Glass Dip Pen

I finally had time to play with my glass dip pen! If you read the newsletter, you know I received the beauty in the mail on my daughter’s birthday this past week. It wasn’t until tonight that I had a chance to actually pull it out and give it a test run.

glass dip pen ink illustration

As you can see, it’s a beautiful piece of art in itself. There’s a bit of a galaxy effect swirled in with rainbow coloration, making it fun to gaze at even when I’m not actively using it.

I was hoping this would be a new illustration tool because I absolutely adore pen and ink drawings. After my test run tonight, it seems as though my dreams have come true. I’ll run through some of the features here:

  • Classic Dip Design: This isn’t a calligraphy pen since the nib doesn’t flex to provide stroke contrast, but you dip the pen in halfway up the nib just the same. It’s really as easy as it sounds.
  • Smooth Ink Flow: Unlike a calligraphy pen, this glass pen didn’t blot the entire time I was using it. The ink flows off at basically the same rate until it runs out. It also takes a really long time to run out, so you don’t have to keep stopping to re-dip the pen. I made it more than a third of the way around this wreath filling in the needles before I had to dip again:

glass pen ink flow demonstration

  • Comfortable Grip: The pen doesn’t look very practical, but its decorative elements actually fit very comfortably in the hand while you’re writing. It reminds me a lot of the ergonomic crochet needles I bought recently, which are equally great at relieving stress in the fingers.

All in all, practicing with this glass dip pen was a great way to relax this evening after a  trying day with the munchkins. One thing I did notice is that you can’t let the ink sit on the nib at all; make sure you go straight from dipping to drawing/writing, or it dries too much to flow once you do hit paper. I paused too long a couple times and had to re-dip before I could get started again.

The end result:

bird drawing glass dip pen illustration

I’ve never been one to turn down the opportunity to draw a bird.

Product: Glass Dip Pen

Where to Find: The Postman’s Knock

If you end up trying a glass dip pen yourself, let me know what you think!

Draw a Butterfly: A Free Illustration Tutorial

Draw a Butterfly: A Free Illustration Tutorial

I’m back with another illustration tutorial! I previously walked you through how to draw a flower with watercolor pencils, but not everyone has those lying around like I do. So today, I’m going to teach you how to draw a butterfly using whatever set of markers you have lying around. If you’ve got fancy artist markers, great! (I’m jealous!) If your kid has a set of Crayolas lying around, go ahead and steal borrow them for this exercise – they’ll work just fine.

One note before we start: I’ve developed this tutorial to draw a more stylized, cartoon-y version of a butterfly. It’s a nice way to practice symmetry, experiment with color combinations, and practice a little bit of shading. If you’d like to learn how to draw a butterfly that looks more realistic, give me a shout and I will definitely put that tutorial together!

If you would prefer to view this tutorial as a PDF, you’re in luck! You can download it, save it, and print it HERE.

What You’ll Need to Draw a Butterfly:

  • 5 markers (any color combo you want)
  • A sheet of paper

Step 1: The Thorax

With Color 1, draw an upside-down egg.

draw a butterfly with markers step 1

Step 2: The Abdomen

Still working with Color 1, draw a petal shape coming off the bottom of the thorax. Mine is pretty pointed, but you could round that bottom shape out more if you prefer.

draw a butterfly step 2

Step 3: The Head

With Color 1, draw a round head on top of the thorax.

draw a butterfly step 3

Step 4: The Eyes

On either side of the head, use Color 1 to draw two ovals and color them almost completely in. Leave a tiny bubble white in each eye – this gives them a more realistic-looking shine.

draw a butterfly step 4

Step 5: Antennae

Now it’s time to give that butterfly some antennae. Still using Color 1, start near the back of the head, between the eyes. You could do a simple arc over the head, or you can make them extra curly like I did. I like the decorative effect it added.

draw a butterfly step 5

Step 6: Begin Filling in White Space

For right now, stick with Color 1 and start filling in the white space in the butterfly’s body. Don’t go too heavy, though – use quick, aggressive strokes that follow the shape of each body section to give it some texture. Leave a little white space peeking through.

draw a butterfly step 6

Step 7: Add Some Depth

It’s finally time for Color 2! This should be slightly darker than Color 1, and you can use it to finish filling in the white space on the body. You’ll notice I colored a little heavier around the connections between the body segments – this helps the body look 3D.

I left the eyes as Color 1 here, but I wasn’t happy with how it looked at this point. You’ll see how I fix that in a minute.

draw a butterfly step 7

Step 8: Add the Top Wings

Time for wings! With Color 3, draw the top halves of each wing. They should look like rounded triangles coming out of the thorax. I try to get them as symmetrical as possible, but one always turns out longer than the other. I’ve given up trying to fix that. Now I just roll with it as a personal drawing quirk!

draw a butterfly step 8

Step 9: Add the Bottom Wings

Staying with Color 3 for a moment, add the bottom wings. I like to use a rose petal shape, but you could make yours rounder if you’d like. The only thing that matters is size – they should be a bit smaller than the top wings.

draw a butterfly step 9

Step 10: Start Decorating the Wings

This is the fun part! This is where you can go really crazy with color combinations and decorative elements. (If you go off-tutorial here, I’d love to see the results of your designs!)

If you want to continue with the tutorial, grab Color 4. (My color 4 is the darkest shade I selected for the batch of 5, which definitely made a difference for the outcome.) Make a smaller mimic of the wing shape inside each wing segment. This can be done quickly and imperfectly; the differences just add to the charm.

draw a butterfly step 10

Step 11: Repeat Step 10

Do the same thing as Step 10 inside the first lines you made with Color 4. This gives you some fun shapes to color in to add contrast.

drawing a butterfly step 11

Step 12: Color in the Bands

With Color 4, fill in those contrasting bands you just created in Steps 10 and 11. I also colored over the eyes and added just a couple streaks of Color 4 to darken the shading on the body. This helped the body really stand out instead of getting overwhelmed by the colorful wings.

draw a butterfly step 12

Step 13: Color in Outer Regions of the Wings

Returning to Color 3, fill in the outermost regions of the wings. If you like how it looks at this point, you can totally stop here! I really liked how mine looked at this stage, but I tinkered a little bit further since I was aiming for the wow factor. If you’d like to join me in adding even more decorative elements and that fifth color, read on.

draw a butterfly step 13

Step 14: Polka Dots

A lot of butterflies have dots along the edges of their wings, so I decided to add a stylized version of that to my design with Color 4. Place the largest dots near the points of each wing, and then make them smaller and smaller as they head away from that point.

draw a butterfly step 14

Step 15: Color the Remaining White Space

With Color 5 (the lightest and brightest shade), fill in the small regions of white space left on the wing. I also added a quick streak of Color 4 to visually tie these sections in with the rest of the wing.

draw a butterfly step 15

And there you have it! You now know how to draw a butterfly anywhere you like. I used to doodle these all over my notes for school. Now, I doodle them all over my actual artwork. 🙂

Once again, if you’d like to save this tutorial for future use, you can grab the free PDF version HERE!

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How to Draw a Flower (Step-by-Step Tutorial)

How to Draw a Flower (Step-by-Step Tutorial)

Hello all! I am back from my New Hampshire vacation with this step-by-step tutorial to guide you through how to draw a flower. This particular tutorial uses watercolor pencils, markers, and a touch of ink, although you could follow the basic instructions with any medium you want. It’d look great with paints, colored pencils, pastels…you name it! You can also scale this tutorial however you want; use it to make greeting cards, or draw it large enough to hang on your wall.

*Please note: There are a few affiliate links below. This means that, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a small commission of any sales made. For a full description of how these work, please see this page.*

If you would prefer to save and print this tutorial, grab a PDF version here:

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What You’ll Need:

Materials for How to Draw a Flower

 

Step 1:

Draw the center of your flower. I did it as a small cluster of circles, but you could do one larger circle if you prefer.

Step 1 Draw a Flower

Step 2:

Draw 5 petals. They do not have to be anywhere close to perfect, especially if you’re using the watercolor pencils. We’re just doing a vague outline at this point.

Step 2 Draw a Flower

Step 3:

In a coordinating color, draw 5 more petals behind the first set. Again, no need for perfection! If you go really off course like I did, you can lighten the lines with a kneaded eraser* (possibly my favorite tool in my kit).

Step 3 Draw a Flower

Step 4:

Color in that first set of petals. It will look especially great if there are some darker lines toward the center, since that creates a nice little shading illusion.

Step 4 Draw a Flower

Step 5:

With the coordinating color you chose, color in the second set of petals. Again, make sure you’re adding some darker lines toward the center. That contrast really helps!

Step 5 Draw a Flower

Step 6:

With a small paintbrush, paint over the watercolor pencil with water. This helps smooth out the colors, and you can create a nice feathery effect at the tips of the petals if you want. I find that the less perfect my petals are to begin with, the less it matters when I get unintended smudges on the page…

Step 6 Draw a Flower

Step 7:

Now things really get fun! I wasn’t fully happy with the flower when it was 100% watercolor, so I grabbed my markers next. I started adding some color where those original darker lines were to really solidify that shading effect. As you can see, I chose extremely bold colors for this step – feel free to choose colors that are closer to your original two if you don’t want quite this much contrast.

Step 7 Draw a Flower

Step 8:

Even after adding the marker, it still didn’t look done to me, so I grabbed my gold calligraphy ink* and dip pen next. I didn’t want to go overboard with this, but I added some lines (following the shape of the petals) to fill in more of the white space.

Step 8 Draw a Flower

Step 9:

To tie in the gold a little better, add some small lines coming out of the very center and some longer ones going down the middle of the second set of petals. You could also add a bit of gold outline to the circles in the center cluster.

Step 9 Draw a Flower

Step 10:

Sign your work, and you’re done!

Step 10 Draw a Flower

There you have it: now you know how to draw a flower! Feel free to share your creation by email or on the VanDuinen Studio Facebook page. If you decide you want to save and print this tutorial, you can download a PDF version:

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And please, if you know anyone who might appreciate this tutorial for how to draw a flower, share away! Let’s build this artist community together. 🙂

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P.S. Did you like this tutorial? You might like these posts, too!

DIY Tutorial for a Customized Memory Box

DIY Beaded Earring Tutorial

Branding and Packaging for Your Creative Business

Branding and Packaging for Your Creative Business

Please note: this post contains affiliate links. For a full description of how these work, please see the full disclaimer.

This post on branding and packaging is part of my business evolution series. For anyone else out there who is wading through the logistics of starting a small business, I’m going to share the lessons I’ve learned. Hopefully, your journey to success will be a little bit shorter than mine!

I’ve touched on presentation before in my post 4 Tips on How to Prepare for a Craft Show (the first post in the series), but this week I’m going to go more in-depth into the nitty-gritty details that add up to a brand. I’m talking about the tags you put on your products, the bags you send home with your customers, the notes you include in packages. All of these are important puzzle pieces in the way you present yourself to your customers. After all, since the majority of your customers are not close friends or family members, these details are the only things they know about you!

Detail #1: Product Labeling

When I was prepping for my very first craft show, I was a stay-at-home mom with no idea whether or not this would be a lucrative endeavor. Branding and packaging were not on my priority list at all. To mitigate the financial risks I was taking as much as possible, I went with the cheapest options available and scribbled the prices on with a permanent marker. These tags got the message across, sure, but they were far from attractive:

Having done a mountain of research on marketing in between that first show and my most recent one, I decided that I was going for a more cohesive, brand appropriate look. Back to Michael’s I went, this time buying tags that were specific to the items I was selling:

New, professional tags for packaging

Not pictured: the cute tags I found for my crocheted items, which can be found here.* The earring cards are also easy to find.* On all of these tags, I used a calligraphy marker to write the prices not only legibly, but also attractively. Bonus: if I do decide to move this business into the realm of calligraphy service in the future, I’m already on track with brand recognition.

Detail #2: Packaging

You have to send your products home in some kind of packaging. Why not make it pretty and brand-specific? Personally, I’m big into recycling, so I haven’t actually bought packaging for my products. Instead, I’ve curated a collection of nice boxes and small bags that match the aesthetic I like for VanDuinen Studio:

VanDuinen Studio packaging

I have logo stickers to add to every package I mail out, and I send home a business card in every bag or box, too. The more customers see a logo, the more likely they’ll be to remember it.

Detail #3: Business Cards and Logo

Speaking of my logo, I’m doing everything I can to make sure it’s instantly recognizable as part of the VanDuinen Studio brand. I had help with this aspect – the owner of Megan Made It Designs (AKA my lovely cousin) was kind enough to turn my crude sketch into a streamlined, beautiful, professional design. (The details of that process are in this post if you’re interested.) I then used the Vistaprint business card tool to design my cards. This turned out to be really easy and fun to use, even for someone like me who has no background in graphic design! I love the way they turned out:

VanDuinen Studio branding with business cards

Having these cards has made branding and packaging for the studio so much easier. I use them as a reference whenever I’m making a decision about what works for the brand.

Detail #4: Thank You Notes

These are totally optional, but I’ve always thought they were a nice, personal touch in the packages I’ve received from Etsy sellers. I recently grabbed this pack of scrapbook paper* on super-sale at Michael’s, and lo and behold, there are a few pages of small cards designed to look like vintage seed packets:

Branding with thank-you notes

I love them, and I’ve already started adding thank-yous in calligraphy on the back when I ship to customers. (Again, working that calligraphy skill into the brand!) This is also a great way to include offer codes for return customers – another trick I learned from fellow Etsy sellers.

It’s a huge learning curve, this business of mine, but I’m up for the challenge! Do you think there are any branding and packaging details I missed? Any secrets you’d like to share?

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*This is an affiliate link.

DIY Tutorial for a Customized Memory Box

DIY Tutorial for a Customized Memory Box

Note: This post contains affiliate links. This means, at no additional cost to you, I will receive a percentage of any sales of the products mentioned in this post.

How many of you are pack rats? I have to raise my hand to the ceiling with this one!

In a recent post, I mentioned my efforts to reduce the amount of random junk and knick-knacks I keep around. It’s definitely still a work in progress, and I’m finding in each room that there are things to which I’m too emotionally attached to get rid of entirely. Shelf space is limited though, so the need arose for a way to keep them together and somewhat organized. I know a lot of people like to scrapbook, but I find that too time-intensive. I really love using a memory box, instead. My box from high school is overflowing, and the pre-made versions run for about $10 a box, so I decided to decorate my own.

Thanks to my need to stash everything under the sun, I have plenty of boxes of all sizes tucked in the basement. I pulled out a shoebox for this particular project, and  I also put together this easy-peasy tutorial you can use as inspiration for your own DIY memory box.

If you would like a PDF version of this tutorial to print or save, click here:

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WHAT YOU’LL NEED

  • Wide paint brush
  • Acrylic paint (opaque)
  • Mod Podge + foam applicator
  • Super glue (optional, depending on your decorations)
  • Anything you want to use as decoration – I used wrapping paper scraps, tissue paper, and pictures cut out of an old calendar and a gardening catalog. You could also use shells, rhinestones, small rocks, etc.

DIY memory box supplies

STEP 1: PAINT THE BOX

Step 1: paint memory box

I used Liquitex Basics Acrylic Paints* in black and ecru for a neutral-yet-interesting backdrop. Learn from my mistakes: if you do a two-toned palette, tape off any areas you don’t want painted the second color! I wasted a lot of time touching up very obvious spots of ecru that appeared on the black spaces…

STEP 2: ASSEMBLE DECORATIVE MATERIALS

I chose to use an old scrap of tissue paper as the backdrop. It wasn’t quite square, and I was feeling lazy, so I also cut out border pieces from some scraps of wrapping paper I had ferreted away last year to hide the edges. Finally, I used a hobby knife* to cut out a butterfly from an old calendar, and a few flowers from one of the dozens of gardening catalogs that make their way to my mailbox. (Seriously, if you order from one gardening supply company, you’ll get catalogs from every company that exists!)

STEP 3: START DECORATING!

Since I was using strictly paper, I went with thin layers of Mod Podge both under the paper and over the top, making sure no corners stick up or look unfinished. If you want to add shells, rocks, rhinestones, or basically anything heavier than paper, I swear Gorilla Glue* is the stuff of legends. Just, uh, try not to get it on your hands. It comes off, but it tends to take the top layer of skin along for the ride. Not that I know this by experience, of course…cough cough

Tip: Lay everything out on your surface before you start gluing to make sure you like the composition. I have an embarrassing number of craft projects stuffed in the basement that failed because I just dove in without planning!

THE FINAL PRODUCT:

Final Product DIY Memory Box

As you can see, I folded the flowers down along the front edge to make the design more three dimensional. I’ll see the front edge in my closet more often than the top, after all!

Another angle:

Final Product DIY Memory Box

Now, all that’s left is stuffing it with ticket stubs and old photos!

Once again, if you’d like to save or print this tutorial, there is a free PDF version:

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If you decide to try this DIY memory box tutorial, feel free to post your final product in the comments! I’d love to see what you come up with.

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4 Tips on How to Prepare for a Craft Show

4 Tips on How to Prepare for a Craft Show

Historically, I have not been a great strategizer. I tend to dive headfirst into projects and assume I’ll figure things out as I go. As you might expect, though, that’s not the most efficient way to run a business – even a creative one! Nothing has made that clearer to me than my path for learning how to prepare for a craft show.

Several times a year, I take the studio on the road to craft shows in the Grand Rapids and greater Ann Arbor areas. I’ve had mixed success at these shows; sometimes I go home with some extra money to feed back into the business, and other times I haven’t even covered the cost of the table.

New and Improved Look

Obviously, I’d like to find ways to increase the likelihood that I’ll go home with a profit. I’m not satisfied with leaving it up to chance. So I started researching how to prepare for a craft show, and it became instantly clear that my display DEFINITELY has room for improvement. After coming to this realization, I spent the vast majority of one of my daughter’s naps experimenting with set-up ideas on my coffee table, and came up with this:

I’ll have more space to work with at the craft show to alleviate the cluttered effect, but I at least have better ideas to work with now!

For context, this is where I started:

original craft table

Not the most visually appealing collection in the world. It’s hard to gauge jewelry from a distance, no matter how beautifully that jewelry is crafted – I noticed a lot of eyes simply sliding past my table. Not ideal! So, my new goal has been to draw people in close enough to see what I’ve created. I tested this design at the last craft show I attended, and even though I was stuck in the back corner of the show, I still went home with double the cost of the table. Score!

I am now going to share with you the highlights of my research. The following elements stood out to me as most important and effective when you’re preparing your display at a craft show. If you want this list as an easy-to-read infographic, it’s available here:

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1. ADD HEIGHT!

This is the #1 tip for how to prepare for a craft show for a reason. A flat table does not draw shoppers in from across a room. A flat table says nothing about your brand. I had the necklace stand and the earring trees at first, but 90% of the table was a vast expanse of tablecloth peppered with necklaces. Now, I have a vertical necklace display to bring more of them up to eye level, leaving table space open to showcase my crochet work. I also added books under the earring trees to catch the eye – I like the personality it adds to the table.

2. FOCUS ON YOUR PRODUCTS

This sounds like a no-brainer, I know. But as you can see in that original photo, my first set-up included a bunch of knick-knacks that I brought along to pretty up the table. Bad idea! Shoppers were confused about which items were for sale and which were just display. In fact, the stone pears I bought to use as door-stops were some of the most popular items on the table; I could’ve sold those five times over (*facepalm*). Now, I find ways to decorate with my products, not random knick-knacks; the books are the only things not directly related, and they’re being used as an intentional prop. After all, if you love what you’ve made, why hide it from potential buyers?

3. CREATE FLOW IN THE COMPOSITION

This idea is applicable to any artistic endeavor, really. It’s important to guide the eye toward whatever you want to showcase. Too much blank space is bad (i.e. a flat table), but too much to look at is also bad (overstimulation isn’t just for toddlers). Therefore, the flow of the products on your table is a very important aspect to consider when you’re deciding how to prepare for a craft show. You’ll notice in my revised arrangement that I have the earring trees set up extremely tall to catch the eye, then the necklaces, then the crochet pieces. There are three clear types of products and three clear levels on which they sit. (You’ll also notice that the background is too cluttered, which couldn’t really be helped given the coffee table situation, but it does serve to highlight my point!)

4. PRESENT YOURSELF AS THE BRAND REPRESENTATIVE

I rolled in to my first show wearing a typical jeans-and-tee combination, looking relatively indistinguishable from my high school photos save for the laugh lines I’ve accumulated since. But the more I’ve started to take myself seriously as a business owner, the more I’ve spent time polishing my look as part of my preparation for each craft show. It’s not like I glam up for a day in the office or a night out, but I do make sure that I’ve covered up the bags under my eyes, and I make a valid attempt to tame flyaways in my hair. After all, customers won’t take you seriously if they can tell you’re not invested in your own brand.

Whew! List over, at least for now. If you made it this far, thanks for sticking with me. I hope you feel like you have a better handle on how to prepare for a craft show!

Again, if you want to see the list as an infographic, it’s here:

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I’m sure I’ll make many revisions and/or additions to this list as time progresses, but everyone has to start somewhere, right? And remember, just because you’ve already started doesn’t mean you can’t perfect your approach. Change is the only constant in life, after all.

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P.S. Looking for new items to sell? Check out my tutorial on how to make your own beaded earrings!

A Simple System for Effective Time Management

A Simple System for Effective Time Management

I’ll be the first to admit that I have assigned myself a lot of jobs. In any given week, I am balancing:

  •      Being a stay-at-home mom
  •      Creating art
  •      Learning the ins and outs of the small business world
  •      Reading and voting on submissions for The Masters Review
  •      Keeping the house from being featured on an episode of Hoarders
  •      Being a writer

Whew! At the beginning of this year, I was feeling pretty overwhelmed – I was mostly spinning my wheels, not making it anywhere. In short, I was driving myself crazy.

effective time management calendar system

I. The System

Thankfully, in February, I managed to create a super simple but effective time management system. I downloaded this cute, free printable calendar, and I started scheduling myself two goals for each day. I space out different types of tasks throughout the week, so I don’t spend three solid days updating Etsy or give myself hand cramps practicing calligraphy too frequently. This also keeps the work interesting – since the types of tasks rotate, I feel refreshed and ready to tackle each one.

Here’s a week I made up as an example:

  • Monday: Master’s Review reading, market research
  • Tuesday: Write two reference letters, write blog post
  • Wednesday: Pin new blog post, write two reference letters
  • Thursday: Master’s Review reading, work on latest art piece
  • Friday: Send out newsletter, write two reference letters
  • Saturday: Practice calligraphy, market research
  • Sunday: Unpack a box in the basement, work on latest art piece

The amount of tasks in a week add up, but on a day-to-day basis it feels totally doable. And my favorite part? This system is totally flexible. If I miss a day because the kiddo decided to wake up at 4 am and I am a zombie, catching up over the next day or two is totally doable.

II. Who Is It For?

Now if I were really playing to the broad audience on this one, I’d be shouting “Everyone! Everyone! We can all use it!” But I think it’s most useful for people like me: people who crave structure in a setting that can feel completely unstructured. Maybe you’re a stay-at-home parent too, or you’re a freelancer, or you’re starting your own business. No boss is breathing down your neck, tapping a watch to remind you of your next deadline. No one is checking on your progress.

The idea sounds exhilarating, but personally, I like deadlines. Sure, they can be stressful, but they’re also a clear goal to work toward, and I can measure success by whether or not I meet or exceed them. (Can you tell I was one of the nerds in school? Feel free to insert eyeroll here.)

When I switched from my office job to being a stay-at-home mom, I struggled. Hard. I felt like I never got anything done; I felt like I was failing at everything. Slowly but surely (at times with the help of a therapist – no shame!), I’m learning how to take control when I can and let go when I can’t. This two-goals-per-day system sounds stupid simple at first, but such a simple yet effective time management system has done wonders for my productivity and sense of self. Sometimes, the simplest things are the best things in life.

III. Additional Tips

If you want to implement a similar effective time management system, I recommend making a master list of all the tasks you’re anticipating for each month. (To the best of your ability, anyway – life happens, so some tasks will pop up out of nowhere.) That way, as you build your rotating schedule for each week, you can make sure there isn’t a category of tasks being left off by accident.

Along with that master list, I’d also suggest writing down a few goals or desires you have in mind that you haven’t been able to get to. This part is totally optional, but if you end up with some space in your normal schedule, you could use that time to do something for yourself. (Crazy, right?!) Maybe there’s a book you’ve been dying to read, or a new cookie recipe you’ve been wanting to try. As you get a better grasp on time management overall, you will most likely find yourself with extra time you can spend on personal goals. I finally found time to actually read the books I get out of the library!

Do you have a tried-and-true, effective time management system to keep you on track? How long did it take you to develop?

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A Free DIY Beaded Earring Tutorial

A Free DIY Beaded Earring Tutorial

Happy Tuesday, everyone! I sincerely hope your morning started out better than this:

And yes, for those wondering, that is permanent marker. She has washable Crayola markers, but it had to be Sharpie. Of course.

Free DIY Beaded Earring Tutorial

Anyway, onto the meat of this post: a free beaded earrings tutorial. Why? Because I don’t believe in hoarding creativity – if you want to give it a try, go for it! Plus, I think being transparent in the artistic process helps the general public understand why handmade items are priced so highly compared to retail. Making jewelry is a hobby, but it also takes a lot of practice and patience.

Before we begin, there is a PDF version of this tutorial available, if you’d like to save it for later and/or print it:

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WHAT YOU’LL NEED

  • A pair of small needle-nosed pliers
  • Wire cutters or scissors
  • Beading wire (I like 28 gauge, because it’s nice and flexible)
  • 2 earring hooks
  • 2 round beads
  • An assortment of seed beads
  • Any other beads you want to include

beaded earring supplies needed

STEP 1:

Decide how long you want your earrings, keeping in mind that you’ll need extra wire to tie off the ends. Double that length before you cut – you’ll need 2 strands to create the seed bead halo.

step one beaded earrings

STEP 2:

Feed the cut wire onto an earring hook, folding it at (or at least near) the halfway mark.

wire threaded into earring hook

STEP 3:

At this point, I fed both strands through a couple of beads I wanted near the top. At the very least, thread both strands of wire through one of your round beads.

first beads threaded onto wire

STEP 4:

Once your round bead is in place, separate the two wires and feed an equal amount of seed beads onto them. You may have to experiment with the numbers to get the right-sized halo – I started out with 8 on each strand, but had to bump it up to 10.

beginning to make the halo

STEP 5:

Pull one strand up and around the round bead, securing this half of the halo by wrapping the wire once at the top.

first half of beaded halo

STEP 6:

Do the same on the other side, completing the halo effect.

completed beaded halo

STEP 7:

Take one strand of wire and feed it back through the hole in the round bead.

wire fed through bead

STEP 8:

Using the strand you fed through to the bottom of the round bead, add a final bead to cap off the end. Wrap the wire several times, cut off any excess, and pinch the end in to hide it as much as possible. This is where those needle-nosed pliers come in handy!

end bead added

STEP 9:

Take the other strand of wire and once again, wrap the wire several times, cut off any excess, and really pinch that wire closed.

last wire closed off

Now you have a completed earring!

complete beaded earring

Take a moment to really look at your work. Do you like it? Is there a combination you’d like better? I always like to check in with myself after the first earring is made, because it’s much easier (and less depressing) to rip out one earring and start over than it is to rip apart both. I ended up liking this set, but I’ve been known to try three or four different designs before moving onto earring #2!

complete set of beaded earrings

Once you’ve repeated the steps for the second earring, congratulations! You made your own pair of beaded earrings!

Once again, if you’d like the PDF version of this tutorial, click here:

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If any of you try this beaded earring tutorial, I would LOVE to see your results. Also, if you’ve fallen in love with this particular pair, it can be found in my Etsy shop.

Happy creating!

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Cozy Minimalism and Mental Health

Cluttered House, Cluttered Mind

I don’t know about you, but I have a love/hate relationship with New Year’s resolutions. The “whole new YOU” mentality has never appealed to me. I am me; I don’t really see that changing just because it’s January. Last year I didn’t make any sort of resolutions, and I frankly felt annoyed by the world’s expectation that I change something. I was busy chasing a one-year-old, after all, and that felt like more than enough!

This year, however, I’m looking at it with new perspective. We moved to a more comfortable but slightly smaller house last year, so even though we pared down during the move, our closets/basement/garage are still overstuffed. My head feels overstuffed, too. Whenever I look around and see the clutter, I can feel myself getting more anxious and upset. So this year, I did decide to make a resolution: take back control of the house and my mental health.

In practice, this means that I’m asking myself, one closet or room at a time, if we really need what’s in there. For stuff we do need, I’m making sure the organization system in place actually makes sense. I started with my pantry and Liv’s room, and I’m already feeling better!

Cozy minimalist nursery

Ultimate Goal:

The big culmination of this project will be the basement. It’s unfinished but spacious, so my goal is to make it cozy and inspiring enough to function as live-in studio space for VanDuinen Studio. Right now, whenever inspiration hits, I have to go downstairs find and extract my materials from the perilous piles in which they’re hiding, and drag it all up to the couch. It works in a pinch, but I’m getting tired of a) having to dig to find anything useful and b) having my art supplies stashed in corners all over the living room because my daughter woke up and I needed to hide my paint brushes pronto.

Progress So Far:

Just before the holidays, I bought a big Ikea shelving unit, but it sat in its two boxes collecting dust while we celebrated Christmas and traveled for New Year’s. One day while I was idly browsing Pinterest (love that site), I stumbled across an OK Dani post about “cozy minimalism;” it kicked my imagination and drive into high gear. Last weekend I finally assembled those shelves, and I’m now working box by box through art supplies, knick-knacks, holiday decor, and everything else we stashed in the basement with an “I’ll deal with that later” sigh. For sentimental items, I used a tip from my cousin Steffani, owner of Fresh Coast Living: if you love it too much to get rid of it, keep it. If you feel some attachment or obligation but don’t really want it taking up space anymore, take a photo before you give it away, recycle, or toss it. That way, you’ll keep the memories without the clutter. (Genius lies in simplicity: I don’t know why taking a photo never occurred to me, but it’s been so helpful.)

Your Main Takeaway:

Living in a constant state of chaos can kill creativity. A messy house can feel like a neverending to-do list that’s too overwhelming to tackle. However, since I’m currently building a creative business, I simply can’t accept that chaos. That’s why I’ve started working in small chunks of space: one closet, one corner of the living room, one box at a time in the basement. Bit by bit, I’m creating a little more space in our lives, and in doing so, I’m putting myself in a more positive mental space for artistic inspiration to flow.

What was your resolution? Are you still working on it? What do you think of the “cozy minimalist” idea? As always, if you have any questions, ideas, or anything you’d like to share, send me a message on Facebook or email me. I would love to hear from you!

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Custom Crocheted Christmas Tree Skirt

Custom Crocheted Christmas Tree Skirt

Happy holidays, everyone! I’m back with a summary of my holiday season 2017 project: a crocheted Christmas tree skirt.

For years, when it was just my husband and I in the house, I used a spare piece of burlap wrapped around the base of our tree. It worked fine, it looked fine. But now we have a very mobile, impish kiddo on the loose, so I wanted something that would stand up better to tugging hands.

I kept procrastinating on figuring out exactly what I wanted – first I decided to buy one, but couldn’t believe the price tags I was seeing. Definitely not in the budget at the time! Thankfully, there was Pinterest to the rescue: probably thanks to my Amazon search history, I saw a pin for a Christmas tree skirt that somebody had crocheted. The lightbulb went on, and I started scouring the internet for a pattern I could hopefully complete in 2 weeks. No big deal, right?

 

I ended up finding a beautiful lacy crocheted tree skirt pattern that looked easy enough. Of course, I still had to tear out all of my work and restart not once, but twice – just because the pattern is easy doesn’t mean I will read it correctly! The Wednesday before Christmas (and the night before company arrived), I finally had it finished.

Finished product: custom crocheted Christmas tree skirtClose up - crocheted Christmas tree skirtClose up shot - crocheted Christmas tree skirt

You’ll notice I didn’t do red and green. I bought shatterproof ornaments in jewel tones this year, so I picked a yarn that wouldn’t clash with them:

Decorated tree with shatterproof ornaments

I absolutely loved the final pairing. Somehow I missed the obvious decorated tree + skirt picture, so the detail shots above will have to do. But I wanted to include this one for a laugh – this is the same night I put the tree skirt down:

decorated tree with presents

Oh well, next year I won’t have to MAKE the skirt, so I’ll put it out well before I have the presents wrapped.

If you need a tree skirt and want something out of the ordinary, feel free to email me at any time. We’ll talk pattern, colors, and price for a custom crocheted Christmas tree skirt at your leisure. I’ll happily make one in any color combination you want – including red and green! Or, if you give the pattern a go yourself, feel free to share the outcome. I love seeing other people’s creations!

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