Sunday, May 19, 2013

Washington State Map Art

So, hello everyone! This is going to be a new type of post for me, because it's going to include photos AND a tutorial/description of a project I just finished. Not only did I finish it today, I only started it less than two hours ago. Yes, it's true, I started AND finished a project in less than an entire afternoon. Which is awesome, because now I have time for another project! Keep reading for photos and the tutorial!

We had been over to our friends' house a couple months ago for the husband's birthday party, and it was not the first time we'd been there. However, because they only moved into that house about six months ago, they were still working on getting all of their decor in place, so this was the first time I'd seen this amazing piece of art - a framed state map cutout of Michigan (where the husband is from) with colorful strips of collage in the background, with about a half inch between the background and the cutout so there was sort of a shadow effect. Amazed at this idea, I asked where they had gotten it, and the wife said a friend of theirs made it for them. Of course, a great project idea! I examined the piece of art and it's been on my mind ever since. For once, NOT something inspired by Pinterest (those tutorials usually lie anyway and the caption will say "super easy, only a couple hours, less than an afternoon, etc." Not true. But I've posted about that before, and I digress...

On to the photos and tutorial!

Materials needed:
Paper cutter/rotary cutter
Exacto knife
Cutting mat
Two pages of white cardstock
Glue stick
Wall frame

1. Collect magazine pages that have little or no writing and people on them.
I used a bunch of cool full-page photos from my husband's Scientific American magazines, plus some advertisements in regular magazines like More, Real Simple, and my seasonal Nordstrom catalog. Some of the pages I only used half of, because I was looking for a certain color scheme as well - blues and greens. I have to admit, the pages from the Scientific American mags ended up being the best, because I could use almost, if not all of, the entire page, and there were some really abstract photos like microscope photos blown up to be the whole page, different types of maps, and stuff like that. Other magazines that would be good for this would be National Geographic and probably travel magazines.

2. Use a paper cutter or rotary cutter to slice the magazine pages into lots of quarter-inch wide strips.
For this, I wanted the images to be unidentifiable and in case an awesome page had like one word on it, I didn't want it to be obvious what it was. So my strips were about a quarter inch wide - it sounds kind of big, but then when you actually start slicing the page, it seems like it takes forever! This was probably the most time-consuming part of the project, and I had done this last week while I was home and in between packing boxes for our imminent move across country. I guess technically, if you did this step the same day as your project, the whole thing would take a lot longer, about twice as long depending on how many magazines you decide to go through and if you can find good pages.
So, cut enough that you have lots of photos and color combinations to choose from for your project. I went through about five magazines including two Scientific Americans (lots of pages from both of those!), for a total of maybe 15 or 20 pages - but for a lot of the More and Real Simple pages, I couldn't use the whole page because part of it was plain white or because of big words or peoples' faces, etc.

All my strips of magazine pages cut into quarter-inch wide pieces. I found an old elementary school pencil box to store them in so they wouldn't get all twisted or crumpled!

3. Search online for a state map outline for whatever state you want.
I Googled "Washington state map outline" and ultimately found the image I used at this website, and there are lots of other states too! Click "Printable version," save PDF if necessary, print to use up the entirety of your 8.5x11in page, and viola, you've got your map.

My Washington state map.

4. Trace your map onto one of the pages of white cardstock.
I happened to have 8.5x11in cardstock in white, but if you have larger cardstock for i.e. 12x12 scrapbooking, you may need to trim yours. You're crafty, so you know how to take care of that. The reason I didn't print my map directly onto my cardstock, which is totally possible, is because I didn't want to turn the PDF into the mirror image of itself - I needed a pencil tracing of my map on my cardstock so that if there were pencil marks around the edge of my map, I could erase them. If you print directly onto your cardstock, make the map a mirror image of itself first so that when you cut the image out, you can turn the page over so you won't see any of the printed edges you left behind. Does that make sense? 
I paperclipped my cardstock to the front of my map page, held it up to a window, and traced in pencil.

5. Use your exacto knife to cut along the edges of your tracing on your cardstock. Obviously do this on top of your cutting mat...
This was WAY easier than I thought it would be. My husband had a couple of awesome knives he uses for building replica models of like cars and airplanes and stuff, so those worked really well. Again, you're crafty so you probably already have awesome knives with which to do this.
Erase any pencil marks that remain at the edges of your map, and set the whole thing aside.

Sorry this is sideways, iPhoto doesn't like some edits sometimes for whatever reason. Cutting around the edges of my map was way faster than I thought it would be, about 10 minutes total, even with all those little islands! I saved my cut-out pieces for another project, yet I'm not sure what that'll be.

5. Glue your magazine strips to your un-cut piece of 8.5x11 white cardstock.
I guess technically it doesn't have to be white. So, what I did for this part is I used the cut-out piece of Washington to sort of mark where my "window" would be on the full 8.5x11 paper, so I would sort of know where my colors would show through and which part of the strip would just be too close to the edge or the middle for my liking. I hope that makes sense. I wanted a general idea of what would show of the strips when I was all done, so indicating the general dimensions of my cutout on my background page was helpful.
I used a glue stick so my pieces didn't wrinkle too much. The final product actually has a large wrinkle on the FRONT page (the one I cut out my map from! Booooo!) from the glue stick, but I was being careless...I guess if you were up to the challenge and mess, you could use mod podge or regular Elmer's with a bit of water and a paintbrush, but glue stick was WAY easy and WAY less messy than other options.
Start in the middle of your page with the first strip. I wanted to make sure my strips would all be straight up and down, and that I wouldn't end up with really awesome strips only half showing because they were on the edges of the cutout or something. I just found it easier than the right or left edge, because obviously you won't need to put strips all along there since those edges won't show!

It looked strange as I was assembling the whole thing; I wasn't sure I liked the order I chose for my strips, and I actually pulled one from the very center, didn't use it at all, and replaced it with a different one. Another advantage of using a glue stick - if you truly hate where you placed something, you don't have to wrestle much with it to change it! I was seriously doubting the outcome of the whole project when I was about halfway through gluing my strips to my page. But, I kept on, and I'm glad I did!

6. Place your cardstock with the map cut out from it over your background piece to see how you like it.
At this point, I realized I did need one more strip on the left side as you could see a little blank area through the cut out. And, the reality of how it would look really was much more awesome than how the strips looked just glued to the page - at this point, I was inspired to actually share this project with you and post a tutorial on the blog and everything. Maybe this will be just the beginning of many more tutorials!
I put a little circle of glue stick on the wider areas of my cut-out piece and pressed it onto my background page, because the frame I used had a pre-cut mat that was just barely big enough to fit the 8.5x11 paper in, and I didn't want all the pieces of it to move around. This will give me freedom later on, since I used the glue stick, to separate the cut out front and the background pieces to fit into a shadow frame if and when we ever get one. Held together, but still with flexibility!

When I put the circles of glue stick on the front piece, I wasn't careful enough with the thickness of the glue and the fact that I was just rubbing it on there - I ended up with a wrinkled circle in the bottom right corner. Hopefully the heat here will pull it out like it does with wrinkles after mod podge-ing, but we will see. Humph.

7. Put the final product in your chosen frame!
I just love how this turned out. Although I wish we had a frame that would allow for the shadow effect between the front and back pieces, I am still loving this. The thing about the frames that allow for shadow effects like that is that they are really expensive. With the move coming up, also, why would I want to buy another frame to pack? We already had this one that has been in its original wrapper from Ikea since before we even moved to Arizona, so it was about time it was used for something...sheesh!

Love it!! I have to admit, I'm a little bit impressed with myself... And I just can't wait to move home!!

Well, thanks for reading today mates! I know this tutorial probably exists all over the Internets and Pinterest already, but hey, I did this without someone else's tutorial with only the inspiration I received from a work of art at a friend's house, so I guess this is just one more tutorial to add to the bunch! Enjoy! 

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Things People Say to Reassure You

"Everything happens for a reason."
"Don't sweat the small stuff" (and for some reason they'll add "and it's all small stuff.")
"If it's meant to be, it will be."

Yes, everything does happen for a reason - because someone made a choice, whether that person was me or you or someone else. Whatever happened is a direct result of someone making a choice and performing an action. It's not a mystery, it's not comforting to say there's some supernatural reason for things to have happened...because there isn't. The reason is that a human performed an action or spoke chosen words or made some other choice. Or there was some natural disaster.

It's not all small stuff. In fact, most of it is pretty big stuff. If it's truly not a big thing, someone wouldn't feel the need to reassure me. Instead, they should say "get a grip, it's not a big thing, get over it" or something of the like. There could be some explanation as to why said thing is not a big thing, or a question directed at me as to why such a thing is a big thing, and it may turn out to actually be a very small thing after all. In which case, get a grip. Otherwise, it's a big thing and it's something worth stressing over and working hard for in order to gain the desired outcome.

Nothing is "meant" to be. You don't just sit back and count on the things to happen that are "meant" to be. You make those things happen. You choose to act or not to act. If you think you ended up so lucky to have had something amazing just happen to you, think back to past choices you've made - the people you choose to associate yourself with, the job you choose, the location you chose to be in at a given time, etc. Everything else is a result of the choices of other people.

I know that at this point, you're probably thinking "wow, how cynical, how can she ever be happy with that attitude, etc etc etc..." I'm just not reassured when people say any of those above examples to me when something happens. Let's be honest - there are some things that have happened or not happened that I wish I could say "it happened (or didn't happen) for a reason." But that's not actually my opinion at all, so lying to myself about it to try to make myself feel better sure doesn't work. Being honest, making modifications to my actions and choices, trying again, trying differently, putting some sort of WORK into it usually results in the desired (or at least an acceptable) outcome, or at least puts me onto the right path towards the desired outcome.

And sometimes, you just have to know when to freaking quit already. And it's okay to quit. To choose to lose touch with "friends" you don't feel are such good friends anymore, or maybe never were but you didn't realize it until now. To choose to try another career path, to choose to walk away from a project that truly is a small thing but somehow was made into a big thing much earlier and now has drained an incredible amount of productivity that could have been put toward something that actually was a big thing. It's okay to ask for help, to seek more information, to change my opinion about something when it's warranted. Quitting, asking for help, etc - none of that means admitting defeat. It means prioritizing and moving forward.

I could probably keep going on about this and get onto lots of different tangents, but I tried to avoid that this time. I just wanted to share general thoughts on some comments I've heard over and over and over in the past 9 days that, as well-intentioned as their speakers may be, have not been helpful. Of course, except for the fact that I then reflected on those comments and why they were not helpful or reassuring to me.

Anyway, thanks for reading y'all, and until next time...goodnight!