Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Flower power from an old ceiling fan [How-to Tuesday]

My friend Benita is going to have a baby any second now, and she's really hoping it'll be a girl because this is how she decorated the nursery:

(Photos were taken by Benita.)

The petals of the flower are made from the blades of an old ceiling fan. Benita painted them pink and stenciled on words she hopes her daughter will live by. Her husband cut the stem and leaf pieces from wood and she painted them green. 

She also painted the little do-hickey metal parts that held the blade to the fan mechanism. I'm sure there's a term for them but I'm just going to call them do-hickies. There's a picture, after all. You know what I mean. 

It turns out they make really cute curtain tie-backs.

And on the other side of the nursery, the do-hickies accent a montage of family photos. 

Nice job decorating, Benita, and a great example of upcycling with that fan.

Hey, wouldn't it be cool if this post went up right when Benita had her baby? It's still a little early, but I'm feeling lucky. How about…now! 

No, wait, I mean…



[Update 4/29/2009: Benita sent some more details of how she turned the fan into a flower, plus a before shot of the fan. She writes:
  • The words are actually store bought ($0.99 each at JoAnns but were on sale for $0.50 when I got them) and are wood, painted and then glued on to the fan blades – I’m fearful of stencils!
  • I cut out templates of all the pieces using paper store bags and arranged them on the wall to make sure everything was proportional and I had enough space for each piece – it also gave Andrew the templates to cut out using his jig saw.
  • The largest expense was the 3M Command Adhesive mounting product we used. We wanted to avoid lots of nail holes to cover up. We used two strips of 1-in adhesive for each piece. It appears to be holding up great so far!
  • I did prime the fan brackets because they are metal and I was afraid of chipping paint.
  • Finally, the screw holes for the fan brackets are filled with woodworking dowel caps – Andrew always has various sizes on hand for projects!

This was the ceiling fan at the end of its previous life. Score one for creative reuse.]

Sunday, April 26, 2009

The statistical art of Chris Jordan [Sunday shout-out]

Most Sundays, Build/Make/Craft/Bake features the work of an artist or other creative type. Suggestions for future Sunday shout-outs may be sent to wendy@buildmakecraftbake.com. 

Can you easily picture the difference between a million and a billion? Yeah, me neither. It's hard to truly understand large numbers or statistics without a good frame of reference. 

Chris Jordan's art provides such a reference. Sure, I can tell you that inefficient electricity consumption in U.S. homes wastes 320,000 kilowatt-hours of energy each minute, but that's much easier to understand by looking at Jordan's image of 320,000 light bulbs, one for each of those wasted kilowatt-hours: 

"Light Bulbs" by Chris Jordan, 2008. All images courtesy of Chris Jordan.

Click the images for a larger view. 

Detail, "Light Bulbs".

And here we have 166,000 styrofoam peanuts, one for each of the overnight packages shipped every hour in the United States:
"Packing Peanuts", by Chris Jordan, 2009.

Detail, "Packing Peanuts".

You know those little plastic beverage cups they hand out on airplanes? Apparently, they hand out a lot of them. Like  1,000,000 every 6 hours on flights in the US alone. How many is that? Take a look:

"Plastic Cups", by Chris Jordan, 2008. 

"Plastic Cups", detail.

These images are all from Jordan's series, Running the Numbers: An American Self-Portrait. I don't know about you, but I'll be checking them out in person at the Portland Art Museum, where they're on display until July 12, 2009. You can also see the full collection online at Chris Jordan Photographic Arts

Enjoy your Sunday! 

Recent Sunday shout-outs:

Friday, April 24, 2009

Earth Day at Wallace Park (Portland, OR)

Hey everyone! I'll be at Wallace Park on Saturday with SCRAP, helping kids make animal costumes for the critter parade that's part of the Earth Day celebration. Come on down and join us!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

How-to: Hammered flower and leaf prints

Get out the hammer, it's how-to Tuesday and we have some botanical prints to make!

I learned this technique, which makes an image using the natural dyes in plants, from my college roommate Sarah. It's great for making cards or simple botanical prints. 

Actually, you'll need a little more than just a hammer. Here's a supply list: 
  • flowers or leaves to print
  • watercolor or other rough, acid-free paper
  • selection of hammers (including ball-peen or cross-peen, if possible)
  • hard work surface (cutting board, slab of wood, etc.)
  • paper towels
  • scissors
  • pen
  • tweezers or toothpicks
  • acrylic finishing spray (optional)
Start by going on a walk or visiting your garden to find leaves and flowers to work with. You're looking for things with bright colors that aren't too juicy or too dry. It'll take a little trial and error to find good plants, so start with a variety and play around. 

Then set up your work surface.  You want a smooth, hard surface that you can hammer on and not worry about denting or getting messy. I used a plastic cutting board covered with a paper bag. 

Next, trim any chunky or squishy bits off of the plants and arrange them on your watercolor paper. 

Cover the plant with 2-3 layers of paper towels. You can also cover it with another piece of paper, but the paper towels work better because they absorb excess plant goo.

On the paper towels, sketch the borders of the area you'll need to hammer. Unless, of course, you want to vent some frustration and plant to hammer the whole thing.

Start by making small, even taps using the flat side of one of the hammers. This will set the flowers or leaves in place. Then go carefully over the entire area with a ball- or cross-peen hammer. Start by going in rows up and down (see the arrows in the previous picture), then do another pass from side to side.  You'll need to hit every single bit of the plant, so be patient. It can take a while.

Peel back the paper towel to check your progress. If the pattern on the towel is filled in, then you're probably done. If not, replace the paper towel and start again. 

These leaves look pretty well smashed.

Now peel away the leaf to reveal the print. 

Note that different kinds of hammers can give different results -- I used a ball-peen hammer for part of this, and it left some round spots that I think are a little too smooshed and gray. The more natural-looking, red parts of this print came from cross-peen hammer action.

Here's a sampling of the plants I tried this with today. The Japanese maple and periwinkle worked especially well. Some of the others would have worked with additional hammering. 

You'll probably have to try several plants to find one that works for you. The quality of the print will depend not only on your hammering technique and the paper you use, but also on characteristics of the plant, such as its color, hydration level, the stiffness of its fibers, and whether or not it has an outer layer of wax.

Once your print is to your liking, you can spray it with UV-protective acrylic spray to help keep the colors bright. Be sure to do this in a well-ventilated area. 

Ahh, the beauty of brute force! 

Enjoy this project -- it'll work with a lot more than just the Japanese maple leaves I've shown here. Please feel free to link to photos of your prints in the comments area. 

Oh, and a final note on safety: please take care to avoid smashing your fingers with the hammer or making prints from toxic plants. Otherwise this is a pretty kid-friendly project. 

[Update 4/27/2009: You can now find this tutorial on Instructables, where you can view it step-by-step or download the PDF.]

Other tutorials to check out: 

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Sunday shout-out: Brock Davis

This Sunday's shout-out goes to Brock Davis, who is doing a great job at keeping his resolution to make something cool every day in 2009. Being consistently creative is no small feat -- heck, I don't even blog every day. 

I especially enjoy seeing the evolution of certain ideas from day to day in Davis's work. Some of my very favorites are the most simple. 

Take a look: 

"1/03/09: rules"

"2/12/09: the prestigious twelfth egg award"

"3/03/09: kermit the frog about to walk across hot coals"

"3/25/09: okey-dokey"

Gotta love that twelfth egg award. If I had a mantle, I'd wish for one of those to put on it. 

The full gallery of Davis's 2009 creations can be found here

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Crafty Secret Santa in March -- one last update

Remember Dudecraft's Secret Santa in March exchange that I blogged about last month? Well, Kate, to whom I sent a set of handmade cards and an engraved magnet for her son, Teddy, wrote to say that Teddy loves the magnet. See?

What a cutie.

I also realized that I haven't yet posted about what *I* received, which was this lovely handmade beeswax and paraffin candle from Amanda at Dragon's Den

It's rain-scented, which is perfect for Portland this time of year. There are lots of other neat candles and soaps in her Etsy store, too. 

Monday, April 13, 2009

Now on Instructables!

Yee-haw! My floppy disk turntable greeting card project is now on Instructables: 

Movable record player greeting card from a floppy disk - More DIY How To Projects

Instructables is a very cool user-powered DIY site, and I'm happy to be a part of it. If you haven't heard of it or visited recently, you should definitely check it out. I recommend starting with the Best of Instructables, Volume 1, which is available here online.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Sunday shout-out to my peeps

There's a lot in life that doesn't make sense to me. Like peeps, those creepy marshmallow harbingers of spring. But I think they don't make sense to anyone, considering that people don't eat them, they just investigate them: 

"Day 349" by JolieNY on Flickr.
They photograph them. A lot

"Side-by-side comparison" by Thadman on Flickr.

They compare them to the real thing.

Image from Science@NASA

NASA attaches them to weather balloons and sends them into the upper reaches of the atmosphere. 

ABC reports on the creation of peeps in Bethlehem, PA (no joke). 

Others make elaborate dioramas and enter them into the Washington Post's annual contest. 

They document the effects of smoking, alcohol, temperature, and pressure on peep health. [via Jesse's blog]

They electrocute them and they shoot them with pellet guns after freezing them in liquid nitrogen. [via Make]

They give up and just burn them at the stake

And yet, the resilient peeps survive to haunt candy aisles everywhere each spring. Will we ever understand how they do it? 

Friday, April 10, 2009

Art on the job: inspired astronauts

People find artistic inspiration in every aspect of life, including their day jobs. The Art on the Job series highlights some cool examples of art inspired by the ol' 9-to-5.


Astronauts have it easy, right? Just a long, grueling training program, infinite bureaucratic red tape, and then -- if you're lucky -- there's a space for you in space. It must be worth it, though, to see the Earth from above for the first time. But snapshots taken from space are still snapshots, and today we're looking at two examples of astronauts who went a little further in making their space-inspired art. 

Image from the Alan Bean Gallery

First is Alan Bean, who, as part of the Apollo 12 mission, became the fourth person to walk on the moon. After 18 years as an astronaut, Bean decided to become a full-time artist. Most of his works depict scenes from space that few people have the opportunity to see in real life. Bean has an extensive online gallery of his work here

The above painting, Is Anyone Out There?, is composed of textured acrylic and moon dust on aircraft plywood. 

Let me repeat that: MOON DUST on aircraft plywood. Wow.

Next is this Science Friday video, which shows the time-lapse photography of International Space Station astronaut Don Pettit. The individual images are beautiful, but the combination of slow and fast movements captured in the time-lapse is truly stunning. Be sure to turn up the sound so you can hear the interview. Enjoy!

Previously in Art on the Job

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

9 uses for leftover chocolate bunnies

"Poor Thing" by Waponi on Flickr.

Easter is this Sunday, which means that next week many of us will be asking ourselves, "What do I do with the rest of this chocolate rabbit now that I've eaten the ears?" Here are a couple of ideas. Feel free to share any others in the comments section.

  1. Smash it to make your own chocolate chips. Break up the chocolate bunny and use the bits of milk chocolate as chips in chocolate chip cookies, brownies, or pancakes. You made need to reduce the sugar content in these recipes if your bunny is made of milk chocolate. You can also simply mix it with fresh fruit, such as strawberries. 

  2. Melt it down to make chocolate sauce. You can use this for chocolate fondue, ganache, chocolate-dipped pretzels, or a hot fudge topping for ice cream.

  3. Drinking games. Lop* off its head, fill the body with your favorite beverage, and try to drink it all before your hand melts a hole through the chocolate. I have it on good authority that cheap champagne tastes delightful when sipped from a decapitated chocolate rabbit.  

  4. Make a mole sauce. Yes, most moles are made with unsweetened or bittersweet chocolate. It'll be an adventure. Bonus points if you make mole rabbit

  5. Make chocolate lip balm. Here's a recipe… now please try not to embarrass yourself by constantly licking your lips in public. 

  6. Entertain. Use melted chocolate to make chocolate spoons for guests to use in their coffee. 

  7. Save it.  You can always hand it out to next Halloween's trick-or-treaters, you cheap bastard. 

  8. Experiment. Use the bunny for experiments on the nature of chocolate, like this one from Practical Chemistry

  9. Get artistic. Hey, it worked for Dutch artist Sander Plug:

* Pun intended.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Sunday shout-out: Jud Turner

Check out these artworks from Eugene, OR, sculptor Jud Turner, who works mostly with welded steel and found objects. I suspect I would be very envious of his workshop… 

"Bio-Cycle", by Jud Turner

"Paradise Lost", by Jud Turner.

"The Great Escape", by Jud Turner

Turner's work focuses on opposites, mixing sizes and media to address themes such as the tension between humans and nature. 

Be sure to check out his complete gallery here. There's far more there worth looking at, including a trilobyte table and cool wire sculptures.

[via MoCo Loco]

Thursday, April 2, 2009

How to make eggshell planters

Photo by optimal tweezers on Flickr

My friend Jesse is a crafty kind of guy, and when I saw these eggshell planters that he recently made for some plant starts, I conned him into taking photos of the process and letting me post about it. 

Jesse and his good friend Zain made these planters after seeing something like the eggling (which is not made from real eggshells) in a shop in Berkeley's Elmwood district. 

The little planters are easy to make: you simply cut and clean the shell, fill it with potting soil and plant seeds or cuttings. 

Jesse writes: 
The razorblade makes a clean score on the shell, but it's still hard to get a perfectly straight line in the actual break; since the ruggedness is part of the charm, I didn't worry about it. Sharp kitchen knives also work just fine. I rinsed the shells out with hot water, which helped with pulling off the inner membrane.

Action shot!

A cleanly scored egg. 

Let's say it together: Eeeeeeeewwwwwwww! 

But it's worth a little egg slime when the final product is this cute:  

Back row in the carton, from left to right: alyssum, lupine and money plant (a.k.a. philodendron). Front row: dandelion seeds. 

All photos by Jesse Dill

Nice work, guys! I think these would make great Easter crafts projects or springtime housewarming gifts.