any small bubbles. Otherwise, smoothing with your hands is just fine.

For the drawer front, I decided to cover the front as well as the top and bottom edges. In retrospect, I should have probably covered all four sides, leaving just the edges exposed, but I didn't. Oh well. It happens. I creased the paper before adding the Spray Mount then carefully placed it and smoothed it.

At this point, it only took a few minutes to finish assembling the drawer. Here's what it looked like when it was finished. You could use some Mod Podge to add a little extra protection if you wanted. Also, I may change out the knob for something more fun.

And here's the inside of the drawer:

Here's a final shot of it in the guest bedroom. I'd like to take some time and celebrate my accomplishment, but there are more IKEA purchases waiting to be assembled!