Friday, November 24, 2017

Humong Star Medallion Choker and Elegant Sari Trim Gift Box

Here's a gift duo that's very eye-catching, yet surprising easy to make: a handmade choker medallion necklace inside a handmade, glitzy gift box!

The minute I opened my first box of supplies from Gwen Lafluer Studios, I fell in love with a small red medallion that was stitched to a piece of black velvet. I had no idea what the red starburst design symbolized, but I immediately envisioned it as a choker necklace, and sketched the design in my "Idea Journal." I only had one medallion, so I ordered a couple more, then got to work. I learned that they are vintage embroidered star patches, made by the Hmong tribes in Thailand.The question was, what should I pair with the star medallions? Flat pearls? Red buttons? Swarovski crystals?

Using small, sharp scissors, excess fabric was trimmed from the Humong Star Medallion
 I rummaged through my boxes of buttons and jewelry components, and finally settled on some black and white rubber beads that were in my stash. I had taken apart a bracelet and used some of the black and white harlequin beads years ago for an Alice in Wonderland project. The rubber beads were a little strange, but somehow worked with the medallions.

The medallions and beads were "auditioned" for spacing and arrangement before being stitched to the velvet ribbon
After the medallions were hand stitched to the ribbon, the rubber beads were pinned in place
Close-up of beads being sewn on to ribbon
The necklace is nearly complete
I pinned everything into place on a piece of black velvet ribbon that had a little white edging, then hand stitched the necklace. Last, I added a sticky-backed velcro closure. The velcro makes the choker not only easy to put on and take off, but makes it adjustable so it will fit on anyone's neck.

The finished necklace, adjustable to any neck size
It occurred to me that I had the perfect place to keep the necklace--inside a little gift box I had recently made!

I had been saving a small brown cardboard box for a few months. One of the people that I trade small art with had sent me some ATCs and ephemera in the box. I had been storing some Irresistible India gold trim with black squares and pearls in the box, along with some other supplies, and realized that somehow the color of the cardboard went beautifully with Gwen's sheer trim.

I had some black velvet ribbon that went nicely with the fancy trim, and decided to use both the fancy trim and velvet ribbon on the box, and to paint the rest of the box black. I carefully measured, and taped off the area that would show through the trim, revealing the beige color of the unpainted box.

The area under the sari trim would be left natural, and the rest of the box painted black
 I used black gesso to cover most of the box top and bottom, and when dry, gave it a shine with a coat of clear gloss medium. Next, I carefully adhered the sheer trim to the box top with heavy gel medium and used clips to secure it. When dry, I added the velvet ribbon trim.

Clips held the sari trim in place until the heavy matte gel dried

When the ribbon and trim had dried and the box was almost done, I added the finishing touch: flat bottomed pearls. I attached them to the velvet ribbon with a glue gun.


Top view of the finished gift box
Top and side view of the finished sari trim gift box
 The finished box is elegant and striking...perfect for any occasion...and who would think it was really easy to make?

Like the trim and medallions I used? The good news is that there will be a big Cyber Monday Sale on the Gwen Lafleur Studios website...just in time to create some special items for holiday gift-giving! Or, take a look at Gwen's original mixed media and jewelry creations, they are just gorgeous! You may also want to check out what the other Artist Tribe members have created by going to Gwen's blog, or click here to see all the Artist Tribe projects.

Friday, November 10, 2017

The Humble Shoe Box: Upcycled and Transformed

When I saw some gorgeous yellow embroidered floral trim on the Gwen Lafluer Studios website, my inner flower-child cried out for it. Yellow is my happy color, my "go-to" color, and I visualized wearing it on the bottom of my faded jeans, stitching it to a peasant shirt, or combining it with my own fabrics for a decorative pillow cover. All of those ideas would have been beautiful...but impractical. I didn't want to get the trim dirty or ruin the shimmer with wear and tear or repeated washing. It was also a little scratchy, so it wasn't quite right for my adult post flower-child wardrobe or to rest my head on.

So, I thought a little harder, and realized it would be just right for up-cycling a shoe box. I have been painting, collaging, stamping, stenciling and decorating the humble shoe box for years. As luck would have it, an empty box on my design table was just the right size for the gorgeous yellow trim. Sadly, I hadn't ordered enough to cover the whole box, so I rummaged around my stash and auditioned a few fabrics, ribbons and papers until I found a combination that I liked. I also discovered that Gwen's gorgeous patchwork sari silk trim went nicely with the yellow trim. I mixed both trims with an embroidered sheer sari silk remnant that I had been hoarding for years.

I started by draping the fabric and trims over the shoe box and lid, taping it lightly to see how it looked. I snapped photos as I went along so I would remember what worked and what didn't.

"Auditioning" fabrics, which are lightly wrapped on the shoe box.
Once I decided on the arrangement, I took all the pieces off the box and started painting. The box was red and shiny, and I could see the color peeking through the sheer white fabric, so I knew the lid needed white gesso. It took a couple coats to tone down the red.
Covering the shiny red box with white gesso.
 After the white gesso was dry, I used Golden heavy matte gel to adhere the white sari silk to the box top. I carefully wrapped it around the edges and glued it in place. While that dried, I set to work on the bottom of the box.
After the gesso dried, heavy gel medium was used to wrap sari silk scraps around the lid.
 Where the lid and top of the box met, I painted yellow. I knew that I couldn't use anything thick above the wide (2.75") yellow trim or it would be hard to close the box.  Next, I applied heavy gel to the bottom 3/4 of the box and added the yellow trim to the front and back. I used heavy gel at the edges of the trim to prevent fraying.
The top was painted yellow to compliment the trim, but allow the box to close easily.
While auditioning the fabrics and papers, I had thought I would use a thick fabric collage of "scrappy" fabric on the sides, but changed my mind and used some commercial scrapbooking paper instead.
An India-inspired commercial scrapbooking paper was used on the box sides.
 The sheer white silk fabric on the top wasn't quite wide enough to cover the whole left and right sides of the box top, so I auditioned a bunch of ribbons and fabrics, finally deciding to layer some wide orange grosgrain ribbon with an India-inspired orange and pink plaid ribbon.

Two types of ribbon decorate the box side lid, complimenting the paper below.
While the bottom dried, I attached the sari patchwork trim across the lid vertically, which nicely covered the join mark where the two pieces of white silk met. I wanted to keep the softness and loft of the sari patchwork, so rather than gluing it in place and risking it getting flat, hard or discolored, I attached it by poking a hole (with an awl) through the fabric and lid edge, then pushing a large brass brad through and flattening it on the inside. The brads add to the decorative effect and are also very strong.
An awl was used to poke a hole through the cardboard and fabric.
The patchwork sari silk was attached to the lid with brass brads.
The two trims are united with a dangling Turkmen Jewelry component.
 An important part to my design was a dangling jewel, which came as part of my order of Going Global Turkmen Jewelry Parts. It was just the perfect adornment for the box, and although it is fairly small, works nicely to unite the fabrics and colors of the top, bottom and sides, adding just the right bit of magic and mystery to what used to be an ordinary shoe box. I hand-sewed it to the sari patchwork fabric using red thread.

Side view of the finished box.
Below is a photo of my newest storage box, sitting atop some of the others I have made over the years. With all my art supplies, jewelry components, paper scraps, fabric scraps, photos, and ephemera, I am sure I will fill up my newest storage box very soon!

Other boxes in my collection were covered with newsprint, stamps, stencils, craypa, fabric, and painted deli paper.
Like the trims I used? The great news is that you can get 10% off on any trims on Gwen's website during the month of November...just in time to create some up-cycled shoe boxes to use for holiday gift-giving! Please also check out what the other Artist Tribe members are making in November using the gorgeous trims that Gwen Lafleur carries on her website. You can see them on Gwen's blog, or click here to see all the Artist Tribe projects.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Washi Weirdness

Jane Davenport has a huge and devoted following of mixed media artists. Her books and videos are wonderful, and her work whimsical, sensitive and beautifully done. So, when her exclusive line of art supplies hit the shelves at Michael's, most of them flew off the shelves. One of the items that I have been coveting--for almost a year--is her washi tape printed with assorted eyes, noses and mouths.

I love faces and paper dolls and that particular item really called my name. Finally, today, I found it. The minute I got home I started playing with the tape. I probably could have spent all day puttering with the tape and mixing and matching it with my various art and paper supplies.

First, I matched up three sets of facial features on a journal page. I thought it would be just a test page, so I used a page that had a splash of paint from cleaning my brush, and some random thoughts I had about the incredible light on a trip to Acapulco years ago and similar light on summer morning in my childhood bedroom, which had nothing at all to do with the washi tape girls, and mostly got covered up with paint anyway.

Next, I extended the heads, added lines for hairs, and added in the shoulders.

I added watersoluble oil pastels and acrylic paint. Then I had the idea of adding clothing from my stash of paper doll parts.

I added the paper doll parts. I decided to let them fall off the page a bit, and added brads so the legs and wings would swivel in when I close the sketchbook. I intentionally used items that were a little out of proportion to add to the whimsical feeling. Of course, the girls needed wings, so I added butterflies from Gwen Lafleur's downloadable pdf called Beautiful Butterflies as a finishing touch.