Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Busiest Bloggers Ever!

Hi Folks,

We want to apologize for leaving you all Crafty Chronicles-less over the last six weeks! Both of us found ourselves in unexpected situations that kept us mostly out of the studio and out of cyberspace, but we're back and we promise to have a real update soon. We have some fun stories, some great pictures and will soon have lots of new projects to show all of you. Thanks for hanging in there with us!!

Five Corners

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Handmade Parade: Acrylic Felt Appliqué

I've been using acrylic felt to appliqué for years now. Sheets of acrylic felt are cheap cheap, the edges won't fray (so they can be sewn on without worrying about sewing under the seams), and they're available in a ton of colours. It allows me full creativity since I can cut out any shape I can think of and it doesn't require any fancy or particularly advanced sewing skills to put it together! Simply cut out your design and straight-stitch it onto fabric. I have found that it washes pretty well. It does pill a bit over time, but they can be easily pulled off and the design is as good as new.

Here are a few of the many things I've made using acrylic felt:

An iPod case, inspired by Picasso's celebrated blue period, for a musician friend...

A bunnyhug (SK represent!) from my celebrated robot period...

A couple of simple bird-themed tote bags...

And an 8-bit skull and crossbones t-shirt...

Using acrylic felt for appliqué is a great way to embellish and personalize bags or clothing items for a simple and thoughtful gift!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Handmade Parade: Wine Box

Nothing shows your appreciation and admiration like a handcrafted gift. In Handmade Parade, we pull out gifts we've made for friends over the years to give you ideas or inspiration for creating your own handmade presents.

Sometimes I'll have a gift ready to go but still feel that it needs a little something extra. A great solution is to make the wrapping part of the gift! Since I am physically incapable of throwing anything I might one day use, I am left with lots of containers - chocolate boxes, coffee cans, and cookie tins. As fellow collectors will know, this personality trait can often feel like a curse (as the piles begin to outgrow the closet...), but when it pays off there's no better feeling!

I just love those wooden boxes that pricey wines come in, and I always save them. Usually, if my wine comes in a box, it's the cardboard variety (funny 'cause it's true!), so these fancy wooden containers don't come my way all that often. Consequently, I save them for special occasions and special friends.

The boxes will always have a winemakers logo on the front that needs to be covered - I've used acrylic paint in both my examples below, but there are many possibilities. For example, decoupaging book pages or comic pages onto the crate would be simple and beautiful!

Here's the first version I made, many years ago, to house a birthday present for my illustrator friend. He had just launched his website and so I had access to his newly-designed logo, which I replicated in acrylic paint on the box.

I think he still has this with him; last I heard he was using it to hold his precious paintbrushes! I guess he's keeping his secrets somewhere less obvious...

Here's a simpler box I did this month for a designer friend who just moved to the snowy Rockies. I'm making an educated guess that there are snowmobiles in Banff:

Megan and I filled it with a "Winter Survival Kit" - a Shambolic Rockstar scarf, hand-mixed chai spices for soy chai lattes, handmade bath products, etc.

There you go. I really like the idea of reusing packaging and making it into something personal. Reduce, reuse, recycle... but, if you don't have any wine boxes on hand and you want to do this project, they are available very cheaply at many dollar stores.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

The Secret Language of Five Corners

Since this whole blog is an experiment in giving people a glimpse into the Five Corners studio, I thought it might be appropriate to let you in on the types of things that can often be overheard while we work. Although 'appropriate' might not be the word some would use, 'odd' is possibly a better one, or 'ridiculous'... whatever.

In no particular order here are some of our most common phrases:

Coke me

This is by FAR our most commonly uttered phrase, seeing as how we might as well be sponsored by Diet Coke (and oh, wouldn't that be glorious? Coca Cola company, call me!) The fridge in the studio exists for the sole purpose of keeping our precious cans of Diet Coke properly chilled. Approximately every five minutes one of us will call out “Coke me” to whomever is closest to the fridge and a cold can of liquid heaven is immediately sent our way.

Is this stupid or awesome?

There's a fine line some days. A felt cactus or a mustache necklace? Could go either way, frankly. And most of the time it's hard to see your own work objectively. So fairly often one of us will push back in our chair and ask the other to make the judgement call. Sometimes the project goes into a timeout so we can take another look at it a few days later. Sometimes awesome wins, but sometimes stupid wins and the project goes into the failure drawer.

I want to BE us!

On a particularly productive day we bust out this little gem to pat ourselves on the back. It was first uttered in a spontaneous fit of self-congratulation when a challenging set of projects worked out even better than we could have hoped. I think it originally used to be longer, as in “We're so awesome, I just want to BE us!” But we are masters at patting ourselves (and each other) on the back, if we can't appreciate ourselves who else is going to?

We should clean up this mess

Oh messy studio, we love you so. But every so often we will take a look around and realize that we have crossed the line. That we can't find anything we need, that bits of clay have been ground into our poor carpet or that yet another pile of random papers has toppled over onto the floor. And then it becomes studio clean-up day.

Director of Awesome

This is a fairly new phrase for us, but it captures what the last few months have been about for us. Like most creative people, both of us have always struggled to find a balance between working for a living (ie: paying the bills) and living creatively. Basically we both want to get paid to do something we love for a living. But jobs that involve making messes and gluing stuff to other stuff are hard to come by, oddly enough. Hence our mythical dream jobs as a 'Director of Awesome'. If you happen to come across a Director of Awesome job posting one day, now you'll know just who to come to! I'll start putting my resume together...

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Can I tell you a secret?

So, last night I went to see "PostSecret Live" a multi-media presentation by Frank Warren, the founder of PostSecret, at the Chan Centre for Performing Arts at UBC.
Postsecret: Confessions On Life, Death, And God

A little background for those who aren't familiar with Postsecret. It began in 2004 as a community mail art project; Frank Warren hit the streets distributing blank postcards with his home address printed on the back. The idea was simple and the instructions were few: anonymously reveal a true, never-before-spoken secret on a postcard, be creative, and then mail it along to Frank's house. 

The postcards he received are creative and compelling. Sometimes the images chosen reveal further truths or details, and the few, carefully-chosen words can read like poetry.

Every Sunday morning, Frank shares some of the over 150,000 secrets he's been sent by showcasing them on his PostSecret website. The postcards are replaced each week with a batch of new ones. He has collected secrets in five books, and has shown some of the cards in gallery exhibitions. Now he's taken his show on the road by giving talks at universities, showing secrets that were "banned from the books", and talking about what it's like to be the man entrusted with the deepest secrets of thousands of strangers.
A Lifetime Of Secrets: A Postsecret Book

For years now, looking at the Sunday secrets on the website has been the first thing I do on Sunday mornings (or the last thing I do on a late Saturday night!). I have been saddened, energized, disgusted, and delighted reading the vulnerable thoughts, remembrances, and fears of strangers. I have laughed out loud (literally) and then scrolled down one postcard only to find myself blinking away tears. This is the power of the project - to connect strangers. I think it can help us all remember to practice empathy in our daily lives and to realize that everyone has a lot going on under the surface.

Now, to last night's event. I expected it to be packed, but the auditorium was half-empty. This might have been because it was announced last-minute and/or that ticket prices were ridiculous ($50?!). Still, the young audience (mostly in their early twenties, some teens with their very cool moms) that did turn out was very enthusiastic. It's easy to see that the PostSecret project has impacted many lives.

We all listened with interest to Frank's stories: from his mother's reaction to his project (hint: she's not a fan, as a voicemail message from her that he played for us effectively proved) to a heartwarming story of a PostSecret postcard marriage proposal. We learned the most frequently told secret: "I pee in the shower", and the second-most popular sentiment: "I wish to one day have someone I can trust with all my secrets". He told us that he very rarely receives confessions of major crimes, but he gets multiple postcards about body image, cutting, and depression every day. He talked to us about the warning signs that might indicate someone is thinking about attempting suicide and discussed how he raises awareness and funds for suicide prevention through his project.

At the end of his presentation, Frank opened the floor for the brave people who wanted to share their own secret with the auditorium. Some were funny or sad, a couple were poignant and told stories of strength, one reminded me what it was like to be a teenager and to believe that no one will ever "get you", and one was  immature and extremely illegal. I wish I could tell you more, but the room really felt like a safe little community and it just wouldn't be right to take those confidences out of that auditorium. Which is, I guess, what the event demonstrated best for me; I now have a small idea of what it's like to be Frank Warren and to be trusted with the most intimate secrets of strangers.

Have you ever mailed Frank a secret?  We've talked about the importance of creativity on this blog, so maybe it's time to spend a few creative minutes with a blank postcard. You never know what will come out of it...

13345 Copper Ridge Rd
Germantown, Maryland

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Craft from the Past: People Pillows

We at Five Corners feel pretty strongly about creativity. While it's not always easy, we make a strong effort to designate time specifically for making things... in fact, it's what our messy rented "art basement" is all about. We have drawers of clay, magnets, a cool-looking stick found while walking the dog, jars of old buttons, all kinds of art supplies, piles of assorted fabric, a half-finished mini felt cactus, heat guns, scraps of metal, and stacks of fun papers, among many other things. Sure seems like ample ingredients for creativity, right?

Usually it is... but we get stuck sometimes. With great intentions and expectations we head to the studio where we sit down, crack open a Diet Coke, twirl around in our chairs, eat some candy, and... stare at the wall. These are the moments when we turn to our studio bookshelf for a little inspiration:

We have an eclectic collection of old crafting books we've collected from library sales, garage sales, thrifts stores, and grandmas. Many of the books are from the seventies and have some very strange, dated projects. They also have some pretty rad ideas. If you can't get a spark of inspiration from looking through these, there's something seriously wrong with you!

In Craft from the Past, Megan or I will choose a "vintage" craft project from our book collection and try to make it our own.

In this first chapter, I've chosen a project from the "Family Creative Workshop" series...

While admittedly dated-looking, I think the "People Pillows" project is pretty great. In fact, I would happily adopt any of the kitschy and fun pillows in the book for my couch! Using the book's technique, I decided to make it a little more personal by crafting a "People Pillow" of my brother-in-law for a very unusual birthday gift... because who wouldn't want a giant pillow of their own face?

Since he's an actor, I had lots of photographs of him to choose from (thanks, Google images!). I went with a beautiful in-character western shot because I loved the graphic quality to his distinctive facial hair. Starting with a drawing from the photograph, I blocked out the main shapes:

Then I cut those shapes out of fabric and assembled the image:


I used spray glue to keep the little fabric scraps in place while I machine-sewed it all together:


Et voila! A "People Pillow" for a new generation! I was really happy with how it turned out. When I gave it to my brother-in-law, he looked confused, then pleased, then confused again... the perfect reaction! It now sits in on a chair in his living room, creepily greeting visitors.


Stay tuned for more retooled Crafts from the Past!

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Is This an Art Basement?

We rent a small studio space, it's a little shabby and a lot messy, but it works for us. We are tucked away in the bottom of an apartment building on a busy corner but our little window faces the quiet side. We slave away (truth be told we laugh, chat, drink diet coke and eat candy so the slavery is a slight exaggeration) with the window open and never give it a second thought. In over three years no one has ever noticed us down there, despite the wide open window, the music playing and the not-so-quiet chatter. Until now.

There we were, working away, minding our own business when all of a sudden there he was, a complete stranger, in his mid-twenties, crouched down, poking his head in through the window. “What are you doing down there?” He asked, startling the heck out of both of us. “Are you making art? Is this... an art basement?” He seemed pretty surprised. I am more surprised that he identified anything we were doing as art. Based on the huge piles of clutter surrounding us at that moment I would have been less surprised to hear him ask “Is this a garbage dump basement?” But, mess aside, we confirmed that yes, basically, it was an art basement. He was thrilled. We continued to be surprised.
We chatted with him for a moment, then off he went. We appeared to have made his day somehow.
It seems like a silly thing, a story to be shrugged off and forgotten about. But something in his genuine happiness to have stumbled upon two girls making art in a basement sticks with me. Not everyone makes big messy art. Not everyone makes paying rent on an art basement a financial priority. We take it for granted. We spend hours tucked away from the world, making whatever strikes our fancy. We make messes, we make art, and we make it a priority. And we keep it all to ourselves. So now we have decided to climb out of our little basement and start to share what we do. If we can make one guy's day just by being there and making art, then maybe we should let everyone in on our secret.
So here's to you art basement guy! Thanks for being so thrilled, it was contagious.