Crafting-when inspiration doesn’t hit

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Every now and then, in the crafting and art world, you want to create, but can’t. You feel blocked, and no idea you have sounds appealing. What do you do? Here are a few tips to help get you past the cobweb feeling of being ‘craft blocked.’

  • Go for a brief, brisk walk, dance around the room, or basic stretches. Sometimes a little adrenaline can reset your brain and help you think more clearly.

  • Turn on some music, an inspiring movie or audio book.
  • Try a different creative endeavor. Bake a batch of cookies, make a pot of soup, plant some herbs or flowers.

  • Call or text a friend. Sometimes a brief chat can help relax us, allowing us to get new ideas.
  • Look to online sites for inspiration: Pinterest, Instagram and multiple crafting blogs can help you decide what to start next.

Crafting should be fun, and help you feel creative and fulfilled. Hopefully the above suggestions can help you continue on your creative path!

‘Bad Weather’ Days

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Happy Wednesday! Across many parts of the United States, we are being hit by bad weather towards the end of our winter. Trees had begun blooming, grass growing, and in rolls the storm. Suddenly you are stuck at home, with or without power, wondering what to do with your day off…

As long as I am warm and there is power, I try not to worry too much. Relaxing on my favorite chair with a book or movie and drinking some coffee or cocoa is a great day for me. Some people like to keep busy, though. This may be the perfect time to bring out some crafts or games you’ve been waiting to try.

  • If you like to crochet, this fun PDF pattern of an Octopus Scarf looks great!
  • If you like knitting, maybe some fingerless gloves!
  • If it look like there might be power issues, a candlemaking project might be a good one. Check here for a recipe!
  • Some people love to cook, especially a one pot stew or recipe. I’ve found some great ones on Epicurious, or you might open up one of your cookbooks- I have several from family members.

Whether it’s a project or a lazy day, stay warm and safe this week!


Gearing Up For Show Season, Part 2

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Happy Wednesday! This is Kim with Fantastical Menagerie. Last week I talked about the first part of deciding what shows to do. You can find that post here. This week, I wanted to go more in depth of the Jury Process.

A juried event is one where you send in photographs, slides, or digital images of your work, display, and sometimes WIP pictures with your application. It is judged by category, level of art, and whether its a good fit for the show. If your goal is to do art shows, this means that all vendors at the event should be at similar levels, with a good variety of art represented, with no Direct Sale or commercial companies there. Some other events will ask to see your work, but mostly to make sure you are a good fit for the show. If you are looking at Conventions or local Festivals, this may not be something you need to worry about.

If you are doing an art show, craft show or festival, the jury process is generally the same. Usually there is an application fee ($10-$50). They will request photos of your display, several of your art, and may ask for ‘work in progress’ pictures. Your display should focus on your art, tastefully laid out.

At an art festival, it should be uncluttered, with plain black tablecloths to the ground (many shows require black cloths, which are easily sourced from Amazon, EBay, or can be cheaply made with thick cloth). Some people use shelving or special jewelry cases. All storage should be put away. Tents should be white, preferably flame retardant (some shows have it as a requirement so its easiest to just have it), with three walls up. Some people add fabric to create a curtain or boutique look- this is up to you.

If you hang photos of your work, or any posters, you either need to crop our your business info or hang banners/photos with no identifying information. Most juries are anonymous, so your entry could be disqualified if they can see business information.

You can do a practice setup in a yard or driveway for photos. Take several different versions, in good light, and make sure to ask other artists and friends to help you decided on a photo, or what improvements to make to it. There are a number of groups on Facebook that can help- Art Reviews on Art Festivals, Jewelry Booth and Displays, or Art Fair Reviews. Try not to take the criticism personally- this about helping your art speak for itself, and improving your display so that you can not only be accepted to a show, you can make it more appealing to customers.

When offering photos of your work, they should be clean, focusing on the pieces, in focus (not blurry), and a standard size if a physical print (4 x 6, 5 x 7). Digital prints may be requested in specific files such as JPEG or PDF. Some shows use a website to process applications such as Zapplication or Call For Entry (CAFE).

Next, more on the application process…

*Photos are of Maggie J Jewelry and Morgan Harris Pottery*






Gearing Up For Show Season

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Good morning, Wednesday readers! This is Kim, from Fantastical Menagerie. I know its winter still, but show season for crafters will be here before you know it! Whether you have been participating in shows for years, or are thinking about starting out, there are always things to learn. I do a combination of Sci Fi Conventions, Art Shows and Festivals throughout the year. All have different requirements. Most have applications that need to be in at least six months before the show is scheduled. When trying to decide if a show is right for you, its important to do some research.

  • Does your product fit the show? This should be the first thing to consider. If you sell Star Wars handbags, then the Pickle Festival might not be the best fit for your merchandise.
  • How long has the show been running? Is it a first year event or have they been in business for years? Shows that are established have worked out many of the issues with hosting or holding an event, and are, for the most part, running smoothly with set guidelines, a devoted fan base and regular customers.
  • Where is the event being held? Is it downtown on the main streets of your town or city? Is it at an event center with ample parking? A pop up shop in a well curated store, with a reputation for events like these? Or is it somewhere less reliable? I haven’t personally found shows in parking lots, gyms, country parks or farms (all examples) to bring out huge crowds with spending money. There is always an event that exceeds expectations, but event location can play a huge role in your success.
  • What is the purpose of the event? If it is a charity or church event, they might be more concerned with their side of making money instead of how vendors or crafters will fare. A family friendly festival might cater to a crowd that has a lower price point, and not necessarily care about whether things are handmade. If at a convention, the celebrity guests might be expensive and cut down on what people have to spend. Its always a good idea to attend an event the year before to see if your goods will fit, how things are run, and if there is competition for what you sell.
  • Is the show Juried? A juried event is one where you send in photographs, slides, or digital images of your work, display, and sometimes WIP pictures with your application. It is judged by category, level of art, and whether its a good fit for the show. If your goal is to do art shows, this means that all vendors at the event should be at similar levels, with a good variety of art represented, with no Direct Sale or commercial companies there. Some other events will ask to see your work, but mostly to make sure you are a good fit for the show. If you are looking at Conventions or local Festivals, this may not be something you need to worry about.
  • What is the expected attendance of the event? You can ask for previous year’s ticket sales, estimated counts, or presale for the current year’s events. Check their Facebook page to see how many ‘Likes’ they have, or how much effort they put into online marketing.
  • Cost vs. Profit. How much is the booth or table fee? Do you have to donate an item for an auction or charity? Make sure to estimate or research additional costs such as gas, hotel, all meals and snacks, and if you need to pay someone to help you with your booth. If it seems to high for what you are likely to sell, it may be an event to skip.

If you have done your research, you can make an educated decision on whether on event is right for you to participate in. Next Wednesday, I will be focusing more on Juried events, and the best way to get those photos taken. *Festival picture is Orange Beach Arts Festival*

Fruit Tart Tutorial Part One

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Happy Wednesday! This is Kim, with Fantastical Menagerie. Last week we talked about keeping clay soft in winter, today I’m going to start you on how to make fruit tarts in clay.

For this project, you need the following:

  • pastry shell mold, preferably silicone. You can find them on Etsy here
  • a small dollhouse plate
  • Sculpey Bake n Bond. This can be found in the polymer clay aisle.
  • Premo clay in ecru, pomegranate, and either green pearl or jungle green. You can get it from any craft or hobby store.
  • tweezers, needle tool, and flat blade or razor.
  • Optional: pearl x powders in Macropearl, green and antique bronze.

1. Condition your clay. Leave the red until last because the color transfers.

2. Take a small piece of the ecru clay, roll it into a ball, and press it into your mold.

3. Carefully remove your clay from the mold. If there is any excess, use your razor to trim it to shape.

4. Add a small amount of Sculpey Bake & Bond to the plate. Put your tart shell in the center over the adhesive.

5. Optional- use a brush and add a little Pearl X Antique bronze on the tart shell to simulate color from baking. Add a bit of Bake & Bond to the center of the tart.

6. Make your leaves for the strawberries. Roll two small balls of green clay into a teardrop shape. Flatten them, and use your needle to run a line down the center of each. Then use the needle to draw veins into the leaves.

7. Roll out five small balls of Premo Pomegranate clay. Approx 4 mm in diameter. These will become your strawberries.

This tutorial will pick up next Wednesday, where I will show you how to form the strawberries, and then put everything together to form the piece.

Clay in winter

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Happy Wednesday! This is Kim with Fantastical Menagerie. As a clay artist, winter is always harder in more ways than one. Colder temperatures mean that clay doesn’t always stay conditioned.

Copyright © 2015 by Ginger Davis Allman The Blue Bottle Tree, all rights reserved.

Copyright © 2015 by Ginger Davis Allman The Blue Bottle Tree, all rights reserved.

That same block I was working with the day before can be hard and crumbly all over again. Blech! Some shortcuts that I have found work for me are:

  • If you are using a marble, granite or glass work surface, remove the clay and wrap it in waxed paper when you finish for the evening. Stone surfaces conduct cold very well.
  • Store the clay in a box in the warmest room of your house. For many people, this would be the kitchen area.
  • When you start working, hold the cooler ball of clay in your hands or if you are in a hurry, near your skin for about five minutes. This warms it without cooking it.

I hope some of these suggestions help! Some brands of polymer clay are naturally softer, such as Sculpey III or Sculpey Soufflé. Next week I have a tutorial on creating fruit tarts I will be posting in two parts. I know it’s out of season for berries, but maybe the tarts will help you think warmer thoughts.

Re-purpose Those Wine Bottles!

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Helllloooooo fellow Hackers!

I’m sure a lot of you are asking yourselves, “Wait a sec, who is this person? I don’t recognize her!”

Well, first off, I will introduce myself. My name is Sarah and I am a writer. I am a lover of literature, a scribbler of synonyms, a wielder of words. I am also fond of alliteration, if you hadn’t guessed. While I do spend a lot of time writing, I also enjoy working whatever little crafty endeavors I feel like because I, as I imagine many of you, am happiest when I am creating. As such, I offered to fill in on the blog here and there so I hope you guys enjoy a little silliness.

This week I wanted to tell you all about a little project I started doing years ago in answer to a question I seemed to repeatedly ask myself… “What am I going to do with this single flower that was gifted me?” (As a single lady, I don’t often get bouquets but I do get single roses or carnations and hate to just toss them simply because they don’t fit in a vase). Then, one evening, as I was finishing off a bottle of wine (that’s totally normal, right?), it occurred to me.

“This wine bottle would make a perfect single flower vase!”

But the wine bottles looked a little…off somehow, with this random flower just stuck it the top. So I decided to spruce them up a little. I prefer to use acrylic paints and a gloss coat for sealing but you can also use tissue paper, cotton, felt, puff paint, anything your little heart desires really. The purpose is to re-purpose. And any wine bottle will work, any shape or style.


First, you need to make sure to clean the wine bottles inside and out. Squirt a tiny bit of dish soap into the bottle and then run hot water into it. Let this run until the bottle fills and then is overflowing. Don’t stop until all the suds have rinsed clean. Then place the bottles to soak in a tub or sink of warm water to remove the labels (unless you want to incorporate them into your design somehow). I use Goo-Gone to get all the sticky stuff off and like to start with a smooth, clean bottle for painting.

Once you have your bottle ready, assemble your supplies.


I’m going to stick with painting the bottles for the purposes of this post but the great thing about crafting is that it is a truly adaptable form of creativity. Do what you like, what you think looks prettiest.

I use the trays for single colors and the cardboard for when I’m mixing a custom color. Just remember if you mix a custom, mix a LOT of it because you don’t want to run out halfway through coating the bottle. It is really difficult to match a custom color exactly.

You can also use different tools and techniques for the base coat. Sponges to give a speckled look, rags dabbed into wet paint to give the appearance of crinkles and cracks, etc. Use your imagination, there really are no wrong answers. Very important though, I’m speaking from personal experience here; make sure to give the base coat plenty of time to dry/set. Actually, this is a good rule of thumb (rule of wrist?) anytime you’re working in layers. Unless you want to create a neat color blend or technique, that is.


Once you have a base coat, you can use any number of things to add detail. I personally freehand designs onto the bottles depending on what I’m making it for but you can use stencils if you don’t feel comfortable free-handing or you can glue photos and items onto the bottle as well. This white bottle pictured above will be a winter decoration with silver and light blue snowflakes scattered across it once completed.


Once you feel the bottle design is complete, again, allow it to completely dry/set. Then take it outside (don’t do this indoors, it’ll smell awful!) and spray the bottle with a clear coat sealant. If you plan on using it outdoors, use a weather sealant; otherwise, a clear gloss or matte coat of paint is usually fine. If you plan on washing it, the weather sealant again is your best bet.

These bottles make lovely gifts as they are customize-able to the person or a particular season and they don’t take up a lot of space. It’s also a great way to do something useful with your empty wine bottles if your area doesn’t offer any recycling program or you don’t have easy access. They can be sold at craft fairs and festivals (as long as you aren’t putting licensed characters or items on them!) for a little extra crafting money here and there. And best of all, it’s holds a single rose just perfectly.

~Scribe Sarah~

Traveling with children

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Happy Wednesday! This is Kim with Fantastical Menagerie. This past weekend,  I was a artist at a ComicCon, and had to travel with my sister, and my niece and nephew. We’ve never gone so far together before. I must say I learned a lot, from packing snacks, activity books, pillows and sleep music to inventing activity stations and the importance of naps.

Besides these things, the importance of a travel buddy is underrated. Both my niece and nephew felt more comfortable with a furry someone to hug, sleep on and talk to. Our sleeping and travel buddies come from Justine at the Monster Cafe.


She does really cute, unique monsters that have jointed arms on the larger ones, and she provides customization, fun fur and cool prints. She is based in Florida, so you are supporting handmade, made in the USA art as well. Her stuff can be seen on Etsy and Facebook.


If you are the kid in your life need a travel buddy, please check these out! We got home Tuesday safe and sound. The link to the Monster Cafe can be found here:


Adorable Sterling Silver Origami Necklaces

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Inspired by her kids and with her parents background in art, California based jewelry artist, Cindy, designs beautiful tiny sculptures that resemble origami folding and cats them in sterling silver as jewelry.

Her shop is called Jamber Jewels and she specializes in minimalist jewelry. Her pieces can be bought as necklaces, charms, bracelets, and even earrings in all sorts of simple animal designs. I personally love the turtle and the elephant.  🙂

If origami isn’t your style she also has some simple geometric style pieces to appeal to any minimalist out there. All her work can be found at her etsy shop and extremely well priced. I highly recommend giving them a look. 🙂

Dear Jane Month 2

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If you are at Magfest this weekend you have probably seen me working on my Paper Pieces Dear Jane quilt.  Month 2 of the quilt along has started.  So where am I with my squares?  Not that far.


I have completed 4/13 blocks for the first month.  I ran into a small problem while I was sewing them.  First, I lost one of my blocks of pieces so have ordered another set of them.  Second, I discovered I don’t know how to hand applique, only hand piece.  About 1/3 of the pieces are hand applique.  I decided when I run into one of these blocks, I will bag it up, set it aside, and skip it for now.  Once I finish all of the hand piecing, I will go back to the hand applique and learn how to do it.

So far these are the ones I am skipping:


I have only gotten a few blocks done BUT I am working on them all weekend long.  I have prepared all of the pieced blocks for December and January and have them ready to sew up.


Interested in English Paper Piecing?  Swing by the Craft Hackers table this weekend at Magfest and I will give you a short demonstration.  Let’s see how many I can finish!