Monday, June 20, 2005

Getting Organized - Sort Your Ephemera

I wish I had all the shelves, drawers, cabinets, totes and containers I would ever need for paper crafting. But like many crafters, my storage solutions are often seat-of-the-pants and at the expense of aesthetics. Sometimes I just don't have the money, time or patience to find one more container for one more project.

I started "bagging it" when I began participating in crafts swaps. A crafts host would announce a theme -- say, celestial artist trading cards -- and I would start hoarding related ephemera (i.e. stars, moons and planets) in a gallon-sized, zippable plastic food bag. If I had several swaps in mind, I'd have a bag for each.

Click to Enlarge
Ephemera Sorted by Theme

For labeling, I chose a temporary fix. Rather than write directly on the bags with indelible marker, I'd create a small label on plain paper and adhere it with clear packing tape. I'd fold a tiny end of the tape back onto itself to create a tab for easy removal. When I finished making the swaps, I removed the label and saved the bag for the next theme. Soon I gathered materials in anticipation of themes. Now I have a bin full of different bags, waiting for the creative muse to strike.

But sorting by theme doesn't always meet my needs, I've found. There are days when I'd rather do art based on color or texture. One day I was in the mood for everything Egyptian, but I didn't have enough ephemera on this theme. After rummaging through my bags and bins, I pulled together lots of gold and metallic items, which satisfied my artistic appetite.

Click to Enlarge
Ephemera Sorted by Type or Color

Another nice thing about "bagging it," is the portability. I can grab exactly what I need for a crafts session. It saves lots of time in pre-class preparation.

What have YOU done to organize your crafts space? Let me know!

Additional Reading
  • More Ephemera, by Beth Cote, Suzanne McNeill

  • Product Resource Guide
  • Words Ephemera, by Hot Off The Press

  • Vintage Ephemera, by Hot Off The Press

  • Buy your craft supplies at

  • Wholesale Arts & Crafts Supplies

  • Most project photos on this page were taken with a 5.0 MP resolution KODAK EASYSHARE DX4530 Zoom Digital Camera

  • Article Description: Are your paper crafts ephemera, found art and other materials taking over your life and home? Try this quick fix.

    Monday, June 13, 2005

    Project - Make a Mini Book From Found Materials

    At the coffee shop the other day, I found myself eyeing yet another paper coffee sleeve. You know the ones. They're brown cardboard, to protect your hands from the heat, and imprinted, to advertise the business. Most coffee sleeves are either corrugated or embossed with a design, making them perfect for paper crafts. The next time you finish a latte at Starbucks, remove the sleeve from your coffee cup to take home for this project.

    A Penny for Your Travels - CoverA Penny for Your Travels - Center Spread
    Mini Book From Found Materials

    Materials & Tools
    A. Basic book construction
  • Brown paper grocery bag, from your favorite supermarket

  • Paper trimmer, like 12" Portable Paper Trimmer Item #95987097 by Fiskars

  • Brown cardboard coffee sleeve, like one purchased with a drink at Starbucks

  • Good pair of comfortable, teflon-like coated scissors, like Velvet Touch Scissors by Armada, or a craft knife

  • Bone folder, for creasing folds in the mini-book's pages

  • Handheld paper punch, like 1/8-inch Round Punchline Punch Item #52400 by McGill

  • Black twist tie, from a bag of bread

  • 1/4-inch hole punch

  • Pencil

  • Metal ruler or straight edge

  • B. Outside Collage (Front Cover)
  • Torn paper scraps

  • White glue or acrylic adhesive, like Perfect Paper Adhesive in Matte by US ArtQuest

  • Small cheap paint brush for gluing

  • Small feather

  • Copper or burnt orange colored glitter, like Ultra Fine Pumpkin #56 by Art Institute Glitter

  • Embossed copper tag, cut from copper sheet or scrap

  • Glue dots, like Craft glue dots by Glue Dots International

  • Earth-toned fibers

  • Faux tooth-shaped beads

  • C. Inside Collage (Pages, Center Spread)
  • Torn paper scraps, again!

  • White glue, once more

  • Cancelled foreign postage stamps

  • Pigment inkpad, like Really Rust Classic Stampin' Pad by Stampin' Up!

  • Brown and gold pigment inkpad combo, like Ultimate Inkpad Paintbox2, in Precious Metals #13010 by ColorBox/Clearsnap

  • Small artistic rubber stamps, like Dawn Houser's Faux Foreign Post Cancellation Marks, by Inkadinkado

  • Black solvent inkpad, like Jet Black by StazOn

  • The Steps
    Click to enlarge images. Click the back button to return to this article.)

    A. Basic book construction

    1. The main items you'll need to make one mini-book project are one cardboard coffee sleeve and (pieces of) a brown paper grocery bag.

    2. Cut pieces of the grocery bag into 2-inch by 4-inch pieces. Make 4 pieces per book.

    3. Use one of the page spreads as a template. Using a pencil, lightly trace the page spread on the smooth side of the coffee sleeve.

    4. Using a ruler and the pencil, draw a border around the page shape just slightly beyond the page tracing. About a 1/4-inch distance should do it, if you have the room. Now trim your book cover. You can see in the photo that I used a pair of scissors. You would get a straighter line with a metal straight edge (ruler) and a craft knife.

    5. Using a bone folder for precise creasing, fold the cover and each of the grocery bag pages in half.

    6. Nestle the pages together. Hold everything steady and punch four holes in the folds. Hint: Punch the pages as a group separately, then use the pages as a guide to punch the cover. You can always try the "grit-your-teeth and punch it all together" technique, but I attempted it and failed, so you've been warned. (smiles)

    7. Cut a black twist tie in half then fold each piece.

    8. Push one tie half into a set of adjoining holes, then twist the ends together on the back of the book spine. Repeat for the second set of holes.

    Your mini-book is now assembled. Now it's time to collage on your "found art" creation.

    B. Outside Collage (Front Cover)
    9. Refer to the finished project pictures (top of page) for layout suggestions. Now select and tear your choice of paper scraps for collage. I chose a palette of earth tones, with beige and brown mostly.

    10. Using a paint brush, apply white glue liberally to the backs of your paper scraps , then apply these scraps to the book cover randomly.

    11. You can use any embellishments you like to collage on top of the paper scraps. I added a small feather, some glue and copper colored glitter.

    12. I embossed a tag, cut from a piece of copper, by burnishing the design with a bone folder and a real penny. I added earth-toned fibers to the tag then tied faux tooth beads to the yarn ends. I adhered the tag to the cover with glue dots.

    C. Inside Collage (Pages, Center Spread)
    13. Refer to the finished project pictures (top of page) for layout suggestions. Tear some paper scraps, again! Open the book to the center page spread then collage these scraps with White glue and a paintbrush.

    14. Select a few cancelled foreign postage stamps and add these to the pages with white glue. I used three stamps, each from a different country. If you can't find foreign postage stamps, you can buy them on eBay.

    15. Rub the rust, brown and gold inkpads onto the pages and postage stamps, until you achieve the desired shading.

    16. Using the black inkpads and rubber stamps, stamp faux cancellation marks on top of the postage.

    Check back often for other versions of this project, or better yet, sign up for our newsletter and I'll include a note when I've updated this page.

    Project Tips
  • Choose pieces of the grocery bag with printing on them, to add some personality to the pages of your book.

  • When tracing your cover , try to align the middle of the book pages with natural folds in the coffee sleeve. This will save you time and frustration when folding the cover in half.

  • Collage isn't meant to be exact, so go with your gut when applying paper scraps and embellishments. Position embellishments at contrasting angles for a less "studied" look.

  • When selecting a black inkpad, choose wisely. For black, I prefer pigment or solvent inkpads, rather than dye inkpads. Hint: Look at the package! I like StazOn Jet Black, even when I don't need a solvent ink for paper, because it's vivid and tolerates lot of ink layering.

    Additional Reading
  • Making Mini Books, by Sherri Haab

  • The Bookmaking Kit, by Ann Morris, Peter Linenthal

  • More Making Books by Hand, by Peter Thomas, Donna Thomas

  • The Essential Guide to Making Handmade Books, by Gabrielle Fox

  • Product Resource Guide
  • Buy your craft supplies at

  • Wholesale Arts & Crafts Supplies

  • Most project photos on this page were taken with a 5.0 MP resolution KODAK EASYSHARE DX4530 Zoom Digital Camera

  • Article Description: Millions of paper coffee sleeves are thrown away every day in local coffee shops. Save one to create a collaged handmade book.

    Wednesday, June 08, 2005

    Project - Recycle a Planter into a Shabby Chic Treasure

    Later this month, summertime will arrive officially. I've started to think about creating more decorative items for my patio, including a few planters.

    A friend was cleaning out her closets and asked me if I'd like a metal planter she was about to throw away. Someone had painted flowers on the planter's outside. The design wasn't my style, but I thought I could probably recycle it into something more appealing.

    Altered Book Pages on a Metal Planter
    Altered Book Pages on a Metal Planter

    Materials & Tools
  • Metal planter

  • Low-tack painters masking tape

  • Book pages, like those removed while working on an altered book

  • White tacky glue

  • Cheap paint brushes for adhering the glue

  • Walnut-colored pigment ink, like e-z walnut ink by FiberScraps

  • Purple acrylic paint

  • Sponge brush

  • Glitter glue

  • Spray acrylic sealer, like Crystal Clear Acrylic Coating by Krylon

  • Tacky tape

  • Lilac ribbon

  • Flat-bottomed colored marbles

  • The Steps
    (Click to enlarge each image. Click the back button to return to this article.)

    1. This is the metal planter I'm planning to decorate. Let's get started.

    2. Mask off the top and bottom edges of the planter, right on top of the acrylic paint. You can also use a new planter -- one that's unpainted -- if you're concerned about covering up someone else's artwork.
    Fold the tape back onto itself to leave a small tab. This will make it easier to remove the tape afterwards.

    3. Remove several pages from a discarded book. If you enjoying altering books and have alrady removed some pages, no'w your chance to do something useful with them. Tear the pages into threes. You'll use the top and bottom thirds of these pages.

    4. Brush glue on the surface of the planter and on a piece of torn page. Notice that I am aligning the page margin with the masking tape. The tops of the pages go on the top, while the bottoms of the get the idea. This technique creates a plain border around the container. Overlap the torn pieces, to create an altered look and cover page numbers. To seal the edges, apply more glue on top of the pieces, but sparingly, please. Hint: you'll stain the paper later.

    5. When you have covered the middle of the planter, all the way around, let it dry. Now remove the masking tape carefully.

    6. Create an altered look by using brown pigment ink to stain the pages. Hold the ink dauber in place to create darker sploches of color here and there.

    7. Crafting is a creative process, so I often change my idea halfway through a project. After surveying my work so far, I decided I wasn't satisfied with the original design after all (not even a smidgen). I covered the planter with more paint. If you started with an unpainted or new planter, you may not need to do this, but you may want to paint the planter anyway. It's up to you.

    8. After the paint dries, you can decorate more, if you like. Not one to stop at simplicity, I added glitter glue with blue flecks. Maybe it doesn't really go with the shabby chic theme, but I couldn't help myself. I love glitter! You, on the other hand, can forget it, if you choose.

    9. To protect the design, spray the outside of the planter with an acrylic sealer, as noted in the materials list above. I chose a glossy sealer, but you might prefer a matte finish.

    10. Using strong double-stick tape, attach a piece of ribbon around the planter. Adhere flat-bottomed marbles to the ribbon with the same tape.
    Altered Book Pages on a Metal Planter
    Altered Book Pages on a Metal Planter

    The Moral of the Story: Never throw anything away, I always say. One woman's trash is another woman's treasure...or at least has some potential. And because I can never leave well enough alone, in the fall, I might recycle the planter again into a back-to-school design.

    Project Tips
  • After staining the pages, try sanding them to give the design a more weathered look.

  • You can substitute other colors of ribbon and paint.

  • Play around with the position of the ribbon on the planter, before you adhere it with double-stick tape. Once you add the tape behind the ribbon, it will be difficult to reposition it without ruining the altered page "cummerbund."
  • If you prefer a more rustic look, substitute colored raffia for the ribbon.

  • Product Resource Guide
  • Buy your craft supplies at

  • Wholesale Arts & Crafts Supplies

  • Most project photos on this page were taken with a 5.0 MP resolution KODAK EASYSHARE DX4530 Zoom Digital Camera

  • Article Description: One woman's trash is another woman's treasure, in this project that uses altered book pages on a recycled metal planter.