Friday, 19 December 2014

Quinn Farm Christmas Craft Fair

Well, folks, after weeks of folding, cutting, and gluing, I'm ready for the Quinn Farm Christmas Craft Fair in Île Perrot tomorrow. I'll be selling my wares along with a number of other local artisans. Drop by and check us out! 

I've been busy! This past Wednesday I co-hosted a workshop on book art and paper craft for the School Section of the Association des bibliothécaires du Quebec Library Association. We had a great time repurposing some old books! Expect a post on this soon. There will also be a 2.0 of this workshop at Westmount Public Library in January. I'll post the details once I know more about it.

I have all kinds of ideas percolating in my head for 2015's entries, such as the new art I plan to take up (quilling), the plan I'm sketching out for this year's backyard garden, and of course, new recipes. 

For now, Merry Christmas! Enjoy the time spent with family and friends, and I'll be seeing you in the New Year!

Thursday, 4 December 2014

Pumpkin Cardamom Ginger Ale

Pumpkin Cardamom Ginger Ale

Every year I spend November telling myself that it is too early to:
  • Play Christmas carols
  • Put up Christmas decorations
  • Make holiday goodies
Yeah, not so good at this resolution. The Christmas carols are usually in full rotation by November 5th, and the holiday goodies come soon after!

That's why I love making this Pumpkin Cardamom Ginger Ale. The traditional holiday flavours of pumpkin pie and gingerbread cookies are brought together in a delicious fermented drink. I love tasting the strong ginger kick, the milder hints of pumpkin tea, and the fizzing of the tiny bubbles produced by the fermentation process. This is a home brewed soda that you can put on your holiday roster year after year.

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

White Chocolate, Cranberry, and Pecan Holiday Cookies

White Chocolate Cranberry Pecan Cookies

A few years ago, I used this chocolate chip cookie recipe to woo a handsome man on our fourth date. It must have worked, because that was the night we "became official," and now we're married! I attribute this more to our compatibility than to the cookies, but I do believe they helped things along.

I have gone back to this recipe again and again, and I have found that the batter is great for swapping in all kinds of different ingredients. This is a new favourite combination of mine. The white chocolate, cranberry, and pecans work perfectly together to provide the perfect contrast of sweet, chewy, and crunchy.

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Three New Models of Origami Earrings

Christmas is coming! Which means that I'm already busy preparing for my next craft fair. I'll be at Quinn Farm on December 20th and 21st.

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Persimmon and Red Plum Kimchi {Vegan, Gluten Free}

Fruit Kimchi

Around this time of year, I start keeping my eyes open for a favourite fruit. This is when persimmons first make their appearance! They resemble orange tomatoes, but their insides taste creamy and rich and cinnamony.

Persimmon Plum Kimchi Ingredients

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Au Papier Japonais

Places like Au Papier Japonais are one of the reasons why living in Montreal was a dream of mine for so many years. Now that my I do finally live here at last, a sojourn down to this beautiful little shop in the Plateau is one of my greatest pleasures. (It doesn't hurt that Fairmount Bagel is only a few doors down, either!)

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Tutorial: How to Make a Business Card Using GIMP

My husband says that I don't have spare time because I have a habit of creating projects! He's definitely right. My free time is filled with things like crafting, cooking, gardening, fermenting, and running a side business. All in addition to my full time job as a librarian! But what is life for if not to learn new things?

Something I'd always wanted to learn is basic graphic design. Not to do it for a living or anything, but so that I could make stationery, invitations, and other pretty things. During wedding planning, I realized that I didn't know how to create the wedding invitations I was imagining. I was very disappointed.

So when I started The Beaded Kusudama, I knew it was time to buckle down and learn. My first self-assigned project was to create my own business card. 

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

The Seaway Valley Gathering of Artisans

At the Baie d'Urfé Curling Club

On October 18th and 19th I had the great pleasure of participating in my first craft fair at the 2014 Seaway Valley Gathering of Artisans in Baie d'Urfé. It was a beautiful, sunny space in a large red barn. I was sharing it with seven other artisants who did everything from woodworking and glasswork to knitting and photography.

Sunday, 21 September 2014

Craft Fair Virgin: Getting Ready for My First Craft Fair

It's been a rush! I've been back at work for a few weeks now, and when the work day is done I head home to cut and fold and glue hundreds of paper flowers for my very first craft fair!

I've been invited by Seaway Valley Artisans to participate in their Gathering of Artisans in Baie d'Urfé on October 18th and 19th. I was delighted to accept their invitation, but since it's my first fair I've had a lot of questions:
  • How will I get my products there safely?
  • How much inventory should I bring?
  • How should I decorate my booth?
  • How will I promote my work at my booth?
  • How will I package my products for customers?
  • How do I accept payments? 
Initially I had a lot of first time jitters, but now I feel better that I've sorted out what I'm going to do. I started with the booth decorations.

I looked through Winners, Target, and Sears for a tablecloth of the right size. It's a tall order, since the table they'll be giving me is eight feet long. I finally ended up going to Linen Tablecloth online to find exactly what I was looking for. I ordered a hemlock coloured table cloth, since that colour goes well with my logo.

Next, I decided that I wanted a banner that matches my blog header and my business cards. Lucky for me, Vistaprint is having a sale this weekend! Using Gimp, I designed a banner and uploaded it to Vistaprint. I should have it by next week. (I'm planning to write a tutorial on how to use Gimp to design your own logos, business cards, and so on!)

The banner I designed using Gimp

Although I have a number of larger projects finished, by searching through the Etsy forums I discovered that the majority of sales come from smaller items, so I'll be aiming to create as many little things as possible, such as earrings, tiny bouquets, and Christmas ornaments. 

As for taking payments, I went ahead and ordered a Square Reader. I haven't used it in a sales setting yet, but so far I am incredibly pleased with it! I ordered the device, which was free, and downloaded the free app onto my phone. Now I'll be able to accept credit card payments from customers. So handy!

The Square Reader

As for everything else, I've decided to enjoy the experience and learn as much as possible. I hope to continue doing fairs for a long time to come, so this first one will be a chance for me to break myself in, see what other makers are doing, and join in the community of artisans here in Montreal that has so far been so welcoming!

Image courtesy of Orin Zebest

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

DIY Gaming Mat Tutorial - Star Wars X-Wing Miniatures

Geeks make the best husbands! My husband Philippe is a huge fan of the game Star Wars X-Wing Miniatures. My own taste in games runs more towards Marrying Mr. Darcy, but I can tell you that Star Wars is a tactical ship-to-ship combat game played with scale models on your kitchen table. Over the past few months Philippe has amassed a pretty admirable collection of X-Wing figurines and has started playing at events around Montreal.

A problem with Star Wars X-Wing Miniatures is that it's played on a 3 foot by 3 foot square surface, and being off by even a small bit can affect the outcome. When Philippe first started playing, he would carefully mark off the playing space, but this got to be pretty tedious after a while. 

I asked Philippe if the game's publisher makes gaming mats that might make this easier. He told me that there are some small indie companies that produce mats, but they're sort of expensive. Some players have found ways to make their own gaming mats using bits of tarp, foil, and paint.

It immediately occurred to me that I could sew a mat. What perfect timing! Philippe's birthday was only a few weeks away! So for his present I designed and made a DIY mat that requires only basic sewing skills.

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Corsages in TARDIS Blue

Well, it's been a busy week here at The Beaded Kusudama! I've been busy working on an order for a bride in New Hampshire and I'll be ready to ship it out tomorrow.

This particular bride is a huge Dr. Who fan. She requested that I make three corsages for her wedding in TARDIS blue. I decided to use white as an accent colour, since in cartoon versions of the TARDIS, the windows are usually shown as white. This is what I came up with:

I am really starting to enjoy custom orders like this. Sometimes it is easy to get stuck in your own head creatively. But the process of collaborating with someone else takes you further and allows you to branch out. I get to make something new, and the bride has something that she can be proud of on her wedding day. Now that I have made these corsages, I will definitely be making this model available in my Etsy shop. 

In other news, I've been busily preparing for Seaway Valley's Gathering of Artisans in Baie d'Urfé. I have to confess that I've been enjoying the paper selection part of this process way too much.

My favourite paper supplier is Trinity Crafts, an Ontario-based business that happens to carry KaiserCraft paper, which is hard to get because it's manufactured in Australia. There are so many beautiful patterns and styles that even though I've been trying to narrow it down, I'm not having a lot of luck!

Here are a few examples of papers I could order:

There are dozens more too. You can see why I might be having difficulty with this decision. Once I've actually made up my mind I will definitely be posting pictures of the beautiful things I'll make with this paper!

Monday, 18 August 2014

Up and Running

Have you ever heard the term "sunk cost bias?" Basically, it's what happens when a person continues to throw time, money, and effort at a venture that hasn't worked out. Sort of like home renovations that keep spiralling out of control, or a business that is not profitable. People tell themselves, "I've already put so much into it -- if I just put in a little bit more it will turn around!" Instead of doing the rational thing, which would be to walk away and find something that does work, they continue to sink more resources in until they don't have any left.

Well, that's what happened to me with my website. The initial web host that I signed up with turned out to be really problematic -- they couldn't offer me the functionality that I was looking for. Initially I was unwilling to change hosts because I had worked so hard to make my website exactly the way I wanted it. But as I kept trying to find my way around the bugs and problems (and there were many), I realized that I was spending more time troubleshooting than I was actually blogging. Which sort of defeats the purpose!

Finally, a few weeks ago I decided to abandon the whole thing and start over again at Blogger. I customized a new blog and imported all of my content over here. Suffice it to say that I learned more about web design and functionality through this process than I ever thought I'd know. There's a happy ending though. I'm very happy with Blogger as well as my new domain provider, Hover, who made the whole transfer process much easier than I expected. If you ever need a domain name, check them out!

Aside from my web adventures, it's been a busy summer over here. I'm getting ready for Seaway Valley Artisans' Gathering of Artisans coming up on October 18th and 19th. I've been turning out a lot of things, but of course there is always more to do!

I found the most beautiful pack of autumn coloured paper at Michael's and have been making the most beautiful bouquets with it. I especially like the map motif that you can see on the flowers here:

My three new bouquets - the colours are definitely making me ready for fall!

I also thought it might be fun to have something a bit smaller, so I made these origami rose fridge magnets. I have a feeling that they'll be pretty popular!

My husband Philippe came home from work a few weeks ago and told me that they're opening a Michael's just ten minutes down the road. I screamed so loud that I think I hurt his ear drums. I love Michael's! Right now the closest one is more than an hour away. To have one so close by will either make me the most productive maker of paper flowers who ever lived...or bankrupt. (The two are not mutually exclusive.)

As a matter of fact, I have to go there tomorrow. I am making wedding corsages from a bride in North Carolina whose colour is TARDIS blue! I can't wait to figure out how I'm going to make them look. I'll post pictures as soon as I've finished.

Friday, 6 June 2014

Montreal Mini Maker Faire

On June 7th and 8th I had the immense pleasure of running an exhibit at the Montreal Mini Maker Faire. For those of you who have never heard of a maker faire, it is a yearly event spearheaded in cities around the world by proponents of the Maker Movement. In a society where we spend so much of our lives simply buying and consuming, makers argue that creating things with your own two hands is both valuable and necessary. 

Growing up, I was lucky that I had parents who were both makers themselves long before "maker" was ever a term. My mom was always sewing, quilting, embroidering, painting, cooking, and baking - while my dad was an amazing amateur wordworker, metal worker, and all around handyman (he is now an accomplished model railroader). Nonetheless, growing up in the 80s and 90s there was a definite sense that skills needed in the home were the purview of grandparents, and that people my age didn't need them. 

I am glad that is changing now, that people are coming to a new understanding of what it means to make and create. I was at the faire with the creators of a life-sized R2D2 unit, a pancake-making Lego robot, and local steampunk artisans. Seeing what all the different exhibitors were doing was so exciting, and it was a pleasure to see how people reacted to my own work. 

Richard Burman over at the Working Hands Project put together a short documentary about myself and the other makers who were at the Faire for the first time. I'd like to thank all of the organizers and volunteers who worked so hard to make this event happen, as it was an incredible experience. I'm excited to go back for Maker Faire 2015!

Creating Cards with the Silhouette Cameo

Though I'm a maker by night, by day I'm a school librarian. My boss and I are both extremely interested in makerspaces and want to create one in the library for our students. The first thing that we've purchased for our makerspace is a Silhouette Cameo. 

Now, if you have not seen the awesomeness that is the Silhouette Cameo, you need to get yourself over here and watch the video! It is amazing! My mind has already been turning over and over the flower designs that I could develop with this wonderful tool.

When the Cameo arrived, my boss put me in charge of figuring out how this works. She also gave me an assignment - make thank you cards for all of the parents who have volunteered in the library over the past year. So I got down to work using the sketch pens and the cutting feature to create these cards. I'm really happy with how they turned out!

(I am also ridiculously happy that I am allowed to take this little machine home for the summer...though I have a sneaking suspicion that I'll get so addicted that I'll be buying my own when September rolls around.)

In other news, I just got back from a little evening soirée at Centre Greene here in Montreal, where we were all setting up for the Montreal Mini Maker Faire! It starts tomorrow. My bouquets are all set up and I'll be teaching origami workshops throughout the day. If you're in the area, stop on by! Tickets are $6 for adults, and kids twelve and under get in free!

Friday, 16 May 2014

The Beaded Kusudama's Mission Statement

Welcome to The Beaded Kusudama's official website! I am very excited to launch it so that I can keep you all up to date with my latest creations, inspiration, and ideas. The process of setting up my little business has already taught me so much, and I look forward to seeing how it will grow over the next few months!

Although The Beaded Kusudama is only twenty days old right now, business is already going extremely well. I will be appearing at the Montreal Mini Maker Faire on June 7th and 8th in Westmount, teaching origami workshops on both days. I was also accepted to the Gathering of Artisans on October 18th and 19th and Quinn Farm's 20th Old-Fashioned Christmas Craft Fair on December 20th and 21st, both in Baie d'Urfé.

In light of all this, lately I've been giving a lot of thought to my business plan and how I intend to grow and develop. It's necessary for a business to have a sense of direction. I'm surrounded by great ideas all of the time, and it's so tempting to run off pursuing all of them. But in order to stay on course, it's first necessary to chart a course. So I wrote a mission statement for The Beaded Kusudama, both for the business itself and the website.

The Beaded Kusudama's Mission Statement

Here at The Beaded Kusudama I create handmade paper designs that celebrate life’s memorable moments, giving you a keepsake that you can cherish for many years to come. I deeply value the act of handcrafting and the use of fine materials such as high-quality cardstock, hand-printed paper, and glass beads. Through ongoing communication with you, we will find inspiration and achieve your vision for your unique pieces, whether those are elegant wedding bouquets and accessories, fun decor for a baby shower, or a lovely wreath that brings beauty to your home.

My website The Beaded Kusudama is a celebration of DIY, artisanal, and maker cultures. Here I share my inspirations, my newly made pieces, artisans I admire, recipes, and anything that encourages greater self-fulfillment and love of life through the act of creating. 

Thanks for reading, and I look forward to keeping you updated in the coming months!