Thursday, August 27, 2009

Studio reorganization... is it permanent or just a short-lived phase?

After delaying for years I finally bought a new monitor and Mac, so yahoo! However, as this photograph demonstrates, some reorganization was in order as well. The room isn’t quite this disheveled normally, but the photo was taken after the new system was in place, yet the old system (G4 tower, a small LCD monitor, and a Sony Trinitron CRT) was still on the tables. It’s still in here actually, because I keep thinking of files that must be retrieved from it.

I asked my naturally-organized hubby Andy for advice on how to improve the use of space. After chuckling because he gets this request from people at work fairly often, he immediately came up with two great suggestions:
#1 Put some shelves behind the monitor.
#2 Get a larger bulletin board.
The white boards on top of the TV are pieces of foam core that were sort of propped up there... for years. Kind of like bulletin boards, come to think of it. When stuff accumulates in sort of a permanent geological formation, it’s either a sign that a storage unit is needed, or perhaps that the stuff needs to be discarded. It’s not obvious in these photos, but the other items that have an annoying way of piling up are sticky notes. They accumulate in my office-studio like barnacles on a gray whale.
Let’s start with the new bulletin board (below). It’s a lot bigger than the old one, 4' X 4' and it’s very easy and inexpensive to make. It’s a piece of rigid foam insulation from the building supply store cut in half because it comes in 4' X 8' sheets. The other half is elsewhere in the room giving a total of 32 square feet of wall space to put stuff. Note: take your own box-cutter to the store, one with a nice blade at least an inch long. They only give the employees a dinky little cutter with a teensy tiny blade that just scratches the surface, literally.

The foam is covered by inexpensive decorator fabric from an outlet that is wrapped around the back and pinned into place with ball-headed straight pins. They're angled in pointing towards the edges to keep them from poking through. The pins work well instead of thumbtacks, which would make bigger holes and tend to degrade the foam faster. I didn’t bother to attach the finished bulletin boards to the walls... this one is sitting on the tables and is held in place by the mini-bookcase and TV. If you wanted to attach it to the walls, you’d probably have to glue some chunks of thin plywood to the back because you can’t hang foam on a nail. For long.
With this much-thinner monitor (a NEC MultiSync LCD 2490WUXi), there was a huge amount of room behind it. After visiting the local office supply stores, I found this 3 X 3 cubicle in Target. It’s not the most sturdy chipboard in the world... it’s similar to dried oatmeal. However, because the shelves are supported every 12 inches, it shouldn’t have any sagging problems, hopefully. It was a little confusing to assemble, but eventually it came together. This gives me an additional 9 square feet of stashing space that so far is mostly empty(!) The plastic bins are from Office Max... they were the only place that had anything like these.
You can see some sticky notes have crept in already, but I’m forcing myself to use the sticky note “widget” on the Mac instead of the real ones as often as possible. Or, just starting a document to contain whatever the fab info is. I should probably take the pens and pencils away, that might help.
Anyhoo, it’s a vast improvement and makes it much more enjoyable to write, illustrate, design, go online, you name it. Maintaining this nirvana is the next trick. After I finish up the rest of the room...

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Listening to podcasts while creating

My iPod touch is my new best friend while drawing, sewing, making jewelry, etc. We had resisted the siren calls of these little players for many years... what finally put us over the edge was that our new car has a USB connection so we could have lots of music without having to bring clunky CDs. When we went into our local Apple Store and saw that the iPod touch was exactly like an iPhone without the phone service, we couldn’t resist. (I have nothing against the iPhone, but we already have the only cell phone service with good reception where we live and it’s not AT&T.) Once you buy the iTouch, there is no monthly phone charge but you can do all the stuff... load your CDs on it, go online (with WiFi), use mapping services, and most importantly to me, download free podcasts from the iTunes store. 

You have to set up an account with iTunes, but you don’t have to buy anything, (not that there aren’t many temptations!) The navigation with the iPod is a little confusing, but to get podcasts the first time go on the iTunes store (purple button), and either do a search on the name of the podcast you want or click the little podcast button if it’s visible on the very bottom. I’m a little vague on exactly when various options appear, it seems to vary. 

You can stream many of the podcasts (listen without downloading it) but you should download at least one and keep one on the iTouch all the time. The reason is that it makes it much easier to browse for more. Once you’ve downloaded a podcast, it’s stored under the orange Music button. If you can’t see your downloaded podcasts when you click on the music button, click on More and it should appear. Once you have a podcast on there, there’s a handy little link that says Get More Episodes... the link takes you directly to related podcasts on iTunes and makes it easy to find more.

There are all sorts of categories of podcasts: News & Politics, Technology, Comedy, Arts, Games & Hobbies, and many more. What I have listened to so far are mostly NPR shows like Living on Earth (environmental topics); This American Life (fascinating stories about people); A Way with Words (fun conversations about word origins and other language topics); Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me (comedy news quiz); and Fresh Air (interviews of newsmakers, authors, musicians, etc.). Scientific American had a fun 3-part series in July about the Ice Age movies, with interviews of the company founders (lots of physicists), art directors, animators, and others involved in the production.

I've only scratched the surface, can’t wait to find more. Let me know if you have any favorite podcasts to share. One thing’s for sure... my days of attempting to listen to the lousy local daytime radio in Orlando are over! 

Friday, August 14, 2009

Estate sale fabric... what luck!

My brother Robert has a used bookstore in Orlando, Leedy’s Books, so he’s on the email list of a company that runs estate sales. Actually, in this case the homeowners were just moving to the beach and wanted somebody else to deal with disposing of their extra belongings. They listed a lot of sewing-related items so I checked it out. There were bolts and bolts of fabric, but I really didn’t need 5+ yards of those particular fabrics. Fortunately there was a smallish plastic bin stuffed full of smaller cuts for $20.

Once home, I spent about an hour shuffling the various pieces around to find good combinations. It was amazing how much fabric was in there... most of it was large-scale prints that I wouldn’t normally buy plus some chenille and minkee fabric, but check these out... 

Guitars and polka dots:
Pink and black fashionable ladies with a touch of green:
Three colors of Paris with purple dots:
Red guitars and blue and green dots:
This one isn't really a set, but I like all these fabrics, especially the paisleys.
This is what is leftover in the box. I’ll either use them for quilt backs or donate them. Although the green fluffy stuff has already been claimed by our kitty to cover her luxurious new foam pad.
Such a deal! I suspect the top four groups will come in handy for the holiday gift-giving season... if I can stop sleeping and get some production sewing time in.

By the way, in honor of finally getting new computer after delaying for literally years, AND upgrading to the wonderful world of CS4, I made a new signature for the blog. How do you like it? Maybe it could change colors with the seasons. : )

Monday, August 10, 2009

Wire jewelry set

It was intriguing to visit the CHA Craft SuperShow... mostly I was on the lookout for new materials or those that I’ve previously overlooked. One of the latter is WireLaceTM, which is a ribbonlike tube of extremely fine wire netting that comes in various widths and colors. It can be stretched into ruffled shapes if desired. Bello Modo has a good selection, as well as a lot of other beautiful beads, embellishments, and other tempting supplies. The photo on the left from their display shows the WireLace woven into large chains. Also check out the kits for finished examples.

I’ve been branching out from basic wire crochet as shown below. This necklace started with one simple chain in 28 gauge wire with a few beads added in. Then several strands of randomly swirled and beaded wire were woven in one by one. It’s not an exact process... the swirls are done around various sizes of crochet hook handles or a thick needle (for a very small coil), stretched, flattened, and/or twisted around, weaving in and out of the crocheted chain. The crocheted chain provides the structure for the other strands because it can’t be stretched out of shape. 
The teardrop earrings use the same wires along with the smaller beads used in the necklace.
This little sample didn’t end up as part of the set, but it has possibilities, don’t you think?
Happy Monday!