September 2, 2014

Personalized Dancing Clock #DIY #upcycle #tutorial

Awesome clocks? Or the MOST awesome clocks?
Hello, lovely readers!

As some of you may be aware, once upon a time I described myself as an artist. It was kind of my thing. I went to art school and I even dropped out! Like a REAL artist!

Kidding aside, I still love to pick up a paintbrush and make beautiful things. But finding the time is hard, so I prioritize. I do wedding portraits.

I like to make each portrait totally unique to the couple, and focus on things that were special about them, or their wedding, or the day in particular.

It's fun, and so far nobody has called me up and said, "Dude, this painting sucks. Can't you just get me towels off my registry like a normal person?"

Today I'll be teaching you how to make my new favorite gift every- the personalized dancing clock.

Heavy duty watercolor paper
X-acto knife
hot glue
paint (I prefer casein for this, in which case you'll also need an acrylic glaze)
Heavy duty scissors
Fine grain sandpaper
Popsicle sticks
Elvis clock, the swinging legs kind.

Believe it or not, these guys are ridiculously cheap. Seriously, go on ebay and search for them. Or better yet, go to a local thrift shop that benefits a charity that means something to you, and buy one. They're everywhere.

Choose a picture of your subject. Preferably dancing.

You're not going to end up with something that looks EXACTLY like that, but getting something where your subject's legs are apart and arms are close to the body is ideal.

Now, take apart your clock.

To do this, you will unscrew the nut in the center that holds the clock together. It sounds like an unfathomably bad idea, but the way to remove the hands from the clock is to simply pull them off. Gently, but firmly. They will push back into place when your clock is in one piece again. With the nut removed, the clock will come apart into a box with the mechanism, the Elvis body, and a fistful of tiny parts you must be careful not to lose.

The pendulum of the clock is a simply hook. It lifts easily off the loop in the back, and that's all the disassembling you'll need to do.

Now comes the fun part. Chopping off Elvis's bits.

If you're lucky, you won't need to trim Elvis down at all. but if you're making a smaller dancing person, you'll need to trim off Elvis's boxy frame.

When you've got your altered Elvis pieces, it's time to trace them onto your paper in pencil. there will be much erasing after the fact, so draw lightly.

Once you've traced his parts, you'll draw the rest of your dancer around them. Keep lining up your drawings with each other, so you can ensure the pieces fit properly.

In this case, I started with legs/skirt that were FAR too long. By the time I lined up the parts properly, Elvis's crotch came about down to the skirt's hem.

In this case, I trimmed Elvis's shoulders and arms for my female dancer, and cut off one arm at the elbow for my male dancer. It's okay if your paper extends farther than your silhouette. Remember, you're not bound to put your dancer in the same position as elvis. For my female dancer, I turned the raise of Elvis's pompadour into the back of her head, by added her bun to the side. Use Elvis for scale- the head and arms will be in approximately the right place for any figure- but that's as tied to him as you're going to be.

Now you'll need to paint your dancers. PAINT THEM BEFORE YOU CUT THEM OUT!!!! If you cut them first, you may warp the paper.

If you look at the style of the Elvis clock, you'll note this doesn't have to be very realistic. In fact, it's best to try to keep it down to four or five colors. On Elvis, that often breaks down to white/black/purple/yellow/grey, or white/black/blue/grey. The face doesn't need to be well articulated, and you don't need much detail at all.

Think, outlines and a few blocks of color or shadow.

If you have a photo editing app, you can turn up the contrast and shadows on your original picture to give you a good idea where those colors and shadows should turn up.

I decided to use five colors- white, black, grey, brown, apricot, and yellow- plus a bit of extra for my bride's tattoos. I know, that's more colors than I generally recommend... but still not so many as to distract from the simplified art style.

Using an x-acto knife, cut out the silhouettes.

Double and triple check that your figures FIT on Elvis. When you're certain, trace the hole in Elvis's middle, and using the x-acto knife, cut the circles out of your figures.

Now, it's time to attach your painted people to Elvis's mangled body.

Begin by sanding down Elvis's body. You need a scuffed surface, or the glue will peel right off.

Wipe him down to make sure he's clean and dry- you don't want plastic and paint dust ruining your clock at the last minute!

Set your glue gun to "high" heat. Let your glue get REALLY REALLY hot. The hotter, the better.

Now, quickly and carefully, make a line of hot glue about a quarter inch from the border of Elvis, all around the perimeter, and a little in the middle for good measure. As quickly and carefully as you can, put the painted dancer on top, and press down firmly.

You'll have a split second to adjust as you lay it down, so remember to check the hole, the head, and and the corners to be certain Elvis is lined up properly as you lay down the paper.

Next, IF you have a figure who's legs don't have Elvis backing, cut down some popsicle sticks and hot glue them to the back. You'll want to make sure they're supported, to protect them from tearing.

Now, as I said before, I used casein paints. I like them for this project because casein is matte, which helps with the sort of comic-book look, and because it's the most uniform medium I know. Casein paint practically eliminates brushstrokes, the color is so consistent. I also LOVE that it dries faster than any other paint on earth. This keeps the paper from warping, and also lets you manhandle your project sooner. The only problem with it is that it's fragile, so if needs a varnish of sorts on top before you can finish the clocks.

I used an acrylic medium to "fix" the pigment to the paper. I like this particular medium because it is also matte, and because it is also very lightweight, and because it also dries quickly.

Once your clock parts are dry, it's time to put them all together again. First the body, then the washer, then the nut, and when that's screwed back down, the clock hands. These are pressed into place firmly, hour first, then minute, then second. To check if you've attached them properly, rotate the minute hand. The hour hand should follow. If not, press down harder- but still gently, You don't want to bend them.

Hook the legs back onto the loop in the back, and insert batteries.

You are now the owner of a beautifully personalized dancing clock.

September 1, 2014

One More Cup of Coffee

I am BEYOND thrilled to be participating in...


It's back as a once a month Tuesday, instead of a once a week Tuesday... but still! MORE MIX TAPES!!!!

My Skewed ViewThis month's mix tape theme is the Soundtrack Of Your Summer. This is a bit of a cop out for me, as my summer actually did have a soundtrack. And it actually is a mix tape. And no, it has nothing to do with Guardians of the Galaxy.

Starting at the beginning of last school year, I built a list of songs that my kids loved listening to. In the car, mostly. That way, I'd know what music to put on when somebody suddenly started having a meltdown. There are a few songs that didn't make the official list, because of fairly obvious reason, but once the list was long enough to fill up a CD, I burned it. And it's been playing in our car pretty much on a loop as we traveled all summer.

To give you an idea of how effective this disc is, last weekend we went to a birthday party in the distant 'burbs. RH screamed halfway home, until I remembered to put on the disc. As the first few notes of the first song played, she became instantly silent. And then, in a perfectly calm voice, she announced, "I happy now!"

Here, for your listening pleasure, is the soundtrack of my summer. Enjoy!

The kids fell in love with this song over the course of the year, on days when we drove downtown to pick up M from work. I would sing a few bars of the song as we crossed the bridge over the Chicago River, and eventually they stopped believing me that it was a real song. Well, now they know every single word.

This song is on a mix M and I like to listen to on a semi-regular basis, so the kids fell in love with it during our drive to Minnesota for Christmas last year. As much as they love it, SI refuses to sing along. "The words go too fast."

I put this track on a mix for myself once upon a time, and I LOVE IT. So of course I played it in the car once in a while. Well, SI fell in love with it. She wanted it, on a loop, every time we got in the car. For months. It's still her favorite song. Actually, she just generally loves Bob Dylan covers, her second favorite track being "Forever Young," as performed by Poppa.

The first of several Beatles tracks. Another one I sang as we went about our business around town. I would sing it to RH in order to get her to hold my hand as we crossed the school parking lot. Again, the children didn't believe it was a real song until this mix came into being.

Every morning last year, as we drove to preschool, I'd surf through the local pop stations, looking for what the kids and I called "bouncy songs." These were songs the kids could happily bounce in their seats to, through the whole six minute drive. This was one of their two favorite "bouncy song."

There are several songs that, starting pretty much at birth, RH has responded really well to. The first song (and one that's not featured in this list) is "Monster" by Eminem, featuring Rihanna. That's one that M nixed for being "inappropriate." Whatever. RH also loves her some Men At Work.

I don't think there is was child alive in America in 2014 who didn't memorize at least half of the nonsense words in this song. And unlike most music that falls into the category of "kids songs," this one is actually a brilliantly crafted pop song that doesn't terribly grate on the adults in the vicinity. So it made the list.

Really, the songs RH loves have a common theme. They're high tempo, with a repetitive guitar or bass riff. I have NO complaints about her love of this song. I love this song, too. So RH gets two giant thumbs up from me on her taste in music. (Yes, Eminem included.)

One of the kids' favorite movies is "Yellow Submarine." When I started making the mix, I put every single track from the movie into it, and slowly whittled away the ones they liked least. They love this track, not exactly sure why, but it's delightful and makes everybody happy, and I'll never turn my nose up at The Beatles.

When I was a kid, my dad used to play this on the guitar. And starting when the kids were very small, I'd sing it to them every time it rained. Sometime last year, DD fell in love with it, so the original made its way into the mix.

So in case there was any question that my kids are, in fact, ridiculously awesome. Let's recap. SI's favorite song is a Dylan cover by the Turkish equivalent of Madonna, RH's favorite song is by Stevie Nicks, and DD's favorite song is Peter Gabriel's magnum opus. It comforts me to know that, all other things aside, I'm at least doing SOMETHING right.

This song came on randomly one winter morning, and SI stopped eating to ask me about it. She requested it three days in a row, and it made the list, and then RH fell in love with it. That up tempo, repetitive riff thing again. It's a great song, and these kids have fabulous taste.

Truth be told, we tried and tried and tried to find a download of the Maccabeats' cover of this song, "Candlelight." But this version was also one of our favorite "bouncy songs." And so the kids are perfectly happy with the original. Plus, I dance like a maniac behind the wheel and other moms in other minivans stare with unbridled awe and shame at my killer moves.

No explanation required.

Another of RH's favorite songs. It always cheered her when it came onto the radio, and so it made the list. Bonus? It's one of M's favorite Billy Joel tracks too, so while I'm recovering from belting along to "Let It Go," M picks up the singing slack and sings this like he's about to win the world championship of karaoke. I love that man.

I am thoroughly a child of the 90s, and my children are more than minimally exposed to the great songstresses of the Lilith crowd. This is their favorite Sarah McLachlan track, I'm not sure why. I always had a thing for "Possession." Then again, they ARE four years old, and I imagine a lot of the subtext is going over their heads.

Like I said, it's one of their favorite movies. I would rather have kept "Nowhere Man" on the list, if it were me, but RH really appreciates this song. And hearing her scream, "Yellow Submaween!" over and over again is awfully cute.

Starting back when we used to have our post-breakfast dance parties, the girls and I listened to a lot of swing. This is a favorite of theirs, and has few enough overt sexual innuendo for M to deem it acceptable for the children.

Another song RH fell in love with after it came onto the radio one day. Repetitive high tempo riff... plus, Mommy sings along and rolls down all the window and blasts the music. And who doesn't love that?

Another song I used to sing them myself, now with a mix tape backup. This one is a CLASSIC. I have no idea how many versions of it I'd heard, but until Madeline came around, I'd never thought of it as one I could really sing. I lover her so much.

Yes, you probably recognize this track from previous mix tapes. The girls love it as much as I do, so it got onto their CD.

Another one my father sang to me as a lullaby, and now I sing it to the girls as a lullaby. When I found this version, my heart kind of exploded a little bit. I put it on the list for the girls without their having ever heard it, and now they adore it. Lucky me, they still let me sing in "the bedtime way," when it's time to sleep.

Okay, fine. You're adults. You can deal with it. Here's the bonus track that ran through my head every time this mix played, despite M trying to keep it away from the kids. You're welcome.


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