Sunday, 19 August 2012


I belong to a small international ATC swapping group.  

Each player takes it in turn to be hostess, and to set the theme for that month.  Some of the themes are challenging, and it's always interesting to see how everybody interprets the theme.

These are a few of the ATCs I've made for that group this year.

The first ATC is a textile ATC, made by sewing all sorts of snippets of fabric and fibre to a pelmet vilene base, zigzagging around the edge, and hand embroidering and beading.

The ATC below was my first attempt at the theme of 'A Clear Layer'. I created a fleur-de-lys stamp by drawing on fun foam, and stamped it with a kaleidoscope inkpad. I had masked the fleur-de-lys itself, and then I sponged that shape in purple. I stamped over the fleur-de-lys with a texture stamp and gold ink.  So far so good, and lots of subtle texture and colour, all pastel and way out of my normal colour palette.

I decided the clear layer should be clear sticky backed plastic.  I snipped some angelina fibres, and scattered them over the ATC before sticking down the plastic.  And then I realised the plastic stopped all the subtle texturing I'd done being visible. Harumph. It just looked really ordinary.

I decided to try and improve things. I drew round the fleur-de-lys shape with a bronze Viva perle pen, and used a white one for the rest of the design.  

I left it a few hours.  

I drew dots around the edge.  

I left it a few hours.  

I drew dots in the middle. 

It was better, but I still wasn't happy.  I ditched it.

Clear layer 2nd attempt.  I took some cardstock, and made a background by smearing some Distress ink onto a craft sheet, spritzing with water, and 'smooching' the card through the ink.  This makes a lovely unpredictable background which is very useful for ATCs. Once I had my background, I created a digital collage in Photoshop, in similar colours to my background. I had some clear digital letters (Tangie Designs)so added the word at the bottom. Once printed onto my background, I stamped the flower, and smeared a trace of Stickles around. I then printed the text and butterfly design (Tangie Designs) onto inkjet acetate, and added it to the ATC using brads. I am much happier with this.

Zettiology ATC.  I'm not a huge fan of zetti, although I see things which other people have done and which I quite like. I did once take part in a huge journal pages swap, which was kind of zetti and which I enjoyed, but mostly it doesn't come naturally to me.

I was very fortunate, because my friend Chrissy took the time and trouble to send me a birthday card, and the card she sent was a zetti design.  I liked her design, so created a small adapted version in this ATC. The black background has been embossed in an embossing folder, and the 'body parts' are all shrink plastic.  The rest of the design elements are hand drawn with a white pen.

Saturday, 11 August 2012

Wedding Cake

My stepdaughter was planning her wedding.  

I had made a wedding cake for her sister some years ago, (see the spiky cake in this post) so offered to do the same for her.  

I only make wedding cakes for family or close friends, or if somebody has twisted my arm a long way up my back.  

I enjoy the process of decorating special cakes, and certainly enjoy the challenge of making something unusual, but am always very aware that it's a big occasion and if I get it wrong it will spoil things for the bride, so it can also be stressful.

I sent the bride a selection of images to get her thinking about kind of cake she might like, 
and she fell in love with a cake by Maggie Austin.  

Well, as Maggie Austin is in the US and we are in Wales, we clearly couldn't buy the cake from Maggie.  I had a good look at the image on Maggie's website, and thought I had a fair idea of how it might have been made.  I contacted Maggie and asked if she could confirm my thoughts, so that I could try to make something similar, as it would not be possible for us to be customers. Both Maggie and her sister were really kind and helpful - and it turns out that they had spent some time near Aberystwyth and really loved it, so there was a link to Wales...

The bride wanted chocolate cake, the groom wanted chocolate orange, and there had to be a fruit cake too. I made a 12 inch chocolate fudge cake - the biggest cake I've ever made, I had to mix it in a washing up bowl! I also made a 10 inch chocolate orange cake (experimented with this, it tasted yummy), and an 8 inch fruit cake, which was well drizzled with armagnac - weekly, for several weeks.

All I can say about the way the cakes tasted is that there were trimmings from levelling all the cakes before icing them, and I and my son and his family did some quality control. We don't think any of the guests were likely to leave cake on their plates.

I covered all three cakes with 
fondant icing - I did wonder if Maggie's cakes 
are covered with frosting of some kind, because that would make it easier to attach the decorative icing.  

The cake is decorated by attaching strips of icing. All the strips of icing have a blushed edge, and most are slightly ragged - blushing and distressing added quite a bit of time to the process. I 'glued' each of the 200 or so strips on with royal icing. This work has to be done in small batches, as the icing dries out quite quickly. The completed top tier (above), was my 'test piece'. I was happy enough with it to carry on...

As you can see from the photos, the icing is graduated in colour from top to bottom, which meant mixing the right green to tone with the bridesmaids dresses, then adding more and more white until I had 6 shades of green. 

On the day of the wedding, I loaded the cakes into large boxes and took them to Clearwell Castle, where the reception was being held. Needless to say, by the time I arrived, there was a little damage to one or two of the strips of icing - done getting the cakes in and out of the boxes rather than damage caused during the drive.  

I was glad I had taken my cake 'repair kit' with me.  It took me about 45 minutes to assemble the cake, make the repairs, add the ribbon to the bottom, and position the flowers.  The flowers were fresh, and individually wired.  Ideally, there should have been a few more of them, and they should have been a bit bigger, but they look pretty good.

The bride and I had decided a clear glass stand would make the cake look as if it was floating, but the maitre d'hotel needed reassurance that it was strong enough....

I loved the way the cake looked, but the location made it impossible to get a photo of it without something distracting in the background!

This is probably my favourite picture. I'm thinking this is the view the bride and groom had when they cut into it.  Wonder how they felt when they did that?

Thursday, 2 August 2012

Alphabetica M, N, O postcards

M is for multicoloured.  I punched little flowers from lots of odd bits of handmade backgrounds.  In my mind's eye this was much prettier LOL.  Think I should probably have started with a circle and worked out.

M for mosaic - stamped on a handmade background, using a bit of fun foam stuck on the end of a chopstick!

N for nautical - a Queen Anne's Dresser sailor stamp, with some seashells and texture.

N for nature - this one came out better than I'd hoped - a Distress Ink background, stencilled with modelling paste.  Stencil by Crafters Workshop, coloured with Brilliance inks, Adirondack inks, and a little Treasure Gold here and there.

O for organza.  Pelmet vilene base, sprayed with colourwashes, then layered with organza scraps and hand stitched.  A little label - moulding paste spread onto cardstock, scratched into, and painted with fluid acrylics once dry - and a few sequins & beads.

O for organza - layered organza, scored with a soldering iron, beaded and hand stitched, a la Margaret Beal.



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