Sunday, March 30, 2014

Let's compare

I promised I would compare cuts from the Expression and the Explore so that you (and I) could see how it handles teeny cuts.

I'll admit, I was very curious. I love my Expression but after spending so much for the Explore (well, actually I used up all my Christmas Amazon gift cards ;-)  ) I wanted to see if I got my money's worth.

So let's start with the crab from the Fisherman's Wharf image I used on my tag a few days ago with the Explore.

The crab is pretty small. He is 7/8 of an inch tall and 1 1/4 inches wide.

Here is a close up of cuts from both machines (Expression is on the right).

Not bad, huh?! I was surprised that the Expression didn't 'munch' up the tips of the legs and claws more than it did. I am very impressed with my pink baby. But if you look closely and really compare, you will see that the Explore image is more detailed. Notice more definition in the legs, the cuts for the claws are more defined (meaning bumps and hooks) Is it enough to say one machine is better than the other? Not on this cut. Both are wonderful.  :-)

Now let's compare that rice bowl from last week cut with the Expression.

The original bowl was cut at 5/8 of an inch tall. I manually sized the bowl in Design Space to be the same height. A few others have commented on this issue and this was the first I have seen it (notice this did not happen with the crab above)

Here is the image from Design Space so you can see what was supposed to cut.
Explore cut the bowl larger than 5/8 of an inch. Not much bigger, it is just over 3/4 of an inch. I'm not sure why and I may try this again and see if I can get it to cut it at 5/8 but won't mess with the detail layer again lol.

Anyway, notice the detail cuts. Neither machine did what I would call a great job but you have to figure the detail cuts are about 1/8 of an inch tall so the fact that either one is even remotely decipherable is pretty amazing.
So let's compare the actual detail of the cuts. The corners and edges of the Expression cuts are rounded. But the Explore cuts are squared, just like the actual cut image. And even though the 'curls' got a bit munched up, the outside edges of the design are nice and crisp.

So, even though neither is perfect, you can see the Explore is still more precise in it's cutting.

I am thinking my Explore is going to be my go-to machine for all my precise and intricate cuts and my Expression is going to be THE machine for all my big today, I need to cut a couple dozen tags. I can load in a 12x12 piece of paper, hit auto fill and it will knock them out in just a couple minutes. The Explore doesn't have this feature and cuts at a much slower pace.

Each has machine has it's place and will both get used.  :-)

But I did more than just compare cuts yesterday. I played too!

I have a nautical themed, seagulls, fishing floats... and we have a HUGE mirror (I am talking about 8 feet long and 4 feet tall. It fills the wall! So nice when we are both in there getting ready to go someplace. I thought it needed 'something'.

This was my first time layering vinyl. It looks like I didn't line it up right but that is because the bottom layer is reflecting in the mirror.  :-)

Hubby wasn't too sure about me decorating the mirror until he saw it then said we need seagulls in the upper corners. So an image search is in my future. :-)

And the Explore cuts SVGs. There are tons of freebies out there that are really cute! (I am all about saving money and getting stuff for free!) I found this little guy last night at Treasure Box Designs in their weekly freebies.

Isn't he adorable? Hubby is a sock monkey freak! He insisted I make him a real one years before the craze hit so it was no surprise that he swiped this guy from me and has him living on his desk. This picture is from the cabinet door on hubby's desk (I didn't even own him long enough to get a picture! lol)

I guess I am off to find seagulls for vinyl and whatever else strikes my fancy.

Have a wonderful week!

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Sometimes you need a card

You ever need a card and just cannot come up with an idea? That is me! Especially when I need a card for my hubby. Although he likes what I make I hardly think he would enjoy a girly card for our anniversary. :-)

I have been trying to come up with a decent card design for several weeks. Thankfully some people over at the Let's Learn Cricut Explore group were able to give me some suggestions.

So, here is my card (or rather....hubby's card lol) I wanted basic/simple.

I used Edge to Edge for the background cut. (I am still amazed at how precise the Explore cut this for a 4x6 card) And Elegant Edges for the shaped 'tag". The oval came from George and Basic Shapes.

And this morning as I was working (yes, I had to work on a Saturday. I was up at 5am to get my overtime in....but now it is done for the week. Yay) Anyway, as I was saying, this morning it dawned on me that I had not made anything for the Fantabulous weekly challenge. So, as soon as I clocked out I headed into the art room and jumped on the computer to go play in the Design Space.

I had fun making this simple card....probably more than normal because I was wandering around the image library drooling over cuts that I don't own lol

The cuts came from the following cartridges:

Branch - Home Décor
Background shape - Elegant Edges
Music note - Paper Lace 2
Bird - Crocs Rule
Rectangle - Just Because Cards

I embossed the background piece with one of the folders from the Cuttlebug Plum Blossom set and then lightly rubbed a light pink pigment pad over it just to break up the white a bit.

I couldn't get the colors just right on the computer. His tummy and wing are not that bright of an orange...oh well. He looks cute in person lol

Happy Saturday everyone! Hope you all get lots of art time this weekend.

Friday, March 28, 2014

It has arrived!

My Cricut Explore arrived on Wednesday! I have been eagerly awaiting it's arrival since I pre-ordered it on March 12. I think (ok I KNOW) I was driving my hubby nuts talking about it and all the things it is supposed to be able to do. lol

First thing I noticed is that it weighs a ton! I have an Expression and the Explore weighs more than that one! I have been ordered not to lift or move it due to my back issues. Good thing I had already set up a new home for it! haha

And it is so...hmm, for lack of a better word....sleek looking.  :-)  If you haven't seen them and you like Cricut, you should head over to and take a look.

I belong to the Let's Learn Cricut Explore facebook group and they are having a challenge to decorate your new machine. So, what was my very first project? Yep, I cut vinyl for the first time ever!

Cricut machines have always been able to cut vinyl but you had to manually set everything and hope that you were right because if not you just ruined a sheet of vinyl....not something I wanted to do so I steered clear. But people in the group kept saying with the Explore there is no guess-work. Boy were they right!

Here is my decorated Explore.

The cats are from the Meow cartridge. The one on the right looks like Minnie when she does her 'pet me pet me" dance lol
The light pink butterfly is from the Pink Journey cartridge, the dark pink is from Florals Embellished, I think. And the vines are from Picturesque.

I was blown away at how easy it was! Now I want to put vinyl on EVERYTHING!!! lol

See!!!!! lol  The vines are from October 31st, the rooster is from Wall Décor and more. :-)

But, of course, the primary thing I am used to cutting is cardstock. Now don't get me wrong, I love my Expression....obviously since I have been posting only things cut with it for the past several months. But, as noted in my prior post with the panda and rice bowl, it does not do great at tiny cuts. I plan on doing a comparison of the rice bowl cut this weekend. I will show you the results.....I'm thinking the Explore is going to win based on the following tag.

I made this as the gift tag for hubby's anniversary gift. (we spent our honeymoon in SF and I found out that Cricut has an SF image set. Who knew???)

The cable car and Fisherman's Wharf wheel with crab are both from the San Francisco set. The ticket, sorry, I don't remember. But on the Design Space you can search for any image and I was searching for a ticket and it has dozens and I just chose one. :-)

Oh yeah, the Explore also writes! It wrote the words on the tag. How cool is that?!

See how precise that crab is? He is just under an inch and all those little legs and claws are cut perfectly! I was truly impressed!

So, now I need to design an anniversary card and some Easter cards. The wind is blowing and it is spitting rain. Definitely a good day to stay in and play.  :-)

Sunday, March 23, 2014

This girl just wants to have fun

It has been a really long time since I just had fun in the art room. Yes, I love creating but lately it has just been to relieve stress not just for fun.

But this week I did not have any goals or agendas. I just wanted to play. So, I challenged myself. Pick up a cartridge, find an image and create a card.

The first cartridge I grabbed was Pagoda. I love this cartridge! Such gorgeous images!!! And yet, I don't use it very often. My friends and family are not as in to Asian themes as I am lol

I chose one of the trees then added the sitting panda and rice bowl (which hubby swears is a "sumo diaper" lol)
I made this on a 4x5 card and added the rice bowl for a couple reasons. 1. who doesn't love rice? lol but 2. my Explore is due here any day and I want to compare how it cuts this bowl at this small size (just slightly over 1/2 an inch). The bowl has a detailed cutout design and my Expression, while able to cut it, did not do a perfect job and supposedly the Explore we shall see and compare. I will let you see what I see.  :-)

The next day I pulled out Mini Monsters. I had not used this cartridge yet. It seems most people use it for Halloween but that is a long way off. I found a cute little guy that screamed 'alien' to me. The rocket is from the Just Because Cards cartridge.

But I was not all about Cricut this week....yeah, I know, I have been living on that thing for several weeks now lol

I saw a great video on Pinterest this week and had to try it out. It shows how to 'bump' your stencil. Something a stenciler tries very hard NOT to do! lol
I really like the effect, sort of giving your stenciled image a shadow. However, I was not crazy about the paint I was using. I used regular acrylics (I have hundreds of them so I am not going to go out and buy a new type of paint if I don't have to) but it dried pretty quickly making it difficult to blend the background colors. I also didn't like how it bled under the edges of the stencil because I was using a foam pad like in the video.

The fish are from Fred B Mullett... Big Pompano and Silver Salmon.

I decided to give it another try after some thought on how to alter the process and supplies to meet my expectations.

I am liking this one a bit better.

I created the background using Tim Holtz distress inks and water technique (although you can't see much of it anymore since I layered and distressed over it so much lol

My base colors were Scattered Straw and Bundled Sage. I inked the shadow layer of my stencil with Color Box chalk ink Deep Green. I then, using a stencil brush, added the top layer with a blend of a light green and some pale yellow paints. Neither by itself was giving me the color I wanted so I began dabbing back and forth between them.
The man stamp is from Tim Holtz (why can I never get a clean stamp image from this one???) as well as the text (which I spritzed with water to make it blur).
And all I can figure is it must be the circles (which look like bubbles to me) which is making me pull out another Fred B Mullett fishie.....Menpachi, which I stamped using acrylic paint instead of ink.

I then used distress inks on the edges which wipes off of the acrylic paints and makes the fish stand out.

Off to plant potatoes! Yay! Spring is finally here!!! Next comes sugar snap peas (if hubby gets busy and weeds the beds for me) Yes, sometimes having back issues is a plus lol

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

It looks like Spring has Sprung!

It definitely is looking like spring around here. My ornamental plum is blooming, daffodils are popping up and all the trees and shrubs are showing signs of growth. Yay!

It has also put me in a "Spring' card mood. Not that I ever send these things out ya know. I have quite a stash of cards these days. If ever an occasion should arise that I need a card in an instant I am ready!

As I waiting (impatiently) for new Cricut Explore to arrive, I continue to enjoy and love my Expression.

Over the past few days I have made a handful of cards....all in the springtime theme.

The chick is from Simply Charmed, the flower , I think, is from Walk in My Garden.

Next comes a poor kitty forced to wear bunny ears for the holidays. He does not look happy.
The cat is from Create a Critter, the bunny ears are from Create a Critter 2. I only used 2 layers for the cat instead of the 5 or six on the cartridge as I wanted to paint my own eyes, nose and mouth.

And lastly, a flower from Fabulous Florals with a Pooh and Friends butterfly.

Now I am heading out to enjoy some of that wonderful sunshine! :-)

Friday, March 14, 2014

The weekend is in site!

What a week! Work was a nightmare! I am so glad today is Friday and I am done working for the day!!!

I have not had much art time this week. :-( 

But, my submission to the sketch challenge has been on my mind (ok, it has been bugging me because I was not thrilled at all with my card!)  I know from a lifetime of art that something like the sketch challenge actually inhibits my creativity. I hate boxes lol

I was talking to my mom about it last night and her response was kind of like....duh! We all know that about you.

Give me a theme and I am there with ideas swirling in my head. Give me a diagram and say I need to fit my idea in that 'box' and my muse takes a hike. lol

So, I decided to give it another try.  But I moved a bit outside of the box on this one.  ;-)

Here is the sketch

Here is my new card. All cuts are from Create a Critter.

Now, I am going to say that technically I followed the sketch.
My hippo is the round ball (hippos are sort of rounded....yeah, that is my answer so deal with it! ha!)
The water is that right background section. Yep, not rectangular but does go under my hippo ;-)
The lace is the left vertical bar....ok, so this part is probably pretty spot on lol

If you read my last post you saw that I said I might try again with something more 'springy' and what screams spring more than a flowery pink hippo I ask you?! haha

I said it was a bad week lol  Hippos on Friday is the only good part!  :-D

Oh, I take that back, on Wednesday I found out that I was in the top 5 for the weekly Fantabulous Cricut Challenge. Yay!  Thank you!!!

And on to another issue.....Blogger will no longer let me add a banner to my blog. If you have been following me in the past you know that I always had a custom banner at the top. Well a few weeks ago it disappeared and when I try to add one back I just get error after error! And the blogger help was, well not helpful!

Anyone have any ideas on how to replace my banner?
Or know of a good blog site that I can move to (well, I think I would have hubby move my blog as he seems to enjoy that kind of stuff more than I do)

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Hmm posting on a Tuesday

I usually don't have anything completed this early in the week so I rarely have anything to say...well, I always have something to say just not necessarily about art lol

But, since I tried my hand at last week's Cricut challenge (and liked it) I thought I would not wait until the last minute to join again this week.

The challenge is to use the following sketch to create a card.

Now, you should know, I never EVER follow the rules when making art. It used to drive my professors up a wall in my art classes in college. And then when I took craft classes at the local craft stores, they would make me sit in the back so that the other students couldn't see that I was not following directions! haha

But, this time I tried....I really did. And I don't think I am too far off (for a change lol)

I have not made any art with Tucker lately so I thought he might enjoy making an appearance.
Using the Meow lite cartridge (which has some super cute kitties on it) I let Tucker lounge in one of the drawers.  :-) And since this is a sort of old fashioned looking dresser I mounted it on some old fashioned wallpaper looking cardstock (no clue where it came from, I pulled this little bit from my scrap pile). I embossed the blue block with one of Cuttlebug's Organic Flourish folders and then highlighted it with a white pigment ink pad.

I know it is kind of dark but I worked on it during another rain storm and I think that was effecting my color choices. I am thinking maybe I will make a brighter, more 'springy' one if I have time later in the week.

And finally, I finished my third ATC for the BadBabies Color swap. Yay!

I used my Home Décor cartridge for the bird. The flower paper came from my scrap pile. The leaves are a stencil I snagged at a yard sale years ago and the sun stamp is from Inkadinkado.
I am not sure why but my Cricut is bringing out the glitter side of me (and I never even knew I had a glitter side! lol) I used Stickles to highlight the bird, tinsel embossing powder on the sun and ultra-fine pink glitter on the heart.....Oh my!

Sunday, March 09, 2014

ATCs and Contests

Ok, let me start with.....Rain, Rain Go Away!!!!!!!!!

It is pouring even as I type. I know spring is just around the corner, my ornamental plum is beginning to bloom. But these downpours could stand to lighten up a my opinion. :-)

Here is the current view from my art room window.

Enough whining, on to the art!

I am entering a contest....I have not entered a contest in years and YEARS! And never one for Cricut. But, since I have fallen back in love with my machine and am totally obsessed with it I figured why not?!

This weeks challenge on the Fabulous Cricut Challenge Blog is "Pick a Holiday". I chose Christmas. Is there a better holiday???

I love this card! It is simple yet elegant (in my opinion lol)
I used the Joys of the Season cartridge and added highlights and shading with Prismacolor pencils. The background was embossed with Tim Holtz Sheet Music texture fades folder.

I think this might be the design I use for this year's Christmas cards!

Of course I could have used the following card for the challenge as well! I made a birthday card in a box for my Mom (her birthday isn't until June but I am obsessed and making ALL my cards early lol)

I love the concept of these cards! You can find instructions in lots of places online and tons of video instructions.....just search for "card in a box". The cool thing is that it folds up flat and fits into a standard envelope for mailing!

I used several Cricut cartridges for this:
Birthday fairy ~ Teddy Bear Parade
Packages ~ Celebrations
Cupcakes ~ Celebrations and Simply Charmed
Text - Create a Critter

The background paper on the box flaps was embossed with Cuttlebug's cupcake background folder.

Here is another view. Notice the embossing is reversed on the front flap....on that the text would adhere better.  :-)

And finally, the ATCs.

I belong to a few online art groups but I think those things are falling by the wayside. None of them are very active any more. You very rarely see anyone post anything. Possibly because Yahoo has made such a mess of the groups pages that it is next to impossible to figure them out or use them (but that is a whole other issue)

Anyway, the Bad Babies started talking the other day...complaining about the weather but at least they were talking. And we are going to have a SWAP! The first one in ages!!!  We are having an ATC color swap. I take this to mean the ATCs have to be colorful since we are so sick of gray! lol

We have to create 3 ATCs. I completed 2 of them yesterday and have an idea for the third.

ATC #1

The background paper is from DCWV Garden Party stack. The butterfly is from StampIt and the text stamp is from Tim Holtz.
The butterfly is colored with Prismacolor pencils. The text was stamped with ColorBox chalk ink and then highlighted with a Sakura pigma micron pen.

I think this one definitely fulfills the 'color' criteria.  :-)


ATC #2

My second card goes back to my love of French images.
I again used the Garden Party stack for my background paper. The white flowers and swirls are a glitter embossing already on the paper (which created a wonderful resist when I added the distress ink to the edges). The trees stamp is from Inkadinkado stamped in black StazOn and the foliage added with acrylic paints. The word Paris is from Impression Obsession and the Eiffel Tower comes from the French Manor Cricut cartridge.

Until next time.....Stay dry, keep warm and keep making art!  :-)




Sunday, March 02, 2014

Is It Spring yet???

I am so sick of rain and gray skies. I know most of the country is being slammed with more snow and I truly feel for you all!  It seems like winter is really pushing the limits of what we can handle this year.

Thank goodness it is March and spring is just around the corner!

I am still playing with my Cricut almost every day. (and seriously debating as to whether I need the new Cricut Explore or not)

Last time I shared my 'in progress' Art Nouveau hummingbird project. Well, that is done now. 

I mounted the bird and flowers on maroon cardstock (I cannot tell you how many colors I debated over until, with hubby's help, I decided on this maroon). I cut the shape from the Elegant Edges cartridge. Then, after another exhaustive search for another background color (pink), I decided I needed a 'shadow' layer of white to break it up. The pink is also cut from Elegant Edges. Such a great cartridge!

I honestly think it is the weather! My artistic muse seems to have gone into hibernation so I am extremely thankful for my Cricut and all my cartridges! I want to create and yet cannot put pencil to paper and have anything show up.
So, waking up yesterday morning with the urge to create and nothing flowing from my fingers, I grabbed the Pet Shop cartridge and made this little card. (actually it hasn't technically been mounted on a card yet so maybe I should call it a portrait?)
I welded the Shih Tzu with a frame from Elegant Edges. I then built the puppy right on the frame. This is a portrait of Molly, the little fur baby of my friend Crystal. Notice the frame and background are the same colors as my hummingbird backgrounds. I am all about using up my scraps! I keep them all sorted by color in gallon ziplock bags so I can rummage through them quickly to find what I need.  :-)  The background was embossed with Darice's Paw Print background folder and then I rubbed it with an ancient ColorBox pigment stamp pad in Frost White. Do they even make those anymore? I think I need to hunt for a re-inker, this poor thing is a tad on the dry side.

And finally, last weekend, my friend Mary came over and was checking out my Cricut storage system and my cartridges and fell in love with Teddy Bear Parade. I can't blame her, it one of the most adorable cartridges out there...assuming you love teddy bears, which I do!  So, I just had to make a bear! And seeing how Easter is coming up soon (although I am not sure of the date yet and really need to check my calendar!) I made this adorable 'bunny'.

Now, I have been painting for over 30 years and if you ever saw my fence post pumpkins or egg Santas (I am pretty sure they are way back in the ancient history of my blog lol) you will see that I have been painting cutsie eyes for why did I never think to paint them on my cuts? It took seeing a couple of them on the internet to give me one of those V8 moments! Duh!!!

The eyes are painted with acrylics, all shading was done with either pencils or chalks.

Happy Sunday! Keep warm and dry and try to find some creative time....even if you let a machine do half the work  :-)