February 2012 archive

DIY: Silhouette Wall

Lots of people (myself included) like to have one of those photo-walls, a massive collection of family pictures hung close together with the only unifying element being the same color frame (I’ve done one with all black frames and later, all silver). I still like the look of it, but I wanted to make it a little simpler. Around that time my mother in law gave me a silhouette of my husband as a child. I loved it and it immediately went on the photo wall. Later we had our children’s silhouettes cut and they also went on the wall. That was when I had the idea to transform all the pictures into silhouettes. This was a long and tedious process and I was so relieved when I was finished. I had my family over and I proudly showed them the finished product. My brother immediately pointed out a tiny 3×5 empty frame that I somehow missed.Thanks a lot buddy. That little frame has nagged at me ever since. As long as I had to make one more, I decided to make it into a photo tutorial. And away we go..

First, I selected the final image for the silhouette. I chose this one of my husband and daughter in a porch swing overlooking the Piankatank river. I took it on a warm July day when we were celebrating my mother in law’s birthday. One of those perfect summer afternoons you long for in mid-February. (“Summer afternoon, summer afternoon; to me those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language” ~Henry James)

I previewed the photo on my desktop and hit the “fix” button at the top. Then I changed the image to black and white (using the “saturation” tool under the color tab to the right of the screen), and adjusted the brightness and contrast to make the picture as close to true black and white as I could. This isn’t a vital step, but I find it helpful to get a feel for what your finished product is going to look like. There have been several pictures that I thought would make great silhouettes, only to find that they were unrecognizable once I’d finished.

Next, I printed the image (you can print directly from the preview, or insert the image into word and print from there). Then cut it out carefully. I like to use hairstylist scissors because they are smaller, sharper and have the little hook on the bottom to steady your hand. Once you cut out the main image, go in with an x-acto knife and cut out the center details. I do this right on the glass top of my desk (because I am campaigning for a new desk and destroying this one will further my cause. Just as my husband leaves the perfectly good grill uncovered in the rain and snow when he thinks it’s time for an upgrade. Soon enough it will rust and he’ll get his new grill). If you aren’t actively trying to destroy your furniture, just use a cutting board for the x-acto part of this. Here is the image after being cut out: Next you trace it onto the back of black card stock. You can get card stock at any craft store for a few cents a sheet. When I began my silhouette wall, my plan was to cut the images in one pattern of card stock and mount them on a contrasting pattern. Then I realized that went against the point of simplifying so I stuck with black and white. But by all means, do yours in whatever colors or prints you’d like. Here is the tracing:You might notice that I did not reverse the image before tracing it. This made my final silhouette a mirror image of the actual picture. This will likely bother me every time I look at it until I finally take it down and re-do it. Save yourself the hassle and flip the image before tracing on the back of your black card stock.

After tracing, just cut it out again with the scissors and x-acto knife. Then turn it over and find that you’ve accidentally cut into the black surface of the card stock. They make high quality paper colored all the way through so that this doesn’t happen. Obviously this is not high quality paper:That’s okay. Sharpie to the rescue:Now it’s time to frame it. Take some tape rolls and apply to a few spots on the back. You don’t want to completely tape it down or use spray glue because the image needs to sit just above the white backing so that it casts a faint shadow, giving it dimension.Next, apply it to your white (or whatever color you chose) card stock backing like so:I probably should have taken a nice “after” picture of it in its frame, but I was in too much of a rush to get it up on the wall. Here is the silhouette wall, finally completed:See, there it is, top center. Try to ignore all that empty space on either side of the console. I used to have potted plants there but I killed them and haven’t decided what to put in their place. Open to suggestions..

DIY: Apothecary Jar Terrariums

I have a slight apothecary jar addiction. I am literally incapable of entering a housewares store without buying at least one apothecary jar (also on that list: throw pillows, white sheets and soy candles). I have them in my master bathroom holding q-tips and cotton balls. In the guest bath they hold shea-butter soaps and more cotton balls. I can’t think of a single reason a guest in my home would need easy access to a large supply of cotton balls, and yet there they are:

(We aren’t even going to discuss the color scheme in there. It was like that when we moved in and I usually keep the door closed and pretend it doesn’t exist.)

This would be a good time to mention that I kill plants. Thousands of them. Each and every houseplant I have ever bought has died by my hands. There was a period where I was going through 7 or 8 orchids every six months until my husband suggested that perhaps I move on to cheaper victims.

Then something surprising happened. I was in my sons room and I noticed that the very large, very 1970’s style terrarium my mother had given him was full of leafy, living plants.

I vaguely remember putting a few ferns in there when he got it last year, but since then have not so much as looked at the thing. That’s when I realized that perhaps I could marry my personality flaws of apothecary-jar-hording and plant-homicide to create unique and stylish terrariums. I started with this:

Four empty jars, freed from being relegated to a life of holding cotton balls. If you look out the window behind them on the right, you will notice last summers attempt at a container garden. I left it there as a reminder that if I want heirloom tomatoes I should go to the grocery store, not to the plant section of Home Depot.

Anyway, I gathered my supplies: potting soil (I chose the looser kind used for seedlings. My only reason for this was that I thought it was prettier dirt), small plants, rocks.

I’m willing to admit that I might have gone overboard with the plants:

The rest was easy. First I added a few stones to the bottom of each jar:

Then I added a bunch of soil to each jar which ended up being a mistake because the plants all poked out the tops of the jars. So don’t do that. I had to dump all the soil back into the bag and got it all over my desk, proving once again that sewing tables do not make good potting sheds. Here I am cleaning up my mess:It worked better to just remove the plants from their planters and loosen the soil at the bottom until it was no longer planter-shaped. Then I put them on the stones in the jars and used a spoon to add a little potting mix around them. I put two plants into most of the jars, spooning soil around them until they felt secure, but still loose enough that they could settle down a little when I watered them. Here I am spooning soil, in case you wanted to know what that looks like.Then I gave them a light watering and put the lids on:After that I had to clean up a large amount of spilled soil and debris from my table, but I was happy with the results so it was worth the mess. Here they are all finished. I’m hoping that they’ll sink in a bit more, otherwise I might go back and remove some more soil. Supposedly they create their own atmosphere and don’t need much watering. If, like me, you’ve killed many a cactus because you water them even though you know you’re not supposed to, don’t fret. All you have to do if you over-water is take the lid off for a day or two and they’ll dry out. I might move them to a sunny spot where they don’t have to stare at what’s left of my container garden, wondering if they’re next.

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