Wednesday, October 1, 2014

For Whom Does the Paper Tole? It Toles For Thee.

Today is a day that we wait for all year at Splitcoaststampers - it's the first day of October, which means the first day of Hope You Can Cling To!

This is a month long card drive for the patients being treated at the breast cancer unit at MD Anderson in Houston. Because our community at Splitcoast is impacted so much by this disease, we decided to dedicate a month to lifting the spirits of the ladies in Houston with handmade cards each October.

The cards we send (all 4,000+ of them) are kept on the unit in baskets for the patients and their families to pick from when they need a card. Since many of the patients are there for quite a while, having access to a beautiful, handmade birthday card, thank you, or just because card can really be a joyful experience that adds a little normal to their decidedly not normal situation.

So we are thrilled to kick it off today with three inspiring challenges, and every day in October, there will be a new challenge. Please join us and make a card (or 35 of them) that makes a difference to a real person in need!

My challenge today is called "You Raise Me Up", because the people in our community who make these cards and send them every October do raise me up. So the challenge is paper tole.

Now I have never tried REAL paper tole before this - I just did the poor man's version - stick a dimensional on it! But that's not real paper tole. Tole involves cutting up several colored images, shaping each piece to be slightly rounded on top, and then layering them back onto a colored image at varying heights. We have an AMAZING tutorial and video on this process here.

I thought that Santa's belly was a perfect place to do tole! So I cut out his torso, and separately - his beard - and rounded and shaped them, and popped them up with some clear dimensional adhesive. Oddly enough, this stuff is called "foam tape" but it's not foam - it's like a clear, sticky silicone tape. But what do I know.

Here's a picture of his belly.

And here is is with his GLORIOUS belly and poofy beard - which is glittered, BTW, along with the fluffies on his uniform. When you open the flip card, the back has the Visions Of Santa sentiment on it. Hilarious.

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Then I did a more adventurous version with a more detailed image from Lili of the Valley, called You & Me.

This took me a really long time - I used gel glue on this one, which required more patience than the clear adhesive, BUT - it was more forgiving when it came to getting the curved pieces into just the right spot.

Cute, right? I watercolored this with my Albrecht Durer watercolor pencils, which I adore. (I also blame Dina for making me buy them.) They give me the real feel of pan watercolor in a portable format. And they have lots of good warm colors which was perfect for my animals. 

The items I cut, colored, shaped and popped up are: the dog head, dog nose, dog arm, two dog legs, cat head, cat muzzle, cat nose, cat arm, cat belly, cat leg. There's Crystal Effects on both noses :).

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So how about you & me make some cards for a good cause, eh? I'd love it if you joined me.


Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Say PFFFFT to Dogma

I know just seeing that title my parents are thinking - "see? This is why you were always in D-Hall."

The ACTUAL reason I was always in D-Hall is there are a lot of people in the world with sticks up their butts about one thing or another and I ran across them more often than I would have liked.

You should not associate with, for example, people who believe that there are circumstances in which laughing should not be allowed.

I'm not talking about sermons or funerals or golf courses. I mean grumptastic people who don't want to hear laughter at school or work. People who are annoyed by anyone else's mirth really have something wrong with them.

99% of my D-hall sentences were handed down for the terrible crime of laughter.

The other 1% were assorted misdemeanors like writing hall passes for myself (only during SUPREMELY boring classes, during which I might have ended up screaming and writhing on the floor - I was just being considerate of others) and really taking my French class to heart by calling another student who was being a little pill a French epithet. Had I epithetted in English I could totally understand getting in trouble - but I was really putting my soul into my work there! So wrong.

And maybe all that was the genesis of my rebellious, artist personality.

I really think there's no place for rules in art. No "hold your pen this way" or "you can't use this with that" or any other sacred cows. Just because an artist makes something up, doesn't mean that that becomes the only acceptable way to create art. Think about how ridiculous that would be in literature. What if the ONLY way we were allowed to create verbal art was in sonnet form? Or in numbered verses? It's just silly.

If you want to make something, make it for you. Make it however you want to make it. Don't worry about how other people make it. Don't worry about what it's called, or how you pronounce it, or if you used the "right" stuff. The "right" stuff is in your colorful little soul, not on a store shelf or in an instruction manual.

As a matter of fact, with the exception of power tools, I recommend that the FIRST thing you should do with any art product is immediately throw the instructions into the garbage without reading them. Touch the stuff with your fingers - scribble it on things - do whatever the heck you want to in the way of experimentation. The "right" way will reveal itself to you if you just play.

Also, don't equate a botched experiment with failure. Where in the world would we be if science worked like that? Lots of people set their chemistry labs on fire (cough +Bob Blakley cough) before they figured out what the heck they were supposed to be doing.

I like to build in chances for mistakes by preparing four or five of everything before I start working with a new technique - stamp four images, prep four surfaces, etc. When there's only one of something on your desk, it feels sort of sacred and you're terrified to screw it up. I have finally realized that this is why a lot of art classes are stressful for me. With just one piece, I feel pressure to get it perfect. With my home method, I always get at least three more chances at the trash - more if it's more involved - and I don't feel the pressure to get it right the first time. Or even the second time. It's a simple psychological trick and it works.

I taught about dogma at my last retreat because I think it's important to the joy of creating to be dogma-free. (Notice it's not called catma - just sayin'.)

Dogma is a principle or set of principles laid down by an authority as incontrovertibly true. It serves as part of the primary basis of an ideology or belief system, and it cannot be changed or discarded without affecting the very system's paradigm, or the ideology itself.

Dogma can creep into everything if you let it. Don't let it. To artistic dogma, I say...

So, that brings me to today's very traditional, conservative Christmas card.



I actually bring you - Joseph and his technicolor nativity!!

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Yes, I am still using this Newborn King set. I cut four pieces of watercolor paper yesterday to play and clear embossed the image. #3 and #4 were yesterday's card and this one.

#3 was ALMOST awesome, but resides in the trash from a rookie mistake.

This one has a mistake I ended up liking on it. I had taped the edges because I like that white border when I watercolor. However, someone who will remain nameless loves to spirit off my favorite orange artist's tape, which actually WORKS, and I ended up using 3M masking tape, which is great for masking, not so much for keeping watercolor away. So the watercolor bled under the tape. At first I thought I'd cut it off but then I decided I liked it so I kept it.

I love how the crazy colors make it festive and joyful. Thematic happiness.

I will probably get D-Hall for this card. And you know what? I don't care. The funnest people are in D-Hall.


Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Newborn King

So you know how you buy a stamp and it's like the BEST STAMP IN THE WORLD and you can't wait to play with it? And then three months go by and you haven't touched it?

Well that happened to me with today's card.

I LOVE the Newborn King set. I LOVE it. I love how it's so modern and yet so funky, so 70s and doodly. It's so me.

And yet, many squirrels intervened and kept me from playing with it. Until today, when I had a World Cardmaking Day webinar. Yes, +Andrea Withers - I was paying attention :).

Webinars are a fabulous time to color. You can listen and make something pretty at the same time.

So I brought out the ice cube tray that has some dried Brusho in it from a previous session, an aquapainter, and my Peerless watercolor binder. Why did I mix watercolor types? Oh - well that's because I forgot to grab yellow Brusho from my watercolor drawer which is 15 feet away from my desk, and my Peerless notebook was 6 inches from me.

Yes, I'm that lazy.

I just used three colors - violet, aqua and yellow - I love this combo. I wanted the colors to be modern, bright and non-traditional.

I debated with myself about adding glitter, but in the end I felt like I needed to let the image shine by itself.

So here's what I did.

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I love it in its sweet, tiny modernity. I love the zentangly trees.

Too fun. And easy to do during a webinar.

Don't you love that bright glow from the manger? I think the colors are just happy, like Christmas.

Speaking of World Cardmaking Day - if you need me, I'll be busy gearing up for Hope You Can Cling To - a month long card drive for the breast cancer patients at MD Anderson. This is our fifth year, and our first year, we kicked the event off on WCMD - the perfect day to illustrate the power of a homemade card to create good in the world. I think we can all agree that the world needs more good. :)


Monday, September 8, 2014

Does Anyone Actually KNOW a Junker?

It's White Trash Week here in the old neighborhood.

White Trash Week is that lovely week when people are allowed to pile junk at the curb for bulk collection pickup. You get to drive down the street seeing people's old toilets, broken dressers, scrap lumber and everything else under the sun, and pretend for a week that you live in a neighborhood full of meth lab owners - but without all the fun of Walt & Jesse.

It's only half as disturbing as the parade of junkers that accompany it though.

These junkers prowl the streets in trailers that look like something out of White Trash Harry Potter.

Photo credit - Evil Vince

You can hear the junk towers creaking as they prowl by and you just pray they don't swerve to avoid a squirrel and unleash a torrent of washing machines and lawn chairs onto your car.

Here's what I don't understand - is junking a business? Can you make a living from picking up suitcases with busted zippers and broken particle board furniture? Does anyone actually KNOW anyone who junks for a living? And if so, what is the lifestyle and income potential? Do you have to get a special junk trailer insurance policy for when a toilet goes flying off your precarious rig and through the windshield of an ice cream truck? How much does a policy like that cost? How many tetanus shots must you get annually as a junker? Who BUYS the junk?

Is this the real secret of IKEA?

I have just so many questions, as I gaze out the window at a tumbleweed of chicken wire the size of a hay bale and a pile of used brooms.

I might have to hide inside all week and stamp. There are some things you just don't want to know about your neighbors.

I'm obsessed with the Four Feathers stamps & dies right now, speaking of stamping. I LOVE the bold graphic designs SO much in black & white. I actually haven't stamped them in anything BUT black yet - I just can't help myself!

I just took two of these little buggers and put them on one of my Gelli Prints I made last weekend. I just bought the teeny 3x5 plate and played with that. It takes a little getting used to after you're used to printing on a big plate, but it's really fun to have a print that doesn't have to be cut down to go on a card front.

I thought I'd pick one of my jumbly alphabet prints to go with my White Trash day questions. I love the way that images tend to look embossed after multiple prints, like the letters do here. 

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I also love how the red and yellow and black all play together nicely. For the shadow underneath, I used the negative of the die cut as a stencil and rubbed metallic black Pan Pastel through it and then offset the cut feathers a bit. You can't see the sparkle here but it's cool. The greeting is from Kinda Eclectic.

Like the ecosystem of junk.

We have junk.

Junkers want junk.

White Trash Week - where the junkyard comes to YOU.


Sunday, September 7, 2014

Cutthroat Stamp Room at #uniteexcite

Friday night I hosted the Austin #uniteexcite event for Stampin' Up! and it was a BLAST!

3 hours of fun, tips, prizes, swaps, displays and great people sharing their stamping awesomeness.

I also gave away 16 stamp sets to a group of 72 people so everyone's odds were darn good. Everyone also got the Everyday Occasions card kit.

When I got to the two Good Greetings sets to give away, I decided to be super evil, and make two people battle it out in a Cutthroat Stamp Room game show, based on Cutthroat Kitchen. We had a coin toss, and the winner of the toss got to decide which sabotage the other contestant got. Then, they had one minute to stamp a card, and the rules were - one image, one greeting and one embellishment. Each stamped item had to be in a different color. And the ink pads were Stampin' Spots. Heh.

Here's a video of what happened. Apparently Melissa, who won the coin toss and chose the foam hand, didn't realize she could ONLY use that hand. Had she, I think she MIGHT have picked the Spiderman boxing gloves. Muahahaha!

Then we had two judges come into the room and judge the cards from these two experienced demonstrators. They both had medical training so they asked the contestants if they'd had recent head injuries - heheh. You ready to see these masterpieces?? Feel free to CASE them!!!

BWAHAHA!! Good job ladies!!!

Oh my gosh it was so much fun. We also had a 3x4 technique swap and the beautiful samples are now in my Project Life 6x8 pocket pages and together in my PL album as a technique reference and I have 30+ technique classes ready to schedule! WINNING! Thanks to all the swappers - your swaps are AWESOME.

Speaking of techniques, I did a fun one for my class this morning by creating a fake shadow with a negative die cut. First, we stamped the image from Four Feathers and the greeting from Kinda Eclectic on the card base. Then we stamped the Dotty Angles image a few times to get a bokeh effect (examples here and here). Then we die cut the feather out of the card front, mounted a quarter sheet of Basic Black cardstock on the inside of the card so the black showed through the opening, and mounted the feather just a wee bit offset and up on dimensionals to give the illusion of a shadow. I LOVED this one. I designed it for this month's Challenge Chicks challenge to use feathers. Gee, I wonder why our Crazy Chicken Lady Jeanne picked that theme??? :) She seriously has the most adorable chickens on EARTH.

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Big thanks to all my awesome helpers at Unite & Excite and to my victims in Cutthroat Stamp Room. I hope we get to do another one of these events soon! Enjoy a few pics! :)

Thanks for a great night, friends!!!


Sunday, August 31, 2014

Santa Like Nobody's Watching!

Okay - this might be a surprise to you, but there are only seventeen more Sundays (including today) until Christmas!

(Pauses while you collect yourself).

You okay? Here's the moment where if you were with me right now, I'd get you a cold washcloth for your forehead, bring you some water, and gently pat your hair and your hands while I look into your eyes and ask you if you've accepted procrastination as your personal savior.

Because if you have, this little piece of knowledge has exactly ZERO effect on you, because you're not going to do anything until December 24th anyway! You are FREE!

The peace this grants you is quite something. I highly recommend it.

That right there is the kind of freedom and liberation that only the new Visions of Santa stamp set can adequately express.

I LOVE this quirky and silly set. I describe my stampy style as CAQ - Clean And Quirky - and this is one of my faves in a long time.

I finally had time to play with it yesterday - actually - I didn't have any time at all, so of course that's why I did it. Once you've fully converted to Procrastinism, the light of this feeling will envelop you at all times and bring you joy.

So here is this fully self confident and nutty little Santa, dancing his head off.

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So fun. I watercolored him with Peerless Watercolors, now that they're all organized in my binder. Very quick & easy.

I know some of you are scared of these Santas, with their complete lack of body image issues, but I adore them - they'd fit right in here in Austin! Keepin' it weird, y'all. It's what we do. Confidence is the most attractive quality on earth - shake it, Santa!

Any time you're ready to join me in the pursuit and exploration of Procrastinism, I'm here for you. Putting something off until tomorrow.


Saturday, August 30, 2014

First Order, Then Chaos...

It's really pretty amazing the lengths a papercrafter will go to to organize their supplies before actually MAKING something with them.

It's like artistic nesting, sort of.

It happens to me all the time. I buy something new and I'm simultaneously enthralled and paralyzed by it. I know that there's NO WAY I can bust it open and start using it until I've bought JUST the right organizational system for it so that it looks pretty and neat on my shelves when I'm NOT using it -  which is supposed to come AFTER using it - but that's not how it works.

Enter stage left - Peerless watercolors. These are a super fun, very different watercolor product - they come as sheets loaded with pigment instead of in tubes or pans, and so they are great portable watercolors for anyone with an aquapainter and a nomadic soul.

But since they come in loose sheets, you have to find a way to store them before you can start painting. I bought the watercolors MONTHS ago and then used creative avoidance to NOT paint with them because I was indecisive about how to store them.

Then, I saw an awesome video by Jennifer McGuire on a new storage idea - a little photo album that she slipped swatches into the pockets of. Then she stuck the actual watercolor sheets to the top of the pockets. GENIUS. I loved that the swatch was protected while the paint was accessible.

However, I wanted something larger which would lie flat when it was open, because I like to paint outside a lot, and I wanted a bit more room and a flat palette. So I thought maybe a regular page protector would work for my swatches.

Then I had to find the perfect notebook for my page protectors. God forbid I use some boring plastic notebook from Office Depot. That's completely irrational. If you think that's what I should have done, I worry about your soul.

Instead, I decided to alter a beautiful kraft notebook I got from Jam Paper for this sacred task. It's a 1" Designders® binder, and some of you will probably be horrified that I altered it, because the kraft by itself is so pretty. Stifle yourselves and just wait for it.

It's uncoated, so I knew I could paint it, stamp on it, or do any number of things, but I started to get a little obsessed with one of our recent Splitcoast tutorials and decided to cover it with aluminum foil tape.

First, I die cut a bunch of letters from Whisper White cardstock with my Little Letters Framelits, and arranged them NOT so randomly on the front of the binder. You'd be amazed how many (not very desirable) words you can accidentally spell while being "random". After much censoring, I glued the letters on with Tombow Mono Multi. Please notice the absence of vowels. This is critical to not embarassing yourself, trust me. Where there are vowels, there are vulnerabilities.
Then, over more than a few episodes of Dead Like Me and NCIS, I applied cut pieces of aluminum tape, and burnished them with paper stumps. The paper stump part is super important - the tape won't bond completely or lie flat over time if you don't take the time to do this. What I noticed about this binder while I was doing this is it does NOT show fingerprints - which is really different from most kraft paper surfaces. Love that. If I weren't altering it, that would be super important to me. It also takes the tape really well because it's a matte surface, so your tape will really be stuck down and won't lift.

I then took just a fine black gel pen and pierced dots into each letter for a little bit of detail. The back of the binder doesn't have letters. This is because I wanted to make it easy on myself - I wanted to quickly know which was the front and which was the back. You'll see why in a minute.

Here's what it looked like with the burnished tape. It's already pretty cool in this state.

Next - I painted the whole notebook - front, back, inside - with black acrylic paint and wiped most of it off with a paper towel. This aged it and defined the places where the tape overlapped, as well as the letters.

This was cool enough, but I can't really leave things alone, so I needed to add color. 

Out came my Viva Decor Inka Gold - in Green/Yellow, Orange, and Steel Blue. You probably knew I was going to say that since these are my go-to colors in any medium.

Maybe you can see why!
OMG isn't that awesome!??? I truly wasn't expecting how much life those colors would add and I LOVE it!

Here's what the inside looks like - instead of doing a lot of small pieces - the outside took a LONG time - I settled on just strips of tape, overlapped. Wiping the paint off with the paper towel is what created those differences in texture you see. So cool. 

Oh - but what are those pages in there, you ask??

Well those are my Peerless Watercolor pages!!

I cut 8.5 x 11 sheets of hot press Fabriano watercolor paper to go inside the page protectors.

Here's where the OCD skills really come into play.

The set I ordered is the bonus pack - which is 40 colors in 2x2 squares. The colors are listed on the package, but they aren't in ROYGBIV order. So I took them out and painted tiny swatches to put them in the one true order. Then I numbered them - the swatch and the square. Then, I put the swatches in ROYGBIV, and used the numbers on the swatch & squares to help me build my book with the page protectors.

You Virgos know how important this is. We cannot create beautiful, haphazard and chaotic art until our colors are in order, am I right?

MMMM. Makes me happy.

Hard to believe this all started with a 3-ring binder, eh?

Here's a little slideshow of the process, complete with a cat butt photobomb.

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Now that this is done, I can actually watercolor this weekend, so watch out! :)


Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Beetle Chucking - a Diary

It's click beetle season.

This does not amuse me.

During click beetle season, I spend most days following clicking sounds, finding beetles, picking them up in a paper towel and flinging them outside.

They come back while I'm sleeping and it starts again in the morning. Beetle flinging.

You have to pick them up with a paper towel because the thing they do that makes the clicking sound is quite violent and unpleasant without the paper towel. I do not like it a bit. I do not like hearing them clicking all around the house like I'm living in a popcorn machine either.

They can't be happy either, going along doing their beetle thing and suddenly getting flung. You'd think they'd learn, even with their tiny beetle brains. Nuh uh. They don't.

Unlike click beetles, today's Splitcoast tutorial by my friend Jeanne Jachna is AMAZING! I've been waiting for this to go live for soooo long because I really fell in love with the sample the second I saw it. It's really a simple technique but it's a huge wow.

I decided to use Pan Pastels for my coloring method because I realized that one of the Pan Pastels Sofft tools is PERFECT for applying color horizontally like you need to. It's this one - sort of like an offset palette knife:

So I got to work! I decided to do cool wintery blues and greens. Since they blend so well, I just put down all blue, went back with touches of yellow-green, back with blue, etc. However, the blue I used is actually calle Phthalo Green Tint and the green I used is called Hansa Yellow.

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 I embossed our watercolor paper with the Vintage Wallpaper embossing folder - one of my all time faves.

Then I used White Christmas set - SQUEE - isn't that polar bear cute??? I made the ground and the glow around the little star with Pan Pastel. I filled in the star with gold glitter.

Now here's a little secret. I had completely made this card, photographed it and edited the photo and then I took it apart and did it again. I had originally made the polar bear panel on whisper white - and there was too big a color variation between that and the watercolor paper. I also had stamped the star in soft sky, and it just didn't match the pan pastel. I had almost hit publish on this post and then I stopped and started over. And it's a better card now. THROW YOUR CARDS AWAY! :) The next ones will be better.

Flinging all those beetles and doing a new technique (twice) really work up a person's appetite, so I have to share sort of a miraculous recipe with you.

First, I have to tell you a little story about eggplant.

I love eggplant. Always have. I started learning to cook with it after trying an amazing eggplant tapenade at the CIA in California. After several years of cooking and eating eggplant, the Other and I started to notice that whenever we had eggplant for dinner we both had severe insomnia. This took dozens and dozens of meals for us to realize. But when we did, it was an aha moment. Then we had to figure out why. This might have been in the dark ages before Google, and so it was only a few years ago that I discovered the answer.

Eggplant is a cousin of tobacco, and actually contains a bit of nicotine. Twenty pounds of eggplant has the same amount of nicotine as a cigarette.

So apparently .0125 of a cigarette is enough to turn me into a vampire. Good thing I've never smoked!

Now, I'm careful only to eat eggplant at lunch, never dinner.

But when I have it, I love it, and recently my sister made an AMAZING batch of what I call Italian nachos. My brother-in-law and I ate a really inappropriate number of these - they were sooo good. Somehow she came up with this crazy cornstarch technique that results in an incredible crispy crust on the eggplant that is even better than deep frying and much lighter.

Here's the recipe.
Cynthia's Eggplant

Peel (important) and slice one eggplant - I did about ½ inch slices - you don’t want them too thin. Sweat them in salt on paper towels for a few hours - 2 ish? Blotted water with paper towels.

Make a marinade with ¼ C balsamic, ¼ C Olive oil in a gallon ziploc. Put slices in, squish/shake them around, and marinate them in the fridge for 4 hours.

Remove from marinade and coat in cornstarch - including edges.

Put on Parchment, bake at 375 for one hour, flipping once. Serve like nachos with marinara on top.
AMAZING. Whisper my name. (required) Also works great for parmigiana. You will LOVE it! 

Also, did you know that the shorter, squattier eggplants taste better than the tall ones? Truth!


Okay - back to beetle chucking.


Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Stamp Etching

So I've been hanging onto my Convention swap photo because I was on the calendar to do my Stamp Etching tutorial today for Splitcoast for a long time. Even though I did give you a sneak peek here.

So it's nice to be able to let the image that started it all out of the closet.

When I was procrastinating doing retreat prep, one night I was watching a video about classical etching techniques. Yes, I'm THAT good at procrastinating. You have to practice a LOT to get this good, trust me.

Anyway, I love etchings because of the fine lines in them - necessitated by the needles that they use to create the designs in wax.

I thought that maybe some fine, detailed lines would really change a big bold image like Blended Bloom. So I hit pause on the video, stamped a flower on a scrap of Coastal Cabana and behold - a new style is born!

I loved it SO much I had to text my friend Melanie and swear her to secrecy, since this was going to be both my swap and part of my on-stage presentation.

She gave me the thumbs up, so off I went!

Did you get one of my swaps? I'd love to hear if you liked it! I'd also like to see if you've tried it - I know a few of you have!

Here's the video, with a few additional samples and some tips.

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Now on that note, if you're not already a subscriber to the Splitcoaststampers Weekly Inkling Newsletter - sign up! It has a free video tutorial each week, along with step-by-step instructions, a list of our weekly challenges, hot topics from the forums, and crafty deals. It arrives with your coffee every Wednesday morning and you know what you can do with it??


Like a boss.


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