Friday, March 30, 2012

Art & Humanitarianism = Best Friends 4ever

We have made several different posts in the past about humanitarian businesses and organizations that strive to create equality through beading and the arts.  Today, we wanted to share with you an article on an amazing project that allows the disabled to work in Africa.  As the article explains, in Tanzania and other parts of Africa, disabled workers are often not hired for jobs even if they are qualified.  Shanga's House teaches them how to make jewelry and other beautiful art from a variety of materials including recycled glass.  It takes the societal underdog, gives them a way to earn a regular wage, shows them acceptance and helps them turn into an amazing artist. How absolutely beautiful.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

NPR tells you how to DIY gourmet food in your own kitchen

As you all probably know from reading Creation Sunday Posts, Hillary is a huge fan of cooking and DI.Y  Very recently, NPR posted an article on how to make fun things like ricotta cheese and chocolate hazelnut spread in  your very own kitchen with standard kitchen tools.  We thought we would share it with you so you could learn the joy of creating in your kitchen.
Here it is.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Creation Sunday - Christmas Part 4 - Kickin' Cocoa

Today Hillary is going to finish out her "What I made for Christmas" series with an awesome recipe for hot chocolate mix.

As you may well know, Alton Brown is my favorite foodie because his recipes are grounded in good cooking science, he explains his methodology clearly and his show is so gosh-darnded silly while being incredibly well-informed and informative at the same time.  Many moons ago, I saw his Cocoa episode and promptly forgot it for something else like macaroni and cheese or pouch cooking.

A few months ago, I got a migraine in the middle of the workday and had access to ZERO chocolate.  Some people say that chocolate aggravates migraines, but, for me, it seems to help my pain and improve my mood.  I sent a message to my husband saying I wished I had some hot chocolate.  When I got home, I was handed a large mug with a lot of whipped cream on top.  "Hot chocolate?" I said, "I thought we were out?".  "Yes" he said, "Taste it."  So I did.  It was rich, chocolatey, and spicy.  The blend of flavors was very unique and perfect.  "Where did you get this?" I said.  "I made Alton Brown's Cocoa mix" he said.  That was the beginning of what became my favorite cocoa ever, affectionately referred to in my house as "Super Cocoa."  Right then I made him promise he would make some for Christmas presents and he agreed.

As time marched on and the holidays loomed, we both got more stressed out and tired.  His reaction to that, like any sensible person's, is to rest.  My reaction to that is to create things, and so, I ended up making the super cocoa and of course, I had to modify it a little so it became "Kickin' Cocoa".  Below are the links/recipes for both.

Super Cocoa is pretty much just Alton's Brown's Recipe Straight up.  You can find the recipe here and a video on how to make it here.  The only difference is that my husband's "pinch" of cayenne was an awfully heavy pinch.  It was excellent, but it took several cans of whipped cream to get through that batch.

Kickin' Cocoa is only slightly different.  I added a half teaspoon of cinnamon and a very scant pinch of cayenne.  The cinnamon is a nice warm, wintry flavor and the little bit of heat you get from the cayenne enhances that all the more.

To make it into "gifts", I simply made  a couple of batches of Kickin' Cocoa, Put it in plastic bags, put the bags inside pretty gift tins, added a coffee scoop from the dollar store (2 tbl scoop), stuck on a pretty label with the directions on how to turn powder into a yummy drink and that was it.

We hope you enjoyed the recipe! See you soon for more recipes, interviews, and awesome updates!

Friday, March 23, 2012

interview with Sandy of UpToMuch

Today we bring you an interview with Sandy of UpToMuch in Edinburgh, UK.  Sandy is a talented artist with a very unique approach and creation process.  Hillary says she hopes you enjoy reading this as much as she enjoyed conducting the interview.

How did you get started with art and creation?

I've always been into making things, my mam and dad are both practical people capable of making things and fixing things so the house always had plenty of tools and materials slightly beyond the normal children's crafting stuff.  I built a lot of model kits, tanks, planes and the like, though was never very keen on painting and decorating them.  In fact, I was never very good at making them either, until my brother showed me that I didn't have to use ALL the glue, ALL the time.  I loved the way the parts interlocked, how some kits were so satisfying to construct.

How did you get from where you started to the items you make now?

[It was a] Gradual process of increasing the scale and complexity of designs, in
woodwork or in graphics, until they started to have real function.  It
was kick-started when I decided I wanted to go to study 3D design
(furniture and fancy stuff) at university, and I needed to build a
portfolio - this made me put a structure around my play, made me
define bits and pieces as explicit projects and led to a more
formalized and concerted year of varied projects, experiments and

I never graduated, but kept on making things all the while, and
revisited a couple of my university projects (thiswayup lamp) armed
with new processes and techniques that were suddenly open to the
general public like never before - namely laser cutting through
Ponoko.  The ease of this spurred me on to look more closely at these
new manufacturing companies that hid all the dirty manufacturing work
and delivered a very finished and reliable part - Shapeways was next
where they'd just introduced printing in steel, and I rattled off a
couple of designs for jewellery that I'd had for a while, and they
came out beautifully.  I opened a little storefront on Etsy just to
gauge reaction, and was very pleased by the result.

Your creation process is very unique.  Can you tell us a little bit about
how a design is conceived, then how it comes to be "printed" into a plastic or steel item using a 3d printer?

My design process is a very technical one - that was a place I was
very weak in university and felt it acutely.  I'm not good at
sketching, and I'm terrible at presentation graphics - I tend to
diagram and annotate rather than express, but I did learn to iterate
and iterate and iterate, produce as many drawings as possible rather
than labour over one perfect one.  My jewellery is not sketched on
paper first though, it's almost always created primarily in the CAD
software.  This is possible because I'm self-guided--I don't have a
brief--I just play with it until I get a form that appeals to me, and
then that becomes the jumping-off point for the rest of the design.
It's also because my designs tend to be technical and with repetitive
features, and they are hard to draw!

Once I've got a form I'm interested in seeing, it is exported as a 3d
model file and sent to my 3d printing company (I'm usually using
Shapeways at the moment), and I wait for a couple of weeks to see if
it really looks and feels as nice in the hand as it does on screen.
It's hard to judge the physical reality of an object without ever
setting hands on it - working just from an on-screen view, even with
the most photo-realistic renderings, is very risky.

The nylon pieces are made by using a laser to melt a pattern (a
cross-section of the 3D model) into a bed of nylon powder.  Another
thin layer of powder is added, and the next pattern is melted into it,
fusing it to the layer below.  A few hundred layers later, you can
shake off all the loose powder that hasn't been melted, and you're
left with a solid model.  This is really strong and light, great
stuff, and takes dyes beautifully, and can even be burnished to a very
handsome finish.  I use this for my bracelets and for prototypes.

The printing in steel is similar, except instead of a bed of nylon
powder, it's fine steel powder, and instead of laser, there's a kind
of glue that get's sprayed, like an inkjet printer head.  Once the
model is finished being built up and the loose material blown off
(still very delicate, only glued together after all), it's packed into
some other material, has a sprue attached and is heated and injected
with molten brass.  This burns out all the glue and fills all the
voids and makes the object entirely solid. After that it's cooled,
tumbled, polished, can be plated or further finished if required.

There are plenty of other processes and technologies, it's really
booming now, and some are really affordable.  I've got a little 3d
printer I built from a kit (eMaker Huxley) that sits next to my
computer in the living room and builds models by extruding layers of
molten plastic out of a computer-controlled nozzle.  Good for
functional prototypes.

What led you to using a 3d printer over other options available for
creating jewelry?

In a word, access.  I don't have the space or the money to run a
workshop and do messy, noisy, fiery stuff.  3D printing, and other
on-demand manufacturing like it (mail order laser cutting, etc.) give me
the ability to produce usable, functional, hard-wearing and beautiful
things without having to do all that messy stuff.  I love the messy
stuff, but I just don't have the space or the time.

This would seem to me to be the choice of someone who is inquisitive and is
always looking for new ideas... What other things are you inquisitive about
or what other new ideas have you explored?

My current most consuming project is my drawing machine (polargraph).
This is a pen hanging from a couple of bits of string, that can draw
pictures.  It's simple, there's almost nothing to go wrong, and it's
very appealing because of it.  It's drawing technique has a slightly
mesmeric effect - very watchable, which is odd considering it is just
wiggling a pen back and forwards.

But it captures attention and lots of people like it.  I love the idea
of a machine using human tools, especially in a non-imitative kind of
way.  This isn't a machine that draws anything like most people draw,
it's obsessively focused on the detail and has no concept of the
(literally) bigger picture.  We could draw like it if we wanted to,
but it goes so against our natural bent that it would be so difficult.
Whereas to get the machine to draw more like us (perceiving
patterns, objects) is entirely against the machine way of doing
things, it's not natural at all.

This is based on a machine called Hektor that was a spray-can drawing
machine made about ten years ago - I remember seeing a video for it
then and feeling so inspired to do something physical, something with
hardware, actual parts.  That was back when it was still quite hard to
do that kind of hardware hacking unless you knew what you were doing.
I just had to wait around for long enough, and eventually, projects
like the Arduino put that sort of power in the hands of people like me
- curious but fairly ignorant.

So I put together some off-the-shelf hardware and wrote the software
for this and it has gradually turned into something that is much more
suitable for general-purpose use, as a cheap way to make huge
drawings.  I made one for a gallery last year that was 6 metres wide -
took all week to draw a simple image, and the speed is a big part of
the attraction for me.  It was self-consciously an attempt to break
away from the standard formats (something that has to fit through a
printer or on a screen) and proprietary tools (special inks and
printers) that makes computer imaging sometimes pretty anodyne.  It's
easy to get stuck in that graphics ghetto of just working
in-the-computer because it's so easy to get a professional looking
result, even if it's a fairly vapid idea.

What would you say to other unique artists trying to make their start?
Produce, make, do, sketch, iterate, iterate, iterate. Whatever your
product is, just make it as much as you can.  Don't over-value any
particular recital, don't over-polish, it becomes brittle and fragile.
Do it, and if it's not good enough, do it again, and if it is good
enough, move onto the next thing.

Finally, Where can we find you and your art?
Jewellery and drawings:
Or can be bought from Godiva Boutique and Curiouser & Curiouser in Edinburgh.

Drawing machines:

General development:

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Creation Sunday - Peanut Butter Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins

Today Hillary wanted to continue talking about the things she made around Christmas time and share one of her favorite recipes.

As, I'm sure, you're well aware, I love my banana crunch muffins and think they are about the most perfect food on earth.  However, my husband would beg to differ.  I think that true muffins should taste hearty and flavorful but not too sweet.  He thinks that muffin=cake that you eat for breakfast.  One day when I was searching for ways to use up bananas turning brown on my counter (other than making muffins that only one person in the house would eat), I came across Noble Pig's Recipe for Peanut Butter Banana Chocolate Chip muffins.  I tried them and they are amazing.  They are every bit as decadent and addictive as she says, and my husband loves them.

Normally, the only modification I make is that I add a tablespoon of honey into the batter (it adds a little flavor and helps keep the muffins moist over time).  If I am feeling adventurous (or not feeling like searching for the brown sugar), I might use turbinado instead of brown sugar.  But, up until Christmas, those were the only modifications I had ever tried.  The recipe is truly amazing as is.

In my family, we eat on Christmas Eve and then eat a big, fancy breakfast on Christmas day. I am usually in charge of muffins.  I usually do at least 2 different types of muffins so that everyone at the table has something that meets their tastes.  This year, I did clementine/orange muffins for those of us who like something different and Noble Pig's Muffins for those at the table who like cake for breakfast.  I was just going to make what I normally do until I realized that I had some extra special things in my pantry that I could add in. 

The muffin recipe itself remained as above.  Instead of just the chocolate chips, I added in about 1/3rd bag of each of the following: peanut butter chips, chocolate chips and reese's mini's.  These were the ultimate decadent breakfast food and they received many accolades from hubby and all of my family. I will definitely make them this way again.  One little thing I learned when making these this Christmas is don't turn them into banana bread... the outside will be overcooked before the middle is done.

I hope you enjoyed this recipe.  Stay tuned for more awesome interviews and updates!

Friday, March 16, 2012

Color Blocking

Today, Hillary wanted to share with you an interesing video on color that she found.
If any of you follow my other blog, you might know that I've very into polyvore lately.  While on polyvore, I have noticed a very bold and interesting trend called colorblocking, where you wear bold pieces of different colors (or possibly one piece with large sections or blocks of color).  In an attempt to understand what was really behind the trend, I looked up some resources on the internet.  When I did, I found an excellent video by Kitty Cotten, who has an extensive and very professional looking fashion, style and crafting blog.
I wanted to share it with you because, aside from explaining a new fashion trend, it very simply and beautifully explains color theory, a great thing for those who wear jewelry and those who create wearable art to know.  We hope you enjoy it!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Creation Sunday - 2011 Christmas, Part 2: Bath Salts

Today Hillary is going to talk about more of the fun and interesting things she made for Christmas.

Every year for Christmas, I hand make at least some of my gifts.  Aside from jewelry, there is always a handmade journal or recipe book or breakfast cereal mix or something.  This year, one of those "somethings" was home made bath salts.  There are many excellent recipes online, but I found my favorite source for recipes to be this site because it has so many recipes and the directions are so clear and easy.

I made Three kinds of Bath Salts: Vanilla Lavender, Mint and Vanilla Cinnamon milk bath.
For the vanilla Lavender, I used the basic bath salt recipe and added Some vanilla lavender scented massage oil.  For the mint, I used the basic recipe and then added crushed dried mint leaves from my garden.  For the Vanilla Cinnamon milk bath, I used the milk bath recipe with the basic bath salts recipe and added in the scrapings from 2 vanilla beans as well as a little ground cinnamon.  I also added some whole vanilla beans and some cinnamon sticks into the jar as a decoration and a way to get a little extra fragrance infused into the bath salts.

It's really that simple.  All I did beyond the above is put the bath salts in a 1 pint wide mouth ball jar, stick on a pretty label, tie on a pretty ribbon and put pack of "coffee scoops" (2 tbl plastic scoop) obtained from the dollar store in the package along with the jar of bath salts.

This is an excellent gift that's very simple to make and very customizable to the receiver's tastes. Enjoy!

Friday, March 9, 2012

Interview with Joanna of Earthware

Today we bring you an interview from Joanna of Earthware, a handmade jewelry business in Hoover, AL.  Hillary met Joanna several months ago at a craft fair in Helena and the two have kept up with each other since.

Your story is a little different from most of the other people I have interviewed. Tell everyone how you got started into making and selling jewelry.

Ok, so I got started making jewelry around November of 2010. A friend of mine has a small jewelry business and I invited her to do a jewelry show at my home for me and all my friends. I was super excited about it because I got free jewelry for hosting. I was so impressed with her collection that a few weeks later I asked if I could come to her house and pick through her bead studio to see if there were things that I could throw together. I was hooked as soon as I walked in the door. It was bead heaven. Wall to wall, beads, components, string, chain, etc. You name it, she had it. I picked out a few things and left. I couldn't get her studio out of my head, I had to go play in bead land. I called her and basically forced her to say yes that I could come help her make jewelry part time. She paid me a few bucks a set. I was obsessed with beading after my first day. We would sit there for hours, listening to music, create and chat. She was pretty impressed with how well I did for never having beaded before. I too was pretty impressed with myself. She mentioned that I should start my own business. My mind started spinning. After a few weeks, we had pumped out so much jewelry that she had to place new orders. There was too much down time for me. I decided at that moment that I would do what she had recommended and open my own jewelry business. A sweet friend let me borrow some money to get started and that was the beginning of Earthwear. 

Making the jewelry was easy, selling it, not so much. I got my first order of beads on April 28, 2010. It was the day after the horrific tornado that ripped through Tuscaloosa, Cullman and Birmingham. I was in the middle of trying to organize donations for a friend of my son's teacher who had a 2 week old baby and had lost their home. In between emails, I started searching the internet for local art shows and was amazed that there was a whole little world out there for artists. That made me very happy! I then realized that it was mostly too late to get into most of them due to the late time of the year and deadlines. Some of them were nice and let me in late, others basically told me tough luck and call back next year. So that is exactly what I am doing!!  

In the time that I have known you, your skill and style have improved rapidly. What do you you attribute this to?

My style of jewelry making started out very basic. All I did was bead. I am good with color and shapes, and just put pieces together that I thought would look good. I like a lot of different shapes, colors and textures in a piece, and multiple patterns. You know when you see Earthwear, it just has that look. I will never forget my first time working with copper wire. I was so afraid to fail at it that I avoided it for a long time. I just didn't think I could do it. A friend of mine that was selling my jewelry for me started wrapping pendants. I had already bought all the stuff to do it, but like I said, I was scared. She did such a good job that I became obsessed again. She came over and showed me how to get started and I need to thank her for that. So my style has grown and evolved in a short time due to my determination to prove to my self that I can do anything that I set my mind to. I adore pretty, handmade jewelry and strive with every piece to make it the best one I have ever made. 

Where do you get your inspiration for the art you create?

Inspiration for each piece comes from a single stone usually. I have always been good with color. I mean, putting together outfits, planting a garden, decorating my home...etc. When I see a stone that I cant quit thinking about, I know that is my inspiration piece and I build the piece around that stone. I do get "writers block" occasionally and get sick of the same ole stuff that I have been making and I'll jump on Pintrest or Etsy and grab and idea or two. If I do that, I always make sure that it is made differently than the original piece I saw. I would not want to copy anyone's work. 

What have you found is the most successful way to market yourself?

The most successful way I market Earthwear is by getting out there and showing people who you are and what you have to offer. The other most successful thing about Earthwear is my logo. I put my logo on all my earring cards, so when someone buys them, they have my logo as well. That is the first thing people recognize when they see me at a show. They point to my logo on my tent sign and say, "oh yeah, I've seen this jewelry somewhere". When you make quality products, they basically sell themselves, you just gotta get it out there in everyone's face. People are more willing to buy something if they are familiar with it. Smiling helps a lot too!

What details do you think artists should pay attention to when trying to market their art that they might sometimes miss?

I think an artist should stay true to who they are and the art that they create. Don't go out there and try to create something that isn't you and try to create something just because you think it will sell. Creativity is such a powerful and personal journey. When an artist sits down to create something, they are not thinking about how much money they are gonna make from it, they are thinking about what inspired them to do it in the first place. They are thinking about the miners who dug into the earth to find the vein of turquoise, or the logger to cut down the tree, or the welder who cut the sheet of metal, or what ever person worked to make sure you have your medium of choice. Or at least that is what I think about. I also think about the person who will wear that piece of jewelry and if I will ever see them out and about enjoying it. A big realization for me this past holiday season was the fact that women all over would be opening gifts and seeing my logo and that gorgeous piece of Earth that Mother Nature was so gracious to offer us. All artist need to remember that, yeah, the money is good, but none of us would be doing this if we didn't love it. So don't look at your art as a job, but be thankful that we are able to do what we love, what is in our hearts and that other people love it as much as we do and want to give us money for the things that we create. The old saying is true, Its a labor of love.

What is your favorite thing about creating and selling your art?

My favorite thing about creating my art is the satisfaction I get when a piece is completed. I will throw the necklace around my neck and think it is the most beautiful thing I have ever seen. I love it even more when I see someone else get excited about the things that I make. It is a very good feeling knowing that someone loves something that you made and love more than you do!

Last but not least, where can we find you and your art?

You can find me in the heart of Hoover. I have grown up here and will raise my children here as well. Hoover is home and always will be. I don't have a shop, but you can find my art here on facebook and at most of the big art shows in Hoover and surrounding areas. I am hoping to get into the the 2012 Buck Creek Festival this year and have already been invited back to a number of festivals from last year. One being the Festival in the Pines at Tannehill State Park in Sept. I plan on doing the Moss Rock Festival here in Hoover as well as the Bluff Park art show in Hoover in November. I am booked for a event in Helena called You're So Artsy in March. Also I will be at the Mt. Laurel Spring Festival in April.

We would also like to note that Joanna has a facebook page at

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Creation Sunday - Fruit Puree Muffins Part 3: Clementine/Orange

Today, for "Creation Sunday", Hillary is continuing her 4 part series on variations on a muffin recipe. It was originally going to be a 3 part series with blueberry being the final recipe, but she says the blueberry recipe is still a work in progress.  In the meantime, she found a way to make yet another variation.

In a Creation Sunday, many moons ago, I started a series on fruit puree muffins which began with my favorite Banana Muffin recipe,  This week, We will take that same base recipe and create a unique muffin with a twist - clementine/orange.  This recipe happened when I went to make my pumpkin muffins for our special Christmas day breakfast and I realized that all the cans of pumpkin I had just bought were bad.

For our clementine muffins, we'll start with the same base recipe, which can be found here on the Post website. Again, my modifications generally follow the rules I set out in my cookie post.

Here are the changes I make:
-Like with my Banana Muffin recipe, I used whole wheat pastry flour instead of regular flour.
-I added a good dash of pumpkin pie spice (or something equivalent) in with the dry ingredients.
-I used turbinado sugar instead of white sugar.
-I substituted a cup of a combination of clementine zest, fresh clementines and orange juice in place of the bananas.
-I added approx 1 tbl of honey in with the wet ingredients.
-I used orange yogurt instead of regular yogurt.
-This time, I used Total Honey Almond Flax for the cereal.
-The batter seemed too wet, so I added about 1/3 C of quick oats.
Once the muffins were baked, I realized they were too dry, so I mixed up a quick batch of glaze based on the Glaze in this Lemon cake recipe, substituting orange juice for the lemon juice.

The verdict on Christmas day was that they were totally awesome and should appear on the table again. I was glad because the day before I was losing my mind over the fact that we might not have good muffins for Christmas day.

We Hope you enjoyed the recipe and hope to see you back soon!

Friday, March 2, 2012

Frustrations and Realizations part 2 - The Beginning of the Journey

Back in December, I posted about the frustration that happens when I go to craft shows and my items don't sell well.  It's not just about money, it's about validation.  In fact, I didn't start making art because I thought "there's money in that!"  I started making art because I love making things.  I started selling it because I had so many things I was making that they couldn't possibly all live in my house or all be given to family.  Sure, making a steady income would be nice, but it's not why I create.  It's just that not selling feels like such a rejection.  I want people out there to connect with my art enough that they want to take it home.  And sitting all day at a show (or many shows), where that doesn't happen is frustrating.  When I talk about wanting to give up because I can't sell anything it's because I would have a house full of items with nowhere to go, even if I just created with no shows/sales in mind.  Like I mentioned before, clearly the answer isn't to give up and stop creating because clearly I love it and it comforts me and it's good for me.  Also clearly, people do connect with my work because for all the shows where I don't make back the fee, I have some where I do.  And even at the shows where I don't make any money, people smile, compliment my work, take my card, etc.
I think I stumbled upon a little bit of what I need to make this all work.  I went to a show with my other business and did quite well.  It was a very "niche" kind of thing.  I need to find whatever the "niche" is for this business.  You would think 10 years in that I would have but A. it's not always easy to find and B. It seemed like I had for a while, but people change, times change, the economy changes, etc.  This business needs to find it's own corner of the earth to blossom in.  Also, maybe it's time for me to grow as an artist and work more on pieces that are out of the ordinary for me.  Maybe this is the universe's way of telling me it's time to slow down and focus on fine tuning everything.