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September 29, 2014

books for teens (but also for me)



During my free time I decided to read more. I thought by this time in my life - my mature mid-twenties where I would surely have blossomed into a sophisticated young woman - I would be reading things of substance. Essays, complicated poetry, philosophical musings... I tried to read like a grown-up, I really did. But those more complicated, less fictional books still sit, uncreased & unopened, on my bookshelf. & maybe it's just my love of the coming of age premise, but I really only ever read teen fiction. I thought I'd share with you some of my favorite books - books which are probably targeted to a much younger demographic but that I, for one, really enjoy.


The Perks of Being a Wallflower - Stephen Chbosky
I'll start off with my favorite book of all time. I love this book so much that I refuse to see the movie because I know it will just lead to disappointment. I won't say much about this book (let's face it - if you haven't read it yet, we can't be friends) other than that it follows the classic coming of age theme & will leave you feeling infinite. 

Hairstyles of the Damned - Joe Meno
This book recently came back into my life again after being ripped from my poor, youthful hands in high school (short story - I bought this book when I was a teen, then lent it to someone before I had a chance to read it. I have not seen the book since. Moral of the story: never lend your books to anyone. They are too precious). This book is all about punk music, punk life, & everything rebellious, nineties-style. You'll want to throw on a Misfits record during this read.

Pieces: A Collection of New Voices - Stephen Chbosky
My love of Chbosky was met with immediate dismay when I realized he only wrote one book. Fortunately for me, he arranged this collection of short stories, & all ring similarly to Chbosky's voice. While each story is dramatically different, they each carry the theme of change for the characters involved, whether that be and evolving change or a devolution.

This book isn't targeted towards the youths (so I can read it out in public, thank god), but still carries the notion of personal change that I find so attractive in a good story. July writes from a variety of viewpoints, & her writer's voice changes from story to story. I highly recommend this work & all other works by Miranda July (do you know she wrote & starred in a movie?).

Crooked - Louisa Luna
Did you know MTV published books? Do they still do that? Anyway, they published this one. I've read it time & again & it's always good. The story follows a woman who has recently been released from prison & is trying to adjust to her newfound freedom (spoiler: it doesn't end well).

You Know Who You Are - Ben Dolnick
This is the ultimate coming of age story, following the life of a boy from childhood, to adolescence, & then into adulthood. The book is sensitive & stark, touching on all of the woes of youth while our protagonist deals with the loss of a parent.


Any book recommendations for me now that you know my secret love-affair for teen fiction?

xoxo,
-m.e.


// This is not a sponsored post, Amazon is an affiliate sponsor of WeCanMakeAnything //


September 26, 2014

links i love // photography edition

For more of my photography work, check out heathermurphyphoto.com


Happy Friday, it's Heather! This is my first post, and it's going to be visually boring (which is ironic because I'm the photographer). I wanted to share some of my favorite photographers with you all, but do not want to infringe on their copyright, so this is going to be a word-heavy post! I encourage you to click through the links because their work is awe-inspiring. Let's get started!

  • DINA AVILA // Avila is a Portland-based photographer who focuses on food, interiors, and portraits. A while ago I gathered up the courage to e-mail her with questions about her photography, and she was generous enough to take the time to answer my questions and give me lots of tips. Avila utilizes natural light in absolutely beautiful ways. Her food photography makes me hungry, and her interior shots are warm and inviting. 
  • KEITH LADZINSKI // I came across one of Ladzinski's photos on Instagram and knew I needed to check out more of his work. His photographs are stunning, and they take the viewer to places they didn't even know existed. Ladzinski, like the all of the photographers on this list, uses light in the most glorious ways (which is why I find them so inspiring).
  • SUSAN SEUBERT // Seubert is a photographer who does it all (fine art, editorial, advertising, etc.). She's an award-winning photographer who works with National Geographic. I really enjoy reading her blog. It's more of an informal, behind-the-scenes look at some of her work. 
  • ANDY MANN // Mann is another Instagram find. Like Ladzinski, his work takes you all over the world, including into the ocean. Mann uses his climbing, scuba diving, and other outdoor skills to his advantage in his photography as he is able to provide the viewer with unique perspectives.
  • BERENICE ABBOTT // I learned of Abbott in the first photography class I took in college. She was an impressive woman who accomplished a lot during her career. Abbott is most well-known for her 1930's New York City architecture photography, but little know of her queer portraiture work from the 1920-60s. Equally as innovative was her scientific work with MIT. She is an inspiration to women and photographers alike.

Peace out! 
- Heather


Related // See more photography work from our downtown photo shoot

September 24, 2014

glass etching


A while ago I mentioned that I wanted to try glass etching, & it finally happened! The concept is pretty basic & it was a lot easier than anticipated. We referenced The Yummy Life's tutorial as we went along, which proved to be super helpful. For this tutorial we etched some jars to hold pet treats, but etching is so easy we ended up etching many, many other things around the house (can anyone say personalized Christmas gifts?).

A few notes about etching cream: this stuff is pretty hardcore. Only handle the etching cream if you are wearing gloves. Work in a well-ventilated area - open a window! Cover your work area with something disposable, like a drop cloth or a paper bag.




To etch glass, you'll need:

  • Armour Etch Cream
  • Stickers for your design
  • A popsicle stick
  • Glass jars
  • Masking tape
  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Rubber gloves
  • Paper towels (not pictured)



Step 1 // Clean your glass jars with rubbing alcohol & a paper towel. Keep your fingers off the glass after they have been cleaned - the oils in your hands will interfere with the etching process. 




Step 2 // Lay out your design using stickers & tape. The areas of the glass that are covered will not be etched & will remain clear. By taping off the top & bottom of our jar & applying stickers in between, our design turned out as a band of etched glass with the word "catnip" showing up clear. Make sure you lay out your tape straight. Any imperfections will show up in the final etching! If you end up touching your glass too much during this step, gently clean the area with rubbing alcohol again. 

If you want the opposite design - the lettering etched & the surrounding areas clear - you will need to create a sticker stencil. You can do this with contact paper, cutting the lettering out of the contact paper with either an x-acto blade or a die cutter.




Step 3 // Put on the rubber gloves & stir the etching cream gently with the popsicle stick. Then apply the etching cream to your glass jar using the popsicle stick. Apply the cream only to the areas of the jar that you want etched. 

Step 4 // Let the cream sit for a total of five minutes (contrary to directions on the bottle). The cream on your jar will need to be stirred up at different intervals. After one & a half minutes, swirl up the cream with your popsicle stick. After three & a half minutes, stir again. This stirring helps move the crystal in the etching cream around, creating an even etching.

Step 5 // After the five minutes is up, rinse the etching cream off in hot water & remove the stickers & tape. The hot water will allow the stickers & tape to come off more easily. Important! Do not rinse etching cream off in a porcelain or plastic sink! The etching cream will damage the sink. Rinse the cream off in a stainless steel sink or outdoors. After the stickers & etching cream are off, clean your jars in soap & water before using. 




Done! 

Some more notes about etching: 

Don't etch really large areas. Etching takes best to small areas. The largest area we tried was the bottom of a pie plate, & even that was a little bit too big as some areas of the etching appeared uneven. 

Throw away your drop cloth & popsicle stick after you've completed your etching - this stuff is toxic. 

Some glass objects cannot be etched. Pyrex makes some of their products with a heat treatment that will not take to etching. 

Also, do a test run first if you haven't tried etching before, especially if you plan on etching a piece of glass that you only have one of. These pet treat jars are the last things we etched, so now we're basically pros at this now. 

Happy etching!

xoxo, 
m.e. 


// This is not a sponsored post, Amazon is an affiliate sponsor of WeCanMakeAnything //


Related // For more stenciling fun, check out the stenciled t-shirt tutorial.

September 12, 2014

links i love // art appreciation

To see my professional work, go to maryelaynerussell.com 

Are you guys ready for the weekend? Each passing day is pulling us closer into autumn, & I'm starting to feel it. Football is back, the college students are starting to drive like normal people, & Christmas decorations are going up for sale (slow down there, retail world). 

Today we're taking a look at some artists that I have long admired & enjoyed. I've been giving a lot of thought to art lately. It's been a long while since I've made anything that could be considered "art," & I'm contemplating taking a break from work to totally immerse myself in art-making. I miss it. In the mean time, here are some of my inspirations:



  • Thomas Doyle // We'll start with my favorite artist of all time. Doyle's work recalls dollhouse making & model trains. He create tense narratives inside small spaces, & his work is breathtakingly meticulous. Do I even need to mention how much I love tiny things?
  • Liliana Porter // Do you see a theme in my favorite artist's work? Porter is another artist that frequently works small-scale, although her work is more focused on using to-scale objects in conjunction with miniatures. She is also a master at controlling negative space.
  • Lori Nix // While she calls herself a photographer, the real magic behind Nix's work lies in the intricate scenes she creates. This piece from a collection called The City takes a normal scene & pairs it with the decomposition & destruction of nature.
  • Slinkachu : The Little People Project // In this project, artist Slinkachu takes his art to the streets in a completely unexpected way. His artistic interruptions are small but poignant as he stages miniature people & props in different places around the world.
  • Patrick Jacobs // The term "diorama" is almost too elementary for Jacobs' work, which exist primarily behind curved glass. In passing his work appears as a photograph or a window to the outdoors, but upon closer inspection the detail of his work is revealed. He creates expansive scenes that are housed in a wall, & he sets every miniature blade of grass & flower petal with care.
  • PES // For an extraordinary visual experience, check out PES' films. He's been nominated for an Academy Award! As a stop-motion enthusiast & novice, he's basically my muse.
  • Annie Leibovitz // & finally, one of Heather's favorite artists & heroines, photographer Annie Leibovitz. A quote directly from Heather: "She's amazing."


Have a good weekend, gang.

xoxo,
-m.e.


Related // A look back at what it means to me to be an artist

September 11, 2014

how-to // grow your hair out



Getting your hair cut is an exciting change of appearance. Growing your hair out is a whole different transition. I am currently in the process of growing mine out. Looking at this picture you'd think I'm at the beginning of my hair journey. Oh no, my dear readers. It's been almost a year. Let's take a quick look into the past with a before & after picture:




(The reason I'm grimacing is because of how moody/emo the before picture is. Get it together, past me.)

The point is my hair was short. Buzzed, in fact. Now I'm in the process of transitioning from short to long. It's a weird process, & here's what I've learned so far:



Trim Yo' Mullet // The most trying part of growing your hair is resisting the urge to cut it. There is, however, one crucial part of your hair that you'll have to trim: the mullet. This is something I didn't learn until a few months ago. Three inches of hair growth looks good up top, but three inches of hair growth on the back of your neck is not good. Trim the back until the length on the top of your head reaches the length on the back, then you can grow the whole thing out together. 



Tie That Mess Up // Growing your hair out requires some creativity. There are lots of weird transitional periods that simply are not attractive, & the best option is just to tie your hair back. If your hair is too short to tie back in one ponytail, give pigtails a go. If you're not the pigtail type, try french braiding your bangs off of your face. 



Hair Clips Are Your Friends // If you're in a transitional stage where hair ties just aren't cutting it, use hair clips. They will take all your wonky lengths of hair & pull them back, & no one will ever be the wiser. As I'm writing right now I've got about three hair clips & a whole mess of bobby pins holding my mane back. 



Be Good To Your Locks // While your waiting for your hair to grow, be nice to it. Slather it up in conditioner on a regular basis. Use coconut oil or rosemary oil treatments. If you want to dye it, use temporary dye. If your hair starts developing split ends, get a trim (I know this seems counterproductive, but split ends will continue to split all the way up the strands of your hair, & if you don't cut them off, you'll just end up damaging your entire mop). Be nice to your hair if you want it to stick around.



Be Patient // Wait, wait, wait. This is the least involved step but the one I have the hardest time with. Growing your hair out will make you want to chop it all off, but try & stay focused on the end goal. In the meantime, get creative, & embrace your locks. If that's not working, at least you can put a hat on.


Stay strong, my wonky-haired ladies!

Also thank you to all of my readers who take time to visit the blog - we reached 50,000 hits yesterday! You guys are simply the best.

xoxo,
-m.e.


Related // If you're having a bad hair day, distract from your 'do by wearing some funky gold earrings

September 10, 2014

out & about // routines


Follow my Instagram for more photos

Watching // There's a weird paradox in my world where literally every single show my girlfriend likes to watch is also a show that my mother has watched/will watch. I think it's handy for both of them. If one needs something to watch, they can just ask the other what they just finished watching. It's cute. That being said, there's a marathon of Criminal Minds happening at my house, & statistically speaking, at my mom's house too.

Listening // To this song by Elton John. Also it took me three goes to realize that it was not in fact Elton John in the music video, but a very gap-toothed Justin Timberlake.

Doing // While it sometimes feels like work is taking over my life, there are some positive things happening in my day-to-day. I'm doing a little bit of cross-stitching in preparation for Christmas gifts. I'm trying to read more. I've been waking up earlier. I'm playing my guitar more. Things are mostly routine, but I also feel like everything is moving forward.

Feeling // Restless.

Loving // The surge of cooler breezes & occasional need for a sweater. What is it about autumn that makes us so nostalgic?


xoxo, 
-m.e.


Related // Using my downtime to read more

September 5, 2014

links i love // national sewing month



Hello, Friday folks! You all know how much I love sewing projects, so I was excited to discover that September is National Sewing Month. Sewing has always held a special place in my heart - it's something that I learned as a youngster, & a tool that my entire family has utilized (yes, even my father & brothers know how to sew - it's a super useful skill!).

Here are some sewing links for your end of the week enjoyment.


// Top Links of the Week // 

  • Peppermint Mag Sewing School // The Peppermint Mag brings sewing school to the web. They provide a sweet collection of unique & fashionable patterns, all of which are available for free download. I'm eyeing these shorts in particular. 
  • McCall's 6861 // Who doesn't love a good vintage pattern? This whole website cracks me up. This beauty of a bathing suit from 1963 calls for elastic around the legs & zipper straight up the back. Paired with a modest drawstring smock, this project is perfect for a sunny day at the beach (P.S. Have you ever tried making your own bathing suit? It is much harder than it looks, & can go horribly wrong so very quickly.)
  • 31 Insane Fabrics You Can Actually Buy // Gosh, I had no idea I needed donut-printed fabric until now. Think of the possibilities.
  • How to Print, Assemble, & Trace PDF Sewing Patterns // So you've found an awesome pattern online, & you're ready to print it out & get started with your sewing. BUT IT ALWAYS PRINTS OUT SO WONKY. We've all been there. Craftsy gives a simple step-by-step guide on how to print your patterns correctly every time. 
  • Making Your Own Pattern // Do you have an article of clothing that fits so well you want 30 different versions of it so you can wear one for every day of the month? Make a pattern! Sweet Verbena gives easy directions of how to create your own pattern with brown paper & sharpies. 
  • Dusting Off the Sewing Machine // There's no question that the handmade is back. Read for a look into the reasons why these individuals have begun making their own clothes rather than buying them. 
  • 10 Cutest Sewing Machines on the Market // &&& the Hello Kitty sewing machine is the start of my Christmas wish list. 



Happy Sewing Month, everyone! 

xoxo, 
-m.e.


Related // Learn all about your sewing tools & different sewing stitches

September 4, 2014

out & about // food truck thursday



In past posts I've mentioned how my town is getting more hip-with-the-now (wow, there's an outdated phrase). In addition to better bike lanes, we now have food trucks! It all started downtown, with the trucks congregating outside the government offices, filling the bellies of state workers wanting a quick meal. Now the food trucks tour all around town to different events & gatherings. Every Thursday they group up in a park by the lake. Everyone arrives with picnic blankets, babies, dogs on leashes, & coolers full of beer. It's always a busy event, complete with live music.




Heather & I went out this past Thursday with her sister, brother-in-law, & her tiny nephew. I can't put my finger on what gives food trucks their quirky draw. Upon reflection, it's basically an outdoor food court. But there's something special about getting a vegetarian sandwich out the back of a big, yellow truck & eating cross-legged in the grass. Dare I forget to mention, there's also a cupcake trailer. Precious, right?




The gathering of food trucks also brings customers to other local businesses in the area - most importantly the sno-ball shop (my favorite summertime treat). The mishmash of food, people, & being outdoors awakens a sense of community every Thursday. 

Do you frequent the food trucks in your town? Why do you think they've gained their recent popularity & large fan base? 

xoxo, 
-m.e.


Related // Would you have a food truck cater your wedding? 

September 3, 2014

recycled coin purse



As I said in my last post, this fused plastic trick is something that I picked up in high school. Working with this material again reminded me of my earlier crafting days when everything I made was some kind of hardcore repurposing. Me & my crafty feminist friends repurposed everything we owned. We would stencil all of our clothing using wax paper templates, make patches for our backpacks, embroider into our jeans, & we even went so far as to make our own reusable pads out of old flannel (maybe we'll talk more about that in a future post, but today is not that day). I'm still into the idea of repurposing the old into the new, but now my life is less... hardcore. 

 On Monday we looked into how to fuse plastic shopping bags. You can make pretty much anything out of this material. Today I decided to make a quick little coin purse.




To make this coin purse, you'll need:

  • Fused plastic (see my last tutorial for how to make this) 
  • Scissors
  • Thread
  • Masking tape
  • A zipper
  • A sewing machine or sewing needle (not pictured)




Cut a rectangular piece from your fused plastic. Determine the size you want your coin purse to be (perhaps a little larger than your driver's license so you can take this bad boy about town). Your rectangle should be as wide as you want the purse to be (with about 1/2 inch wiggle room), & twice as tall (again, with wiggle room).




Fold your rectangle in half. Then fold down the top & the bottom about 1/4 inch. This creates the "hemline."




Since we're working with plastic, we don't want to poke any unnecessary holes into the material. Instead of using pins to hold your zipper in place, use masking tape. Tape the zipper down over the "hemlines" with the teeth of the zipper meeting the folded edge of your "hemlines." 

[Clearly I am using a zipper that is far too long, but that's okay. The excess will get cut off in the next step.]




Sew your zipper in place with a straight stitch. I would recommend sewing this on your machine for durability, but it can be sewn by hand as well. Feel free to sew right over the masking tape & pull it off when you're done. 

[If your zipper is too long, zip it closed when you're finished sewing, & cut off the excess. Then sew a straight line across the cut end of your zipper a few times to create a bottom stop. Make sure to unzip it before moving on to the next step.]




Turn your purse inside out, & sew up the sides with a straight stitch. When you get to the ends of the zipper, fold the ends inward & sew them in place along the seam. 




Turn it right side out, & poke out the corners. Done!




It made me happy getting back to my "roots" today, but it's also nice to see how my crafting & creating style has changed over the years. For you long-time makers out there, how has your style changed? Do you follow the trends, or do you craft to the beat of your own drum?


xoxo, 
-m.e.


Related // In the mood for reusing & repurposing? Make a mason jar change bank!

September 1, 2014

how-to // fuse plastic bags



This is a fun trick I picked up in high school. Fusing plastic shopping bags creates a sturdy, fabric-like material that can be used in a variety of different ways. Plus it's a great way to recycle all those bags that pile up under your kitchen sink. 




Today you're also going to learn a fun fact about me: I love Target. I try not to - it's so stereotypically white girl of me. It's a proven fact though. When I pulled out my collection of shopping bags to do this tutorial, I noticed a familiar theme. Red targets. Lots & lots of red targets. 

You will want to pick shopping bags in fun prints or colors; & if you're feeling super crafty you can cut your plastic into shapes & fuse the shapes into the material!




To fuse plastic bags, all you'll need are:
  • Plastic shopping bags
  • Wax paper 
  • Scissors
  • An iron & ironing board
  • An open window! 

I have printer paper in this picture too, but (honesty moment) I misremembered how to do this craft trick. I ditched the paper after three ruined attempts. You live & you learn.




Lay out a plastic shopping bag. Cut off the bottom & the handles. I folded the bag into thirds for a total of six layers of plastic. You'll want to make sure you cut your plastic layers down so they are smaller than your wax paper. 




On your ironing board, lay down your materials in the following way: a piece of waxed paper (waxy side up), plastic bag layers, then another piece of waxed paper (waxy side down). Facing the wax paper in keeps the plastic from sticking to anything. 




Set your iron somewhere between the polyester setting & the cotton setting (or medium-high heat). Make sure that the iron is completely heated before you begin. Open up a window before you start too! Even though you're just fusing the plastic together & not melting it, it may still produce fumes. Once the iron is hot, iron your material in a circular manner. Iron for approximately 15-20 seconds, paying close attention to the edges of your plastic bags. Flip the whole thing over, & iron for another 15-20 seconds. 




Wait for your plastic bags to cool, then peel off the waxed paper. Done!




The plastic turns out best when fused no more than six layers at a time. If you want thicker material, follow the steps as before, but make two pieces of fused plastic. Then fuse those two pieces together. 

Now what to do with your awesome fused plastic? You can use it to make wallets, belts, bags - anything that needs to be made from a sturdy material. It's easily sewn into with a heavy duty needle. Keep in mind when you're working with this material that it is plastic, so if you're sewing into it, don't use pins to hold your pieces in place. Masking or painters tape can be used instead.

Check out what I made out of mine!

xoxo,
-m.e.


Related // Recycle an old t-shirt into a bag!
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