Archive for August, 2010

You…light up my life….

I’ve really started to love lamps in the past few years. They can add such personality to a room, and a whole lot of “homey-ness.”  That’s why I was so excited to see lots of lamp and light fixture projects in Mark Montano’s Big-Ass Book of Crafts. It was a major selling point for me in fact.

I made this lamp, with a few alterations, from Mark Montano’s clothespin lamp project in the above book. Pretty much all you need is a simple printout of an image that you like (goooo internet!), a couple of dollar store frames, a night light, and an extension cord (if it’s not a battery-operated night light). I also used some recycled posterboard (to make the sides of the lamp), white acrylic paint, and glue (Weldbond brand is awesome). Mr. Montano used clothespins to make the sides of his box lamp, which gives a kitschy pretty look, but I didn’t have any around, and I do love to use what I’ve already got around the house. If you want to see this project in in its original incarnation, please go find the book in your local craft store (or it’s less than $14 on Amazon right now!), or see Mark Montano’s blog post about the project here.

The hardest part about this project is getting the 2 wooden frames (the front and the back of the lamp), to stay the proper distance away from each other while you are gluing on the sides of the lamp. In my case, I was trying to glue thin recycled posterboard to the sides of the wooden frames, and it was tough going a few times. My best advice if you don’t have a 2nd pair of hands to help you, is to use books or stable heavy objects to prop the frames against while you glue. You can also use random found objects to place between the two frames to keep them from leaning in on each other too much. Heavy objects can also be stacked on top of the frames once the adhesive is in place to help keep the glued pieces from moving while they are drying. That way there should be less warping/migration as the glue cures.

The other difficult part of this project is cutting out a shape in the back of your frame to stick the night light into. Mark solved this problem on his blog by using some recycled cardboard to make the back of the frame. Even corrugated cardboard is easier to cut with a craft knife than the dense chipboard backing that comes with many frames. I did a pretty decent hack-job on the back of my frame trying to get the light in there at first. But, please remember, this is an extremely economical project, and, if the back of the frame isn’t so perfect, who cares? You’re doing this for the fun of it right?

Anyway, final tip: to get kind of a whitewashed “beachy” look on this lamp, I used a slightly dried-out thick white acrylic paint to coat the wooden frames and cardboard sides of the lamp. I brushed through it a few times with a rough bristly brush before it could fully dry to a smooth finish. The end :-)

Please let me know if you have any questions about this project, and go check out Mark Montano’s Big-Ass book! Trust me, your $14 would be extremely well-spent!

In Praise of Miho

I love the internet for many things. It is the starting point for many of my craft obsessions, my go-to for new recipes, the way I start to learn about interesting subjects (including how to make, do, or find just about anything), and even my reinforcement that no one is alone in the universe. I mean really, google something. Anything. No matter what you type, chances are someone else is into it, or wants to learn about it too. It might even be someone on the other side of the world, and you now have something in common with them.

And there are so many people willing to give of themselves, to share knowledge about their passions, for free, in this global forum. Their enthusiasm for a subject is so great, that they must gift it to the rest of us. Case in point: Miho Takeuchi. She has a lovely website, Studio Aika, in which she shares quite a bit of information about the wonderful Japanese art of sashiko. It is a tradition of embroidery that seems to have originated as a way to conserve cloth when clothing started to wear out, or to create insulation through the layering of fabrics, much as a quilted bed comforter does. In addition, sashiko is delicate and beautiful, even mesmerizing with its intricate patterns and geometric shapes.

Miho Takeuchi, the proprietor of Studio Aika, gives some very interesting background about sashiko, both as a domestic necessity, and as an art form. She also shares much of her own work on the website. What makes her website above and beyond though, to my opinion, is all of the extra information that  Miho gives about Japanese culture, particularly in relation to art, history, and daily living. The site also features a blog, and a shop tailored very specifically to high quality sashiko and quilting supplies. In many cases, as part of the product information, Miho gives tips as to what to look for when buying supplies for sashiko crafts. If you sign up to receive updates and special extra information (which I highly recommend you do), you will receive a free sashiko pattern to your email. And Miho will send newsletters periodically, offering pattern instructions, interesting articles about sashiko and Japanese culture, and even photos from her yearly trips to Japan.

Miho teaches sashiko workshops throughout Massachusetts and New Hampshire, which you can also find out about on her website, under the “Sashiko classes and events” tab on the homepage. It appears that she keeps the class sizes small (usually 6-8 people) so that all of the attendees can learn as much as possible in a single session. Miho seems to be a born teacher, just given the way that she constructs her website, and the way that she words her email newsletters and informational articles. I only hope one day that I am lucky enough to attend one of her workshops.

Also, when I signed up for the newsletters back in February, I received a personalized email asking me – by name – if I received my free pattern correctly. The email also invited me to email Miho with any questions I might have in the future. I responded to Miho telling her that I really enjoyed her website, and I received a very kind email in return. It is quite obvious to me that Miho cares about the people who follow her site, and pays attention to their feedback. You can really tell when someone loves what they are doing in life, and that passion is very evident in Miho Takeuchi. Please visit her website, and please share any sashiko or Japanese craft experiences here.

Talk to you soon and happy crafting!

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