"Tooling" around... some mini "how to" tutorials

After a total *DISASTER* in the computer department, I am finally back online!  The motherboard on my main computer decided to give me a very hard time... three capacitors blew up and that was the end of my computer!  I was *more* than annoyed... the computer wasn't all that old and a well known brand name.  But I heaved a sigh of relief at none of my data being lost!  Doing backups on my external drive made a difference too!  The only problem was... I had to find a computer *somewhere* running XP (I had always refused to upgrade to Vista) in order to access it.  It took a couple of days for hubby to track one down with our local computer guy... who was great.. he switched the drives and I was back in business.  I flipped the switch and  then came the shocking realization I had lost all of my software programs!  Fortunately I had the CD's for some of them (and have most of them now re-loaded) but a lot of programs I had downloaded off the web were lost.  Needless to say, it has been a frustrating and maddening two weeks getting back to this point.

To calm my jangled technology nerves, I whipped out my clay and began to play!!  I have been wanting to cover a needle tool hubby made for me a couple of years ago out of a heavy darning needle and a piece of dowel.  I use it all the time... and not just for claying.  After all that use, it was looking pretty grubby!!

It's the greatest little tool for punching holes in leather, in cloth for putting in grommets or getting a sewn buttonhole started, cleaning those tiny ridges in my clay gun, poking holes in cardboard or paper... oh I could go on and on!!  Want to make one yourself?  Just get a heavy darning needle, drill a hole in a 4" piece of 3/4" doweling that will fit the darning needle and glue it in with some heavy carpenter's glue. Cover it with clay, make a little bead for the end (so you don't poke yourself by accident) and you're done!

While I was at it, I decided to make some little stamps I could use to texture clay from some charms, embellishments and buttons I had lying around my art table.  I simply made an handle out of scrap clay, put a little clay behind the charm, button or embellishment to offset it from the handle, cooked it and voila a bunch of cool little stamps were born.  They work like a charm!  (no pun intended!)

Take a look at this photo.  Yep, it's my initial!  Can you guess what it might be?

The mystery thickens with some colourful "pick up sticks"

Now what do you get when you add the two together?  Why a "Bead-0-Matic" baker and glazing tool that looks like this:

Here's what's neat about this "tool":  it won't fall over in the oven (even in a convection oven with all that hot air swirling about) while the "cocktail" toothpicks hold the beads while baking.  You can remove the toothpicks and once you have sanded your beads (if they aren't textured), you can put them back on the toothpick, dip or glaze them and set them back into the holder to dry.  If you happen to lose or break one of the toothpicks, you can simply replace it with another one!

All you need to make it are some cocktail toothpicks and some scrap clay.  Form the clay into an "S", poke your toothpicks into the clay (leave them there while baking the "form"), bake the clay at 275 degrees for about 40 minutes (depending on the thickness of your clay).  Remove it from the oven while hot (I use an "Ove-Glove" in my clay room for handling hot clay coming from the oven) and immediately remove the toothpicks.  Let it cool, then put the toothpicks back into the holes in the form.  You have to remove the toothpicks while the form is hot otherwise they will be very difficult to remove without breaking!

Another use for this tool is using it as a holder for painting small "stuff" or when you are making little embellishments to add to ATC's, cards or other art.

So that's it for today... hope you find these tools useful.  I've got some beads that need sanding...

Happy Arting...


P.S.  Have any of you who have blogs had as much frustration as I have had in "transitioning" the Google apps that can't automatically be moved to Google's new structure?  I was ready to tear my hair out...what a process... and I am not sure that I have even got it right.  I consider myself pretty web savvy but boy I found it confusing!  If anyone has some good tips, I'd love to hear from you!

Listening to an inner song

When I realized that well over a month had passed since I last updated my blog, I was rather shocked!

"Where did the time go?" I mused to my SELF.

The answer came back swiftly.  "Listening to the song in your heart." said that voice of SELF.  I smiled.

Allow me to explain.  Around the beginning of June, I was doing some clean up on my computer.  A necessary evil every now and again and not one that I particularly enjoy.  However, I like things relatively tidy and a good "purge" of my inbox, bookmarks, graphics, digitals and files definitely cleans things up... at least for awhile.  Sometimes I am more "ruthless" in my housekeeping than at other times and this time was no exception.  My recycle bin was filling up at a furious pace.  But then.... I came across the digital ATC above that I created at some point last year and had forgotten about.  It stopped me in my tracks... then and there!

I had to admit: "Nope, I haven't been listening."  In my rush to get caught up with all the "stuff" that had languished around for months before and after my foot operation/recuperation, I was going flat out trying to do six months of backlog AND "new stuff" all at once! 

I wish now that I had kept all the sticky notes emblazoned with task after task scattered all over my desk and pasted to my monitor.  It would have made a grand photo to show you!  One thing became clear as I looked at them... I wasn't doing what was most important to me.  It went a long way to explaining why I was feeling so out of sorts, why I was somewhat "grumpy" (not something I am prone to being), headachy and to top it all off, I was "bone" tired!!  I gathered them all up and threw them in the trash.  Boy did that feel "freeing"!

I had come to the sudden realization that I was so intent on crossing off those tasks (and ridding myself of a yellow sticky note) that I had completely forgotten what has worked for me for more years than I can remember:  Every morning, before I start my day, I ask myself this question:  "What are the 3 most important things you have to do today?"  I write them down and get to it.  After those tasks are completed, I get to do whatever I want AND I get to toss that sticky note in the trash!  It has always been amazing to me that once I identify the "must do's", I relax.  Many times I have discovered that once the "must do's" have been completed, I tackle something else that most likely would have ended up on the "must do" list a few days later and because it's not a "must" it miraculously transforms into a "want to".  Strange... but true.  LOL

Having broken the "spell" I was under, I began listening again.  I soon discovered where my headaches were coming from. 

Working on the computer was giving me eye strain even though I was wearing my "regular" glasses.  My eyes blurred up and my head pounded within a short period of time.  I was scheduled for an eye appointment with the opthamologist in a few days so I'd ask her what was going on. 

As it turned out... nothing... my eyesight was perfect BUT my eyes were drying out sitting in front of the computer.  According to the doctor, we tend not to blink as often sitting in front of the screen and should use eye drops regularly.  She also suggested getting a pair of "office" glasses.  These are glasses that are specially made for working on the computer.  Off to the "glasses" store I went to pick out a pair of the funkiest frames I could find!  Well ... what a difference putting in eyedrops regularly throughout the day and my "funky glasses" have made.  Headaches have disappeared and I'm back in business (chuckle).  If you wear glasses and work for more than an hour in front of a computer,  I highly recommend them.

So what have I been up to?  The biggest chunk of my time has been spent on recording stories for a CD I will be releasing soon and hope to get on iTunes.  What fun it has been!  This is a project that I have been wanting to do for close to 12 years now and it feels great "getting on" with it.  Yep, listening to my inner song is definitely working!

During my "sitting around" time earlier this year, I decided to go through my file (upon file, upon file) of stories and choose my absolute favourites.  With over 150 stories that I have gathered over the years, it wasn't an easy task deciding which ones I loved the most.  But... I did manage to boil it down to 50... way more than I will ever need for a couple of CD's.

The next order of business was figuring out how and where to put a proper "recording" area in our house..  When we lived in North Carolina, I had a recording studio built in our home but "lost" it when we moved back to Canada.  But where could I put it in our current house?  Over the past five years, I have filled up any available spot in my creative space with art supplies, paint, clay, fabric, beads, wire... need I continue? LOL.  Add to that rolling carts, cupboards, fridge, oven (for baking clay) and a giantic art table!  I wasn't about to give that up... no way!!

It took some brainstorming, moving stuff around and a couple of "this won't work" tryouts but my new  recording area finally found a home in a tiny corner of my creative space.  Because I stand when I record, I don't need a lot of room to move around (other than for my "flying hands"). 

Hubby put together a tower to hold my microphone, snuggled it and the surrounding area in noise dampening audio foam, added a light, a spot for my laptop, a music stand and a high bar stool that I can straddle (I still have problems standing on my foot for any length of time).  It's perfect!  Very little ambient noise because I am in an enclosed space... a necessity as my microphone is very sensitive and picks up the drop of a pin!  It's like being in a small "British style" telephone booth!.  The only thing I need to do is turn off the fridge (which lives in a distant part of the room, as far away from the mike as we could get it).  I forgot to turn it back on one day last week after I finished recording and had a tiny disaster... it defrosted and the water drained out all over hardwood floor!  Now I have a sticky note on my laptop every time I record:  "Remember to turn the &%"@* fridge back on." Nonetheless, I am a happy camper.  Recording is just plain fun especially so when you can breathe life into a story you love.  Stories just ain't for kids ya know!

Over this past month, I have managed to get a number of stories recorded. Now begins the "grunt work"... editing and getting a "master" done.  This is the part that is so time intensive to do it right but with new "computer" glasses, a tenacious spirit and a bunch of enthusiasm, I am raring to go.... but first...

some beach time this weekend and then back to playing with story.  Yep, life is good!

See you soon...next time I'll show you the CD cover I have designed for these wonderful "vintage" tales.