book review: past & present

Combining history with creativity and modern projects is pure genius. That's what Past & Present: 24 Favorite Moments in Decorative Arts History and 24 Modern DIY Projects Inspired by Them is all about. The author Amy Azzarito, is the managing editor of Design*Sponge and creator of the popular  "Past & Present" column. She teamed up with some of today's most well-known designers to create projects that not only have historic influence but are easy to make and will fit in with present day influences and design. Julia Rothman's illustrations bind everything together in a beautiful tone and feel—like a perfect bow.

Branch and Crystal Chandelier

I'll admit that I'm not one to really dig deep into the introduction paragraphs of a project in any craft book. In this case, I feel that it is something that simply cannot be skipped. If you do, not only are you missing the whole point of the book, you are choosing to ignore fascinating historical facts that you may otherwise never come across. The book is on my night stand and I can honestly say it's one of the very few times I've actually read (not skimmed) a DIY book.

Empire-Inspire Plate

Tassel Blanket

Make sure to watch the video to get a better insight into the flavor of the book and the author's thoughts.

Past & Present Book Trailer from STC Craft / Melanie Falick Books on Vimeo.

feeling spring

sprig gift card set

Yesterday I was plagued by technical difficulties. It was just one of those days. But it's over now and I'm back on track—even if it is Saturday and I'm feeling a bit under the weather (this is also being done while sitting in bed and Mr. Z picks up my slack!).

This new Sprig Gift Card set is definitely inspired by the gorgeous weather that's been taking peaks at us on a few days recently (some days are still gray and gloomy). It's so beautiful to see that the trees are starting to bloom everywhere. I hope this will be a sight that will soon come to those of you still being hit by inches of snow—wow!

I made sure, as always, that you can use the design as is, but in this case I also wanted to leave plenty of space for you to personalize with stamped sentiments. I think a simple worded message would look really nicely with these designs. How about that #10 envelope? Yum. I don't know why I hadn't made one sooner. I don't know what it is about that top flap, but I just love it (only another stationery lover would get that, right?).

sprig gift card set

Don't forget that I'm still doing the daily freebies until Easter. Look at what a lot of you have downloaded already! I hope you've been enjoying them as much as I am making them.

Have a great weekend everyone!

inspiration: diy dollhouse

I was flipping through the latest Martha Stewart Living magazine (full of great ideas as usual!) and this article caught my eye. It's a DIY dollhouse by Jennifer Rosenstrach for her daughters to play in. The house is made inside a cabinet and the walls are simple pieces of foam core. It's a storage and play space all in one. Genius!

I wish I would've either seen this or thought about it myself. Our daughter is very much into small figurines and dolls. She could use a neat place like this!

• • •
Look for more crafty inspiration or book reviews like this on Thursdays!

a mini-me?

Our daughter inherited my old Cricut Expression and yesterday she simply had to have it all installed and ready to go in her room (we had the day off for parent/teacher conferences).

After a while of working in her room alone she came up to me with something behind her back. She told me to close my eyes. When I opened them my gazebo was inhabited by her two creations! She created little paper kickstands to make the people stand and she cut out double outfits so that the backs wouldn't be just their plain bodies (it's all in the details!). It makes me all smiles every time I look at it.

She's discovered sewing, she loves paper, she LOVES journals, notebooks and pads, she loves to color, she loves her dolls—all at random times and in spurts. She reminds me SO much of myself when I was her age, except for the fact that she has one artistic talent that I do not have—she has a good musical ear (which reminds me of my brother). She's taking clarinet lessons and doing really, really well. I took piano lessons at her age and let's just say it wasn't exactly a lot of fun. Lol.

She's my little renaissance sweetie! Love her.

it's a gazebo!


Those of you that guessed gazebo on my Facebook and twitter post yesterday were totally right!

Every now and then I have an idea for a project that is a bit more involved than usual and it gives me a nice challenge to tackle. That was the case with this Gazebo—just as it was with the Nutcracker (although that project has more work involved than this new one does). Both projects take a bit more time and patience than usual but they aren't as complicated as they look.

My favorite part of the Gazebo: the "tiles". I love that I solved that issue without having to use individual pieces (even I don't have the patience for that!). Incidentally those tiles can be cut out using different colors/textures and it will give the piece a really unique look.

I see this project being used as part of centerpiece, on a cake with flowers all around it or as a garden party tea light decoration, just to name a few ideas. I've even think it could be a very unique way to give someone a tiny gift (instead of using a box or bag).

first communion

If you visit my Facebook page you've seen this First Communion Set. It's a good option for Easter too! This set just came together so nicely. It just flowed somehow—love when that happens.

• • •

Friday Tidbits
- Isn't Geninne's work always so amazing?
- Jun Mitani - amazing work! gorgeous.

- Creativity To Fill Your Heart - don't forget! You can download one image per day. For those of you that haven't heard of this get the details here.

Thank goodness for Fridays! Have a great weekend everyone!

creativity to fill your heart

I've been wanting to add to my Single Images collection for a long time. I always get these random ideas of what to do but they don't really fit (or inspire me!) to make a collection/set around them. So I've decided to come up with this little plan. It's called Creativity to Fill Your Heart.

I will share the images first and then I get to upload some different type of images to my shop. We ALL get something out of it!

It is no coincidence that I start this on Valentine's Day. I think that we need to share with everyone today. It isn't just a day for couples. It's a day for everyone that we hold dearly in our hearts—including ourselves! I want to encourage you to really make something with these simple images and use them for fun cards, scrapbooking, etc that will brighten your day or someone else's day.

So here it is...

Creativity To Fill Your Heart 
I believe that creativity truly does fill our hearts. We need it to step aside for a few minutes from our daily routines or to share a special moment with friends. It's also a way to remember how artistically carefree we were as children. It's great therapy!

How this works

- One freebie per day

- It will be available for only 24hrs (after which it will go into my Single Images section and be available for $0.99)

- They are for personal use only

What you need to do

- Download the image
 (go to my Freebie page)
- Make something, anything!

- Have fun!

- Like my Facebook page - that's where I'll be making the daily announcement of when the new image is posted.
- Optional: Post a photo of your project on my Facebook page and share your work with everyone
- Sign up for my weekly newsletter for updates on the shop and freebies (this week I'll be sending the newsletter today). Sign up here!
- I can't promise I'll get to them all but if you have any suggestions/request please post them in my Suggestion Box

So what do you think? I really hope you have fun and post your work on my Facebook page. I love seeing what you make!

My files will not work with your machines. Unfortunately Cricut does not allow the use of 3rd party files.

Happy Valentine's Day everyone! 

valentine's day (easy) treat boxes

valentine's day free printable

Here's a free printable for those of you running a bit behind and it's free!
All instructions and downloads available at the FedEx Out of the Office Blog. Go check it out!

I have a fun announcement for tomorrow which I think you'll like. See you then!

simple monday: crosses

It's so fitting that I designed these crosses and was planning on posting them today.

I was thinking about ash Wednesday but now we wake up to some big news today.
Who will be the next pope?!

Happy Monday everyone!

our special day: feb 12th

flowers party set

Everyone will be focusing on February 14th next week. I'll have my attention on the 12th. That's because 16 years ago on that day my sweet husband proposed to me—over the phone when I was in my dorm room in San Antonio, TX and he was in Colombia. Talk about going crazy after I hung up. I was so excited!

So... those of you that got my newsletter earlier today know that I'll be having a sale in the shop that will end on the 12th. You'll receive a 25% discount off your entire purchase when you order more than $20.

Code: vday
Expires: Feb 12th


I shot the photo above because I wanted to point out that sometimes you need to look at your scraps in a different way. They can be useful too! 

The green frame is the leftover from the Flower Medallion that is included in the Flowers Party Set. Wouldn't it make a great base for a scrapbooking page? The flowers that are left over from the tea light cover and the medallion can also be used—toss them around a table top or stack them to make a pretty 3D flower. 

matchbox card

Below is the new Frame and Matchbox Card set that I've also posted today. The center flower is my Cherry Blossom and the vase and purple flower are part of this week's freebie.

• • •

I feel like I've been a complete hermit the last few weeks so apologies for the lack of Friday Tidbits. I need to get out of my cave more! Thankfully Texas weather is just about perfect right now and the sun is just begging me to go out. I think I'm going to take the invitation seriously. Off for a walk...

Have a great weekend everyone!

6 reasons why children need art in their lives

6 reasons why kids needs art in their lives

I've been thinking about this a lot because our daughter (9 almost 10!) has been gradually getting more interested in making well... anything. I couldn't be happier.

Since I'm so involved in making myself I've tried not to push it on the kids. I've always made the basics available (and trust me they raid my "work" stuff too), but I've never pushed them into creating something because it's 'crafty time' or anything like that. I've always had a feeling that if they felt inspired it would come—and it does—in spurts.

Purely based on my observations of our kids this is why I think that all kids should be exposed to art  from the moment they can hold something (and not swallow it!).

1. Creativity = A nose can be red
During the Christmas break little C and I went to paint Santa mugs at a ceramics shop. She painted her own and I painted one for her brother who I knew would want one but hadn't been in the mood to go with us that day. She decided that Santa's nose needed to be red. I made the comment that I thought Rudolph was the only one with a red nose. No. She said I was wrong and that Santa had a red nose too—and that was that. Okey. Dokey.
(She did such a good job with her painting that the only way we can tell the mugs apart are the noses!)

Kids are open to all possibilities and show it in their projects. A nose can be red, hair can be purple and skin can be green. No big deal. Why not? Why not indeed.

Tip for the adults (and a reminder for myself):
Don't question a child's choices. If you're genuinely curious about something ask questions instead of trying to "set them straight". I was kicking myself after the 'red nose' comment I made because I always tell the kids that in art there are no wrong answers. I never... almost never question their choices. Oops.

2. Confidence = I can do this!
Our little C just learned how to use my sewing machine this past weekend. She knows how to thread the machine and even though she still needs help with the bobbin she's off to the races! For now her only project has been making small pillows (see above?). I gave her some lavender and she also made us a couple of sachets! She's been making the cute pillows over and over again and is completely thrilled with her progress. As the days go by she seems more in command of what she's doing. She's developed a rhythm to her work—she totally knows what's she's doing.

Learning how to use one tool makes her braver to try something else—something new. I've noticed it every time she tackles a new medium. It never fails.

Tip for adults:
Within reason and keeping safety in mind let kids try out things that you don't think they may be ready for—they may surprise you. My daughter definitely surprised me with the way she picked up using the sewing machine. I honestly didn't think she was ready for it.

3. Problem solving = I figured it out
I remember that a few years ago our son decided that he wanted to make a garage for his little cars out of a cardboard box (just remembered! I blogged about it here). He tried to use scissors to cut the box apart. A combination of old scissors and cardboard that was too thick made the task almost impossible. He opted for the "tear with my own two hands" method and he was done. The cardboard was all jagged and taped together in a haphazard way but he couldn't be happier with the results.

In crafting something can go wrong at any point for a myriad of reasons. What to do? The kids either ask for help or figure it out on their own. Either way they are digging themselves out of the hole they're in.

Tip for adults:
If the kids get frustrated I typically don't let them give up on their idea. There's always a way through or around a problem. Occasionally there may be an idea that is just a complete flop. That's OK too. You all at least learned a way NOT to do something. This is when I typically tell the kids that art is fun and there's NO reason to stress over it (says the woman who often fusses and wonders whether a project is really done. Ha!).

4. Understanding processes and planning = One thing at a time
You can't touch it until it's dry!
Wait the glue isn't set yet!
The bobbin needs thread. That's why the machine is no longer sewing.
Clean the brush with water before dipping it another color.

You get the picture, right? The kids learn that there is a method to the madness—whatever that madness (project) may be.

Tip for adults:
Sometimes it's OK to skip a step or two or three. Maybe your child has a better way of getting from A to B. You never know! Exploring is half the fun.

5. Pride = I did it! 
Finishing a project is so fulfilling and watching the kids running around showing it to the world is the best. "Look what I made! Look! LOOK!"

Tip for adults:
Be genuine in your praise. Kids can tell when you're just being nice to be nice.

6. Having Fun = Having Fun! 
And I'll say it again... Fun! Making is simply entertaining, engrossing and relaxing. Why wouldn't you want your kids exposed to that? They also learn that it's good to take some time off—that it's good (healthy) to take a mental recess.

Tip for adults:
Let the kids lead. You are only a guest or a helper if you're invited to jump in. If they want to tackle a project alone don't take it personally. Remember the last time you wanted to enjoy YOUR book/craft/TV show/whatever without a child on your lap or interrupting every few minutes. You just wanted some alone time. Maybe they just want the same.

Bonus = art + kids is good for YOU 
By being around kids and their art you get to spend some time relearning or remembering your own carefree hands on times. The kids may even teach you a new way of doing something. You will also be lucky to witness a little mind at work—fascinating!

Art made in good company spurs on conversations that you wouldn't otherwise have and it gets your mind off of everything else going on in your world. Any way you look at it, you get something out of it too.

Learning about creativity, confidence, problem solving, understanding processes, pride and simply taking some time to have fun sounds so clinical and dry. Yawn! But in the context of arts and crafts these lessons simply seep into a child's daily experiences and will most definitely bear fruit in other endeavors.

• • •

Phew! I didn't expect that to be that long. But at least it's out of my head and on 'paper'. I know I didn't reveal anything ground breaking but I think it can serve as a reminder for of all us that art IS important.

So who wants to take a crafty break now?
But maybe later since it's 2am and I got up to write this because I couldn't sleep!

simple monday: playing with a pop-up idea

floral trio pop up

Hey everyone—I'm glad to be back!

The break paid off. I've been busy but a good kind of busy—the productive type. So far so good—but there's still so much to do. I have my list and I'm just going through it. One step at a time, right?

Here you can see where my mind has been off on a different tangent card-wise. I've been interested in going 3D for a while. So here I go with a Floral Trio Pop-Up Card—which is now available in the shop! The pattern on the side just came up as a side-effect of everything else I'm working on. I'm telling you—it's patterns, patterns, everywhere around here.

Now to clean up my studio that looks like a bomb hit it and a crew of one of those TV design teams could (and should!) totally take over.

Happy Monday!