Thursday, April 30, 2009

When Your Project Just Refuses to Co-Operate!

Since this is the blog where I share with my scrapbooking buddies, I can give you the straight scoop--
I agreed to do a page to be auctioned off Malice this weekend. The work goes to help the John Gildner charity which works with severely emotionally disturbed adolescents.
I decided to duplicate the page as I made it. In part, so I could test ideas on Page 1--and have a fall back to Page 2 if things didn't go as I wanted. Here's an admission: One of my favorite portions of the Design Team pages for ScrapBook inspirations is where the artists tell you what they tried that failed. It's very inspiring to think that their beautiful creations didn't just come together easily. At least, it's inspiring to me!
So I started work by pulling out all the papers I had in the official Malice colors. Then I changed the color on an orangish piece of paper because I liked the skull--very Malice since it's a gathering of mystery lovers. And finally, I created my own papers.
Along the way I had this super idea to add a small glass bottle to represent the poison that Dame Agatha Christie (who is the mystery author who spawned the genre that Malice honors) worked with. All was cool--until I tried to put the finished page into the frame I'd purchased. It was a "no go," because the small glass bottle caused the frame to sit lopsided. I fussed and fumed with it. Finally, I reverted to using Page 2--to which I added the customized flower and the AC initials.
Inside the small album is room for 8 photos (4" x 6" size). The cover of the album is sewn with sequins sprinkled throughout. The papers were customized and colored just for this, and the "not everyone's cup of tea" paper was custom made. The upper right with its overlapping letters pays homage to Agatha Christie's many books. The three red drops of blood lower right are in homage to the Killer Hobbies blog in which I participate. The tea bag on the left has glitter "inside." Agatha's portrait was sewn on by hand. The name of my book--Paper, Scissors, Death--appears on the page.
I'm also offering to review three chapters of someone's manuscript as an auction item.
Last week, the naming rights to a character in Book #3 of the Kiki Lowenstein Mystery Series fetched in excess of $500 (we think it was $750, but we can't confirm that yet) for the Guardian Angel group here in St. Louis.
I'd love to hear about your adventures with pages that just didn't work as planned!

Saturday, April 25, 2009

The Wisdom of Mary Engelbreit: How to Live a Creative Life

All of us in the creative world have role models and heroines. One of mine has long been Mary Engelbreit. Last Thursday, thanks to the nice folks at For Keeps Sake Scrapbooking Superstore, I had the chance to finally meet the woman whose career I've followed with admiration.

I didn't think to take notes...which is unusual for me. I was too stunned, to tell you the truth. I figured she would be distant from all of us. She's a superstar. I didn't expect her to be approachable. But she was.

Mary made a short presentation and took questions. I'll try to share what I remember:

* She started by saying that if you choose to make a living of your creativity that you need to give up control. Her point was that there will be ups and downs, high-points and disappointments.

* She owes so much of her start to the support of her parents. As a child, she came home from an older friend's house where she saw her first art studio and announced to her mother, "I need my own studio." So her mother turned a closet into Mary's work area. "It was about 120 degrees in there," says Mary with a laugh. (Anyone who's lived through a summer in St. Louis can understand exactly what that must have felt like.)

* Which led to her advice, "Surround yourself with supportive people." And if the people around you aren't supportive? What if you have a boyfriend, best friend, whoever and that person can't share your vision? She said, "Get rid of them." (And let me say that this was the only time in her presentation where Mary seemed cut-and-dried. She said this with such utter authority that you knew she was speaking both from her heart and from experience.)

* I asked her how she handled career set backs. She said, "You can be upset about them. For about a week. That's it. Then...I always think, 'Okay, now I can do something else with that time.' You can't get bitter."

* I can tell you that she's a lifelong learner with a total lack of pretension about her skills. She mentioned at one point that she's unable to do illustrations that are representative art. (In other words, she can't draw one of her people and make that person look like someone living.) When she learned that you can use the blending tool of a Copic pen to lift color, she immediately asked Nancy (who teaches Copic marker use at For Keeps Sake) to come to her studio and give her a lesson! "I didn't know that," she marveled about the pens. "Hmmm."

* She draws for five or six hours a day. Once in a while, she doesn't want to work on her art. But, when that happens, she says, "Deadlines are great for inspiring creativity." After she gets started, she "gets into the drawing." She starts with pencil sketches and works to get them just right. ("I wish I could just do pencil sketches," she says with a sigh. But she knows her audience loves her sense of color.) After the pencil drawing is perfect, she goes over it with ink. Then she lays down color with markers. Finally she goes over the markers with colored pencils.

* I asked her if she ever made a mistake with the colors she chooses or whatever. "In the beginning," she says with a half-smile of remembrance, "there was a lot of throwing and stomping around. Now...I see the finished product in my mind. Besides, things can always be fixed with computer." (But she quickly admits she knows nothing about computers. She does have someone who works with her who is an expert.)

I've asked if I can come take Mary and her assistant Beth to lunch. Stay tuned!

You know, I wore ME colors to the event and a special pin that I thought she'd like. By golly, she honed right in on the pin....did my heart do a flutter-kick or what?

PS Does she scrapbook? She hesitated. She looked at us. We looked at her. Finally she said, "Uh, no. But I sure own a lot of scrapbook paper! And I know I should!"

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Vintage Baby Embellishment

Here's a cute vintage embellishment of a naked baby on a blanket.

It's definitely not the Gerber baby, but it sure would look nifty on:

1. The cover of a baby album
2. A greeting card--why not add the phrase "Oh, Baby!"
3. A collage or altered book

Hmmm. I can feel my creative juices flowing...eek! and I have too much other work to do to stop and create! What's a busy girl to do?

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Spring and Easter Patterns

My friend Rebecca Ludens posted these fun paper piecing patters at Scrapbooking About Com:

You Inspire Me!

Yes, it's true. The notes, the comments, the responses I get keep me going. I imagine that some of you think this is a one-way street: I write and that's it.

Nothing could be further from the truth. YOU and YOU and YOU are why I write. I wake up in the morning thinking about you and how to reach you, how to get my books into your hands, how to offer you more than just a bunch of pages with a story typed on them.

Here are some ideas I'm noodling around:

1. I'm working with a group here in the St. Louis area to have a big inaugural launch of the Kiki Lowenstein Fan Club. It would include a weekend crop with lots of prizes, buttons that say "Get Kiki", and fan club membership cards. Of course, being a crop there has to be food, fun, classes and prizes.

2. I've written one Kiki short story. I'll probably send it off to a magazine first, but now I'm itching to write OTHER Kiki short stories. I have to decide the best way to share these--if my publisher agrees that I can.

3. I'm working on a blog tour. What scrapbooking blogs do you like best? What chat rooms?

4. I'm going to post scenes from Paper, Scissors, Death on my website.

5. I'm working on getting more tutorials onto the website--and making it easier for scrapbookers to find scrapbooking info.

6. I'm working on an online writing class--Writers Online Workshops has given me back the rights to my class "How to Get Started (Quickly) in Scrapbook Journaling" because they've made some changes.

7. I'm working on formatting all my old Graceful Bee columns into an e-book that I'll give away with the purchase of two books--Paper, Scissors, Death and Cut, Crop & Die.

Any other ideas for me? What would you like for me to do? Send me a GREAT idea and I'll come up with a gift for you!

Okay, back to the new book I'm writing! Ta-ta for now!


Monday, April 13, 2009

The Bookmarks Have Arrived!


The new bookmarks have arrived for Cut, Crop & Die--Book #2 in the Kiki Lowenstein Mystery series. I had them designed especially to look like the FIRST bookmarks so you could collect the set. (I've already written Book #3, and we're on pace for #4, so the sky's the limit.)

Aren't they gorgeous?

Here's how to get yours...PLUS a signed copy of the galley for the first book. What's that? A galley? It's the original proof an author uses to make corrections. There's only one in existence per book, but I'm willing to sign one of my pages and give it to YOU.

Here's what you need to do:

Send a STAMPED, self-addressed envelope to Joanna Slan's Bookmarks and Galley, 12033 Dorsett Road, Maryland Heights, MO 63043. Be sure to let me know if you want the galley pages autographed to someone in particular!

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Easter Album Part II

Want a template for this big egg and the hand-colored bunny? Email me at and put BUNNY in the subject line. I'll also throw in the pattern for the muslin bunny show on other panels!


Somehow I picked up a water glass coaster of chipboard from a Westin hotel where I stayed--and it was shaped like a BIG egg. You can get a hand-drawn template of your own by emailing me at and putting BUNNY in the Subject Line. I cut two pieces of paper using the egg as a template. I punched a 2" diameter hole in one of the papers. Behind it I layered a piece of clear plastic (acetate, I presume) from packaging. Then I prepared my "scene" on the other piece of egg-shaped paper. I layered this bunny embellishment and punched out leaves, etc. Finally, I assembled the whole shootin' match.

Tip: You can use the foam area between the Pop-Dots. Just cut it to size, as I did here to lift the egg shape with the clear window higher than the "scene."

Tip: I found the flowers behind the egg in the parking lot of Michaels. I always watch the ground as I walk in and out of that store. It's amazing how many pieces of silk arrangements drop to the parking lot. So, I'm being thrifty, green and I'm helping keep the world free of trash!


I put a strip of mesh across the bottom of the panel, then I added the running bunny art that I hand-colored. (You can get a copy by emailing me at SaveTales I added a piece of contrasting patterned paper, a cut-out of a design on a piece of patterned paper, and the "Cute" button.

Tip: Sometimes paper will have shading on the edges. If you cut it into a smaller piece, there will be shading on two sides, but not on your new cuts. can distress the edges by sanding them lightly or use chalk or ink to color all four edges. Never let the way your supplies come dictate how you use them. You're the artist here.

This is sooooooo green. Not only did I use a piece of green paper, but...that silver embellishment on the lower right? It's the lid off a frozen juice can. Inside is the 2" circle I punched from the egg on the FIRST INSIDE PANEL. The outside rim is a scalloped circular punch. The images inside are a rubber stamp of a basket of flowers ( Stampin' Up) that I hand-colored, and a punch of a bunny which I raised with Pop-Dots. I filled the depressed circle inside with glitter glue.
Tip: Layer the glitter glue inside. First squirt in a ring of glue. Let it dry. Add another layer. This gives better thickness and coverage than one pass.
The "button" is Martha Steward punch of a button. (There are so many times when you don't have JUST the right button, and this punch--though pricey!--allows you to create a customized button that's perfect.) I layered the faux button over two flowers I punched out.
First I trimmed a piece of laser-cut paper. Remember, this paper will need special attention from you--you have to be sure to dab a little glue under the pieces so they don't stick out and get torn off. I added a big die cut of a bunny. The Easter Eggs embellishment I made with the clip art from Microsoft Word. To the eggs and to the bunny's eye I added blue glitter glue. The backdrop for the embellishment is that circular scalloped-edge punch.
Tip: Very carefully dot glitter glue onto the scallops. But first, squirt out a little glue to get out any bubbles. Keep a toothpick close at hand and a cotton-tip swab so you can "correct" any dots that are mis-shapened.
Tying ribbons to the circular rings helps stabilize the whole project when it's standing up. You could use tie all the panels together with ribbons, but this seemed more sturdy. Be careful that you don't locate your holes (which you must punch--forgot to tell you that!) too close to the edges or too far from the edges of your panels. If they are too close, they could pull loose. If they are too far, the rings won't fit.
ENJOY! Happy Easter! If you see someone wandering the parking lot of your neighborhood craft store, tell her "Hi." It's probably me!
PS Don't forget to click on the FOLLOW icon to the right. Otherwise you won't know when I post a new project.

Easter Album

This is a cute place to store your Easter or Spring photos. The four panels were cut from empty cereal boxes. Each piece of chipboard (cardstock) is 7 1/2" by 6" so you'll need two empty boxes. After you cut your panels to size, sand the printed surface off of the outside of the box. This makes it easier to glue down your paper.

Tip: I wear a kitchen apron when I sand. Those bits of paper and dust get all over your clothes.

Once you have the four panels, you'll also need six 1" diameter binding rings which you can buy at any office supply store, ribbons, and paper. What you choose to put on your panels is up to you, but I'll walk you through what I did.


This is a framed scene with a rabbit on the outside. If you email me at and put BUNNY in the Subject Line, I'll send you a pattern so you can cut a bunny out from fabric. The frame was made with a Sizzix die cut machine, but you could easily make your own. The inside window is 2 1/2 by 3 1/2 inches. The outside dimensions are 4 by 5 inches. Create the frame first, then cut a background paper of 4 x 5 inches. Start to decorate your background. Cut a frame of foam core slightly smaller than your frame. Cover it with masking tape (mine is green). Assemble.

Tip: Use Pop-dots under your bunny so he doesn't collapse where his body extends over your open frame.

Tip: I strung my letter beads on wire, then curled the end of the wire around a pencil tip.

Tip: See the hole in the right hand corner? The two beads on a string act as ballast so your album can sit on a surface.


Cover your panel with paper. Make your flowers:

1. Either stamp letters or numbers onto patterned paper or print letters and numbers onto patterned paper.
2. Punch out the flowers.
3. Add buttons.
4. Cut curved pieces of green paper for stems.

The bunny is a rubber stamp by PSX by the name of "Baby Bunny." The picket fence is a rubber stamp by Rubber Stamps of America. Cutting out the area between the fence slats with a craft knife really gives the fence dimension.

Add decorative edged paper along the bottom to "ground" your image.

Tip: Grounding an image keeps stuff from looking like you just threw it on your page/card.

This is actually a small album. If you use the inside cover and the panel beneath the small album, you can add ten photos to this standing project. I keep really cheap albums on hand just for this. I pulled the four inside sleeves out of the album (which costs about $1.99 and can be found at Walmart or the dollar store). I created a cover larger than my inside pages PLUS 1"extra at the top. I folded over that 1" at the top and stapled my inside sleeves to the back of that extra flap. Then I decorated the cover. This is a neat trick that allows you to ALWAYS get more photos on a project for nearly next to nothing price-wise.
Another framed Easter scene. I used my Sizzix to cut the oval out of the center of a solid piece of Bazzill Basics 4 3/4 inches wide by 5 3/4 inches tall. I then cut a background bigger than the oval hole. I layered egg stickers and other cut outs. The images of the chicks I scanned from an old children's book of mine. And I tucked silk flowers under a sticker of a decorated egg.
Tip: The silk flowers here were "magpie" items. That means, I found them in the parking lot of Michaels! I always look down as I walk in and out of that store!
Okay, on to the INSIDE PANELS!

Some Bunny to Love Card

This is a fun and easy card! (I think that if cards are too complicated, you just want to give up and go buy them...) To get the "running bunny" send me an email at and put BUNNY in the Subject Line. I'll send you a file you can download and print of this bunny that I created. (It's not for commercial use, please. Just for you to use and enjoy.)

I opened a file and sized it to the width of my card in Microsoft Word. Next, I used the "word art" function in Microsoft Word to print and curve "I want some bunny to love!" in the font called "Leftovers." Do be careful, though, because sometimes Leftovers tends to smush punctuation too close to the letters. I had to add a space for the exclamation point. Then I printed out my words in brown on my patterned paper.

Tip: Small patterns are best for printing words onto. Boldface and large clear type will show up best.

I trimmed the sides of the paper using decorative edge scissors.

Tip: Draw an outline of where you want to cut and give yourself wide margins. The decorative scissors can sometimes chew up the paper if you cut too close to the edges.

I added the purple rickrack.

Tip: There's no purple in the patterned paper. Sometimes you have to try different combinations by holding your pieces up together. The purple worked and it matched the mood of the card.

And finally, I added the brown "handstitching" lines around the outside border.

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