Thursday, December 30, 2010

Botanic Drawings: Humulus Lupulus (Hops)

Technically not my first attempt at drawing plants (see these flowers), but my first faux-scientific looking one.  Humulus Lupulus, also known as Hops.   

These are the wonderful pens I use:

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Pet Portraits: Ted

In Memory of Ted

To see other Pet Portraits, click here

These are the pens I use:

Monday, December 20, 2010

DIY Water Balloon Ice Candle Holders (Luminaries)

I really enjoy making ice candle holders (luminaries) in the winter, and usually use a generic mold.  This year it was suggested to me to try making them out of water balloons.  The idea is simple: Take a standard balloon, fill with water, put outside to partially freeze.  Once an outer shell of ice has formed, rip the balloon off the ice and dump out the remaining water.  Add candle.

This turns out to be rather tricky.  I have done a few experiments so far and can not yet consistently get these to work, but if you're willing to risk a few failures, the final result is quite nice.  So here are my directions along with comments on what I've learned by doing this:

1) Inflate the balloon, then deflate it most (but not all) of the way, THEN add water.  The idea is to get a bubble of air (maybe an inch or so across, more if your candle will be bigger than a softball) inside the balloon.  I'm not entirely certain on the physics, but in my testing I have found that having that air bubble keeps the ice beneath it slightly thinner.  This means that when you take off the balloon, you will have a good place to make a hole through the sphere of ice.

2) Wipe off (dry) balloons before putting outside to freeze (you don't want them to freeze to the ground)

3) Check on the balloons periodically while freezing.  You don't want them to freeze all the way through!

4) You can use a key or other sharp object to tear the balloon off; it's pretty easy.

5) Very carefully break into the ice by gently tapping the flat surface where the air bubble had been.  This should be the thinnest ice, and break easier than other sections.  If you can't break this part, the ice has frozen too far, but at least you have a pretty ice ball.  If you can break this part, break a large enough circle that you can set a candle into it.  Don't forget to empty out the water!

6) Add a candle! You're done! If you're like me, you made one successful candle after four tries, but hopefully reading this means you've increased your likely hood of success.

EDIT:  If you fill the balloons all the way up and do not leave a space, you may end up with this: 

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

DIY Penguin Christmas Village: House

These are the main buildings in my Penguin Christmas Village.  I try to only make things that I can build and bake in one go, so I don't do a lot of buildings because they are tricky to make (the soft clay doesn't support itself well).  However, that same factor also gives them a nice, slightly gingerbread look, so it works out well.

See all the Penguin Christmas Village articles here!

How to make a Penguin Christmas Village House: 

First, start with a large roll of brown clay.  This should be at least five or six inches long.  Flatten this out, and make it as rectangular as possible, about an inch to an inch and a half tall.  Then, fold into a square.  These are the walls of your house.  Don't worry if they are not perfectly straight up and down (they won't be).  Pinch the corners to make them stay, and pinch the clay together where the walls over-lap.  This is the hardest part of the entire building! Once you have this done, the rest is easy.

 Now that you have your structure, make a small thin rectangle for the door, and add an even small ball of clay (flattened as well) as a door handle

 Next make a semi-circle out of green, then add two dots of red to make a wreathe.  For windows, start with a square of yellow on each side of the house.

Add a white trim border around the yellow square window, then a white cross-hatch.  The roof starts out as a large red rectangle, similar to how you made the original walls, but not as long. 

You can add a small chimney to the roof before putting it on the house.  Make a small fold in the middle of the roof to give it some slope, then place it on the building.  Add a rope of green clay for a garland. 

 Finish off the garland with some red dots, and you're done!

Bake at 275F for about 15 minutes to harden.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

DIY Penguin Christmas Village: Penguin Carolers

Christmas villages always need carolers, so I made a few to linger around lampposts and Christmas trees in town. 
Click here to see all Penguin Christmas Village articles!

How to make Penguin Carolers:

First, start with a Basic Penguin, but stop before adding the wings.  Take two small balls of clay, and flatten one.  Place the flat piece on the penguin's head, and then add the other ball on top.  Next, add wings, but have one going up, and one coming forward.  

 Take another piece of clay, and make a thin, flat, rectangle.  Attach this to the belly of the penguin, and touching the outstretched wing.  Add eyes with a toothpick.  Finally, open the beak by using a butter-knife or other thin flat surface and gently moving up and down.  You're done!  I like to group my carolers in at least pairs, but they also work well in larger groups.  For fancier carolers, try adding a scarf!

Bake at 275F for about 15 minutes to harden

Thursday, December 9, 2010

DIY Penguin Christmas Village: Pipe and Drum

Click Here for all of the Penguin Christmas Village Articles!

Any Christmas scene needs a pipe and drum, so here's my Penguin version:

How to Make a Penguin Drummer:

 First, start with a Basic Penguin, but don't add wings.  Place a round ball of clay on the belly of the penguin, and flatten the top.  Next, add a small flat piece of clay (the drum head), and finally wings to hold the drum.

 For the final touch, add two drum sticks (very thin rolls of clay).  You're done!

How to Make a Penguin Piper: 

 This is super easy.  Start with the Basic Penguin, then add wings as if the penguin is trying to give someone a hug.  Add a thin roll of clay over the wings as a pipe (and under the beak) and you're done!

Bake at 275F for about 15 minutes to harden

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

DIY Penguin Christmas Village: Lamp Post

Click Here for all DIY Penguin Christmas Village articles!

Here's how to make a Lamp Post for your Penguins.  They come in handy for carolers who wish to gather around and sing!

How to make a Penguin Christmas Village Lamp Post:

Start with a small roll of black clay.  Smush one end into the ground to make a base.  Then, add a small ball of black clay on top (you can also make this rounded top out of the original piece of clay).

 Next, add four flat pieces of yellow to each side of the top of the lamp.  Then roll a very thin green string (garland) and wrap it around the lamp.

Finally, add tiny red dots to the garland, and you're done!
Bake at 275F for about 15 minutes to harden

Sunday, December 5, 2010

DIY Penguin Christmas Village: Scarves and Ice-Skaters

Click here for all Penguin Christmas Village articles!

These are two super easy ways to take a regular Christmas Village Penguin, and make them a bit more unique.  These two penguin characters both start with the Basic Penguin, then add extra pazazz (is that how you spell that?).  So, to start out, make two Basic Penguins.  Then continue on with the directions below :)

How to Make a Christmas Penguin with Scarf

To make a scarf, make a very small roll of clay, then flatten it out.  Using a flat edge (you can even use your finger nails), make a number of small dents into either end of the scarf.  Carefully wrap the scarf around your penguin (you don't need to press it into the penguin to make it stay).  You're done!  Penguins with Scarves make excellent bystanders in a Penguin Christmas Village.

Bake at 275F for about 15 minutes to harden

How to Make an Ice-Skating Penguin:

Ice skates are just a larger roll of clay (I used red and green), with a much smaller roll of white clay beneath.  For 'action' skates, place one slightly forward and tilting upwards on your penguin, and the other slightly behind and tilting downwards.  To make an ice rink, just make an outline out of white sculpey, and if you like, add some green pine trees.  You're done!

Bake at 275F for about 15 minutes to harden