Thursday, April 30, 2009

Craftstravaganza, Here We Come!

at the 2009

Hello everyone! This post may only be of interest to my fellow Minnesotans, but I wanted to send out a reminder about the upcoming 2009 St. Paul Craftstravaganza Rogue Art & Craft Sale going on this Saturday, May 2nd! This will be the 2nd year that Junk Mail Gems has been represented in the show. Last year we had a freak snowstorm, so this year is sure to be better! I am always so tempted to just leave my booth and shop because there are so many really cool artists there!!

And, I've got a good deal going on for all of you shoppers who stop by...I will be paying your sales tax for you this year! I figure, everyone else in the US who shops on my site doesn't have to pay MN sales tax. So, I wanted to take this opportunity to pass on that same deal to you!

My booth will be located towards the main entrance of the Fine Arts Building. If you enter and go to the left you should see me. This year I'll have some green fabric hanging from the wall with a blue banner that has my logo, so hopefully I'll be easy to spot.

You can download a pdf with all the details on how to get there and how to find the Junk Mail Gems booth HERE! Hope to meet you at the show! The first 100 shoppers get a free swag bag, so come early!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Fun Kids Craft Ideas from Crafty Crow!

I just stumbled upon this super awesome blog today called "The Crafty Crow" that is full of great craft ideas for kids! I came across them because they recently posted a link to my paper chain tutorial. There are many fantastic project ideas that utilize recycled materials! So, be sure to check them out...and feel free to hint at your kids that Mother's Day is coming up!!

I also just saw that they are giving away a super cute book full of 20 amigurumi robot crochet patterns! I am totally going to enter, as you all know I'm into crochet robots lately, and you should too!

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Amigurumi Robot Blasts into Cyberspace

What could be more "green" than making your own amigurumi toys and gifts, yourself, out of yarn?!

I am excited to announce that I have just made my first original crochet design pattern available to the public!

I have done several original crochet projects as gifts for family since teaching myself how to crochet about a year ago, such as an "Olivia" doll for my niece Olivia (below, left) and a Dairy Queen "Blizzard cozy" for my Dad (below, right).

I am in the process of designing a new "retro space robot" themed room for my 16 month old boy and thought I'd try my hand at crocheting him a cuddly robot toy. But, this time I thought I'd actually write down what I was doing so that I could turn it into a pattern.

My chicken scratches, when combined with my graphic design skills, turned into an 8 page pdf pattern, complete with full color photos of the process on every page. Robot-loving crocheters can get their copy on my design site for just $5. Purchase the pattern, and I will ship it to you through cyberspace for free!

Aaaw, a smile like this is worth hundreds of thousands of single crochet stitches, don't you think?!*

(*Adorable, curly-headed boy not included)

DWR Champagne Tour Stops in Minneapolis for One Night Only!

This past Tuesday, this work-from-home Mommy took a break from making Junk Mail Gems, designing retail fixtures, and shipping out face paint to do a very rare and beautiful thing, thanks to Gramma and Grampa, and go out on a date with her husband! We specifically chose April 21st so that we could make one of our stops the Minneapolis DWR studio to check out the 50 champagne chairs "on tour," one of them being mine! (in the photo above)

(Click here to see my chair entries from previous years)

I was never into sports in high school, and me as a cheerleader would have been disasterous, so this is about as close as I've ever come to being on the top of the pyramid. Unfortunately we got out of the house a little late, and enjoyed beverages, appetizers AND dessert at dinner, so we couldn't stay very long as we then missed the first 10 minutes of our movie. But, I was really glad we were able to stop in and see the entries in person! Here are a few photos...

There was another Minnesota-designed chair, and his was also on top of another pyramid:

Here are a few more chair shots...

The "Spring 2009" chair by Gavri Slasky won popular vote:

This "Grape Divine Chair" by Tony Nemyer won "DWR Staff Pick:"

Jesse Menayan's "Kub Armchair" won "Judges Pick:"

It's always fun to see the winning entries and marvel at their feats miniature craftsmanship!
The top 50 chairs are still on tour through May 15th, so check out the schedule here and see if it's coming to a DWR studio near you!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Recycling Neckties

Every time I go to the thrift store, I can't help but walk down the aisles full of neckties and think about all of the possibilities for transforming them into something new. I always love the graphic patterns on things like this, which really is how I got started with Junk Mail Gems in the first place...I couldn't bear to toss out another menswear catalog full of pictures of ties with the coolest patterns. From there my magnets were born, and the rest is history!

I was just out shopping on one of my favorite shopping sites, Uncommon Goods, and came across these cool wallets and necklaces designed by Laura Skelton of Prix-Prix:

Then I found this great Etsy shop called "Tie One On Designs," that sells recycled necktie purses, skirts, cell phone cases, and more:

Check out this great "Woof Nanny" blog post, full of tips on how you can prepare ties for sewing into something new, along with some photos of beautiful quilts and rugs, like this quilt by Lori Mason Designs,

and some really cool rugs by Eileen Away:

You can find some really great instructions with clear, step-by-step photos here to make this cute cuff bracelet:

...and click here for instructions to make this beautiful necktie scarf:

Craftster also has a nice tutorial to make these cute little necktie daisies, which I think would be great embellishments for just about any project:

I could totally see some of these sewn on to a necktie scarf, used to make greeting cards, or even attached to some wire stems for a bouquet!

And, if you're looking for an easy project to do with the kids for Father's day, check out one of my older posts on turning a tie into a sling for sunglasses!

I love the idea of turning ties into something useful, especially because not only can you make the tie live on, but also possibly the memories of the man who once wore them. You may not want to wear Grandpa's old ties to work, but it's better to turn them into something you will carry with you every day to remind you of him, than to leave it to collect dust in your closet!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

A Peek into the Junk Mail Gems Studio

I've been having fun lately recycling some things into storage in my studio and thought I'd share. Here is a photo of the view of the wall right above my drawing board/work table where I make all of my Junk Mail Gems products:

The wood ledge that the jars are sitting on I got at Ikea in their "as-is" section for $2 and screwed it to the wall to get some of my "stuff" up off of my desktop. You can see on the front face of it I've stuck some peel-n-stick velcro from the hardware store. Then, I put a little piece of the opposite side of the velcro on little things like my computer remote, letter opener, etc...another easy way to store little things you like to have at your fingertips all the time. On the bottom right corner is, of course, my Junk Mail Gems scrap paper box where I recycle my discarded computer printouts into scratch paper. The white board, of course, I found at a local thrift store for a couple bucks!

These are really just food jars. I've soaked the labels overnight in water to easily remove them, and then spray painted all of the lids silver for a more consistent look. They work great for storing little things like my recycled junk mail beads!

I also love to use soup cans and other vegetable cans for holding pens, pencils, and strips of junk mail waiting to be transformed into beads. I have them scattered around my studio as I use tons of them when doing my design work. Here is a can of white board markers that I have glued a row of magnets to, so that I can stick the can to my magnetic white board:

So, there are a couple ways that I like to incorporate some repurposed items into my studio! I am really excited that we are about to start a home remodel this weekend, moving some rooms around, and eventually that means I will be getting a whole new studio. Stay tuned for some shots of my new office "suh-weet" that I am currently designing!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

"Repurposeful" + Free Junk Mail Gems Magnets!

I just recently connected with the folks at this great blog, Repurposeful. It is full of great ways to re-use everyday objects in new ways! I have a feeling I am going to be linking to them quite a bit in the near future!

Anyway, today they posted about my site, and I've partnered with them to give away a free set of magnets to one lucky reader! So, be sure to go check out the post for details on how to's easy! And while you're there, don't forget to check out all the great ideas on the're sure to get inspired to do some of your own repurposing!

What to Do with Mylar Balloons?

What do you do with those shiny, mylar balloons after the party guests have gone home, a week or two passes by, and they start to shrivel up and sink to the ground? I still have a bunch of balloons barely floating in my studio from my son's 1st birthday, and onen from my own birthday last month, which made me think about how I could reuse them. Sure, we can stop buying them, but you may still receive them as gifts anyway from friends and family, especially if you've spent any time in a hospital. (While latex balloons are biodegradeable, they are not allowed into hospitals to protect those with latex allergies.)

Re-Use as Balloons Again:
There is no reason to toss them out and keep purchasing them year after year when they are so easy to deflate and re-use! Cut off or un-tie the string/ribbon from the balloon. Then, simply stick a tube or straw up into the hole until it goes far enough to reach the inside, letting the remaining air out of the hole:

Don't forget to have fun inhaling some of that helium and amuse your kids by singing "Lollipop Guild!" You can now flatten and fold it up, and have it re-filled with helium for your next party.

Use it as a gift bag
Cut the bottom of the balloon off so there is an opening, and insert a gift. Gather the opening together and tie it closed with some ribbon (maybe even the ribbon that was tied to the balloon!). For smaller gift items, you can cut the balloon in half and wrap two with one balloon. Or, separate the front and back and use it as regular gift wrap. Either way, don't forget to add your recycled greeting card gift tag!

Craft Material:
Add them to your box of art & craft supplies for yourself and/or your kids. Shiny paper is a pretty cool addition to a collage! You can also use them as scrapbooking material, as I have mentioned in the past, or to make gift cards and placemats. It's a great way to preserve another part of your child's birthday party, by including a balloon in his or her scrapbook!

Shred them and turn them into confetti.
Cut strips and attach them to a hair clip for a festive accessory.
Tie strips to your fence to scare animals away from your vegetables.

...I'm sure you creative readers have more ideas so feel free to comment with more!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Plastic trinket lampshades

I thought I'd do another post with something from my recent trip to Europe. I spotted this in the gift shop at the Pompidu modern art museum in Paris. They had a cool lamp (on the countertop above) as well as a hanging chandelier (hanging in the pic above), both with shades made out of various colorful plastic trinkets.

I got up close and snapped this shot, and then my husband informed me that there was a "no photography" sign so this was all I got:

I thought this would be a fun idea for something to is so colorful and a great way to re-use all sorts of little trinkets and otherwise disposable plastic things in our lives. I could see one being made out of colorful plastic bottle caps, laundry detergent scoops, spice container tops, bread bag ties, etc... I think I just may have found the project to utilize my stash of random plastic "junk!"

It looks like everything is just strung on string and then could almost make a garland out of it too!
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What's going on in the world of Junk Mail Gems, along with other cool, hand-made "green" products, DIY projects, and more!