Saturday, March 26, 2011

Silk Purse from Sow's Ear

So after four-plus years of Blackletter classes at Atelier Gargoyle, I had acquired an impressive pile of butcher paper practice sheets that it seemed wrong to throw away.  One of my classmates had suggested I use them for wrapping paper, which was fun and different--very cute when tied with string.  For some reason I thought to grab a few sheets as I went out the door to an evening collage class with the inimitable Anna Corba, incongruously but delightfully being held at Knitterly, a favorite local yarn store.  We were provided with kits and lots of boxes of ephemera to dig through, and I thought my walnut-inked specimens were a nice contrast to the image elements.  (Don't look too closely at the letterforms, Linnea & Ward--the sheets are really old, okay?  That's my story anyway.)

We made collages on two pieces of matboard, then coated them with melted beeswax, which gave them surprising depth and dimension.  The covers were assembled with the notebook elements and bound together with ribbon.

 A fun project and a nice mid-week escape!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Let Them Eat Cake!: Karen's Cake

I had already asked my dear neighbor Wendy Remer, an amazing chocolatier, to make a cake for my friend's 50th birthday celebration.  Then we saw the latest issue of Martha Stewart Weddings...

...and were inspired by the wonderful creations of Nan Deluca, Patricia Mumau, Dana Cochran, and Xandra Zamora. We decided to collaborate and create something unique for the occasion.

Having admired the work, and especially the mandalas, of Jane Farr, I was delighted to find her outstanding step-by-step instructions for creating them.  I penned my first mandala around the initial "K", then headed to Fedex Kinko's (or whatever it's called this week) to make a few enlargements.

With luck (and a 40% off coupon) I found an electric stencil cutter at Michaels--I didn't even know such a thing existed!  What a dream to work with!  It's kind of like a woodburning tool with a very fine tip.  It seems to work well on .003 and thicker acetate sheets, as well as the stencil blanks that are sold for this purpose.

I taped the design to my work table, then a piece of glass over that, and the blank stencil on top.  With a little practice I was able to keep the tool moving smoothly enough.  (I did have my husband improve the insulation, though--it gets very hot!).

The pieces popped out easily with a craft knife.

I set the stencil over a piece of black paper to make sure I hadn't missed any sections...

...and on a whim, took out my pan chalks and a cotton ball to give it a test run.

Then it was time to head over to Wendy's for further experimentation!  She had seen a video on using stencils with royal icing, which specified that the icing should be the consistency of mayonnaise.  She tried out the stencil on her Silpat mat with mayonnaise and pink food coloring.  Voila!

Encouraged by success, I cut and pasted elements of the mandala for a stencil to use on the sides of the cake.  We ended up not using it after all.

Though next time we'd make it a bit stiffer, the apricot-tinted royal icing was quite striking over the chocolate fondant, and Wendy added some touches of gold dust to dress it up a bit.  I made a little matching card to go with it (but forgot to take a picture of it).

The Birthday Girl was glowing and gorgeous!


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