Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Paper Marbling for Beginners!

My recent assignment from Studio 5 to learn about paper marbling very quickly became an obsession - I read dozens of online tutorials and tried a whole bunch of different techniques, made myself more than a little bit crazy, and finally hit on the method that combined great results, affordability, and ease of execution. It takes a little prep work, but the finished result is so much fun. Here's my segment on Studio 5 and a written tutorial to help you get started:


What you need to get started:
Alum - the best price I found was on Amazon Prime
Absorbent paper - my favorite was the inexpensive Canson watercolor paper pad from Walmart (way easier to work with than more expensive options I tried, but captured the colors and patterns beautifully) -or- Fabric (something lightweight and porous works very well, like muslin or cotton)
Acrylic Paints
Oxgall - I bought mine at Hobby Lobby, but it's also available on Amazon Prime
Liquid Starch - I bought mine at Walmart for $2.97 for a half-gallon bottle.

Other supplies you'll probably have on hand: Small plastic tubs, syringe, wood skewers, paint brush or spray bottle, jelly roll pan (or other flat tray or bin, depending on the size of your surface)

Prep Work:
1. Treat paper or fabric with alum. The alum coating on whatever surface you plan to marble is
super important - that's what grabs on to the paints so they don't wash away. Mix one tablespoon of alum per cup of warm water, then stir until dissolved. Use a brush or a spray bottle to thoroughly coat paper, then let dry. If you're using fabric, soak it in the alum water for at least half an hour, then thoroughly wring out and let dry (do not rinse).
2. When surface is dry, iron with a hot iron (no steam) to remove all wrinkles.
3. Mix paints. The solution I had the best success with was about 1 T paint, 1 T water, and 1/4 t oxgall. The oxgall helps the paint spread out on the surface of the starch. Different colors of paint will react differently, so you may need to tweak this for the colors you're using. You can also use oil paints thinned with mineral spirits - these create really rich colors, but I found the acrylic paints were overall much easier to work with.
4. Prepare marbling surface. You need a thickened-water base to float your paints on top of; this is called "size." I tried a couple of different cheaper alternatives - gelatin, liquid starch, etc. - but couldn't quite get the consistency right to be able to float the paints. A lot of online tutorials recommend using methyl cellulose as your size, but it's pretty pricy ($18/lb on Amazon was the best price I found). I finally gave up on my cheaper alternatives and ordered it, but when I mixed it up I was amazed to find it was almost the exact consistency of the liquid starch. So I went back to the drawing board a little bit, and found that once I got the right consistency of paint, I actually liked the liquid starch better as a size than the methyl cellulose. Now, that 1 lb of methyl cellulose would go a long, long way, and in the long run it might be as cheap or cheaper than buying bottles of liquid starch. But if you're just starting out with marbling and you want to give it a try before investing in the more expensive supplies, liquid starch is a really good way to go. All you need to do is pour the liquid starch straight from the bottle into your tray, and you're good to go. If you're using methyl cellulose, I recommend this tutorial from A Beautiful Mess for getting it ready to go.

Now for the fun, creative part!
1. Add paints to size. Get creative laying your paint down. Experiment with different amounts and tools. A dropper or syringe is great for larger areas, and a wooden skewer works well for smaller details.
2. Get swirly. If desired, use your wooden skewer to gently swirl the paints. Less is more - if you stir them too much, your colors will get muddy and you'll lose all the detail in your finished piece. There are lots of amazing tutorials and YouTube videos out there if you want suggestions about creating particular patterns.
3. Gently lay your paper on top of your paints. Make sure every part of the paper comes in contact with the surface of the size. I found that gently running my finger over the paper after laying it down helped eliminate any air pockets. Let your paper sit for a few seconds.
4. Rinse off excess paint and size. Pull your paper out of the size and spray it gently under running water to remove all the excess paint and size. Because you've treated it with alum, the print you've created won't wash off the paper.
5. Let dry, then iron again.
6. Show off your creation!

A few  pieces displayed on Studio 5

This was such a fun project once I got the hang of it. I loved experimenting with different colors and patterns, and I felt very artistic. I especially loved trying it on fabric - my favorite project was a pair of throw pillows I made for my living room:

Now, as a disclaimer - paper marbling is a centuries-old art form, and volumes have been written on the proper techniques. A quick search online reveals amazing artists doing such beautiful and intricate work. My little tutorial is just a starting place, and a way to dip your toes into these very colorful waters. Enjoy!

PS I didn't get a chance to mention this on the show, but if you just want to play around with the process and let your kids get involved and have a blast, check out this Suminigashi Ink kit from Amazon - $13 for the whole thing, and no special prep needed. My kids LOVED playing with it.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

My Studio - Finished at last!

Last summer we took a crazy leap and bought a fixer-upper house. There are a LOT of things that need work, but the house has one incredible feature - a big main floor dining room with giant windows and incredible light that my husband and I turned into a wonderful office/studio space!

Here's what you see when you walk in the door:

I wanted to create lots of storage that was functional and colorful and eclectic, and this great big pegboard was just the ticket.

I scoured Pinterest looking for pegboard organizing ideas, and there are so many great ones! My favorite thing was this baker's twine organizer from Damask Love  -- it works great for washi tape as well.

The clipboard gives me a great spot to enjoy some happy art. My current pick is this happy typewriter print from Alexa Z Designs -- I have a turquoise typewriter just like this, and it's one of my prize possessions. A long peg on the top row is a perfect place to hang all my pretty Hazel and Ruby papers.

I used 2" hooks to hang lots of organizing containers. These buckets came from the Dollar Store many years ago, and the rectangular wire baskets came from the kitchen section at IKEA - a treasure trove for craft organizing!

These long bars also came from IKEA - it's perfect for storing punches. Because the punches are so heavy, I screwed these right into the wall behind the peg board.

I love color, texture, and typography, so these MAKE letters make me happy every time I see them. The M is a painted wood letter. The A is from one of those cool new Marquee Love letters from Heidi Swapp. The K came from Michaels. The E is also a wood letter, but I glued lots of layers of red crepe paper, then gave it a few spritzes of glitter mist. That red tassel garland came from IKEA at Christmas time.

To the left of the peg board, is a shelf I made from a dresser drawer left at the house when we moved in. I loved the newsprint backing, and I wedged in a scrap of leftover wood to create the shelf. It's the perfect place to store my flower collection and other bits and bobs.

I also *finally* found a use for this old wooden drawer organizer I bought at a yard sale years ago. I filled it with a variety of peg dolls and colorful tiny craft supplies. That corner is also a nice place to tuck my Clip-It-Up organizer, where I store rub-ons and such.

To the right of the pegboard is another drawer shelf - this one is made from a drawer from the ReStore. They always have dozens, and they usually cost a dollar! This one holds larger wood blanks, boxed marker sets, and some other fun little tchotchkes. Below that is a tiny wood shelf flanked by some of my favorite prints from Kensie Kate. The little magnet/chalkboard beneath and the marker organizer to the left both came from Michaels. That organizer also holds lots of stamps and ink pads and other small things - it's a great item!

This storage tower came from IKEA several years ago. It's kind of a mess, but it holds a TON of stuff.

This is the extent of my sewing area - that cover doesn't make it off the machine very often. Sewing is not my strong suite, but I love this very old sewing cabinet that I inherited from my grandma. I'm hoping to restore it to all its midcentury glory at some point.

Here's my main work surface - this glorious, enormous table my hubby built for me. We used the new Kallax shelves from IKEA (they replaced the old Expedit classics) -- 2 2x4 units for the long sides and a 2x2 unit for the end. So much storage space! It keeps all my scrapbooking-mixed-media-peg-doll goodness in check. The top is a great big melamine panel from Home Depot. It gives me a ton of work space, plus there's room for my kiddos to come do homework while I'm working on big projects.

I LOVE all the light that comes in through these enormous windows (there's another one on the opposite side of the room). My office in my old house was in a dimly-lit basement room. I was grateful for the space, but it wasn't much fun to spend lots of time creating down there. But this is glorious!

The narrower desk along the long wall is made from plywood stretched across modular storage units that I've had for several years. The plywood actually used to be my desktop at the old house - it was a much deeper desk, but we cut it in half long-ways to make the narrower desktop for the new space. And in the storage carousel - surprise! - more pens! Lots of other tools, too, but yeah - I may have a problem with pen collection.

  One of my other favorite pieces in here is the Raskog cart from IKEA. It's the perfect place for all my paints. Does anything make the eyes happier than craft supplies in rainbow order? Not much!

On the opposite side of room, we built barn-door style doors to close off my studio (because it's usually a hot mess), and I painted the backsides with chalkboard paint. On the right, which is always visible, I keep a to-do list for my shop and the creative projects I want to tackle. I let the kids go to town on the other side.

That long wall hanging to the right is a gorgeous vintage counted cross stitch from Denmark that some dear friends gave us a couple years ago when my husband and I went back for a visit.

Oh, and here's the newest addition to my studio - my new little crafting companion! Her name is Cookie, and she's the sweetest little miss you could imagine.

Thanks for coming along for the full tour! Please let me know if you have questions about anything!

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Family is LOVE -- free download!

Happy Valentine's Day! I know it's still January, but celebrating love makes this dreary month a little warmer and happier, don't you think? So to kick things off, here is a FREE printable, hand-lettered by me. :) Just click the link to save -- it will print and fit beautifully in a 5x7 frame, and you can choose pink, turquoise, or red. Lots of love to you and yours!

And come join in the fun on Instagram -- you can follow me at @littlethingshappy

Friday, September 19, 2014

Bookshelf Makeover... WITH BOOKS!

Remember this one time I had a blog? Yeah, no one else does, either. But I had to come and post this little redo so I could give a shout-out to Kelly of View Along the Way for her awesome post Save the books: how to style a bookshelf for actual book storage. We moved to a new (to us) house this past summer, which necessitated re-homing of our furniture. We had this giant white bookcase/entertainment center in our basement of the old house, where all our hundreds of books were just shoved in there any which way because grown-ups didn't really hang out down there so... who cares?

But now the entertainment center resides in our main living area. My awesome husband was kind enough to unpack all the books and put them back up pretty much how they had been in the old house:

Not so pretty. But I didn't know how to tackle it so that we could fit all these books and hopefully some of my homeless tchotchkes, so it sat like that for a couple of months until I saw Kelly's blog post. Then I heard angels sing and a light shone down on my iPad and I felt totally inspired. Yay! 

Her basic strategy is to:
1. Take everything off the bookcase.
Can you tell I was also clearing off my DVR?

2. Arrange books by color
This is when I started to panic I'd never get them all back on...

3. Put small groups on books on the shelves, alternating standing and lying down books, and keeping things balanced as you go.

4. Leave gaps you can fill with tchotchkes.

I  followed her strategy to the letter, except that I did keep series together. I just couldn't go that far.  But it's BEAUTIFUL. I'm so happy with how it turned out, I sat on the couch in front of it all that evening just basking in the glow of something actually done and put together in this hodge-podge fixer-upper house.

Most of the picture books and kids' books are down in the cabinets, which is perfect because a) the kids can reach them and b) they're not as pretty.

I'm sure I'll still rearrange all the tchotchkes as I get this house put together, but I'm so happy with how it turned out. Thank you so much, Kelly, for your helpful blog post!

Monday, November 4, 2013

If you're in Utah...

If you're a local Utah person, you need to check out The Wonderland Boutique!  A few of my sisters and I are putting on a huge boutique this weekend in Alpine (in the former location of the Peppermint Place candy store).  We have about 30 vendors selling unique handmade items and art.  I'll be selling my laser cut wood snowflakes, watercolor prints, and custom peg dolls.  We've even got the Waffle Love truck coming on Saturday from 10-2, and that is some serious deliciousness.

Over on our blog we have a TON of fun giveaways going on, including a set of 5 of my very own snowflake ornaments!  (The winner will be able to choose their 5 at the boutique.)  So head over to the giveaway post to enter, and come join in the fun on our Facebook page.

The boutique will be this Friday and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. at 123 E. 200 N. in Alpine, Utah.  I'll be there pretty much the whole time, so come say hi!

Monday, October 14, 2013

New watercolor pieces!

I've been a doodling typography artist for a long time, and lately I've been experimenting with using watercolor paints to color my pencil sketches.  I'm loving the results, so I'm adding prints of them to my etsy shop!  Here's just one example -- click the link to see them all!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Summertime Birthday Card

Hello again!  I'm finally back with another card for ScrapbookUSA Expo.  I know all you moms can sympathize with the fact that the last month of school is ca-razy.  But now we have months of wonderful summer ahead, and I am loving the sunshine and blue skies.  This card, using the lovely and eclectic Park Bench collection from Fancy Pants, captures the easy breezy feeling of summer in an elegant birthday greeting.

This collection has a ton of sweet embellishments, and this colored tag (the pack came with all sorts of pretty patterned and solid color coordinating tags) was the perfect anchor for my sentiment.  I used EK Success border and doily punches to add pretty details.  I love how it turned out!

Here's a closeup of the details:

Next time I'm going to showcase the funkier side of this collection with a fun layout -- stay tuned!