Archive for February, 2014


Many people still don’t believe that a mobile phone’s camera output is capable of producing large prints. Some reckon it’s only good for 6x4s, or at a stretch, A4 prints. Others turn their noses up and claim that a smartphone’s photos can never match or rival that of a DSLR. When I mention that I’m researching textile design and wallpaper and rugs to put my mobile photography images on, I get skeptical looks and raised eyebrows. And when visitors to my home see my prints hanging on the wall with their very own eyes, they still can’t believe they were done using a smartphone’s camera.

Now, I’ve already written about image resolutions and print sizes previously.  This post is not a rehash of previous material. I just want to share with you how I got my image “BIRD WITH CHERRY BLOSSOMS” from my smartphone:

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up on my bedroom wall like this (it’s 18 x 24 inches, or 46 x 61 cm):

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The first image was created on my trusty Samsung Galaxy S4. The image resolution is 1514 x 2018 pixels. I wanted a feature for my bedroom’s newly created “Altar to Simplicity”, ok , it’s where I burn my fragranced candles and pretend I’m a New Ager. The space was huge and devoid of any other pictures i.e it was a blank, albeit light pink, canvas.

For a pink bedroom, the curtains were dark blue. That’s because the hubby liked a darker, more masculine colour, and also because the curtains are black-out lined. They have to be; the previous curtains were floral and let the morning sun through. Which is fine…except for when the sun rises before 5 every morning and hits your face on your pillow and wakes you up all grumpy!

But anyway, I digress. The reason I chose this particular image “BIRD WITH CHERRY BLOSSOMS” was because 1) it contained metallic colours which I was curious to see how they translated into real life, 2) it contained shades of blue and red, to complement the colour of the curtains and the bedroom wall, and 3) my “Altar” had a cherry blossom branch on it (the white IKEA flowerpots contain my candles, btw), and the image had similar blossoms on it.

I’d already seen how my images of similar resolutions as the one above, can get translated successfully onto wrapped canvas and as posters.  Using OnOne Software’s “Perfect Resize 7″ on my Mac, I’ve been able to resize my images to fit a canvas of 12×40 inches (or 31 x 102 cm) and a poster 2 x 3 feet (61 x 92 cm).  I could, if I wanted to, prime my Epson Artisan 1430 to print the image onto tissue paper, to be pasted onto an A3 canvas and then sealed and varnished – but that process is very time-consuming, and printer inks are expensive, so I decided to use the services of a Print-on-Demand (POD) site instead.

Recently, I’d researched the work of artist Kathe Fraga and ordered 2 of her images mounted onto wood (hardboard actually), from AllPosters.com. The 2 pieces were delivered really quickly (postage was by FedEx and a tad dear), and I was pleasantly surprised at the quality of the finished product. They looked really well on the wall of my living room. Inspired and encouraged by this, I decided I would like to have my own image mounted onto wood (hardboard) too. None of the other online POD sites I frequent offered wood-mounted prints, so I decided I’d try AllPosters’ service. When you go to their site, it’s not immediately obvious that you are able to print your own images. The button to click is on the right, headed “My Photos”. It will take you to another area where you can upload your photos, choose the format of your print, select a frame if required, and process your order.

http://www.allposters.com/myphotos

So, I uploaded my pic, chose the wood mounting option, like so:

All Posters screenshot BIRD WITH CHERRY BLOSSOMS

Needless to say, I’m very pleased with the product, and I shall no doubt be ordering more wood-mounted prints through AllPosters in the future.

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Life Philosophy in Quotes

I have a Pinterest board named “Inspirational Thoughts”. That board has nearly a thousand pins on it, more by the time you’ve read this post. I like collecting inspirational quotes, both for their content and the beautiful artwork and designs that these countless artists/photographers/writers have created.

Today I thought I’d share some of my favourite inspirational quotes with you. Call it an experiment. I’m just going to post up the images as I see them, and hope that they speak to your heart and soul too. It’s a bit like a Rorschach inkblot test, or a snapshot of how my subconscious feels today.

Feel free to repin them to your own Pinterest board, or share them. I apologise for not having the names of the people who created the artwork or images, there are too many of them! Many of the quotes name the famous person who quipped it, and also bear the signature or website of the artist who created the artwork.

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This is Real Living’s Dec 2012 (Xmas) issue. I love magazines, but not during Christmas when they all invariably have Christmas themes or play on the season so much it becomes cloying.

Thankfully, Real Living’s Xmas issue isn’t overly Christmassy. Here are my favourite 10 images from this issue.

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Actually, this “Hard To Find” catalogue was inside the issue. See that item on the top left that has Scrabble tiles spelling out “Happy Days”? That’s by my cousin Mabel Tan, who goes by the name Happee Monkee. Way to go, cuz!

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I’m a fan of Royal Albert fine china. I wish I could afford their beautiful teasets. But right now, I can only afford to buy the odd teacup and saucer. Sigh! One day, perhaps… I do have a cupboard full of vintage teacups and saucers, but no one to drink tea with. Am seriously toying with the idea of setting up a teashop called “The Madhatter’s Teaparty” a la Alice in Wonderland, and setting the tables with mismatched china. That would be so twee.

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Again, my obsession with birds. I believe this fascination comes from keeping 6 budgies, 2 weiros, 2 hens and over 20 Japanese quail. One of my quails is so tame she flies up onto my knee when I hold out their favourite treat of shredded cheese.

When I was around 10, my Dad found a bird of prey caught up in netting near his workplace. He brought it home to nurse its injured wing. We didn’t have a cage for it, what my clever Mum did was upturn a plastic laundry basket over it. We slipped a bowl of water under, and fed the sea hawk (that’s what I think it was) through the “cage” openings. It ate chunks of raw chicken and pork, boiled eggs and fish entrails. Yummy.

We had that bird about one week. We asked the local zoo if they would take it in and they weren’t the slightest bit interested. We asked the Jurong Bird Park in Singapore across the causeway, and they didn’t want the hassle of import papers and such bureaucracy in order for the poor sea hawk to cross borders.

In the end, we simply brought the bird to the park near us and took the laundry basket off it. The hawk waddled around for a minute, glaring at us, then it stretched its wings for the first time in over a week, flapped about tentatively for a few long seconds. Then it took off into the sunset. I shall always remember that shadowy silhouette against the backdrop of an orange sun.

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Ah, terrariums! These don’t have living plants in them though, they are instead receptacles for displaying collections. You could do an entire museum’s worth of terrariums. Seashells, bones, buttons, dried flowers, etc.

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These 2 birds are so cute! I have 2 black wire birds from K-Mart, they are cheap and made in China, but oh so jaunty and cute. I intend to fill them with feathers or smooth pebbles, or maybe just keep them empty, to enjoy their sculptural quality.

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Just love the Origami feel to this light fitting. I could easily make this myself! Might be a tad hard to clean though, with all those folds.

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I’d like to dedicate an entire wall of my house to displaying photos in frames like in this picture. I’m not really one for black & white images, so I figure mine will be a rather colourful wall!

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Hubby bought 2 cans of herrings in mustard the other day. And yes, they are the tins with the old-fashioned roll-up “key”. I might try and create my own tin-of-fish sculptures. I once did a mixed media hanging piece from a map of Scotland, where we’d been on holiday, a few seashells and a fish-shaped bowl, which I stuck with hot glue onto a prepared MDF frame (MDF and I were very good friends in the late 1990s lol). The whole thing was then varnished til glossy. I called the piece “Seafood Platter”. Those were the days, my friend.

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I like the idea of stacking up books into a pillar. It’s sculptural and arty. But it wouldn’t be practical in our house, not with 1 kid, 2 dogs and 1 cat running around.

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Why buy your Christmas presents from the mall, where things are mass produced, and support cheap overseas labour, when you could buy something handcrafted by an artist, and support local talent?

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In this second instalment of my current series on Real Living, here are the 10 things I like from the October 2012 issue.

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These light fittings don’t so much say “Lights!” to me, as they scream “Terrariums!” I’ve seen online several adaptations of glass light fittings as beautiful terrariums. One day I hope to come across a glass fitting that would make the perfect terrarium. Why is glass so expensive?

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I just love the simple, graphic lines of these serving bowls and platters. Sometimes less is more, as is the case here. You could do this quite easily yourself, with all-white china and Sharpie markers. Some day I intend to try my hand at creating my own “dot” Aboriginal-inspired art on plain china, just with a black Sharpie marker. Apparently, it you then baked the china for 20-30 minutes in a warm oven, it sets the ink. Though I would think that still doesn’t make it dishwasher-proof.

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You gotta have a bit of kitsch now and then! I always have a thing for birds. I had a Galah cockatoo briefly, called Buddy. But I think he was already ill when I got him, as he soon wasted away to nothing and died :-(. It would have been brilliant to have a parrot or cockatoo perched on my shoulder and following me around the house.

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Someday I might be brave enough to try stencilling words on my living room wall. Or, maybe even go for an all-white decor. This looks quite nautical, with the blue stripes. Maybe a hammock in the corner, and some nautical-inspired accessories too?

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Another great example of repurposing books. And an easy one to do, this. Simply fold the pages of an old book in half, then fan out and use as a business card holder. Or, why not place Artist Trading Cards in between the pages?

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I’ve always had a thing for grungy facades, doors with peeling paint, mildewed walls. I think it gives a building character. One of my favourite things is to explore the ruins of medieval castles ; I just wish Australia had a similar heritage…

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One of my favourite motifs that I use in my mobile photography art is birds. As I’m no good at drawing, I use Dover bird illustrations or line drawings instead. I like to blend my bird images with colourful backgrounds or textures, for added interest. An idea for a future project is to make “map” birds like this one, although mine will be digital, of course.

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Someday, I will have a gorgeous collection of globes just like these! I actually saw some nice globes at TYPO just the other day, there were 3 different sizes. Unfortunately, though, they were full price.

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This is how I make pizza dough. I found my recipe online, but this could be the very same recipe. It’s easy to make, and guess what, I use the same recipe to make bagels and Chinese buns too. The only difference is that for making bagels, you first boil the dough rings before baking. And Chinese buns need an extra spoonful of sugar in the mix, and you can fill the dough with char siew pork mix or Nutella, before being steamed.

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The other day, as is my wont, I was looking around my local thrift store when I scored a major hit. Over a dozen past issues of the Australian magazine Real Living, for the princely sum of $1 each. Result!

Now, I thought the best way to make use of my finds is to glean images that inspire me, that speak to me. So, for this purpose, I shall be posting up my 10 favourite photos from each issue of the magazine, and explaining why I like them. If anything, they will serve as a springboard for my own creativity. And who knows, some of these ideas might strike a chord in yourself too?

Here then are the 10 things I like from the September 2012 issue of Real Living:

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I love Tetley’s new range of teas. They now come in pyramid bags. My favourites are Peppermint with Lemongrass, and Green Tea with Pomegranate. The funny thing is, although I have over 2 dozen vintage teacups and saucers, I never use a teacup for my tea, just a mug. Call me irreverent, but I use my teacups to drink coffee out of! When I’m not using them for drinking, I like to stack them up at jaunty angles and take photos of them. Check out my Madhatter’s Teaparty series.

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With this photo, I just like the muted green colours and the layout of ephemera over the map. I’d like to find some old antique maps, and use them as backdrops for staging.

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Recently, I started getting into using scented candles, after visiting Dusk. Now, my bedroom has an “Altar to Simplicity” with a large, 2-wick candle and a set of 3 small blue glass votive holders. Now, I’m always on the lookout for exciting new fragrances, unusual receptacles, discounts etc. There is something to be said about clearing everything off a dresser or table, and designating only a few, specific items to it. It’s like practising Zen meditation. Declutter your surface, unclutter your mind.

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No, we haven’t got a crate like these 2 gents…but we do have an aluminium trough that does the same thing. We filled the bottom with torn cardboard boxes, then some mulch and hay, then ten 25-litre bags of potting compost. The plants we put in were aubergine, mint, Chinese pak choi, 2 types of lettuce, zucchini, lemongrass, Thai basil, curry leaves, Laksa leaves, and a papaya tree. I also threw in some longan and lychee seeds, with the hope they might sprout.

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I love the idea of repurposing items, giving them a second chance at being useful and used. These colourful cans are great for planting herbs and would look lovely lining a kitchen windowsill.

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And yes, there’s always Chocolate…

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I miss having a double storey house, like the ones I lived in in England. If I did have one now, it would be an Edwardian mansion with a staircase like this, and yes, I rather fancy them being painted black too. So dramatic.

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If only the ceilings were higher in our house. Or, if only our house was classy and showy, rather than being a messy, lived-in place hehe. They say you have to choose 2 out of these 3 things: children, pets and a clean house. I chose the first 2.

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I really like the cushion here, the one with the face on it. And the sweet orchids planted in a glass vase. And the black accents. Black is a taboo colour for most Asian families, signifying death and bad luck. In the West, though, black is considered classy and was until recent times the mainstay of corporate wear. Black goes with anything, I especially like it with ruby red or orange.

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I’d love to have the money to deck out our front porch like this. So I can sit out front with a cup of tea, and watch our hens in their run, and enjoy our vegetable patch and succulent garden.

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Isn’t Life funny?  Just the other day the kid and I were channel surfing on Foxtel, when we came across the Australian film “Goddess“.  In a nutshell, it’s the story of Elspeth Dickens, who used to sing at gigs in England but who has now followed her husband James to a remote outpost in Tasmania, along with little twin boys.  While James is off recording whale songs, away for months at a time, she’s left at home bored with playing the dutiful housewife.  One day she decides to rig up a webcam in her kitchen and record her “kitchen sink songs”…never realising that the world would be tuning in and watching her antics.  Never mind that she has gorgeous, dark looks like Nigella Lawson, and in one scene wears a beautiful dark green wrap-round dress with tabbed-up sleeves (that I’ve been desperately trying to find out more about, but have so far failed … if anyone knows where I can buy THAT dress, I’ll be eternally grateful!!), the girl can sing!

I’m placing Laura and Nigella side by side here, with my prediction that when they eventually make a film about the life of Nigella, it will be Laura who plays her.  You can see why, can’t you?

Nigella Lawson

Nigella Lawson

Laura Michelle Kelly

Laura Michelle Kelly

The wonderful Laura Michelle Kelly plays Elle (Elspeth), and the gorgeous Ronan Keating plays her whale-watcher husband Jimmy (James).  There is a beautiful song that Laura sings with Ronan, in a music-video-within-a-film scene, where the estranged couple are singing out their hearts’ anguish. The title of the song?  “Frozen Heart”.

Just the other day, I brought the kid to the cinema to watch Disney’s animated movie “Frozen“.  For a second, I was worried that Disney’s feel-good, family fun films might prove too childish for his 11-year-old sensibilities.  But I needn’t have worried.  “Frozen” has to be Disney’s best animated film of the year 2013.  I was moved to tears throughout the entire film.  Bravo, Disney!  The music is so fresh, original and wonderful that right after the movie, I went and bought the soundtrack… which I have since then found, is heading to topple the soundtrack of Titanic as longest No.1 run for a soundtrack.  http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/frozen-targeting-longest-no-1-682543

Told you I had a good ear for great music! ;-)

But anyhow, the reason I’ve been compelled to write this post is simply to point out the coincidence, or call it serendipity if you will, of that one duet from “Goddess” and the theme for “Frozen”.  The duet’s title is “Frozen Heart”.  In the movie “Frozen”, Queen Elsa inadvertently sends a shard of frozen ice into the heart of her sister the Princess Anna, and only “an act of true love, can melt a frozen heart”.

There is a character in “Frozen” called Olaf.  He’s a snowman.  Don’t get me started on Olaf…he’s not terribly bright, but his heart is in the right place, and he comes out with the sweetest lines.  He wouldn’t think twice of giving up his life to save Princess Anna. He even likes the whole idea of Summer, even though it will mean the end of him.  Silly sod… but if you’ve watched the film, you’ll love Olaf too.

Here is THAT Green Dress that I love, can anyone help me find out who designed it, or where I can buy one like it?  I’m throwing this one out there into the world…someone please answer my prayers!

Elspeth's Green Dress in Goddess

Elspeth’s Green Dress in Goddess

P/s: (added 26th Feb 2014)
I found this YouTube video of the song “Frozen Heart”, sung by Laura Michelle Kelly and Ronan Keating, and thought I’d share it here with you. It’s MY song at the moment.

Frozen Heart

I’ve had friends ask me how I create colourfield backgrounds for blending with other images.

It’s very simple, really. The App is an Android app called “Impressionist Fingerpaint”. I believe it’s meant to create impressionistic images by the use of different brushes. However, I haven’t managed to get Impressionistic images from using this App, the way the developers had in mind (like Renoir, Manet etc). Instead, I really like using it for creating colourfield backgrounds. A nice serendipitous by-product, if you will. I’m not sure how it happens, but any backgrounds I create using this App will contain depth and transparency rarely seen elsewhere, which is exactly what I need to create images that “pop”.

The following image shows the parameters that you can manipulate in Impressionist Fingerpaint, to do with Colour.

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These are the “brushes” available in the app, listed under the heading Style. No other parameters, brush size, opacity, blend types etc are available. (There is an Undo button, however it only appears to undo 1 move; if I click on the Undo button a second time, it causes the whole App to crash).

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So, how do I create my colourfield backgrounds? I’m passionate about colours, and attracted to vivid and bright images. If I haven’t got an image with the “right” colours, I have a folder on my Galaxy S4 smartphone of saved images from Pinterest, specifically for their colours. Note that I don’t use anyone else’s photo per se; what I do is this: I “harvest” the colours from images by using this App, in order to use them later with my own images or with clipart/collaged items. Call it my “colour palette”, if you like.

Here is an image taken from Pinterest, to demonstrate the process of creating a colourfield background.

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I just love the blues and greens in this photo, and that gorgeous little bit of lavender. Did I already say I love vivid, bright colours?

My favourite colourway to use in the App is “Vivid”, the “Circles” and the “Pastel” brush under Style. I start with Circles, and finish with the Pastel brush. Having selected these, I simply brush my index finger over my chosen image, in long strokes or in a circular motion, until I’m sure that all areas have been covered. I check this by ticking and unticking the “Show Overlay”.

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(Image above is with the “Show Overlay” ticked. I wish the App developers had programmed this as the default for saving, as it’s really beautiful in its own right. However, there is no way of saving this overlaid image, unless you take a screenshot and then crop the rest of the screen out. Which would make the image resolution quite tiny by comparison).

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(Image above is the same app’d photo but without the Overlay showing. This will be how the App saves the image).

So, there you have it. A colourfield background that can be used to provide colour to photos. I wrote about this App in a previous post http://alyzenmoonshadow.com/?s=impressionist+fingerpaint&submit=Search however, that was about how to use the App itself. This post simply shows how to create backgrounds.

Here are some more images, showing the various stages of processing:

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(Showing Overlay)

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Here are some colourfield backgrounds I have created, that you can save to your own device, copy and paste, or utilise whichever way you want. Yes, more FREEBIES from moi! Enjoy!

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In this tutorial, I shall demonstrate how I created this image:

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I call this one “Turquoise Sea/Sky with Butterflies”. I really love the translucent colours here, and the depth of the image.

Apps used:

PiZap
Impressionist Fingerpaint
PicsArt
Frax
Photo Editor

Process:

The background image is from the App Pizap. Note: the resolution of images using this App is small. What I do is I resize the image after blending with another image, using Photo Editor.

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              PiZap background image.

This next image, above, is a colourfield background I created using Impressionist Fingerpaint. I free resized the PiZap background and then blended the 2 images above using PicsArt, to get this image:

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Next, I needed another image to provide interest and contrast.

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I used an image I’d created in Frax, an iOS App. I used my iPad 2 for this, and transferred the image to my Samsung Galaxy S4 for blending in PicsArt.

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The above is the result of the second blend using PicsArt. I carefully centred the inner spiral around the butterfly motif in the middle of the PiZap image, to emphasise the subject.

I added some butterfly clipart to the image, again using PicsArt.

I felt that the colours of the resulting image were too muted and there was not enough contrast, so that had to be rectified.

To do this, I ran the image through Photo Editor. I’m really pleased with how the colours really sing and pop in this image!

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There are numerous Print-on-Demand websites available online, where you can upload your images or artwork and either buy them yourself, or post them up for the public to buy. With more and more demand for DIY-consumers, a plethora of new POD sites have sprung up, seemingly overnight. Everyone wants to see their own creations make the leap from virtual to in-the-flesh reality. Some concentrate purely on art prints and posters, others offer a wide range of customisable items. If you are new to all this, here are just a few sites to check out:

Society 6

Zazzle

Red Bubble

Fine Art America

Saatchi Art

Cafe Press

Art of Where 

Whilst I do have my artwork for sale on many such sites, my favourite by far is Society 6. Why do I like Society 6? Well, it has a smooth User Interface. The product range is good and rapidly expanding – you can have your artwork as a print, poster, cards, wrapped canvas, iPhone/iPod/Samsung Galaxy S4 covers or skins, t-shirts, baby onesies, tote bags, throw pillows, laptop/iPad skins, mugs, and most recently added – wall clocks. (Of all the POD sites I’ve encountered, Cafe Press offers the widest range of products, however, I must be doing something wrong, because every time I’ve tried to open up a Cafe Press store, my computer just churns away and nothing gets saved or posted up). Society 6 may have far fewer products, but it’s slick, efficient and user friendly, so it ticks all the boxes for me.

When you first type in the web address for Society 6, here is the attractive front of store page:

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In order to post anything up for sale, you will need to register first.  It’s an easy enough process, and can be completed within minutes. I’m on Society 6 as AlyZen Moonshadow, so my address is http://www.society6.com/alyzenmoonshadow  You can use this address to promote your page to your friends and social circles.

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Let’s say you have a piece of artwork you wish to sell. Now, the blurb does say that you should not resize your images, to avoid pixellation. However, I do resample my original image using Perfect Resize from OnOneSoftware, for the sake of quality and consistency. If you don’t have access to any proprietary resampling/resizing software, please do not simply enlarge the size of your original image and post that up on Society 6, as that will certainly bring out pixellation when it’s translated to different products. If you do use a resampling/resizing programme, try to load your image onto Society 6 in the region of 4000×6000 pixels for vertical images, as a general guide. I say this because if the image that you first upload to Society 6 is too small (e.g only 1200×1800 pixels), then you will be limited as to how large your artwork can be printed, which means the range of products you can sell on your Society 6 store will be reduced.

Loading that first image onto Society 6 is the first step. You need to provide a title and description for your work. You will also have to choose from up to 4 different categories to describe your work. I always get stuck on this part, as my work is hard to categorise; it’s a little bit of this, a little bit of that.

I’ll walk you through how to post up an item for sale after you’ve signed in; just follow the screenshots:

The image I’m posting up is my BIRDS IN LOVE (Blue), from my Calico Birds Series, created on my Samsung Galaxy S4.  This has been resized to 4500×6500 pixels using Perfect Resize 7.

Birds In Love (Blue) by AlyZen Moonshadow

Birds In Love (Blue) by AlyZen Moonshadow

I then uploaded this onto my Society 6 page:

Page for loading title, item descriptions and categories.

Page for loading title, item descriptions and categories.

The page will start to load up your image. Once the counter reaches 100%, a drop-down box will appear asking you to name your cut for selling prints and posters. You can ask as much as you like, and Society 6 will show you their cut of the profits, and the price they will sell your artwork at to the customer. Have a look at what other artists are asking for their work, and try to use similar pricing structures, as you don’t want to undersell yourself, and neither do you want to overprice yourself out of the market.

Pricing of items

Pricing of items

Once you’re happy with this, click the “Publish This” button at the bottom. Your image is now ready to be purchased as prints and posters by discerning customers. A new page will open, giving you the opportunity to add more products using the same image. Here’s where the fun begins. Each different product requires a different template size, so you Will need some sort of software programme or App to satisfy these requirements. For ease of reference, I’ve listed the sizing requirements here:

SOCIETY 6 TEMPLATE SIZES (width x height in pixels)

iPhone case:  1300 x 2000

T-shirt:  3300×5100

Throw Pillow and Wall Clock: at least 3500×3500, max 6500×6500 (square format). The newest addition to Society 6′s range is the Shower Curtain – to activate this, you need to have your image at at least 6000×6000. 

Mug: 4600×2000

Laptop/iPad skin: 4600×3000

Tip: For black t-shirts, run the t-shirt sized image thru Photoshop and save as PNG. If you use a JPEG, you can only see your t-shirt on light fabrics.

Now, as my BIRDS IN LOVE (BLUE) image is a portrait, or vertical image, it would look wrong compressed to fit Society 6′s horizontally oriented mug or laptop templates. Therefore, I’ve left them out.  Instead, I’ll be offering prints, posters, iPhone/iPod/Galaxy S4 cases and skins, t-shirts, throw pillows, wall clocks, kid’s tees and baby onesies, and tote bags.

Once your formatted images have been uploaded successfully onto the templates, you simply click on the “Return to Post” link at the bottom, and you’ll be taken to the page where your item is listed. From here, you can either just purchase your item for yourself, or why not share it with your social circles? Society 6 gives you the option to share to StumbledUpon, Twitter, Pinterest, Wanelo, Google +, Facebook. Now, it took about 5 minutes to load up all the templates, and in that time I had 3 Faves from people surfing the site – these show up as “Promoted” in the screenshot:

Showing range of items available for this design

Showing range of items available for this design

And there you go, you’ve successfully posted up an item for sale on Society 6! Now let’s go get some sales out of this!

P/s: I learnt something new today – how to do a screenshot on my Mac! Yay me! Handy hint: use Command+Shift+3.  http://www.printscreenmac.com

First in Glass

Fresh off the press and hot on the heels of my newest hobby, this timely article from the UK’s Telegraph newspaper. Yup, talk about serendipity.

Tovah Martin on Terrariums

Here it is in its entirety, only because Tovah speaks so eloquently and with such passion about the subject. (As for me, I shall be spending my free time scouring thrift shops, discount stores and the mall for suitable glass containers to use for my next terrarium projects).

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The latest green-fingered trend to arrive from America is crystal clear: mini gardens encased in glass. And at the forefront of this micro movement is Tovah Martin

If you’ve noticed a trend toward transparency, blame it on the latest spin on indoor gardening to tingle the imagination of wannabe gardeners, from schoolchildren to seniors and everyone in between. Mini-gardens encased in glass are the way to go, if you hanker for horticultural action but lack time, space, light, or a green thumb. Everyone is putting a lid on it.

If you are having a déjà vu moment, that might be because many of us have been here before. We all missed the first brush with terrariums starting in the 1820s when Nathaniel Ward, a keen naturalist, tried repeatedly to cosset hardy ferns in his London apartment – but failed due to the dry, polluted environment.

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Ward had given up all hope of nurturing fronds when a volunteer fern spore sprouted in a stoppered wine bottle where he was storing a cocoon. Not only could he host fiddleheads in his home at last, but years later they were still chugging merrily along without any intervention on his part. He took the concept several steps further with elaborate “closely glazed” cases, incorporating a generous dose of Victorian ornament. Wardian cases, that looked like someone shrank the Crystal Palace, were born and were soon all the rage.

The next wave was when the rest of us got on board. Pigeonhole terrariums right alongside macramé plant hangers, beaded curtains, lava lamps, and the back to the land movement of the Seventies. That time around, they were the gardening version of a ship-in-a-bottle with small-mouthed vessels being planted with tools tied to chopsticks (and left to decompose due to difficulty of access), and slimy fishbowls holding just about everything that could be crammed inside. Think science experiment rather than work of art.

The new terrarium

There is no need to rush out and dust off the aquarium or plunk down major cash for an original Wardian case. In its latest manifestation, the terrarium is sleek, thoughtfully composed and highly creative. This craze is more along the lines of creating a mini contemplation garden. And these showpieces are not necessarily housed in pricey units sold specifically for the purpose. Half the fun lies in recruiting unlikely vessels to serve as venues. The current trend is leaning toward curvaceous apothecary jars, recycled lemonade dispensers, covered cake dishes, and the like.

Shortly after my book The New Terrarium (Clarkson Potter) came out in 2009, the phone started jingling with demands for terrarium-making workshops. It began with a request from an inner city library system to train their school librarians, then the news seeped into classrooms and beyond.

My take on these tiny territories is all about growing plants, but the trend is evolving: Terrarium Craft (Timber Press, £9.99), just published in the States, is a more craft and home decor approach. Published in Britain in May (see below), it is bound to swell the ranks of the terrarium people even further.

Terrarium workshops are now sweeping the States. Children who have never noticed a seed pod before suddenly see the beauty and value in the twigs, stones, sweet gum balls, and other natural flotsam around them. Garden centres, clubs, teachers, senior centres are getting in the groove. After a class, the terrarium photos flood in. I have even received a poem dedicated to a particularly inspirational (I guess) terrarium.

And, walk into any American garden centre and you meet a barrage of garden furniture that could easily accommodate your average mouse. Mini tchotchkes are omnipresent. Snicker if you will, but there is a reason behind terrarium-mania. As our frenetic schedules reach another level of delirium and chances to link with the soil slip out of reach, it is little wonder that people are turning toward terrariums for a small dose of nature. Think about it, you could create a mini-landscape where there was just an antiseptic office cubicle before.

Terrariums can serve up nature into spaces that are just not flower-friendly.

Just the facts

The back story is that terrariums are mini-biospheres. Because they are closed environments, you water a terrarium infrequently and it continues on autopilot for weeks, sometimes months, occasionally years without intervention — watered by the condensation on the glass. Terrariums prefer low light (direct sunbeams will fry the photosynthesising occupants inside).

While heating systems in the cruel world indoors blast dry air, closed cases increase humidity within their confines. They are compact and buttoned down to keep dirt in its place. In other words, terrariums are custom made for working folks without a free moment to do much more than just glance over at a miniature garden percolating along. No time? Want nature at your elbow? Get a terrarium.

But it goes beyond convenience. A terrarium lets everyone access their inner gardener — no matter where they live. Without a single square yard of land, anyone can install a garden. And this will be the smallest design project you will ever tackle. Terrariums can hold a single plant or a trio. But they can also nurture a scaled-down garden with gravel paths, ornaments, and all the fixings.

People give them as gifts, although it’s admittedly difficult to part with a newly crafted crystal kingdom. I should know — I have over 20 terrariums loitering around my home. People become attached to them. Which isn’t surprising, really. It’s a satisfying and inexpensive outlet that anyone can try, wherever you live or work – groundbreaking for the masses. It’s a small world after all.

Planting a terrarium

Here is how it’s done:

Start with an inch thick layer of small pebbles and horticultural charcoal mixed together and laid on the bottom of a glass container.

Put in the next layer of 2-3in of moistened potting soil, lightly tamped down. When working with a cloche, make a “volcano” shape and plant in the centre of the “crater”.

Dig a hole in the soil to receive each plant and then firm it into the soil. Add bits of nature such as lichen-covered twigs, seed pods, or meditation stones. Use gloves when handling moss.

Water the plants lightly and close the lid. The condensation means that the magic is working, no need to clean it off.

Place the terrarium away from direct light.

Air out a terrarium for a few hours every 2-3 weeks and then put the lid back on. If condensation forms on the glass again, you don’t need to add water. If not, give it a light drink. In other words, terrariums tell you when they need more water.

Terrarium plants

Find the right plants for the venue, and a terrarium can perk along for years without fuss or bother. But not all plants are made for life in a closed case. Which qualify? Terrarium-worthy plants are dwarf and prefer high humidity and low light. In other words, cacti and succulents do not perform over the long haul. But many lowlight tropical plants are custom-made for a terrarium career.

Here are some suggestions:
Miniature orchids
Ferns
Mosses (especially Selaginella moss)
Fittonia — nerve plant
African violets
Tillandsias — air plants
Peperomias
Pileas
Dwarf ivies
Miniature rhizomatous begonias
Creeping fig — Ficus pumila
Strawberry begonia — Saxifraga stolonifera

For more, visit Tovah’s blog at http://www.terrariumwise.com
The New Terrarium by Tovah Martin (Clarkson Potter, £16.99) is available from Telegraph Books at £14.99 + £1.25 p&p.
Terrarium Craft, by Amy Bryant Aiello and Kate Bryant (Timber Press, £9.99), is available from Telegraph Books at £9.99 + 99p p&p. Call 0844 871 1515 or visit books.telegraph.co.uk

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