22 April 2007

My Greatest Kreation

On April 18, 2007 at 2144, I finally got to see the greatest thing I have ever created: My daughter, Gabrielle Victoria.

It's still weird to type. I never envisioned myself as a parent. I never thought I'd be sitting at a computer, with my baby sleeping on my chest. I never thought I would look at another human being and be simply amazed by the fact she's here and looking at me. I never knew how amazing being a mother truly is.

I'm in awe. And I'm exhausted. My other kreations will have to wait while I tend to this one. And that's okay.

17 April 2007

I'm feeling the love today!

Another one. Another treasury feature. Another ACEO in the treasury.

This one for the EtsyFAST team, and it's kinda funny in a way, because this particular ACEO (Center of the Universe) is *not* a fiber ACEO, just one of my silk painting prints. But who am I to complain? Promotion is promotion!

Thanks to the curator, zero, for picking me for her lovely fiber treasury!

Raising Awareness (RAINN-y Day Awareness Pendants)

I've been wanting to play more with wire and beads, and at the same time, I've wanted to create some sort of awareness item. Granted, everything in my RAINN-y Day line is designed to raise awareness, but I wanted something more obvious. I've been playing around with making an awareness pack, filled with Get Carded awareness cards, a condom, some lube... but those sorts of things aren't allowed on Etsy (not the message, but none of the stuff would be handmade).

I settled on a ribbon. Everyone knows tha the ribbon campaigns stand for something. You know, red for AIDS, pink for breast cancer, yellow to support the troops. Teal happens to represent two things: Sexual Assault Awareness and prostate cancer. Both are great causes, but I'm a big advocate of raising the former.

And so I decided to take my 28 gauge wire, some seed beads, and my trusty crochet hook to fashion some ribbons. I made two: the smaller is almost an inch and the larger is almost an inch and a half. Just a row of single crochet, but it curled nicely into a ribbon shape.

I found this particular shape required not one, but two, jump rings in order to suspend well from a cord. I also discovered that I'm out of satin ribbon, so I had to use repurposed cotton/linen. I don't think anyone will mind.

Lessons learned:
1) Silver-plated base metal wire is not nearly as nice to work with as 100% precious metal wire (but it does keep costs down)
2) There is definitely a difference between half-hard and dead-soft wire, and I prefer the latter
3) I hate jump rings. Scott needs to start making these immediately so I can have him close them around my projects, rather than doing it myself

I'll be posting these little trinkets in my shop today. Spread the word. 1 in 6 women and 1 in 33 men are survivors. Raise awareness. Fight the rape culture. Support RAINN and/or your local crisis center. Please.

Another Treasury Feature

I'm starting to think I should shift my focus off of fiber craft and onto ACEOs. I'm featured in another treasury today. This one features my "Earth Mother" ACEO. It's especially nice because I'm featured by my street team: ACETSY - the ACEO creators on Etsy.

Special thanks to hojpoj for featuring me, and for giving me tips on how to do originals similar to my silk paintings (Basically, I'd be doing masked watercolors. I'm just working up the courage to try it.).

Then again, I *did* recently receive a bunch of sample fiber from northstaralpacas to start work on the EtsyFAST Fiber ACEO challenge... so maybe I can have both fiber and ACEOs in one fell swoop.

Stay tuned...

15 April 2007

Dear Abbie (The Copper Flower Pendant)

I just had a great buying experience on Etsy. Okay, I confess, all of my buying experiences have been pretty good, once I got used to how slow international shipping is!

In any case, mad props to AbbieRoad, the lovely mama who did my new banner and avatar (seen here in my blog, but also at my Etsy store). I went to her with my specs, and she delivered exactly what I wanted.

I must go into more detail about this, because I actually tried working with 5 different Etsians regarding my banner. I gave them these specs: I like pink and blue polkadots and brown writing. I want a theme consistent with my clothing labels, but a less scripty font for the web and more muted colors. I didn't initially think this was a hard request. But only 2 of the 5 (Abbie being one of them) asked to see my labels. The other three went and looked through my product lines and came up with some excellent, cool banners... but they weren't what I asked for. Exactly the opposite. You see, I sell a hodge-podge of stuff. No one theme in my store. One day, it looks like I'm a batik/watercolorist, and the next day, my store is full of baby blankets on page 1. So I wanted my banner to pull all that together.

Enter Abbie. Not only did I get exactly what I wanted, she went above and beyond. She designed an extra banner and avatar for when the baby gets here - so I'll have a professional, consistent look on my "closed for baby" sign. The avatar is even generic enough that I can use it for *any* store closing. I also asked her permission to use my avatar on other materials, and she was gracious enough to say yes.

Abbie is amazing. I love how the colors pull together my entire store - there are shades of blue, pink, or brown in every item in my store, so now there is a common underlying thread in my storefront. I love the clean, simple look. I love my baby banner (you will see it soon, I'm sure). But besides saying thank you, how do you express deep thanks?

I decided to snoop. I pulled her feedback and looked for things she's bought. I was lucky enough to find copper jewelry. Which is perfect, because I just purchased copper wire a week ago to make Marsha's bracelet! I've been wanting to try making copper motifs, and decided I could kill two birds with one stone. I set about making a copper flower pendant for Abbie.

The project went surprisingly smoothly, up until I had to make a jump ring. Turns out dead-soft wire makes horrible jump rings, so I had to settle for a loop and a twist and some filed ends. But all in all, I was really happy with the result.

Lessons learned:
1) Sometimes, the simplest requests are the hardest to fill
2) There are still people out there willing to go the extra mile to make a customer happy
3) I love ArtisticWire
4) I will never use plated base-metal wire again.
5) I cannot wait 'til Scott opens his store so I can use the findings he's going to be making

All that's left now is to get this little gem into Abbie's hands. I hope it brings her even half the smile that all her hard work brought me.

14 April 2007

So I finally figured out what to do with all these flowers...

A little while ago, I decided to make flowers out of all of my scraps. It seemed like a win-win: I'm not wasting yarn remnants, and I have a cute little project to show for my efforts. They're quick, they're cute, they make me smile. Turns out I've amassed quite a collection. Even with the 10 I sent off to EtsyKids and the six that have gone out as promos with orders so far, I'm left with quite the bouquet.

So, I've decided that the vegan-friendly flowers are going in my promo packs (I was able to pre-package 20 of these this afternoon, so I should be set for awhile), and the animal fibers are going to get sold on Etsy. I'm thinking I'll do them in sets of three for single color/fiber flowers and as individuals for combo fiber/colors.

I just might have these posted up today, but I thought I'd share some samples with you in the meantime. Enjoy!

13 April 2007

Happy Sales Day

I'm always excited when I get a sale. Who isn't? But I'm especially excited this time because it was for my ACEO's. I'm very proud of my ACEO's. It took me some time to figure out how to get the images cropped to work with the size they had to be. I had quite a few bad print runs before I finally got my print heads calibrated and colors adjusted just so. The cutting process was not hard, but not exactly easy either. So I put a lot of process-oriented work into these - not to mention the initial creative processes.

For those who are interested:
Creative Process: http://kastrollkreations.blogspot.com/2007/02/prayer-flags-phase-i-silk-painting.html
Making them ACEOs: http://kastrollkreations.blogspot.com/2007/04/guess-who-just-joined-aceo-craze.html

And so to have my art, and my process, validated through a buyer's purchase of my works was very affirming indeed. A great pre-birthday gift, if I don't say so myself!

10 April 2007

Another Treasury

I'm featured in another treasury, which is probably the highest compliment a fellow artist can give on Etsy (other than actually buying your product). This treasury features my Spiral Orb ACEO. Many thanks to the list curator, stonesoupjewelry!

It made my morning... this is good, because my week started out on the wrong foot.

06 April 2007

Ghosts of Projects Past Part IV - Randomness

This post is pretty random, mostly because I'm too lazy to break these projects into two separate categories.

The baby hat is actually from the not-too-distant past. Like, two months ago, tops. I just never got around to photographing it or blogging about it. I actually made it sometime between RAINN-y Day Bracelets and X-Ray Bags. Baby yarn was on sale, and I felt kinda guilty for not making any baby items. I figured it wouldn't kill me to make a hat.

Hats are my speciality. For some reason, I can do them with my eyes closed in no time with no pattern and they always come out freakin' adorable. I settled on a striped earflap hat. I wanted to do pompons, but my husband vehmently opposes the pompon, so I ended up with braids. I haven't measured the hat, but comparing it to the ones I keep getting for our little one, I'd have to guess it'll fit 3-6 months.

The pink pouch is at the opposite end of the scale. I don't even know how old it is anymore. It was just an experiment; I created a pouch with a drawstring and shell-stitch edging. I crocheted a drawstring with donut ends. I know it fits an iPod or a camera (I used it for two days in my purse to protect my camera until I found my camera pouch). I like the color. But other than that, I don't know much about it.

I feel sort of guilty, writing about projects I don't have much memory on. But that's okay. I still think they're both cool enough to share and, of course, grace the "shelves" of my Etsy store.

Sunset Boulevard (Marsha's Mommy's Day Bracelet)

So the other day, Marsha, my MIL, asked me if I would be willing to make her a bracelet similar to the RAINN-y Day bracelets, but in red. Honestly, I was a little puzzled because I've never seen her wear red, but the request itself was definitely doable. Of course, I said yes. She offered to buy the materials, which is when I decided that the bracelet would make a great Mother's Day present.

And so I was off to find some things to make this bracelet with. Now, I've never liked the red and silver combination, so I knew upfront I would need to pair the red with a gold or copper tone. And I've never seen Marsha wear gold, so I settled on copper. A trip to the bead store yielded me my first encounter with Artistic Wire.

Tangent: I've been looking high and low for this stuff. I knew I could order direct from the manufacturer, but I was hoping to find it local so I could play with it. Turns out it's near impossible to find in a good-sized spool in the Denver area. They have the sample spools at Hobby Lobby, but the yardage isn't enough for my purposes. Anyway, I found good-sized spools at Let it Bead in Englewood. This made me happy.

I already had red beads, thanks to the generosity of dragonladydesigns and the thriftiness of laycee. So I just picked up a few copper findings and came home to tackle the project.

After a day lull, I was stringing beads and putting the bracelet together. It came together very smoothly. Lessons learned:
1) Copper wire is the way to go. Definitely worth the extra money (we're talking like a 500% increase over the base metal stuff, but sooooo worth it). The stitches are smooth, the wire pliable, and it's easier to string.
2) Crimp beads suck. The plating always comes off.
3) Rosary wraps also suck, but only because I haven't mastered them.

So... countdown 30 days 'til the bracelet meets its new mommy!

Ghosts of Projects Past Part III - Hats and Scarves

A few years ago, there was a blowout sale at Showers of Flowers for Classic Elite Mohair. Naturally, I took advantage of this sale, despite the fact I had nothing planned for the gobs of mohair I was bringing home. This presented a dilemna later - what the hell was I going to do with 30 skeins of mohair.

I ended up making oodles of hats and scarves. Most of them were given away the moment they were completed, but as the weather got warmer, the demand got lower. This allowed me to experiment with some of my remaining skeins.

What resulted were two very different sets. The first I call the "Rasta Set", because of its primary color scheme. I decided on vertical instead of horizontal stripes for the scarf, and a very simple striping pattern for the hat. Not pictured are the wrist warmers I designed; these will likely end up as "freebies" to whomever decides to buy the Rasta Set.

The second set is a more feminine set. The cloche features a big grey flower with a white leaf, and the scarf is composed of granny squares. I'll be honest in saying that this is actually not one of the sets I like to claim ownership to; I feel like the white and grey granny squares give the scarf a "Holstein feel". Not that I dislike Holstein. Quite the opposite, actually. It's just that I don't think "cow" and "teal" go together. But c'est l'vie. With the predominantly teal color, this set will end up as a RAINNy Day item. So look good, feel good.

Lessons learned:
1) It's hard to remember lessons learned when the projects are over a year old.
2) White and grey granny squares look like cow print.
3) Mohair can be scratchy on sensitive skin.

These sets will likely be in my store by the end of the month. After all, it's always winter somewhere!

Pussy Pleasure (Annie's New Toy)

I apologize upfront. I couldn't resist the title. But it is fitting, as one of my latest projects was all about making a finicky yellow tabby named Annie happy. Annie is one of my mother-in-law's familiars. She's sassy. She's small. She's picky. She's... well, a cat.

I got the idea as I was diligently crocheting my scrap flowers for promos/gifts/sales/etc. Annie kept playing with all of my yarn, but especially the alpaca. Plymouth makes an alpaca yarn called "Baby Alpaca Brush". I don't even know if you can propertly call it a yarn. It almost feels like pulled roving, and it's divinely soft. It's one of my favorite retail fibers. Apparently, it's one of Annie's favorites, too.

I had just gotten to the end of the ball, and I knew I didn't have enough for a full flower. I figured, what the hell, I'll make Annie a toy. A few double crochets, two pony beads, and a long tail later, I had a toy that looked eerily like a mouse.

Annie took to it instantly. In fact, Annie fought with her fellow cat Max over this toy for a few minutes. And I'm told these two cats generally do not share or fight over toys. We then tried something my mami does with her cat's toys; we put it in a jar of catnip and shook it up a bit. Out emerged a toy coated in catnip. This went over famously with both cats.

And so, in the future, I may be creating cat toys instead of flowers with my animal-based fibers. Because this one got such rave reviews!

Lessons learned:
1) Sometimes, you can make a toy for a cat that it actually loves.
2) Sometimes, making that toy becomes an unspoken truce between you and that cat to leave the rest of your fiber stash alone.
3) Cats are funny when they're high on catnip.

And that was my good deed for that day: I made a pussy happy.

05 April 2007

Felted Slippers Part Deux

When I started posting the ghosts of projects past, I didn't realize that they could lead to future projects. So when I started reading my blog comments and saw that fellow Mile High Etsian carlasonheim was potentially interested in my slippers, I was taken aback. In a good way.

After some chatting back and forth, I got the specs on the new slippers, which were remarkably like the originals. Green on neutral, silver findings. The only major difference was size and my improved skills since making the first pair.

Deciding the fiber for a custom piece is always the hardest part. I sometimes think I neglect to discuss what goes into that decision here on my blog. I factor in the cost of the fiber, whether it's available retail or wholesale, the quality of the fiber, and what I need it to do. In this case, I knew I'd need to buy retail, so I focused on feltability and cost. Pure wool is actually hard to find in the discount stores. Lion Wool seems like a bargain at $5.99/skein, but it's only 180 yards. After doing the math, I realized I'd have a better product for less per yard if I went with a premium felting fiber.

And so I was standing at the Brown Sheep Worsted Wool wall at Showers of Flowers, trying to pick a color. I wanted these slippers to be unique, so a slightly different color green was in order. I found a cooler green that spoke to me. The contrasting sole was a different story. We had originally decided that grey would be a good color, but after doing laps around the store trying to match green with grey, it became obvious that a warmer neutral color would have to be used. I ended up using the same natural wool color that I used on the original pair - a brown/grey color reminiscent of Romeldale/CVM wool. Depending on the lighting, it would be grey at times, but it would always match the green no matter what. I marched out with my three skeins and a big grin on my face. I love Showers of Flowers.

The next issue was the slippers themselves. My original pair were loosely based on a pattern from Fiber Trends. I'd deviated quite a bit from that pattern for the original, and knew I'd be doing that even more so with this pair. For starters, the pattern didn't even have instructions for the size I needed. And so began the test swatches and test felting.

A few hours later, I had a pair of slippers that were about 15" long in the soles. It was time to felt. With only coin laundry available, I opted to hand felt. After two days of this, I broke down and used my mother-in-law's washing machine to complete the process. The slippers felted down to size wonderfully. They retained a fun, fuzzy finish.

The last steps are always the most important. We decided on buttons, and, having learned my lesson from the original version, I used elastic cord instead of elastic thread to create the "toggle loops". I sewed the buttons on, and voila! Slippers.

I had fun. Mostly. Lessons learned:
1) Hand felting is, as spazspun put it, some form of medieval torture. I will never, ever, ever do it again.
2) Machine felting is pretty fun. I like watching things shrink.
3) No matter how big the eye is on your needle, sewing with 1/8" elastic cord is difficult.
4) It would be prudent to find a wholesaler of feltable fiber.

All in all, a great sequel to an already great project. One of these days, I'll get around to making my own.

04 April 2007

Scrub-a-dub-dub (Scrubbies!)

Okay, so I've been wanting to make scrubbies. You know, little cotton cloths that can be used for your face or body. Or pots or pans. Problem is that Etsy is flooded with them. It can be quite a challenge to compete when people are PIF'ing face scrubbies for "$0.20".

I needed to differentiate myself from the crowd, and I wondered how on earth I would do that. I thought of all the commercial scrubbies I'd ever bought, and realized they were thicker and round. All of the scrubbies on Etsy are single-layered and square. My eureka moment arrived: I knew how to be different.

So I set about making a face scrubbie with all the features I would want. Double layering to put up with my (possibly) over-aggressive scrubbing. A little loop to hang it up so it could dry without getting that nasty mildewy smell. And round. Because I like round.

My prototype whipped up quickly, if not slightly larger than I was anticipating. I was shooting for a 2 - 2.5" scrubbie, but by the time I joined the rounds and edged it in crab stitch, the scrubbie measured exactly 3" across. Oh well. More to grab to scrub with!

Lessons learned:
1) I missed cotton
2) Rounds are fun
3) Crab stitch is not fun when used as the joining stitch

The scrubbies are also the first product to feature the new light box Scott made for me. We still need to go out and get a white balance card, but the photos on these guys are a huge improvement over what I was putting up before.

Ah, the excitement! Look for these scrubbies wherever Kastroll Kreations are sold. :)

03 April 2007

Guess who just joined the ACEO craze?

I've been trying to think of a way to share my gorgeous silk paintings with more than one purchaser. After all, the ones that are in the prayer flags are designed to fray away as your prayers travel on the wind.

So I decided to create six limited edition ACEO runs of 10, yielding my 60 ACEOs. My ACEOs all feature my goddess works - mainly because I couldn't crop the animal or symbology lines into a 2.5 x 3.5" field.

The process of making an ACEO turned out to be more challenging than I thought. I knew that my PictureMate had the capability of producing great quality cards: the PictureMate ink features Epson Claria Hi-Def inks, and that I could load my printer with Premium Glossy Paper. You can't get too much better than that with a home print run.

Truly, the hardest thing of making the ACEOs was getting the cropping right. I had to hand-cut each ACEO from the photo paper. I then had to find a marker acceptable for signing/dating/numbering my ACEOs. I ran two of the 10 in each edition, and posted the Bleeding Heart Womyn and Center of the Universe ACEOs in my store tonight.

That was challenge number two. Yes, listing an ACEO was more challenging than making an ACEO. Etsy does square-centered cropping, so I had to use my original painting images to create my listings. As soon as I have my lightbox ready, I can photograph the actual ACEOs and add thos pictures to the listings, but for right now, I have pictures of the originals. Thankfully, there's no length limit on Etsy item descriptions!

Lessons Learned:
1) Always clean your printheads before doing high-end print runs
2) Paper cutters are heaven-sent
3) Not getting fingerprints on glossy paper is a pain in the booty
4) Plastic jewelry bags make great ACEO sleeves

So there you go... I now have ACEOs. So go get 'em before the run runs out!