Cheap Frames

I’ve been enjoying picking up inexpensive picture frames at a local thrift store. There are so many and very few are more than a dollar, and a lot of them even come with mats inside.

I am trying to fill up the infinite wall of beige in my family room/office space with cheerful and cheap artwork. I know that there will probably be people out there who find an large swath of empty beige wall inspiring, but I’m afraid I’m not among them. And I’d lived with it for a very long time… so, I figured after ten years of blank beige, time to decorate.

I decided to have just white frames and to go for a more random and crowded display of things. Right now I’m not worrying about anything but finding colorful and/or meaningful things to hang in the frames. Not necessarily great artwork, although I wouldn’t rule it out, but just stuff I like.

I found a frame I liked at a thrift store, but it was black. I decided optimistically that it would be no problem to spray paint it white.

black photo frame

I hit my first hitch when I realized after getting it home that the glass cannot be removed from the frame, making the use of spray paint perhaps problematic. I am quite lazy and impatient about craft projects at the best of times, and I didn’t want to take the time to screen off the glass. In hindsight, that might have been faster and easier, but oh  well.

I grabbed some Behr Creamy White latex paint and primer in one in semi-gloss finish. I scuffed up the frame with some sandpaper. Then I painted a nice thin coat. After it dried, I painted another thin coat. And another one… and a few more. Repeat on a crazy loop. I lost track of how many coats were needed to cover the black.  Too many.

I did end up with a white frame, which I used for an old photo booth strip of  my family and it looks fine hanging on the wall from a distance… up close, the brush strokes are pretty evident and not my favorite thing. Still, it works on the wall.

white photo frame

I think spray painting frames may be something I try in the near future. The wall so far is shown in the photo below. The bunny picture on the left was from a great Esty shop called Zou Zou’s Basement. In the center is the new frame and photo strip. On the right a pastel painting of a frog I did a while back and never got around to framing (remember, my criteria was colorful — not artistic greatness).  The wall is still mostly empty, but I consider this a promising beginning!


Plastic Animal Taxidermy

Two things coincided recently to make me take up the time-honored practice of plastic animal taxidermy:  1) A friend gave me a plastic cow hindquarters magnet, and, 2) I saw a really amusing photo of some kelly green plastic animal heads mounted in a frame.

I found these things to be both “funny” and “cheerful.” My family found them to be both “creepy” and “weird.”

As it turns out, I am not alone in enjoying fine plastic animals crafts (thank goodness):


photo of can of spray paint

I had some metallic spray paint on hand, so I went out and bought a package of cheap tiny plastic animals, and a couple of frames. One of the frames was from a secondhand store, only a buck, and with a quick pass with a Magic Eraser became clean and bright white. I made two projects, one as a gift for a friend and one for hanging in my entry-way.

The hardest part of the project, as some of the links above mention, is cutting the animals in half. Be very careful and keep your hands and fingers out of the way. I couldn’t find our coping saw, which I had thought might work to do the job, so I ended up using a sharp butcher knife, and was just slow and careful. I cut the animals on a hard wooden surface, scoring the animal bodies first so that the knife would have a place to start, and then used a small pillow to cover the knife and animal when I had to really press down. I kept one hand firmly on the handle and the other hand on the pillow, focusing on keeping the blade straight and upright, while gently rocking it back and forth while pressing down. Again, I kept my fingers out of the way of the blade.

After I was done I read a comment on one of the linked posts above, which  that suggested putting the animals in hot water to try to soften the plastic a bit before cutting. I don’t know if that works, because I was already finished when I read that advice, but it sounds like it might help.

Once I had the animals all ready to go, I donned a respirator and safety goggles and took the animals outside where I spray painted them. I kept the spray paint can moving and just did several quick, light passes, until the plastic fauna were covered completely. There weren’t any drips, and the key to that was several quick, light mists of paint. I kept turning the board that the animals rested upon in order to be able to get them covered from various angles.

spray painted plastic animals

I was slightly disappointed with the end result in terms of color… they look metallic, but not a shiny gold, more of a dull brass. It is fine, of course, just not exactly what I had envisioned.

I left them to dry for 24 hours or so, until they didn’t feel at all sticky to the touch.

I took some heavy white card stock and cut it to fit the two frames. I put in the mats, with the card stock directly behind, and put the glass fronts behind the card stock. It filled up the frames perfectly and provided a hard base for the card stock to rest against when I glued the animals to it (thanks to the Miniature Mounted Menagerie post for this tip.)

I used Weld Bond to glue the animals to the card stock, since I had some on hand and it said it worked with plastic, paper, and other materials. I let it dry for 24 hours and was done!

I made the smaller frame with the head and tail of the North American Beaver (Castor canadensis) as the friend’s gift. And used a bunch of the rest of the heads for the frame to hang in my home. I am still pondering whether to make magnets of the hind ends, or to make another framed piece. And where to hang it if I do?  The bathroom?

spray painted plastic animals in a frame

plastic spray painted toy in a frame

plastic spray painted toys in a frame



Clay Flowers

I recently saw some really realistic and lovely clay flowers and decided I’d play around with trying to make some myself.  It’s clearly a craft that will take time and practice to come even within hailing distance of mastering. So far I’ve finished a grand total of one flower using a light-weight, air dry clay. I have no idea if this is the best clay to use. I wanted to use something light-weight, because I hope to eventually attach the flowers to painted canvases or painted wood, to hang up on the walls for decoration. I figure the lighter the flower, the better that plan will work.

Before starting, I watched some video tutorials produced by YuYi Clay here and here, and read a tutorial by Centsational GirlThe YuYi Clay flowers are colored and quite lovely and realistic, with very thin, shaped petals, and leaves with texture. The person making the flowers uses a lot of tools and cutters. The Centsational Girl flower is pure white, and has a charming modern, contemporary look, with thicker, more free-form petals, and is made just using the artist’s hands and a butter knife.

I had none of the tools shown in the YuYi Clay videos, but I was intrigued by aspects of both designs, so I combined the two methods. I figured that since I’m just getting started and playing around, I can do whatever I want. (My way is really more of an experiment than a method, I must admit.)

First of all, I had decided to try to make a more realistic looking flower, but have it be pure white. Unfortunately, despite having washed my hands before beginning, I handled and played with the clay a lot before finally beginning the actual flower, so it got a few flecks of dirt in it, and leaving it white isn’t going to be the best option. I am going to try to paint it at a later date.

Photo of package of lightweight clay

I chose the same clay used in the Centsational Girl tutorial, mainly because it was easily found and didn’t need to be special ordered, and because it is light-weight and doesn’t need to be baked. I found that even with moistened hands, the clay was a bit sticky, so I decided to use a plastic sheet protector, as depicted by the YuYi Clay videos.

I first made a ball of clay, flattened in, put it in the sheet protector, and tried rolling it into a smooth sheet with a can of soup, which didn’t work very well. So I cut the plastic sheet protector to a smaller size and ran it all through an old pasta maker, which also didn’t work very well, alas, alas.

Photo of rolled out clay

As you can see, things were looking grim. And the clay was getting dirtier and dirtier, despite being inside the sheet protector. (How does dirt manage to do that? It’s most vexing.)

Still, I decided to proceed for two reasona:

1) I am impatient, and,
2) The first go at anything is always a bit rough and imperfect. (Right? I’m surely not alone in this experience… right?)

I used a pin tool I had on hand to roughly cut out tear-drop shaped ‘petals’, removed the excess clay, closed the plastic back over the petals, and used the barrel of the pin tool to roll the outer edges of the petals to a thinner, rougher looking shape.


clay flower petals

I made a small ball of clay, about pea-sized, and then started peeling up the petals, using the smaller ones first, and wrapping the tapered ends around the ball. (I’d have taken photos, but I lack a third hand, sorry.)  I kept adding petals and working my way around the flower. I used the pin tool to carefully separate the petals a little bit and to try to shape some curves and waves into them. This part actually went pretty well, which was encouraging. I finally ended up with the flower below, which is a little out of focus in the photo. (Maybe you could try to think of it as a lovely film effect, used by filmmakers with fabulous actresses of a certain age, rather than simply poor photo skills on my part.) At any rate, ta-da!

white clay flower

I ended up cutting off the bottom of the petals fairly close to flush with the base of the flower, to make it easier to glue to a flat surface later.

I left the flower out all night and it was dry this morning. The clay looks quite nice in white, but, as I said, parts of it are flecked and smudged, so I will end up painting it. It is very light-weight and I think if I glue it to a wood-reinforced corner of one of my painted canvases, it would probably hold up. I think the center of the canvas wouldn’t hold the weight, unless reinforced in some way from behind.

This type of clay is very brittle at the thin edges of the petals, so I think much handling might prove fatal to the flower. (The thickness and texture of the petal ends reminds me of a food that I sadly have not eaten in years: Lay’s Potato Chips. Anyone who has ever had one of these delicious chips will be able to picture what I’m saying.)

I am planning on ordering some of the YuYi Clay and seeing how it is to work with. Maybe trying to assemble some cutters and other tools, as well. And I’m planning on trying for some more flowers with this same clay, made in a heavier thickness, more like the Centsational Girl flower. I’ll try to take (focused) photos and post them when I finish.

If anyone with some experience in this type of craft has any suggestions, I’d be most pleased to read them in the comments!

Putting Paint to Canvas

photo of painted canvases on dresserWhile I was painting my daughter’s room, I ended up with quite a few little sample size pots of paint in various colors. I was casting about for what to do with them, when I realized that I had three pre-primed, 12″ x 12″ canvases. So I chose one of the purple colors I liked best, bought two more samples in colors that I thought would look great against a purple wall, and painted the canvases using one of the Purdy 2″ paint brushes I had for painting the trim in the bedroom.

My plan was to glue photos chosen by my daughter onto the painted canvases and hang them in her room as cheap, pretty, fun artwork.

Well, my daughter didn’t care for that idea, but it’s my gain, because I really like how they turned out and how they look against the celery green walls in my bedroom. Right now, they are set up on a table in my bedroom and look bright and cheerful, if a bit unfinished.

I am thinking about what I could do with them, and might still go with my original idea of using them as picture “frames,” but I’m also investigating attaching objects to them.  For example, I think the little netsuke man in the photo would look nice framed in the purple square. This might very well be too heavy for canvas, so I’m mulling things over. A piece of wood to back up the canvas, perhaps? Giving up the idea of attaching something so heavy… perhaps.

The colors are all from Benjamin Moore in Eggshell finish:

  1. Blue Orchid (2069-50), which is a really lovely blue-purple color
  2. Dalila (319), a cheerful sunshine yellow
  3. Coral Essence (2007-40), essentially,well, coral pink


One Scarf Down

I had big holiday plans to knit hats, scarves, and gloves for eveyone for gifts! Everyone!

I bought yarn, I got patterns. And, so far, I’ve managed to knit precisely one scarf. Heh. I think my dreams were bigger than my reality. And of course in my imaginary reality, I have a lot more time for fun stuff… and far less work and fewer chores.

I grabbed two skeins some bright, spring green yarn, called Nature’s Choice Organic in “Pistachio” by Lion Brand. Please forgive the photos… I couldn’t get the color to read properly. It looks very muddy and olive, but trust me… actually bright spring green. It shows much better on the Lion Brand website.

photo of green skein of yarn

I looked around for a quick, easy pattern that would still have some interest and settled on this pattern, which was graciously provided free of charge by Yarn Harlot.

The yard I had was kind of nubby and textured, although quite soft, and I tried it out US size 8 needles, which resulted in a pleasant width. I just cast on and knitted according to the pattern until both skeins were used up, which was approximately 200 yards of yarn, I believe.

I debated adding a row or two of crochet to each end, or even some tassles, but in the end liked the scarf just as it was. I hope you can get a feel for the pattern in the photo below:

photo of a knitted green scarf

Quick Tip: Quieting the Evening Mind

I don’t know if I’m the only person who has this happen, but most nights I will go to bed very tired and sleepy, but the minute my head hits the pillow, my brain kicks into high gear thinking about zillions of things I need to get done.

One of the best tips I ever received was to keep a pad of paper and a pen in the drawer of my nightstand, so that when this happens, I can sit up and write down a short (or often long) list of all the things occupying my brain. It seems to get them out of the brain and then it’s much easier to fall asleep.

BH&G January 2014 Issue

magazine cover I’m just back from a trip, and was happy to find some fun mail upon my return. Better Homes and Gardens has come out with its January 2014 issue, dedicated to organizing. Naturally, no surprise, my favorite issue of the year so far. Ha. Lots of good advice and links back to more on the BH&G site. :   )

Ding Dong the Pink is Gone

I am so relieved to be finished with re-painting the bedroom from Benjamin Moore’s Fuschia Kiss… an incredibly deep and vivid pink, to Benjamin Moor’s French Lilac (soothing pale purple) with an accent wall of BM Crocus… just a bit deeper purple. No longer will everyone who enters this room appear pink. No longer will a shimmering pink haze reflect out into the hallway. Ah!

BEFORE Barbie pink paint color AFTER purple1

Painting by the Numbers

Four walls.

Three coats of tinted primer, per wall.

One final coat of paint in the final color, per wall.

Plus touch-ups.

I’m almost halfway through painting the Barbie Pink Bedroom to a soothing French Lilac.

Photos when I finish… I have to work in sections and go slowly, or my back gives out.

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