Saturday, December 7, 2013

DIY Party Girl

Since we're getting in the thick of the swank shindig season, I thought I'd share some of the tutorials that I've found lately for some posh (but super inexpensive) sartorial stylings:
I love this super-easy and inexpensive tulle skirt project from Cotton and Curls. Ever want to sport a poofy skirt like Carrie from the opening of Sex in The City? Now you can!
Another terrific bargain project is this scarf from Sea Lo Que Sea's blog, taking inspiration from an $1100 piece.
Lindsay over at Impatiently Crafty gives a great tutorial for glitter shoes. The best part? She also gives some great examples of what NOT to do.
If your (or your partner's) style is a bit more on the butch end of the spectrum, there's always this necktie project from The Purl Bee. Not only could you do this in ANY woven fabric pattern or solid, you could also customize your fabric with a DIY screen print using Mod Podge with this tutorial from Better Homes and Gardens.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

The Art of AdORNAMENTS at the RAM, December 6-29th 2013

I had nearly forgotten about Racine Art Museum's call for artists for their The Art of AdORNAMENTS exhibition this month until last 6 p.m...the night before submissions were due. Still wanting to participate, even if I couldn't whip up something stellar on short notice, I did manage to get an ornament together and deliver it to the museum on my lunch hour.

All components are from my scrap stash. The butterfly wings are plastic that I painted with iron paint (love that stuff!) and rusted with my salt and vinegar mix. The rhinestones are a vintage buckle and a brass skeleton key is attached with a coil of salvaged copper wire. Vintage glass beads and pearls are attached with more repurposed wire bits. Not an epic and ornate work by any means, but I rather like it.

The exhibition opens at 6 p.m on Friday, December 6th during Racine's monthly First Friday festivities, which is always a fun evening. In addition to the AdORNAMENTS show opening, the museum is featuring a exhibition of blown glass ornaments from the Mathis Collection and a number of downtown galleries and studio spaces are open late for the First Friday event.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Upcycled earring display

During the summer, I’d found a chrome laundry hamper frame and decided to salvage it to use as a display piece at shows.  Since it was too new- looking to fit with the rest of my fixtures, I gave it a couple of coats of iron paint followed by a wash of salted vinegar to rust it. I hung it on a chain from one of the beams under the hayloft at the Holy Hill Art Farm Market in October, and used clothespins to attach earring cards to create sort of an “earring chandelier” for my booth. Using a swivel clip at the end of the chain also allowed it to be turned by the customer to show all sides.

 (forgive the grainy camera phone shot, this is my only photo of the piece in action in this incarnation)
While it worked wonderfully as a hanging piece, I knew I wouldn’t usually have a ceiling to hang it from at most shows and it would take up a lot of space as a tabletop piece. I needed to figure out a way of making it freestanding.

I found this coat rack at Goodwill for $4.99 and hit upon an idea. The rack comes apart in sections, each with an upright screw post to attach it to the next. This would make it easy to break down for transporting to and from shows.

I removed the top portion with the coat pegs and added a scrap craft plaque (thrifted) that I'd stained to match the coat rack, screwed into the top post. Between this plaque and another, I added a lazy susan mechanism (salvaged) which would allow the display to rotate. The hamper then rests on top, with four upright screws between the cross supports of the hamper. These upright screws fit into holes in another plaque on top of the stack and are secured using easy-to-remove wing nuts.

 This top plaque not only holds the hamper to the coat rack base, but also allows it to be removed for events where I can use it in “chandelier” form. The wing nuts also provide a socket to hold signage for the rack. 

Here we have the new rounder "in action" at the Holiday Craftacular in Madison last weekend. 

Unfortunately, I managed to crack one of the legs when a tote fell against it in my car, so I had to McGuyver a packing tape solution on-site. A bit of wood glue, a screw, and a clamp to hold it until the glue sets and it'll be back in the game for the next event!

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Craftacular Madison 2013

 I'm super excited to be vending at Craftacular this year! This is an awesome annual market of alternative crafters in the vein of Chicago's Renegade and Milwaukee's Art vs. Craft markets.

Join us Saturday November 23rd for Madison's Original Independent Craft Show! We will once again be returning to the gorgeous Masonic Center located in the heart of downtown Madison and will be showcasing over 70 artists & crafters.

Some awesome findings from past shows:



Sunday, October 27, 2013

Paper collage skulls

Admittedly, not the best shot of my paper collage skulls. I brought a dozen to the Holy Hill Art Farm last weekend and only managed to get this shot with my camera phone before they completely sold out! I had them on the tables and filled the doll cradle at the opening to my booth with them, the latter of which was the key, I think. Everyone heading up the stairs to the loft saw them, so they quickly found new homes.

More paper collage may happen soon and, if I have time, a tutorial.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Nightmare on Chicago Street 10/26/2013

I just received confirmation yesterday that I'll be vending in the "Safe Zone" at Nightmare on Chicago Street in Elgin, Illinois on Saturday the 26th. It'll be my first time even attending this event and I hear that it's HUGE... over 6,000 attendees last year (their 2nd year) and projections of over 8,000 this year. It sounds like incredible fun with live bands, roving street entertainment, and such.More info on the event may be found at or on Facebook at

Friday, September 13, 2013

Cassette tape case to retro valise

I found a couple of these 1970s hard shell cassette tape carrying cases at the thrifts a while back for about a dollar each (Yay Value Village!). After removing the cracked plastic dividers, I lined the case with some dusty plum drapery fabric (also thrifted). Easy project and it'll make a nifty display for my upcoming shows.

  •  Don't forget to take a peek at the clothing and housewares sections of the shop/sale when scouting for boxes and cases. Often you can find repurposable velvet garments and other textiles at a fraction of the price that you'd pay for the fabric at a craft store.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Repurposed revolving necklace rack

 A quickie project from yesterday:

About a month ago, I found this lamp as-is at a local thrift for $.90 ($1.80 on a half-off day). With hanging wires and an altogether Bordello Baroque look, its appeal was probably lost on most folks...but I snatched it up IMMEDIATELY. It's a hollow but heavy cast metal, so I knew it would make a sturdy base for *something*. I also picked up a battered tart plate for $.25 (again...$.50, with the half-off special).

Wiring removed, a swivel and screw pegs added from my hardware stash, the whole thing painted with some on-hand oil enamel...and I have a new revolving necklace rack for next weekend's show. With the wide flat top, I can also use this as a pedestal for a bowl of charms or signage.

Not bad for a $1.15 outlay!

September Market at Holy Hill Art Farm

So very excited! It's almost time for the September market weekend at the Holy Hill Art Farm. I love-love-love this show! Art...antiques...great music...all at a 160 year old Wisconsin farmstead. This is an awesome autumn event. Come check it out September 21st and 22nd, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. 
I'll be in the main barn, under the hayloft, so come by and say hello!

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Racine Art Museum

One of the great things about living here in Racine is all of the visual arts activity. While Chicago and Milwaukee trump us for the sheer volume of arts support, we still have a pretty active movement for such a (relatively) small city. In addition to the numerous downtown galleries and studios, we have the RAM, which is all sorts of awesome.

Per their site: "The Racine Art Museum holds the largest and most significant contemporary craft collection in North America, with more than 8,000 objects from nationally and internationally recognized artists. RAM's mission is to elevate the stature of craft to fine arts by presenting ceramics, fibers, glass, metals, polymer, and wood alongside paintings and sculptures. RAM plays a vital role in arts education at RAM's Wustum Museum, where community outreach programs and studio art classes are taught by artists working in craft."

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Mirror Mirror... (Aging Tutorial)

 Photo via

 I’ve long loved the look of old mirrors, that effect of random pitting and flaking of the silvering, which shows little glimpses of the backing material. While I could always find actual antique mirrors for my purposes, they’re often A) rather expensive and B) hit and miss to be able to find just the right size/shape/weathering level for a particular project. I knew that there had to be a way of recreating this look and, after a bit of researching, I discovered that there’s actually two main techniques:

This involves using mirror effect spray paint and vinegar to create a sort of mercury glass look on plain clear glass. While this tutorial doesn’t explore this, I think that this might be interesting to try on a blue or other coloured transparent glass thrift store find (keeping my eye out for a red bowl amid the Holiday sales) to create a coloured mercury glass look.


This is the option that you’ll need to use if you want to age an existing mirror. It is messy and dangerous. As in, SERIOUSLY-SERIOUSLY hazardous without proper precautions. Really. Not. Remotely. Kidding.

Guess which option this post is about?
In the words of Tina Turner, “We don’t never do nothing niiiiice and easssssy…” (Actually…we do. Nice and easy would be preferable. In fact, it is actually the path of choice for us most of the time, but we just couldn’t resist the rare opportunity to use a Tina Turner quote. We also have decided to use the royal “we” for this paragraph. We will stop now.)

-Glass mirror (with frame and/or board backing removed and set aside to be reattached later)
-Paint stripper (I used the spray kind, but there are also paste options)
-Muriatic acid (Even with a large mirror, you do not need much, so buy the smallest bottle possible)
-Plastic paint scraper
-Distilled water
-Several cotton rags, a few dampened with distilled water
-a roll of paper towels
-Sturdy drop cloth
-Two spray bottles, one for distilled water and one for muriatic acid (The one that you will use for the muriatic acid will not be reusable). Also, test the bottle for muriatic acid with water first to determine spray pattern. Spritzing on scrap brown paper like a cardboard box or grocery bag is a good way to see the spray pattern. Does it spray a mist or droplets? Is this the spatter pattern you want to make on the mirror? If not, find another bottle/nozzle that does create the look that you’re seeking.
-Sufficient newspapers to cover the dropcloth at least 5 layers thick for each chemical application
-Acid resistant gloves (I doubled up and wore another pair of gloves underneath)
-Protective goggles
-Respiratory mask for use with acids (dust masks are not effective against chemical mist/fumes)
-Clothing that will shield against splatters
-Hairband to secure long hair
-Optional but highly recommended: Another individual within earshot who knows what chemicals you are working with and has the number for poison control
Before you begin:
  1. This project MUST-MUST-MUST be done in a VERY well-ventilated area…ideally outdoors. This is NOT a kitchen table project. Personally, I wouldn’t even do it in a basement or a garage unless the garage door was wide open. Make sure that all work surfaces are well protected. Keep kids and pets or even prone-to-do-stupid-things adults away from your work area until all chemicals are cleared.
  2. Take a quick moment to Google “muriatic acid” including what it can do to human flesh and particularly what it can do if inhaled. Now take another look at what you are using to protect yourself and objects from contact when using this chemical. Re-assess whether your precautions are sufficient in light of the really horrifying descriptions/pictures your web search yielded. Also know what to do in case of emergency. Muriatic/hydrochloric acid is not to be trifled with.
  3. Know what you plan to do with the rags, paper, excess acid, etc. when you’re done with it. What are the hazardous materials disposal processes in your community?
After protecting yourself and your work surface, lay the mirror face-down on the layers of newspapers. Spray or apply your paint stripper with a brush, following product directions. Depending on the stripper, paint should start to lift in 5 to 15 minutes. You’ll notice wrinkling and puckering of the paint, which indicates that it is lifting. Gently wipe the stripped paint away to reveal the silvering underneath. For difficult to remove paint areas, you can use the plastic paint scraper, being careful not to scrape the silvering off. Often it is better to just apply a bit more paint stripper to these areas and patiently wait for the paint to lift, rather than scraping harder and risking scratch lines on the silvering.
Once all of the protective paint has been removed, use your bottle of water to spritz the back of the mirror and wipe all paint stripper residue off with the paper towels. Ensure that no paint/paint stripper has seeped around the edges of the mirror and onto the front. If it has, clean those areas before the gunk has dried. This is also a good time to replace the soiled newspapers with clean and dry ones, in preparation for the next step. Allow the newly de-nuded mirror to dry.
Very carefully pour a small amount of the muriatic acid into the spray bottle that you have designated for this purpose, making certain not to be in the path of any fumes that may rise from pouring. When I opened my acid bottle, there was a foil seal at the opening. Rather than completely removing the seal, I poked two holes across from one another (like a colon- : ) . This allowed ventilation, so that when I poured from the “bottom” hole, the acid didn’t glug or slosh. Pour slowly and steadily to eliminate the possibility for spills.
Use the spray bottle to apply the acid to the areas that you would like to age. Any of the silvering that the acid touches will be lifted, so apply sparingly at first. Remember, you can always remove more (but not add) to the silvering. Let the acid sit for a minute or two, then using the dampened cotton rags, blot the liquid beads. Just blot. Don’t move the rag in circles, lines, or drag the rag in any way. This will smear the acid and muddle the spray pattern. Once all of the acid has been completely soaked up into the rag, allow the glass to air dry. After the glass is dry, use the water bottle to spritz the areas where the acid had been sprayed, allow the water to sit for a minute or two, then blot again (with unused rag) to remove acid residue and allow to air dry. (If there are water spots on the silvered side of the mirror after the second blotting, rinse mirror with a stream of water and gently wipe dry). Properly store/dispose of remaining acid and materials (newspapers, rags, gloves, etc) that it came in contact with, per your local hazardous materials requirements.
Once the mirror is dry and free of acid, you’ll need to apply to the back of mirror whatever you plan to have show through the gaps in the silvering that you have created. The traditional choice would be black paint to mimic a naturally aged mirror. Another option might be a contrasting metallic paint or leaf, such as copper or gold. Protect the paint and exposed silvering with cardboard or veneer cut to fit and reattach frame.

For the piece above, I used a small 5" mirror from the dollar store. These work well, and at their inexpensive price, they're good for experimentation before moving on to bigger mirrors.

After aging the mirror tile, I backed it with black paper and adhered it to a circle of pine using Liquid Nails. The black paper peeps through in the areas where the acid removed the silvering. I painted the wood mounting for the mirror black and added a simple sawtooth hanger on the back. Using epoxy, I added a ring of erratically shaped blued steel tacks to the rim of the wood to make this little accent mirror a bit more eerie and forlorn.

Since I knew that wasn't going to go through this aging process frequently,  I treated several mirror tiles at once to have a supply stash to work from. I'm certain that they'll be popping up in more elaborate works to come.

Friday, August 16, 2013

On the road and talking (temporary) shop

One of the big challenges for any artisan/crafter who sells their work in a live marketplace is how to display their work. What's going to draw a shopper's eye to your booth? What sort of impression are you making to keep a shopper's attention? What's going to protect your work from damage, especially at outdoor events? What's going to be easy to set up/take down? Most importantly, how are you going to fit 3 folding tables, your work, and any fixtures into a 2007 Toyota Corolla and still have room for your significant other?

While there are tons of ready-made fixtures designed for crafting display purposes, I went in a slightly different direction when I started showing my work at events a few years ago. While partially for practical reasons (read: I didn't want to sink a chunk of change into buying fixtures just in case this  whole-selling-my-stuff-face-to-face was a raging flop), I also felt that using repurposed objects to display my jewelry was a better fit for my overall flavor.

 Mid-setup at my favorite market Holy Hill Art Farm Market, October 2012

The vast majority of my fixtures have been scrounged from tag sales or made by me from found objects. Among these are:
  • Thrift store wall frames with the art/glass removed and replaced with fabric covered foam board. These make excellent pinboards for jewelry.
  • Smaller thrifted frames with pricing and credit card information.
  • Plant stands used to create multiple display levels within a small footprint.
  • Wooden wire spools used to create necklace rounders with the addition of tack "pegs" at the top and salvaged lazy susan bottoms.
  • Wine crates upended, with slide-in panels added to create shelves for small items.
  • Thrift store cut glass bowls to hold little bobs.
  • Wire photo displays (great for carded items or business cards)
  • Printer's trays 
  • Small wooden drawers
  • Old bakeware (cookie sheets, tart pans, etc)
  • Vintage servingware, including a revolving brass and glass relish tray and tiered dessert tray.
  • Thrifted linens and fabric remnants as table covers.
  • "Shelves" created with boards (scrap lumber found at my local ReStore) and decopaged buckets.
  • A vanity mirror with a drawer. Found for $2.99 at Goodwill, I painted and weathered the finish, then lined the drawer with copies of beauty product ads from the 1910-20's before filling it with carded handmade hairpins.
Since so many of my items are small and not able to be seen from across a room, I rely on creating an overall environment to attract attention and bring shoppers to my booth. Once there, I have various sections for folks to explore which holds their interest. Not shown in the photo is the vintage wooden doll cradle filled with seasonally-appropriate items (Life-size Dia De Los Muertos skulls and more tissue flowers like those shown on the table) that I placed at the entrance to my booth. While not my primary medium, the skulls and flowers did fit with my esthetic and got passers-by to pause long enough to pique their interest in my jewelry.

Midwinter Gathering fundraiser at the Kemper Center, January 2013

You'll also notice in this much smaller booth at another event that I have a few fixtures that are a bit more mass-market and intended for this purpose. Sometimes reinventing the wheel isn't mandatory, but paying a lot for traditional displays isn't either. Second hand fixtures are just as good as the brand spanking new displays that are on the market, often for a fraction of the price. The velveteen necks are a salvage from a mall jewelry store that went out of business (I bought an assortment of sizes for $.50 to $2.00 each). As for the black racks at the rear, those were found at a surplus shop for a dollar each and repainted.


Looking to make the leap to vending at a craft show or thinking about adding to your existing display? Here are some ideas for doing it on the cheap:
  • Look up: Odds are that you'll have limited horizontal booth space, so you'll want to create some of you own with tiered displays (think shelving) or a mechanism to hang work at various levels (stanchions with wire drawn between them allow you to hang carded items or prints from clips). Risers for shelving can be created with a multitude of objects like books or bricks. Also consider hollow items like boxes or canisters that can be used to transport and store your stock.
  • Check out your local thrifts and rummage sales for objects that will compliment your work. Do you make awesome fabric accessories? Garage sale suitcases (relined and freshened up as appropriate) would make great bins. Mug trees and cup racks make great multi-peg displays
  • Consider building your own fixtures. As previously mentioned, the ReStore is a great source for all sorts of building materials. My local stores often seem to have a plethora of cabinet doors and hardware. Hinge a few together to form a folding "screen" and use knobs and hooks to create rack space.
  • Is mismatched and hodge-podge not your thing? Not to worry. A simple coat of the same color paint on all paintable surfaces and a remnant of fabric to cover soft surfaces can create a unified feel to your display space. Also, don't despair if a fixture isn't the right color/pattern. Inexpensive paint and Modge Podge can do wonders.
  • As regular readers know, I'm a clearance rack scrounger. I'm always looking at the deeply discounted out-of-season and scratch-and-dent treasures. Just because something was DESIGNED to hold Christmas cards or Easter eggs, doesn't limit it to that purpose alone. If you pried off the Santa head or painted over the dancing bunnies, would it work for your needs? Same thing for baby items. There are so many cool storage options for kid-related flotsam. A savings of 75-90% off can justify a bit of DIY modding. 
  • Don't rule out fixtures-designed-to-be-fixtures either. Craigslist and Ebay are great resources for finding secondhand retail fixtures and storage. Rolling racks, mannequins, and wire grid are all expensive items that depreciate rapidly and are easily found via salvage.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Playing with patinas

(click for larger view)
A couple of weeks ago, I played with patinating some charms that I had on hand. Not the best shot admittedly (I'd just sealed them and they were drying), but I so rarely photograph WIP and figured I'd share. I really like how they turned out and ended up using some of them in earrings and necklaces.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Elkhorn Antiques Market 6/30/13

Now that it is summer again, I'm making the rounds of the antique markets and recording some of the more interesting and odd bits along the way:

Nifty radio innards. This vendor had a ton of radios, phonographs, and obsolete media (Edison cylinders, anyone?)

That same vendor had this portable (hand crank) phonograph

Wouldn't this solid oak card catalogue (salvaged from a Wisconsin library) make great storage for an altered art workspace?

 I was really tempted by these cast iron clawfoot tripod legs, but I couldn't justify $20 each for something that I didn't have an immediate project for. (Exhibiting restraint. Good grrrl.) Only later did I start thinking about how they would make great bases for a couple of the the DIY mannequin projects that I have pinned on Pinterest. Gah!

It was a bumper crop day for vintage anatomy toys/models,

Would this keep chatty co-workers at bay if I posted this at the entrance to my cube?

Alas, Bucky was not destined to grow up to be a “real cowboy” since his saddlebags could not carry the volume of sunscreen that would be sufficient  for his daily needs.

Narnia remains elusive, but my partner (as shown in mirror) makes a lovely Mr. Tumnus stand-in.

Nobody seems to appreciate quality smut.

Ok...maybe they do.

I was assured that this was a never-used display model

...and speaking of display, this is what it could be displayed ON...

...or there's always smaller vintage funeral home swag to be had.

Some well-aged scabies cream

...and pennyroyal pills.

While this industrial sewing machine wouldn't do any fancy stitches, it would be a sturdy workhorse. Check out the size of the motor under the table!

My partner was tempted by the Ghostbusters PKE meter (from the cartoon, not the movie. The movie version was a different device entirely. )

Because sometimes I have the brain of an 8 year old boy and I have to laugh at inadvertent poop references.

 Chalkboard easel with a paper roll (note the crank on the right side) with reference drawings of WWI era military airships/aircraft

Sort-of-scary-looking dentist's chair

Portable and convenient, for the mortician on-the-go

Oddly unsettling war bonds propaganda poster

Tom Corbett, Space Cadet. I was unaware that the RNC had decided that merchandising was a viable revenue stream. Flattering pic, though.

What would a trip to the market be without one violet ray device picture? This one is a deluxe set in very good condition with multiple attachments.

A marvel of the early 20th century office, the Ediphone.

 Must have been a rough trip through the looking glass.

 (For the benefit of my friend, Myra) Bakelite Bonanza!

Circa 1977 "computer" kit from Radio Shack. (Check out the video on YouTube)

Awesome-awesome 1958 rocket ship pedal car from Murray. It was in pristine condition. I think my 3 year old niece (and eventually her 1 year old brother) needs this.

Of course, she would need appropriate protective gear. See what a responsible aunt I am?

Because everyone needs a suitcase worthy of a Memphis bluesman.

Remember that card catalogue that I had posted above? This is what needs to go next to it. (It sold for $1600). Circa 1890s, it was salvaged from an Iowa hardware store.

 A child-sized Victorian era mourning parasol

 1920's children's art kit

Mmmmm... Are they made with real parrot? No pigeon fillers?

1954 Robert the Robot (check out the commercial:"Robert's Story")

One sibling grew up to be an FBI agent...the other an identity thief. It was all set into motion that fateful Christmas morning...

Not as exciting as the box suggests, but still sort of nifty.

1961 Mr. Machine board game

The vendor was quick to point out that none of the players were broken off, a common fate for most of these games.

This is one of those awesome toys that were pulled off of the market just before my time (*grumble* Product/child safety standards. Perhaps if I'd gotten the mayhem out of my system as a kid, I wouldn't be playing with heat guns/blowtorches/et al as an adult).

Another wonderfully bizarre toy of the 1960s that has quite the cult following online.

Essentially a lightbox for tracing, but still rather cool.. If this piques your interest, Millie Motts has uploaded all of the set images on Flickr.

I had this doll as a kid. Sindy wasn't quite the same proportions as perfect Barbie (*cough* kind of pudgy in contrast), so she never looked quite right in Barbie's clothes, so she could only wear her own (read: not as cool) clothes. This...right here...this was a learning toy for a young girl, though not really the lessons that you really want to have your daughter learn.

Speaking of messages of self-image and playthings....

The costume of Not-So-Arch-Villain-But-Still-Hella-Annoying-And-Creepy-Dude, Senor Unwelcome Touch.

There’s a point at which a relief portrait goes from looking like a cameo to looking like a horribly misogynist hunting trophy. This would be that point.

 For those times when you feel that the world needs to be warned that there's chaos in your pants.

Not at all erotica, but there's a whole lot of subtext in that cover.

Those are some classic wheels!

Plastic ham.

Mr. Stickley tries to comfort his bear friend who has apparently misplaced his body.

Leo was distressingly enthusiastic at times.

Lady Liberty is looking a bit rough here.

Nothing is quite so uniquely unsettling as seeing a shirtless clown doll hanging from the rafters of a barn.