human behavior

DIY Brick Bookends

Posted in Crafts by humanb on December 3, 2013

My due date was two days ago, but I’m not complaining since I only just finished my final nursery craft project yesterday: a pair of bookends made from bricks.

Like other craft projects, this one wasn’t original. You can watch a video on how to make brick bookends here and below are a few photos of different projects I found online. Each project has its charm, though the bricks are transformed into books with varying degrees of realism and flair.

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The simplest transformations involve hand-written text and hand-drawn lines, and the bricks are obviously not real books. As the script and detail improve, so does the illusion…

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One Australian guy seems to have made a successful business out of producing brick bookends. The Melbourne-based company, Light Reading, produces brick books with the use of stencils (it seems).

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Some of the Light Reading creations look more realistic than others.

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And some are decidedly more artistic and inspired in their design: proper works of art.

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The quality and defects of the brick clearly help shape the end result in the most successful pieces.

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But you still always know that they’re bricks somehow.

I’m not sure how much Light Reading charges for its bricks (before shipping) but I doubt any price would entice me to buy something I could make myself. It’s just a brick, after all, though in some instances, gorgeously transformed.

Alas, I decided mine needn’t be gorgeous, hip or inspired for my final nursery project. I’d settle for fun. 🙂

Of course, this project would only make sense to me if I already had the raw materials required to complete it. To my great fortune, my mother-in-law had her front driveway partially re-paved a few years ago.

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And had 80-odd pavers left over that sat forgotten behind her car port.

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I didn’t bother cleaning the bricks. They were still in almost pristine condition, so had a new look about them which already dictated that I would have a cleaner, neater end-product.

My first step was simply to cover the long edge and short edges that would represent the book ‘pages’ with painter’s tape…

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Before painting my ‘book covers’ with acrylic paint…

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Once the ‘book cover’ was dry, I re-applied tape to paint the ‘pages’.

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I asked my husband what children’s book titles he preferred, and he offered Treasure Island. I decided my blue book would make the best Treasure Island – a purely coincidental replication of one of the Light Reading bricks above. For my other two titles, I chose Lord of the Flies (to be in black) and The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (to be in green).

Before applying the text along the spines, however, I decided to create thematic symbols for each title. After a quick search for the right clip art, I made simple reverse stencils from index cards.

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After painting a block of gold or silver along the spines, I applied the reverse stencils and repainted over the entire area in the book cover color, leaving only the gold or silver behind the stencil remaining.

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With the aid of painter’s tape, I painted simple lines along the spines as well. Only one brick received any special treatment to its front cover though. After applying the larger anchor to the cover of my Treasure Island book, I decided that I wouldn’t attempt to do more to any of the covers. I just couldn’t be bothered.

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At this stage, I was delighted with my brick books, their degree of realism, the simplicity of the design and the ease of the project. Things got a lot harder, however, when it came to considering the text.

I initially tried to handwrite the text with gold and silver markers and my husband wasn’t impressed. I admit that the results were sub-optimal. That I was writing with the swollen, stiff and painful hands of a pregnant woman post-term didn’t help.

Next, I tried to find an alphabet stencil small enough to paint the text, letter-by-letter, but I couldn’t find anything in the local stores and didn’t want to order anything online and wait for it to ship.

I even tried to create a stencil by printing text on card stock and painstakingly carving the letters out with an Exacto knife. That was a tedious exercise in failure.

I finally had to settle for gold alphabet stickers and found only one kind that could work. I was limited by the font, and the letters could have been slightly smaller, but I’m pretty happy with the result.

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I had to settle for the authors’ initials at the top because the letters were too large. The initials at the bottom represent the faux publisher, the first letter of my husband and my surnames.

As I only had gold adhesive letters, I painted them silver for Lord of the Flies with a liquid silver pen.

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Sure, it’s a tight squeeze for the text of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, but I think this set of bookends achieves what I wanted for the nursery in terms of aesthetics…

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And function…

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One bookend was all that was needed for the windowsill.

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And the other two will hold a few books on top of the chest of drawers.

lion_treasure_context

So now my work is done! No more nursery craft projects to complete before the baby is born. Of course, I’m two days over due already, and my doctor won’t induce labor until I’m 12 days overdue.

So if you’re interested in what other craft projects I might complete in future, stay tuned, because I may just need to find something to do over the next week. 😉

A Grown-Up’s Nursery Mobile

Posted in Art, Crafts, Home improvement by humanb on November 7, 2013

In March I wrote a post about my weight loss on the 5:2 Diet. I lost seven pounds in three weeks on calorie restriction alone, and had every intention of continuing my experiment when something unexpected happened.

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Our baby is due in three weeks and we won’t discuss how much I weigh now. Sufficed to say, all weight loss experiments are on hold until December and I’ve shifted gears to more creative endeavours now that I’m officially on maternity leave.

My husband and I live in a 1.5 bedroom unit in Sydney, and as the second, smaller room serves as a very necessary study, the baby will share a bedroom with us. This means two things:

1) This boy will not be accumulating more stuff than is necessary given space constraints (and my resistance to gross materialism in general); and

2) Our bedroom will now have to harmonize the tastes of three different people to become something neither too adult nor too infantile.

In other words, no cartoon choo choo trains on the walls, but no more muted colours either.

After clearing the wall on my side of the room, I invested in the Grotime Turin Cot, a European space-saving crib considerably smaller than the standard, and bought an Ikea Hemnes Chest of Drawers to store our new roommate’s clothing and other bits and bobs.

That leaves the fun but challenging task of decorating a baby’s space in a grown-up’s room.  What better place to start than with a nursery mobile?

So that was project number one. A quick search of nursery mobiles yielded lots of delicate and cutesy (but boring) examples; just as much garish and clichéd kiddy stuff; and a smaller number of DIY, crafty pieces of varying appeal.

But one mobile featured on Pinterest stood out among the rest.

yarn_mobile

Glorious, simple, colourful yarn balls!

This one was deceiving, however, as it was more a long line of suspended balls of yarn than a proper mobile, and would not have worked nearly as well above a crib as it does in a brick-walled loft.

But the idea was a gem, and a Google search of “yarn mobiles” yielded plenty of other examples. Given my lust for upcycling, recycling, leftovers and used everything, I was delighted that I’d found a mobile whose materials I didn’t have to buy. I knew my mother would have plenty of scrap yarn from the crocheted hats and blankets she makes under the brand GaGa Originals.

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So once my box of scrap yarn arrived from the US, I set to work. Thinking, that is. It took a surprisingly long time to decide how to tackle this project…

Which colours do I use? How do I make the balls? Do I make them different sizes or the same size? How do I hang the balls? How many balls on a string? How do they stay fixed on the string? What kind of string? What should the string hang from? How long and how wide should the whole thing be?

In the end, I was fairly happy with my choices.

mobile_nursery

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But this project was more difficult to complete than it looks.

Choosing My Colors. My mother sent me more colors than I ultimately used, and four different types of yarn. I had hoped to only use the Lion Suede, with its soft, velvety texture (see the green, for example), but I found the palette too limited as I didn’t have enough, so I was forced to use the coarser yarn as well. After spending several days(!) selecting my colors, I realised the palette was still wanting for lack of any orange. Reluctantly, I hit the craft store and bought a ball of orange yarn of an entirely different texture from everything else. To my relief, it worked just fine and communicated nicely with the hair of my childhood Annie doll.

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With only small amounts of my favourite colours, I had to find a way to make them stretch, so I decided to use styrofoam balls that I could wrap with the absolute minimum amount of yarn. Of course, that meant having to go back to the craft store to buy styrofoam balls. 😦

Creating the Yarn Balls. Having looked at a number of mobiles online that used balls of varying sizes, I decided the effect was interesting at the expense of elegance, so made all the balls the same size for my project.

Most of the tutorials online involved randomly wrapping yarn into or on to a ball. Only one tutorial advocated a single layer technique using glue. The effect seemed cleaner but proved impossible (for me) to execute.

Glue_Balls

Clearly, my craft glues were too toxic for the styrofoam, as they ate away at the darn things before I could get any yarn around them. When I tried a less toxic glue of weaker strength, I found it impossible to get the yarn to stay put or to stay clean. The green ball represents my abandonment of that technique for a simple wrap-around approach with a small dot of nontoxic glue to seal the end. Note the small dot of discolouration from glue on the centre orange ball pictured below. Once I’d realised how easy it could be, I finished the lot in no time.  😉

mobile_yarn

Threading the Balls. Initially I thought clear fishing wire would work best, creating a floating effect like in the brick-walled loft example. But my husband convinced me that it was an inappropriate mix of ideas and materials and that twine was a better partner to yarn than fishing wire or string.

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Threading the balls was easy enough with an extra-large (and long) sewing needle. Securing the balls on the string was as easy as tying a knot in the twine before the next ball was strung, leaving roughly 3 inches between each ball for symmetry.

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Suspending the Balls.  Most of the mobiles online suspended the balls from one or more wooden rings. After initially trialling a single wooden ring, I decided it looked too nursery-esque, and opted for the equally traditional but edgier wooden cross.

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To create the cross, I chose the extremely lightweight material, balsa wood, which is remarkably easy to dent and score, but reliably strong. After staining the wood, I glued two pieces together, wrapped the centre in copious amounts of twine, and wrapped the four ends with blue Lion Suede. Before tying the strands of yarn balls to the cross, I scored its four sides where I planned to tie the strands.

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The addition of a large ball suspended from the middle was an afterthought when I realised the project still seemed to be lacking something. I have my husband to thank for the suggestion that it be red, a colour I generally dislike, but acknowledge has a particular vibrancy.

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The Finished Product. The end result is a mobile that I think can appeal to grown-ups and babies alike, with its simple forms, vibrant colour, different textures and nods to both traditional and contemporary elements. This mobile proves that art, craft and interior design need not be infantile to appeal to infants. There’s no reason that I know of why a baby would prefer a collection of cartoony stuffed elephants, half moons and owls hanging over his head instead of this.

Completing the Space. The abstract paintings on the nursery wall were painted by my two nieces a few years ago. They’re a bit too free-form to remain there, I think, but they’re fun place-fillers for a future project. The children’s book was written and illustrated by a family friend and will move when I make a proper home for the baby’s burgeoning library. The baby shoes were my mother’s from the 1950s and will remain there. And the Ikea chest of drawers is begging to be hacked, as soon as I figure out how to embellish it.

Whatever the final design, it will hopefully blend well with the rest of the room, while clearly defining the baby’s dedicated space. There’s still plenty to be done in terms of storage solutions, decoration and final placement of things.

But I reckon my old Annie is there to stay.

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Easy End Table Mosaic

Posted in Art, Crafts by humanb on October 11, 2012

My husband would love to see the end of my mosaic-madness (and my used furniture shopping). But I’ve got plenty of tiles left which really shouldn’t go to waste, and I found a gorgeous little used end table for only $15, asking only for a new surface.

The beauty of this project was that I could cover most of the surface of the table with only a few tiles, and most of the tiles were already connected with netting.

It took less than an hour to glue all of my tiles on to the surface.

It took even less time to grout the table with my favourite black-coloured grout.

Here’s the final result:

It kind of reminds me of a board game surface, but I think it looks more elegant than kitsch. Art deco maybe?

Regardless, this little end table is easily ten times prettier than it was before.

Huzzah!

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