Sunday, May 31, 2009

Seashell Lamp

Yep-you can use the same technique as the flower pots,on a lamp.

This started out as one of those clay colored ginger-jar lamps.You know the ones.The type everybody had back in the 70's and 80's.A new millenium,a new lamp!

You use the exact,same techinque,as the flower pots,except you don't have to use the concrete sealer on it.You need to make sure the shells are really tight together,or you're gonna get dust bunnies in there.And you don't want that.Yuck!
Spray it well with the polyurethane sealer at the end.That makes it easier to dust(if you are so inclined to dust.......which,I try to avoid,if I can.I'd rather make things than dust,but I digress).

Let there be light!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Those Pesky Sea Urchins

For all of those that have e-mailed me and asked how do I clean those stinky,smelly critters,this post is for you........

The only tools you need are:a dental pick,a bucket of clean water,small,sharp scissors(like embroidery scissors),and the most important of all is patience.

First of all,I really try to clean them the day I find them. It can become an overwhelming job if you wait until you get home from vacation.By then,they stink to the high-Heavens,and you want absolutely nothing to do with them.And,so,they will sit in the garage until your neighbors are convinced you're hiding a dead body.And you definitely don't want the police at your door,asking to search your garage.Just to find old,smelly sea embarrassing would that be?
I've also found they tend to break more easily the longer they sit.
So,let's get to it,shall we?As soon as I return from the beach,I put them to soak in clean,fresh water.I leave the animal inside until all the spines are off.I've found that seems to give it more support.Or, I just may be lucky........whatever it is,it works.Cradling(gently) the urchin in my palm,I just start rubbing the spines off with my thumb and forefinger.Occassionally,the urchin will go back into the fresh water,if for no other reason,than I can't take it anymore(break time!).The fresh water,also,seems to soften the animal,so it's easier to remove,later on.
You may have to pull a few of the stubborn spines off,but just say a little prayer,grit your teeth,and tug ever so gently. If you can do it under running water(remember it's your water bill...)it seems to go much faster,but in these times of water restrictions,probably not a good idea.
After all the spines are off,it's time for the really delicate part.Getting that dead,stinky,critter out.This is where you need to go s--l--o--w.....
First,I run the dental pick around to see how lose it is.If you're lucky(and remember it is better to be lucky than good!),the animal will be soft and pull right out,but if not and if it's still hard,I take the tiny scissors and try to cut him up,and then remove it in pieces.
Just take your time,and PATIENCE!!!!
After all the spines are off,and the animal is removed,I soak them in a 50-50(or even weaker) bleach water solution for about 10 minutes.No longer.Then rinse really well under running water,inside and out.
I try not to dry them in the sun,as that seems to fade them.I just lay them on a cookie sheet covered with newspapers,and let them air dry.If you have a rack of some sort(a baking rack?) and a small fan,even better.
After they are totally dried out,I coat them with a 50-50 white glue and water solution.Inside and out.You can use either a sponge brush or an old paintbrush.They're like sand dollars.The more coats of the glue solution you apply,the stronger they are.
So,there you have it.That's how I do it.If anyone has another way,I'd love to hear it.I'm all about easier......
And that's why I always say,"If I pick up another sea urchin,someone please shoot me!"
But I always pick 'em up..........
(Note-once,I didn't have any bleach with me,and I used a touch of Dawn dish soap.That seemed to work too.)

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Seashell Planter

I have been asked numerous time,"How do you make those planters?"
Well,fellow crafters,I'm gonna tell ya.So,grab a big(this is gonna be a loooonnng post) glass of iced tea(preferably Sweet Tea-this is the South,ya know),and let's begin,shall we?

For this project you will need:
1. shells-I like to call them "tourist shells" or craft shells-they are by no means perfect(in fact,if they are broken or halved,all the better),and the more texture they have,the better.i.e.jewel box,arks,false Angel Wings,prickly cockles,broken mini-horse conchs.You will need some slipper shells(to transition between shells),and some smooth shells (just to provide a break in the texture).You will need a LOT of these type shells.The size of the flower pot will dictate what size shell you need.You don't want to use tiny shells on a big pot(it would take forever)and you don't want to use large shells on a small pot.You do still need to randomize the sizes tho.Just for appearance sake.
2. flower pot,and saucer-for this project,I used a 10 3/4" pot with a 6" saucer
3. concrete sealer -I used Thompson's Water Sealer for concrete.It does come in a spray can.
4. Kilz -the spray type,I've found nothing else works better(and you'll see why,as we go along)
5. spray metallic paint
6. glazing medium-buy the quart size at Home Depot or Lowe's-you're gonna use most of it for a pot this size
7. spray polyurethane
8. paint brush-the older the better(you're gonna ruin whatever you use-so just use an old,cheap one)
9.rags(preferably towels-they're gonna add more texture)
10. Glue gun (yesss!!!!!)
11. Glue sticks-you're going to use plenty,so buy the big package.
12.An old toothbrush-or any small,stiff bristled brush

Start by sealing the flower pot,inside and out,with the concrete sealer.This is going to protect any water from working its way thru to the shells.
After the sealer is dry,get out the trusty glue gun and have at it.......This is the hardest part,just figuring out what shell looks good where.Sort of like putting a jig-saw puzzle together.
Once you have the pot covered with the shells(and your burns from the glue gun have healed-I only got 3 blisters making this pot.I'm getting better!),it's time to head outside.
Spray the pot,inside and out,with the Kilz,making sure you have very good coverage.It may take 2 0r 3 coats to cover all the shells.You want to make sure the Kilz has covered everything.Even if you have chosen to not cover the entire pot with the shells.
At this point,take the toothbrush and break up any of the fibers left from the hot glue.I've found this is the easiest way to find them.Just run the brush over the fibers.
Now,it's getting good,crafters.This is the fun part.
Time to paint!For this project,I used metallic copper spray paint.
You will need to put the pot on something to raise it up(I used another spray paint can).Spray it from the top and the bottom(very important-this assures you good coverage-you don't want any of the shells showing through the paint).And the inside of the pot,also.It may take 2-3 coats to accomplish this.
Now,we're ready to glaze.I used black acrylic paint(mixed with just a touch of green) in the glazing medium.I've found it's best to lay the pot on it's side and work with the glaze,one side at a time.That way,you can be assured that the glaze will run down into any pockets between the shells.And it won't leave run marks on the shells,either.Make sure you work the glaze deep into the shells-this is why you use an the old paint brush.As the glaze is starting to set up(this takes only minutes,I assure you),start taking it off with the old towels.It may take 2 0r 3 coats of the glaze to achieve the effect you want.This project only took 2 coats.
Time to finish!!!!
I absolutely cannot stress this enough.Spray,spray,spray,spray,spray with the polyurethane!!!This is your final coat of protection.It will make or break your project.This pot got 4 coats of the polyurethane.4 coats on the inside.4 coats on the outside,standing right side up.4 coats with it upside down.
Voila!!!!The finished pot,all planted up................................along with some of the other color-ways I've done.

Some final thoughts....
-These pots aren't meant to be exposed to the elements.I keep our's on our covered front entryway.
-I don't plant a plant directly into the planter-I put the plant in a plastic pot,first,and then into the planter.
-They have gotten wet,and have done just fine.I do set them out in the rain,every once in a while,and let them get a good soaking.None of the shells have popped off.
-You can use the same technique to make picture frames,too.You just wouldn't have to go through quite so many steps with the sealing process.
-Use any color combination you like.The glaze should be the darkest color,tho.It makes the shells pop.
-You will notice,that on the other 2 pots,I randomized the shells more.You don't have to go all the way to the top,if you don't want to.
I,most of all,want to thank SanibelToots for helping with this project.Does anyone know how many shells it takes to do this.....?
Have fun!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Sanibel Island Treasures...................

We just got back from 6 days on Sanibel Island,and I thought I'd share how I am going to display some of the shells I found.
This first is just an old white plate,with a candle I got on clearance(who doesn't love clearance items?).

In all reality,I got the idea from Sarah at ABeachCottage.Check out her blog,if you want to see some great ideas for displaying beach treasures.She's amazing!
The next one is of a tall jar that sits on our fireplace hearth.Of all the beach treasures I find.Not necessarily shells,mind you.Just the flotsam I find on the beach that appeals to me,and reminds me of where I have been.
All of the sea urchins I found,this trip(12,I think),have joined others in an antique wooden bowl that sits on the sideboard in our dining room.
Anf there you have it.........Just how we display our beach stuff.......