Monday, February 24, 2014

Fantabulous Cricut Challenge Blog - Your favorite colors...

This week's challenge on the Fantabulous Cricut Challenge Blog is "All about me - do a project with your favorite colors."  I gotta tell you, I was a little blocked on this one.  My son has been home sick for almost a week and as usual, I've caught what he has.  I can't believe this sicky streak we have been on- it has really stymied my creativity. To combat my grey mood, I decided a strong wash of color was in order so my post for this week is this bold and beautiful flower cut from the Cricut cartridge Floral Embellishments.

I just don't use this cartridge enough.  It has a lot of fun images that will work with so many different looks! The big bloom around this flower totally reminds me of my big hair (when I take the time to get dolled up). I really like the bright colors and outstanding charm this image affords. Certainly you could tone it down with another color palette but since it is all about me, I went with lively tones. I love the enthusiasm and excitement of this burst of color; even if I am feeling blah and meh from being sick.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Easy Kid Penguin Costumes

A few days ago, Eva's entire 2nd grade class decided to dress like Penguins for Marine Life Spirit Week.  She and her BFF wanted to wear matching costumes so I hit the internet to find T-shirts with a cute penguin theme. There was not much to choose from and the prints were really uninteresting. I decided I would talk to some of the other parent's in car-line the following day about their plans.

Then, as I walked past my art room with a laundry basket in hand, I noticed some white felt, orange foam and red ribbon crowding my messy work table.  Within seconds, the costumes put themselves together; almost without any effort from me. Within 15 minutes and completely on a whim, these penguin tees were designed and assembled.

I cut the tummy and eyes from a large sheet of firm felt.

The beak was made from layered foam sheets and I put a piece of red ribbon in between for the tongue.

The eye lashes were cut from a black foam insulation noodle. I cut a chunk, then cut about 3/4 of the depth with shredding scissors to make lashes.  
When I curved the uncut base, the lashes fanned out so they were more defined (and girlie).  I used a punch to cut cardstock pupils.

All of these elements were glue-gunned onto black t-shirts that I picked up at Michael's for $2.50 each. The final touch was adding red wired ribbon on the lower left shoulder so everyone would know there were lady penguins in the house. 

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Exploring the World of the Cricut Explore

I am a devoted Imagine user as well as a E1, Design Studio, Gypsy and SCAL owner. I have tinkered with CCR a few times, but never actually hooked my machine to the software. I swore I would never convert to a computer driven product and was resentful of the Cricut Mini when it was first introduced as I was sure the Imagine was a casualty to this new platform. That said, I was smitten with the Explore, like a drunken sailor, within 15 minutes of the first presentation on HSN. There were several factors that won me over:
  • No Fuss Dial Settings - the pressure, speed and blade settings have always annoyed me. I've wasted a lot of time and lovely paper trying to get the combination right so I really like that the Explore makes it so simple.
  • Draw using Pen Carriage - I own all of the Cricut markers plus a full set of Cri-Kits gel pens but I just don't use them that often.  It is such a pain switching them out, remembering to place a piece of paper over your project so you don't write on it and I worry that when I replace my blade it is positioned correctly in the carriage so my depth of blade number is accurate. With the Cricut Explore, you have a dedicated carriage making the process super easy and convenient. 

  • Add a Stylus to Score - One of my pet-peeves when I assemble Cricut projects like cards and boxes is that Cricut cuts little dashes to show you where to fold.  Those dashes do not always insure an accurate fold, and one edge of the "dash" often doesn't fold over so you project doesn't look polished.  The Explore allows you to insert a stylus in the pen carriage so your fold lines are scored when you go to assemble.
  • 3 Month Access to Design Space - Having access to all those images and not having to buy them enticed me. Its odd because of my disdain towards CCR but they hooked me with their "Make it Now" feature.
  • "Make It Now" Projects on Design Space- If, in fact, creating these pre-made projects are as simple as Anna Griffin made it look, then !HEL-LO! - that rocks! I have a huge box of cuts that I have made over the years that were to big, too small, flipped the wrong direction or made from the wrong color paper. I would be thrilled to be able to cut those issues to a minimum.
  • Did You Say Leather? - I love that it can cut through so many materials. I know other Cricut machines have made this claim but owning a machine that is (supposed to be) designed specifically to cut materials other than paper is exciting.
  • Cut Your Own Designs - I love that!  I know this feature has been around for a while - it is just a matter of converting images into Vector files, but having it integrated into my Cricut system is one less "language" I have to learn...  It feels so daunting to have to think about scanning the image, opening it in Photoshop or into other software conversion programs to covert it to a vector file and then bring it up into the cutter software and do this and that to make sure it works,  I'd rather scan and then stay in one program for the rest of the process.
It almost seems to good to be true but I really do hope that it is everything Anna Griffin says it is. I will admit that her endorsement weighed in on my decision to buy. She is a very reputable and an extraordinarily detail oriented person, so I don't think she would put her name in front of a product without doing her due diligence. Just look at her designs to see her attention to detail and her HSN Holiday Card Kit is an excellent example of her commitment to quality products.
At the end of the day, I am a Cricut girl- head to toe, I can tell you that I am still using my Imagine regularly and love it just as I did the day I bought it! My Expression and Gypsy see the most action because of the design flexibility. I don't even house them in my art room.  Both devices stay on the floor of my bedroom because I am constantly whipping out a quick cut for one thing or another.

It makes me sad to hear that so many people have had so much trouble with their machines and with Provo Craft customer service. I would have lost my marbles if I had had to navigate the issues so many have written about. I really hope that all the problems will be a thing of the past and that the entire Cricut brand is being reborn moving forward.  I also hope that they do not discard their stand alone business and production of new cartridges. Such an amputation would be unforgivable, even to me, a soon to be computer-dependent-die-cut-machine owner. We will see soon enough.  You know I will be posting my thoughts and experiences as soon as my box arrives. 

I'd love to hear your thoughts and any insight you have about this new realm of the Cricut world...

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Hat Sculptures

I teach an enrichment class called Create and Innovate to 5 through 11 year old kids. I am always searching Pinterest for class ideas and inspiration.  When I came upon this project I just knew I had to teach it! I have never seen anything like them before- and I just love the concept of "hat sculptures"- they are sooooo fabulous!!

When I went to the designers website to find a tutorial I was a little bummed because, I had found an AMAZING blog... but it was in another language... and also another alphabet! I suspect if I spent a few minutes with google translate, I would have been able to change it in English but my artist juju was tingling so I grabbed my scissors and started cutting.

I highly recommend you visit and search this website (I wish I could tell you the name).  The artist is really a creative genius!

This hat was my prototype.
I wore my hat to last Wednesday's class at Booksin to get the kids thinking and filled their workspace with tons of materials so they could create their own interpretations.  i will be teaching the class again on Monday at St. Tim's and I am excited to see what they do.
These two little cuties from Booksin elementary (last Wed.) decided to turn their hats upside down and they wore them like headbands. They cut embellishments out of construction paper and they added ribbon to the frill. Here are the basic instructions:
  • The base for the hat comes from 16" (tall) butcher paper. You can measure the child's head and add a few inches to determine the width.
  • Fold one of the horizontal edges over twice (about 1.5") to create the band. Now staple the band on both ends and in the middle so it stays secure.
  • Fold the paper in half and then in half again (vertically) making sure that the band is on the outside and visible versus on the inside and hidden from sight. This will make the width divided into quarters and will save you a lot of cutting.  
  • Cut strips about 0.5-1.0" wide from the top and stop once you reach your folded band. DO NOT START YOUR CUT FROM THE BAND SIDE  OF THE PAPER.
  • Once you are done cutting, open the paper into its full width and cut the larger strips (at the folds) into smaller strips.
  • Now you are ready to decorate.  You can use markers, crayons, paint, glitter or glue paper onto paper if you want to add color to your strips.  Be sure to keep in mind that if you use wet mediums to add color your paper, the strips will likely tear if you try to curl them with scissors.
  • Since the strips flip every which way, you might consider decorating each strip on both sides.  I am glad I did but it was double the work.
  • Cut out flowers, hearts, fish or any other embellishment you'd like to add to the band or on the ends of the strips.
  • If you want to get spooky, roll strips of black paper into tubes to make snake bodies, glue a pitch forked tongue sticking out of one end, add eyes, and attach the tubes to the band to make a Medusa looking sculpture hat.
  •  Add curled ribbon to switch up the texture.
  • You can cut the strips different lengths to add interest.
  • Attach a paper plate to the band and add strips on the top.
  • Fold strands accordion style to get lift and whimsy.
  • Skip the strips and go "freestyle".
  • If you want to curl your paper strips, practice with the same kind of paper before approaching your hat because the strips tear easily.  I found children scissors to work best and I didn't do the curl all at once.  I worked on sections slowly. It took me a while to "feel" the right angle and pressure to curl without ripping the strand. 
  • Switch the direction of your curls from strand to strand!
  • Layer circles to make dimensional flowers- staple or tape them onto the band.
  • Use heavier paper like Dollar tree poster paper to get stronger strips that offer more height.
  • Have fun!!