Sunday, February 15, 2009

"The Nutcracker" Handmade Greeting Cards

I have known of papercrafts such as stamping, cardmaking, and scrapbooking for a while but it wasn't until recently, when my good friend, Erica, became a Stampin' Up demonstrator, that I decided to try it. I'm forever hooked. :-)

For the 2008 holiday season, I made cards that were inspired by The Nutcracker Ballet, candy canes and puppet theaters. The image of Clara, the heroine of The Nutcracker, is my own design that I had made into a stamp. Normally you would hand stamp every card and color each one but I was running out of time in November so I cheated a little - I completed one picture with watercolors and colored pencils, then took a photo of it, printed it out on cotton paper, and sprayed with fixative. The fixative was so that the Crystal Effects glaze, a glue-like substance to give the image a 3D effect, wouldn't soak through the paper.

I used four different types of red paper for the stripes - I picked the pattern depending on who I was giving it to, for example my male friends got the diamond patterned one because it looked more masculine.

The puppet theater frame is made of polymer clay which I will go into more detail, below.

The materials below can be bought at the Stampin' Up website:
  • Very Vanilla Cardstock *
  • Red Riding Hood DSP *
  • Bella Rose DSP *
  • Bella Toile Background Stamp *
  • Chocolate Chip Classic Ink Pad *
  • Gold Encore! Ink Pad *
  • Cotton Paper
  • Matte Fixative
  • Winsor & Newton Watercolors
  • Prismacolor Colored Pencils
  • Crystal Effects *
  • Sculpey Polymer Clay
  • Dremel with Sanding Bit
  • Florentine Gold Liquid Leaf
  • my custom stamp
I really enjoyed this papercraft project and I hope to continue the Nutcracker theme by making a stamp of the other characters each year!

Clara, from Concept to Custom Stamp

Clara was inspired by the super cute, super expensive ball-jointed dolls from Japan that I will never be able to afford. :-) I spent a lot of time on the Volks website for inspiration. Once I had the sketch I wanted, originally on a 8.5"x11" paper, I digitized it, edited it in Photoshop to get it black and white with no gradients, then uploaded it to . I was so happy with the results that I had several more stamps made to give to friends. In the second order, someone had tested the stamps and didn't bother to clean it before sending it to me. But sent me out replacements stamps at no extra cost.

There are other companies on the web that make rubber stamps. They basically work the same way - you just upload your artwork and place your order. I'm pretty happy with - especially the excellent quality of their stamps (I love that they laser engraved the image on the top of the wood block instead of making a clear sticker) but I do want to try other companies. Here are a couple that have caught my eye (remember, I have not tried these companies so use at your own risk)

Tips for Preparing Your Artwork

  • Your first choice when digitizing should be to use a scanner. If you don't have a scanner, then take a photo in a brightly lit area with no flash
  • Always take a scan or photo at a high resolution. It's easier to get rid of extra information than to make up information if there is too little.
  • If you don't have Photoshop, you can use Gimp - it's free
  • The artwork must be black and white with no gradients. Even if you used black ink on white paper, you might still have gradients especially if you took a photo instead of using a scanner. Every picture is different so I can't tell you exactly how to get rid of the gradients but it will probably be a combination of converting to Grayscale, Levels, and Brightness/Contrast. Just experiment with those settings. It also helps to outline your original drawing with a black pen if you did it in pencil.
  • Every rubber stamp company is different - be sure to read their requirements for artwork. Keep your first digital copy high rez and use it to make the copy that you will send to each company according to their specs (use a different filename for each one.) That way, you will always have a high rez original to work from and you won't have to redo a lot of work.

Making the Puppet Theater Frame

To make the puppet theater frame, I first made a mockup of my card using regular printer paper. Since the top of the frame is curved, it's harder to gauge whether or not it will completely cover the edges of the paper, so a mockup made things a lot easier. I drew the outline of the frame right on the paper, and laid down a thin foundation layer of polymer clay. On top of the foundation layer, I arranged extruded pieces of clay to form columns and reliefs. I then baked it to create my original frame.

I then used the original frame to create a mold. The mold is used to make more frames at a faster speed, for example the original frame took about an hour to make. Frames made from the mold only took 5 minutes. To make a mold, simply roll out a piece of clay that is larger than your object and press the object into it. Remove the object and bake the mold.

After I made the rest of the frames using the mold, I used a Dremel with a sanding bit to even out the edges and also sanded the back to make the pieces thinner. I then painted them with the gold liquid leaf.

  • When making the original piece, make sure the details are deep, almost exaggerated because when you make a mold you will loose a some detail.
  • When making something from a mold, powdering the mold with cornstarch first will help it to release the clay easier. I used an old paintbrush to apply the cornstarch.

More pics:

Four different kinds of red paper to suit the personality of the recipient :-)

Closeup of Clara. You can kind of see the Crystal Effects glaze which I only applied in strategic areas to give her a more 3D appearance.

On the top, stack of baked frames. On the left, the original frame and mold. On the tray, frames made from the mold ready to be baked.


*Alison* said...

This is TRULY one of the most.. if not THE MOST BEAUTIFUL thing I think I have ever seen.. SO CREATIVE.. YOU are VERY talented.. :) Thanks so much for SHARING with us your talents.. HUGS

khrome said...

Aaww thank you so much, Alison!! :-D