Tinker Planet (TDS Lifestyle, October 2010)

Wouldn’t it be just great when you can have everything you want?  Ok.  Let me rephrase that.  Wouldn’t it be just great when you can have easy access to any craft and hobby tools and materials, wherever your location may be?  If the price is reasonable, preferably cheap, all the more better.

I know how it feels to be “deprived” of craft materials.  I was living in Japan when I started scrapbooking and paper crafting.  I liked to search and browse online about the latest trends.  But it usually ends there.  Because back then, online stores didn’t ship overseas, or to military addresses.  And even if they did, the shipping costs were just too much.  So I was literally drooling, and frustrated at times, because I wanted to be able to make the stuff I see in craft magazines, books and on the internet.  And I couldn’t because I didn’t have the tools and materials that I needed.  It all boils down to the fact that it was hard to access them.

So I really take advantage of the few times we visited the USA.  It’s like heaven each time I enter a craft store – like a kid in a candy shop.  I’m sure a lot of you know what I mean.  I would be in a craft store for two hours or more, taking my time to see everything in every aisle.  And yes, my receipt can be a few feet long when I’m done shopping.  After the vacation, I come home with luggage filled with craft stuff.  Then it’s play time!  After a while, I read the following issue of my favorite craft magazine, and browse online.  And the cycle goes all over again.

It makes no sense for me to buy supplies and materials in Japan, because the price is almost doubled.  They are considered imported items over there.  I had to make do with what I can get at the local market.  My choices are very limited with regards to online stores because very few would ship to my location, and so I had to stick with them.  

When we were moving to the States, I was excited with the thought of not having to worry about “craft access” anymore.  It will be easy to shop online or in regular stores.  And yep, I was right.  The first year was really fun.  And the first months were terrible.  If I was already hoarding back in Japan, I was hoarding more.  I’m pretty sure some of you have gone to that stage.  But let’s not go to that.

So now, every time I go craft shopping, I think about the crafters in other countries.  I feel for them, because I was in their shoes for quite a long time.  I would take steps to help them out in my own little ways.  The internet sure is a good tool to do that. 

And through the internet, I realized that not all craft materials are centered in the United States.  Each country has its own kinds of crafts that cannot be found here in the US.  Japan has a bunch, and so do the different countries in Europe and Asia.  And if it makes you feel better, fellow crafters from countries outside the US, we are craft deprived here too.  There are so many craft supplies and materials from other countries that I would like to have, but sadly have no or limited access to.  And if they do sell them here in the States, they are pretty expensive because they are considered imported. 

So what can we do to make this craft demand balanced around the world?  There are some ideas I can share with you.

Join an online crafting community and establish a small group of crafters with whom you can swap supplies and materials with.  You can make rules among yourselves with regards to the value, shipping and other matters.  International swaps are fun because you get something that you don’t get from your location.  That adds spice to your projects because you get to use “uncommon” materials.  But I have to remind you that it is a risk.  There is a possibility that you might not get anything even if you did send a box to somebody.  If that happens, just think about that fellow crafter who will be very happy with the goodies that you sent.  It will be good karma for you. 

If you have relatives or friends overseas, use it to your advantage craft wise.  You can ask them to buy stuff for you, and you can always buy stuff for them in return.  Just remember that international shipping costs are expensive.  And in some countries, the recipient may be required to pay taxes or fees for the items that they will receive, which is a total bummer.  And again, there is a risk.  Packages may get lost or damaged in transit. 

Otherwise, all we have to do is get that creativity going and use the supplies that we have and can access.  That’s what matters the most anyway.  Sometimes, our attention is focused on the tools and supplies and how we can acquire them.  Having a variety of materials is just a bonus.  It’s the final output that counts.

Tinker Planet (TDS Lifestyle, June 2010)

I have always been fascinated with Japan.  It started with the stories my Daddy told me when I was young(er).  He went there a couple of times and he's always liked it there.  Then, I had the chance to live there when I got married.  They were five very memorable years.  What is there not to like about Japan?  The food, the people, the culture - and so much more.

We made sure to visit a lot of the tourist spots, and even the not so popular ones.  I made sure to try every delicacy - from the typical yakisoba and rice balls to the exotic sashimi and poisonous blow fish.  We went to different festivals in different places.  I got to drive the narrow roads, keeping in mind to stay on the left side.  And I have discovered a lot of short cuts in going to different places.  I have even experienced a fender bender with a local Japanese guy one time too.  I got to climb to the top of Mt. Fuji, which took 8 hours.  And I met a lot of Japanese friends through teaching English.

We were still living in Japan when I discovered scrapbooking.  And when you are starting this hobby, you just want to buy everything you see.  It was hard for me to get the tools and materials I needed (ok, wanted) because of our location.  Scrapbooking was already a big industry in the US, but it was barely starting in Japan.  Good thing we have access to the US Postal Service, so I can order online.  But that was my only option.  It didn't make sense to buy scrapbooking materials in a local Japanese craft store because they would be considered imported items and were more expensive.  So with the few times that we went to the US for a vacation, it was heaven when we go to the big box craft stores.

But as I find and go to more local craft stores, I learn more about Japanese crafts.  They do have their own.  Lots, in fact, and not just origami.  They even have their own craft product lines, some of them very popular here in the US and around the world – like Tsukineko, Clover and Copic.

What I would like to talk about first is Zougan Zaiku (photos).  I really don’t know how it’s actually called in English, but it’s basically described as wood inlay art.  Very thin pieces of wood in various grain and color are put together to form a picture.  It is a very delicate craft and requires a lot of patience and time.  We had the opportunity to meet a Zougan Zaiku artist one time, and he explained to us that it could take a day to make just to put his signature in his work.  His parents wanted him to concentrate on this art, that he had a pre-arranged marriage with a nurse so that she can support him with his craft.  He also told us that nobody from his country’s present generation was interested to learn Zougan Zaiku anymore, so he would go to Europe to teach the art.  That was sad.  He was 83 when we met him.  I would like to learn Zougan Zaiku, if given the chance.

Japanese pottery is truly fascinating (photo).  I’m sure there are so many styles out there, using several kinds of clay and methods.  I was able to go to two famous pottery festivals – Mashiko and Seto.  It is said that Seto’s clay is more red or brown, while Mashiko clay is more white.  Going to these festivals was like being in a haven of clay art.  They are Japanese festivals I won’t mind going to again and again.

One Japanese craft I’m really amazed with is their paper crafts.  Even their paper is an art form.  And did you know there are so many kinds of washi paper?  It really doesn’t matter to me.  I just love washi paper.  And the Japanese make lots of things using washi.  Of course, the most popular Japanese paper craft is Origami – which also has tons of designs and styles and keep evolving through the times.  I think the most significant is the crane.  Japanese people believe that if you make one thousand cranes, your wish will come true. (picture)  It’s also in Japan where I learned how to make lucky paper stars, during a big craft and hobby show in Tokyo. (picture)  Making them sure is addicting, aside from making you feel lucky.  I love the washi-covered papercraft boxes and the Japanese paper dolls are adorable. (picture)  Seeing anything that involves washi paper will always leave a smile on your face.

As for fiber crafts, Japan has some versions of their own too.  A popular one would be the Amigurumi.  It is their art of knitting or crocheting small stuffed animals and interesting creatures.  You would think it is easy because the size you are making is small.  I gave it a shot, and it does require some patience. (picture)  Japanese knotting is something to try too. They use it to adorn cards and gifts (Mizuhiki), or they incorporate it with jewelry or accessories. (picture)  And did I mention Temari, the art of embroidered balls?

And we haven’t even talked about fabric yet.  Japanese make so many things with fabric.  They use them as gift wrappers, which is also an art form.   Hair accessories (Kanzashi) made of fabric is fascinating. (picture)  Have you seen the Japanese Obi and the different designs they make?  Aside from using them with the kimono, they can also be used as a wall décor.

I know that what I have mentioned in this article is but very few of the Japanese crafts in its totality.  Japanese art is very intricate and require a lot of patience to make.  To them, quality is more important and not the quantity.  They are willing spend a lot of time to make just that one perfect craft.  Isn’t that how art is supposed to be?

Tinker Planet (TDS Lifestyle, May 2010)

We have to admit that no craft hobby is cheap.  Look around in your craft room or area, and try to assess how much you have totally spent for all those tools and materials.  Sometimes, when some tools don’t work the way they should, we tend to throw them away and buy another one.  Even though we have lots of fun with our crafts, it does come with a price.

This month, Tinker Planet is going to focus on repurposing.  There are so many things outside our craft room that we can utilize to save money.  And in doing so, we get to help save the environment in our own little way.  We can call it our "crafty green thing".

Let’s start in the home.  My favorite repurposed item is the spice organizers in the kitchen.  There are quite a few kinds, like the little glass jars that come in wooden rotating holders.  There are also those that have a clear cover and have magnets in the back.  They are all good for storing and organizing embellishments.  I have also used the frappuccino bottles to keep my flowers.  These bottles are also great to fill with candies and little goodies, decorate and give as presents during special occasions.  Do you have those rotating caddies for your kitchen tools?  I have moved mine to my craft desk, altered and perfect for my commonly used tools.  The organizer racks for pans, lids and bake ware are good to store your countless paper trimmers.  Don’t have a die cut machine to use embossing folders with?  Use a rolling pin.  It works like a charm.  Speaking of baking tools, cupcake holders can be used to organize commonly used beads and findings.  A clear glass plate can be an alternative for glass blocks in stamping.  Cut the bottom of a washed 2 liter soda plastic bottle, and that can hold yarn as you knit or crochet.  Just feed the end of the yarn through the mouth, cover the bottom with any piece of plastic or paper, then secure with a rubber band. 

Foil is good to sharpen scissors and punches.  If they are not enough, try different grits of sandpaper.  Still not satisfied?  Cut off the top and bottom of a pop can and you will be left with a thin sheet of metal.  Cut or punch with that sheet.  It is 100% guaranteed to work and will make those punches like new.  Wax paper also works to lubricate punches. 

Let’s head in to the laundry room.  Do you know that you can stamp with bleach?  It is a pretty common stamping technique.  I had accidentally dropped some bleach in one of my favorite pants.  And to cover it up, I stamped that area using foam stamps dipped in bleach.  I always get compliments every time I wear those pants.  Here’s another one:  give plain cardstock a new look with a bleach pen.  Draw like a kid, doodle or design and give it your personal style.  Dryer sheets aid in getting rid of static on paper.  That is especially helpful when you are wet embossing.  Have any extra clothespins?  You can use them to store and organize leftover ribbon.

Another repurposed thing that I like is the over-the-door shoe organizers.  They are good in storing bigger and bulky tools.  I also like to use make-up sponges and applicators for inking.  Those old blush brushes are perfect in sweeping glitter and embossing powder from embossing trays.  Shaving cream can be used to make a unique background or design for cards.  Just spread shaving cream in a shallow pan, add a few drops of reinkers and mix together in a swirling motion.  Place your cardstock on top of the shaving cream and pull away.  Then wipe off the shaving cream from the cardstock using a paper towel, again in a swirling motion and let dry.  Heard of those 4-way or 7-way nail buffers?  They are good in conditioning your rubber stamps for a good and even impression.  Just remember to swipe the nail file very gently over the stamp.  Scared to try it?  Use an eraser instead. 

If you take a peek in the garage, there might be some plastic drawer cabinets meant for storing nails, nuts and bolts.  If your hubby is going to upgrade his garage, ask for those plastic drawers and use them to organize more embellishments.  I have a couple of them which I sprayed black to match the color scheme of my craft room.  Here’s another one that is pretty astonishing.  Plastic gutters are great for storing ribbon.  Yep, I’m talking about the ones that are on the edge of your roofs.  Just drill them to the wall, place your spools of ribbon, and you’re good to go. 

CD cases have been popular in storing clear or unmounted stamps, and even thin metal dies.  They can also be used to stamp with acrylic or cling stamps.  There are certain DVD and Tape racks that can hold ink pads.  And some VHS racks are perfect in storing Cricut cartridges.  Maybe your brother or cousin collects trading cards.  The dollar clear stamps fit perfectly in those 9-pocket card organizers.  There are also 3-pocket and 2-pocket postcard or photo album pages that can hold bigger sizes of clear stamps sets.  They all fit a standard 3-ring binder, and what’s more, they are usually acid free.  Have a cork board lying around?  Use that to organize your brads and create your little work of art at the same time.

Mouse pads are great for cushioning to achieve an even stamped image.  Corrugated cardboard can be used to achieve 3D effects on cards and scrapbook pages.  Unused 12 x 12 pizza boxes are good for storing cardstock, especially when you are moving.  Medicine organizers can hold those tiny embellishments like brads and eyelets.  The same goes with the many kinds of mint or gum containers.  Save plastic packaging and cut them with your dies to make clear mini albums.  Getting tired of dusting and cleaning those plastic or silk flowers?  Don’t throw them away, and instead use the leaves and petals as embellishments for your handmade cards and other projects.   

Now let’s go and venture outside the house.  Search in garage sales and recycle shops.  Is a store closing in your area?  Check them out.  These are the best places to look for cheaper storage for your craft hobbies.  I have always been proud of my rotating fixture, which was originally meant to display personalized key chains.  Now, it’s holding a lot of my ink pads, wood-mounted stamps, punches, adhesive and a lot of other things.  I found these printer’s drawers for sale one time, and I’m now using them for my beads, findings and other jewelry making materials.  Some people use them in storing small wood mounted stamps.

It seems that a lot of things are easier for the crafty person.  When the imagination starts running, you can think of other ways to use a certain object, apart from its original purpose.  That is our advantage.  Use that skill in saving money and the environment as well.  You will feel better about yourself while you are having a great time creating.

Tinker Planet (TDS Lifestyle, April 2010)

Are rubber stamps tools or artwork?  This is the question that has been bugging me for a while now since I chanced upon a discussion in one of the message boards about copyright.  People have misinterpreted some of the legalities pertaining to rubber stamps and other craft products.  Sometimes, this causes confusion and even disappointment among crafters.  And because I didn’t want to be confused, I tried to make my own research about what is right and what is not when it comes to our  stamps. 

First, I wanted to know the real definition of rubber stamps.  And that leads me back to the same question:  are they tools or art?  According to Meriam Webster, a tool is defined as “a handheld device that aids in accomplishing a task.  Stamps are handheld.  And they aid in accomplishing a task, which is to make ink impressions.  So would stamps be considered a tool?  Books and Magazines categorize stamps as tools.  The Encyclopedia of Greeting Card Tools & Techniques by Susan Pickering Rothamel defines a rubber stamp as “a hand tool manufactured of rubber, or a rubber-like product, made to reproduce an image onto any surface using paint or ink.  The same book defined stamping as a way “to reproduce the same image multiple times with a hand tool made of rubber, clear polymer, or other material, or a carved eraser or potato.”  Tools, like stamps, do wear out and break.  According to Wikipedia, there are several kinds of rubber stamps like business rubber stamps, automated rubber stamps, and ready made decorative rubber stamps or more commonly known as art stamps.  Now because the word “art” entered the picture, is it a totally different story?  Art is “the conscious use of skill and creative imagination especially in the production of aesthetic objects.  Based on that definition by Meriam Webster, the images of the rubber stamps we use for crafting would then be classified as art. 

Some people say that when you hand stamp a card and sell that card, it is a violation of Intellectual Property Rights and you can actually get in trouble for that.  My initial reaction was like…  What?!?  I made a card using tools and materials, and stamps are one of them.  I don’t buy a stamp to put in a frame and hang in my wall to beautify my living room.  I buy stamps because I want to make cards.  Cards that I would like to give out to friends and family, and maybe sell with hopes of getting some of my money back from all the tools and materials I have bought to satisfy myself with this hobby.  I am not selling my cards to be a millionaire.  Is it selfish to make a few cents per card, with the tools that I bought with my hard earned money?  When I sell in a craft show, it is already an achievement to earn the cost of the space that I paid for.  And because of the $30 that I made in selling handmade cards using rubber stamps, I have violated the law?  If I am a card maker that uses tools to make my cards, I am no different with a wood crafter who makes furniture using tools to give shape and impressions on the wood.  Why is it ok to resell a used rubber stamp, even for double of what you paid for?  But when you use that stamp to make a beautiful card and sell it for a 50 cent profit, it’s not right.  Now if I am to make the same exact reproduction of that actual stamp, repackage it, claim it as my own and sell it, that’s a totally different story.  That is, I believe, a violation of copyright and intellectual property rights.

But these are just my thoughts.  My opinions as a human crafter.

Based on the circular by the United States Copyright Office, copyright is a form of protection provided by laws of the United States (title 17, U.S. Code) to the authors of “original works of authorship,” including literary, dramatic, musical, artistic and certain other intellectual works.  The 1976 Copyright Act gives the copyright owner exclusive rights to do and authorize others to reproduce the work in copies and distribute copies of the work to the public by sale or other transfer of ownership, among many other things.  On page 2 of this circular, it states that a “mere ownership of a book, manuscript, painting, or any other copy does not give the possessor the copyright.” 
A rubber stamp is a tool.  There is no question about it.  But the images replicated by these stamps are designed by someone else.  That artist has the right to protect their designs, and decide how these designs are to be used.  So, if the rubber stamp company specifies in their copyright that their stamps are for personal use only, and you cannot sell handmade cards with their images, then you cannot and should not.  Yes, even if you own that stamp.  If it is written and supported by law, as stated by the stamp companies’ policies, we should abide by it.  Unfair?  Maybe .  But the law is the law.  And the copyright laws not only cover the US, but a lot of other countries as well through the “Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works” and other treaties ( 

The normal reaction from consumers would be to boycott and not to buy these stamps if the company limits the consumer on how to use them.

However, there is this thing called “angel policy” which states if rubber stamps can be used to create products for sale.  It’s a limited license that specifies how the stamped images can be used.  And there can be some restrictions or limitations.  For example, the images should be hand stamped only, and reproduced mechanically or electronically.  Or the stamped cards can be sold in craft or indie shows only, and cannot be mass-produced.  Another one would be giving credit to the rubber stamp company anywhere in the card if you used their image.  Each “angel company” is different, so it will be really good to check out their official websites and learn about their angel policies.  That, I would say, is really good news.  It shows that the rubber stamp companies do not wish to inhibit our creativity as crafters, while protecting their artists and designers at the same time.  Angel policies are just a vital step to avoid the misuse of the stamped images.

Meriam Webster defined hobby as “a pursuit outside one's regular occupation engaged in especially for relaxation.”  Stamping is a hobby, and can be incorporated with other crafts like card making, scrapbooking and jewelry making.  Like all other hobbies, it is fun to do and a good way of relaxing and releasing our creative spirits.  That’s the main reason why we have hobbies, right?  I guess, technically, if we sell our creations, it will no longer be considered a hobby, but a business.  No matter how much money you make from it.

However which way we want to go with our hobbies – being a designer, selling creations, or putting up your own craft company, being responsible and considerate with each fellow crafter will make our crafty world a more fun, happier and creative place.

Happy crafting!      

Tinker Planet (TDS Lifestyle, March 2010)

No.  This is not about the famous Adam Sandler movie.  According to Merriam-Webster, punch-drunk means “suffering cerebral injury usually from many minute brain hemorrhages that is a result of repeated head blows received in boxing and is typically marked by mental confusion, incoordination, and slurred speech.”  It is simply defined as dazed, confused or bewildered.  There is really no official meaning of punch drunk love, but the movie depicts the meaning as when a person has experienced so many emotional hits that they can no longer think clearly.

Well, in the craft sense, I would say I am punch drunk.  Why?  There are so many punches in the craft market and it’s so overwhelming that when I see them, I just cannot think straight.  It doesn’t matter if you’re browsing through the internet, or if you’re in an actual craft store.  You see these punches, and you find it so hard to decide which one to get, so you end up splurging.  Then the “dazed” part comes in after you pay the bill.  Then you have your version of a brain hemorrhage from pulling your hair or hitting your forehead for buying so many.  What makes it worse, you become bewildered when you find out that you bought a punch that you already have, because it’s buried somewhere in your craft room and you have never used it.

Now don’t laugh at me fellow crafter.  You know what I’m talking about.  Look into those drawers or cabinets.  How many punches do you have?  I won’t believe you if you only have 5.  Or even 10.  And tell me how many of these punches do you actually use?  Come on.  Be true to yourself.  Don’t worry.  You are not alone.  Many of us are guilty of this.

But how can you resist these punches?  There are so many kinds – shape punches, corner punches, edge punches, deep edge punches, border punches, cut and emboss punches, 3D punches, edge and corner combo punches, all with different sizes and purposes.  You just have to have them all.  My first ever memory of a shape punch was the type they used to cut photo IDs.  I was in elementary then.  It was a big and heavy tool set on a table, with a lever that you pull so you can cut a 1 inch square photo with rounded edges.

I tried, but I really can’t find out who created the first punch.  However, I know for a fact that they were already existent in the 90s, and maybe even the 80s.  When I started this hobby, only shape punches were in the market – alphabet, flowers, regular shapes (circle, triangle, star, heart, etc.).  The first corner punches were just for rounding corners of photographs.  And then it evolved and crafters started to use them for scrapbooking.  Until the decorated corner punches arrived.  Then the edge punches.  Each type evolving into something better.  And the rest is history.

It is always fun to play with punches.  Commonly used for scrapbooking and card making, you can use punches for many other projects.  Lately, I have been playing with my punches and this is what I came up with:

1.  BOOKMARKS.  Use your imagination in this very easy project.  Punch the edges of a piece of cardstock and add ribbon on top.  You can also do some layering.  I do suggest to use flat embellishments so as not to leave marks on the book pages.

2.  EMBELLISHMENTS.  Layer punched shapes to create your custom-made embellishments for card making, scrapbooking or other crafts.  Ink the edges or Use double adhesive foam tape for more dimension.

3.  STREAMER.  Put together punched shapes for 3D paper crafting.  In this project, I folded punched circles in half and put together to form a ball.  Then I hung it on a piece of string to put my streamer together.  You can also make a mobile using this technique.

4.  ORNAMENT.  Punch the edges of a long piece of cardstock using deep edge punches, then adhere the ends together to form a circle.  Embellish as you wish.  Next, create the center piece by putting together two same images.  They can be punched, or in my case, two embossed stamped images.  With a clear thread, attach the center piece to the top of the circle to give the “floating” effect.  Finally, add a ribbon or string to hang the ornament. 

5.  CANDY TRAY.  Following the instructions of the Punch-Around-The-Page combo punches, I cut a 6.25 square cardstock, then punched around the edges.  After some scoring on each corner and an inch around from the edges, I folded the square in such a way that it forms into a tray.  Then I secured the corners with brads.  Next, using an edge punch, I punched a strip of same color cardstock for the handle.  After that, I attached both ends to the two opposite sides of the tray.  Embellish as you wish.  Using the same procedure, you can make mini baskets to put in treats during special occasions or holidays.

I can say that punches are the tools I couldn’t live without.  They are so versatile and you can use them in so many ways.  There are more and more awesome patterns to choose from.  Plus, the physical designs of these punches are improving every time a company comes out with new ones, making it easier to store them and save more space, and giving you another reason to buy more.

But to tell you the truth, I won’t stop from buying punches as more styles and designs come out.  But I’m trying to be more picky in buying them, thinking twice or more everytime I see them online or in the craft stores.

Yes, I am punch drunk love.  Are you?

Tinker Planet (TDS Lifestyle, February 2010)

So goes my life.
Still believe in dreams of having you around.
Too bad, memories feed the mind and not the heart where I want you to be.
So I ask myself what you’ve left behind for me, to go on each day and live as if I have you once again.
What else is there that’s real?  But all the pain that I feel.

So let the pain remain forever in my heart.
For every throb it brings is one more moment spent with you.
I let the pain bring on the rain.
If that’s the only way, if there’s no other way to be with you again.

- lyrics from the song Let The Pain Remain by Willy Cruz

I’m starting my first article for this year with a sad note.  For a few weeks now I have been contemplating on what to write about to spearhead this column, which was a very sweet surprise after coming back from a month of sorrow.  To make the long story short, my Daddy passed on just a few days after Thanksgiving.  It was something very unexpected because it was too soon.  And yes, it was a Christmas filled with sorrow for me and my family.

Now is the month of hearts… of love.  Most people look forward to February to celebrate Valentine’s day with that special someone:  husband, wife, boyfriend, girlfriend, significant other, life partner, crush, etc.  But this month, I am devoting heart’s day, and this column, to the first man in my life.  And that is my Daddy.

The first thing that came to mind when my Daddy passed away was the memories.  I wanted to gather all the photos, videos and keepsakes that I can get that has my Daddy in it.  I made sure that whatever I am able to keep will be with me until I die.  Which made me really glad for having scrapbooking as a hobby.  I am able to preserve a lot of, if not all, those special memories.  It is also a very nice outlet for each emotion that’s brewing deep inside (apart from singing).  My only wish is that I should have made more pages about my Daddy and our family altogether even before he died. 

Makes me think, what other ways can I do to preserve these memories?

Well, one would be scrapbooking of course.  And in cases like this, journaling is very important.  Describe what exactly happened based on the photos of your layout, and state the mood during that time.  And don’t forget to write how you felt when that event was taking place.  Also, put as many photos as you can to capture each moment.  You can make each page extra special by inserting or attaching memorabilia.  Hidden elements like mini albums and tags will also work great.

Speaking of which, I would also suggest to have a back-up of all those precious photos.  There are many options to do that.  The most common one would be to store old and printed photos in an acid free album or box.  Organize them chronologically if possible.  You can go one step further by scanning all the printed photos so you can have digital files of them.  For digital photos, you can burn them to discs.  DVDs are cheaper to store and can last up to to 100 years, depending on storage conditions and media quality.  One DVD can store thousands of photos, depending on quality.  Double or triple what you can store with Blu Ray and HD discs.   Another option would be to store your digital photos in an external hard drive.  They are no longer as expensive as before.  In fact, you can get a 1 terabyte (1000 gigabytes) hard drive for less than $100, which can store up to 250,000 four megabyte images.  It is also equivalent to about 128 DVDs or 20 Blu Ray discs.  There is a new one I recently learned about and it is called “online data storage” or “remote backup”.  Here, you can have a back-up of your files straight to the internet, mostly for free.  But for more space, you might have to pay some fees.  However, you will need a really good and fast internet service provider for easy upload and retrieval of your files.  Now the big question would be:  which is the best option to preserve photos?  Are you more traditional or are you good with computers?  Which one is more convenient and cost effective?  It will all depend on you.  Right now, I’m still in the process of gathering all the photos and videos that I can get.  And I have bought a 1 TB external hard drive for all of them.  And when I do have the chance, I still want to burn all the photos and videos on DVDs just to be sure.

Want something that you can see all the time?  How about a photo collage that you can hang on your wall?  You can simply buy a collage frame and insert pictures in it.  Or you can make your own and customize it according to the décor or theme of a certain room in your house.  Are you into mixed-media?  That would be so much better.  If you want to go more high-tech, consider investing on a digital photo frame.  You can put tons of photos in there (depending on the internal/external memory storage) which you can showcase with different transitions and set intervals in between each.

If you are computer savvy, you can also make a photo slideshow using a video editing software, and burn them to DVDs.  You don’t need to buy an expensive software to do this.  You can easily make your own photo slideshow/video using the simple interface of Windows Movie Maker, which comes with your Windows (XP and up).   This way, you can play and watch them anytime on your DVD players.  This works well, especially when you are entertaining friends and relatives, or even during special occasions.  You can add your own touch to your production by playing with the different effects and transitions.  What’s more, you can insert your favorite songs to go along with the photo slideshow.  I was able to make a photo slideshow of my Daddy’s photos, including his last ones, and played it during his funeral/wake.  Through that slideshow, our friends and relatives were able to see my Daddy in his final years, and they knew that despite my Daddy’s struggles, he did enjoy his life.

Now what do you think about this:  A photo keepsake quilt.  This will be something really awesome and could last forever as it gets passed down from generation to generation.  Print those memorable photos on fabric sheets, which you can buy from most craft stores.  Another alternative is printing on iron on transfer sheets, which you will then iron on fabric.  The key here is to make sure that your printer is specifically designed for printing photos.  Once your photos are on fabric, trim and incorporate them on to your quilt.  There are also other options you can make like ties, wall hanging décor, vests, and pillow cases.  Or just like from the movie “Stepmom”, the dying mom made a memory cape for her young son.  I would love to make a memory quilt of my Daddy, and this will be added in my “to do” list.

It is a really good thing that we have many options to help preserve and protect all those wonderful memories.  Some may be painful, but they hone us into who we are.  I am thankful for all the technology, tools and supplies that we can utilize to make all of these possible.  And I am thankful that through our crafts, we get inspiration from each other.  Let each moment be conveyed through our creations.  Because each moment counts.

The {CRAFTY} Place To Be
The Daily Scrapper, November 2009

Which crafter doesn’t have a craft room?  Or a craft area?  Or a craft corner?  No matter what situation a crafter is in, he or she will find a spot for that special hobby.  It may be in a closet, in the garage, under the stairs, in an attic or in the basement.  It doesn’t matter how small or big or where.  Because that place is like their haven.  A sanctuary.  A place to get away.   

My craft area started in a closet which I can close.  And then it came to a point that I have to leave the doors open because of too much stuff.  After that, it became a corner of a bedroom, and eventually it covered an entire wall.  I knew then that when we move to a house of our own, I will have to have a craft room.  And that was a statement.  Not a request or a wish.  It was a statement.

To make the long story short, I now have a craft room which I call my planet.  And as I was planning the layout of my room, I wanted to use repurposed furniture and recycled items as much as possible.  There is just no way that I will spend loads of money for a certain cabinet or desk when I know I have other cheaper and better options.  Besides, this is a craft room, not a showroom to display my stuff.   Thus, it is meant to be messy.

The key is planning, patience and research. 

Use the internet and look for crafters who showcase their craft areas in their blogs.  There are tons of ideas out there.  Even though not all of them will work with your plan, but you’ll definitely get something.  You can also get ideas from magazines and books.  What will be the different parts of your room?  Where will your work desk be?  Is there enough lighting?  Do you have windows?  Will you be using a color scheme in your room?  What about storage?  What kind of flooring will you use?  It will all depend on what type of hobby or hobbies you have. 

Unless you have all the money in the world to just buy the cabinets and organizers you like in stores or internet, it will take time to find the right furniture at the right place with the right price.  I kept visiting the recycle shops in my area and searched in a lot of garage sales, until I found the one that I need.  One of my favorite finds is the rotating shop fixture for key chains and souvenirs.  Spray painted in white, this is where I store my punches, inkpads, wood-mounted stamps, adhesive and other tools.  I also found a wooden rack with a slanted base that came with 4 glass jars (meant for storing sugar, salt, flour, etc).  I painted that black and I now use it to hold my organizer for my pens and pencils.  I also repurposed an office metal drawer cabinet to organize my variety of materials and scrap paper.  There is also a rotating kitchen tool caddy where I put my commonly used tools.  I also found wood crates from the dollar store which I use to organize my leftover ribbon.  I put my eyelets and small embellishments in medicine organizers stacked on a paper tower holder.

For me, it is easier to organize everything, but it is hard to remember where you put them.  This is something I still experience up to this very day, knowing that you have a particular tool or embellishment, but you just can’t find it.  To prevent this, I try to place commonly used tools and materials in arms’ reach.  And I label a lot – every drawer, album or shelf.  It is important to put the same kind of materials in one spot, and not scattered around.  Organizing my craft room is a never ending process.  In fact, I just rearranged a couple of fixtures two days ago, which left me with one vacant spot for a printer desk.  I just assembled that desk tonight, and I still have room for a couple more drawers to store more stuff.

I was asked this question:  How do you keep your craft room tidy?  My answer is….. well, I really don’t have an answer to that.  All for one reason:  my craft room is never tidy.  I will clean up and re-organize but it doesn’t stay in that state for too long.  And I guess it’s all because I keep creating in my craft room.  I utilize it almost everyday.  And no, I won’t be cleaning my craft room after each and every time I use it.  All I know is that when I can’t see my desk anymore, then it’s time to clean.  And then it’s the same cycle all over again.  

I will definitely say organize, organize and organize, because it helps a lot especially if you have acquired a lot of tools and materials throughout your crafty life.  For sure, you’ll be hoarding (as what all crafters do) and buying more as newer and better products come out in the market.  The bottom line is, if you are a crafter, use it to your advantage in planning and setting up your craft area.  Isn’t it like being in your own little world when you’re in your craft room?  Then make that world the way you want it, how you want that world a good and harmonious place to be… or to craft!  

The Daily Scrapper (November 6, 2009)

People like me from tropical countries have always wanted to see snow.  We mainly have summer and rainy seasons all year round, and to see snow was something to look forward to if given the chance.  Every time somebody we know goes to the cold countries, the first thing we usually ask is if they have seen snow.  I was very excited myself when I experienced my first snow fall.  But little did I know that there is something better.  And that is Autumn. 

That is one of the things I look forward to every year.  And the leaves…. oh the leaves!  When they change color from green to the different hues of orange, red, yellow and brown – just glorious.  When they do fall from the trees and cover the ground, it was like having a new carpet, only outside the house.  The sound of the crisp, dry leaves as you take each step is like music to the ears.  The cool air gives relief after weeks of the hot and humid summer. 

For us here in Northern Michigan, the best time to go out for a drive is in the fall.  We could drive for hours just to see different Autumn palettes.  It is a wonder how different areas have more red colors, others have mostly yellow, while some areas have all the reds, yellows and oranges.  True it is, this season is another proof of a really good miracle.  

Another important occasion this season is Thanksgiving, which is originally a harvest festival.  Although it is mainly celebrated in the United States and Canada, it is already being observed in many countries.  Traditionally, it is a time to give thanks not only for a good harvest, but for everything else as well.

I will never forget my first real and traditional Thanksgiving dinner with my husband’s family.  My mother-in-law baked turkey and made stuffing, cranberry sauce, gravy and the works.  Not to mention the green beans, sausages, squash, corn, baked potato, bread rolls and homemade pie.  While the women of the family chat while preparing dinner, the men gather in front of the TV to watch football.  The mix of these sounds adds to the festive mood.  During dinner time, the adults eat in the same table while the younger ones eat at another.  After dinner, we play board games with the kids.  The cozy conversations, smiles and laughter made it all complete.  Thanksgiving dinners like these confirm my being American.  It is something that I never experienced growing up in my native country.

What I like about Thanksgiving is its authenticity.  Unlike Christmas and Valentine’s Day, it is not yet “commercialized,” and I hope it stays that way.  Being together and spending time with family is more important, and really not bothering much about gifts and material things.  We don’t worry about what present to give to whom during Thanksgiving.  We worry about just being there with family. 

However, when the clock strikes 12 after Thanksgiving dinner, there is one more thing a lot of Americans look forward to.  And that is this thing called Black Friday, the start of the traditional Christmas shopping season.  During this time, stores would offer special deals on many items.  Some people even make a career out of it, and even I am guilty.  In the present time, it’s usually the women of the family who make plans for Black Friday.  Consider it a bonding time between sisters, mothers, daughters and even friends.  Although men generally have no interest in shopping, but some of them participate too and serve as drivers or shopping bag carriers.  I guess you can say you have enough “gasoline” from the Thanksgiving dinner the night before, and hopefully that will last you to do your shopping from either or very early in the morning the next day, until who knows when.

Other people would say that Autumn is boring because there is nothing to it.  They say it just reminds you that the cold harsh winter is coming.  I don’t believe so.  There are so many beautiful things about Fall.  And the most important of all is the part when families gather together – not only to share a special meal, but to spend time with each other, and reflect on things.  Things to be thankful for, good and bad.  Normally, we would easily enumerate a bunch of them – a good job, new car, food on the table and a lot more.  But most often than not, we forget to include in the list the most important ones, especially the ones that are priceless.

The Daily Scrapper (September, 2009)
Who doesn’t like to go to craft shows and expos?  There are so many kinds taking place everywhere, coming in different sizes and themes.  Some can be school based, community based, or can even be a much bigger scale like those that take place in convention centers, gymnasiums and even cruises.  Name it, they got it – scrapbooking, stamping, fiber arts, pottery, stained glass, quilting, mixed media, wood working, jewelry, clay art, metal work, paintings... there are so many to mention.  That is why it is exhilarating to go to events like these.

At least for me.

Months ahead, I mark my calendar of craft shows that are to take place in my area.  And when I travel, I do my research on the internet and make sure to go to at least one craft show wherever I’m going.  This past spring and summer alone, I was able to go to seven crafts shows in two American states.  And I’m looking forward to going to four or five more this fall.  At this time, I can’t count how many craft shows I’ve been to in all.  All I know is that I enjoyed each and every one.

So why do I love craft shows?  Going to one is like being in a melting pot of ideas.  Just seeing everybody’s creations fills my heart with happiness and amazement of what other people can do.  It is also the best time for crafters and artisans to showcase their work.  At the same time, it makes me mad at myself for not being able to think of a particular idea which seemed so simple.  It is also very inspiring, and makes you want to create more when you go home.  It’s also the best place to buy gifts for special occasions, especially Christmas, because what you can get in craft shows are pretty unique.  It is true that the prices can be a little up there, but I just think of it as supporting my fellow crafters.  Most hobbies are not cheap, and that is a fact.  We do need “gasoline” to support our respective craft vices.  Plus, you know that what you buy is one of a kind.  Or if not, you are almost guaranteed that only a few people will have what you buy.

After being in so many craft shows, I have learned how to be smart from the moment I step in the door to the time I leave.  Like I said, it is very exciting to see each and every vendor’s items.  And of course, we tend to buy what we like.  And then we end up spending a lot – then having some regrets when we get home.  And that is not a good thing.  So I came up with some tips on how to enjoy craft shows, save money and not leave empty handed.

1.  Plan ahead.  Set a budget and stick to it.  Make room for an exception, but it has to be really worth it.

2.  If you are buying presents for others, do have a list of people you are giving to.

3.  Make sure you have enough cash with you.  Although some vendors accept credit cards, not all craft show locations have ATM machines available.  So it is also smart to have your check book with you just in case you decide to make a big purchase.

4.  Wearing a body bag is advisable so both your hands are free when you look at items.  Bring a large bag, shopping cart or luggage with wheels if you can, especially if you’re going to a show that you really like.  I do this in big events (like scrapbooking/stamping shows) because it can really be a pain to carry the things you have bought around.  

5.  When you enter the show, go and see each and every vendor first.  Don’t buy anything yet until you’ve seen all of them.  Sometimes, there are vendors that sell the same items, and sometimes one sells theirs cheaper.  And sometimes, the other one has better quality too.  I have learned this the hard way, and I ended up paying almost double for an item because I got too excited.  If it is possible to do two rounds before you make a decision on which ones to buy, do it.  Sometimes, things don’t look as enticing the second time around.  You also have to keep in mind that “all sales are final” is a common vendor policy.

6.  When you visit each vendor, be on a lookout for bargains or special deals. 

7.  It doesn’t hurt to haggle, but do it reasonably and nicely.  Craft shows are not flea markets.  The vendors/artisans spent a lot of their time (and money) to create their products, and it could be an insult to ask for too cheap of a price for a piece of lovely artwork.  Don’t take this the wrong way, but I always think that if a vendor is selling their items too cheap, say for example jewelry, most probably they didn’t make those items.  There is a possibility that they bought their items in bulk somewhere for a very low price too.

8.  When you want to buy an item, ask yourself:  “Do I need this?”  If yes, then buy it.  If no, ask yourself again:  “Why do I want this?”  If you think it is a really good reason, buy it.  But still think twice before you do.  If you are still not sure, go look around some more then go back to that item.  That usually helps you decide if you really have to buy that particular item or not.  This is also another good question:  “Is there a place for this in my home?”  If there isn’t, don’t buy it.

9.  Make sure to inspect the quality of the item you are intending to buy, especially if the show location is far from your home.  Look for cracks, scratches or dents.  Is the packaging good?  You might not have a chance to return or exchange an item if it’s damaged.

10.  Do let the artisan/crafter know if you like their work or product.  It also doesn’t hurt to ask questions.  It actually makes the artisan think that his work is interesting, and that is flattering.

11.  If you like to take photos of items, it would be really polite to ask first.  It would also be much better if you take a photo of the artisan together with his/her creations or products.

12.  Most craft shows/expos hold raffles of items donated by the vendors.  Make sure to fill up that form and don’t miss the chance of winning something.

13.  Participate in make and takes if you can.  That gives you a chance to use tools and learn new techniques.  Sometimes you have to pay a few bucks, but some vendors do it for free.

14.  Watch demonstrations.  That also helps you decide if it’s worth it to buy a particular product or not.

15.  On the last day of the show, vendors usually give discounts.  Some artisans and crafters do travel far and wide to sell their creations.  It can be troublesome for them to pack their items and haul them back to wherever they came from. 

Finally, keep in mind that what we see in craft shows are not necessities.  But we have to admit that it is super fun.  You just have to be really smart when you go to craft events, especially in times like this when the economy is not doing so well.  It will be a challenge to go to a craft show without buying anything, but for sure it can be very entertaining and inspiring.

The Daily Scrapper, July 2009

I don’t have a green thumb.  And I don’t think it will ever be.  Don’t worry, I won’t tell you the long story about why that’s the case.  I am jealous of a lot of friends and family who have wonderful gardens.  To tell you the truth, the last time I ever planted something was in grade school.  And don’t ask me how long ago that is. 

However, I do love my hands.  Because with them, I can create many things.  I may not be able to grow flowers with them.  But I know I can create.

A lot of friends have given me plants and flowers as presents.  And don’t laugh.  I’m pretty sure 90% of them didn’t last long.  And don’t laugh again.  The only ones that have lived with me are cactus plants.  I’m not even sure if they are actually called plants.  But the bottom line is, they lasted.  Period. 

And since we have moved to the US, we have received plants and flowers as gifts.  And to tell you frankly, they didn’t last long either.

But this year, we have a new batch of flowering plants and I’m really doing my best to keep them alive.

So what does that have to do with crafting?  Well, how about this one? (show picture)  This was given to me by a co-worker.  And my first reaction was amazement.  Just brilliant.  In craft terms, it is very crafty.  She altered an old kid’s denim jumper into a flower planter.  That totally inspired me and made me realize that I can actually combine crafting and gardening.  I realized that there is a bunch of crafty ways in making gardening fun, at least for a “gardenius ignoramus” crafter like me.

Since we have started with “altering”, how about altering wood, plastic and metal planters? All you need are paint, embellishments and good adhesive.  Just make sure to use weatherproof paint if they will be staying outside.  You can also make gardening décor.  With all the toys you have invested in this hobby of ours, it should be easy – especially once your creative juices have started flowing.

Still not convinced?  Why don’t you make your own flowers?  Say, paper flowers?  Or any material you can think of – fabric, chipboard, cork sheets, or whatever your die cut machine can cut.  Get those flower punches and dies out and cut away.  That’s also a good reason to use your leftover paper and cardstock.  And you can use these flowers for paper crafting projects like a wreath, bouquet, garlands, or topiary.  They can also serve as embellishments for cards and scrapbook layouts.

Need more inspiration?  Why don’t you leave your craft room for a while and spend some time outside.  Enjoy the beauty of nature all around you – from the green grass, to the colorful flowers, tall trees and clear skies.  Sometimes it does help to stop and smell the roses.

So, what color is your thumb?

The Daily Scrapper, June 2008

There is one New Year’s resolution that is always on my list.  And that is not to fail to send cards to my family, relatives and friends during special occasions – including birthdays and anniversaries.  Maybe you can relate to me, but there are many things that go in the way.  Topping the list is laziness, followed by lack of organization.  And of course, there are gazillions of reasons why (or make that alibis).

But of course, there are so many ways to make our loved ones know that we didn’t forget.  With all the technology hype in this world, you can send emails, e-cards, and text messages, picture messages, video messages, etc.  If you want to exert extra effort, you can buy gifts, flowers, chocolate, candy, or whatever present you think is appropriate – or sometimes find in your stash (wink!).  A very common, traditional and economical way is to buy and send cards.  Talking about cheap, you can just simply call.

But then again, we still somehow miss one, two, or even more occasions, especially birthdays.  Birthday.  That is the most important day in a person’s life.  Unlike Christmas or Valentines, not everybody in the world celebrates your birthday, except maybe a couple of other people you know.  But still, it’s your day.  You want to feel special, especially as your number gets higher.  When somebody remembers your birthday, it brightens your day, if not that moment.  It doesn’t matter how they let you know that they remember that special day.  What matters is that they did not forget.

And what makes me feel bad is when somebody does remember me on my special day, and then I miss theirs.  Guilty.  Beyond reasonable doubt.  What kind of a friend or relative am I?  This boils down to the same New Year’s resolution every year.

And because we’re celebrating The Daily Scrapper’s first anniversary, we’d searched and researched for ways on how not to miss these special occasions.  With this hobby of ours, it shouldn’t be a problem.  Think of it as “playing” while organizing those special dates.  Plus, you get to create something that you can actually use all year round.

1.  Make a scrapbook calendar.  It can be a 12 x 12 or 8 x 8, single or double paged, wall mounted or something that sits on your desk.  You choose what fits you best.  Just make sure it’s positioned to where you can easily see it.  What I do with mine is that instead of writing down the birthdays or anniversaries, I attach photos of that person celebrating his/her birthday on that particular day.  What’s swell about that is you don’t need to read.  You’ll just look and you’ll know whose birthday is coming up.  But don’t be like me, who starts making her scrapbook calendar in March or April of that year.  Start yours in October or November of the year before, so you’ll be all set for the new year.

2.  Do you have a cell phone or PDA that you cannot live without?  Make time to input all those birthdays and special occasions, and make sure you set an alarm at least 5 days before the actual date.  That way, you have time to prepare – buy a present or send a card or something.  Make sure you set the alarm on the date itself also, just in case you’re too busy to buy a present or mail a card, you can still give them a call, email or send a text message.

3.  Are you into digital scrapbooking?  Make digital calendar layouts (I recommend 12 x 12), marked with those birthdays and special events.  But of course, you don’t want to print each page.  Make all 12 pages as your screensaver.  Or, you can set the current month’s layout as your default desktop photo.  In this case, that calendar is the first thing you see every time you turn on your computer.  And hopefully, those special dates will stay in your subconscious mind.

4.  Make a magnetized birthday calendar you can attach on the fridge.  I would recommend half lengthwise size of 8.5 x 11 copy paper or any kind of paper you prefer.  Use the software you’re most familiar with – from Word, Power Point, digital scrapbooking software, Photoshop – whichever works for you.  Once they’re printed, attach them on chipboard slightly bigger than your 12 pages.  You can use brads, staples, slide clips – whatever is handy.  Then embellish to your heart’s content.  Adhere a strip of magnet in the back, and voila!  With this one, you can see your occasions calendar every time you open your fridge.

5.  Do you like to make your own cards?  Why don’t you make cards for the birthday celebrants in your family and circle of friends ahead of time?  Like maybe a year before?  If you want to go to the extreme, sign these cards right away – but don’t forget to put the right date!  Then organize these cards according to month, so all you need to do is mail them.

6.  It might be good to have or make “belated” or “sorry I missed your birthday/anniversary/etc.” cards handy, just in case you do forget a special date.  Better late than never, right?

Is it overwhelming?  These are just some suggestions for you to be the cool Aunt or friend who never misses anyone’s birthday.  I have to say that it will take a lot of your time, but I’m sure it will work wonders.  Your friends and family will love you more, and you are most likely guaranteed to be reciprocated one way or another.  Remember, what comes around goes around.