Month: January 2014

Photo to wood transfer gift

For Christmas and other special occasions I like making creative gifts for Michael. The very first year after I moved to Kansas I ended up making a surprise visit to Houston so we were not going to be together for the holidays.

But before I left, I wrote and illustrated a highly dramatic story about me trying to decide what to get him for a present that year. My plan was to leave the story book for him to open and read on Christmas and then after I was back in town, I would give him his actual gift.

So I won’t give too much away, but basically in the story I’m attacked by Christmas-gift-eating-bugs and needed a little help from Santa gaining the key to Michael’s perfect gift.

It’s a regular page turner. I posted a few pictures of the most riveting plot points below.

But thanks to inspiration from Pinterest and a recent photo session with this lovely Lady, I picked up a new idea to try out for Michael’s Christmas present this year.

I decided to use the image below and transfer it to a wood plaque following the directions from Ben Franklin Crafts and Frame Shop’s blog. This turned out to be a super easy, inexpensive project and I was really happy with the end result.

20131211-1504184_667158886668070_227197455_o On the disc of images Beth provided us from our session there was a black and white copy of the picture above. So using Lightroom, I uploaded the photo and flipped the image horizontally so that it could be printed in reverse.

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During my trip to Kinkos for the wine candle tags, I also had Beth’s now reversed picture printed on an 11×14″ sheet of paper. Earlier in the week I had already gone to Michael’s to pick up a pine wood plaque, some multi-medium, Mod Podge (I swear I’m always buying bottles of this stuff and I didn’t even end up needing it this time) and a couple of brushes.

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I wiped down the wood plaque with a damp cloth before brushing an even and liberal coating of the multi-medium onto the wood. I then applied the image face-down on the wood plaque and smoothed out all the bubbles using one of those little Pampered Chef stone scrapers.

And now comes the exciting part 🙂 After letting the paper dry for 24 hours and do it’s magic I laid down a scrap towel underneath the wood plaque and began lightly rubbing away the paper using a sponge and some water. Bit by bit the image underneath revealed itself.

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It took me a good twenty-five to thirty minutes or so to finally remove all the excess paper and there were a few places where I had to use the Pampered Chef scraper again to gently work the paper away.

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After that was all done, I removed the towel and cleaned up my work area for the next step. Using a combination of directly applying a Distressed Ink pad (I have an addiction to these) and sponge pouncer, I antiqued the edges of the wood and image. Once the edges were done I dipped my foam brush in a little water, squeeze out the excess water and quickly swiped the image from edge to edge to smooth out any harsh lines and to give the entire plaque an antiqued look.

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Finally, I gave the plaque a few minutes to dry before I measured and marked the wood for drilling. Once drilled, I cut off a section of hemp cord, ran it through the holes and tied knots in the front of the plaque for hanging.

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And that’s it! Another inexpensive, easy-to-make gift for the holidays. And it’s a great way to display pictures in your home. Not that guys typically care a whole lot about home decor… But Michael made a good show of it anyhow 😉

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***(Special thanks to Beth Laird for taking this awesome picture and so many more! If you live in the Kansas City Area and are looking for a graphic designer/photographer, please take a moment to stop by her Facebook page and give her a “like” at Beth Laird Photo & Design!)

Homemade Wine Candles

Be sure to check out Bottle Cutting Inc.’s $5000 Kinkajou Project Giveaway and
search “Project Eight” to see my winning submission using my homemade wine candles!

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Christmas is a really special time of year. I love Christmas music and how everything smells like cinnamon or pine. And I know it’s no fun to drive in, but I do love the snow and cold. I look forward to wearing sweaters and scarfs and boots and drinking eggnog like it’s coming out of the faucet.

But I cannot even handle the shopping craze that happens during the holiday season. Just being honest… I think it’s repulsive — especially after seeing first hand the way most people lived in India. We take so much for granted here and waste so much. Everytime a new iPhone comes out, people rush the stores to buy it, even though there’s nothing wrong with their current device. We have so much STUFF that some of us pay month by month for storage units to store what we can’t fit in our house.

I remember watching this documentary called The Queen of Versailles about the Siegel family who was building the most expensive home in the United States. In the beginning Jackie Siegel takes the film crew on a tour through their mansion and complains that they simply just do not have enough room for all of their stuff and they need” a bigger place to accommodate it all. So they begin building the most expensive home in America. Because you know, you actually need to have 10 kitchens and a 20-car garage with even more space for your limousines. (And yes, they were actually doing that.)

In the meantime, they interview the household nanny who states that it is her dream to own her own home one day, but since it wasn’t likely she would ever be able to afford that, she was settling for living in the Siegel’s children’s disused playhouse in the backyard.

I’m not sure that’s what impoverished families outside of the United States have in mind when they talk about living the “American Dream”.

Sometimes I think back to our time in India and remember when our driver told us he couldn’t afford to buy his five year old son a bicycle for his birthday. Or I think of how I would put food in plastic bags before I threw it away because I knew the woman who collected my garbage would go through it to find something to eat. See, morally I kind of have a problem with spending money on things that we don’t NEED when the majority of the world lives in so much want. It’s poor stewardship of our financial blessings — and I say that on a personal level as well as a citizen of one of the most affluent countries in the world.

Several years ago there was a really powerful video released by a ministry called Living Water International. They have started a movement called “Advent Conspiracy” and if you haven’t seen their promo video, you really should take a moment to watch it:

Whether you’re a follower of Christ or not, the message still applies: Consumerism does not equal happiness, it does not equal memories, and it does not equal meaning. It just doesn’t.

The things I remember most about Christmases from my childhood are not the gifts I gave or received, but the laughter with family, the smiles, the games we played, the stories we told, the hugs and the warmth. You can’t get that time back. And when a loved one passes away, you’ll be thankful for the amount of time you spent with them, NOT the amount of money spent on gifts for them.

No matter how much retail America tries to convince you, relationships and memories don’t have price tags and cannot be bought.

So this year, using a few things we had on hand and my skills in graphic design and crafts, I made own our Christmas gifts. Behold the up-cycled wine bottle candle! 🙂

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I know these are all the rage right now. If I’ve seen one Pinterest project for wine bottle crafts, I’ve seen a hundred. But I thought these made for good gifts because a) they’re up-cycled from wine bottles we already had on hand; b) they’re a consumable gift, so they can be thrown away or taken to a proper glass recycling facility after they’re used; c) they were relatively inexpensive to make (just needed soy wax, scented oil some tags and twine); and d) I already have a creative/crafty personality so I truly enjoyed spending a few nights a week making these for my family and friends.

I started off scoring all my wine bottles using this neat little gadget called a Kinkajou.

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After scoring them, I would run the bottle under hot and cold water, alternating between the two until the glass cracked and I was left with the bottom half of my wine bottle.

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After sanding down the edges of the cut glass, I would rinse the bottles out and leave them to dry until the following day. The next morning, I turned on my crockpot to melt the wax flakes and scented oil.

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Using a ladle, I filled one bottle at a time with the melted wax. Once poured, I positioned the wood wick in the center of the bottle using a highly sophisticated state-of-the-art reinforcement system: a couple of left over plastic fast food knives.

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I let the wax cool and harden over night. Usually the next day there would be one or two “sink holes” where the wax had contracted inwards and so I would have to pour more wax to fill in the holes.

20131214-DSC_0003 Once the wax had hardened again and settled evenly inside the wine bottle, I cut the wicks down and started making one set of tags for the wine bottles and another set for the outside of the gift bags.

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I used simple brown cardstock tags for the outside of the gift bags. I stamped and distressed the edges using a plain old ink pad. (The edges haven’t been inked up yet in the photo below 🙂 ) 20131217-DSC_0010

There was a little more involved to make the tags that I attached to the wine candles themselves… Once upon a time I had Photoshop and could do all sorts of magical, graphical things. But then we bought MacBooks and my amazing little Photoshop program was no longer compatible with my operating system. Enter GIMP — an awesome and free photo manipulation program that works on Linux operating systems. So for the past 4 years now, I have “hobbled along” using GIMP and have managed to design some really great logos and websites for friends.

I wanted these tags to resemble vintage apothecary labels with a block-print layout. I downloaded some fonts from dafont.com and browsed Google Images to give me a few guides/similar designs to follow. I also wanted the labels to have the usual safety instructions you see on the bottoms of candles that you buy at the store, so I found a couple candle-making websites that had standardized text I could use and personalized it for my labels.

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After I designed the labels in GIMP, I went to Michael’s and bought a few standard sheets of 8×11″ card stock from the scrapbook aisle. I took my external hard drive with the label file and the paper to a nearby Kinkos and had 3 sheets of labels printed, 10 labels to a sheet.

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I used the paper cutter at Kinkos to cut each label individually and then used my corner rounder to give them a more polished look. I distressed inked the edges again like I did on the other tags and punched holes in the corners to tie them onto the wine candles with hemp cord.

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And for the last step I placed the now finished and tagged wine candles in brown paper bags, attached the outside gift tags with picks I bought on clearance for 70% off at Michael’s.

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So there you have it! All in all, I had twenty wine candles poured, tagged and bagged to give away. I just couldn’t wait to give these to our friends and family because I was proud of the time and effort I spent on them — NOT the amount of money.

My biggest expense was the Kinkajou, wax, and well… probably all the wine. Been having a lot of “fruit salad” for dinner around here I guess! But almost everything else I either already had on hand or purchased with coupons and on clearance.

Even if you’re not a wine drinker, you can make these candles in pretty much any round glass bottle. (beer bottles, whiskey bottles, mason jars, etc.) And you can always go looking on Craigslist to see if anyone has any empty bottles available. A lot of the time people just want to get rid of their empty glass bottles so you can get a bunch for next to nothing and sometimes even for free.

Bottom line.. the best part about making these was that since we spent more of our TIME rather than MONEY, Michael and I had more freedom to give to causes that have real and lasting impact on people’s lives — not just a momentary gift-fix.

I do have some more idears for using whiskey and beer bottles too, so if anyone has any spare bourbon or beer bottles you’d like to get rid of, email or message me and I might be interested in taking them off your hands!

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year everyone!

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