A Day in the Life… specifically October 31st

So may I introduce to you
The act you’ve known for all these years…
Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band!… and their evil nemesis, the Blue Meanie!
Now… what would you think if I (suddenly stopped making Halloween costumes) would you stand up and walk out on me?
Lend me your ears and I’ll write you a blog and I’ll try not to (forget all of the insane tiny details on these costumes)…
Oh I get by with a little help from my boys!

This was my scariest Halloween yet… I was both thrilled and terrified of doing this costume. Would it be a trick or a treat?
For a very long time it looked as if it was going to be the former.Here’s how I did it:
John & Paul:
For months I searched for pants, jackets, even button shirts in these colors, even in adult sizes…anything… in department stores, thrift shops, garage sales and online – even the sketchy websites… nothing! I did find a few terrible options but the colors weren’t quite right and I’d have no way of matching a top and bottom if I bought either one in a color. So I was left with no choice but to buy white and dye the fabric…I’ll get to that later. I bought the boys a pair of girl’s leggings in white for $5 each. I then found two old white button shirts – each about four sizes too big. The pants didn’t need any embellishing (thank goodness)… I mean they could always use it… perhaps if I got a prison sentence for a few years…locked in a cell with endless materials… The shirts on the other hand were a frightful amount of work. You may recall my 7 Deadly Sins PostSloth: when I tried to construct a jacket without a pattern… well here I go again… and I promised I’d tell you about it. I first buttoned the way oversized shirts onto the boys then pulled them in the back “loosely tight” (my made up term). I marked where the two ends of fabric met. Giving a cm extra room I cut there (this ended up being about half of the diameter of the shirts). Then I sewed the two new ends together. I did the same for the diameter of the sleeves and next simply cut them off right at their wrists. Furthermore I used the excess shoulder fabric to bunch into a bit of a shoulder pad. For the outer shoulder pads I cut 2 circles from the extra fabric for each shirt. I then took the severed wrist cuffs from the sleeves and sewed the two together making a sort of lollypop shape. I then stitched the fringe around these circles and finally stitched the entire pads over the pho-shoulder pads I created on the shirts.To solve the mystery of how to give it a  Nehru Jacket style I (…wait for it)… I trimmed the collar in half!
Now it was time to “die”… and it would feel like that if something went wrong at this point as I couldn’t see redoing this… I’m as terrified of dying clothes as some may be of haunted houses, but I took a deep breath and dove in. Then I realized I didn’t need to be in the water with my clothes…jk (har har). I used Dylon packets and was pretty pleased. After a stressful dyeing session I had reasonable colored garments… on to the decorating…

There was a bit of firsts in this project as I didn’t have most of the right materials laying around so I actually had to go buy some things at the fabric store… whaaaat?!

For the fringe I was fortunate enough to find the right color for Paul’s but there was no orange fringe to be found so I bought it in white and literally colored it with an orange marker. I even made it an activity for the boys to do (excellent parenting hack courtesy of Huckleberry Finn). It was just as difficult to find any sort of reasonable orange trim so I bought orange yarn and made braids of different thicknesses to create the trims. And once again I was successful in finding something silver for Paul’s trim. I bought a little pack of 20 buttons- the closest color and shape I could find to the right look. I hand stitched the trim in four straight lines across and sewed the buttons over the ends. Now Paul’s trim had some issues. Once cut the trim fell apart. At the store they even taped the edges. I had an idea and hot glued the edge to keep it from fraying. This worked great. Finally I used white acrylic paint to slowly draw the swirls on the cuffs of the sleeves.
Once the uniforms were decorated the weight of everything effected the hang so I called the boys in for another tailoring session. (ha ha… that sounds so professional). I pulled in the shirts here and there, adding a few little stitches but the biggest help was cinching them in on their backs and creating decorative fasteners. I added a few more details: John’s flower on this shoulder. I didn’t have a daisy so I painted the pedals of a silk yellow flower I had and sewed a circle of yellow felt in the middle to hold and look like a pistil. For Paul’s medal I just attached an award I earned as a little kid for piano lessons…so pull out your 1980’s keepsake keyboard medal…ha ha…
For John’s glasses… you may recognize them from an earlier costume Roosevelt wore HERE. I pulled them out of the keepsake box and painted them gold.
For the mustaches I bought a .99 brown eyeliner pencil and simply drew them on.
Now as for their facial expressions I honestly can’t take credit for that. I was so wrapped up in getting their costumes situated. Apparently they are true fans and have been studying the album poster that hangs on the wall in our art room. Roosevelt even apologized at one point because he accidentally smiled in one photo. I just thought they were grumpy but they were just in character!

Blue Meanie:
Note: there are different Blue Meanies- some have the long Goofy style ears but I chose the one with the Mickey Mouse ears. I’m pretty sure those references weren’t a coincidence btw.
This costume has all of the “no no”s for a happy toddler: a hat, glasses and not one but two tutus! And when I was making it before and trying them on him he understandably seemed to hate it. But once he saw his brothers in costume he couldn’t wait to join in. He was so happy in fact that his upset came when it was time to take it off.
The base of this costume is simple a blue onesie, (it seems all baby costumes begin with one) a pair of red & yellow striped knee socks (which if you’re a collector like me you have every color combination) and little black boots… all of which I already had.

For the hat I took a vintage Mickey hat of mine from 1980’s Disneyland. He actually had his own (with better shaped ears) but his name was on the back and there was certainly no Blue Meanie named Fargo! I cut a circle of black felt and base stitched it over the Mickey logo on front.

For the glasses I had an extra pair identical to the “Roosevelt” glasses. These were actually cheap party-favor Groucho glasses with the nose and mustache snapped out. I then cut a foam sheet into the shape of the mask and stitched it onto the plastic frame of the Grouchp glasses. Finally I poked the needle through the ends of the ear sticks of the glasses and attached an elastic band.

For the blueness I constructed two “no-sew” tutus and layered one on top of the other. To make these tutus I measured a piece of elastic to very loosely go around his waist (leaving room for tulle excess). Then I cut tulle into long strips and knotted them around the elastic until I filled the loop with blueness.
Finally I pulled out an inflatable promotional Yellow Submarine I got in my days of working at a record store.

I almost forgot about the drumhead. If you want to save a lot of time go to Kinkos… or um FexEx…(whatever it is now) and make an extra large print… but if you want to make it real…
I happened to have a perfectly cut drum head sitting around we used for a video a while back. It said Haun’s Mill on one side and was blank on the other, I actually eyeballed most of the image for this- using a ruler in ways I can’t really explain to keep my lettering in check… first using pencil then on to acrylics.

So that’s it… man that was a lot of parts…

You’re such a lovely audience
We’d like to take you home with us
We’d love to take you home

We hope you have enjoyed the show
We’re sorry but it’s time to go
We’d like to thank you once again
It’s getting very near the end…

…the end

Halloween Fails – The 7 Deadly Sins of Costumes

For every Heavenly-perfect crafted costume there exists an equally intense sin in the costume making world. Most of the these examples are not complete disasters. I’m ashamed to admit that my pride prevents me from posting the true Halloween skeletons in my closet. Part of me feels that if they hold no purpose (if there is nothing to be learned from them) why bring them to light… just show the fun ones. Some of these are decent concepts – construction has always been where the challenge is. Note: the above picture is NOT a fail…it’s AWESOME okay…

I present to you my Seven Deadly Sins of Costume Making…

1. SLOTH: Haphazard costume making for the sake of doing it

Note: technically much more effort was put into this costume than even most on this page. But, as you will read, laziness comes in many hazardous levels. This was an adorable idea- especially because at the time we had just bought a fancy toy Grand Piano. But it just never took shape right (literally). Maybe from a distance of about 48 ft but any closer and you would really question the whole thing. Fortunately this was early in my costume years before I had a reputation and these are things I’ve long since learned to do differently. I’d like to try this particular one again sometime- maybe next year with my youngest…
How I did it & what I did wrong:
I decided to start with an older costume I had lying around rather than freshly cut fabric. This actually wasn’t a bad idea since starting from scratch requires killer skill and usually a pattern. Altering an existing garment always has its advantages. You have seams, hems, and elastic already installed. The costume I cut up was originally made for a much larger kid. I just totally guessed  that it was exactly twice as big and began cutting. Obvious mistake #1: not measuring the subject. I remember literally thinking that was too much work. So first I cut the pants horizontally in half then vertically (the entire length) in half. I then sewed it together. The pants weren’t terrible but could have greatly improved with some actual measuring instead of guessing. For the shirt I took one of my son’s jackets and laid the fabric on top of it attempting to fit it to size. Once again this is a good idea (to start with an article of clothing and use it as a map) but I began cutting and sewing quite blindly even allowing my fabric to move all over the place as I snipped away. Obvious mistake #2 if you are fitting it to something pin it or hold it in place somehow. Spoiler alert: I am doing this exact same thing for my sons’ Halloween costumes for this year. Though I’ve learned a lot and am not technically making these mistakes- it’s still very difficult to actually build a jacket and I am struggling with it at the moment. In the end the suit was severly lopsided and ill-fitting but that wasn’t the worst part.
The worst part was the wig. I wanted to avoid cottonballs, or any other stringy material that may fall apart. I wanted something strong and reusable and also didn’t want to spend $40 on a wig when I could make one…so so smart… ha. I took a square from a sheer curtain we had and attempted to actually gather and spread the fabric on my knee (which had to be the same size and shape as a head- right?) into a rounded head shape then (as they actually did it back in the day) hold it together with a tied ribbon. I then cut shorter pieces and stitched them to the top of the forehead to make “bangs”. I don’t think my concepts here were the big flaw but more totally throwing out necessary steps like measuring and also accepting that you have limitations. If something is not working and looks bad… don’t do it! There’s not always a reason why they sell specific costume items. I’ve seen some embarrassing ones out there (i.e.: mummy wrap which is literally a fraying ripped sheet in strips)… but powdered wigs are a legitimate purchase. Luckily I realized the fail here and it didn’t end up being his costume Halloween night, though he did wear it to a party.

2. GLUTTONY: Too much of anything

There are way too many token icons and patterns here it’s ridiculous. I personally think this costume is so bad it’s awesome…ha ha… if you’re gonna make a mistake- make it super obvious…
But all seriousness aside – we have a lot to learn here.
What I did wrong:
I looks like we just gathered everything pirate in our home, put it in a giant pile and made sure he wore it all. Well, that’s basically true except our pile was 4 times this big and we had too much to choose from ie: which of the 5 eye patches, 14 striped items and pirate hats to use… and came up with this?! I feel as though he’s more of an “I Spy” page: “try to find all of the skull & crossbones on the boy” than an actual pillager.
So honestly, don’t overdo it. If you’re a pirate, use only one classic logo and one striped article. Lastly in my defense, this was one of several Halloween costumes last year as we learned of a Haunted House down the street and grabbed a costume in 4 minutes… I suppose that’s true sloth.

3. WRATH: or inflicting it on others

This is difficult for me to put on a fail list because it was one my favorites, but it does have one glaring problem… and that is offending people – especially the generation who experienced the historic event. Note: This is not Nord, this is from my days of being single…ha ha…
I was fortunate to be doing wardrobe on a film at the time that used this pink suit-dress. I simply got permission to borrow it for the night. My obsession with the JFK Assassination leaves me always bringing it into my art anyway… this was just too much of a coincidence to pass. The hat was a breeze to make. I simply bought 1/2 a yard of pink fabric and cut out an oval and a long rectangle strip. I then set the circle down and wrapped the strip around it, cutting it to size. Then I simply stitched the two together and bobby pinned it on. For JFK all you need is a suit and a bit of fake blood. Although I guess I shouldn’t be saying how to make this… One thing you I noticed is that there is an incredible amount of people on Halloween who bear no costume but simply put a blot of blood on them and call it good. This feels like a major fail in my book. It’s funny how the JFK looked this way through the night the times I wasn’t standing next to him.

4. VANITY: or lack of

Anton Chigurh:
This was a bit creepy for me. And not creepy in a cool Halloween “Pennywise” sense but in a just… I kinda wish I hadn’t seen you like that Nord… look. A 2nd question you should ask your costume is does it make me look good. Now this doesn’t mean sexy (like 99.9% of every costume for sale for females ages 8+) but it can look good in other ways:
-unrecognizable to the point that people won’t have something to “unsee”. Something that can really have no trace of yourself and that you get to really be for the night. A mask is a simple example of this.
-terrifying: in the traditional Halloween spirit
-funny: be sure people will be laughing with you not at you… as high school as that sounds – but give it a thought.
-most importantly: that it doesn’t accentuate your achilles heel (maybe even one not obvious before) to a point of no return. If you have bigger ears don’t wear a giant bow tie, if you are pear shaped don’t be a Christmas tree, etc
Sorry- Nord, I was the one who made this costume and my insult here isn’t as bad as it sounds- but this was the best example I could find for this particular fail. It’s an important point to make. And if there was a contest for the best rendition of Chigurh you may very well have won.

5. PRIDE: Not willing to actually change

As far as clothes I did everything right here. I was so happy I owned basically replica copies of her signature t-shirt and pleated denim skirt… could this even be the reason I got pregnant this year…for the perfect Halloween costume…don’t put it past me. But somehow I had a big pregnant fail. And although it’s a bit difficult to put my finger on why – it seems to boil down to the details; the things that looked like myself as the character rather than the character itself. I was too prideful to really change my hair for the costume. I even trimmed my bangs to look nice because I felt I looked better in bangs but her hair is part of her character’s signature. I could have used a wig and also could have at least attempted Juno’s makeup for the night. If you’re not willing to change something about your  preferred everyday look to what you really need to to make the costume right then pick a different costume.

6. GREED: G.etting R.eally E.xhausted E.xplaining D.esign

You didn’t think this little baby could be greedy…he he
George Costanza:
If I didn’t write who it was you would have no idea… am I right? And if that’s the case then it’s a fail, even if it’s accurate. I think this is a great first question to ask yourself with any Halloween costume. Do people get it without asking? If not… well for one thing you will get SO sick of explaining it all night… you might as well just be a pirate…

7. LUST: Not much explanation necessary

Finally, as I mentioned above, most women’s & preteen’s costumes now are sexy. Yes- try not to let this get in the way of having a good costume. One of the perfect example of this ridiculousness is the invention of flirty female versions of classic male costumes ie: Batgirl, Supergirl (making a TV show of it doesn’t exclude it from this)… to illustrate it perfectly- I’m linking you to this Image Gallery– it’s pretty hilarious…Enjoy!

Remember even though it’s Halloween your devilish costume shouldn’t be sinful…  costume responsibly!


Last Minute Halloween

I hear there exists people out there who have found themselves a night, or two, before Halloween without a costume!!! Now I hear these individuals sound and act just like regular people and that you can’t tell them by looking. They eat the same food we do, go to the same stores and schools and also live in homes. It’s very possible in my lifetime that I encountered one of these people. I hope I have, I hope one of them is reading this post right now. For me if I only started making a costume today (October 11th) it would be my equivalent to a last minute costume.

All super seriousness aside here are a few actual last minute costumes I made for Halloween events in the past. It’s never too early to be too late for the most awesome night of the year!

The Log Lady:
One thing I would recommend differently is to have your subject wear pants (not photographed here… he he). This is obviously 98% about the concept and 2% about the execution.
How I did it:
Ha ha… I really don’t see how it would be possible to give any directions here that are not easily seen in this photo.

This costume was literally made the night before my son’s school’s Literacy Parade. Since his regular costume wasn’t a book character I had to come up with something the night before. I realize though this is not an ideal “last minute” suggestion because it’s not simple. I also wish I had pics of the process, but I made it in one night remember.

How I did it:
Lederhosen: I took a pair of old cargo pants he didn’t wear too much cut them off above the knees gathered them at the freshly cut bottom (giving a hint of a bubble shape) and faked a good gather. This was all hand sewn – which I actually don’t mean as a brag but more as a trick. I’m not terribly comfortable with the machine but also I find when I hand sew I get to watch the creation in slow motion and can make adjustments as I go. Yes, it’s very time consuming (especially for the night before) and tiring but it’s my recommended method. Next I cut out the inside of the pockets,  folded them wrong side out and pulled them up a bit creating the high waist. I then just took various pieces of the leg parts I had cut off earlier and folded and sewed straps, connecting them into the “H” formation. I attached a few buttons and finally took a scrap of white material leftover from a previous project and stitched it on. Finally I grabbed some regular markers and drew the design pattern onto the white- creating the floral pattern.
Hat: I took one sheet of felt, folded it randomly until it formed the iconic shape, stitched it together and added a feather.
Accessories: These included a “pan” collared shirt (that actually belonged to his baby brother), vintage white gloves I kept from my childhood and the back bow of a dress I had which made a great bow tie.

Finishing touches included a regular black marker to draw the “wood” slats and nails on and a rolled up, painted piece of paper held on the face with a string for the nose. And there you have it!

If You Give a Mouse a Cookie:

This was last year and my 2nd year of having to make a literacy costume for school… hmmm what will I do this year?

How I did it:
Cookie: Ever since having kids, older than the age of newborn, we’ve found that getting food to-go from our favorite restaurants is the way “to go” (har har). One of the things that seems to come with our food is large perfect cardboard circles. These circles are consistently white on one side and natural on the other. I simple took two white sides, glued them together giving the feel of a creme filling and markered some texture and chocolate chips on the outside.
Tail: Craft stores sell giant pipe cleaners for about $2. These are sort of the equivalent of those 3ft Pixie Stix compared to the regular straw-size versions. With a bit of twisting and shaping you have your tail.
Ears: For these I took to my restaurant togo supplies again and cut out the circle from a foil pan to use for a posable skeleton to shape the ears. I then covered them with felt on both sides and glued the three layers together. Finally I cut pieces of twine and spread them out a bit and glued them on the inside of the ears. I will admit in the end the ears broke one of my rules for kids costumes… realism thrived over appealing cuteness… it was almost gross how furry they were- but the overall picture worked.

These aren’t my best but they’re my last minute fixes. Stay tuned for my Halloween fails!

Embarrassingly Easy Kid Activity Hacks

I’ve been sitting inside watching the crazy Texas storms go by over the last few days…though close- thankfully not much of a hurricane here in Austin. My sincere sympathies and wishes go out to those affected.

Going along with the cliche of rainy days and boredom… personally I cannot imagine experiencing it, but kids can get cabin fever after just a couple of hours of a day of indoors. And if you, as a parent, have no energy, no patience and no ideas of ways for your kids to beat the boredom blues. Here are some real parent slacker projects…

  1. Timelapse Cleaning:

Not only does this keep kids occupied but it also accomplishes the unaccomplishable. It may be the closest you will get to achieving as Mary Poppins does.
Simply ask your kids if they want to be in a video and  aim your iPhone camera (or any video camera that has a timelapse setting) at a terribly messy room and hit record… tell them to clean the room. They don’t even have to be quick about it. Here’s one (of many) I did with my kids – I believe it took an hour. They liked it so much they wanted to do more… and more…and more. And when the house was spotless they still wanted more – so we did it on a smaller scale with single box and drawer organization. Amazing, I tell you!

2. Podcast Whatever:

My 4 year old always has something to say and can take an unimaginably long time to say it, but what he has to say is brilliant. I only wish I had nothing else to do the whole day so I could hear it in its entirety. For example – he started a story one morning as we were having breakfast. He continued the story as we got in the car, drove to our 1st destination, 2nd destination,  while getting groceries, while on the drive back home and finally finished it at lunchtime.
Embarrasingly simple again…
Get your podcaster in a quiet room, ask them to talk about or tell whatever story they want and hit record. You don’t have to broadcast it later but either way you will want to archive it. If you happen to be one of the lucky parents with a soundbooth in your garage – that’s a great place to record!

3. Scavenger Hunt of the Lost:

If you keep a constant mental list of missing items in your home from puzzle pieces to earrings to a spare set of keys this is for you. Simply make a list of the missing items (sorry- this may take 40 seconds of your time, probably the most prep you will need to do in this activity list). Then, “on your marks… get set… go…!” Who can find the most missing items. Another great exercise that serves two purposes. Perhaps a prize can be waiting too for the winner.

4. Going Nowhere:

For this activity you can go anywhere in the world for free right from the comfort of you own home all while getting exercise! (This is assuming you have internet in your home and a way to connect YouTube to you TV). In YouTube (or a similar app) simple search “walk through ______” and you will find videos people have taken walking through anywhere in particular. My kids loved walking through Disneyland… then Tokyo Disney and Disneyland Paris… you get the idea. And they walked in place the whole time pointing and looking around. It’s a great way to show you kids the wonders of the world, different cultures etc. And if you’re too lazy to keep changing to the next video when one is done simple make a playlist ahead of time. This reminds me of a VHS my mom bought in the early 90’s of the POV of a cyclist in the mountains. The tape was made to accompany her stationary bike in our living room to keep the workout exciting.

5. Never Too Early:

Some people I know just cannot wait for specific holidays (I’m talking to you Seth). At the same time kids are always wanting to “make” things but don’t know what. Well, I have a solution. Its never too early to make Valentines, or Christmas cards or Easter decorations! If it’s September and the kids want to cut and glue paper and pull out the glitter why not have them make Valentines. Odds are the week of February 14th will be too busy to suddenly craft 30 homemade hearts for the classmates why not spread this task out over months with limitless time and creativity.

6. Anything Party:

Almost every day we have a “party”. What that means is that almost every day we attach that word to the end of another word. Sometimes the first word can feel appropriate such as a “dance party” where we simply play music and everyone gets some exercise and dances around to it. Or Django’s favorite, “light party” where the boys gather everything in our house that glows from lanterns to light-up yo-yos to glow-in-the-dark bugs and once it turns night have them all in one room and run around in excitement. But the word “party” can also be attached to “bath” or “brushing teeth” or “homework” – just add the word “party” and one element such as background music to this otherwise daunting task and you have yourself a smash hit!

7. Toy Joy:

Finally I add yet another, “start the camera and leave” activity. While this one was not something I concocted it was actually the persistent request of my son, Roosevelt. He has seen a few too many YouTube videos of people (adults actually 90% of the time) simply opening a toy from a package, putting it together and playing with it once to show what it can do. Roo was hooked but thankfully didn’t ask for those toys but instead insisted I let him make videos where he simply set up and played with his own toys and explained away in the process. So, if you haven’t yet, check out such a video as an example…may I suggest… this one here, it’s the best I’ve ever seen -hehe…actually it’s not a big deal just one of many the boys made & it’s scaled it down from it’s original hour runtime to a minute- ha ha.  Also, no need to actually post yours if you don’t want to .

And keep safe out there!

Summer Reading

A hand reached up from the rocky cliff dangling over the ocean. The fingernails from her right hand dug deep into the drying mud on the planted rocks. And slowly the rest of her emerged… Eliza was back… after falling off the face of the earth. She was hungry, cold and after a few weeks of recouperating was ready again to return to WrenKraft.

This summer as you seek for a vacation from the heat, or want to keep your kids brains in shape during the break or seek a rare read as you lay out getting sunburned consider “choosing your own adventure” and making a comic book.

Here’s how I did it:

Of course there is more to it than simply drawing on pieces of paper folding them in half and stapling them together. Of course you could technically do just that, have yourself a comic and stop reading this… But let me break down a few creative recommendations to help you make a true treasure.

Comic creation isn’t as hard as it seems and really the only place you can go is up. It may be the cheapest hobby (literally the cost of a few sheets of paper and the allotted loss of ink or graphite from your medium of choice). Compare this to other crafts. And if it stinks toss it (don’t really- as least first scan a copy- you may find it humorous in the future).

Content: For a first comic write about what you know. Be it something you are familiar with (an office environment, raising kids, or sweaty bandmates). This doesn’t mean you can’t write for the fantasy world but be sure it’s a subject you’ve spent enough time with. Keep your first story very simple. I’ll go ahead and stop here as my confidence in myself as a literary teacher is quite low. If you’re here for fruitful writing content advice – my advice is to get it elsewhere – this is a craft blog and English was one of my worst subjects in school.
Moving onto actual dialogue: the dialogue in many graphic novels is sparse and filled with exclamations (my first instinct was to write expletives – which maybe that too – but it’s just a shining example of my grammar skills – that and for years believing it was called an explanation point). Buy back to my point, film school 101 teaches that it’s best to write with as little (if any) dialogue as possible to get your point across. I feel that’s healthy advice for comic writing as well.

Art: This is where it’s best to embrace what you have. No need to be Stan Lee.  If you’re in that ball park terrific, but stick figures can be just as engaging if done right. The concept should go hand in hand (or in comical contrast) with your visual style. This is what will make your book entertaining. Black and white (as I did) is a safe bet and can make your book double as a coloring book. If you chose to use color consider the feel of your scenes. One idea would be to pick 1-3 colors per page (even if a different set of three colors every other page). Use cool colors (blues especially) for darker/sadder scenes and warms for happier funnier ones. I’ll stop here with the art advice – as once again this is not the purpose of my blog.

Now that you supposedly have your story and visuals in mind let’s get to creating. No matter what you plan to use as a final product I would suggest beginning on plain paper. Films begin with storyboards and storyboards are basically comics, but whose to say your “storyboards” can’t have “storyboards” of their own. This is where you decide your final definite texts and who and what will be pictured in each frame. And who knows you may just like these prep copies enough to use them as the real thing. Once you have this mapped out pick your medium and work on transferring the work. Either mentally sketching all over again, tracing onto new paper, or scanning and working digitally. This is a great project for kids. If they have the patience and drive they can jump on the full project or if they would better handle a more focused role have them pick one. Let your 4 year old come up with a story then you make it come to life or maybe let your 2nd grader do the art.

I highly recommend and basically DEMAND that you scan (300 dpi+) your finished product. You could then use the digital version to make multiple copies, wrapping paper, or let your book double as a coloring book with no loss to the original. If nothing else, you put all of this work into it, you should preserve and digitize your work. Scanning is one of my “basic needs” when it comes to projects.

And finally Here are my creative platform ideas to add to or alter the above instructions…

-don’t forget your cliffhanger leading to a potential sequel- an ingredient in any good comic story.

Novel concepts

-trace over photos or images from magazines for your basis

-use old greeting cards (cut them all to the same size and use this as your base/background you draw over

-have your pages increase and decrease in size as they go

-for a baby friendly comic consider basic images using felt.

-if you’re really ambitious consider making it a pop up book, nothing says, “Pow” or “Whamm” like 3D

-create a great personalized gift for someone by making them the lead.

-for extra durability consider laminating or utilizing my Portable Laminating Technique.

How To Do Life

I’ve been away a while… for good reason as I’ve been working on something big… growing and raising humans! (I couldn’t resist – but I have seriously been working on something big in the WrenKraft realm) Stay tuned…
But if your interested in a fun spring project consider growing a kid! All of the instructions are included in this video and for more details may I recommend Dr Spock’s handbook as he goes into a bit more  detail on the subject. It’s a bit messy and not a discount project but it has a pretty cool result. Give it a try!


Fortune Telling

I opened my cookie and read… “You will receive a fortune…
True story – and how right it was. I must say though that cookie tasted especially bitter.
Fortune papers are one thing I hate to throw out. They seem to carry some superstition with them or maybe hopefulness and I have yet to see a home on Hoarders that is overrun by fortune papers.

For these examples I chose to cover a journal (this felt very appropriate in a Fortune Teller sort of way) and a mysterious box (this box is mysterious because I never know what my kids have removed and put inside of it). You could however apply this idea to anything big or small depending on how much you like Chinese Food. Cover a table for all I care… after spending $4000 at Panda Express…
The technique is pretty simple but first begin with an optional and time consuming method of organizing the fortunes by either subject, positive/negative energy or in this case: color. I created a loose pattern of red, black and blue so they were spaced fairly evenly. I think color organization is worth it and creates a more beautiful product while content ordering seems like a waste of time but to each your own. Once you have them laid out use a glue stick to stick them on to your surface. Next and finally use my Portable Laminating Technique, a familiar phrase to my readers. And there you have an awesome personalized product for yourself or if you’re not superstitious for someone else.

A Hole in the Head

When I was a kid I thought Mt Rushmore was one of the 7 Wonders of the World (there are several unofficial lists out there & even today I am pretty sure it’s in one of them). Only thing was that I thought it was one of the seven NATURAL wonders (not modern wonders). I remember being so amazed and thinking, “why aren’t we talking about this more… it’s beyond amazing… I mean, those four guys HAD to be president – right?!

Mt Rushmore was not the first “Stand-In” I made but it’s probably my favorite. It was crafted along with The Statue of Liberty for my son Roosevelt’s birthday. Liberty was his favorite- ever since his Halloween costume he’s been obsessed. The obsession will not end until he sees her in person.
Around bedtime on the day I revealed it to him he pulled me aside and whispered “a secret” into my ear, “I love the Statue of ‘Liver-ty’ you made for me so so much! I am so very happy… I love you!” This is one of the favorite moments of my time here on earth… Anyway, where was I?

I should mention – this was actually not the first birthday party for a brown eyed, bowl-cut, tan-haired, son of mine that I made Stand-Ins for. Django had a circus theme a few years back. You can see how much fun we had with them. They were pretty easy and really fun to make.

Here’s how I did it:

First I got a very large box with an unprinted and uncut side large enough for a decent cutout. If need be you can always go to a place like Sears or Lowes and ask for a refrigerator or dryer box. Cut out a rectangle as big as possible.

Next, sketch your design with a pencil. This may take a few tries to get the proportions decent for something so big but don’t worry about mistakes and extra lines everything will be painted over. Once it looks good trace the outlines with sharpie.

Then color it in with craft paint like a coloring book.

I could have filled the whole space on most of these but liked the cardboard color as a background. It fit well with the circus theme. Django painted the sky, trees and snow on Mt Rushmore. Finally I used a box cutter to cut the head shape. Some worked better than others. While I liked the idea of adding features such as the mustache and the clown nose they didn’t fit the human head too well. And even if it fit one person, you are going to have little and big heads so the simpler and smaller the cutout the better.

For Mt Rushmore I took it a step further… trying to offer a variety of combinations and also thinking it would be a difficult request to always have four people available for a photo. So I painted the full mountain, faces and all then carefully with a boxcutter sawed the faces out. They pop in and out like a puzzle so you can do any combination really.

Mapping Paper

Somewhere between South Carolina and Wisconsin lay all my family photos, video edits, scripts and entire music library…whether your drab furniture is in need of a makeover or you’re a warlord and you need a new “attack planning table” this is for you!

I had maps sitting around that were ripped but I hated to throw them out and I had a desktop that kept chipping paint and was in need of a covering…. hence the mother of invention… that’s me! This is only the beginning when it comes to “exploring” all of the possibilities with map crafting though. I will get into other examples a bit later…

Here’s how I did it:
First of all you need to measure your map and see if it fits. If it’s too large simply cut it (be careful what you cut off though). Keep the content spaced as you would like it. If possible keep land masses intact. If it’s too small simply center the map and paint the edges of your desktop the same color as the map edges.
Next get a glue stick and hopefully a fairly powerful one. You can use regular squeeze glue but will need to be careful to even out any bumps and from experience your arms can get quite tired doing this. Set your map on your desktop as you would like it to be place and hold it there with some heavy objects or masking tape. Then start with the farthest edge of your desk lift the map just in that spot and begin to spread about 3 inches of glue stick. Firmly press the map down over the glue and move onto the next 3 inches to cover in glue and so forth until you are finished. If you have a roller (even a cooking roller) run it over the map one more time to flatten any bubbles.
Now get some packing tape and using my Portable Laminating Technique cover the entire map and any edges you may have painted. For this project symmetry of tape pieces is the key to a nice looking work. You can use the latitude and longitude markings on your map for guidance to help keep these tape strips evenly spaced.
For the edge you will want to fold the tape all the way over and under your desktop for the right finish. And there you have it!

As I mentioned, you can use this same technique one many other projects. Here I converted my purchase box for my laptop into an explorer’s briefcase. Basically any flat surface works great for this concept.
Have fun and try not to take over the world!


The Science of Paper Dolls

Those of you who know me outside of this blog may be familiar with my music and those who know further may be familiar with the paper dolls I make for my albums. While these may seem cute and cuddly they are a furious mess to make, but in some weird way totally worth it!
The funniest thing about them is the REAL reason I wanted to make them… I was tired of trying on several different articles of clothing to decide on an outfit and wanted an easier way…easier…ha! Only thing was that it took me so long to get around to figuring out and finishing these little stinkers that by then the clothes either didn’t fit anymore or went out of style…but now they are immortalized in a carefree one dimensional world of a perfect fit and limitless fashion possibilities unreachable in the human realm.

I later ended up making a set for my entire band as seen here.

How I did it:
Trust me I’m saving you a lot of pain and suffering here. It took me several sets of photo sessions and dolls to figure out the best aesthetics and efficiencies.

You begin with a photo shoot:
Get some masking tape and mark exactly where your feet will stand. Set the camera up on a tripod and be sure it’s in focus and ready to go. Pick a comfortable pose that you can execute as precisely as possible. Don’t freak out about every millimeter but know that the better you do, the less work you will need to do in Photoshop.
Select your base outfit, assuming you don’t want to be naked that is. If you’re comfortable try a swimsuit or old fashioned underwear. If you’re not as comfortable get creative like a set of red long johns. (I used them in this set because: 1. He did the shoot in a t-shirt and shorts so I had to improvise. 2. I was trying to think of period undergarments to match the theme of the set – but whatever your reasons… Just know that  whatever is in your “undergarment” photo will have to reside under every article of clothing you chose to offer your paper doll to wear. In this case “less” is easier to work with.

Pick all of the articles of clothing and accessories that you would like to be included in the dolls and lay them out. Keep in mind that any wearables that are touching each other will be connected in the final piece. If your t-shirt hangs over your jeans a bit then they will be a combo. However, if your top doesn’t quite meet your pants then they can be cut into separate articles. Also, try to double up items and consolidate your shapshots as it’s a real time saver. So if you are wearing shorts and a tank go ahead and put on those snow-boots, sombrero and mittens along with it. As long as they are not touching each other they will be cut out as separate articles. This makes for some hilarious “behind the scenes” pics too.
Once you have your clothing set out and your pose, take a mental note of where your fingers are, how your head is tilted, etc. then snap your first picture. Next go run and change into your first article(s) of clothing and come back into your pose, snap your pic and run and change into your second and so on until you are done. This is the fun part.

Editing the product:
(insert instant Photoshop knowledge into brain of crafter) The easiest way to get a great product is through a photo editing program and here are the steps:
-trace/select every item of clothing
-test the fit on the base (underclothed) model
-make adjustments to fit
-move separated items to new page and arrange spaciously
-create small white rectangles (surrounded by dotted lines for added awesome)
-add rectangles to the sides of each article where it will need added support.
-depending on the quality of your photos consider color adjustments or even adding a cartoon filter to the whole lot of them.
-add a background and decoration if desired
-save as a pdf – HORRAY!
Hardcopy Only:
If you don’t have photo editing software and your model held true to their pose throughout the session then technically you could print out all of the photos and cut out each article individually. Next cut out small rectangles and glue them onto the back edges where support is needed.