Crafty Blogs

Thursday, 29 April 2010

Kids Bag Tags

Inspired by Deer Baby's tales of the incredible shrinking crisp packets, I decided to have a go with some shrink plastic.  It's not something I have any experience of, but I found it was really good fun, if sometimes a little unpredictable.  I bought a pack of A4 sheets of ink-jet shrink plastic, which I found on Ebay, and which worked out at about £1 a sheet.  You can print on it (which I fancied doing for my own purposes) or draw on it directly using pencil crayons or felt-tips.  It's great to use with kids too, as it is quick, clean and 'magical'. In fact it's obviously quite popular as a kids activity as Shrinkles produce party and classroom packs for this purpose, and whole ranges of pre-printed packs for kids to use - which are fun, but less creative.

 I thought I'd use it with the kids to create some personalised bag tags for their school and nursery bags.  I divided an A4 sheet into 4 quarters, (Shrinkles in fact produce packs in this size) and gave them a couple of these smaller sheets each to create their drawing on.  I found that for coloured in drawings, the best effect was obtained using pencil crayons.  As the designs shrink, the colours become darker, so that the naturally paler effect of pencil crayons becomes brighter and more vivid once shrunk.  In contrast the bright red fire engine that I created with felt-tip pens, became a muddy brown fire engine once it was shrunk.  Pen is great for providing detail, outline, writing etc., or you can use paler felt-tip colours which can deepen without becoming muddy. The other advantage of pencil crayon is that they don't smudge so easily.  You do have to keep your work as clean as possible, as I noticed that even slight smudges became dirty marks on the finished piece.  This also applies to the reverse side, which it's easy to forget about.

Once the drawing is complete, I cut it out with sharp scissors leaving a narrow white border around the edge.  I found that irregular shapes worked best, as squares and rectangles tended to distort more noticeably.  Maybe there is a way of avoiding this if you are an experienced user, but if so, I'm afraid I'm not aware of it.  Before shrinking, write the child's name on the back of the tag with marker pen, making sure that you write large enough for it to be clearly legible once it has shrunk.  Using a hole punch, make a hole at the top of the tag.

Next comes the exciting stage when you shrink the design in the oven.  My instructions recommended 180 degrees centrigrade for 4-5 minutes, but I have a fan oven, and found that just 2 minutes at 150 degrees was perfectly sufficient.  However all ovens are individual, and it is perhaps worth experimenting a little first.  The shrinkage, according to the instructions with my pack, was supposed to be about 50%, with greater shrinkage occurring across the longer side of a design.  The larger the item is, the more pronounced this effect seemed to be, and I noticed on the Shrinkles packs it says that the results will be up to 7 times smaller and thicker.  The before and after photos below give you some idea of how much shrinkage actually occurred with my samples.  Of course the shrinking stage has to be carried out by an adult, and once the tags have been shrunk, and removed from the oven, they should be left to cool for a few moments before touching.

To protect the image from dirt and finger-prints, and to make it waterproof, a coating of lacquer or varnish is advisable, this will also give you the option of a glossy finish . Spray varnish is better, at least for the first coat, to avoid any smudging that might occur.

The final stage is to add an accessory to attach it to your bag or create a key-ring.  Shrinkles produce a range of accessories for this purpose, and also for making fridge magnets, badges and pencil toppers.

As well as bag tags, smaller drawings can be used to create zipper tags or mobile phone charms.  This is a good use for the offcuts from larger drawings for example.

All in all, this is a simple and satisfying creative activity for both children and bigger kids like me!

Friday, 23 April 2010

Make a World

 I recently came across this book while browsing around the web.  Apparently, although I'd never come across it before, it's something of a classic, and was first published in 1972.  It is one of a whole series of similar style books by the author Ed Emberley, all with different themes.  It seems that this book in particular was quite influential, and helped shaped the visual culture of an entire generation of artists and designers.

The book covers a vast amount of subject matter in its 32 pages, and 400 illustrations, and the completely visual instructions are well suited to children whose reading skills may not yet be that strong.  The whole style of the book I thought might appeal to my son, who sometimes gets frustrated at not being able to draw something to his satisfaction, (he's a terrible perfectionist) and the book absorbed him completely for some time - he was very pleased with the results which it enabled him to obtain, quite easily, and of course the idea is that you can put all these individual drawings together to make your own 'World'.

I am not always a fan of very prescriptive art books, which show you a particular 'how to' technique and nothing else, but I think books like this one can provide a good springboard or stepping stone for the developing young artist.  After all, it's often said that many children eventually abandon art because they get frustrated when they find themselves unable to draw what they want to, and if a book like this helps them get over that hurdle for a while, that can only be a good thing.  There is also plenty of potential for creativity in putting together the individual drawing elements to create individual scenes or stories, and I suspect as time went on, those individual elements would be adapted and personalised.

All in all, I can thoroughly recommend this book.  If you fancy trying it for yourself, you can get it here. Alternatively, you can get a taste of drawing the Ed Emberley way, by creating your own dinosaur/dragon following the instructions below:

To Create your own Dinosaur/Dragon:

Start with a dinosaur....
 To turn your dinosaur into a dragon.....

You may also be interested in visiting Ed Emberley's own website which has more art activities and resources related to his books.

Monday, 19 April 2010

April Featured Artist

This month's Featured Artist was submitted by Mammy Dalby, whose middle daughter Lexie was featured back in January. It's by her eldest daughter Charlotte.  The picture is described as follows:

From top left clockwise: 'Papa Nash in his pants, the world, a face, dots, a car in storm clouds, Wayne from Higgley Town Heroes wearing glasses'.   

According to her mum, Charlotte doesn't think she should draw a new picture if all the ideas occur to her at once!

The monthly Featured Artist is selected from images uploaded to the Artful Kids Flickr Group.  If anyone has any masterpieces (drawings and paintings) created by children under 12 that they would like to contribute to the group, your contributions would be very welcome.

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Art Photobooks

As the stack of artwork created by my children increases, I've been trying to devise ways of keeping and displaying the best, while being a little more ruthless about discarding the rest.  I've already mentioned the Art Portfolio posters which were one response to this, but another approach I've taken is to have some made up into Art photobooks - one for each child.  The idea being that every couple of years or so I have another made.  I love photobooks, they're a wonderful way of displaying your photos at their best, and many companies offer lots of creative opportunities to personalise them further with colours, backgrounds, frames and of course text.  This time I chose because I thought they were reasonably priced, offered a fair amount of creative opportunity, and a good choice of book styles.  The process of creating and ordering was pretty straight forward, though I did run into a couple of issues with Firefox.  The problems disappeared however when I used Internet Explorer instead.  I've been really pleased with the result, so I thought I'd share them here.

Friday, 9 April 2010

And Now for Something completely Different....

This is my second new product, and something of a departure for me, since I normally concentrate on artwork.  Still, I like a challenge, and I have been enjoying exploring new techniques and materials.  These 'arty' T-Shirts are completely hand-painted, with an entirely random design on both front and back, so no two will be identical.  I produce them in both white and black, under the label 'Artfuel'.  Like the Children's Art Portfolio Posters, these are available exclusively in my NotontheHighStreet shop

I am hoping to add to my range of T-Shirts over the next few months - I have lots of ideas, just need more time!

Monday, 5 April 2010

Children's Art Portfolio Posters

I have recently been developing a few new products for Artful Kids which has been keeping me busy, so over the next couple of posts I thought I would introduce some of them.  The first is a Children's Art Portfolio Poster, which allows you to display up to 27 pieces of your child's artwork, with or without a photograph.  They are available in medium (A2) size, or large (A1) size, either unframed, or mounted with a choice of frame. Each artwork is digitally prepared and edited first, which I have to say is quite labour intensive.

As yet, these are not even available on the Artful Kids website.  This is because the site needs quite a bit of revision, and we're hoping to get online ordering on there soon, so lots of changes will be taking place over the next few months.

Until then, the posters are available exclusively in my NotontheHighStreet shop