January 24, 2011

My new craft gallery revealed!

Well, Blog, I'm just as pleased as planter's punch to be able to announce the Sorta Secret Project I've been slaving over for a couple of weeks. It's my new, spiffy online craft gallery, and I am unveiling it officially today. It's a wonderful place for me to share my polymer clay, needlecraft, beadwork, and graphic arts projects.

www.dianasgallery.com is the nifty URL!

You see, since one of my Christmas presents was a professional photoshoot of my crafts by the inimitable Chris Robleski, I decided I needed a nice venue to properly display the resulting images. So I created this new gallery, and I think it turned out mighty nice.

What I was striving for with this gallery was:

  • a clean look that would show off the stuff
  • easy navigation
  • a quick way to view the items in a decent size
  • only enough text to provide key information
  • just a little bit of whiz-bangi-ness

It's amazingly difficult to find a balance between all the elements that can make for a good art/craft gallery. For example, I wanted quick and easy viewing of decent-sized images, which kind of required the use of Flash. However, that means you can't view the gallery on smartphones. Oh well!

I wanted clear enough detail, but not huge images that would take a long time to load. That meant having to put high-resolution images of everything also on Flickr, with links there from the gallery for those who want to be able to see more detail.

On my old gallery, I provided lots of textual information, which also meant a fairly ugly layout and probably more text than most visitors would want to wade through. Now, of course, I don't tell as much...but hopefully the photos are worth a few thousand words.

The photos are of course what makes the gallery. Sadly, Blog, I don't personally have all the neat jazz required to take this quality of pictures. As you can see from this picture of the photoshoot, Chris and assistant Katie were working with some seriously fancy equipment (not to mention some seriously fancy talent). They have given me the light box you see here, so I can do better with my own photos going forward, but I still will fall a bit short. I have made some items that I wanted to share but I no longer have in my possession, and it's easy to tell which they are by my WAY less cool photos. Fortunately, going forward I may be able to have the occasional "catch-up" session, at least for any really primo stuff I make in the future.

So, for those wanting to know some of the details of the process, I designed this site using the tools on Wix. I upgraded to a "Combo" plan which is $9.90 per month and makes the site ads-free. I blew an additional $11.95 for a year of having my own domain (via GoDaddy). Wix has all the tools I needed to create and manage the site, with the exception of course of photo editing. For that I use Photoshop Elements. (Katie did the the photoshopping on the new shots, and she has the full version of Photoshop.)

I'd love to hear feedback from artists and non-artists out there. With the vagaries of web browsers and monitor settings, no two people will experience the gallery exactly the same (another drawback of the world of web sites!). I'd also love if you have an online gallery if you'd share the URL, or let me know any gallery sites you've found that really impress you.

Huge thanks again to Chris and Katie for making my gallery possible! Now I am inspired to MAKE MORE STUFF!!!

January 20, 2011

Saying goodnight to your cats

Blog, I seldom say goodnight to you (sorry), but I do very often say goodnight to my cats. Last night all three of them were in a rare mood to be curled up in adjacent areas, and as I made the rounds to give each a pet and a goodnight, I remarked upon the weird human custom of saying goodnight to our pets.

With cats in particular it has to be baffling. I can imagine them saying to themselves, "Geez, I've gone to sleep 35780 times in the past 24 hours, and I didn't feel obligated to say goodnight to anyone on any of those occasions. Not even the ones which actually occurred during the hours of darkness. What is it with these humans and their ridiculously simple sleep schedules and crazy customs?"

Selke did not say goodnight before conking out within the comforting confines of the wrought-iron side table legs.

Cody did not say goodnight before passing out on my computer keyboard.

Or underneath this patio chair.

This cat that I don't know probably didn't say goodnight either, before falling asleep under this squash.

I guess I have to admit, it would be bizarre if anytime a cat was ready to nod off, he or she felt obligated to say goodnight. That would be even more annoying than Selke's insistence on having a meowing fit during our favorite TV shows ("Selke, no talking during 'The Vanilla Ice Project'!")

Cats also don't seem to care about acknowledging that they are leaving the room for the night. Actually my husband Davie isn't always big on that either. At any rate, it's no slight when they slink off for parts unknown without so much as a fare-thee-well. Obviously they really don't get it.

Why then is it that I feel I ought not pad up the stairs to bed without a proper goodbye to at least those cats which I can locate? Honestly, my emotions tell me if I passed Pookie snoozing on the back of the couch without acknowledgment of some kind, she would be all "Sheesh, I guess I'm chopped liver! And oooh, that sounds good. Later maybe ...zzzzz."

In point of fact, saying goodnight to cats is not for the cats, it's for us humans. Well, it's for us humans who lock their cats out of the bedroom, anyway. No point in saying it if the door is open, because the feline(s) in question will most likely join you at some point while you are a-slumber. But for people like me, we feel like we are leaving the poor little furry creatures alone for the night, deprived of our companionship...practically shunning them with our closed door and our refusal to acknowledge (in the case of Pookers) their proud howling at having caught and exterminated that jingle ball.

Actually, I think it's a nice custom, foolish or no. Once each night we get to acknowledge by that little gesture our bond with our pets, and remind ourselves how much a part of our lives they are. And I'm just silly enough to think that maybe, in some corner of Cody, Selke, and Alice's little brains, they are glad about it. I like to think they really do miss me during the eight hours I spend so quietly behind the bedroom door.

January 14, 2011

My strange desire to be a cartoon

What does it say about me if I want to be a cartoon, Blog? Does it mean I envy cartoon characters their 2D lives, their linear plot lines? Or do I merely wish I could be rendered in fewer colors?

That paragraph sounded way more poetical than a subject this silly merits. Actually, I just have always loved cartoons, comic books, and animated movies, and would really like to see myself reinterpreted as a cartoon character because it would be fun. And cartoon characters are always cuter than I am in real life, Blog.

The other day I was seized with my periodic desperate urge to find the technology to really do a good job at turning my image into a cartoon character. I had made the image you see here maybe a year ago, and while it's okay, I wasn't crazy about it. The resemblance is decent, but I would never carry a bag that big and it surely wouldn't be pink. This "cartoon yourself" site just didn't provide quite enough options. In the interest of full disclosure I suppose I should also mention my calves are bigger than that.

So, I set out to see if there were any new sites around that might make me into a good cartoon. There are some to which you can upload a photo and they will make that transformation...but they don't do anything I can't do myself in Photoshop, and they don't make a person look very cartoony. Well, I just do it right now so you can see what I mean. That's it to the left. Rendering in fewer colors doesn't really do the whole job, Blog.

What I ended up finding was a site that you can use to design yourself in "Scott Pilgrim" style. I just saw the movie "Scott Pilgrim vs. the World" (and it's awesome), and during the film there are a few scenes with cartoon versions of the characters, drawn up in the style of the original comics upon which the movie is based. Now that's what I'm talkin' about, Blog. So I made a Scott Pilgrimized version of myself and you can see it here. Very, very cute, mostly because it doesn't look that much like me. I'd kill for that tiny chin.
There are sites where you can provide a photo and hire an actual cartoonist to do your cartoon self. This would certainly work, although you know me, Blog: too cheap for that sort of dealio. In point of fact, I did appear in an actual artist's cartoon once, this one right here that was created by my friend and illustrator, CC Rogers. That's me on the left and her on the right. As you might guess, I was really thrilled to get this. She even put an appropriate necklace on me.

So I probably shouldn't complain that I can't turn myself into a fancy, full-color cartoon under these circumstances, Blog. Actually, I suspect this may simply be another manifestation of my longing to be a better artist and able to do cartooning myself. Wouldn't that just be the swellest? Well, at least I can claim that I've done a self-portrait, (although it's far from a cartoon one), back during my drawing phase ten years ago. It's even partially nude on account of the fact that I wanted to have some human body work in the picture. (So shield the eyes of the kiddies, Blog! Just kidding.)

Well, we may just have to put this in the Unfulfilled Dreams file, along with "Ability to sculpt the human figure in polymer clay," "Singing backup to a rock band," and "Getting Oprah's endorsement for one of my books." And I guess, how would a person appreciate those of her dreams that are fulfilled, if she didn't have an Unfulfilled Dreams file?

January 3, 2011

Armed with a Dremel tool!

Speaking as we have been, Blog, of Christmas gifts, this year I received from Davie my own Dremel tool and accompanying workstation. Specifically, I got the Dremel 300 Series Variable Rotary Tool Kit, but that's rather lengthy. (And clearly the little guy has become such a friend already, he merits a name. Will have to think on that.)  Here's a photo of all the neat junk that came with this kit.
And the workstation, specifically, is the Dremel 220-01, which you see here. Also super nifty but it seems weird to name a workstation so I don't think I will. Anyway, in spite of it's not coming with any documentation, I succeeded in finding same online (yay once again, Interwebs!) and assembling the thing.

Where the Interwebs did let me down was in providing some handy all-you-need-to-know article for polymer clay artists who have purchased a Dremel. (And suddenly I find myself singing "Dremel, Dremel, Dremel / I bought to use with clay...") I found other people looking for said info, but no answers, not even on the Dremel website. What bit should I get for drilling beads? What should I use to polish them? Etc.? I did, however, discover that there are no less than 27358903 accessories for Dremel rotary tools. Yikes.

The one useful thing I found, since the initial inspiration for my getting this tool was to be able to drill through lentil beads, was a tutorial for making a jig to use for drilling through lentil beads. So yay! I had my first construction project. This meant--oh how exciting--I would get to go to Lowe's to buy some quarter round (my first experience in the lumber area, awesome!) and some clamps. I had some scrap wood, a big needle, and Gorilla Glue already on hand.  

Well, Blog, I got waylaid a little by cooking, but that was good, because I discovered our two nice kitchen knives were really dull. Instead of using the sharpener in the drawer, I took them down to my new Dremel studio in the basement and sharpened them with the D-dawg! (Probably not his official name.) They are now literally killer sharp, Blog!

Well, I was successful in whipping out that jig ("Use Dremel to cut and sand quarter round, check."). And I was ALSO successful in drilling lentil beads using it!  "Check again.") Thanks to advice from my friend Paul, I used one of the small drill bits I had for our electric drill, with a collet I ordered online (different size than what came with the set). This worked WAY better than my first trial attempt at drilling, when I used the cutting tool that came with the Dremel and looked deceptively like a drill bit. That ended up just carving the bead all up. I must say, it's weird that the set doesn't seem to have your basic drill bit...that whole topic was my biggest point of confusion. Anyway, here's a photo of my setup, with the new jig in the foreground, and you'll see the drilled bead hanging out with the equipment too.

Okay, so yeah, that was awesome. But I wanted to do something really fantastic next. While at Lowe's I found some glass tiles that were pretty enough for jewelry (the check out girl raved about them too). I also had some colorless glass pebbles that I'd bought to use for jewelry somehow but never figured out how. TILL NOW! I was able to drill holes in both using the diamond bit I bought online, underwater in a little plastic tray. Well, aren't the possibilities endless NOW, Blog? So here's what I made with these items, in the photo. And yes, I'm thrilled.

What next for me and my Dremel tool who I suspect is going to end up just being called "Dremel"? Not sure, but I have a hankering to find a piece of steel and force-rustify it, and make it into something that needs to be drilled....  

Stay tuned. And if anyone out there wants to share any good Dremel resources, please comment!