Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Year of the Ox Card

I made a sweet angel card from a template from Keiko Nakazawa's wonderful 3D Pop-up Greeting Cards book that I got for Christmas (also, by the way, I apologize for the smugness of my Chrismas post -- I hadn't meant to sound so obnoxious but I was just so pleased that day!)

I used the principals I learned from making that angel card to create the above card, celebrating the upcoming Year of the Ox, Chinese New Year. I found a really beautiful ox illustration on

Click on thumbnail to zoom in.
It was perfect for what I wanted because it is standing on two legs on a nice, straight level surface.

Plus the artist was kind enough to include the chinese symbols for luck (I think), which I also used on the card.

My initial design included the ox in all its color glory, but eventually I decided that the profile of the ox looked more dramatic in pure, simple white against the deep red of the card.

I was going to post this card for sale on etsy, but the photos I took today didn't do it justice.

On other papercrafting news, I recently ordered envelopes from They have a variety of envelopes in various sizes and colors at quite reasonable prices. While I have to buy 100 at a time, as opposed to 25 from Paper Zone, a local store, the cost is less than half (though I do have to spring for shipping as well). In any case, I have been pleased with how quickly they got my order into the mail and was so happy with the 400 5" square envelopes I received that I immediately put in another order for envelopes of other sizes and colors.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Jungle Invitation: completed!

Remember this jungle invitation that I was tinkering with? It's done!

After a lot of playing around, I finalized the version on the left and posted a listing for jungle invitations on etsy.

This is the first invitation I've posted that I hadn't designed for a party for the boys, but the idea of a jungle party just seems like so much fun.

Some ideas:
  • A fun game that works very well at parties when there are children of very different ages present is a search game (for the boys' second birthday party, which had a bug theme, I scattered a gross of foam bugs in the yard and they had such a blast finding them that they begged us to hide them again for them).

    For a jungle animal theme, I would suggest scattering plastic animals and sending the children on "safari" to collect as many as they can find.

  • Face-painting is always a popular activity. Try tiger stripe faces, if you have the time and the talent.

  • Cut out animal "paw prints" and use them to lead your party guests from your sidewalk up to your door.

  • Family Fun always has a bunch of great birthday party ideas. Check out their "It's a Jungle Celebration," with some clever cake ideas, activities, decorations and craft ideas.

  • If you are going to serve lunch, I've made this snake sandwich by Paula Deen before and it was a terrific hit:

  • Older children may enjoy playing "Who am I?" Tape the name of an animal to each guest. Each are allowed to ask other party-goers yes or no questions until they figure out what they are.

  • Pin the tail on the tiger/monkey/zebra or whatever other animal can be especially fun for younger kids.

  • Another fun activity for younger kids can be "Duck, Duck, Hippo" -- most pre-schoolers already know the rules.

  • Guests can be transformed into jungle animals with inexpensive foam animal masks (these are from Oriental Trading -- I've ordered these and they were a good deal).

  • Animal charades can be a fun activity. The kids can act out various animals or try to imitate their sounds for small prizes.

  • Dress the birthday child in safari clothes and invite guests to do likewise. Purchase pith helmets for guests to wear.
Do you have other ideas? Please feel free to tell me about them!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Quotes that Don't Apply to Me and a Papercrafting Book Review

My boss is fond of quoting his daughter at times when things aren't going right: "Sucks to be you." (he's actually not as awful as that quote makes him sound (and, in fact, he is likely to be reading this RIGHT NOW. Hi, Dave!))

Another quote, this time by the great band, Everything but the Girl: "Every day's like Christmas day without you; it's cold and there's nothing to do."

Okay, neither of those quotes apply to me right now because currently, on this beautiful, white Christmas day, it doesn't suck to be me. 

Let me explain (and I hope that I don't sound too terribly obnoxiously self-satisfied. I assure you, I'm not like this all the time).

Despite losing a houseful of guests, our extended family, who were due to come in and help us celebrate the holiday, sharing the 18lb. turkey that had been lying in wait in our fridge for today, things came out okay. And, as we told the boys, one nice thing was that we now get TWO Christmases, as we will celebrate again after the snow that has had us housebound for many a day finally thaws out.

I got some lovely gifts, one of which I need to share on this blog: 3D Pop Up Greeting Cards

This book is by Keiko Nakazawa and it is wonderful. She does some very intricate and beautiful things with pop-ups.

One of the reasons why I was walking around with a very contented feeling was because the book, combined with some toys that I already have, make me feel amazingly powerful.

I feel like I'm on top of the (paper-crafting) world.

I have a Craft Robo, a digital cutting device. I have Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop, fantastic programs with which I can manipulate illustrations to design cards (or anything!) and which interfaces with my Craft Robo.

With books like Keiko's, I have a ton of wonderful inspiration to springboard my imaginations.

The book includes color photos of her pop-up cards as well as instructions and templates.

I can scan the templates, clean up the image in Photoshop, bring the file into Illustrator which has a nifty autotrace feature (which allows me to create vector lines that the Craft Robo can understand so that I can tell it what to cut for me), further refine the image and then send it to be cut by the Craft Robo.

It can take a little bit of fiddling to get a scanned image completely tidy, but once I have a working file, I can then cut it many, many times.

So, while it took perhaps 30 minutes to get Keiko's charming dog pop-up card set up correctly, now that it's done, I can cut one out in minutes any time I want:

There are dozens of other really lovely creations in this book, which I recommend to anyone wanting to understand pop-ups more thoroughly. Her ideas are quite clever and you can learn a lot by careful examination of her techniques.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Jungle invitation

I woke up this morning at 4am, unable to sleep, so I got up and started doing some work on some new invitations.

I'd been wanting to do some variations of my fishy invitations, which are a fun design that are really easy for me to mass produce, once all the customizations are done.

For me, often the biggest hurdle is finding good artwork. I'm not an illustrator and have to rely on finding artwork that suits me. A really great resource is which has thousands of great images that they sell for next to nothing.

I use Adobe Illustrator to design my cards in and generally am looking for nice illustrations (vector-based artwork -- drawings as opposed to photographs). Images in this type of format allow for easy manipulation (resizing, splitting apart, recoloring, etc).

This morning, I lucked out and found a series of adorable jungle animals that I could easily adapt to the wheel invitation design. Some cute jungle foliage artwork worked well to make the background look interesting. Shown is an early draft. I'm not done fiddling around with it yet, but I wanted to share what I had so far. Hopefully I'll be able to finish this up and post it on etsy in the next week or so!

Just wanted to share this sneak preview...

Monday, December 15, 2008

Paper Engineering Books I Love

 Last night, we headed over to walk down Peacock Lane to see the holiday lights (a Portland tradition) with a family I didn't know. The dad went to college with Tad. Since they had one boy the same age as our twins, it seemed like a good idea to get to know each other.

I knew they'd be nice enough, but in the course of chatting, the mom mentioned how she'd been making pop-up cards.


I was instantly interested and begged to see her work.

Now, often, when people do crafts, there's a WIDE range of quality and creativity, so I was quite pleased to see some very clever little mechanisms involved with her cards. As we talked excitedly (and Tad murmurred something about the wives being "separated at birth") we found that we could discuss people and techniques with each other that would bore others silly (and, indeed, we had to keep stopping as we realized that we were monopolizing conversation in talking about Robert Sabuda's work, brads, angles for pop-ups, etc).

We've started to correspond. I think I've gotten her quite interested in my beautiful and faithful Craft Robo (and in talking with her, I've fallen in love all over with it) and we've promised each other a "play date" in which she could come over and see how it works. (all of her work is cut out by hand. She did pop-ups for her holiday card one year, which I find amazingly ambitious! I can't contemplate doing the same myself even with the luxury of automation!)

I wanted to share some of my favorite books about interactive cards with her and so I created this list on Amazon: Must-Have Books for the Interactive Card Designer.