Monday, October 31, 2011


Saturday, October 29, 2011

Luck is for the Lucky

I always claim that I'm not a very lucky person. I can enter contests, buy lottery tickets, enter blog giveaways, etc., until I'm blue in the face and seldom win.  That's why I don't like gambling - even the slot machines - because as I put it, "I need positive reinforcement." If I don't get it, it ain't fun. 

Oh, I have won occasionally.  But the ratio of entries to winnings is astronomical. Well, shut the front door!  I won something!! 

I recently entered the  Martha Stewart Halloween Giveaway at Paint Me Plaid.  I think part of my motivation to enter this particular one is because I generally can't get into the whole Halloween thing. I should, though, because it's threatening to over-take Christmas as the biggest retail holiday.  There's certain decor items I like for Halloween, and certain items I don't.  As an adult I can think of only three times in my adult life that I wore a costume. But this may change all that.

Here's the comment I made:

I have boxes of wood pieces left over from home and garden projects, and I’m trying to upcycle/recycle/repurpose as much as I can these days. These products would be used until they are ALLLL GONE!

Here's the big announcement.  And here's what I won:

There's fluorescent paint, fabric stiffener, chalkboard paint, and brushes.  I can't wait to get started, and I already have some Halloween ideas that I like.  So I think it's safe to say that I will do my thing for next Halloween!

BTW, Paint me Plaid is a great site.  I love seeing and learning new craft techniques.  Go take a look. 

Friday, October 28, 2011

New Treasuries

I have been fortunate to appear in a lot of Etsy treasuries lately. (All photos are clickable.)

We traveled from summer vacation:

To Autumn:

To Christmas Red and Green:

To Christmas Blues:

So much fun!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

In the Michigan Studio with Diirvine and a Giveaway!

In this latest Michigan Studio interview you get to meet an Etsy artist whose energy just jumps right off the page. I think she has enough spark to fuel, oh, maybe three or four other people! That must be how she manages to do so much beautiful glass work and photography.

Fasten your seat belt - here's Diane!

Your name:  Diane Irvine
Your etsy shop(s):
Your website:

FK: Diane, what’s your favorite “cuppa” in the morning?

Oh my…For me…my favorite food…my “Nectar of the Gods”…my one and only “must have every day” – coffee!  Drinking it black most of the time also prevents me from making the mistake I did yesterday when I grabbed the ½ and ½ and added it to my coffee, took a sip and realized immediately that I had added Egg Beaters to my coffee!  Yuk!

FK: That sounds exactly like something I would do!  I’ll pour the coffee (and cream) while you tell us about where you live. It sounds like you really get to Detroit and other cities in the greater metropolitan area quite often. 

I grew up in Plymouth, Michigan.  I attended Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo, Michigan, and moved to Northville after college.  When it was time to buy a house I found myself looking and ultimately buying back in Plymouth Township.  

  Both Plymouth and Northville are great little communities to live in.  I love the “small town” atmosphere.  A Saturday lunch and window shopping date with the girls and/or with my Dave are always fun times.  Both towns also have numerous shops with art in them and that is always inspiring.

What is most awesome about where I live is that I am only 20 minutes away from Detroit and Ann Arbor.  

I love Saturday morning trips to the Eastern Market in Detroit!

Photos of Eastern Market, Detroit
   This photo of Eastern Market is courtesy of TripAdvisor

Although I go often throughout the year, the fall season is the best!  The air is cool and crisp, the atmosphere is festive and the colors, sounds and smells of the market are unbeatable!  And speaking of the Eastern Market, we can’t forget breakfast at the Russell Street Deli (have you tried their scrambles or quiches?) or Roma Café, Detroit’s oldest Italian Restaurant!  It is so worth the trip.

Fox Theatre
Seriously Detroit has so much to offer!  I love going downtown for a show.  I wish I could somehow convince people that there are so many worthwhile places to see a show in the city!  Masonic Temple, Fox Theatre, Fisher Theatre, Symphony Hall, The Opera House, Gem Theatre and on and on and on!  It is so easy to add dinner to your evening out too.  A lot of restaurants even have shuttle services to take you to the show and back to your car afterwards!  I can’t name a favorite…but I’ll tell you I enjoy Roma Café, Mario’s, Sinbad’s, Fishbone's and of course, Lafayette Coney Island ... as often as my budget and waistline will allow! 

AND – don’t forget Hamtramck - Polish Village Café is AWESOME and heck, even Anthony Bourdain (TV’s No Reservations) found his way to Polonia’s! 
And while we’re on the subject of Detroit I’ll just say 5 more words:  Red Wings, Tigers, Lions, Pistons.  I challenge any city on the planet to be more supportive of their sport teams.  While I don’t often get to the Palace, I do make sure to get to the Joe for a hockey game a few times a year, and at least one Tiger and Lion’s game a season as well.
I know I’m going on and on…but really if you love the modern, if you want to go to a high tech place, or an outdoor skating rink or to step back in time…you can do it in Detroit! I’ve traveled extensively in the U.S., and a fair bit in Europe and I’m telling you – folks in Michigan (and that includes Detroit) are the friendliest in the world!

The swans and other Detroit River shots were taken from my friend’s fishing boat.  Sometimes after work we head out in his fishing boat in search of perch and/or walleye.  I started taking my camera because for me - there were more pretty things to be seen than there were fish to catch.  And, I wanted to spread the word that Detroit has many beautiful spots too!
Stacks at Sunset

The Eastern Market group of pictures started out as me wanting to add color to my kitchen.  After friends and family members asked for different pictures off my wall I decided to sell them.

FK: Wow – Diane, Detroit should hire you as their Good Will Ambassador!  Everything you say about Detroit is so true, and it’s a shame that all the great places to go and things to do are over-shadowed so often by bad press, so much of which is “old news.”

Most of my photography comes to me as an idea – and then I go forth and try to find it and/or to create it.  I crave different things at different times.  As the seasons change I usually want to grab my camera and head out.

FK: Your photos do capture the area so well. Tell me about your art background. How did you get started?

When I was a kid, we lived in Toledo for a few years.  I was fortunate to be able to take art classes at the Toledo Museum of Art every Saturday when I was 7 and 8.  I even got to watch them work on the restoration of a part of the King Tut exhibit.  I mention that just to tell you where my love of art started…
Hmmm…I don’t have a formal “Art Education.”  I studied Business and Political Science in college.  That being said – I do take classes whenever I can.  I am a HUGE fan of continuing education courses!  They have allowed me to learn about so many things!
I took some photography classes at the College for Creative Studies in Detroit. And I took my first glassblowing class there.  Through that I was introduced to Annette Baron of Baron Glassworks in Ypsilanti.  I am fortunate to be able to continue to learn and blow glass at Baron Glassworks.  

Glass Ornament Yard Ball

FK: Tell me about your Etsy shop.  
White with Dichroic Glass Triangles
My sister originally encouraged me and I opened my shop in July 2010.  The other artists, shoppers, blogs and the Etsy community in general encourage me to keep going, to change things up and shop and chat and blog.  I can’t say enough about how much I gain from the Etsy environment.  It is truly artists supporting artists.  And that support is not just financial – it’s an exciting and fun environment.

Last month I was in North Carolina for a knitting and crochet show.  I took a booth full of my buttons.  The participants in this show were appreciative of my art and enthusiastic shoppers.  I can’t begin to tell you how many times I heard “Great that you’re on Etsy!”

FK: Tell me about your creative life. What do you love doing the most? How do you get inspired to do what you do? 
Fun and Fruity Handmade Glass Buttons
At the risk of sounding totally hokey…what I love the most about art is sharing it.  I have this philosophy that creativity breeds creativity.  I tell people that all the time.  I’m currently working on a group of collaboration pieces.  A friend is throwing a pot, her husband is making the wooden footing or bases and I’m making glass filigree pieces for the tops.  How cool is that?  In 2008 and 2009 a group of us from the glass studio received the commission for and made the “Friendship Ornaments” for Detroit’s Children’s Hospital’s Festival of Trees.  Four of us working together…it was like a well choreographed dance!  I saw golden pears and blue and silver teardrops in my sleep!

Polka Dot Glass Buttons
Pink and White Handcrafted Glass Button
Buttons – well, they started out as a way to do something “different” with my scrap glass.  My sister is a sewer and a knitter.  I gave her some buttons and asked her what she thought. Soon she was asking for a specific color and size.  As others saw them they asked for more.   Soon the scrap box was empty and I was cutting glass from full sheets to make buttons!  The knitters, quilters, sewers, jewelry makers, crocheters all inspire me to make more buttons every time they take a button or group of buttons and show me how they incorporated them into a sweater, quilt or some other project.   Once in a while somebody will send me a picture of a pattern and a sample of yarn and ask me to make a button.  Wow!  Now I’m sharing an experience in a whole different way.

 My original inspiration to glass was as a kid at Greenfield Village.  After a vacation in Scotland that included the Caithness Glass Factory I came home knowing I needed to learn how they did that!  In the glassblowing studio I usually work on one type of thing at a time.  I’ll make a ton of wine bottle stoppers then move on to a group of vessels in black or some other color.  This week a group of us started a project to make pink pumpkins for Breast Cancer awareness and purple ones for an Alzheimer’s fundraiser. 
Turquoise Stitch Markers
At home I fire up the torch and create lamp work beads in sets too.  I’ll come up with a group of colors to work with and make up an entire kiln full of different beads all using the same three or four colors.  I fuse and slump glass at home too.  Normally I have a very specific idea for say, a sushi set, and I’ll cut and play around until I’m happy with the “look” I’m achieving.  Then I’ll fuse it together.  Historically, once I’ve completed something I’ll end up making another three or four of the same thing.
I chatted on and on again here…in short, I think it is interaction with others and color that inspires me.  How will it appear if I do this or that…and then the playing part begins.

FK: Great explanation and great energy!! Where in your home do you do your art?
Shell Pink Glass Buttons
Hahaha!  My instant answer is “in the basement.”  BUT – really – all over the house!  This summer while preparing to take over 1000 cards full of buttons to North Carolina I had the dining room table full of buttons.  We taped off the booth on the carpet in the living room and then we set up the booth right there and, of course, the basement was just full of glass, glue, buttons, beads etc. etc.  I was the only one who could safely reach the laundry area!  Oh my – did I mention that my Dave is a saint?  He is an awesome photographer, drawer and painter in his own right.  He helps sort, glue, take pictures; he does computer work, sits in booths and oh, so much more.  But most of all he encourages me and has the most patience in the world!
Half of our basement is my studio for lampworking and cutting/fusing glass.  We are in the process of converting one of the bedrooms to an office where the computer work, photography and business portion of the art (for both of us) will take place (and his drawing studio too). Glassblowing continues to be at Baron Glassworks in Ypsilanti. 

I don’t favor one thing over the other.  Depending on my mood or how much time I have is what drives what I’ll do on a particular day.

FK: What part of being an artist is the most gratifying to you? What part of being an artist is hardest for you, or that you dislike the most? 
If I give a gift of art to somebody – seeing their acceptance, excitement and awe in the piece they receive is a HUGE reward for me.  I say let’s all go back to the days when Christmas gifts were handmade!
When You Wish Upon a Star
I think for all of us who create, seeing/hearing something in your imagination come to life in any sort of art is beyond compare.  My biggest reasons for wanting to keep the creative arts (music, writing, art) in schools is that it teaches kids how to think … how to take something from their hearts … and logically figure out how to create it.  Art teaches and inspires thinking and creation!
On a daily basis…I work/manage/partner a business all day long.  What I love the most about my art is the creative outlet.  The hardest part of my art is the business side of it.  It’s not that I dislike the business part.  I just would rather be making the art instead of selling the art.

FK: What do you do when you’re not being an artist? What activities do you enjoy?
I am a partner in an independent Financial Planning business by day.  I always laugh and tell people it’s my art that allows me to use both sides of my brain so I can walk straight!

 My family is and will always be first.  Life happens to all of us.  Recently I was re-acquainted with the fact of life that each and every day is a gift.  In my family we live with Glioblastoma (brain cancer).  So I say to all of you - hug your spouse and laugh every day.  Remember to always say I love you and thank you!  Take time…make time… ENJOY!
As I said earlier, I enjoy going to Detroit for a variety of activities.  I also love to entertain in my home, whether small dinners or big parties - I enjoy it all!  I am also a swimmer.  Swimming laps is sometimes the only quiet time I get in a day!
FK: Diane, I don’t know how you do everything you do, but I’m GLAD you do!  As a final note, I have to feature this fun button, so appropriate for this season:
Orange JackOLantern Fused Glass Button
FK: Thank you so much for this energetic and interesting interview.  Now, please tell us what you’re offering to our readers for your giveaway.
I am honored to offer a $40 gift certificate to my Etsy shop.

FK: That’s wonderful!  Here’s how everyone can participate.  

How to Enter
You have several chances to be entered into the random drawing. Each one must be entered as a separate comment. 
First entry: Visit Diane's shop or web site, come back here, and enter a comment about your favorite piece(s).
Second entry: Enter a comment that you signed up to follow Diane's Facebook page.
Third entry: Enter a comment that you signed up to follow my blog (or comment that you already follow).
Fourth entry: Enter a comment that you signed up to follow my Facebook page (or comment that you are already a fan).

That's four chances to enter for the random drawing!  Please be sure that your correct email address is in your profile; if it is not, include your email address in your comment.  I will use random generator to pick a winner after 12 noon EDT on

Thursday, November 3.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Pine Cone Wreaths - A Tutorial

After you've reviewed this tutorial, you might want to see some of my new 2015 wreaths here.

I have been making pine cone wreaths for a whole lot of years. I think probably every member of my family has owned one of my Christmas cone wreaths at one time or another.  I enjoy making them and that's probably due in no small part that the supplies are free for the taking!

Here in southeastern Michigan I just take a walk in my neighborhood and pick up cones in the spring when just fallen (or given a little help to fall by me!) - that's when they are freshest and the prettiest color.  I'll share one tip I learned the hard way many years ago: When you bring the cones home stick them in a large garbage bag, spray inside with bug spray and seal up the bag until you're ready to work with them.  You never know what kind of little crawlies are hiding in there! Alternately, if they're the kind of cones that have a lot of sticky sap, or if the cones are not fully open, spread them on a pan covered with foil and bake them in a 200 degree oven for 20-30 minutes. The sap will form a lovely glaze on the cones and the heat will cause the cones to fully open and dry out. (It smells nice, too.)

There's no right or wrong way to make cone wreaths - an online search reveals any number of techniques. Here's the one that works for me.

Wire wreath form
Floral wire
Wire cutters
Needle nose pliers
Supply of pine cones
Miscellaneous decorating supplies

 These are the pine cones most commonly found here.  I have other larger cones from other parts of the country but these are my favorites for wreaths.  The two larger cones at the top are the ones I use most often, with the other two used for fill-in.  I've had the little Cone Crafting book for about 20+ years.
 The first thing I like to do is sort some cones by size and height.

Push the cone on to the wreath form, attach the wire to the wreath form and then around the cone near the bottom of the cone.  (Note: I'm showing this on the outside of the form for photo purposes; I actually do the inside layer first, but it's the same technique.)

Wind the wire around the wreath form again and grab another cone. Push the second cone tightly against the first cone so they kind of "grab" each other.  Wind the wire around the second cone just as you did with the first cone.  I use the pliers to pull the wires very tight against the cones and the wreath form.  There's nothing more frustrating then to finish your wreath and find that the cones are loose and slipping out.
Here's the first completed layer on the inside. You can see that the cones are tight against the inside ring of the form.

I then attach the outside layer in the same way.

So far the cones have been placed straight in a line. Now the inside needs filling in, and it gets a little trickier. I place the cones a little more randomly in the middle, some straight up, some on their sides. Sometimes I use the smaller cones seen in the photo above to fill in the blank spaces.
It's a little easier to use an up and down sewing motion with the wires to secure the cones in the middle.

Add a loop of wire to the back for hanging. Here's the final result.

NOTE: If you plan to add a bow to the wreath, leave out two cones on the outside ring where you want to place the bow. Don't forget like I did!

If you're leaving the wreath as is, you can spray the cones with an acrylic sealer, add the bow, and you're done. 

But if you're like me, you want to glam it up a bit.  Use anything you like - garlands, bows, ornaments, glitter, and spray paint.  I'm not quite finished with the wreaths I'm working on right now, but here's a look at some wreaths I've done in the past.

These wreaths are spray painted and glittered, with bead decorations and a bow attached.  My niece owns this pretty in pink wreath. 

I call this one my Martha Stewart wreath - this soft green is one of her favorite colors.
 And that floppy bow - it's SO Martha!

I think this one is my favorite - love the Robin's Egg blue color and the delicate garland trim.

I know these aren't in the usual Christmas colors, but they are different and a nice spark of color.  I'm working on a few more traditional wreaths this year.

Does this inspire you to try a cone wreath if you haven't yet tried it?

Linking up to Sugar Bee Crafts and Today's Creative Blog. Also: Strictly Homemade and Carolyn's Homework.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Found While Looking for Something Else - The Garage

I just came across these photos taken the last time I visited my sister in Wisconsin.  We had taken a weekend trip to Galena, Illinois, and along the way we passed this garage. I made my sister turn around and stop so I could take some photos.  There wasn't a soul around, and the entire area looked as if it had been abandoned in a time warp back to the 60s decade, judging from the majority of the cars parked there. Looks like someone planned to restore these cars but ran out of time ... or money ... or inspiration!

I decided to take a detour (pun intended) from what I was working on today and apply some Photoshop enhancements on these photos. "Do the time warp ... again!"

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