New Art! Floral Fruit Bat

A quick update with some new art I've been working on, in a new medium. I hated gouache in art school, but I think I'm a convert now. I love how crisply it goes on and the finish when it dries-- there's none of the plastic-y acrylic feel. I think I'll be working in gouache more regularly! 

Floral fruit bat is available in my Society6 shop.

Materials: Holbein Acryla Gouache, Crescent illustration board

Make your own (kitty) doll with Spoonflower's custom fabric!

Spoonflower is pretty neat. It's a custom fabric designing web site I've been using to dabble in surface design. I've used it to design and print custom Otomi fabric for my dining chairs, to make a tea towel calendar that'll do double duty in the holiday gift season, and now... to make freakin' adorable kitty girl dolls!

I've always loved plush dolls, but am too impatient to take the time to sew all the little bits together, especially with a 9-5 (Or 7... or 10..... guh!). I also wanted a way to get my illustration style into a plush toy. So I turned to Spoonflower for a doll-making experiment. 

spoonflower-doll-1

Meet Olivia! She's a hand-painted doll, scanned into Photoshop and printed on Spoonflower's custom fabric. She turned out super cute, so I'll document the process of creating her. This post is more about how she was designed than the actual process of sewing-- one because she's incredibly easy to sew, and two because my sewing skills are atrocious and probably shouldn't be closely followed ;) She can be sewn with a sewing machine or by hand, and would be a great beginner's project! 

If you're interested in sewing Olivia yourself, you can purchase her template here. You'll only need a fat quarter, and the Kona cotton is perfect for quality and durability. 

Designing the template

Initial rough mockup

Initial rough mockup

The first step to designing a doll is working out the shape. I wanted my doll to be sewable all in one piece so I had to be careful about the scale of her different appendages. If her neck or body were too tiny, her pieces wouldn't fit when turning her rightside-out. Likewise, if her arms or legs were too skinny, they'd be impossible to turn. Spoonflower has a lot of dolls on their site. After researching what widths and lengths of limbs worked well in the finished product, I made my own shape for Olivia. Take a look at all the dolls they have to offer here.

Adobe lllustrator template with adorable cat doodle.

Adobe lllustrator template with adorable cat doodle.

I drew half her shape in Illustrator, then flipped and combined the halves to make a symmetrical body template. For scale, the whole thing-- along with a mini cat and hang tag-- needed to fit on a fat quarter of fabric (18"x21"), with a 1/4' seam guide for easy trimming.

Making a test doll

My favorite part of the creation process is triumphantly holding the finished product, so the idea of making a junky-looking test doll was not exciting. Still, designing for a 3D shape definitely requires testing, or else you'll most likely end up with a misshapen blob... at least if you're me.

After printing out my template on a couple pieces of paper, I taped it together then traced the shape onto some scrap fabric. Then I sewed the whole thing together, leaving a hole for turning and stuffing. My test fabric was a little thicker than basic cotton, so it was a little tricky to turn out her legs and arms. A pair of kelly forceps and a chopstick work great!

 

Turn the skin of your plush with the kelly forceps-- Silence of the Lambs style ;)

Turn the skin of your plush with the kelly forceps-- Silence of the Lambs style ;)

Then she got stuffed with polyfil.

Olivia-clone hanging out with I've-seen-some-bad-things tiger. ...Yeah, this was the only picture I got of the test doll. Sorry! 

Olivia-clone hanging out with I've-seen-some-bad-things tiger. ...Yeah, this was the only picture I got of the test doll. Sorry! 

Tada! She came out surprisingly well the first pass. Her ears looked a little like horns, so I tweaked them for the final template. 

Painting the character

Instead of guessing where her features should be based on the flat template, I drew directly on the test doll to get an idea of how she should look, before unstuffing and scanning my drawing. Then I painted the different elements and placed them right over my scanned guide in Photoshop, making sure to flip it for the back. 

When I paint for digital use, I often work in pieces. It doesn't make a very pretty original to keep, but it's so much easier to tweak in Photoshop.

When I paint for digital use, I often work in pieces. It doesn't make a very pretty original to keep, but it's so much easier to tweak in Photoshop.

No need to worry much about exact colors when painting-- It's much easier to use adjustment layers in the digital file.  You can always digitally experiment with colors and looks. 

The final template!

The final template!

I cleaned up the file, gave it some basic instructions, and ordered a fat quarter on Spoonflower to test the final doll. 

The final doll

IMG_0905.JPG

The watercolors printed on the Kona cotton beautifully! Crisp designs on Spoonflower tend to bleed the tiniest bit with the digital printing process, but I think this actually works well for watercolor-based designs. The template looked great, and it was very easy to cut and pin the pieces together. 

Again, my sewing skills are extremely basic, so this won't be a guide on how to sew. But I promise it's easy! Just sew all around her with a 1/4" seam, leaving an opening on her side. Same with her cat friend and tag. The only tricky part (and that's a very loose definition of the word tricky) is the optional step of sewing her ears flat before stuffing her head, and optionally sewing her legs at the skirt to let them bend. Seriously, it's simple stuff. Here are a few pictures during the process:

spoonflower-doll-8
spoonflower-doll-10
spoonflower-doll-9
Catbutt.

Catbutt.

Well, that's that! I loooove how she turned out! I tied her hair with ribbons, and gave her friend (We'll call him Catbutt) a bowtie. I would not do this if the doll were for a small child, however. Choking hazard and stuff. Making my own doll on Spoonflower turned out to be a lot of fun, and I'm already brainstorming the next creation. ;) Enjoy! 

 

 

 

Killer coupon for Society6!

Society6 is having a particularly good promotion: From now until Nov. 8, get $5 off all items and free shipping worldwide in my shop. Usually they offer one or the other, so both is pretty rare! I plan to do a bit of Christmas shopping. ;)

Visit Society6 through this link to take advantage of the promotion.

I've added a few new things to the shop to celebrate like these Yoga cat prints and products, and my 2016 calendar in giant tapestry form (or a normal print if you're into that).


2016 Tea Towel Calendar - Spoonflower

In the interest of creating more art outside of work, I've been participating in Spoonflower's weekly fabric contests. The different themes are good inspiration, and I'm learning about surface design in the process.

This week's theme is Tea Towel Calendars. I don't believe in astrology myself, but I love constellations and zodiac as a theme. Best of all, this week's challenge can do double duty as Christmas gifts for the year. Hope you guys like calendars. ;)

If you have a Spoonflower account, take a look at the entries and vote for your favorites!


Watercolor Pet Portraits -- Complete!

I've been wanting to hang some portraits of our two cats and Greyhound, so I decided to paint 'em. 

Freya

Freya is a weirdo who only likes food, and staring at me. (Seriously. Everytime I turn my head she is right there. Staring.) She also comes off as kind of....dumb, so that was an important aspect to capture. Poor Freya.

Freya Watercolor Portrait

How's the likeness?

I asked Matt what shirt Freya would wear, and he said "A hot dog shirt. She loves hot dogs!" It turned out he was talking about the dog, which made a lot more sense. 

I asked Matt what shirt Freya would wear, and he said "A hot dog shirt. She loves hot dogs!" It turned out he was talking about the dog, which made a lot more sense. 

Juno

Juno is fat, fluffy, and attached to Matt. She's actually not that fat, but her fur makes her look like a chub. She also looks eternally stern, but gives 0 craps about anything. This is the first portrait I did, and I was unhappy with the way some of it came out. Luckily I had two more chances to improve on them!

Juno is definitely Matt's cat, but the one time she does like to be near me is when I'm in the office. For some reason, dangling over the back of the computer chair is her favorite spot. 

Juno is definitely Matt's cat, but the one time she does like to be near me is when I'm in the office. For some reason, dangling over the back of the computer chair is her favorite spot. 

Petra

I think Petra's is my favorite portrait-- it was fun to paint her brindle markings and ridiculous Greyhound nose. (and Batman PJs are obviously the best!)

Petra Watercolor Pet Portrait
Petra the Greyhound

 I was going to hang them in the stairwell, but I like them so much that now I want to hang them somewhere more visible. Only problem is my walls are already covered with piles of art. I'll post an update once I've found some thrift store frames and a suitable hanging spot!

One frame down. Two to go~

One frame down. Two to go~


Fun with fanart - Vintage Butterfly Pokemon

I've been pretty into scientific nature bookplates lately (I'm always into Pokemon), and thought interpreting the butterfly Pokemon in this style would be a fun way to get off the computer and work traditionally for a bit. I'm happy with how they came out-- especially Venomoth and Dustox!

Prints available in my Society6 shop.
Also selling the originals here!

Here they are individually, and a progress shot.

Dustox WIP

Dustox WIP


Give your chairs a makeover with custom Zazzle fabric!

Upholster a chair (or anything) with Zazzle custom fabric!

I'm obsessed with Mexican Otomi prints. Traditional Otomi patterns are intricate embroideries featuring super colorful animals and flowers. I've been looking to incorporate one into my decor for a while now, but at upwards of $300 for a good size piece the prospects weren't looking good.

Otomi fabric is completely hand embroidered. So. Beautiful.

Otomi fabric is completely hand embroidered. So. Beautiful.

Fruit bats. HOW COULD YOU NOT LOVE THIS FACE?

Fruit bats. HOW COULD YOU NOT LOVE THIS FACE?

After coming up empty in a search for affordable cotton-printed alternatives, I decided to make use of my artsy skills and Zazzle's custom fabric printing to whip up my own Otomi pattern. This way, I could include my favorite animals (think fruit bats, sphinxes, and cats!) and make it completely one-of-a-kind.

We just got our first grown-up dining table, and fabric would be the perfect way to update the bleh dining chairs that came with our old Goodwill table. So with a plan and a project in mind, I got started.

This is our old pressed wood dining table. Sad.

This is our old pressed wood dining table. Sad.

Referencing a bunch of animals in the Otomi style, I drew versions of my favorite characters and organized them into a repeat in Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator.

otomi-fruit-bat
The finished repeat.

The finished repeat.

Check out Julia Rothman's guide on how to make a complex repeat here! Or, if making art isn't your thing, you can purchase my Otomi fabric or any other Zazzle fabric on the site.

After bringing the pattern into Zazzle's custom fabric creator, I got stuck on picking a repeat size.... it was way too small at one size, but seemed huge the next size up. Going for bold over tiny, I picked the bigger repeat. Other than that quirk, uploading the pattern on Zazzle was super easy.

Zazzle's "Cotton Twill" weight of fabric was perfect, since I'd be using it to upholster seating and wanted it to hold up to all the butts sitting on it. For four chairs, I placed an order for 2 yards and hoped for the best.

The fabric arrived in about a week and looked great!

zazzle-fabric-review

It was a nice weight for seating, and had a quality print and hand. My one wish is that the colors had come out a bit brighter in person. The pinks skewed a little red and the darkest blues and purples looked similar to each other. Dark printing vs. screen is pretty normal, and I don't think anyone would notice without seeing my original art, so I was OK with it.

With fabric in hand, it was time to get started on the chairs!

The chair before spray painting. I forgot to take a shot directly after painting-- oops!

The chair before spray painting. I forgot to take a shot directly after painting-- oops!

To sit with the new table, I wanted a darker, less red finish. After unscrewing the seats (make sure you remember which chair goes with which seat) and priming with a thin coat of spray primer, I used some Krylon Oil Rubbed Bronze spray paint I had on hand to spray over the old, gross finish. In a couple coats, the chairs looked brand new!

To reupholster the seats, I laid them on the fabric and cut about 3 inches around, to allow enough fabric to fold over and staple. I was careful to have the fabric pattern face the same direction for all chairs, and to pick parts of the pattern that would feature all my creatures.

I cut ~3 inches around the chair. (I removed the chevron fabric on the first chair, but got lazy and left in on for the rest. It didn't seem to make much difference, but if my fabric were more sheer I would have lined it with a white fabric first)

I cut ~3 inches around the chair. (I removed the chevron fabric on the first chair, but got lazy and left in on for the rest. It didn't seem to make much difference, but if my fabric were more sheer I would have lined it with a white fabric first)

Upholstering is really easy. To start, pull the fabric taut and staple once in the center of each side. Pull in the corners and staple each corner once. 

Then, just work your way from the middle and staple like crazy, being sure the fabric is taut and straight as you go.

The corners are just slightly trickier. Fold each side in a way that minimizes visible lumps from the front. When it looks good, staple away, and trim any excess.

After upholstering the seats, I just screwed them back on to the chairs. Make sure to match the right seat with the right chair, in case the screw holes don't quite match up. (I learned that the hard way...)

Tada!

Made-over chairs with our new dining table! 

Made-over chairs with our new dining table! 

I am so happy with my dining chairs. They fit in wonderfully with our new table without being super matchy, and it's fun knowing that the fabric is personal to me rather than being mass-produced. Even if you don't want to make your own fabric, painting and upholstering chairs is a really easy project, and browsing designs on Zazzle or Spoonflower can score you some super unique fabric of your own.

Good luck! :)

Products featured in this post:
(Referral purchases go toward art supplies and cat food!)

  1. Otomi Large-Scale Fabric - Zazzle (also available on Spoonflower)
  2. Krylon Oil-Rubbed Bronze spray paint - Amazon

 

Carvana.com Review -- Online car buying for awesome people (and introverts!)

You served me well, Catbutt.

You served me well, Catbutt.

When the passenger door handle snapped off my trusty Matrix, I knew it was time. As my first car, Catbutt held a special place in my heart. But after 3 years in Atlanta with a secure, grown-up job I thought wistfully about all those luxuries I’d been missing out on. Anti-lock brakes? Cruise control? If only.

Unfortunately, buying a car is the absolute worst, and gnawing on tin foil sounds better than sparring with a salesperson at a dealership.

Enter Carvana.

I’m not sure how I heard about Carvana, but I was probably googling something like “How to buy car while wearing footies and never leaving house or speaking to human beings." Carvana.com is a company based in Atlanta (yay!) catering to neurotic people like me who want nothing to do with the traditional dealership experience.  Their goal is to make the car buying experience less like having your soul forcibly ripped from your body and more like shopping online for a pair of nice boots. ...Or a bag of chips, because they literally have a car vending machine. For real. 

The Website

You'll find a pretty good selection of cars, but since they're pre-owned it helps to be open to a variety of models. The sidebar lets you filter by body type, color, year, mileage etc., so narrowing down to your needs is pretty easy. The pricing is set and includes a KBB comparison and itemized calculations of the taxes and title. No dealer fees, no doc fees, no soul-sucking fees. Each listing offers an Experian AutoCheck report to see what previous hell the car went through, if any (I don't think they list cars with major report issues). My favorite part is the 360° online tour showing the actual car, highlighting the relevant features and specifically calling out imperfections. 

The 360° Tour shows the actual car

The 360° Tour shows the actual car

After researching obsessively for a week, I had my heart set on a 2012+ Mazda3 hatchback in white, black or gray, so I waited a couple months for one to pop up. When they finally listed a black 2013 Mazda3 I jumped on it, since the cars can go pretty quickly. 

The Process

When I landed on my new Catbutt-to-be, I made sure everything looked good on the Autocheck report, then hyperventilated and hovered terrified over the "Start Purchase" button for 20 minutes before taking the dive. I was nervous about buying a car sight-unseen, but the 360° tour and their 7 day money-back "test drive" won me over. Once I finally got the nerve to buy, the payment options popped up-- allowing me to view Carvana's financing options, pay with cash, or use my own financing. 

I had lined up my financing through Lightstream, but I also checked Carvana's options which were good but not quite as amazing as mine. After inputting my financing information, it led me through a really simple checkout portal where I set up down payment, picked a delivery date for the nearest Saturday, and signed the contract online. Carvana brags that you can complete this process in 15 minutes, and it's not an exaggeration...as long as you aren't freaking out and triple-checking every word like I was. ;) 

(A note about Trade-Ins)

I'm writing this post a few months after my purchase, and can't recall at what point I did my trade in, because it was so freaking easy. But I traded in my old car during this purchase, and the entire trade-in is calculated completely online! You literally visit their trade in page, input the details about your car, and they come back with a price which they will honor at pickup, unless you lied and your car actually has no engine or wheels or something. They offered me more than the KBB listing for a private party sale, and they were not at all fazed when I told them it was missing a passenger door handle. (Yeah, Catbutt was in rough shape) 

The Hiccups

There were a couple issues I encountered during this purchase, which ended up being handled wonderfully.

  1. I discovered that Lightstream, unlike some other financing options that work directly with the dealer, deposits the money directly into your bank account. This threw the financing choice I picked during checkout for a loop, because it looked like I was buying with cash instead of financing. I grudgingly called Carvana to figure out the issue, and the communication was quick, friendly and easy with no pressure at all to do anything besides fix the issue.
     
  2. I continued browsing Carvana's listings, just to torture myself and see if I missed a better deal that would ruin my life forever (this is the anxiety speaking, guys). A couple days later, I saw a silver 2013 Mazda3 with less miles!!! for $500 cheaper than my car! I called Carvana to ask about the price difference. Surprisingly, without any suggesting on my part, they immediately matched the price of the silver Mazda and refunded me $500, explaining that they lower prices on a weekly basis and I had bought right before the new week. This is the moment I fell in love. 

The Delivery

Hallelujah! 

Hallelujah! 

When Saturday finalllly came, the Carvana truck showed up right on time. I'm pretty sure the clouds parted above my new Mazda and heavenly light shined down upon it. It was beautiful. The salesman was laid back and professional (shoutout to Christopher Kummer!) and the delivery took all of 20 minutes. He talked about the 7 day test drive, had me sign some final paperwork, and handed me the keys to take it around the block. The passenger seat held a Carvana gift bag full of goodies including a Moon Pie, which was weird and amazing. 

Then, he loaded my trade-in--ol' Catbutt Senior-- onto the Carvana truck and drove off into the sunset.

I hope she's in a better place.

I hope she's in a better place.

The End

It's been a few months since I bought my new car on Carvana, and I'm still thrilled. The car arrived in even better condition than I was expecting from the online tour, and I haven't had any issues. It came with one key, and Carvana foot the $200+ bill for getting another remote key made at a local Mazda dealership. I've started decorating my Catbutt 3, and even made her a new logo.

All in all, I highly recommend Carvana for anyone looking for an easier way to buy a car. Living in Atlanta is easiest, but they deliver all over the country. Included in my gift bag were some coupon cards for $500 off a car purchase, so if anyone reading this knows me feel free to get in touch and I'll pass one along!