Art Therapy and Dealing with SAD

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Hey all!

Long time, no type. For real, though, I’m sure some of the usual suspects are wondering where I disappeared to for a couple of Sundays there. The truth is a combination of things but it all boils down to one big, annoying, unfortunately inevitable occurrence for me: seasonal affective disorder. Seasonal affective disorder or SAD as it is generally called, is essentially seasonal depression. It’s something that I struggle with at about this time every year and it sucks. There are definitely some activities that can help alleviate some of the symptoms, not the least of which is art therapy. The best kinds of projects for this purpose are those that are bright and full of Spring colors as well as being something that you (for once) make for yourself. I’ve rounded up some great Spring-y things to make to hopefully get us passed these dismal and cold days.

To start, let’s turn something usually associated with the snow and cold into pretty flowers with this tutorial from A Fanciful Twist:

So bright and beautiful! Just make sure you aren’t using the cinnamon scented ones.

Just a bit of paint and a sealer and we have pinecones transformed into zinnias! Place a bowl of them somewhere in the house to give it a pop of color and hopefully bring in a hint of Spring. We can also combat some of the doldrums of late Winter with the scents of the upcoming thaw. This DIY Lavender sachet tutorial from Live Simply is just the thing:

Also great for using up some scrap fabric!

If you have a favorite scent, almost any potpourri can be used as a stuffing. Put them in your dresser or in the pockets of any favorite pieces of clothing in your closet for a reminder that the dark doesn’t last forever. Ok, so now we have something pretty to look at, something great to smell, but what about something to make us feel better? I don’t know about you but winter also dries out my skin like crazy. Scribe Sarah’s been providing a bunch of fantastic DIY body care recipes so you can certainly prowl the archives for relaxing (and fragrant) bath salts or face masks. I, however, am talking about a great DIY body butter recipe (also by Live Simply, funnily enough):

If you have a collection of essential oils, this is the place to let them shine, so to speak.

Body butter is rich and lasts much longer than what we would consider traditional lotion. I love to customize scents and have some kind of control over the ingredients I’m smearing on my sensitive skin. Lastly, how about something to just lift your spirits? Something whimsical and fun like this simply adorable fleece unicorn pillow tutorial from Bugaboo City:

I guarantee this will be appearing on our own couch in due time.

If only to remind yourself that you, too, are one of a kind and fabulous, you need this in your dwelling. Hopefully one of these little projects will start to lift you out of the funk. If not, there are actually some very practical tips for fighting the effects of SAD, the best of which is purchasing a lamp made just for this purpose. SADlamps.org has a wonderful list of comparisons for effectiveness and cost. If you still find yourself feeling down in the dumps around this time, I highly recommend a trip to your doctor/therapist. This is a real issue that affects many people during this time period and it could even require some Vitamin D supplements so don’t wait to find some help! For more info on SAD symptoms and treatments, please check out this article by the National Institute of Mental Health.

Now, to wrap up, I did promise a tutorial some time back and now that I’ve taken some steps to combat my SAD, it will appear in the near future. Until then, expect some bunny laced posts since Easter is fast approaching.

Stay crafty!

~Laura

 


Baking Tip: The Importance of a Trial Run

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Good morning, Crafty Hackers!

This week I wanted to focus on my love of baking. Last week, my office had a pre-Valentine’s Day Bake-off Contest. I love contests like this for two reasons; first reason, you get to eat a bunch of yummy treats that you might not have otherwise had the opportunity to try. Second reason, you have an excuse to try new recipes.

I sat down with a stack of my newer cookbooks, flipping through to find the recipe I wanted to enter to our contest. I decided on a recipe for “Unicorn Poop Cookies” from Rosanna Pansino’s cookbook, Nerdy Nummies (of which you can obtain a copy here if you are interested). I thought it would be a fun and funny entry to the contest (would make people laugh and would stand out), but more importantly, it appeared to be a simple, easy recipe. Well, while it wasn’t a difficult recipe to follow, it did remind me of why it is always important to do a trial run of a recipe first.

To start, this recipe was a simple cream cheese sugar cookie recipe so it wasn’t hard or expensive to make. What it was, though, was TIME-CONSUMING. Having never made cream cheese sugar cookies before, I didn’t know that the dough was not as tough as a roll-out cookie dough. Had I just been making the standard, base recipe, this would not have been a problem. But to craft these cookies into “unicorn poop,” there were several steps that required multiple rounds of chilling in the refrigerator. Had our contest been on a Monday, I could have used all the Sunday prior to make these and would have had plenty of time for all the steps. But, alas, our bake-off was on a Tuesday and I didn’t get home from work on Monday night until around 5:30 pm. Long story slightly less long, the cookies didn’t even go into the oven until about a quarter after 10 pm. I had pre-read the recipe but didn’t put together in my head how long the process might actually take.

Secondly, the recipe only ended up making 12 cookies. TWELVE. For an office of about 35 people. A trial run of the recipe would have shown how big those cookies ended up being and that minimizing the amount of dough used in the “shaping the poop” step would have yielded more cookies. They also would have baked better if smaller. I noticed that a number of the cookies were still just a bit doughy in the center.

Finally, while the cream cheese sugar cookies were tasty, they were also rather blasé. A test run would have given me an opportunity to taste-test first and decide on little tweaks to the recipe. For example, next time I make this recipe, I’d like to try adding a touch more vanilla extract and some nutmeg to add a little more flavor and pop.

When it comes right down to it, this whole thing was a learning experience but I could have had the lesson, applied what was learned and still won that contest. So next time, I plan to plan ahead and make a test batch first. Who wants to be my taste-testers?

“Piece” out, Crafty Bakers!

~Scribe Sarah~


World Building Assistance

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Whenever you’re venturing out to create your own world, be it for a DnD game, a book, or even just an art series, having your world fleshed out will always help strengthen your final product. Even if the details are aspects people will never see or read about (see all the lost tales book for Lord of the Rings for example), you knowing why the world has evolved a certain way, or where in it a certain character has traveled can really give your world a bit of realism and grounding; no matter how fantastical it is on the surface.

 

Making notes is a great way to get this process started and, I don’t know about you, but I have a tendency to lose journals/note pads or find them hard to navigate since it’s always being added to, but I can’t add to older sections if they’ve run out of room. To aid in this I’d like to present, notebook.ai.  

Not only does this site help you keep all your notes in one place, it goes much much deeper then a simple notepad function. This site will ask you questions about your world and save your answers. It will check to make sure you’ve made no continuity errors. If you’re working on a group project you can invite others to join and keep all your work in the same place. This site will let you go as deep as you want with your world building and keep it all nice and together for as long as you need. Oh, and did I mention it’s completely free?

There are paid tiers if you’re really into world building (ranging from $9-7 a month) but for the casual user the free subscription will be more then enough. I wish a site like this had existed 10 years ago when I dabbled in writing, lol, but if creating worlds is your thing then I highly recommend giving this site a try. The ease of access and customizing is so worth it.


Designing an Embroidered Patch

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So not everyone has a fancy machine and software to whip out patches on a whim, including myself, but sometimes you want to have them for a family/business event or even to sell for your own company without having to learn an entire new vocation. Well my friends, that’s where the lovely people at Stadri Emblems come in.

They’ve created a great guide to get you started on not just what you need to know about patches, but what you need to think about when designing them. Stuff like, does your entire patch need to be made from thread or can some of it be a woven background? They also have a staff on artist on hand that get assigned to each customer so you can work one on one to get the patch you wanted, starting with a free image design and quote.

What if I’m not a designer or artist?

Don’t worry; all of our orders come with artwork set-up for free. Whether your design just needs some small tweaks or you only have a napkin drawing, we have you covered. If you don’t have finished art, here are a few tips for describing what you are envisioning to your artist:

 

1. Be as descriptive as possible! If there are any details that are important to you, let us know!

2. Feel free to send us photos or examples to help the artists know what you’d like.

3. Make a rough sketch, if possible. Even if it’s not very detailed, having a sketch can be really helpful to our artists.

If this is something you’ve considered at all getting done, I really recommend giving this company a look. They’re very straight forward and helpful with the work and the finished quality speaks for it’s self. Now if you’re looking to get into the field with your own machine then this likely isn’t he route for you, but they still offer good tips in their guide that you should take into consideration when working on your own designs. 🙂


Tutorial- Polymer Clay Hearts

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Hey everyone! Happy Wednesday. This is Kim with Fantastical Menagerie. This week I have a simple clay tutorial for you. Its on creating a steampunk heart.

Supplies

  • Sculpey III in Dusty Rose
  • Sculpey III in Gold and Silver
  • Optional- Pearl X in Rose Gold

Tools

  • Mini Screwdriver
  • Needle Tool
  • Straight Blade
  • Pointer Tool
  • Clay Roller or Rolling Pin
  • Tweezers

Steps

  1. Condition your clay. You do this by kneading it in your hands. It needs to be soft and malleable.
  2. Pull off a piece of the Sculpey Dusty Rose Clay. You want a round ball the size of a quarter. Roll it into a teardrop shape, then flatten it.
  3. Use your blade or a wedge tool to divide it down towards the
    center. Gently shape to form the top lobes of your heart. Curl the tail of the heart.
  4. Make a hole in one lobe. This is for you to attach a jump ring in after the piece is baked.
  5. Run the gold clay through your clay roller. If you don’t have one, you can use an acrylic roller or a rolling pin. Cut out a rectangle, about 3/4 of an inch by 1/2 an inch, and another much smaller one.
  6. Gently place the patches on your heart.
  7. Now its time to add the screws! Make a handful of very small balls out of the Sculpey III silver clay. Place them around the hole for the jump ring, and one more on top of your patches. You can impress the screw shapes with the mini screwdriver, or a butter knife.
  8. Add more detail- small dots or texture to form a frame around the heart with a needle point.
  9. Optional- dust heart with Pearl X in Rose Gold.
  10. Use your straight blade to move your heart to a baking tray, and then bake at 275 Degrees for 30 minutes. Allow the heart to cool completely before adding your jump ring and chain.

Let me know how they turn out!


Completing Custom Orders

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Happy Wednesday! This is Kim, with Fantastical Menagerie. Today I wanted to mention how to handle orders you receive both online and in person. We all get excited when others like what we make, and it translates into a sale. then the panic can set in. What next?

If its in person at a show, you make sure you get a full description of the order, and that the customer pays for both the item and the shipping. Make sure the shipping includes the cost of your time dropping it off at the post office, as well as the shipping boxes and wrap. This is called a handling charge. It would be a good idea to give them an estimate of when to expect their item, and discuss a way for them to approve it. I offer to email or text photos of them completed design. If this is an online order, make sure the listing specifies wait times. Give yourself enough time to complete the item, and if the customer is on a waiting list, they need to know this as well.

Once home, its a good idea to stick to the timeline you gave your customer. A good customer, satisfied with your service and quality of goods, is a repeat customer. If there is a delay, communicate it to them. Make sure you take well lit, accurate photos of the finished product for your own portfolio as well as for the customer’s approval of the project.

Once the project is completed and approved, you will need to wrap it securely, and mail it. I recommend purchasing postage online either through Paypal, or directly from the Post Office website. Both offer a discount from buying it in person, and will include tracking that you may have to pay extra for otherwise. Unless the item is small or not easily damaged, it is advisable to ship Priority if in the US. It provides included insurance up to $50, and an additional minimal amount for more expensive orders. You can use flat rate shipping, or use a small kitchen scale for shipping by weight. A digital scale is a small investment that will last a long time. My $20 Walmart purchase is more than six years old and still ticking!

Its not necessary, but adds to the overall appeal to make the wrapped package attractive and appealing. Our customers are buying handmade goods, and you want to make them feel as if they are getting a gift, and something with more meaning than a mass produced item. I once ordered a purse that arrived in a lovely clear bag, with ribbons, confetti, and a thank you card. It made such a big impression on me! It doesn’t have to be expensive. Bubble wrap, tissue paper, a business card/thank you card nicely wrapped can do the trick. I use ribbon and tissue, and then wrap the whole thing in bubble since my items are breakable. Some makers use cute stickers, or include a coupon code for a future order.

If the item is to be a gift, you can also include a small gift card for them to use. Vista Print and other online printers offer these in bulk, and they are a nice touch.

Once shipped, make sure if you have a tracking number you send it to the customer, and follow up to make sure it arrived. If you treat all your customers as if they are special, they will feel that way.


Wrist Exercises Take 2

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A few months ago I posted some great videos for stretching your wrist muscles and just generally helping them keep the more common wrist injuries at bay. Well today I’m back with some more, and they’re from an unlikely inspiration.

From Splatoon 2 enthusiast and Tumblr user comes a great reference guide to help the average person take care of their wrists before strenuous use. While they were inspired by long play session of Splatoon 2 for the Switch, these are really wonderful stretches that anyone can do. If you’re seeing a medical professional for an existing condition however, be sure to clear it with them first. Per the artist themselves:

I drew a quick chart about good wrist and finger exercise before playing Splatoon (or engaging in any other intense activity such as but not limited to gaming in general, programming, drawing, computer work etc.)
As with all stretching exercise, these should only be done in moderate speed. You only want to loosen up, not break your hands!!

Great advice, and I’d even recommend doing it at a very slow pace at first to help you get the feel of what the stretch should feel like and not hurt yourself. When done properly everyday, these stretches can definitely help the longevity of your very useful wrists. 🙂


Using glazes, seals and top coats on polymer clay

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Its Wednesday, and I’m back in my studio. This weekend I had the privelege of being a vendor at DragonCon. We had an amazing time, and it was so much fun to see everyone. I can’t wait for next year. Meanwhile, I am low on stock, and need to start working for my next show.

One question I am frequently asked is whether I seal my pieces, and what I would recommend for others to use. Polymer clay itself doesn’t need to be sealed. On its own, it’s durable and the color doesn’t change over time. If you have inclusions or a finish, then a seal or glaze would be recommended. The article I’m linking to does an excellent job explaining the different types, depending on your project. I recommend bookmarking it so you can experiment with them.

https://thebluebottletree.com/understanding-polymer-clay-glaze-sealer-varnish/

Once you’ve read the article, you can decide what finish works for you, or even if you need one.


Polymer Glitter Clay

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Happy Wednesday, and welcome to Crafthackers! Its been a couple of years since Polyform introduced their new Premo glitter clay lines, and they’ve been giving us some great projects and ideas on color combinations when working with it. They are a lot of fun, but also require extra care.

What is glitter clay? It is polymer clay that has had glitter or flakes added to change the color, texture or composition. The full list can be found here. 

The main colors I am talking about are opal, rose gold glitter, yellow gold glitter and white gold glitter. These have larger glitter inclusions. It is important to feel the clay before you purchase it, so I would recommend buying these clay variants in person. The texture should be softer, and allow indents when pressed. When not working the clay, keep wrapped in plastic or waxed paper. This clay must be completely conditioned before working. The glitter is large enough to make the clay harder to work. You can still combine it with other colors, just make sure it reaches the same consistency as the other clay or it will break while working it. Because of its stiff texture, its best to work the clay in one session. It seizes up easily, and projects can be damaged.

Have you worked with glitter clay? Let me know how it goes!


Prioritizing and You

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So this is a subject that I often struggle with in my daily life. Figuring out how to prioritize what to do and when to do it when you feel you’re overwhelmed/stressed. Typically I use a weekly planner to map out my work schedule for myself, but what about everything else? Where do I fit in my house hold chores? Doctor’s appointments (for me and family)? Cooking/Meal prep? Work for Craft Hackers? The sheer amount just overwhelms me mentally sometimes. Well, in case any of you out there are feeling buried under stress, here’s a handy chart/suggestion I found online to try and help you get a hold of things. This comes from a very helpful blogger and is no way my own idea.

Take a deep breath, because this is a boot camp in prioritization.

  • Make a 3 by 4 grid. Make it pretty big. The line above your top row goes like this: Due YESTERDAY – due TOMORROW – due LATER. Along the side, write: Takes 5 min – Takes 30 min – Takes hours – Takes DAYS.
  • Divide ALL your tasks into one of these squares, based on how much work you still have to do. A thank you note for a present you received two weeks ago? That takes 5 minutes and was due YESTERDAY. Put it in that square. A five page paper that’s due tomorrow? That takes an hour/hours, place it appropriately. Tomorrow’s speech you just need to rehearse? Half an hour, due TOMORROW. Do the same for ALL of your tasks
  • Your priority goes like this:
    • 5 minutes due YESTERDAY
    • 5 minutes due TOMORROW
    • Half-hour due YESTERDAY
    • Half-hour due TOMORROW
    • Hours due YESTERDAY
    • Hours due TOMORROW
    • 5 minutes due LATER
    • Half-hour due LATER
    • Hours due LATER
    • DAYS due YESTERDAY
    • DAYS due TOMORROW
    • DAYS due LATER
  • At this point you just go down the list in each section. If something feels especially urgent, for whatever reason – a certain professor is hounding you, you’re especially worried about that speech, whatever – you can bump that up to the top of the entire list. However, going through the list like this is what I find most efficient.
    • Some people do like to save the 5 minute tasks for kind of a break between longer-running tasks. If that’s what you want to try, go for it! You’re the one studying here.

So that’s how to prioritize. Now, how to actually do shit? That’s where the 20/10 method comes in. It’s simple: do stuff like a stuff-doing FIEND for 20 minutes, then take a ten minute break and do whatever you want. Repeat ad infinitum. It’s how I’ve gotten through my to do list, concussed and everything.

You’ve got this. Get a drink and start – we can do our stuff together!