May 082011

If you’re like me, you struggle to find graphic designs that are gender-neutral, particularly when it comes to blank note cards. Recently I read a Hero Arts blog post by Shari Carroll called Manly Sophistication and Video that caught my attention. Shari recommends using the Stone Etchings woodblock stamp set or Stone Etching Flower in Flower Borders Digikit from Hero Arts to create an attractive card that is appropriate for men or women.

While I love the Stone Etching Flower design itself (and at 99 cents it is very reasonably priced), I wondered whether ordinary clip art might not serve the same purpose. True, it is a little more work to size and print your images, but the benefit to doing so is that you have a much larger range of possibilities. Besides, what else are you doing with that 10-year-old-plus clip art CD?

I dug into my stack of clip art CDs and discovered some wonderful Dover Clips. Next, I inserted a selected image into my favorite word processing program, which happens to be WordPerfect, and sized the image to match the needs of the note card. To tell you the truth, however, you could use any other software program you prefer, such as Microsoft PowerPoint, since it is so commonly available.

If you watch Shari’s video below, you’ll notice that she includes a text strip on the front of her card that I have chosen to omit. My husband, who likes the look of the card without it, said that he would prefer to write his own message inside—and he thinks that makes the card more universal. Also, Shari uses Earth Designers Papers card stock with overprinted text, but I chose instead to emboss card stock with an embossing folder.

Here, then, are the steps I followed. If you make this same card, I would love for you to include a photo link of your finished card in the comments below this post.


1. Gather your supplies and tools, as follows, to make a set of 4 note cards in A2 size:

  • Favorite clip art CD
  • Card stock (4 sheets of 8-1/2 in. x 11 in.)
  • Letterhead (2 sheets, ivory) – optional
  • Paper trimmer
  • Bone folder
  • Scissors
  • Walnut Stain Distress Ink and applicator
  • Embossing folder or texture plate
  • Adhesive foam dots or squares
  • Adhesive tape runner
  • Adhesive rhinestones, adhesive pearls, or brads (your choice)

2. Using your paper trimmer, slice in half 2 sheets of card stock so that each piece measures 8.5 inches x 5.5 inches. Fold each piece in half so that you end up with 4 note cards measuring 4.25 inches x 5.5 inches.

3. Emboss the front of your cards using an embossing folder or texture plate. I used my Sizzix® Big Shot machine and Tim Holtz’s Bricked Texture Fades Embossing Folder, also from Sizzix.®

4. Choose a square design with a round “layered look” motif from your favorite clip art CD, and print the following on card stock. I used 2 sheets of Archivers “Kraft” card stock, and chose a Dover Clips design.

  • 12 large squares (about 2 inches x 2 inches each)
  • Border Strip 1: 4 columns of 4 medium squares (about 1.5 inches x 1.5 inches each)
  • Border Strip 2: 4 rows of 7 small squares (about .75 inch x .75 inch each)

5. Using scissors or paper trimmer (whatever works best), cut out the designs as follows:

  • Set aside 3 large squares for each card. (Do not cut apart at this point.)
  • Set aside Border Strip 1 (1 column of 4 medium squares) for each card.
  • Set aside Border Strip 2 (1 row of 7 small squares) for each card.

6. Use the applicator to apply Walnut Stain Distress Ink to the designs as follows:

  • Apply ink heavily to 1 large square and lightly to 2 large squares (for each card).
  • Ink the edges of the Border Strips.

7. Cut apart the large squares. Leave 3 of them intact as “whole” squares, but cut out the circular motif from 3 of the large squares, as well as the motif centers of 3 more large squares. Apply an adhesive rhinestone, adhesive pearl or brad to the motif centers.

8. Layer the 3 pieces comprising the large squares, from smallest to largest, using adhesive foam dots or squares.

9. Take Border Strip 1 and Border Strip 2, and set it on top of your card in an upside-down cross shape to get a feel for the layout of your card. When you are satisfied with the appearance, adhere both Border Strips to your card.

10. Using adhesive foam dots or squares, adhere the large layered square to the intersection of the Border Strips.

Optional: If desired, cut a 5-inch x 8-inch rectangle of ivory letterhead to insert on the inside of the card. Fold in half, and apply to the inside of the card with adhesive tape runner.

© 2011 Judy Nolan. All rights reserved.

Mar 272011

Now that spring is officially here, April Fool’s Day is not far around the corner.

The origin of this particular day is not altogether clear, but some say the “holiday” goes back to medieval days in 1582, when the Gregorian calendar we know today was introduced by Pope Gregory XIII.  The New Year was previously an eight-day holiday that began on March 25th and finished on April 1st, or the Feast of Annunciation. In 1582, the New Year was moved to January 1st instead. The story is told that because news about this change traveled slowly, those who did not hear about it—or those who did but refused to make the change—were labeled as “fools” and sent on fool’s errands. Over time, a custom of prank-playing evolved that took on different forms in various parts of the world. How quickly this custom spread of playing tricks on others on a particular day of the year, however, is not clear, since England, for example, did not adopt the Gregorian calendar until 1782, yet April Fool’s Day was still being celebrated. In the 1300s, Geoffrey Chaucer wrote about April Fool’s Day in his Canterbury Tales long before the Gregorian calendar was adopted.

Despite the lack of clarity about what actually brought about April Fool’s Day, it is a fact that the custom has spread worldwide. In Scotland, for example, April 1st is known as Taily Day, when pranks involving the lower extremity of the body take place. The “butt” of these jokes is called a “gowk,” which is a Scottish word for cuckoo bird. If you have ever seen signs saying “Kick me,” these are likely related to Scottish customs on April Fool’s Day. In England, jokes are played on a person only in the morning, since it is considered bad luck to do so after noon. A fool is known as a “gob” or “gobby,” and the victim of a prank is called a noodle. In Italy, April Fool’s Day is known as the Festival of Hilaria and takes place on March 25th, celebrating the resurrection of a god known as Attis. In Portugal, on the Sunday and Monday before Lent, people throw flour at each other. In India, on March 31st, people play jokes and smear paint on each other in anticipation of spring. Mexico celebrates April Fool’s Day on December 28th, but it is only in modern days that it has adopted the custom of playing pranks and performing tricks; Mexico’s original holiday involved a remembrance of the children killed by King Herod. French children tape a paper fish on classmates’ backs, and when this is discovered, call out “Poisson d’Avril,”  or “April Fish.”

In some ways the origin of April Fool’s Day has become a tall tale. In 1983, for example, a Boston University professor named Joseph Boskin was interviewed by an Associated Press reporter about the origin of April Fool’s Day. He joked that he had been researching this for years, but the reporter took him seriously, and the news spread about the professor who had cracked the mystery of April Fool’s Day. The professor, meanwhile, embellished his tale by saying the holiday began in Istanbul in the court of Constantine, when the jesters decided to unionize. The king was so amused that he gave up his throne for a day to a jester named Kugel. In reality, Kugel was the name of a Jewish pudding that a friend of the professor enjoyed. The story spread like wildfire to news agencies worldwide. Weeks later, Boskin revealed the story to his students, one of whom was editor-in-chief of the school newspaper and printed the story on the front page the next day. The press—and the reporter—were livid about becoming the victims of a hoax. The professor says he kept his job only because he had tenure. It was not until last year that he finally made peace with the reporter by having lunch with him. Ironically, that same reporter had subsequently become a fellow professor at Boston University.

As far as I am concerned personally, April 1st plays no special role other than that it is my mother’s birthday. My mother, who passed away in 2001, was not much of a prankster, although I do remember one year when she told my brother, Mark, and me that it was snowing. The likelihood of that was slim, since we lived in southern California at the time, but we raced to the window and peered outside. Of course, all we saw was greenery being warmed by the sun. When my mother called out “April Fool’s!” we were not particularly impressed. I honestly don’t recall that tricks were ever played after that, not by my mother and also not between family members and friends—at least not on April Fool’s Day. I must be honest; this holiday whose sole purpose is to poke fun at others at their expense does not particularly appeal to me. However, that does not mean I cannot change the custom. If you are reading this post today, mark April 1st on your calendar and visit any of my shops on Etsy (accessible through the dropdown menu at the top of this Web page) on that day. Purchase anything on April 1st and get free shipping by using the coupon code APRILFOOLSDAY2011 during the checkout process.

© 2011 Judy Nolan. All rights reserved.

Jan 122011

“2011 probably won’t be the year I lose weight,” writes fellow blogger and BBEST member Myfanwy Hart in her blog, Chittle Chattle. “2011 will be the best that I can make it, and the best that I can make it for people around me.  I’ve joined up to the ‘post a day’, so I’m hoping it will also be the best blogging year too.  (All I need now are some readers),” Myfanwy concludes.

I must admit that I feel very much the same. Though weight loss is always a goal of mine (after all, I am a WeightWatchers® Online member), I have decided it’s not the end of the world if every day is not a perfect day. And this applies to other areas of my life, too. If I have any resolution at all in 2011, it is to balance family, volunteering and creativity—to create a saner year than the previous one by investing more time in creative pursuits, which definitely took third place last year.

“Be creative, in your own way, every single day,” writes Danielle, Etsy’s Seller Education Coordinator in Fearless Creativity. “Schedule it. Make yourself. Sounds boring and counterintuitive, but you’ll never live up to your full creative potential without practice.”

Creativity, like any other pursuit, must be practiced on a regular basis in order for it to be productive. Noah Scalin, the author of 365: A Creativity Journal: Make Something Every Day and Change Your Life!, writes, “A daily project is like a marathon. It’s a ridiculously daunting task, but making an original creation every day gives you an incredible sense of accomplishment. It also forces you to push beyond your mental and physical barriers (especially the ones you’ve erected for yourself). You’ll be amazed at what you produce and what you learn about yourself in the process.”

If you have ever read Julia Cameron‘s books about creativity, then you are probably also familiar with her daily writing exercise known as “morning pages.” Every day, a writer takes 20 to 30 minutes out of the day to write three pages non-stop, without editorializing, about anything that comes to mind. This practice exercise has a way of opening the creative floodgates for any artist, not just writers. In fact, it is the act of regularity itself (which in some ways sounds like it is the opposite of innovation) that cements the creativity habit. And there are many ways in which you can practice the habit of creativity, whether it’s daily, weekly or monthly. To do so as successfully as you can, keep the following five tips in mind:

  • Make it bite-size. Instead of vowing to take on an enormous, mind-boggling project, break the project down into manageable chunks of time. If all you have of uninterrupted time is 10 or 15 minutes, make those minutes work for you. Ahead of time, organize your tools and materials so that you can be as efficient as possible during the time you have. “Usually there are just a few minutes here or there—10, 20, or 30 minutes, maybe—if I’m really lucky,” writes television host  Nancy Zieman of Sewing With Nancy in her book, 10-20-30 Minutes to Sew. “These precious minutes are a dose of sanity in a far too hectic world,” she adds.  A little bit of planning, in other words, can go a long way.

Estate SALE destash sewing notions in RED and GOLD, by Pruit Supply

Lotus Flower Pincushion, by Asian Expressions

  • Keep it fresh. Learn something new all the time. Challenge yourself to tackle the unexpected. If sculpture is your strength, try writing a poem. Take a sketching class down at the local art center, learn how to make a bracelet at a bead shop, or pick up a book at the library to teach yourself macrame. The point is to expose yourself to new outlooks and approaches. You never know what new ideas will emerge and spill over into other areas in which you are already creative. Liv of The Filigree Garden on Etsy, for example, has been taking weaving lessons, even though on Etsy she is known as a talented jewelry designer. You can read about her weaving adventures on her blog, The Filigree Garden. When Pat O’Neill originally opened a shop on Etsy as Precious Quilts, her interest was in needlework and sewing, but as she explored different forms of art, color and texture, she encountered encaustic painting. This became her new passion, leading to a new shop on Etsy called Art in the Wax. Keep in mind that yesterday’s so-called errors may become tomorrow’s innovative inventions.

Is it a scarf or…, by Olivia Herbert

Lunar Castles – ACEO – encaustic Artist Trading Card, by Art in the Wax


  • Make yourself accountable. Join a group and report back to members, blog about your progress, or keep a creativity journal. Kym of Fabric Fascination, for example, started the 52 Weeks Challenge, which involves group members posting links to photos of completed projects. “Challenges are always more fun when you have company,” writes Kym. If you conduct a Google search using the phrases “create every day” or “creative challenge,”  in fact, you will find many similar group efforts. My own week’s contribution to this challenge is shown below.

Black Crochet Scarf, by Judy Nolan

  • Build on a theme, and play with it. Do you feel like you’re at a creative standstill? Then experiment with themes related to shape, color, or even the materials with which you work. Ask yourself what if, how can I, and why not questions. For example, a potter might ask herself how she can use the same shape in different ways. Ceci of Artsielady does this successfully with leaf shapes, producing such items as leaf tea bag holders, nested leaf plates, and a leaf candy dish.

Leaf Tea Bag Holder, by Artsielady

Leaf Nesting Plate Set, by Artsielady

Maple Leaf Candy Dish, by Artsielady

  • Don’t try to be perfect. Thomas Edison, who invented the light bulb after many so-called failed attempts, said, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”  This is the attitude with which you should approach creative endeavors. Treat every artistic experiment as a learning experience. Keep a log book of ideas and creative journeys, learn from everything, good and bad, and move forward. Myfanwy of Sassa Lynne, for example, keeps meticulous records of all her dyeing experiments, which you can read about in her blog, Nuvo Felt. Through experimentation, in fact, Myfanwy develops one-of-a-kind dyed threads that she calls her “Serenpidity” collection and which form the basis of her shop.

Dyeing Records of Myfanwy Hart

Perle Fine Yarn, 5 pack (Apple, Lime, Peach), Serendipity, by Sassa Lynne

Other creative challenge sites that may interest you include:

© 2011 Judy Nolan. All rights reserved. Please note that the images in this post are owned by the artists and may not be used without permission. Simultaneously published at