Wedding Invitations {Laurie + Michele}

One thing I love about designing wedding invitations is the challenge of creating something that showcases who the couple is. Everybody is different - and on their wedding day, it is especially important to create a one-of-a-kind piece that represents them at this special time.

Laurie and Michele are from Florida and were celebrating their love with a beach wedding. Though the beach was an integral part of their celebration, they didn't necessarily want their invitations to exhibit the typical beach-y imagery - nothing overly nautical and avoid an abundance of seashells and dolphins - we wanted to imply beach without being so literal. They were also looking for something classic with a touch of whimsy.

To start, I sent them a few different concepts:

After deciding on a variation of #2, it was time to start applying the concept to the rest of the pieces. Because we were going for a nice balance of classic and whimsical, we thought incorporating a more formal script, letterpress printing and pocket folder would cater to the more traditional, while the quirky characters, illustrated map and bright color scheme would be super fun.

It just so happened that I had just taken a class to learn formal calligraphy techniques, so these invitations were the perfect excuse to apply my new skills. Here is a sample of some of my writing:

My friend Kate of Flying Rabbit Press did the letterpress printing and was so helpful and patient with me as I learned how to set up these fairly complicated files. The suite consisted of five 3-color pieces, after all - that's 15 plates right there! Kate is a rockstar. She even sent me sneak peeks during the printing process which was awesome to see:

Photo courtesy of Flying Rabbit Press

And here we have the final invitation suite:

The main invitation was glued to the left panel of the pocket folder and the rest of the inserts stack in descending order when placed in the pocket. The printing is beautiful, and I am extremely happy with how they turned out. Thanks to Laurie and Michele for letting me do my thing! Yay!

Santa Gift Card Holder {24 Days of Holiday Printables}

Hey there!

I wanted to pop in to share my Day 4 contribution to 24 Days of Holiday Printables with Happy Happy Art Collective:

It is a Santa Gift Card Holder. Lift up his beard, and voila - gift card! Sometimes it's nice to dress it up a bit. I know I'll be making several of these for the holidays this year!

To download the free template, head over the Happy Happy blog. And check out the rest of the holiday printables so far - they're so fun!

Have a great weekend,

Wedding Invitations {Part 1}


Well, I finally have a bit of a break from my client work, so I thought I'd take the opportunity to share some of the fun projects I've worked on the last several months. 

First up, wedding invitations! I have been getting a few more requests for custom illustrated invitations, which has been amazing and challenging. 

I'm going to start with two couples that chose to have their invitations screen printed:

Anna and Ryan got married at a 150-year old brewery by the river in downtown Rockford, Illinois. Inspired by the building's iron beams and timber posts, they wanted their invitations to have a classic, yet industrial feel. The black French Paper screen printed with white ink gave a nod to the chalkboard signage that welcomed their guests to their big day.

They wanted to keep their suite simple - with a custom monogram surrounded by laurel leaves and hand-drawn type. I got to draw that cool old brewery for the map and a cow, chicken and carrot for the food choices. They even ordered some custom stamps made to match. I heart rubber stamps!

Lisa and Mark are an active couple who can often be found running or riding their bikes. It was no surprise that they chose a nature conservancy as the setting for their outdoor wedding. This screen printed invitation suite showcases the picturesque stone wall and the canopy of trees, under which their ceremony took place.

Both wedding suites were screen printed locally at Screen Door Studio on French Paper.

Thanks for stopping by! I'll be back soon with another invitation suite. 

Porchlight Chef's Auction

This week I got the opportunity to attend a very special event : Porchlight's Original Chef's Auction. This was a fundraiser to raise money for Porchlight Inc. - an organization dedicated to helping the homeless of Dane County - by offering shelter, food, counseling and employment services. An extension of Porchlight includes Porchlight Products. Utilizing produce from local farms, the employees turn the crops into high quality canned and preserved goods to be sold to local markets and restaurants. This amazing program not only provides employment and confidence for the less-fortunate, it also helps support our local farm community. 

I was able to contribute to this fundraiser by creating all the marketing collateral. How fun! This was a chef's auction, meaning ten of Madison's top chefs and restaurants came together to provide some wonderful food, incorporating some of the Porchlight Products. I wanted to focus on the stars of the event - the chefs - and their wonderful food made with local ingredients. These were my initial sketches for the ad:

We ended up going with the marching chef, and turned his swirl of food into the shape of Wisconsin. After adding a bit of color, here is the final poster:

Not only did I get to create a cute little chef, I got to draw lots of yummy food and do some hand lettering! This project was right up my alley.

After sampling some of the Porchlight Products, I was highly impressed! I will definitely be picking some up on future grocery shopping excursions. For those of you who are local, you can find them at Metcalfe's Hilldale, Regent Market and Willy Street Co-op. Be sure to check them out!

2013 Holiday Card

I love Christmas. I really do. In fact, my nickname used to be Mrs. Claus. Then, being the crazy maker person that I am, I started taking on more than I could handle in November and December. Instead of focusing on what the season is REALLY about, I became overwhelmed with my never-ending to-do list. I couldn't just buy a wreath, I had to MAKE a wreath. I couldn't just use store-bought gift tags, I had to HAND DRAW pretty, swirly names on the Kraft paper wrapping. Yes, in the end, I had a beautiful handmade holiday, but was it really worth it?!?

This year I made a tough decision. Instead of hand printing our Christmas cards, I outsourced the printing. This was the first time since 2000 that I didn't physically make my holiday cards. It pained me to hand over that task to someone else, but I have to say - it alleviated SO much pressure. And because of it, I could create a more complex design (more details and more colors) knowing that a pro could handle it.

Like previous years, I wanted our card to depict a fun, holiday family tradition. We decided to focus on the moment when Stella places the topper on the tree. Here is the sketch.

As far as color palette goes, I wanted something non-traditional, but still somewhat Christmas-y. I knew Stella would be a fan if we used pink, so I picked out French Paper's Shocking Pink and went from there. This was going to be a bold one!

I was excited that French was now offering no. 10 size envelopes. I thought the long, skinny format would be the perfect match for our tall tree. I hired Screen Door Studio here in Madison to do the printing, and I think they did a splendid job - especially with the fine line work I presented them. It was the best feeling sending the job off to the printers and NOT having to do all the work. Of course, we still had to write the inside message and address the envelopes, but it still felt like nothing compared to the hours of back breaking printing, cutting, scoring and stamping it used to be.

So the lesson I learned here is that it is OKAY to ask for help - even if it is one of your favorite things to do! I was much happier, that's for sure. And that extra time meant I could make snowball garland for the windows...and felt ornaments...and Christmas tree centerpieces... Who needs rest, right? ;-)

Halloween 2013

Yup, it's November. And nope, I don't have a desktop calendar to share with you yet. Soon, I promise! I figured I should probably share Stella's Halloween costume before too long...

This year, Stella decided early on that she wanted to be a witch. But she wanted to be a pink and purple witch (isn't that a princess?). After much discussion, we compromised at a black and purple witch. That way we could utilize a store-bought hat. 

I thought it would be a fun twist to make a witch tutu in lieu of a traditional witch dress. You can find tons of DIY tutorials for no-sew tutus online, so that's what I decided to do. Basically, you just tie long strips of tulle around an elastic waistband and you have an instant tutu. Easy peasy!

We kept it simple - layering the tutu over a black shirt and leggings. I added a little sparkly purple ribbon around the broom, put on some black lipstick and blacked out one tooth, and we had ourselves a cute little witch! She had been practicing her scary claw hands and cackle, so when she put it all together it was quite scary! ;-)

Unfortunately, my camera wasn't very cooperative that day, so I got very few good photos. Bummer.

I hope you all had a great Halloween! We ended up inviting all of the neighborhood Kindergarteners and their families to our house for pizza before trick or treating. My friend Jinger and I dressed up as foxes and had a little impromptu dance party, performing our routine to What Does A Fox Say? Yes, I know - people are getting sick of this - but I have to say, it was pretty fun when there were 13 kids and 2 foxes jumping and dancing around! In case you're not familiar with this, here is the official video by Ylvis:

And here are the foxes!

I'll be back tomorrow for another Make Art That Sells recap.


Silver Screen Society {Hero}

Silver Screen Society is the brainchild of  Trevor Basset and Brandon Schaefer. Each month they choose a film and gather designers/illustrators to create a piece of artwork based on their interpretation of the movie.

Back in May I was lucky enough to be selected to do my interpretation of the Movie, Hero. From IMDB : "One man defeated three assassins who sought to murder the most powerful warlord in pre-unified China." Whoa. Kung-fu movies are not typically my genre of choice, but as I always say, I love a good challenge. 

So we rented the movie, and I took notes and sketched as we watched it. This proved to be difficult, since there were subtitles to read, but that's what Pause and Rewind are for, right?

Throughout the movie, I was very moved by all the colors. I seriously considered doing a rainbow-themed poster that would represent all the colorful scenes, but in the end I decided to focus on red and black - very dramatic. Arrows had a big role in the movie, so I wanted the page to be thick with them. I added a bit of texture in the background by scanning in an ink wash - I thought it tied in the painted calligraphy that was prevalent in the movie.

There's a lot of symbolism that I tried to incorporate, but at the same time, keep it simple. 

This was fun. Hopefully I'll get the chance to do another one!

New Morning Nursery {Invitation}

Today I am so happy to share a small community project I got to participate in. 

There is a wonderful school in our neighborhood called New Morning Nursery that has a big fundraising silent auction every Spring. This year, the money raised would go to building and furnishing a new room at the school. 

After meeting with the PTO President who was in charge of organizing the event, I presented her with two sketches:

The first showed the iconic castle-like school up on the hill, with children carrying supplies up towards the building.

The second sketches were variations upon the same theme: a couple kids shouting the tagline out of their megaphones.

We decided to go with sketch #1 for the front of the invitation postcard, but incorporating the megaphone kids on the back side.

Here's the final sketch, utilizing red as the accent color.

What a fun project! I also contributed an auction item, which I will talk about in a later post.

Have a wonderful week! Can you believe June is just around the corner?

Home Ec {The Quilt}

Say what?!? Another Home Ec project? Heck yeah! I finally checked another one off the list. And this one was the Mother of all Projects - The Quilt!

A little backstory : You may or may not know that our house as been undergoing a huge renovation since last December. This huge project has forced me to look at our house with a critical eye and start cracking on some of the decor. 

We got new windows installed, which meant out with the old dark wood frames and in with fresh, new white windows! It's like every room has started over with a clean slate, a new canvas, ready to be decorated. For our bedroom we decided it was probably time to get a new, adult bed - meaning no more sleeping on a mattress on the floor. Once we had the new bed frame in place, along with the new windows, the old duvet was looking really sad. Since the bed was lifted off the floor, I was finally able to notice how saggy and uneven the comforter had been. I realized this was the sign I needed to finally start making our new quilt.

Yes, I decided to tackle a Queen-sized quilt for my first quilting project. And to add to the already daunting task, I decided to do it when our house was under construction. A.K.A., Dust City! Not to mention we have very small rooms in our 85+ year-old house - it would be next to impossible to lay out such a large quilt. 

So I decided to take an entire weekend off, travel to my parents' house, where they have a much larger space - perfect for piecing a queen-sized quilt - AND they could keep Stella busy while mommy sewed.

1) The fabric, all ready to be cut. 2) Cut squares.

I was really excited about the color scheme - sky blue, white, black, light pink, caramel and charcoal grey. I got started right away Friday night, cutting up all the pieces. This was definitely a true test of my measuring/squaring skillz.

1) Cut triangles - so pretty! 2) A close-up of all the pinned triangles.

It was lots of repetition, but sometimes it's kinda nice doing monotonous work - it's almost meditative.

It was all going pretty smoothly until it came time to lay it all out. Wow, a queen sized quilt is huge, when you take in the over hang! Even in my parents' very large Great Room, it barely fit. And the pets and Stella LOVED laying on it. Ugh!

1) Chloe preferred laying ON the pieces - I wasn't such a fan. 2) The quilt top all sewed up!
By the end of the weekend, I had finished machine-sewing the quilt top, and pinned it to the batting and the backing. I carefully folded it up and brought it home to be basted.

Photo taken by my mom from the loft (©2013 Paper Seedlings)

I had planned on hand-quilting it, which meant I had to hand baste it. THAT was a huge pain. The basting took me about 6 hours alone. The hand-quilting was fun, but super tedious. Stephen got a kick out of watching me with a huge heap of quilt sitting on my lap as I worked on small sections at a time. At least I was warm!

The hand-quilting ended up taking about 3 weeks, doing one row per night.

After binding it with the charcoal grey, it was finally finished! And I love it. Our room is so dreamy now.

Don't mind the unfinished painted wall in the above photo - that's the next project - painting the room a light grey.

Thanks for following along the process! Now hopefully I'll be able to finish Stella's quilt that I started last year with the Block of the Month club - and a Twin sized quilt doesn't seem nearly as bad, right?

Sketchbook Project 2012 {Part 2}


I'm back today with the follow-up post to Friday's Sketchbook Project 2012 {Part 1}. Thank you all for your kind comments on Part 1! The project was such a labor of love, it is great to see such a positive response. :-)

We left off after introducing the characters and the setting. Next up, the elephants!

The elephants depleted their peanut supply, and got a whiff of peanut butter from a factory over yonder.
They made their way over to the factory and broke in through the window.
Once the elephants made their way inside, the workers ran for their lives!
The PBJ workers ran to the PBCM factory and stole a large vat of peanut butter.
The PBCM workers chased down the PBJ workers and tried to reason with them.
They had an idea. If they worked together, they may be able to fix the issue.
They quickly returned to the PBJ factory.
There they found the elephants very full of peanut butter and tuckered out. "Come with us!", they called.
The workers brought the elephants to the field of green.
"Look! Plenty of peanut plants!"

Peanut Butter - back cover.
Well, that's it! Even though the story isn't perfect, this project was a great challenge. It is one of my dreams to one day illustrate a book, and this was a good opportunity to think of the book as a whole, break down the ideas, conceptualize the spreads and create interesting compositions that keep the reader engaged. 

Speaking of keeping the reader engaged, here is a photo of Stella reading my sketchbook:

My heart melted.

Thanks for reading along!

Sketchbook Project 2012 {Part 1}

Last summer, I decided to sign up for The Sketchbook Project. It is an international project where participants are sent a blank sketchbook to fill based on a chosen theme. The completed sketchbook is then sent back to be cataloged in the permanent collection of the Brooklyn Art Library. The collection is also part of a traveling exhibition which allows people from all over to view the sketchbooks. How cool is that?

When I signed up, there were many themes to choose. I ended up going with Chronicle, because I thought it would be fun to turn the sketchbook into a sort of story book.

Storyboarding the idea.
I also really wanted my Sketchbook to be a collaborative effort between myself, Stephen and Stella. During a long road trip back from Pennsylvania, we brainstormed the theme. 

Stella wanted to incorporate dogs, cats, bunnies, fishies and mustaches (!!!). All of the animals loved peanut butter and made different types of sandwiches with it - peanut butter/jelly and peanut butter/chocolate/marshmallow sandwiches.

Starting with the grey gouache.
Stephen suggested having two factories that focused on producing the two types of sandwiches. We also thought that the story needed a little conflict. What if there was a herd of elephants that depleted their peanut supply on their land and needed to seek out another source? Hmm...

Adding yellow.
Adding green.
The story definitely has some holes, but I had a lot of fun with composing the spreads, choosing the color scheme and creating the characters. Plus, my whole family got to participate in the making of my Sketchbook! You can't get any better than that.

There are 32 pages to the Sketchbook, but I'll only post the first half today. I don't want to totally inundate you with photos. And please don't read TOO much into my captions - I am not a writer! There is a reason my book had no words...

Front Cover : Peanut Butter by emily balsley
There was a field of green, two sandwich factories and an elephant habitat.
The field of green. The plants in the foreground are actually peanut plants.
Detail of the Peanut Butter-Chocolate-Marshmallow Sandwich factory.
Here we are, inside the PBCM factory, watching the workers at the assembly line.
Detail of the Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich factory.
Viewing the mustachioed workers at the PBJ assembly line.
That's it for now! I'll be back with a post on Monday that will depict the ensuing drama. Ooh!

Have a great weekend,

Art House Project {In Five Minutes}

Hey there!

Just popping in to share a quick drawing I did today as a participant in Art House Co-op's "In Five Minutes" project.

Today's challenge was to create a 5-minute drawing of everything on your person. That includes the clothes you're wearing...what's in your pockets...the contents of your purse, etc.

Since it's a cold, rainy day today, I had some major layers happening in my outfit. It seemed kinda absurd when I started drawing everything separately. No wonder I make so much dirty laundry!

This was the first In Five Minutes project I participated in, and will most definitely not be my last!

If you're interested in checking out the Art House Co-op projects, you can find them here. It's another fun way to challenge yourself - be it drawing, or taking photos - get those creative juices flowing!

Wintery Wedding Invites


Today I'm excited to share one of my favorite projects from the past year. Our close friends Brian and Courtney got married in January and I had the pleasure of designing their wedding invitation suite.

They decided to profess their love for each other in a snowy field on a cold Wisconsin afternoon. With this beautiful setting in mind, we played around with a wintery theme for their invites.

I sent them a few concept sketches to get things started. 1) Every year they go on a ski trip to Jackson Hole, Wyoming. They envisioned a scene of the two of them sitting on a bench facing the mountains with their trusty dogs at their sides. 2) Their party was to be held at the High Noon Saloon - we explored the idea of a subtle western-style theme. 3) They also liked the idea of an image of their dogs pulling them in their wooden dog sled.

They were ecstatic about the sketches, and chose to combine the concepts and use bits and pieces from the three. The winter theme was the focus of the invitations, but I was able to pull in the wood board sign to represent the rugged nature of the saloon.

Brian and Courtney encouraged me to 'do my thing', so I ran with it! I loved having the freedom to express their love in my style, and I even decided to paint the whole thing in gouache. 

Since this was the first time I had to reproduce my paintings, I decided to get them professionally printed - and I am SO happy with that decision. The printer did an amazing job, and you can even see my brush strokes - exactly what I wanted.

I had such a blast with this project! I learned so much throughout the process and I am so happy I got to be a part of our friends' special day.

Project {Striped Origami Heart Garland}

Last night I had the pleasure of hanging out with some lovely artsy ladies in my neighborhood. Every month they get together to make an organized craft. From terrariums to valentines to cute little wall hangings, they find the coolest projects to make! Last night was my first time in attendance, and I had a blast crafting and getting to know them better. And, they have a fun blog where they post recipes, inspiration and other creative projects. You should definitely check it out!

I wanted to share our project from last night: Striped Origami Heart Garland. Found on Jessica's blog, these hearts were super simple and VERY satisfying to make!

Why does that look like a plastic backdrop behind those hearts? Because it is! If you follow me on Instagram, you'll know that our house is undergoing a MAJOR overhaul. As of Monday, our kitchen has been completely ripped out down to the studs, and our dining room has been made into the builders' workspace. So my family is basically spending all of our awake time in the living room. It's pretty cozy! I keep telling myself it's like living in a studio apartment in NYC...or camping...or something else adventurous like that.

Back to the garland. When I found out what we'd be making, I was stoked. I knew this is just what I needed to bring a little fun and whimsy to our plastic shell.

Isn't that cute? It definitely livens up the plastic curtain dividing our house. Hopefully the builders don't mind...

So if you're looking for a simple decoration to celebrate Valentine's Day (or any other day!), head over to How About Orange for more details. And have fun!

2013 Animals Calendar {Product Spotlight}


Now that the Indie Art + Design Trunk Show is behind me, I have finally been able to take inventory of my product and start putting it in my Etsy shops. Over the next week or two I'm going to do a few Spotlight posts to give you some additional insight on my new products!

First up, the new 2013 Animals Calendar:

This is a project that has been percolating for quite some time. I knew I wanted to focus on animals, but not in my usual anthropomorphic way. Last year, during my brief stint doing the Daily Animal Doodles, I was experimenting with a different style that was more about simple blocks of color, simplified color palettes and selective line work. For a quick reminder, here are a few of those doodles: here, here and here.

I wanted to explore that idea a little further with a new animal series. With my renewed love of painting, I thought I would create little gouache paintings and focus on Animals of Wisconsin (though they're pretty common, so we could call them "woodland" animals, as well!). I picked a fun color palette, along with black and white, grabbed my paint and brushes, and set to work.

Here are some Instagram photos I took along the way to document the details and my process:

The final calendar consists of 12 pages, printed on creamy paper, complete with a bulldog clip for easy hanging. Then after the months are over, you'll have a nice little collection of animal prints for your viewing pleasure forevermore!

Calendar pages, month-by-month:

*Please note, the maroon isn't quite that dark - you actually CAN see the animals, I promise!

I had such an amazing time with this series, and finally a fun little calendar! If you're interested in purchasing one, you can find them in my Bluestar Ink shop. They make great stocking stuffers or teacher gifts!

Robbin' from the Rich to Give to the Poor {Halloween 2012}

We love Halloween in our house. And this year, the excitement was more than it has ever been. As of last year, Stella figured out what it was all about, so the last few months have been "Halloween costume this and Halloween costume that". Once again, I wanted to make her costume, but there is always the looming possibility that she chooses to be a Princess - in that case, I'd rather buy the costume than deal with all the tule and lace.

As Halloween got closer, the discussions were more serious - what WAS she going to choose? She decided she wanted to incorporate bow and arrows. Cool! That left us with 3 possibilities - Katniss (though she's a bit young for the Hunger Games), Robin Hood and Princess Merida from Brave. We were sure she was going to choose Princess Merida. But, alas - she wanted to be Robin Hood! Hooray! We loved the idea, and I could actually make her costume once again!

This one was pretty easy. I bought her some green tights and a long sleeved green shirt for under her tunic. This was also the excuse I had been waiting for to buy her a pair of mocassins. She picked out some brown fake suede for her tunic and quiver, in which I stitched some green contrast stitching around the hems for a fun little detail. We got a piece of leather cord to tie around her waist, and I made a simple green hat from this tutorial I found online. She requested a pink feather in her hat - of course I obliged!

She had so much fun being Robin Hood! After lots of practice with the bow and arrows, she was finally able to shoot an arrow - though not very far. I don't think it mattered, though - she was having a blast!

Any fun costumes in your household this year?

Painting {James Madison}

A couple months ago, my friend Tony clued me in on an opportunity to participate in a fun project for a Boston theatre company.

Bad Habit Productions is doing a production of 44 Plays for 44 Presidents - a "chronological, biographical survey of the lives and presidencies of each of the 44 men who have held the office so far. Their mistakes and successes are celebrated by a company of actors who take turns donning a star-spangled coat that symbolizes the presidency." Their goal is to produce 44 plays around the country leading up to the U.S. Presidential Election on November 6. 

Some of the companies chose to enlist artists to create portraits of all of the presidents to decorate the stage during the show. At the end of the production, the portraits will be auctioned off to raise money for the theatre. We got to bid on our top 5 presidents. I chose to avoid the modern-day presidents and go for those who had some distinct facial features I could play around with. I ended up with James Madison and his powdered wig.

I was excited for a chance to participate for a few reasons: 1) I wanted to do a painting! It has been such a long time since I got down and dirty with my acrylics. 2) Talk about a different subject - since I usually stick to bunnies, flowers and Stella, depicting an older man a couple centuries old could be quite the challenge. 3) I love learning about new things! This portrait could be however I interpreted it - as long as it was within 12 x 12 inches and would hang flat. I wanted to represent James Madison's legacy, at the same time giving my painting style a chance to shine.

After doing a lot of internet research, I decided to use this image as my inspiration. I could have fun with his rosy cheeks and pouty lips!

Next I started sketching. When I got a drawing I was happy with, I scanned it into Photoshop and started playing around with different color combos. Since I was painting this, I wouldn't have the luxury of switching colors with ease so I wanted to have a plan. I even enlisted my Instagram friends to get their opinions. Thanks, guys!

The consensus ended up being the lower left - chartreuse and navy. I was ready to start painting. I had a piece of birch plywood all gesso'ed and ready to go.

At this point, other than the hyper color scheme, it was still basically a traditional portrait. Now time to make it truly James Madison. Since he is considered the Father of the Constitution, I decided to paint the Bill of Rights behind him on the green background.

Four hours and a very sore wrist later, James was complete!

I had a lot of fun with this project. To the point I am going to start painting again! Hopefully I'll be able to show you more in the near future.

And a sneak peek of the theatre production was posted on Facebook yesterday. Look who has a prominent place behind the stage!

Photo ©Derek Frasier 2012 courtesy of Jeff Mosser 

And Tony's Ronald Reagan ended up to James's right - he's in great company!

Have any of you seen the play? Apparently there was a production here in Madison, but I totally missed it. Doh!

DIY {Teacher Gifts}


Today is Stella's last day of Summer School. It is her last day of being in the 3-year old Moonbeam class. Craziness!

We wanted to make a little something for her teachers to show them how much we appreciated them this last year. I saw this post over on Ez's Creature Comforts blog which inspired me to decorate mugs as teacher gifts.

Since I'm a total slacker and sat on this project until yesterday afternoon, I didn't end up getting the Porcelaine markers that Ez suggested. Those need 24 hours of air-dry time before they can be baked and set. So I went with the Sharpie Oil Based paint pens that supposedly work on metal, pottery, wood, rubber, glass, plastic and stone. I was a little nervous about the toxicity of them, but they are AP certified and Xylene-free, so they should be okay.

I gave Stella the task of drawing on them first. The paint actually dries really quick, so there wasn't a whole lot of smearing happening. Once the mug met her satisfaction, I took over and supplemented her artwork with mine. 

I thought they turned out pretty nice! The colors were nice and bright and popped well on the white ceramic mugs. Stella had a lot of fun drawing on something besides paper. All-in-all, I'd say they were a success! Hopefully her teachers like them.

Have a great weekend!

New Project {Zoe's Nursery}

Remember this post when I showed a sneak peek of a big project I had been working on?

Well, I am finally able to reveal it in it's entirety. Yay!

Several months ago, our friend and local photographer, Andrea approached me about making some Fuzzies for her baby's nursery. Of course, I was totally on board! 

Andrea came up with the super fun color scheme of orange/teal/purple and a MONSTER theme! How cool is that? After discussing the rest of the decor with Andrea, we decided that in addition to the Fuzzies, I would also make her a custom monster mobile and some illustrated monster prints to supplement the theme. 

It was a big project, but it was great working with Andrea to see it through. She has a great eye for detail, and as she added more accessories to the room she looped me in so we could always be on the same page. We wanted to keep the balance of the 3 main colors in check. Knowing the rest of the plan (rug, lamp, rocker, crib bedding, etc) helped me coordinate my portion. It was a real team effort!

I created the Fuzzies first, as they would be the inspiration for the illustrations. When Stephen wrote the stories, the teal monster ended up chasing butterflies, and the orange monster was an extreme unicycle racer. So of course, the illustrations had to depict them in their natural environments!

And then we have the mobile. I was especially excited about this, since I have been toying with the idea of making mobiles as an extension of the Fuzzy family, but never had time to actually see it through. Thinking it wouldn't take me that long because of their small size, I severely underestimated the work. All that hand-stitching takes time! And then I had to figure out the actual hanging apparatus. I'm no woodworker, so it had to be simple enough that I could make it. Using a combination of wooden dowels, pre-formed round knobs and a cube, I was able to pull it off. I painted the center cube and ends a nice teal blue to pull it all together, added a star to the top, and voila! A mobile!

I am really happy with how it all turned out. I also really enjoyed the challenge of designing a "space". Even though my contributions were mere accessories, working with Andrea on the entire decor was a lot of fun.

Now that you have seen my creations, please head on over to Andrea's blog to see everything in its place! She did a fantastic job putting the room together. Her daughter is a very lucky girl! And, Zoe's nursery was even featured on Project Nursery! How cool is that?

On a side note - if you're in the Madison area, be sure to hit up Andrea for any of your photography needs. She is one talented lady!

Home Ec {Weekend Tote}

Can you believe your eyes? Yessiree. I have finally completed another Home Ec project! I think it has been about a year since the last, so it was LONG overdue. And what inspired me to tackle another project? Well, this upcoming weekend, I have a big illustration getaway planned, and I wanted a cute bag to carry all my stuff. Instead of buying one, I remembered the Home Ec tutorial for the Weekend Tote and decided to make it for the occasion!

Since this was one of the later projects, it would definitely be one of the more challenging. But I figured I've had some practice making various bags the last year (here and here), and I thought it wouldn't be too bad. Plus, this one called for some leather - how fun is that?!?

In lieu of buying some new leather online, where I wouldn't really know EXACTLY what I'm looking for, or what I was going to get for the money, I decided to scour the thrift stores for an old leather jacket that I could upcycle. But, I found an even COOLER option:

LEATHER CHAPS! Ohhhhh yeahhhhh!

They're XL, so I HAD to stand that way just to keep them up on my hips. :-D
But XL means lots of leather - exactly what I needed. The largest panel required for the bag was 18"x18". Unfortunately, there wasn't a section of leather from the chaps that didn't have a seam running through the middle. See how the legs were broken up into panels?

I decided to go for it anyways. After ripping apart one leg, I thought it would be cool to incorporate the big zipper from the chaps as well. And thankfully, it was JUST long enough!

As far as the fabric upper portion went, I decided to finally use the cute  Echino bike fabric I bought at Purl SoHo almost 2 years ago. The black leather would look great with the colors of the fabric. And as for the lining, since this would be a pretty heavy-duty tote, I wanted to use some heavier fabric - I ended up using some red and white striped upholstery fabric from IKEA. I was all set and ready to start sewing!

The basic bag construction was pretty simple. The tedious part was making all of the little leather accessories - the handles...the zipper tabs, etc. Sewing leather means taking it slow - but it was SO worth it in the long run. I LOVE how it turned out!

You can see where there is a seam running through the bottom panel and the leather handles. I really don't mind it, especially when there is such a good story to go along with it. And doesn't that zipper look badass? If the biker dudes only knew how cute their leather chaps could look...