Creating a Coat of Arms

One of the last times I saw Petey he told me there were 10,000 ninjas up my nose. That was okay because he is 5 years old, and one of my favorite people. Like many other little boys, he is preoccupied with ninjas and interested in battle toys. His mom made him a saber light, and I thought he might like a shield featuring his family's coat of arms.

To see if your own family has a coat of arms, a web site like House of Names is useful. You can type in your surname and see what comes up. If your family does not have a crest (mine doesn't), you can design one at a site like Make Your Coat of Arms.

 Petey's family does have an ancient coat of arms and it looks like this:

For $18 he could purchase an 8 1/2 x 11 print (without the copyright sign on it) suitable for framing. But my rendition of his coat of arms needed to be a toy. I looked around for something suitable on which to paint the coat of arms, and was not sure what would work out best.

This is Peter and Danny, two more of my favorite people:

They own a pizza restaurant around the corner from where I live, called Milkflower. It has a brick oven into which they pile wood.

And they make delicious pizzas that look like this...

...that come in a box which turned out to be a perfect size for a 5-year old's coat of arms.

I printed out the illustration of the family crest and folded the page into fourths. Then I cut the pizza box down to size and hand drew each quadrant on the inside of the box. I bought some paint at the 99 cent store and filled in the drawing, adding more definition with a Sharpie. It came out like this:

I glued a handle to the back by cutting a thin strip from the box and using heavy duty glue to attach it. Up at the top I left blank the place where I could have put Petey's name because when I give it to him I'm going to explain he is one in a long line of people in his family, some of which came before him, and some who will come after. The coat of arms represents not just him, but his lineage. I fully expect he will scrawl his own name in that box, and that's fine because he will be making it his own.

Shortly after the paint was dry, I brought the coat of arms into Milkflower because I thought Danny and Peter would get a kick out of it. When I walked through the door, Danny was standing in front of the wood burning oven but even from across the room he recognized what I was holding as one of their pizza boxes, and he broke into a smile. Being only 23 years older than Petey, he admired the piece for its practical use of a used pizza box; its identity as a work of art; and its usefulness as a weapon -- in that order.

He called over his brother, who was rushing from the cash register to the kitchen. I held up the piece. Peter looked at the shield and made a serious move to take possession. "I love it," he said.

"But it's not for you. Is your name Rojas?" I asked, pointing to Petey's name. "I just wanted to show you."

"So, I don't care. It's great. Who made it?"

Oh brother.

"I did. Why would you want somebody else's coat of arms?" I asked, befuddled." He took the painted pizza box from my hands, held it up exactly where he would hang it on the brick wall, admired it and with a big smile on his face looked around for other smiling faces to gain consensus. He seriously wanted Petey's coat of arms.

"It's somebody's coat of arms?"

That was not a compliment. He also pointed to the armet, the bowl helmet that encloses the entire head and features a visor and comb that was favored in 15th century Italian armor, and asked, "What's that?"

I explained exactly what each element of the shield was, and Peter made it clear he thought it would be wasted on a 5-year old, and should hang in the restaurant. Because Danny and Peter are really only grown up versions of Petey, and what you love in one you love in the others, there was only one way out.

I offered to turn a new pizza box into an official Milkflower coat of arms, for which I would chose appropriate symbols of representation. For instance, it could include a cherub (the guys are Greek and their last name, Aggelatos, translates to "angel"), a tomato, and a wood burning oven. Danny added the unorthodox request that it would make his brother happy if somewhere it said, "Peter the Greek."

The three of us finally agreed Petey would get his own family's coat of arms, and a newly designed shield would be presented to the Aggelatos brothers to hang in the restaurant, on the brick wall. No artist commission was discussed.

"I'll need another box," I said aloud… and preferably with a pizza in it, I thought.

Susan Spedalle


Thinking outside the box...

Ahhh, Spring is here! That means the "crafty" season has begun! I have always loved strolling through a craft fair marveling at the wonderful things created by true artisans. Now that I am one of those "crafty" folks, most weekends I am somewhere out selling my wares. But, I have a hard time staying behind my booth. I am still interested in checking out other vendors' creations.

One thing that draws me to a table are the displays. I particularly love when artists choose unconventional objects. Interesting displays are always an eye-catcher, and I took a few pictures while I was at a craft fair last weekend.

Kam, who owns Kamspots had an interesting display for her ceramic hanging planters. First of all, her planters could have been displayed on a paper plate, and still gotten a second look (they are absolutely beautiful!) I was intrigued by the display, and she told me that it was a towel rack...yes like the rack in your bathroom...That's what I call creative!

Angela Colombo, designer and creator of EnchantraGirl injected a bit of nature into her display. Turning a bit of driftwood into something to showcase her delicate bracelets, was a smart move. It is a nice change from the black velvet busts that so often adorn a jewelers craft table.

Lisa LeClaire of Lisa LeClaire Designs highlighted her jewelry with some colorful shot glasses. They were the perfect fit for her eye-catching, sparkly jewelry. Her entire table was shining, and it was hard not to take a second look!

And finally, a little creativeness from Nordea Soaperie (yes, that would be me!) I had a hard time figuring out how to display my lavender sachets. I embroider each design by hand, and didn't want to throw them in a box. I found this display meant for cupcakes! It was perfect because each design can be seen, so customers can check out all of the designs without sifting through a box!

Remember that the annual Spring Handmade Cavalcade is coming up in a couple of weeks (May 4th.) I would bet that there will be a lot of creative displays to be seen. Of course it goes without saying that those displays will be showcasing some wonderul crafts too! Hope to see you there!

Until next time....happy crafting!

Nordea  /  nordeasoaperie

Crafty Inspirations

Before I started crafting, I frequently visited craft shows to marvel at things that I thought I could never create. Fast forward years later, I am actually making and selling handmade soaps in my etsy shop Nordea Soaperie!

I always wonder what drives a person to choose their craft, and what inspires them to create on a daily basis. I know that I am inspired by my love of strange as that sounds. I LOVE food, and I love to cook. Making soap is simply following a recipe, and I am always thinking of different ways to incorporate food and beverages into my soaping projects. Many of my more popular soaps include fruit purees or liquids like aloe juice and beer.

I asked another member of the EtsyNY team what inspired their crafty creations, and Alison from Koto Designs gave me the following answer:

"I would say that I'm inspired by what I encounter in my day-to-day life. I always have an eye out for anything with a simple geometry that would translate well into embroidery. For example, my brother is a huge bike fanatic and for his birthday I made him a card featuring his super customized bike. I made another (more generic) version for my etsy shop for all the bike lovers out there."

To see the beautiful work from many more members of the EtsyNY team, make sure you come to the annual Holiday Handmade Cavalcade which will be a two-day event kicking off the Holiday shopping season! This show will feature artisans from all over the tri-state area. Don't forget to mark your calendars, December 1 & 2 in Brooklyn, NY....Hope to see you there!



Look Ma, I Can Sew!

This blog post is not so much a tutorial, but more of an inspirational story. I often have big ideas, but sometimes I don't follow through for fear of failure. This time around...I did it!

I purchased an iPad for my birthday last month. I was a bit nervous spending so much money, but it was my birthday after all! While I was checking out, the cashier asked me if I wanted additional screen protection insurance (or whatever it's called). I thanked her, but declined. She shook her head and clearly expressed her disapproval at my decision. I couldn't shake that feeling of dread as I walked back to the subway.

I immediately went online and purchased a hard magnetic cover, but my iPad still felt "exposed" as I carried it around in my purse, so I decided to make a padded sleeve for additional protection. I did a lot of research and found a tutorial that didn't seem too difficult. I have a sewing machine, but never really made something like an iPad sleeve.

I ordered some fabric, batting, a rotary cutter, a cutting mat, a clear acrylic ruler, and got to work!

I cut out my fabric carefully, measuring everything with precision. I learned about tacking, squaring up fabric, pinning my hems...lots of things!

I did have a few issues with finishing the hem, but worked it out. The velcro tabs didn't stick, so I ended up stitching them by hand. I showed the cover to a friend (an experienced seamstress,) and she was impressed with the work I had done. I won't lie and say it was easy. It took me about 5 hours to do, and there were times of frustration, but I didn't give up!

Now, I take my iPad everywhere! Of course, this doesn't guarantee that an accident won't happen, but I feel a bit more relaxed about taking my iPad on the go. My mom just bought an iPad, and I had her pick out fabric so I can make her a sleeve too!

So, I hope you are inspired to attempt a project of your own....happy crafting!


Don't Touch That: Fears-of-a-First-Time-Vendor Part One

The 1st Annual Beat-The-Crowds Handmade Holiday Happening being put on by Two Fair Ladies is coming up on November 17th and I’m a bit nervous. It is also the 1st Annual Selling-My-Work Papercut Vending Freak-Out being put on by Me

This event will signify my entry into real life, face to face, yes-you-can-touch-that selling and the more I attempt to prepare the more I realize I am seriously unprepared. It’s hard to know where to start, but I figure a good place would be getting over the idea that people will be touching my work. Quite frankly, I’m a little overprotective of my pieces and all you guys seem sticky.

What a great sign from My Zoetrope

On a more realistic level, an obstacle that definitely needs to be addressed before the show is the table display. Customers are going to be coming right up to your table (or not), touching things (or not) and buying things (or not) all based on how you present your work. If you don’t do it right then you're not going to sell anything, which is sort of an important part of selling things…the selling part.

The display is essentiallyYou on a table and figuring out how to convey this, while making your products shoppable is the thing that has me ignoring Hurricane Sandy while I sift through page after page of photos in the Show Me Your Booth group on Flickr.

My starting off point is pretty simple. Determine which ones catch my eye and separate out the weakest parts (much like watching lions hunt in the wild…or dating in high school) Once I’ve figured out which aspects work for me I can keep an eye out for those qualities.

Eye-catching, quirky props from (from left to right) Lisa Orgler Design, Meeni  and Crinoline.

Wandering Laur adds corkboard for a beachy feel

Lauren Rogoff from WanderingLaur shared her approach, “I've been working bit by bit on my displays, and hopefully they're improving!  I sell mostly seaglass jewelry (…), so I try to keep my display looking beachy and not overly cluttered.”

I’ve got a long way to go still and all I know for sure is that I really love the things I make. After a few conversations with veteran vendors about they’re initial forays into the craft fairs it seems that overcoming your own misgivings about whether your work is good enough is actually a pretty important first step…but it will have to wait. Hurricane Sandy is coming and I have to buy this awesome spinning display before it knocks out the power. Until next time!

Jessica Alpern

Tools of the Trade

Crafters are people who like to work with their hands. I wasn’t aware that I was one until digital photography came along and I gave up processing and printing my own photos. In a matter of weeks I went from the nice, relaxed me I had always been to a fidgety, irritable curmudgeon yelling at my friends to “pipe down”. I wish I was exaggerating.            

It became apparent that I needed to fill the void. I tried a variety of new crafts from knitting, to baking, to candlestick making. (Hahaha! Not really, I just wanted to rhyme.) Seriously though, I even tried welding. None of them were for me. Something was always wrong with the way it felt in my hands. I’d turned into freaking Goldilocks.

These knitting needles are to long. This rolling pin is to short. This acetylene torch keeps catching my pants on fire.

The swivel head that started me down the paper cutting path

So, that is why, two years ago, I was wandering aimlessly around a crafts store hoping to find something, anything that felt right when I came across the single coolest object I’d ever seen; the fingertip swivel head knife by Fiskars. I took it home and put it to work. I didn’t have a plan; I just wanted to make stuff with my new tool. Today it is how I make my living. I’m a paper cutter. I didn’t even know this was a thing when I started. I just liked the way the blade felt in my hand.

Natasha from Wink and Flip found her soul mate tool early, “As a teen, I didn't know if it was easy to find T-pins, so I treated mine like a rare diamond, always pinning it in a secret place so I could find it again. I would have been lost without it.”

The T-pin and a piece from the curated line sold at Wink and Flip

Not every tool we come across changes our lives, but all of them have a way of making us better at what we do. Aziza from Aziza Jewelry uses hers to perfect her craft. “My favorite tool at the moment is my hammer. I use it to stamp my name on my name tags (…) if I hit my stamp right on; the stamps come out perfect...or sometimes not so perfect. I get to keep learning what works and what doesn’t work.” and Martin from Adornments NYC uses his to explore new materials. “My favorite tool lately is FIRE!  I've been doing a lot of fire polishing of vintage (and new) metals and I love it!  Each piece of metal is a little adventure, as you never know exactly how it will turn out…”

Lola's Bodkin and thread snippers accompany one of her handmade bags

Even the simplest tools can be indispensable. Lola of Lola Falk Designs points out that her thread nippers and bodkins are, “two of the cheapest tools in my arsenal, but definitely the two I can't live without.”

I realize most people start with a craft and then acquire the tools, but no matter how you go about it there is no denying that the right one can make your life easier and your craft better. Thanks for all your responses! It made my first blog here a lot of fun! Until next time.  

Jessica Alpern

August Freebie: Imari Magnet Paperdoll

If you are already familiar with Stephanie Monroe's  work at her shop The HoneyPie Tree, you will easily recognize one of her favorite creations the Imari doll.

Imari Magnet Doll by Stephanie Monroe - The HoneyPie Tree
Here Imari comes to us as a magnet paper doll. You can download her here. Simply print the image on magnetic inkjet sheets and cut out the parts for a quick, fun refrigerator toy. Alternatively, you can use card stock and attach small glue dots to the back of the pieces to easily dress Imari. This could become the perfect surprise toy for a little one for that August roadtrip you planned.

Kayla, Imari and Camille - Miniplush Toys

Stephanie specializes in earth-friendly toys. Handcrafted using 100% wool felt, her many designs include dolls, home decorations and party kits.
Quilted Wall Hanging
If you like her paperdoll, be sure to thank her for her generous gift at her facebook page.
Polka-Dot Party Kit

Quick & Crafty Tuesday w/Sam

My very good friend, Kristyn is planning to move across the country at the end of the year. We have been friends for 15+ years, and I was crushed when she told me the news in March. I knew this day was coming, but secretly hoped the day would never come.

Anyway, as a last hurrah, she signed up to run the NYC marathon in November. A few weeks ago, she sent out a note asking for help watching her daughter while she trained after work.

I was excited for the opportunity for a little "crafty time" with her 5-year-old daughter Sam. So, I went to one of my favorite stores, Michaels for some fun ideas.

I settled on some blank picture frames that we could decorate. I purchased some puffy stickers, metallic flowers, tiny pom-poms, colorful ribbon, glue, and of course glitter! I also printed out a picture that I had taken of Sam when I met them for dinner a few weeks back.

I arrived at their apartment with my bag of crafty goodness. Kristyn had her sneakers on, and off she went, promising us she would be back in about an hour. Sam & I got to work because her frame was going to be a surprise for her mother once she returned home.

I laid out all of the goods, and Sam and I carefully selected our decorations...cutting ribbon, repositioning pom-poms, gluing flowers until we were satisfied with our picture frames. We were saving the glitter (oooh, glitter!!) for last.

We just about finished with the glitter, when Kristyn came back home. "Oh mom...don't look yet!" We still had to put the picture in the frame! So, we quickly put in the photo, and Sam presented the finished project to her mom.

After a lot of "oohs and ahhs" I said my goodbyes and came home. I probably looked a little crazy on the bus, covered in glitter, but satisfied that I was able to spend some quality time with Sam. She seemed to like the ribbon a lot (little pink owls,) so next time we may try to decorate some headbands or hair clips with ribbon (I just have to figure out how!)

Just a quick idea for a fun Tuesday evening of your own...Happy Crafting!


Summertime Crafting

So it's officially summertime in New York City. I love the beach, don't you? Sure I don't live near the beautiful blue water beaches of Puerto Rico or the white sandy beaches of the Bahamas, but I love the ocean nevertheless. The ocean is so restoring and inspiring to me. I remember as a kid I used to love going to the Jersey shore and just staring at the ocean waves. I still do that to this day. And then of course you can walk along the boardwalk and have a beer while the little one devours ice cream cone after ice cream cone.
I've been inspired to do so many crafty things lately! I was at my mother in law's house and saw these cute earrings someone made for her out of sea shells. So that got me thinking about all the fun things you can do with shells.
When you're at the beach it's a good idea to walk along the shore line and just collect little sea shells, rocks and bits of sand glass. It's fun and you can ask your little ones to help!
The first idea I had involved making some sand glass pendants. It's so easy!

These pendants are simply made with some beading wire that's wrapped around it and a loop is made for the chain. Cute, right? And super simple!

A good thing to invest in is a jewelry making drill. Fiskars makes a good one, as pictured below.

This drill is cool because you can use it to drill a hole into the sand glass if you want to. You can decoupage an image onto the glass and then drill a hole for a chain or even make earrings out of it.

Then there are the endless possibilities you will have with sea shells. OMG, seriously. You could probably write a book on all the things that are possible to make with sea shells.

My favorite thing to create is this beautiful wreath! How beautiful.
All you have to do is get yourself a foam wreath and come armed with a glue gun and lots of glue sticks. Then you can simply glue them onto your foam wreath, making sure that everything is covered in shells. Be sure to arrange them in a pretty manner of course, and you can overlap them too.

The Craftaholic
Sweet Buddha Designs

How-To: Gum Wrappers, Mom, and Me

the big one!

When I was a little girl, my mother taught me how to make folded paper chains from gum wrappers. This humble paper craft introduced me to the concept of making something decorative from what would otherwise end up in the trash. It was like learning a magic trick. There was a lot of treasure-from-trash activity going on in the 70s -- my grandmother's crocheted kitchen mat made from plastic bread sacks, my mom's Christmas tree made from spray-painted tuna fish cans! But the gum wrapper chain was my first attempt at upcycling, and it's still my favorite.

We took gum wrapper chains seriously in our house. My mother was the Gumkeeper and Chain Maven that made it all possible. We had a drawer in the kitchen that she always kept stocked with gum and loose wrappers to work on when the mood struck. At the height of our wrapper-folding enterprise, the chain stretched from one end of our house to the other (and beyond!).

Sadly, the chain we made got lost in a move, but I have a chain of my own now, which I started making when I was 17 years old and living away from home for the first time. I was an exchange student living abroad, at times terribly homesick. I'm sure that repeating that same sequence of folds my mother had taught me years before must have helped a little at easing the sadness of being so far away from her and dad.

Here are the instructions for making your own Gum Wrapper Chain. I usually work in stages: tear a big batch of wrappers in half, then fold all the halves into links, then assemble the links at the end.

step 1 step 1b
1. Fold gum wrapper in half lengthwise. Give it a nice, firm crease, then tear wrapper along fold line. Each half-wrapper will eventually become a link in your chain!

step 2 step 3
2. With blank side facing up, fold each half-wrapper in half lengthwise and crease.

3. Open the fold, turn the edges in toward the center crease, and refold. You should be left with a nice thin strip.

step 4 step 5
4. Fold strip in half, forming a large "V."

5. Turn both ends inward toward the center fold. You will now have a link that resembles a small "v."

step 6 finito
6. Now it's time to assemble your little links! Grab two links and insert the tabs of one link through the slots of the other link. Repeat and repeat and repeat until you run out of links. And there you have a gum wrapper chain!

(NOTE: If you're not a gum chewer, you can use other types of paper to make a chain. Skip step 1 and instead cut paper into 1" x 2 5/8" ( 2.5 cm x 6.7cm) pieces, which is the same size as one-half of a wrapper. Also note that paper that is too thin or slick will make chains that are prone to getting twisted and tangled.)

Happy Mother's Day and happy folding!

Lisa H.