Toy To The World Project 2017

Toy to the World Project is back for 2017 and I’m really excited to take part in it again. TTTW is a charity event and exhibition that raises funding for HIV support and research. Artists customise a vinyl Popobe bear which are then exhibited and auctioned.

You can read more about the Melbourne based event here.

This years exhibition Opening Night is Wednesday 11th October 2017 @ ArtBoy Gallery 99 Greville st. Prahan from 6pm.

I’m currently working away on two bears, they’re not finished yet but I thought I’d share some progress pics because sooo much detail is going into them. I’m aiming to kick my past years entries’ butts.

This is my set up.. 101 things happening at my computer desk. No shame.

(Desktop Image by Von Wong Photography)

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I’m using Sculpey to make all the little toadstools and Derivan Matisse acrylic paints. These will be for the large 10 inch bear.

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This little guy is my 6 inch bear. I painted him with acrylic paint (at least 2 coats) and added a protective layer using Jo Sonja’s Matte Varnish. I still need to add the accessories: necklace, staff/wisdom stick and antlers.

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To be continued..

 

 

 

Weird things for weird people

I’m at it again, making more of these creepy little critters.. dead mummified faery specimens!

This time around I’ve added a few extra details like jewelry, hair beads and I’m also experimenting with real insect and butterfly wings. The back of each piece will have a label which includes the specimen # and the faerie’s name. (or if unknown it will be the title of the artwork)

Two were recently in an exhibition at Rustic Simplicity in Alexandra, Victoria which is pretty sweet. It’s been a while since I exhibited anything. I’m very excited to say they were both lucky enough to find new homes! So I have since been working merrily away on making lots more. I’m planning to have a market stall later in the year (and maybe one even sooner!?) so it’s nice to have something to work towards. I’ll be/am making lots of other goodies for my stall so I’ll try my best to keep you updated.. or you can always check out my facebook and instagram for behind the scenes pictures.

Of course if you’re not local but are interested in a faery of your own, shoot me a message and I can arrange to put some in my Etsy store.

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The Faery in the Key Cabinet

Behold!

The Faery in the Key Cabinet.

Or should I say the Mystery of the Faery in the Key Cabinet! But that was too long for the heading. Point is, this little masterpiece holds a secret and it’s up to the possessor to unravel the story..

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The story begins with a dead faery locked inside a cabinet. The mystery is, WHO put her there? WHY? And WHERE are they now?

This is a one of a kind, never done before (to my knowledge) interactive mystery artwork! Not only is it a beautifully macarbe and unusual piece to hang on your wall, it has a series of clues to lead you through and find the answers to those mysterious questions.

On the back of the cabinet is an envelope and inside is a letter to the possessor and a newspaper clipping to set the scene.

Each detail is handmade, dyed, written, created and/or designed. (Except for the cabinet, I bought that) Needless to say, I have spent a lot of time working on this little beauty. It has been a work in progress for about a year.

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On the side of the cabinet is this secret code which will tell you how to get inside the cabinet. Can you work it out? (I’ve given you a clue by rotating the photo.)

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Once inside the cabinet you will find a collection of keys, green moss and the rest of the puzzle. There are diary pages, a scroll and sealed envelope which will lead you to a hidden message to complete the story.

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Pretty cool huh!? I think so! I hope to enter her into an exhibition sometime but until then, she’s hanging out with me in my loungeroom.

Waiting.

Whispering..

‘Help me’

Hehe.

Magical Rainbow Unicorn Chocolate

It’s magical.. it’s rainbow.. it’s unicorn chocolate.

Yeah, you read that right.

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Oh my goddess this stuff is super easy to make and you can totally twist the recipe to create anything you wish. Choose your own colours, flavours, sprinkles, dried fruit, nuts, go crazy!

I found this recipe by the delightfuly creative and quirky Katherine Sabbath on her instagram account. She’s the Queen of colourful treats. If you’re not following her you soon will be, check out her amazing talent right here.

For my version of this recipe I used:

  • 700g White chocolate melts (divided into 4 microwave safe containers)
  • Pink and blue food dye
  • Rainbow pearls
  • Sugar strands
  • Rainbow crackling candy

(You can find Katherine’s original recipe here.)

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Line a tray with baking paper to start with and prepare all your toppings so they’re ready to go.

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Melt the chocolate in short bursts in the microwave. I put mine in for about 15 seconds and stirred until completely melted. Add a few drops of food dye at a time. I used pink, blue, then both to make purple and left one container without dye.

Pour melted chocolate onto the tray and swirl using a skewer. I wasn’t able to take pictures because the chocolate was already beginning to thicken so I had to work quickly! Sprinkle on your toppings and put in the fridge to set.

 

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Once it’s ready just break it up into large pieces! I put these into lolly bags for a birthday party but they also make amazing cake decorations!

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‘Dream Catcher’ M+P Soap

After making my very first ever batch of soap and still feeling productive.. I washed everything and jumped head first into another batch I wanted to try out.

Lavender, Chamomile and Bergamot ‘Dream Catcher’ Soap

For this soap I wanted to blend calming, relaxing scents and try adding a natural colour with Brazillian purple clay. I had grand ideas of swirling the purple into a pure white soap but that didn’t happen.

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From the soap base sampler pack I chose to use the Shea butter for this soap. I also selected Lavender, Chamomile and Bergamot essential oils, the Brazillian purple clay as mentioned and I remembered a bag of dried lavender I had so what the hell I’ll use some of that too.

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I melted down the 500g Shea soap base and figured I’d just use it all in 5 of the 6 x 100g sections of my mould. But THEN I found an old chocolate mould I had and thought I’d try making soaps with that too. Of course once I use the mould for soap I can’t go back and use it for food but that’s ok I hadn’t used it in years. It’s for soaps now.

Before the soap had completely melted I sprinkled some dried lavender into 2 of the moulds. This is all a learning experience for me so I may as well try a few ideas as I go. The other 2 soaps I would sprinkle the lavender on top like I did with the oats on the bee soaps.

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Tip: Don’t be too rough trying to scrape down the sides – notice the soap sprayed onto my drawers? At least it’s an easy clean up!

When the soap base had melted I added 10 drops of each essential oil and stirred well. Very carefully I poured the mixture into 4 of the moulds leaving enough room to add some purple. When I poured into the moulds with lavender it immediately pushed the lavender away and I couldn’t see exactly what happened but I knew the sprinkling idea hadn’t worked, the tiny pieces of lavender were probably too light and didn’t stay put. Lesson learned.

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I made sure I left some melted soap in the jug and I mixed about 1/2 a tsp of Brazillian purple clay with some water then added it to the left overs. It was a very grey colour to begin with. However by the time I added it to the soaps they had already hardened enough that the purple didn’t mix! It just layered itself on top. I tried poking around with a skewer but it was no use and my swirling idea flew out the window. Lesson 2 learned. That’s ok though, the layer effect would look cool anyway. I added some lavender to the top of 2 of them and let them set. Meanwhile I’d also poured some mixture into the chocolate mould too.

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Can you tell what they are?

Time to wait..

24 Hours later was the best part.. popping out my soaps and checking them out! The scent was really strong. It was lovely, but my almost 4 year old didn’t like it one bit. He kept telling me it was too stinky and asked me to take it out of the room. HA!

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Here you can see the two bottom soaps had the lavender in the mould and as a result it has dispersed through the soap. I quite like the look of it actually. The one on top obviously had the lavender sprinkled on top which I think I prefer. The other soap I made had the lavender fall off completely so I musn’t have pressed it down into the soap properly or maybe the soap had dried too much. Lesson 3.

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All the soaps!

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They were teapots and tea cups! Very tiny these soaps are but they’d make good travel size soaps. Perhaps with green tea.. oh so many more ideas to try!

Beginner’s guide to Melt and Pour soap

Making soap is one of those things I’ve wanted to try for a long time but the whole corrosive acid thing kinda scared me off.

But recently I started looking into it and it didn’t seem so scary afterall. What’s even better is you can start off with a simple melt and pour method where you melt a pre-made soap base so you avoid using the acid (lye) alltogether. They even come in ready to go starter kits! Excellent.

I still want to try out making soap from scratch but I thought I’d give this a go first. So I went online and ordered me a shit tin of samplers. (For those unfamiliar with Australian slang, a ‘shit tin’ means a lot)

Like a kid in a candy store..

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I bought all this from Aussie Soap Supplies and the utensils were from the supermarket.

Pictured above is:

  • Oatmeal M&P kit with 1kg Oatmeal & Shea soap base, mould and fragrance
  • Melt and pour (M&P) soap base sampler with 6 x 500g blocks of assorted soap bases
  • Essential oil starter pack
  • Alcohol and spritzer
  • Rectangle soap mould
  • Purple Brazillian clay
  • Shredded loofah (Free!)

Melt and Pour soap making is just as the name suggests. You melt the soap base, add your scents and colours, then pour the mixture into a mould to set. It doesn’t even need curing, so it’s ready to use once it has hardened.

When I finally had a free afternoon and the kids were asleep and/or occupied I set out to make me some soap. First up was the Oatmeal soap kit.

Oatmeal & Shea Soap with Honey and Wildflower Honey Fragrance

Please note – The Oatmeal kit came with a fragrance oil which is not an essential oil. Both are different and therefore treated differently so be sure to do some research before using.

For this recipe I used a soap mould that had 5 x 50g sections. (250g total)

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I chopped up and weighed 250g of Oatmeal and Shea soap base. Chopping it into little cubes makes it easire to melt. I melted it in the microwave for 10 seconds at a time (They say 30 seconds on low but I didn’t know how to change the settings on the microwave so I went with 10 seconds to be safe) in a glass measuring jug, stirring each time. The base melted faster than I expected but also hardened quickly so I had to work fast.

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Once melted I added 1 tbls of honey and about 50 drops of Wildflower Honey fragrance oil. Then I spritzed each mould with alcohol and carefully poured the mixture into each 50g bee soap mould. After that I spritzed the soaps with alcohol again to pop the bubbles. I’m not entirely sure why you need to spray the moulds before pouring the soap but that’s what all the youtubers say so I’m going with it. Watch out for the fumes, they stiiink..

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As a finishing touch I also sprinkled some oats onto the back of each soap.

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Too easy!

I left the soaps for 24 hours before taking them out of their moulds and taking them on a photoshoot.

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Ta da! How cool do they look? The smell is divine! The only thing I’d change about this recipe is that I’d prefer to use essential oils. But as a beginner I’m really happy with how these guys turned out.

Recipe:

  • 250g Oatmeal and Shea Soap Base
  • 1 tbls Honey
  • 50 drops Wildflower Honey Fragrance
  • Oats for sprinkling

Equipment:

  • 1 litre Glass Measuring Jug
  • Spatula
  • Mould – 5 x 50g
  • Alcohol and Spritzer

Experimenting with Watercolours

I have been having a ton of fun playing around with my new watercolour set!

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Check out that brush that came with it! I’ve never seen one before. You can take the top off and fill it with water, so as I paint I can give it a squeeze for more liquid, it’s genius! I’m probably the last person to even find out about this but I’m so bloody wrapped I have. It’s the gift that keeps giving!

Oh my goddess, let me tell you – it is so much easier having a palette of paint ready to go when you have children.

I used to wait until I knew I had at leasttwenty minutes to myself then work out the colours I needed, squeeze out paint from each tube and try to use it up before it dried. This was quite difficult to acheive when you’re being interrupted by two sweet little cherubs and a darling husband.

Dry watercolour from a tube can be reused but only as a light coloured wash (in my experience anyway) and it can also become gritty, leaving little chunks of pigment on the painting.

All I have to do now is wet my paint brush and away I go!

And away I have gone indeed. I started off trying to paint a feather which turned out to be tricker than I expected. Next thing I know I’ve painted 20 feathers. Then I just kind of went with whatever inspired me at that very moment.

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Meanwhile I’ve been studying the watercolour works of Iris Compiet, Amy Brown and Lora Zombie for inspiration, ideas and techniques. Those ladies are brilliant!

I might also add that I’ve never had lessons in watercolour, I’ve always made it up as I went. Now I’m starting to look up tutorials on youtube and it’s like I’m seeing with new eyes! Gosh these paints rock!watercolour2

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And what’s this.. a portrait? Not my strong point but I would like practice more. So I did. Do you know who it is?lagertha

 

2016 A Year in Review

2016 was a big one for us, with the purchase of our first home in April and the arrival of our second little cherub, Toby! So understandably I was a little slow on the creative side, but I did manage to have a fairly productive year, considering.

I completed four watercolour artworks including two illustrations ‘Caleb Clarke’ and a remake of ‘Darcy Plum’. (the first painting of Darcy had some additional squiggles from my 2 year old) I also painted ‘Windswept’ for a magical fairy gift box and ‘Toby’s Dragon’ for our new little man. And I finally got around to painting toadstools on a piece of wood I had.

Just recently I contributed to a colouring in book for Rafiki Mwema, to raise funds for their children’s home. The book is available now on their website, check it out! The theme was ‘Africa’ so I drew an African warrior goddess to represent the fighting spirit of the young girls living in the Queen’s Castle.

To make up for lack of artworks last year I did do a lot of crafting, so here’s what went down..

I had a lot of fun putting together the Magical Fairy Gift Box! Complete with little letters, trinkets, surprises, and the original artwork ‘Windswept’ hidden in the lid.

DIY’d the hell out of a little chest of drawers for baby, from hubby’s hard rubbish pile to nursery ready.

I made a batch of hanging toadstools, a handful of minis and a few dream catchers. Leading up to Christmas I became all crazy eyed with festivity, making lots of decorations with Oscar and singing carols. Yes, loudly.

Also during the festive season I made a little fund raiser to build a well in cambodia and it was a huge success, selling all my Karma Stars within 48 hours and raising $225!

Not a lot happened on the photography side of things.. but I was a finalist for one of the weekly competitions with Camera House for their theme ‘Family’ with the picture below left. They also used my image from the year before as one of their top favourites, woo hoo!

I attended my first ‘Blog hop’ taking part in the annual Mad Hatters Tea Party by A Fanciful Twist. It was an interesting way to meet other artists and bloggers by inviting them to my online party and popping into all theirs for some virtual tea and cake. Also made for a fun photoshoot.

And finally I entered a ‘through the looking glass’ comp for Threadless, which I didn’t win but I put a lot of work into my entries so I can’t not share it again.

Oh so much work.. but a good learning experience too.

Bring on 2017! I hope to focus more on my Etsy shop and work towards having a market stall at some point. I’d really like to paint a bit more too, but I’ll see how I go being home with 2 kidlets this year, I have a feeling I’m going to be one super busy mama.

To be continued..

 

Karma Stars and building wells in Cambodia

I have an amazing friend who has been raising money to build wells in rural Cambodia, enabling the people in remote villages access to clean water. So far she has funded 13 wells and counting.. I’m so proud to know such wonderful people!

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Of course, I want to help. So I decided to make some Christmas decorations and try selling them with all profits being donated to building the next well. Each one costs US$230. (About $315 Australian) Even if I only raised a little, something is better than nothing.

I made 10 teracotta coloured clay stars and decorated them with gold leaf, twine and beads. I called them ‘Karma Stars’ because upon purchasing them you instantly get good karma for supporting such a great cause.

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As it turns out I sold each and every one for $20 each, in less than 48 hours! Then I realised I can’t count because I’d actually made 11 stars.. but then I sold the extra one too. Go me.

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All together we raised $220! Only $95 short of a well but still an amazing effort and certainly more than I can afford to donate on my own right now. I covered the postage with my own money as my ‘donation’ towards the cause. I’m pretty proud of my efforts, and super stoked to know so many generous souls!

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If you’d like to help too you can make donations to the Cambodian Buddhism Association for Vulnerable Children.

 

 

 

Welcome to the World little one

On Thursday, November 17th at 11:59pm our second son was born. We named him Toby. (The babe with the power)

I’m a very proud mama and can’t help but bomb you with some baby photos, so here’s a few of my favourite pictures of our new little man..

[Equipment used: Canon DSLR 70D with 50mm lens]

Read about my top 5 portrait photography tips here!

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Credit: Above photo taken by my 3.5 year old, Oscar! Never too young to start learning.img_2724img_2727img_2737img_2741img_2747

Christmas Crafternoon with Kids

It’s that time again.. Christmas is coming! Yeah!

As you may know I’m a sucker for Christmas crafts and getting right into the spirit of it. This year we have our very first (big) Christmas Tree! Our little man is 3 1/2 now so Christmas is about to take on a whole new meaning to our growing family and I couldn’t be more excited.

So what better way to get into the Christmas spirit then get our craft on? Also helps when I’m heavily pregnant on maternity leave and need to keep my toddler amused with something that doesn’t use up too much energy.

Together we’ve made two lots of Christmas decorations, some for our new tree and some as gifts.

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Golden Doves

  • Wooden or clay decorations
  • String or twine, if needed
  • Acrylic paint – metalic gold
  • Glue
  • Assorted beads, bits’n’bobs

To make the doves I used wooden dove decorations from last year. If you can’t find any (I bought mine from Oxfam online but they may not have the same type this year) you could make the shapes using air drying clay.

I painted the decorations gold and decided we’d use only gold coloured beads. Because, well, when I’m involved in a collab with my son I tend to take the role of art director. You know, guide his creations so they’re not too ‘fluro macaroni necklace’ type things.

While going through my large collection of beads, bits’n’bobs I ended up gathering all sorts of gold pieces including charms, chains and clips etc.

When everything was set up to go Oscar helped me to apply glue and he added all the gold beads and bits.

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Clay Decorations

  • Air drying clay
  • Cookie cutters
  • String or twine
  • Glue
  • Acrylic paint – We used metalic gold, silver, bronze and mint green
  • Mixed beads

Making clay decorations is super easy. You can buy air drying clay at most craft shops and it’s pretty cheap.

All you need to do is roll out some clay and use the cookie cutters to make your shapes. Use a straw to poke a hole in the top for the string.

Now from here you can either leave them to dry overnight as they are, or you can play around with prints on the soft clay. We experimented with some alphabet stamps but I soon realised Oscar was a little young for this as he smushed up lots of the shapes with repetitive stamping. We managed to save one.

Once dry you’re ready to paint the decorations woo! I was going to stick with metalics again but Oscar insisted on green so we added that too. We both had a play painting the decorations, and I may have added some metalic edges to his because I couldn’t help myself. He liked it though 🙂

I added some glue to the Christmas trees and let Oscar add any coloured beads he liked, not just gold this time. I however chose the string and twine.

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DIY – Dead Faery Tutorial

Ah Halloween is drawing closer.. so as a treat I thought I’d share with you how I make my dead faery sculptures.

Faery Specimen # 1
Dead Faery Corpse

When I first tried to make a dead faery I searched the internet and could only find one tutorial, which I have since tweaked to my liking and come up with my own way of making them.

You’ll need:

  • Toy skeleton – being Halloween you should be able to find them in stores. If not, I buy mine on ebay here.
  • Stanley knife
  • PVA glue
  • Tissue paper – brown (I have also used crepe paper but I prefer tissue)
  • Acrylic paint – brown tones
  • Acrylic paint – metallic gold (optional)
  • Hair – I cut some off a wig.

For the Wings:

  • Printable plastic sheet (Search ebay)
  • Wire (optional)
  • PVA Glue
  • Acrylic paint

Presentation:

So far I have displayed my faeries in shadow boxes, jars, a key cabinet and I’m currently working on a display box with a glass lid and a lantern. For the shadow boxes shown in these images I used..

  • A shadow box (got mine from Bunnings)
  • Paper for the backdrop (consider colours, textures and patterns)
  • Paint
  • PVA glue
  • Trinkets – consider dried flowers, little glass jars, feathers, making weapons from sticks etc.
  • Labels
  • Anything else you can think of!

 

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Instructions:

Step 1:

Start by bending and/or breaking apart the skeleton to create your desired position. I usually start by cutting off the arms and legs so I can bend them and stick them back onto the torso later. It depends how you want the finished faery to look, in some cases I make them sit so I can put them into a jar.

Step 2:

Apply torn pieces of tissue paper to the skeleton to build up skin. I tend to add more to the joints and leave some bone showing. Add layers until you’re happy with it. Glue all the parts back together and add more tissue paper to hold the limbs firmly.

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Step 3:

Paint your corpse! I use brown tones, but you could play with any colours you wish. I use a dark colour to start with then gently brush on lighter tones, ending with a touch of metallic paint. this is a good way to bring out details such as the rib cage and skull.

Step 4:

I then glue on hair which is tricky and I’m still working on what type of hair to use, but at the moment I just chop some off a wig and attach it best I can.

The Wings:

Step 1:

Find a picture online of the faery wings you’d like to use. I found photos of cicada wings, arranged them on an A4 sheet and printed onto the printable plastic sheet.

Step 2:

Before cutting out each wing I carefully score the shape of the wing veins with a sharp impliment. This is an added detail for reflecting light to make the wings look more realistic. Of course real wings would work a treat if you can get some!

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Step 3:

Adding wire to the wings is optional. If I’m mounting a faery in a shadow box I tend not to worry, but if the faery is in a jar or I want to bend the wings into shape then I’ll add a thin piece of wire to the top edge of the wings. This can be fiddly, but basically I measure enough wire to join 2 wings together, and carefully glue along the top edge of each wing. Gently bend the wire to fit the arch and leave overnight to dry.

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Step 4:

Add some paint to cover up the wire, and a bit extra to make the wings look a bit old and used.

Finally, glue the wings to your corpse and have fun displaying your little dead faery!

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Tip: Place faery inside shadow box before you glue it down just incase it doesn’t fit. You might need to move the limbs.

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Add labels if you like either printed ones or hand written.

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This weapon is made from a rose twig and snake bones.

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This faery comes with a shell, not entirely sure what it’s for but that just adds to the mystery

Faery Specimen # 2
Two headed corpse, my favourite so far..

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Close up of a glass jar accessory

Dead Faery in a Jar
Faery in a Jar

Faery Specimen # 1
Faery Specimen on display

A Halloween Feast Down Under

Halloween!

Oh my dark soul I would LOVE to experience Halloween in America sometime cos you guys go completely over the top and I am jealous as hell! Screw Christmas with all its jolly hoo ha I want to scare the heebie jeebs out of people.

What an awesome holiday.. such a shame we don’t really celebrate it here in Australia. If we did, it would be my favourite holiday hands down. Sure there’s some creepy decor and lollies available in the shops but trick or treaters? Lucky if I get a couple of kids knock on the door.

In fact the first time I ever had trick or treaters was about 3 years ago and I was totally unprepared. I frantically searched my cupboards and came back with muesli bars and a cake mix.

The following year I prepped myself and I prepped myself good. Packets upon packets of fun size choccie bars, oreo wafers and lolly pops. I was going to be ‘that house with the awesome treats!’ house. That night I had two door knockers. Two. All up about 5 kids. So sure enough I spent the rest of the night stuffing my face with fun size choccie bars. Ok so I admit I enjoyed indulging in chocolate but that’s not how it was supposed to be!

The year after that, last year in fact, I scrapped the trick or treat idea alltogether (good thing as we’d moved and I don’t think we had any door knockers anyway) and instead I put on a Halloween feast. Now that was fun.. everyone dressed up and I had a hella good time creating slightly creepy food and even slightly less creepy decor..

Let’s keep in mind I was on a budget. A packet of fake web and a few plastic spiders was about all I could afford after buying the food. But I enjoyed it all the same, and the webs stayed up until Christmas.

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Finally, an excuse to try out Day of the Dead make up!

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Difficult to see but there’s a big black hairy spider in the bowl of lollies.. there’s also a remote. Oh yeah, I had a fabulous time telling my friends to take some lollies while I attempted to scare the pants off them!

See, it’s things like this that baffle me as to why we don’t celebrate Halloween around here!

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Eye ball salad anyone?

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Spider infused potato salad? They double up as fashionable rings. Score! I still have these guys floating around the house.. every now and then they scare the crap out of me too.

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Yes, the roast is looking at you. With its mouths open. Twin head freaky roasty goodness to be exact.

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And my favourite.. Death by Chocolate Mousse! Oh yeah.. chocolate mousse with biscuit/dirt crumble, tomb stone Tim Tams and chocolate trees. No need for bowls we grabbed a spoon each and dove right in.

Apologies for not having a more Helloweeny type post, but I wanted to get in on the action and my feast from last year is all I had.

You’re welcome 🙂

Portrait Photography – My Top 5 Tips

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Firstly I should just be clear that I’m not exactly a famous photographer, in fact I’m the complete opposite.. not famous. I haven’t taken any lessons or completed any courses, I’m all self taught. However, I’m not that bad.. or at least you can judge for yourself. If you like what you see then please read on..

 

I want to share with you a few basic tips I have learnt when taking portrait photos. You don’t need to spend a fortune on a kick arse DSLR camera to take great pictures, a simple point and shoot will do and just a few adjustments to your surroundings can make a huge difference.

As they say practice makes perfect, so if you have a pet or child handy they make great subjects. If not, self portraits rock too!

These are my top 5 tips for getting started:

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Light – My number one tip is light! Avoid the flash, that artificial light is awful. Use natural light where you can, go outside, use a window, open the curtains. If you can’t use sunlight then light up the room best you can, or perhaps position your subject by a lamp – sometimes a simple light source can create a great picture too. My favourite light to use is the golden hour – as the sun rises or sets and everything outside glows, it’s magic!

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Background – This is often overlooked, but take notice of your subjects background. Is there an odd toy in the way? Too much going on? Something bright coloured that distracts you? If you’re outdside maybe there’s a car or building that could be removed by simply moving the camera. Or perhaps you could choose your own background, like placing your subject in front of an interesting wall, a colourful plant, a beautiful view.

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View – Consider the view or angle in which you are photographing. Are you standing up looking down? Perhaps you’re taking photos of your cat, try getting down to their level. Think outside the box, take photos from behind them, below them, eye level.. lie on your stomach if you have to, aim for something different.

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Props – Have a play around with some fun props or dress ups if you want to make your photos more interesting. Try putting a hat on your subject, get them to blow bubbles, hold a bunch of flowers, a balloon, .. even better try and find something that suits them personally. Props can also help people to relax in front of the camera, especially if it means they don’t have to look at the lens.

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Cropping – When we take a portrait usually the first thing we do is get a picture of the head and shoulders, or maybe a full head to toe picture of someone. Have a play with zooming right in and cropping out parts of them. You could crop out half their face, crop out their head to focus on their outfit, zoom in on their feet/paws/hands holding something. Portraits don’t always include a face so play around with different areas to photograph.

So that’s my top 5 tips to consider next time you take some happy snaps. Hope it helps! I’d love to hear your favourite tips if you want to leave them in the comments below.

Of course rules are made to be broken, especially in photography. In the end beauty is in the eye of the beholder so it depends on your taste and what you like – and of course when it comes to capturing memories you don’t have to stress too much about the artistic side of things, the main thing is to catch those precious moments in time.

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Recycling Ideas for the Art Studio

I’m really passionate about our planet and doing my bit for the environment. You don’t have to be a full blown eco warrior hippie to make a difference, but if we all make an effort then little by little I truly believe that together we can change the world.

Personally I find that by making little changes here and there and adapting greener habits I’m slowly changing my ways for the better, and hopefully I can pass these onto my children and influence those around me.

As we know recycling is good for the planet and good for your pocket. The more you can re-use the less crap that will end up in land fill. Every little bit counts. Even if you only get one more use out of something before it is thrown away, that’s one less thing you had to buy and therefore one less thing thrown out

So this post is a list of items I like to collect and re-use in an attempt to lower my waste, and save money In the studio. There’s the obvious things of course that creatives will pounce on but these ideas are looking more at everyday rubbish as opposed to the once in a while treasures we come across. It’s good to get yourself into the habit of viewing all rubbish with open eyes, you can find some real gems and save them from becoming trash.

Such as..

Jars – Ok this one might be a little obvious, but what I’m talking about in particular are the kind with glass lids. I (sometimes) purchase certain brands by the packaging they come in – if I can reuse it then it’s a bonus. I haven’t thrown one of these coffee jars out in years. They come in so handy. Just remove the labels and they’re great to store materials, use as a water jar for cleaning brushes, use in a project, contain gifts and so on.

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Plastic/Paint palettes – Don’t ever spend your hard earned money on a piece of plastic crap to put paint on. Humans throw out pieces of plastic crap every day. Use those instead. I like to collect plastic lids, meat trays, any plastic trays used for fruit/veg (all though I avoid when I can sometimes you can’t help it) jars with lids etc.

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Scrap paper #1 – Off cuts, interesting textures or patterns, gift cards, pictures, keep it all in a folder of sorts and re-use it. Great for scrapbooking, art journals, mixed media art, stationary and kids projects.

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I remember my Nan used to keep her Christmas cards each year and when I stayed with her and Pop I loved going through them to cut out the pictures and paste onto paper. Imagine getting your kids to make a heap of Christmas cards or tags with last years left overs? Win win!

Scrap paper #2 – The actual scrap scrap. Use the backside. I make A4 sketch pads using scrap paper from work with old invoices/order forms etc. Anything that can be flipped over and used for sketching ideas or writing notes – gold. I use a big fat bulldog clip to keep it all together.

Old hand towels/tea towels – Cleaning/wiping/drying your brushes and just general artsy mess. To be honest I’m currently using my sons old (but certainly clean!) cloth nappies.

Blotting paper sheet – I like to use a piece of blank paper to wipe my brush on and test colours. Often these little strips of paper turn out quite interesting with an array of colours and strokes. These used to be thrown away but recently I have been turning them into gift tags, cards, bookmarks or simply putting them into my scrap paper folder for another use.

Broken Jewelry – Never discard old jewelry without picking it apart and collecting the useful pieces first. Charms, beads, chains, you name it. Collect it.

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Packaging – Boxes, bubble wrap and tissue paper in particular. If I sell something and need to post it I like to re-use packaging materials rather than buy them. So I keep a nice collection of materials stashed away. Pretty gift boxes are really great for this too!

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Well there’s 8 things that I collect to re-use regularly that perhaps you hadn’t thought of.. or maybe you have. I’d love to hear more ideas so please add yours into the comments below!

DIY Upcycled Drawers for Baby

My husband was going to get rid of this little chest of drawers. I could see they had the potential to be.. better. So I claimed them. A coat of paint and some new knobs is about all I needed, and as we have baby #2 on the way they’d be perfect to use in the nursery.

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I gave the drawers a clean and sanded them a little before painting. I also attempted to unscrew the remaining knobs but they were stuck, so a big whack with a mallet and they flew off quite easily and slightly dangerously.

I’d decided to give chalk paint a go which can be painted straight onto the drawers with only one coat, then easiyl sanded back to give a rustic look.

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I bought Rust-oleum Chalked ultra matt paint for about $38 a tin which as enough to paint these drawers with plenty left over for another project or 3. I chose a light green tint base called ‘sage’ to go into baby’s nursery.

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The paint went on beautifully and covered all the scuff marks on the drawers. I added a second coat to help smooth out my brush strokes, not that there were many but I did use cheap brushes so it wasn’t the greatest paint job in the world. Still, it turned out just fine.

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Chalk paint is quick drying, so I didn’t have to wait too long before painting the pieces again. I only painted the front of the drawers and came up with an idea to paint a pattern on the sides.

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It was super easy to clean up any edges, the dried paint was a breeze to sand off.

For the patterned sides I thought it would be really easy to paint stripes by sticking down strips of masking tape. This seemed like a good idea at the time, but once I started I soon realised it was quite a time consuing task. I think it was worth it – but if you have the choice I suggest you use thicker tape.

 

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I peeled off the tape in lots of two to make a stencil for thick stripes on the drawers.

I was going to paint the sides white first but that meant getting more paint.. so I left the colour of the wood to come through instead. Actually I think it’s just chipboard.

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This is my 3 year old trying to help. Naw! Nice try buddy.

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The fun part.. taking off the masking tape to reveal my mad stripes! Yeah it took a while, but was definitely worth it. I really liked the way they turned out.

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Then.. after some further research on this awesome paint I found out I needed to seal it with a protective clear coat. Oops. It wasn’t hard to get some, but there goes another $38. Suddenly my cheap paint job just doubled in price. Ah well, at least there’s plenty of left overs which I know will come in handy in the long run.

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I used Rust-oleum Chalked protective top coat in Matt Clear.

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Finally once the top coat had dried I roughly sanded all the edges. This can be done as much or as little as you like.

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Then for the finishing touch I replaced the knobs. Holy cow there is so much to choose from out there but in the end I opted for these antique looking bronze pulls that I found on ebay for a few dollars each.

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Big Brother Oscar helping me put baby’s clothes away.. warm fuzzy feels!

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Ta da!

The break down..

Drawers – Free

Clalk Paint – $38

Matt Clear Top Coat – $38

Brushes – Pack of 3 for $10

Masking Tape – $2

Total: $88

This project did end up costing me more than I’d planned, but on the upside I do still have plenty of left over paint to use on something else and we were able to turn some old trash into treasure!

DIY: Upcycled coloured glass jars

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One of the many DIY projects I worked on for our wedding included making coloured glass jars. I used these as vases and put (fake) tealight candles inside them. I had everything I needed so they cost me nothing! It was a great way to recycle glass jars too.

You’ll need:

  • Glass jars and/or bottles (The bottles in the picture were already coloured)
  • Mod Podge
  • Water
  • Food dye
  • Paper towel
  • Newspaper
  • Baking paper
  • An oven
  • Oven tray

The process was super easy, but can be messy. You’ve been warned!

Process:

In a container mix some Mod Podge with food dye. Only add a few drops at a time until you make a colour you’re happy with.

Then add about half as much water. Stir to a nice runny consistancy.

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Ooh swirlyness!

When you have the colour you desire, pour some of the mixture inside a glass jar and swirl it around to cover the whole interior. This can get messy trying to colour the top lip of the jar so try it over a sink or outside.

Place the jar upside down on the newspaper to drain excess liquid. This can also get messy. You may need to change the newspaper a few times. Admittedly i didn’t actually have newspaper.. so I used paper towels and some brown kraft paper I have on a never ending roll.

Continue the process with each jar.

 

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Leave the jars for a few hours until all the excess liquid has drained. Turn jars the right way up and put then in the oven at about 200 degrees for about 45 mins to an hour, when the colour has turned clear.

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When fully cooled I also played around with twine, charms and beads. Pictured here is twine and a piece of an old belt.

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Blast from the past! Looking back at my early artworks

The other night I was looking through my old sketch books and it was crazy to see how far I’ve come with my art. Especially when I could remember doing the old work and how I felt about it at the time or what inspired me. I took a few photos on my trusty mobile phone (so not the best photos I’m afraid) and wanted to share them with you here.

This first few are from 1994 when I was either 9 or 10 years old. I’ve been drawing faeries forever and here my biggest influence was Cicely Mary Barker. My sister had the Flower Fairies Alphabet book and I spent lots of time trying to copy the pictures.

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A quick sketch of a wizard because wizards are cool, obviously.

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Towards the end of ’94 maybe even 1995 is this sketch of looking through a witches’ window. This drawing was inspired by the movie Hocus Pocus, I loved that film and all it’s witchy magical goodness!

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This mermaid picture isn’t dated but looking at the style and knowing I was a huge fan of Shirley Barber at the time I’d guess it was around 1995.

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Another from 1995 my Princess and the Unicorn picture scored me an equal 2nd place in our local Show Art Competition! I think it was the first drawing competition I’d ever won – even if I did share 2nd place it was pretty exciting. I think I won $3 or something haha!

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Onto 1996 (Grade 6 / age 11 or 12) I remember loving this drawing I did of a little faery and thinking I had her in perfect proportion. It took me a few years and even now it can be tricky. I had not yet got the hang of shading.

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My Grade 6 project.. we must’ve had free choice on the subject because I chose to write about my favourite artist, you guessed it, Shirley Barber.

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My entry in the local Show again, this time I came 1st place! 1996 age 12, strong influence from Shirley Barber again and her beautiful mermaid art.

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These are some of my first digital artworks. I first started drawing digitally waaay back when we got our first computer in 1993 but I don’t have any of those. These range between 1995 – 1999 and I created them using Microsoft Paint. Now here’s the kicker.. I would zoom in as far as possible, so I could see all the pixels, then draw these by colouring each pixel in the grid. Explains why they’re so small! Except for the circles and rectangles of course, I used the shape tools for those.

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Early 1997 I painted this picture of my favourite film at the time.. can you guess what it was!? And so the goth inspired art began. There’s a lot of darker pictures in my high school years.. but still plenty of colourful faeries too!

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A Guide to Making Bath Tea

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A few years back I handmade all my Christmas gifts and for my sister I made some bath tea. It’s a sweet little idea that I’d been meaning to write about in detail and I’ve finally remembered to actually do it. These little bags of goodness are made to soak in the bath with you to infuse the lovely scents while preventing little bits of dried flowers and what not sticking to your butt.

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You can create your own custom recipe and have fun experimenting along the way. The key is to place all the ingredients into a little bag or puch so it can infuse the bath and release the scented goodness just like a tea bag would.

You’ll need:

A bag or pouch – I made my own using a muslin wrap I no longer needed. I cut out rectangles and sewed along each edge leaving one side open to insert the ingredients, before adding the ‘tea bag string’ and sewing it shut. This is for a single use but you could leave an edge open and tie shut so it could be rinsed and reused.

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Ingredients:

For the bags pictured I used the following ingredients:

  • Milk Powder (for soft skin)
  • Bi-carb Soda (eliminate toxins)
  • Dried Rose Petals
  • Dried Lavender
  • Dried Rosemary

Note: The milk powder and bi-carb soda was fine enough to come through the muslin fabric. Perhaps a thicker fabric would work better. I kept this in mind when decorating and made sure to wrap the bag to prevent too much powdery leakage when gifted.

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Epsom salts would be a great additive too for a relaxing bath, great for sore muscles.

All the dried plants came from my own garden, and you could really play around with this part and try adding all sorts of dried flowers, herbs or even fruit peel.

Essential oils give a scented boost and will ensure a strong aroma in your bath, not to mention of course the added benefits of aromatherapy.

To Decorate:

Using materials I had in my trusty craft drawers I wrapped each bag with some recycled brown kraft paper and put a hole in the top with a hole punch. Then I neatly wrapped around the string from the bag and taped it down. On the computer I designed some fancy looking labels, simply printed them out snd used double sided tape to attach.

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To Use:

There are two ways to use these. If you have a string attached you can hang them from the tap as you fill your bath to infuse. Or, place the bag/pouch into a bowl and add hot water. Infuse the bag in the hot water until your bath is ready, then add to the bath.

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Making your own Wedding Invitations, is it worth it?

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When we planned our wedding last year, like most, we had a strict budget to stick to. We needed to work out exactly what our priorities were and expensive wedding invitations were not one of them.

‘ It’s how much per invitation? And RSVP cards? Plus postage? Plus a stamped return addressed envelope? AND we’re expected to send out save the dates as well? TIMES ONE HUNDRED PEOPLE!?’ We were looking at over $500 easy and that didn’t even include the stamps.

I. Don’t. Think. So.

Some of those things may be important to you and that’s totally cool. Perhaps you have a budget big enough to cover such expenses. But I’m a tight arse and I’m an artist. I can make that shit and I can cheat.

Our save the dates were sent via Facebook – as an event, or through text messages to those who aren’t on Facey. I know, it’s so untraditional and informal, but hell it was free and it worked a treat. It also meant more bottles of booze. Like I said earlier, priorities.

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As for making the invitations, well, I won’t lie. I was excited. I do love this sort of thing, and I knew I could do it. But not without some hiccups along the way. So please, learn from my mistakes. Here’s a list of Do’s and Do Nots I recommend and a few tips to keep the price down..

Do:

  • Prepare to make more than you need. Always.
  • Start early. Real early. As soon as you can early.
  • READ packaging correctly. I bought 6 packets of cards and envelopes with 20 items per pack. 20 meaning 10 cards and 10 envelopes, not 20 of each.
  • Always make a mock up and see how it looks before you print them 100 times wrong.
  • Print in batches. If you notice a stuff up (my printer started smearing ink) it will only ruin a batch rather than the lot.
  • Work out how many people can be handed their cards and won’t need a stamp. You can probably hand out a few to Aunty A who will be able to pass them onto cousin B, cousin C and family friend D. Those sticky little morsels of currency add up quickly.

Do Not:

  • Leave it until the last minute. Rushing = more mistakes.
  • Forget to write the guests NAME on their RSVP. We had no idea who was coming because the RSVP card had no name on it! *facepalm*
  • Let the expensive details and premium paper lure you too much.. we’re trying to save money here not spend more! (Unless you want to)

Tips:

  • Recycle wherever you can, it’s good for the planet and good for your pocket.
  • Remember, these will eventually end up in the bin. They don’t have to be perfect.
  • Not everything has to be exactly the same – I ran out of metallic envelopes, so some people got gold. Some even had plain recycled envelopes. Unless guests are going to compare their invitations with each other, it doesn’t really matter does it?
  • Avoid writing guests names on the actual invitation, just write it on the envelope and RSVP card. The reason for this is because we had some guests politely decline before receiving an invite (they were heading overseas for example) so this made room to invite someone else. See where I’m going with this? All I had to do was replace the envelope instead of making up another invite.

Ok so we’ve got a few main points out of the way. Read on to see how I made our viking inspired budget wedding invitations.

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I used:

  • Kraft recycled paper cards and envelopes – $3 per 10 pack / $30 for 100
  • Bronze metallic envelopes (yes, I was lured but they were on special) – $5 per 20 pack / $25 for 100
  • Coloured paper strips from my paper collection – Free
  • Kraft recycled paper A4 sheets in my collection – Free
  • Ruler
  • Stanley knife
  • Air drying clay left over from another project – Free
  • Paint – Free
  • Ink in printer – Free
  • Twine – $3 roll
  • Mini wooden pegs – $2 per 25 pack / $8 per 100
  • About 60 stamps and we handed out the rest – 70c each / $42

Total: $108 / $1.08 per invite

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After having a good look on Pinterest for inspiration I decided to make some little clay decorations to tie onto each invitation. Going with the Viking theme, runes were a must. These were super easy to make: roll out little balls of clay, squish them flat,  use a piece of wire to imprint the rune symbols. As an added bonus, if guests wanted to they could look up the meaning of their rune.

Instead of a rune you could imprint a leaf, use a rubber stamp, thumb print? So many options! Leave them to dry overnight then carefully paint the rune – or leave bare.

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I set up my printer to print directly into the cards. ALWAYS do a test print to make sure it looks right and your card is in the correct way! If you use metallic or pearl cards you may need to print onto paper then stick it inside the card as the ink may not dry properly.

Below was a test print, we tweaked the wording a bit but you get the idea.

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Ideally I wanted to use a beautiful olive green metallic paper for the decorative strip. I used the strip for added colour and to hold all the pieces together. (RSVP card, Map, note with dress code etc.) However when I found the paper I wanted it cost $4.50 per sheet. I needed about five sheets which would cost $22.50. For coloured paper. Oh hell to the no. So instead I raided my crafty paper drawer found an assortment of colours and textures.

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The RSVP cards I designed on computer, printed onto recycled kraft paper and fit about 12 to a sheet. Easy peasy. Although as you can see I didn’t leave any room for the guests to write their name.. so that was silly of me.

If you can’t quite see, the card options read:

  • Fierce axe wielding Vikings couldn’t keep me away!
  • Sorry, I heard about he Vikings

Haha!

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Below is the mock up but unfortunately I didn’t take a picture with all the pieces tucked into the back and held with a peg. I’m sure I did but I can’t see to find it. It was a neat little package though!

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Overall, was it worth it? For me, yes, hiccups and all. I really enjoyed the process and was stoked that it only cost me $1.08 per invitation. If you’re not the crafty type then don’t bother – it will do your head in. But don’t worry, there are other budget options!

Do you have a crafty friend or family member wanting to help? Ask them to design you a postcard invitation (as I did for my sister) and print through someone like Vistaprint, an Australian company where 50 postcards will cost as little as $14.99 (plus postage) with free envelopes!

Here are the simple Save the Date postcards I designed for my sis, printed through Vistaprint:

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