Songbird: Child’s Guitar Repurposed as Birdhouse

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A pink child’s guitar rescued from my neighbour’s garbage can repurposes almost effortlessly to a birdhouse.songbird-sept-21-2016

A little paint, a spare cupboard door knob for a perch. A little sanding to distress…

Some wording added using the packing tape method… (not perfectly centred, but close enough)

Accidental technique: I left the painted guitar outside while I went indoors to print the wording.

It began to rain… and I mistakenly thought the guitar was fully covered by the house eaves. In some areas the paint blistered and started to crackle giving a naturally distressed look I couldn’t have planned.

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10 Junk Altered Autumn Cards

Old lace, fabric scraps (including the seams that are of no use as dust cloths!), old buttons, belt buckles, bottle caps, corn husks, candy wrappers, old keys and broken jewelery pieces…

When most people do a cleaning purge such items go the trash.  With me they go on cards.

I recently took the opportunity to get a jump on my holiday (Thanksgiving/Christmas) cards.   Boy I  had fun!

I’m getting a lot more confident in my multi-material play at the same time.

And since the cards frequently include something more, I pulled out to include with my cousin’s card this antique autograph book that belonged to our  Grandma.

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I enjoy the benefits of the internet as much as the next guy. But I swoon over hand-written cards  and letters.

I don’t receive a lot these days, but here’s a sample of what my family and friends can look for in their mailboxes over the next few weeks.

 

 

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Rustic Engagement Sign

This wonderfully bashed-up trumpet is not new to this blog. And the door from a 200 year old Quebec cupboard is not new by any measure.

But they are new together, like my 58/63 year old friends who just got engaged.

They wanted to keep it quiet – it’s not the first time for either of them.

But I convinced them to have a little soiree to share their happy news and made this for the occasion.

And it all comes apart very easily (no chalk paint here – just regular latex that will scrub off fairly easily within a few days), so the pieces can live on to trumpet other occasions.

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Mailbox to Shop Sign

Remember the mailbox I added to the garden in 2015?

When a lovely woman opened a new antique store near here I planned a gift of the mailbox planter.

Just removed as much of the numbers as possible and applied (roughly – so it would fit the rest of the box) some homemade housepaint.

Printed off some wording, copied it onto the mailbox, used marking pens to fill in the lettering and added a fence picket as a directional arrow. Voila!

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DIY Junk Thanksgiving Cards

My American cousins have an extra month to get ready, but Thanksgiving is just around the corner for us Canadians (2nd Sunday in October for all of you who are planning to share with me YOUR handmade Thanksgiving cards.

But most importantly, make them to share with your family and real life friends. I promise you, homemade cards are transformative.  You’ll be (pleasantly) embarrassed by the fuss you will receive.

Especially if you do what I do and make each card especially for the person you are giving it to.

Here are some examples:

The card above is for Mrs. Choi. Until she retired, she ran a coffee shop where my Uncle (often) and I (occasionally) had breakfast.

Currently, a couple of times a month, she hangs on my Uncle’s apartment door a grocery bag containing a home cooked meal. I am very thankful for her many acts of kindness and caring.

These dried berries were picked from the bush in front of her former restaurant.

The blue and white checked fabric is from a tea towel she gave me in her restaurant to wrap my hand. My dog had just died and I was distracted and cut myself. She gave me the towel (told me to keep it) and held me while I cried.  I’m embarrassed it has taken me so long to return this scrap of gratitude.

A month or so ago a local antique picker and dear friend sold my Uncle a couple of antique apothecary bottles.  My Uncle is almost 80 and should have retired some time ago, but he can’t give up the people. He’s not making much money as an auctioneer, and John gives him great deals.

One of the apothecary bottles was cracked (which was reflected in the price, of course) and as we were unpacking the van, my Uncle started to tell me to throw it out… then, to just take it (watch for it – it’s going to be a Christmas project). He’s also the friend who gave me some antique tins. But I took the label off and saved it for this card, to let John know how much I appreciate his sweetness.

I don’t buy corn husks unless hell freezes over – or I forgot to dry my own.  This patch is from fabulous Chilliwack Corn (Jubilee!) consumed 2 weeks ago.

This card is for my baby brother (who keeps telling me “52 is not a baby”). We lost touch for too many years and I take every opportunity to tell him how grateful I am to have him back in my life.

There is nothing about the makings of the card related to him – except me. And the fact that we grew up in what was a rural village.

The centre is (blush) candy wrappers. My embarrassment stems not only from how  bad the sugar is for me, but the wrappers are not recyclable in the area where I live. Pure landfill fill… so I’m on a mission to find things to do that keep them from the dump and hopefully burn off a couple of calories. Also the bottom ruffle on John’s card.

MANY more cards to come — because I have so much to be grateful for.

Although I’ll never top last year’s Thanksgiving post – my most popular post to date

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Candlesticks from Repurposed Lamp Parts

I have one board on Pinterest for ideas for items created from lamp parts. It has hundreds!

One of my personal favorites is candlesticks (maybe “candlestands” because I don’t limit myself to posts or “sticks”)

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For example, this pair of Art Deco-style light shades make great candle holders and would look fabulous on a dinner table dressed to create a certain sleek look like a New Year’s Eve Buffet

This rustic-looking candlestick came from a lamp I bought at a Thrift Store for the shade. The stand was a hideous (IMHO) colour so I grabbed a cloth I had used to wipe up a paint spill and invented a new (to me, at least) paint technique – the swipe.

I got distracted when I went to get a clean paint brush and when I got back it had dried like this. A kind of self-distressed thing. I liked it.

And since I’ve started this candlestick pairing thing (whole new line of interior décor), I would use this when serving hearty Irish Stew and rustic, whole grain loaf.

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The oldest  and my favorite of these candlesticks is this gorgeous metal pillar. I bought the lamp for $8 at a thrift store with this result in mind. It was the first time I single-handedly dismantled anything electric and it took a long time.

But you learn with experience – and in addition to still having parts available to use on other projects, I have used this candlestick on indoor and outdoor tables and in the garden (and it doubles beautifully as support for a fruit basket or cutting board with cloche). But most of the time it lives on my bedroom nightstand.

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And, of course, to really appreciate a candlestand, the candles should be lit, right?

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Altered Card Tutorial

When I posted my Adventures in Altered Cards and Books I was asked to provide some “how to”.  So here we go.

You know those drug commercials on tv that say “people with addictions may be at risk for abusing this drug”?

I think it is only responsible of me to offer a similar warning: if you have ever looked around your studio (which tends to become your entire home) and thought you were one pallet shy of being a full-fledged hoarder approach the making of altered cards and journals with caution.

They are wildly addictive. They are soooo fun to make, and because there is no template they provide a great opportunity to explore the depth of your creativity.

The best part is the reaction you will get from loved ones. In these days of email, texting and facebook messaging, receiving a card in the mail is special. Receiving a handmade work of art blows people away.

These cards don’t get thrown away once they’ve served their purpose. And that is a good place to start.

I use old cards – of every shape and size. Because I do a lot of these, I need a lot of cards so I ask close friends and family members to give me their cards that would otherwise get chucked. I’ll explain in a minute how to deal with the written messages in used cards.

I keep an old cookie tin on top of my filing cabinet and throw old cards in there until I’m ready to use them. It’s ideal to have a variety of sizes (you may have a piece of fabric or scrapbook paper that you know a particular friend would love and it’s great if you have a card that will fit it. But of course you can also use any cardstock or lightweight cardboard like cereal boxes to make a base card.

I begin by gathering together a bundle of materials I plan to use. Fabric, ribbon, buttons, vintage paper, bits of jewellery & other embellishments.

The last card I made included a fabulous piece of rust that I had been saving for months. Inspiration for a card can come from anywhere. Answer that knocking.

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I lay the card out on its back (several cards in a row for large-scale card-giving occasions like Christmas and Valentines).

Then I paint the interior with homemade white or cream chalk paint (2/3 paint, 1/3 plaster of paris). It covers any writing and gives a sumptuous texture to the interior. Allow it to dry completely.

Next I apply a generous coat of modge podge (fabric glue works great, too) to the entire outside of the card, being sure to apply right to the edges and corners.

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While the modge podge is still wet lay it onto the fabric you want to use as base. You can see here how I worked with 2 cards – if you have a lot of cards to make, it is most efficient to do them in small batches.

NOTE: lay the card on the backside (i.e. lighter) of the fabric so the best side will be the visible base of your card)

almacardtutorial5  Let it dry thoroughly.

Then I use scissors (the sharper the better) and cut to the edge of each card.

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I feel like a hypocrite saying that: I own about 10 pairs of scissors and not one of them is sharp. Inexcusable. I live 2  blocks from a professional blade sharpener.  I tell myself I love the ragged edge, but you can see the result of using dull scissors.

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Then the real fun begins. I start playing with layers.

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I’ve made lovely cards with only 2 layers and those with as many as 9 or 10 layers.

Again, I use a range of adhesives: hot glue, modge podge (commercial and homemade) and fabric glue.  They all work pretty much equally on fabric, but you may need something stronger (like E6000) for heavier embellishments.

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On this card I have 8 levels including the dried roses (real – from my garden – not silk)

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I hope my cousin Alma likes it.

A final caution: if you find you love making altered cards like I do, try to resist the urge to prolong greeting hugs so you can rub your friend’s shirt fabric between your fingers.  And most of all, try to resist checking out buttons on your friends’ clothing.  You may have to explain if a person you are talking to crosses their arms and gives you a dirty look.

 

 

Repurposed Computer Keys

computerkeyvases1A few years ago I worked in an office that was changing all of its computer keyboards. Old ones were stuffed into the cardboard boxes that the new ones had just vacated. I asked what was going to happen to the old keyboards and was told that the large boxes holding numerous small boxes containing keyboards and cords would be deposited in the garbage dumpster behind the building.

That would have been a violation of regional and municipal waste management bylaws.  I asked if I could have the keys… I knew they had to be good for something.

While the technicians did their thing I worked as fast as I could to remove the keys. I’ve had them in a plastic bag in my home office ever since.

Today, while thinking about a little gift I could give someone starting a new job in IT, I remembered the keys.

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The USA Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that in 2015 61,400 tonnes of keyboards and mice were “trashed”.

Electronic waste has become a global crisis. My country, Canada, is said to produce 65+ million metric tonnes annually. http://globalnews.ca/news/2194391/electronic-waste-is-piling-up-heres-why-you-should-care/

Here’s a decorating idea for an office party…

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