An Obsession I Share with Betsey Johnson

betsey
A few years back, I was going through the tv channels to find something to watch while I worked on a project, when I came across a program about the fashion designer Betsey Johnson. I’ve always been attracted to her quirky sense of style – I even have a few of her dresses. One, which I bought several years ago, looks similar to the bathing dresses that were worn during the Victorian era.

One day I was wearing the dress and I was in the subway station on my way to work. I had on red tights and my hair was curled. Suddenly, a young man began to sing “On The Good Ship Lollipop”. I guess I reminded him of Shirley Temple!

Anyway, back to the tv program about Betsey Johnson. It showed a room in Betsey’s New York City apartment which was packed with things that she had found at flea markets that inspired her dresses – details or fabric that she liked, porcelain figurines, and tea cups with designs and patterns that she found appealing.

This is a tea cup I bought recently because I love the flower pattern.

This is a tea cup I bought recently because I love the flower pattern.

Up until that point, I thought that my desire to collect objects that had designs or color combinations that appealed to me was some kind of obsessive compulsive disorder. I have since realized that it is just a normal behavior shared by many creative people.

Tins I got to keep my supplies in. I love their design and I got them on sale!

Tins I got to keep my supplies in. I love their design and I got them on sale!

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Experimenting with Papier Mâché and Decoupage

papier_mache_box

This is the first paper mâché box that I made. It is constructed with newspaper and cardboard. I used Elmer’s glue to put the box together and painted over several layers of newspaper with latex paint to cover the text and pictures on the newspaper. I had never tried decoupage, so I painted the fruit on paper, cut them out with an exacto knife, and glued them to the sides of the box.

box_pieces

I love to experiment and invent, so I’ve developed different methods and used different materials than I used with my first project. I now prefer to use bookboard rather than cardboard to build structures because bookboard is less likely to warp. I found that book binder’s PVA glue is much easier to work with than Elmer’s glue in building structures.

boxes

I’ve substituted newsprint instead of newspaper for my first layer of paper because I don’t have to worry about smearing ink.

box_white

Since I didn’t have to paint over newspaper ink, I decided to skip painting and use colored handmade paper for the other paper layer which now has a dual purpose – adding strength to the structure as well as being decorative.

I discovered that my favorite papers to use are smooth and textured mulberry papers and pineapple paper. I also cut decorative elements from these papers and decoupage them on. I arrived at these methods by playing and experimenting which is part of the fun of creating. I’m still working on inventing new methods and techniques.

decorated_boxes

I’ve created these boxes because I hope they are a project anyone can complete successfully. The free information sheet with the patterns and the youtube instructional video can be found on our website. There are other information sheets and videos on the materials and techniques you can use with papier mâché and sources where you can get materials.

decorated_boxes_majolica

The bottom line is creating with papier mâché is fun, the methods are easy, and the materials aren’t too expensive. Once you know the basics, you can experiment and create your own designs. Join me, it’s a lot of fun!

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Spring Planting

outside_before

Since my daughter Gelsey has taken over our backyard to grow vegetables (she’s going to be an urban gardener), the only place that I can plant flowers is in containers in the front of my house. I haven’t planted them yet because I need to get a ride to Home Depot to buy dirt.

I’m showing you the before picture so you can appreciate the transformation in the after photo. I have to put a new coat of purple paint on the containers (I love purple), take out some old soil that was worn out by last year’s plants, and replace it with the new dirt.

rosebud

The rose tree that Gelsey gave me a few years ago already has some blooms. I have a few plants that I dug up and brought inside last year, a Mandevilla vine and an ivy plant, that I will re pot outside when I get the potting soil.

urban_jungle

Gelsey and Ramon are getting me new plants for Mother’s Day, so Gelsey and I walked to a garden center near our home called Urban Jungle.

honeysuckle

I fell in love with a Gold Flame honeysuckle vine. Not only is it beautiful, but it will smell great as it matures, and it will attract butterflies.

petunia

I don’t usually like petunias because I’m looking for something a little more exotic, but the unique color of these attracted me right away.

salmon_flowers
I saw these salmon colored blossoms that I think will go great with the petunias, and the colors of the coleus complement both the salmon and the purple. I might need a few more plants, but these will do for a start. Stay tuned for the after pictures.

coleus

Happy Mother’s Day everyone!

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Having Fun with Paper Decorating

bubble_papers

I had a lot of fun the last few weeks decorating paper with the faux marbling and the resist decorating techniques. It just goes to show that you don’t have to have the most expensive art supplies to make beautiful things – watercolors, crayons, and food coloring will do.

The resist techniques will appeal to all of you who still love to color. Painting over the colored design with watercolor will give it an entirely different look.

papers_and_crayons

Who wouldn’t love to blow colored soap bubbles and create art? The designs that the bubbles leave on paper are quite appealing. To get a good result you have to use enough dish washing detergent – one part detergent to four parts water. If the bubbles aren’t big enough, add more soap. I used food coloring but you can also use Crayola’s washable kid’s paint, marbling ink, tempera.

bubbles_and_finished_papers

With both of these techniques, I kept coming up with new ideas to try. It was hard to stop, like eating potato chips. I plan to turn these decorated papers into some pamphlet and accordion books. I decorated watercolor paper because it is thick enough to be the cover for a small book and you don’t have to cover a book board with paper. I’m going to use the cotton crochet thread that I hand dyed to bind the pamphlet books. The next step is decorating the pages with several of the paper decorating techniques.

pamphlet_book_unfinished

If you would like to try these techniques yourself, you can get the information sheets here on our website – twoluckycats.com and watch the instructional videos.

accordion_book

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A Look At My Design Proccess

The last few days I’ve been working on the next project, using another paper decorating technique. The first thing that I do is look at many different ideas to come up with designs.

magazine_snail

I do a lot of doodling and sketching to solidify my ideas.

a few of my sketches

Since the techniques will be used to decorate cards and postcards, the designs have to fit into those dimensions.

more sketches

After I finalize a design, I practice the techniques on scrap paper, trying out different color combinations and how much paint needs to be applied to get a good image.

here are some of my trial runs on scrap paper

I hope to post the final results on Monday and have the information sheet with design patterns available by Tuesday or Wednesday. You can use the technique with your own designs or use the ones that I’ve created.

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Spring Fever

spring_flowers_pink_orange

I really have a bad case of spring fever. Although this winter hasn’t been that bad here in Philadelphia, only one dusting of snow so far, I’m still longing for spring. What happened to that early spring that the groundhog promised us? I’ll never believe his predictions again!

cone_planter

I’m starting to think about how I’m going to plant the containers I have in front of my house. I got out some pictures for inspiration that I took last year of other containers people had planted in the area where I live.

flowers_purple_planter

If you don’t have spring fever already, these pictures might infect you.

window_boxes_brick_morning_glories

In spite of being distracted by thoughts of spring, I’ve been working on several new projects, including projects on other paper decorating techniques as well as projects that you can make with the decorated paper.

decorated_paper_projects

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Magic Murals

mural_zagar_dog

Closeup of mural

The other day I discovered that Isaiah Zagar had created a mosaic on the store front of a print framing shop around the corner from my house.

mural_zagar_fish

For those of you who don’t know Isaiah Zagar, he is a Philadelphia artist who creates mosaic murals on walls and storefronts. Most of his murals are in South Philadelphia, where I live, but he has done murals in other cities.

mural_zagar_corner

Mural located outside of the Black N Brew Cafe

His largest mosaic work is an indoor/outdoor maze of mosaics called Magic Gardens. He uses mirrors, glass, bottles, his handmade tile, and found objects plastered on the walls to create his masterpieces. I love the whimsical elements in his work.

mural_zagar_face

You can learn more about Isaiah and his work at Philly Magic Gardens.

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The Button Cuffs Are Finished!

blue button cuff with purple and white hearts

Well, we finally completed making polymer clay buttons and used them to make button cuffs. We try to give you a few designs for each project to inspire your creative ideas. I made three different cuffs.

polymer_clay_buttons

Different colored buttons for the cuffs.

We’ll be doing video instructions on making your own polymer clay buttons as well as instructions for making the cuff.

teal felt cuff shown on a wooden hand with fuchsia and lime green buttons

peach felt cuff shown on a wooden hand with pink and orange streaked buttons

Tomorrow Gelsey and I will begin working on the scripts for the videos and begin filming. Since we are doing much of this for the first time, we don’t know exactly how long it will take us to make the videos. We are hoping to have them up in a week or two. We will keep you posted on our progress.

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A Sneak Peek

blue and green wrist pincushion with some beads

Gelsey and I have been busy creating the first projects to share with you. So far we’ve created heart ornaments, felt flowers, and a pincushion cuff. We’re almost done with a blingy new headband and a button cuff bracelet. We’ll be putting the patterns that include a list of materials and tools that you will need on our site in the next day or so.

pink and blue felt hearts decorated with flowers

We’re starting with projects made from felt because it is an easy material to work with. It comes in many beautiful colors and if you’ve looked at our gallery, you know that we love color. After we’ve finished the patterns, we’ll be working on the instructional videos.

pink beaded, felt flowers on a light grey headband

There are so many things to do; Gelsey and I have to meet every day to revise our lists so we make sure we don’t overlook anything.

I hope you like the projects. We intend to add a new one every week.

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Some New Projects

a blue felt cuff decorated with purple and white heart buttons

We are busy working on a design for a polymer clay button cuff.

Gelsey and I have been busy working on projects for our first videos. We’ve come up with 5 projects to start with that we think you’ll enjoy. We want to simplify some of the items that we create but retain the style and design so your creation will be something that you will love.

grey felt flower headband with beaded pink cherry blossom flowers

A design for a felt headband.

We’re currently writing scripts and working on prototypes. Then we’ll be ready to make the videos. I have to tell you that Gelsey and I have never made a video. We are both perfectionists so I hope that we will do a good job. Please bear with us – I know that we will get better.

blue and pink felt heart ornaments decorated with flowers

New felt ornament designs.

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