Sunday, July 25, 2010

A Few of Our Favorite Things: Thaumatropes

I just love these little ornaments. Reminiscient of Victorian childhoods, of summer crafts and holiday creations meant to amuse small fingers and grown-up minds alike, the thaumatrope is far more creative than a simple circle or standard "bird and cage" design.

My first acquaintence with them was the "Addy" American Girl doll, which features the thaumatrope design as a popular toy for Addy and other girls her age. While the story features the most basic design, more complex creations were equally as common in post-Civil War and Victorian America. The opening monage to Masterpiece Theater's Little Dorrit features a series of creative thaumatrope designs, spinning to reveal their two pictures joined in harmony.

The steps for creating one are simple: two matching pieces of paper, glue, a small hole punch (optional) and a bit of thread or ribbon for the cord. Tips on making one are linked HERE and to the side under our Featured Article button, including free images for unique thaumatropes and holiday designs.

In our shop, you'll find sheets available with unique thaumatrope images, pre-printed and ready to cut with different size-and-shape templates included -- both all-season images and holiday designs. We'll be adding Halloween sheets soon, perfect for Halloween kids' projects, craft activities, and trick-or-treat designs (cords and glue not included).

Try drawing your own for something new or personalized -- with a sailor and boat, for instance, or a knight and dragon. You can "draw" them using Paintbrush or a computer graphics program or color them by hand with pencils or markers -- just make sure to cut out the images and position them so when the thaumatrope "spins" the two sides form a single picture.

To test any thaumatrope's size and alignment before gluing, fasten the sides together temporarily with a tiny daub of glue or nonpermanent adhesive and spin. Make any necessary trimming or adjustments afterwards before permanently assembling the thaumatrope.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Irish Eyes Smilin'

Brave and true with her flag of green, Erin sails above the Emerald Isle in a shamrock-embellished balloon.

Painted with green enamel paint, this modified lightbulb includes gold enamel shamrocks painted in a random pattern over the surface. Decoupaged to the front is a green and gold Irish harp cut from a reprinted vintage St. Paddy's Day card.

Below in her paper-mache basket, young Erin is fastened between the gold thread cords. Double-sided and cut from reprinted Irish clipart, Erin is glued sturdily in place.

Sail away to the Isle of Green on a holiday tree branch and share those endearing young charms!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

True Red, White, and Blue

The Fourth of July may be only one day, but patriotism lives on in Sam's heart all year long.

Painted in bold, crackled colors of red, white, and blue, this mini lightbulb balloon is a glass ornament perfect for patriotic holidays or the branches of a Christmas tree. Its primitive stripes are accented with a band of gold enamel paint and a series of faded white stars stenciled across the blue field.

Below, in a basket of paper mache, is Uncle Sam himself among the gold cords and Christmas tinsel trim. Cut from a reprinted vintage holiday card, Sam is double-sided and glued securely to the basket's floor. There's a loop of gold thread fastened to the top for hanging the ornament from a holiday tree branch.

Monday, July 19, 2010

A Few of Our Favorite Things: Maps

All those who wander are not lost -- J.R.R. Tolkien

Who doesn't love the feel of adventure from looking at a map? There's something aesthetically pleasing about their bright colors and exotic locations, which is why we own so many tucked away in shelves or pinned to walls. From National Geographic inserts to handmade fabric replicas, travel maps scream adventure to the average passer-by.

Making a map by hand is relatively simple, as seen in these photos of Santa Claus's navigational map...

... with tiny landmarks painted by hand inside the rolled-up surface.

The muslin is painted, then tea-dyed and treated with "prim primer" and cinnamon. The painted surface is sanded in place to create worn spots, holes, and faded colors. The bit of gold glint is from metallic enamel paint, added for embellishment.

In the past, walls were covered with an array of maps, from South American civilizations to the Anarctic. Applied with sticky tack to the surface, the banners would sometimes fall without the support of thumbacks; any tears were re-patched on the back with tape and the map was doggedly re-applied to the surface.

Antique maps are often hard to come by (and expensive), but the effect is well worth it when beautifully framed and displayed -- especially the "tapestry" style cloth maps of old. Make your own using the tips offered here or make up a creative kid's version using crumpled brown paper and craft paints. From pirate treasure maps to lost civilizations, the possibilities are endless.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Those Endearing Young Charms ...

This wee little lad's a bit late for St. Paddy's Day, but not for the all-year-round holiday shop. His balloon is handpainted with gold shamrocks against the crackled green surface; a vintage reproduction shamrock greeting card is decoupaged to the front, surrounded by gilt enamel paint.

The little lad with the wearin' of the green appearance is cut from a vintage reproduction St. Paddy's Day card. Secured in a gilded paper-mache basket, he dangles below the green balloon.

Ready for a ride above the Emerald Isle -- or perhaps just a trip around the Christmas or holiday tree.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

We Interrupt this Regularly Scheduled Broadcast ...

... with breaking news: an all-new episode of "A Crow's Life" is in progress! Yes, I repeat, the all-new adventures of the handsome and intelligent crow and his supporting cast are now appearing in a new fall story.

Click the Crow Button on the right to experience the horrors which lie in store for Reggie and his pals or use the link HERE to join the story in progress and catch up with the first episodes!

Monday, July 12, 2010

A Few of Our Favorite Things: Disney Fun Farm

This came in the mail today. Freshly ordered from Ebay, it's a blast from the past ... and one increasingly hard to find, since one of the set's key components was recalled during the 1980's.

The original tractor I owned was yellow; the original farm dog was eaten by its real-life counterpart, a German Shepherd mix breed named Lady, who was devoted to children (but a sucker for soft, chewy plastic toys).

My sister absolutely loved this plastic orange chicken and named it "Scruffy". He appeared in several childhood games involving dogs, cats, intrigue, and a plastic orange racecar and helicopter I purchased specially for him one Christmas.

She still has the racecar and helicopter somewhere. Along with the original "Scruffy", now living up to his name after a childhood of complicated and daring adventures.

Daisy was my favorite. I eventually isolated her from the box and caried her around in my pockets, along with a plastic Playskool peg-style Minnie Mouse (another story for another time). Mickey and Minnie gradually disappeared into the Realm of Tiny Lost Plastic Things, where most miniature childhood toys eventually go.

I hope they met up with that Polly Pocket cat we lost. And the Barbies' Thanksgiving turkey, too.

Last time I saw the original pig from this set, he was a grimy little figure in a tin box with a series of plastic puppies, whom I think "adopted" him into their family.

I have no idea what happened to the original weathervane and silo top. In fact, I forgot it even had such feature until this one arrived. It now joins the remainder pieces in the game closet when not on display, next to the plastic fort, Barbie Christmas ornaments, and other treasures in storage between seasons.

Friday, July 9, 2010

First Couple

Don't they make a lovely pair?

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Paper Doll Projects

Battered, worn, or pulled-apart paper dolls of all kinds still have a lot of life in them -- making them the perfect choice for paper crafters and mixed media artists.

From old Disney characters to old-fashioned magazine cut-outs long ago played with and discarded, a handful of creative, innovative projects listed online by artists (both ours and other crafters) may give them a new lease on entertainment.

Creative gift tags, anyone? Pre-cut dolls and dresses find a new home on holiday packages here.

Wooden paper dolls? Find decoupage tips here for making mixed media designs with paper dolls and wooden surfaces, from jewelry boxes and doll closets to the basic steps for crafting wooden dolls for display or fun.

Design your own paper doll? Find tips here on creating something one of a kind or adapting a familiar choice

Find printable and public domain paper dolls here, complete with dolls, dresses, and a glimpse into the paper arts of long-ago (all free for use in personal craft projects).

How about a unique "cupcake doll" design inspired by the eighties doll craze? Click here for tips on crafting them for parties or afternoon fun.

Or click here to learn about creative fabric "paper doll" designs made from felt and other materials.

Creating something unique with worn-out paper dolls recycles those paper figures in need of a little TLC into something new and loveable. Test out of a few of today's designs on printed magazine cutouts or an old-box of wrinkled but wonderful images.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Happy Birthday, U.S.A.!

From the Cabin to the Land of the Free ... may her flag always wave true.