Wednesday, February 2, 2011

The Thrift Store Costume

Having a daughter has given me all sorts of opportunities to be crafty, thrifty, and all wastenot-y and stuff. Perhaps it goes without saying that one of my favorite times of the year is assembling a creative Halloween costume for my favorite client. Of course, this post may have been more appropriate at Halloween, but if your anything like me, holidays of any kind can be consuming and exhausting and cause me to want to rest until months later when there is two feet of snow on the ground and I remember that I never made that timely post. So, here it is now.

My daughter decided she wanted to be a princess this year. Fine, great, far be it from me to squelch this act of pure girliness. But, will I go to the big box and buy a pre-made costume? No, no, no! Halloween almost always calls for a trip to the thrift store. We found this gorgeous flower-girl dress in the kid's section for ten bucks! The spaghetti straps on this thing necessitated some additional coverinh for fall in Wisconsin, so, with the intention of making a cape I found a few regal-looking scrap fabrics in the linens section that blended perfectly. I even found the tiara in the thrift store's seasonal section. One quick stop at the craft store for assorted adornments and I was all set to transform my finds into a princess costume.

Now, I want to give credit where it's due, so I should mention here that the design of the cape was a collaboration between my daughter and I. I am always amazed at the ideas children come up. The process may take a little more patience and time, but it's well worth it once you see how proud a child is that you have incorporated some of their ideas.

The other thing I try to do when assembling a costum is choose pieces that can come apart and still be used for other things. Last year, I pinned a bunch of bright colored felt leaves to brown apparrel for a little tree costum. Afterwards, I removed the leaves and my daughter was able to wear her "costume" again and again. While the flower-girl dress we found may not be worn daily, it will be worn for the next special event and the cape has been used for a several hearty games of dress-up. Next Halloween, I am told by my daughter that she wants to be "a mermaid... no a fairy... wait, no a unicorn.... Hmmm, or maybe a christmas tree."  Sigh, I better get started in June this year.

Palimpsest: Artist Amy Rice explores meaning that goes deep

Photo courtesy of Amy Rice

One thing I have always enjoyed about creating objects using salvaged items is the transformation, the before and after, the knowledge that under that gorgeous fabric decoupaged onto a jewelry box is a piece of our past. Most of the time, I specifically search for something that lacks much value as it would be tragic for me to cover some beautiful antique etching or something. In many cases what I'm covering up is... how do I put this?... well, it's downright ugly - all the more reason to cover it, and cover it completely!

Amy Rice takes a different approach, finding opportunity and meaning in the items from the past that she discovers (old maps & letters, discarded pieces of wood, etc.). To these items, she adds new layers of meaning, creating a piece of work that is a combination of yesterday and today, a piece with multiple reads, a piece that is appealing to the eye and the heart.

The fancy word for this quality is palimpsest - which is a word dorky architect-types (such as myself) like to use to sound artsy. Despite this, it has always been one of my favorite dorky, artsy words and is most appropriate to us when you come across work like Amy's. 

Artsy words aside, it is this layering quality that provokes my strong affinity for Amy's work. I love that she uses found objects. I love the people and places she is inspired by. And, I can't wait to finish my living room so I can get some of her beautiful prints up on my wall!

You can read more about Amy and her work at her blog. Also, check out her newly created greeting cards, printed in Minnesota with soy ink and available for purchase on-line!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Catching Up

Some of you may know that another artistic venture I enjoy in my spare spare-time is photography. I've had a Flickr gallery for a while, but accumulated so many pix that were in need of uploading. After some sorting and sifting, the uploading is now complete and ready for your (hopeful) viewing pleasure.

I also have to compliment Flickr here. It is so smooth and easy to use and presents photos in such a nice, clean format. I love it!

Monday, December 27, 2010

The Fabric-Covered Filing Cabinet

I have had a lot of requests for a more detailed how-to on my fabric-covered metal filing cabinet. (See my post from November 8, 2009 for the original discussion.) Why in the world I did not take more photos of this process, I'll never know, but I have posted a pretty thorough set of directions here.

Finding the right cab
Obviously you need to start with metal filing cabinet. (Some wood cabs might work, too.) There are plenty of places to find an old metal filing cabinet like the one in the picture - thrift shops, used furniture stores, garage sales... I even seen them on the side of the road. Seriously, don't be embarrased to pull over and look at somebody else's garbage. It might have potential and it would be free!

There are few things to be aware of when you are looking for the perfect used filing cabinet. The condition is important. It should be free of dents and rust and the drawers should open smoothly. It is also important for the base of the cabinet to have the right construction. Turn the cabinet over to inspect the bottom. It should have a metal construction that allows for the feet to be attached used fender washers and nuts as illustrated by this photo. If the base is a different construction and you're not ready to skip the feet, you might want to keep looking.

Once I found the perfect cabinet, I removed the drawers and took off the handles and the label plates. On my filing cabinet, there were screws on the inside of the front of the drawer. The screws held on a back panel in addition to the handle. Don't worry, it's fine to take the back panel off. It should reattach easily.There is no practical way to remove the button that allows the drawer to open, so it's best to work around it - more on that in a minute.
Fabric and Feet
I used basic cotton quilting material because it's easy to work with and it comes in so many different colors and patterns. Another thing to keep in mind when selecting a fabric is that the decopouge will darken the fabric slightly (dark, dark brown will turn almost black).

Next, cut out a piece of fabric for the face of the drawer that is at least an inch wider on each side.  Lay the fabric over the face of the drawer and mark where the button will come through. Then, cut two little slits in the shape of a cross in the fabric.

Set the fabric aside and use some sandpaper to rough up the surface of the drawer faces and wipe the surface clean with a damp cloth. Then, apply a decent layer of decoupage to the cabinet face. (You can get decoupage at any craft store.) Finally, work the slits in the fabric around the push button and start smoothing out the fabric with side of your hand until there are no air bubbles.

Next, cut slits at each corner of the drawer face. Then, trim the fabric down a little before wrapping and adhering the fabric around the edges using the decoupage method. If you are using a thicker fabric, you may not want to wrap it around the edges because this likely will prevent the drawers from closing properly. In this case, wait till the fabric is dry, place the drawer front face down on a clean, flat surface and use a rotary cutter with a sharp blade to trim the fabric clean to the edge.

Don't worry if some of the decoupage leaks through the fabric. When the fabric dries, you will apply another coat of decoupage on top of the fabric using a paint brush. (If you have very thick fabric and none of the decoupage leaked through, you have the option to skip this final layer of decoupage.) When this outer layer of decoupage dries, the surface will feel harder and more durable.

Repeat for other drawer(s).

The last step is putting the handles and label plates back on. I used an exacto knife to cut slits where the label plates attach and where the screws for the handles go through. Using a new, sharp blade is crucial for this step. Otherwise, you'll have a mess and ruin what you spent so much time doing. Finally, put the drawers back in and you're done!

I searched around for the feet and finally found the perfect thing at a big box store, but I have seen them in woodworker's catalogues, too. As I discussed earlier, the bottom of my cabinet already had holes that allowed me to attach the feet using fender washers and nuts.

When painting the metal cabinet, make sure to rough it up with sandpaper and wipe it down with a damp cloth first. Then, you absolutely must apply a primer before applying the paint. I would go to the paint store (not Home Depot, go to a paint store) and ask them what primer and paint you should use. I used regular primer and latex paint for my metal filing cabinet and it's holding up just fine. But, if you think it will take alot of abuse, you may need to go with a sturdier paint like acrylic or enamel. Another thing to consider is application - with paint brushes you will see the brush strokes and some people are fine with that. But, for a more professional quality finish, you may want to spray paint.

I would very much like to feature a few examples of filing cabinet done by others. So, feel free to send me pics of your work and I'll post them here!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Gettin' Christmasy

Working on these oversized Christmas ornaments. This is the first one and I think it turned out great. I knit it, I felt it, and I stuff it. You know you want one for your tree! Just convo me through Etsy to place a custom order. 

Thursday, October 28, 2010

A New Life for Old Beads

I would like to share with you a new product that I am offering. They're earrings! We all know them, we all love them and I have extended the wastenot theme to them. The thought occured to me - when my daughter and I were making necklaces out of a set of disfunctional doorway beads - that there are probably enough beads in the world to avoid creating any new ones for at least a few hundred years. So, armed with some hand-me-down necklaces and thrift store finds, I embarked on the mission of creating jewelry from spare parts. I have found that older jewelry findings are typically tarnished and/or gold-plated. I'm not into either look, so I do start with new findings (aside from a wonderful silver chain I found at a thrift store). I am currently looking for a jewelry findings supplier that is based and manufactures in the U.S.A. Any suggestions are much appreciated. Here's the first batch of earrings ready to go to market.

Besides the earrings, you may also notice the attractive display, compiled of a picture frame I found at a thrift store and wood scraps. I removed the glass and backing from the picture frame and infilled within the frame using wood scraps. Wood scrap feet and some 'big box' hooks were all I needed to complete this simple little beauty.

I'm branding my earrings and other jewelry I make as christilou, affiliated with the Wastenot Workshop. I'm going to be selling this first batch of earrings at a friend's yoga studio in Carmel, New York. Thanks Amy! Here's your plug!

The YogaScape and Spa

Friday, October 1, 2010

Mid-Century Night Table with a Twist

Recently, I started dwelling on the fact that our bedroom is not the relaxing, soothing place that I want it to be. In fact, it had become quite the opposite - a dumping ground for everything we didn't know what to do with - piles of unfolded laundry and plastic containers full of bedding and other miscellaneous items. The worst was part was that my books had no home next to my bed other than the dusty floor. Something had to be done! After doing a simple reorganizing of my closet, I was finally able to put away all the laundry. I cleared out the boxes and sold two disfunctional dressers and an oversized bed set on Craig's List. Sometimes you just have to start with a blank slate. I decided the first thing I needed to get the bedroom redo going was a proper night stand with a drawer and a shelf for my precious books.

As usual, I hit the thrift stores. I had in my mind that I wanted the room to have a mid-century flare, so I kept my eyes peeled for an old piece in need of some work. When searching for items like this, I specifically do not want a pristine piece of furniture - one, because of the price, and two, because I would never get over the guilt aquired from comprimising the integrity of an antique. The third store I went to turned up a fantastic result. One corner of the night stand was a little banged up, but I had an idea for that so I laid down my ten bucks and got out of there.

To deal with the banged-up corner, I added some wood trim and used a little wood filler. After a good sanding, I painted the entire thing a deep chocolate brown and sprayed the handle with silver paint. Now, this would have been fine. But these days, fine just ain't good enough. I wanted to add a little something extra. Knowing what the accent color of our room was going to be, I got out the orange spray paint.

Now what? I thought for a while. I really wanted to make this easy on myself and I knew I wanted circles of some sort - i.e. no hand-painting. Then it came to me that I could simply cut blue painter's tape into any shape I would like. So I cut out little circles free-hand, stuck them onto the drawer, and spray painted it orange. I had to put a plastic bag over the parts of the drawer that I didn't want to be orange.

I was able to peel off the circles without too much trouble. If you ever try this method, however, I recommend using a pin or needle to get each peel started. Don't use your fingernail as it can gouge the base paint.
Among the other projects I have planned for our bedroom are building my own platform bed and jazzing up a torn paper lantern - both projects to be featured in future blogs. Stay tuned!