musings, mutterings, and creative muddle. . .

Friday, September 26, 2014

That's a Great Set of Pipes!

I needed. . . no wanted. . . .a new display set for my jewelry when I set up at Art Shows. Not that there was necessarily anything wrong with what I had - I just felt like I could do better. Always watching and looking for ideas, I came across something I thought was The Best Thing ever!!!

I thought about it. . . stewed over it. . . sketched out my thoughts and dimensions. . . Then finally talked to Hubster about my idea and he thought it was smashing! And that was the end of it. Or so I thought.

We were out of town on a middle-of-the-week weekend excursion (Empty Nesting is AwEsOmE, BTW) and he said we needed to go to a specific home improvement store. Thinking he was shopping for that elusive chain saw that's been on his list all summer, I knew I could wander around and find other neat-o stuff to look at.  When, SURPRISE! He directed me to the plumbing department and we proceeded to pick out parts for my idea. Considering I was ill-prepared and did not have my drawings and measurements with me - I did push my brain, did a lot of envisioning and ended up with all the parts needed (barring one floor flange, black stain, screws, and liver of sulphur).

Saturday was spent cutting pipe and sawing some reclaimed wood (a discarded piece of mop boarding from my 1950's kitchen).

And soldering all the pipes.

A looooong day! I had my trusty dimensions and sketches and always measured twice (only made one mistake, and it was a judgement call on my part - and I changed my mind). The end goal was five bracelet / necklace racks, and four decorative / ring posts.

But first. . . I had to figure out how to age and stain that wood. I didn't want a traditional stain color - but something with more personality. Enter steel wool, vinegar, and tea. That's right. . . You read it right. I took a handful sized wad of 0 steel wool and shoved it in a mason jar and covered it with white vinegar (do NOT tighten the lid and let it set outside. Trust me!!). I had to wait at least 24 hours to try it. . . So the official brewing of the tea wasn't going to occur until the next afternoon, so to speak. in the meantime, I started researching how to 'blacken' and soften the bright copper flash and dash of the pipes.

The next day I brewed my black tea and painted it on my boards. Boooring. . . Nothing happened. I let it dry (didn't take long) and then brushed on the steel wool - vinegar mixture. Oh! What's happening?!?!  Cool!!! As I was wanting a deeper tone than what was occurring (think 80's walnut) I repeated the process 12 hours later and then 24 hours later. Still not quite right, so off to get the torch and add some scorch marks. Better. . . but. . . . off to our local hardware store a I trekked and returned home with some black stain with finish and a sanding block. A quick brush on, let it dry (again - didn't take long) and lightly sanded it. Oh! Yes! That's it!!! Topped it with a matte finish and Gorgeous!

Now for the pipes. What to do with those bright shiny pipes? Liver of sulphur seemed the answer with some Renaissance wax to hold the 'finish.' I had to order it then wait three days for it to arrive. My beautiful wood blocks were so impatient. I took some time and did some painting on the silver-toned floor flanges - making them antique black as well. And admired my blocks. . . .Then my order arrived - hooray! Earlier than expected even - Double Hooray!!!

I quickly got things rounded around:  heated water for mixing, located containers, mixed up some baking soda water, set up a work area outside in the shade, got the hose turned on and close by, put on my apron and gloves, got rags and brushes ready,  and rounded up the pipes. I was ready!! I had read the instructions, and learned tips and tricks of the trade via the internet - so here we go.

Well. . . . disappointment. Just wasn't what I envisioned. I started with the ring posts and though the first one seemed to come out okay (nothing fab - but okay) I went ahead with the other three ring posts. Yeah. . . .No. Sigh. . . . Back to reading the tips and tricks. . . I scrubbed the pipes and tried another tact. YES! I brushed the liver of sulphur gel onto the pipe straight out of the little jar and waited. And waited a little longer. Patience. After about 15 - 20 minutes (a complete guess as a friend stopped by about this point and we visited while I went through the routine) I dunked it in my baking soda water, wiping it down with a wet rag then set aside to dry. Once dry, my trusty extra fine sanding block and I got busy sanding. Oh My Goodness!!!!  Gorgeous! A couple hours later and all the pipes are now done. LOVE!!! I let them 'rest' for 24 hours then went at them with the Renaissance Wax. Wax on, wax off, buff. Twice.

While the wax took the rosy patina down a notch - it deepened the black areas just ever so slightly and evened the tones out. I like it. I like it a lot.

The blackish floor flanges (that's really what they're called) you see there at the bottom of each pipe set started out a steely gray color. A couple of dustings of flat black spray paint, then a solid coat of matte clear finish and you get an antique-y 'burnt' black look.

BTW - I had planned on taking photos throughout the whole process (started Saturday, and they were officially finished and assembled today. Lots of hours were put in (best guess is at least 12) as well as many trips to the hardware store (7 covers it) - and Hubster was gone for much of it. Oh, he got me motivated, supported me, sawed the wood and cut and soldered the pipe, but I was on my own for the rest. . . And as each process involved gloves and some sort of highly-staining substance - well. . . photos just weren't happening. At least I have the befores and afters, right?

Speaking of after - here they are all assembled (two more trips to the hardware store - came home with 1" #6 screws and I needed #8!!  Doggone it. . . But totally worth the extra trip:-)

And I was able to get the project finished a full day and a half BEFORE the art show. Good timing, I say. . . Good timing!

Wanna see them with jewelry and on my table and all glitzed out? Ya gotta come to Artist Alley in Chanute, KS for the grand premiere!  Or follow ksyardbird on Facebook to see when ksyardbird (complete with pipes, jewelry, and home decor) will be at an art show near you . . or have patience, cross your fingers, and hope for photos to be posted.  I would recommend seeing the display in person ;-)

Have a Good-Set-Of-Pipes Kind of Day -

Robin Z

Friday, September 12, 2014

Back to Buttons

Button, button, who's got the button?

Most of us have memories of playing with a relative's box or tin of buttons. Sorting them by size. By color. By how much we liked them. I used to play with my Great-Grandma Clara's buttons. She kept them in a round tin (I wonder where that tin went. . . and the buffet it was kept in?). There weren't that many - but definitely enough to keep me occupied while she was busy at her sewing machine. Some of the buttons were shiny mother of pearl, some were clear glass (some of those were large enough to pretend they were bowls for my Barbie's dining room table), a few were wood, several had rhinestones, and more were plastic in every shade and color you can imagine.

My own kiddos played in my button tin - by this time it was a conglomeration of buttons I had purchased, a few of those extra-special ones from my Great-Grandma Clara, some from Hubster's Grandma Ellen, and others from here. . . there. . . and what-not. On occassion a button (or two or three or eight) would go missing to only show up later in His pocket or as Her teeny-tiny Polly Pocket puppy's bowl. 

Several years ago,  I was brought back to the beauty of buttons by a cousin (shout out to Stacy - Thank You!) who suggested making rings with them. Wire-wrapped rings to be precise. And I did -

as well as dabbled in a few other super-fun (and totally adorable) creations along the way. How about some Bon-Bon Button Barrettes?

Or over the top quirky (with a few added 1970's 'flora') brooches?

But I gradually gravitated away from the button mindset and focused more on my love of pearls, crystals, and semi-precious stones in my jewelry creations. But those buttons were always calling me.

One recent evening found me obsessing over my buttons. . . I decided the studio collection needed to come out again and become a larger part of my treasures to be shared with everyone. And, let me tell you, I have a heckuva collection thanks to friends, family, and estate sales. Check out this set of camp-dishes I re-purposed specifically to help me keep track of all my beautiful buttons!

So much button-love in those five felt-lined pans!  I spent an evening sorting buttons - picking my favorites and brainstorming. . . then getting creative!

A bracelet: 



And I even included some on up-cycled bottles & jars!

Yup. Back to Basics. . . Back to Buttons - it's a good place to be!

Got Button?

Have a Beautifully-Buttoned-Up kind of day -

Robin Z

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Somewhat Nutty. . . Definitely Squirrely

Minding my own business the other morning. . . Grabbed a latte and walked to the ksyardbird Studio (okay - that was what, a total of about 2 dozen steps to the second floor of my home - LOL!), opened the blinds to my favorite window that overlooks the backyard with the most squirrel infested tree in the neighborhood. I look out to see what my nutty fiendish friends are up to and. . . .

It had rained the night before - but had there been that much wind? I mean, walnut trees do 'shed' leaves on odd occasions. . . but, seriously, this was a bit much. What's going on? I headed outside to take a closer look.

Hmmmm. . . . Gotta be squirrels. Somenutty got busy and built a nest overnight - apparently. I looked up to see if I could spy it 

I could - but the camera couldn't quite 'grab it' so I can't really share it with you. BUT (don't be disappointed) I did snap a couple pics of the other two squirrel nests in our trees.

See that 'pile' of dead leaves waaaay uuup theeeeere? Yeah - talk about high-rise, eh? Bet there's a good breeze too. WOW!!! This one seems a bit more logical (and sturdy) to me

See it there in the 'crook' of the tree? There's it's tenant on the branch next to it. Let's get a closer look

A little camera shy, eh?  They don't seem to mind near as much when I snap from inside the Studio. And as there were Treasures waiting for me on the Creation Station, inside I went. . . then promptly got distracted again by this guy hanging upside down. Seriously? UPSIDE DOWN?!?!?!

Nibbling on walnuts, it appears. Good squirrels!! 

Those darned things fall all over the place - leaving pock marks on our porch steps, breaking pots, and just being obnoxious pebbles to trip over when walking out in the yard. Of course, I still put treats in their feeders

Which they really 'get into'. (see what I did there? With that play on words. . . to go with the pics??) 

They are polite squirrels and do share with the birds once in awhile

Though their manners seem to fail when it's time to share with each other -  spats, chasing, and stare-downs are the norm among these nutty guys.

In the end, everyone ends up with full tummies and ready for a nap

Or a game of squirrel-tag on the picnic table

There are anywhere from a couple to seven squirrels running around our trees on any given day. . . And I do wish at least ONE of them could pick up that leafy mess. . . 

Have a Nutty Kind of Day - 

Robin Z

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Mmmmm. . . . Magnificent Marvelous Muffins

Yum! Yum! And DOUBLE Yum!!!! 

 Blueberries. . . orange juice. . . . whiskey. . . . come together for (drum roll, please) ~ ~ ~

Citrus-Blueberry Muffins with Honey-Whiskey Butter!!!!!

Sweet, tart, and smooth. . . Deliciously complementary when served warm from the oven with our Corned Beef & Cabbage. . . a delectable dessert a day later following a meal of cheese ravioli, fresh-from-the-garden tomato and basil, and fresh parmesan. A single batch just wasn't enough!

Citrus-Blueberry Muffins

Line 12 regular muffin cups with liners
Preheat oven to 400 degrees
Rinse and set aside 1 cup of fresh blueberries

In medium measuring cup or mixing bowl blend following 5 ingredients and set aside:

1/4 cup fresh squeezed orange juice
1 tsp orange peel
2 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 tsp Tahitian vanilla extract
1 cup / 8 oz yogurt (I prefer honey-blueberry Greek yogurt - but any style of vanilla or plain is also tasty)
1 egg

Combine dry ingredients in mixing bowl:

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/8 tsp salt

And make well or 'bowl' in center of mixture. 
Add liquid ingredients to dry ingredients stirring until JUST moistened through.
GENTLY fold in blueberries.

Divide batter among 12 muffin cups. Batter will be thick and will generally fill each cup to just below top edge. I like to use a spoon to scoop up the batter and a spatula to push it into the muffin cup.

Optional:  Sprinkle vanilla-sugar over each unbaked muffin.

Bake at 400 degrees for 18 minutes or until tops are golden.

While the muffins are baking, let's make some ~

Honey-Whiskey Butter

1 stick of unsalted butter, softened to just melted
1 Tbsp of honey
1 Tbsp of honey-whiskey (I prefer Jack Daniel's Tennessee Honey, but any brand would be delicious)

Blend all three ingredients - adding more honey or honey-whiskey to taste - not to exceed a total of 3 Tbsp.

Using a teaspoon, spoon the butter mixture over each freshly baked muffin while still hot in muffin pan continuing until tops are all 'shiny' and all butter is used.

Served warm or room temperature. Store any leftover (are you kidding?!?!) muffins in an airtight container at room temperature for up to two days.

Oh man! Have I said it already? Well, I've just gotta say it again - YUM!!!

Have a Delicious-Muffin kind of day,

Robin Z  

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Bird-i-fying A Lovely Tray

Sometimes inspiration can take awhile to strike. . . and sometimes what you thought was a great idea. . . turns out to be not such a good idea. And sometimes, things just come together. Those are my favorite. When you have all these parts - in your stash, around the house, or being used in another way - and they all come together into a pretty cool thing. That's pretty much how this particular project came together.

I love trays. If you've ever visited the studio (or your follow along on Facebook as well as this Blog) - you'll see trays of all shapes, sizes, colors, styles. . . and while some are more display (like this one), than utilitarian, they all get used at one time or another for some special purpose.Just sitting here at my desk, I can see 10 trays - some in use, some just hanging around, and a couple others stacked and waiting to be grabbed.

Robin Z received this 'frame-tray' for her Birthday (thanks Jane!) last year. . . Only there were pictures of those mysteriously happy stranger-people in each of the spots - and they had to go.  I thought about swapping out with my own happy (with not-stranger people - LOL!) photos. . . but wanted to do something just a little different. Though not permanent so I could mix it up and change my mind later if I was so included;-)

But what to put in those five 3-1/2 x 5-1/2 slots *NOW*? Hmmmmm. . . Several months later and Ta Da!!! Inspiration struck - some creatively cut embossed scrapbook paper to fit each slot and a collection of awesome 3-D, semi-sparkly stickers (LOVE stash-shopping) - and it all nested together:-) 

I initially removed the tray-sized glass and set aside. The background of each slot is created from a single piece of earthy-green scrapbook paper (which is, incidentally, smaller than the tray size) with an ever so slight grid pattern and edged in a glossy brown series of swirls and curly cues.

  With the tray laying bottom-side up, I removed the back and I worked on the backside of the photo dividers and to arrange and secure the scrapbook paper with scrapbook adhesive. It was quite the challenge to get the paper cut in such a way to show off the curli-cues to best advantage AND create the illusion of it being one piece of paper. I finally decided to start in the bottom middle, and use my craft knife ever so carefully to cut each piece to show off it's design 'just so.'

Once the paper was in placed precisely as I wanted it, I put the back on to secure everything, and flipped the tray over to arrange my birdie bits.

The stickers - Susan Winget designs called Botanical Robin manufactured by K & Company  are created by layers of cardstock for a 3-D effect. A few, like this nest, have a rhinestone for a flower center.

The 3-D egg stickers all have a whisper of glitter on them.

Some of the card stock stickers have a wee paper flower embellishment like you see in this cute little 3-D birdie.

Stacked simply, the eggs are framed by the curli-cues and become the focal of their own frame. I really really like how strikingly simple the two egg stacks are. And how well the placement of each of those squares further frames the birds. Yup. I'm in love with this!

Once all the stickers were secured, I gave the glass covering a thorough polishing and replaced it. With the small gap created between the paper backing and the glass top - the 3-D stickers really have some depth!

I had also initially toyed with the idea of painting or distressing the tray - perhaps even giving it a 'distressed soft gold gilding' on the edges. But, in the end - I liked it the deep brown-red that it is.

Though each frame is different, together they create a cohesive (the same background in each frame) collection of related items. And the *bestest* part? Not only was everything from my goodie-collection, but, all put together the tray is an even more personalized and special gift that makes me think of Jane every time I see it. ♥

Have a Special Bird-i-fied Tray Kind of Day -

Robin Z