Mar 21 2011

Masks in Progress – Flourish Mask

leather mask in progressRight now I have about three different masks in progress, and probably about a dozen more in the design stage. This is one of my favorites. I’ve always loved Victorian style flourishes used in design, fabric pattern, and illustrated text. I’ve drawn up a few different designs for masks that use this design element, and I’m sure that it will be one I come back to frequently in new ways. This mask will eventually be added to with colors of deep pinks and reds to compliment the copper tone that I’ve already airbrushed over it. More pictures of this beauty to come! I will also be getting up some tips for working with leather in the next few days.

Mar 12 2011

Dia de los Muertos Leather Mask

I’m feeling so very productive this evening! It’s been a slow few weeks for me creatively. I was really sick for a while, and then I had a couple of busy weeks with both trips and getting a new kitten. It’s amazing all of the time that went into preparing to bring him home to join the family. This week I’ve finally had a little time for creating, and it’s been long past due.

I’ve been working for the last few days on a new Dia de los Muertos (or Day of the Dead for those of you who don’t know the Hispanic terminology) and have it just about finished this evening. I recently made a few masks from leather for Carnival, and I enjoyed it so much that I decided out of all of the things I’ve created for selling, this is something I feel comfortable doing on a regular basis. They seemed to be very popular with everyone who saw them, so I think that they will do well. I’ve already drawn up a lot of designs for masks, but I knew that one of the first ones that I’d have to do would be a Dia de los Muertos mask. It’s a holiday that I’ve always admired and enjoyed. I love the imagery, the bright colors, the festive feel, and the way that ancestors and friends are respected in a way that celebrates life.

I start a new mask by drawing up a design. In order to do a full face mask, it’s quite difficult to do it in one piece unless you use very thin leather, or have a vacuum form. So for this skull mask I planned it in two pieces. Once I have the design drawn up, I trace it on to my leather using a ball point stylus. It is then cut out with a very sharp Exacto/hobby knife. I then cut and tooled this mask to add more dimension. Then, it’s time to paint! This is probably my favorite stage because you get to pick lots of fun colors. :)

I decided that with this mask I’d go for bright colors in almost a neon pastel range. The colors are all light in tone, but still very highly pigmented. I think it’s a fun combination. I started on a base of a pearlized white which had to be built up to cover the natural leather, but still left more of a silver tone. The gloss of the flat neon colors contrasts very nicely with the pearl base.

All that’s left for this mask is for the head strap to be attached, and it will be up for sale on Etsy. Yay for productive weeks!

Feb 15 2011

DSLRs are hard work!

So I decided that if I’m going to make a real go at this, its time I learned to take good pictures, and got the kind of camera that can take them. My husband and I have bought countless point and shoots over the years, never being quite happy with the picture quality, especially under low light conditions. I’m not much of a day person, so most of my productive moments are in the evening past prime lighting conditions for most cameras.

We looked at and discarded the idea of buying so many cameras. Many years ago I was interested in photography and had an F body film Nikon with some accessories and a couple lenses, and I loved using it. I probably wouldn’t have referred to myself as anything past an advanced beginner though. I knew I wanted either a Nikon or a Canon, and had originally decided on the Nikon D5000, but when we realized it was an older model we changed to the Nikon d90. I can’t even begin to describe all of the features it has in my own words yet, because my technical vocabulary isn’t there yet. I just knew I wanted a superior entry level DSLR, and this one seemed to best fit the bill. Every review we read on every site supported this camera.  From Nikon’s website, here are some specs:

  • 12.3-megapixel DX-format CMOS imaging sensor
  • Continuous shooting as fast as 4.5 frames-per-second:
  • World’s first D-SLR with an HD movie mode
  • Low noise ISO sensitivity from 200 to 3200
  • 3-inch super-density 921,000-dot color LCD monitor
  • Built-in image sensor cleaning
  • 11-point AF system
  • One-button Live View
  • Nikon 3D Color Matrix Metering II with Scene Recognition System
  • Comprehensive exposure control
  • Auto Active D-Lighting
  • Durable, high precision shutter
  • In-Camera Image Editing
  • GPS geo-tagging

    So it’s been a really crappy week otherwise, since my doctor has me on a new medication that has really lovely side effects that make me feel like I have the flu. Not wanting to leave the house means I’ve been doing a lot of self education lately. Even before the camera purchase, I’ve been spending most of every day on trying to learn more advanced techniques in Illustrator, which is my favorite program for creating graphics.

    Since the camera purchase, though, I’ve been reading a whole lot. The instruction manual is absolutely impossible, so I did instant kindle downloads of David Busch’s Nikon D90 guide to DSLR, and also The Digital Photography Book. So far they are both great books and I highly recommend both of them. Of course I haven’t been able to resist taking some pictures, it just means that most of the pictures I’ve taken have come from sitting on the floor, the couch, or the bed. Oh well – there’s not that many good opportunities close to the house right now anyway since it’s the middle of a Texas winter and there’s no color in the landscape. So kitties get to be my models! On to the pictures!

  • Feb 8 2011

    Carnaval has come and gone…

    All of us at CarnavalIt seems like after months of preparation, the night just flies by! I think one of the things that I’m finding I love the most about Austin’s Carnaval celebration is the preparation. If you don’t try to think about it that way, the night can never live up to all of the work you put into it. I think that goes for a lot of creative endeavors. Imagine being a cake artist, putting literally hundreds of hours into a cake among a team of artists, and watching it disappear in an hour. You have to love what you’re doing. And I love making costumes! And there aren’t a lot of occasions where one can come up with a crazy wonderful idea, execute it, and actually wear it in public under respectful auspices. Anyone who’s ever worn “sexy” clothing on sixth street knows what I mean.

    Austin’s Carnaval party is a place where you can feel comfortable in very little clothing, knowing that people are admiring you, but not trying to take liberties. Never once have I been groped, grabbed, or even rubbed against in an inappropriate way. Of course, moving through the crowd some rubbing is unavoidable, but never disrespectful. People ask politely to take pictures with you, and compliment your crazy or beautiful costume. It’s an incredible boost of self confidence, on both personal and artistic levels.

    The music is always wonderful, and the people are always friendly. I always get to talk to interesting people that have traveled from all over to enjoy a bit of Rio, Austin style. The  people watching is fantastic. The ideas that people come up with are bizarre and inspiring. It makes me want to go home and sketch immediately!

    And did I mention the infectious music? You just can’t help getting caught up in the music and wanting to dance for hours on end. This year my shoes weren’t the best for hours of being on my feet. I had only worn them twice before, and not for such long periods. Next year I’ll figure out how to do shoes that fit the theme *and* carry me through to the end of the night.

    So for our costumes this year, I had decided to go with a black leather and feathers theme. I’ve always been fascinated with masks, and decided I wanted to try my hand at mask making. I started out with sketches of masks, and went from there to plan costumes. I drew up a sketch for myself, and for my bestie. I knew that her girlfriend and my hubby wouldn’t want to do full on costumes, so I planned for them to wear all black to match the masks. I hadn’t planned for the masks to be animal inspired but they turned that direction, with the exception of one, which was more of a decorated domino.

    For my costume, I created a long sheer skirt with gores and lace trim, leather arm bands with metal rings, a semi-circular backpiece made of leather and feathers, sequined pasties, and my mask. Unfortunately I didn’t make the amazingly cool leather harness, that came from AudraJean’s Etsy shop. I’d love to have one of each of thier harnesses! For Bella’s costume, I made sheer pants inspired by both harem pants and cowboy chaps, a feathered cape, and mask. She also wore a corset I had previously made for my most recent Halloween costume. For her girlfriend, I made the mask, and feathered arm-bands and neck piece to compliment her hawk styled mask. My husband lucked out with just the mask. :) Oh, and Bella and I both got fun feather hair extensions from Salon Ciao Bella in Round Rock. They are so awesome!

    Unfortunately, the camera had shown a full charge when we turned it on before leaving, then as we started to shoot showed empty. Because of that, we got a disappointingly small amount of pictures, and most of them are badly lit since I wasn’t smart enough to take them in the lobby rather than inside. Lesson learned for next year!

    Feb 1 2011

    Feathered Capelet for Carnaval

    I finished both the armbands and capelet for my friend’s Carnaval costume. My deadline is getting closer and closer, and every spare minute is being spent to finish these costumes!feathered cape

    feathered cape back

    This was super easy to make. You can order this feathered “trim” that is yards of feathers with the ends all sewn neatly into satin tape. I bought the feathered yardage on ebay, but you can buy it all over the place in different colors. These are black with a sheen of iridescent blue and green.

    The only drawback to using this tape is that because it’s made in a straight line, it doesn’t drape nicely to the curved shape of your shoulders. If I had more time, I’d work on that, but this will do pig, this will do.  So I took three rows of these feathers and  hot glued each row about three inches below the row above it. Each side then has a long length of ribbon glued onto it to tie it around the shoulders. And just like that – super easy feathered capelet!

    Jan 30 2011

    My newest sewing machine

    I always think it’s interesting to see what machines other people sew with, especially because when it’s time to get a new machine it can be an agonizing decision. When I bought my last one I knew it was between Janome and Pfaff because I have a relationship with a shop close by, but that still doesn’t narrow things down very much. So I haunted blogs and forums reading everything anyone had to say about the machines I was interested in. And still, I ended up buying one I didn’t like the first time.

    Janome Memory Craft 11000SE

    The machine I purchased was a Janome MC11000SE all in one for garments/home dec, quilting and embroidery. Within about a day of bringing it home I started in with major buyers remorse. It’s a very complicated machine, and I was having a very hard time using it. I’m self taught, and I haven’t been doing this for very long. I got excited because it had so many features, but I honestly think there were too many for me at this point. Also, I quickly found that I didn’t like that it was an all in one machine. (I had decided to trade in my embroidery machine when I bought this one.) I’m used to having something running on the embroidery machine while I work on constructing other pieces.

    It took a lot of coercion on my part, but I was able to return it for a different machine. It helped that I had already bought a couple of machines from them, and promised to come back when I was ready for another machine. (Some day I will have my dream embroidery machine, the Pfaff Creative Vision.)

    So the machine I stepped back to is still no slouch. I got the Janome Memory Craft 6600p, and if it’s possible to be in love with an inanimate object, I absolutely am. You know how they always say you need the right tools to do the job right? I never realized that it was because my basic little Husqvarna Emerald 116 wasn’t quite up to the tasks I was asking it to perform. I still have it as a backup though, because it is a good machine. It’s sturdy and quiet, and for basic stitching it’s great.

    Janome Memory Craft 6600p sewing machine
    Janome Memory Craft 6600p

    So here are some of the features that make it such a dream to work with:

    -Very bright natural lighting
    -Accufeed fabric feeding system
    -Knee lift bar
    -Needle up/down button
    -Automatic thread cutter
    -Tons of specialty feet
    -163 stitches with the ability to program sequences
    -7 different one step buttonholes
    -Several stitches that do a serger’s job
    -large extension table

    There are really only two drawbacks I’ve discovered – first, there is no free arm, so smaller areas like sleeves are a little finicky to sew. Second – this machine is a beast! (Which can also be a benefit, as it’s very sturdy.) But lugging it to classes, or just moving it around the house is difficult, since it weighs a whopping 27 pounds.

    I haven’t had the 6600p very long, but the few projects I’ve completed were quick and easy. Sewing sheer fabrics using the accu-feed system was amazing. No puckering, no skipped stitches, no problems! I’ve also started using all of the specialty feet, and its amazing how helpful they are. I’m sure all of you experienced sewers already know this, but it was a revelation for me! I’m taking classes on the machine, so if I learn anything new and great about the machine, I will share it here.

    Since this post is running long, I’ll discuss the embroidery machine I use, which is the Janome 350e at a later date.

    Jan 28 2011

    Carnaval Countdown!

    In a mere 9 days, Carnaval Brasiliero Austin will be going down. If you aren’t familiar with this event, it’s a ginormous dance party with samba music, performers, and tons of half to nearly naked folks with spectacular costumes. This is my third year attending,  and I anticipate there will be many more.

    I’ve been working on costumes for almost two months, and now that we’re down to the wire- of course, I’m not done. I’ll have to be hauling ass to get everything finished on time! This is the sketch I came up with before I ever started costumes, with a tentative theme of black leather and feathers. In the next couple of days I plan on getting outside to take better pictures of all of the elements I’ve finished so far.

    sketch for carnaval costume

    My Carnaval Costume

    And this one is for a friend:

    cotume for carnaval

    Bella's Carnaval costume

    Jan 26 2011

    A new blog, a New Year’s resolution!

    This year I’m trying to get serious about making and selling my stuff on Etsy. I make so much all year long, and I really wish I was doing it as a career. But you really can’t do that without some hard work and a little tooting of your own horn to make people sit up and take notice. So my resolution is to do a little blogging every day. I love making things, and I tend to work on projects obsessively, not even noticing the time until its time to clean up and go to bed, so I never seemed to have the time to write about what I was doing. So, I’ll just add it to my daily schedule until it becomes second nature.

    I don’t have everything configured the way I want it to be yet, or have my graphics done. Hell, I don’t even have my DNS routing completed. But I’m working on getting into that habit, so it’s all good!