DIY Play Birthday Cake with Duct Tape on Babiekins

DIY Play Birthday Cake with and oatmeal box and duct tape

March and April are big birthday months around here (My oldest turned 8 recently and I just might have turned another year older a week or so ago). So what better way to celebrate than with a DIY play birthday cake! And out of our favorite repurposed items such as an oatmeal box and duct tape makes this earth friendly, no-cal cake even better! I’ve actually had this DIY birthday cake in mind for some time, even wanted to use it in my book, but never could get it just right. I had ideas of covering it in fabric, or painting it and then finally resolved to stick with one of my favorite crafting items, the ever bright and endurable duct tape.

Head on over to the Babiekins blog for full instructions on how to make this DIY play cake.

DIY Play Birthday Cake with and oatmeal box and duct tape

It’s been fun playing around with duct tape again. In fact I’ve got a new batch of things in this medium to share with you soon. Can’t wait!

DIY Play Birthday Cake with and oatmeal box and duct tape

We had my darling niece over during her spring break to model for this cake. And how cute is this Miszko Maszko star printed skirt she’s wearing? I’m smitten.

DIY Play Birthday Cake with and oatmeal box and duct tape

I don’t know about you but I’m now seriously craving a real slice of cake..and since it is still my birthday month…

PLAYFUL: Fun Projects to Make With + For Kids available for pre-order!

Playful_cover1000

Just wanted to pop in and share that my book PLAYFUL: Fun Projects to Make With + For Kids is up on Amazon for pre-order. We had gone back on forth on a cover and they cover committee settled on this one.  So fun!

PLAYFUL is divided into five categories—Playful Dress Up, Playful Toys, Playful Paper Crafts, Playful Repurposing, and Playful Art. So many fun things you can make with and for the little ones in your life.

 

You can read up on a bit of the making of PLAYFUL here.

Make an Egg on a Shelf

egg on a shelf

Little O has been going absolutely nuts for our recent Easter Bunny Egg on a Shelf  (sort of inspired by Elf on a Shelf but we have no story behind him, he just sits there. But you could add a story if  you wanted to). I think I’ll fill him up with candy (after closing off the bottom somehow) for Easter day. Get a template and learn how to make your very own version over on Minted. You won’t want to stop at just one, as there are so many different egg-on-a-shelf characters you could make! (Little O insisted on making an Olaf snowman character which was fun).

 

 

Our Boys Spring Mix fashion picks over at Pinhole Press

Boys Spring Mix for Pinholepress | Mer MagWhen Pinhole Press contacted me about the idea of blogging about kids style for their inspiration blog I was completely excited. I love their brand and am inspired by their modern and beautiful products (Little O is obsessed with his new “Mario” scribble pad and they both love playing the matching game complete with their personalized mugs. So fun!). I don’t consider myself a kids fashion expert (there are so many who are much more in this world) but I do know what I like and what my boys like and we’ve enjoyed sharing a bit about that here over the years on the blog. For Pinhole Press we gathered together some spring looks, such as the Preppy Pageboy and Artsy Athlete, from some of our favorite brands for boys (girls picks will be coming later!). Alison over at Pinhole Press also asked me to add some illustrations which was super fun to do. I found the clothing itself to be a great source of inspiration (for example we love the dotted boy + girl shirt above and had to play with that idea more). Boys Spring Mix for Pinholepress | the artsy athleteFor links to our Artsy Athlete picks (are you dying over those Miszko Maszko scale leggings as much as I am?!) and more head on over to newly launched Pinhole Press inspiration blog!

 

On style and the evolution of your voice

Personal style is something that is always emerging and shifting and recently I’ve been wanting to define for myself what that looks like. I love the conversation of getting and staying in touch with what is and always has and will be within us. I believe that absolutely all of us have something unique to say. No one else can have all the same experiences, history, tastes, feelings, etc. that we have all rolled into one. Which means we all have a story. We all have a voice that is uniquely ours. That’s not to say we aren’t influenced by one another. My design teachers always reiterated that we “don’t live in a vacuum”, meaning we are surrounded by past circling ideas, thoughts and aesthetics that are in our world. But that can be a beautiful thing if we use the unique opportunities to make new and find new ways to say “this is who I am and what I have to say about my corner of the world”.

There are multiple levels of getting in touch with this I think. There is the upper chatter level – the trends, the fun stuff, the shifts in design, etc., and then there is the deeper stuff – the things that speak to your soul, that say who you are and settle you into your bliss. I think a healthy combination of both keeps us vibrant and in tune with the moving world while still being rooted within our own artistic soul. This will evolve and change but if it’s to evolve in a true way it needs to stay in touch with who you are at your deepest core level.

So what does that mean for me? What chattering conversations in design am I interested in and make me a feel giddy? And what core things do I need to feed my inner creative soul?Playful French Industrial | mer mag

images sources: 1) stripey dress 2) vintage doll beds 3) my craft room shelves 4) hi five print 5) darling girl with yellow basket

I remember reading something from an Oprah Winfrey magazine years ago about discovering what your core home decor style is. The author mentions closing your eyes and thinking about qualities and moments you envisioned your future home would be like as a child. What about it made you feel happy, safe, alive and at home. What did it feel like? Warm and cozy? Cool and open? Was there an ocean outside? Mountains? White flowing curtains? Clean lines? etc. Whatever you saw and felt would be the essence of your home design style. And from there you could build upon it with more specifics, unique moments and trends. I think this concept can also be used for finding what your core design and art style is. What do you see and feel when you close your eyes? I love Eva, of Sycamore Street Press’, conversation about how she found her Minimal Bohemian style and how her illustration and design work is now evolving with her to meet up with that style. So great.

For me when I close my eyes and try to think how my “at home style” feels I’m met with myself as a little girl, perhaps in a vintage French black and white dress, maybe a bit messy from a few crafty painting sessions. I’m in a room with chunky white floorboards and weathered wood either on the walls or furniture. Cardboard dollhouses and tigers made from oatmeal boxes adorn the room. It feels open and cool, even a bit breezy with a window open and in invitation to climb atop the roof. Pockets of brightly primary colored art and toys sit upon a shelf – some new and clean and some old and worn. And a little vintage rag doll in the corner in her bed.  Always a doll. There is a metal desk that looks like it could have come from an old school or hospital with heaps of paper atop and a thick paintbrush ready to dip into inky colors. Here I am happy. Here I can make, dream, sleep, relax, imagine, scheme, nibble, and solve.

Some things I take from this is that I’m drawn to some things a bit weathered, and industrial paired with other things modern. Stark scratchy blacks, and white, paired at times with pops of bold primaries – and blues, always a lot of inky blues (in fact I have more blue fabric overflowing in my craft room than any other color). Definitely playful – must invite and encourage play with a little touch of the moody (I’ve always had a love affair with rainy day moodiness – maybe something to do with my super fair skin?). And a little bit of French theatrical – think moody modern clowns in colorful weathered vintage clothing. And a touch of Mid-Century Modern French Peasant (if that is such a thing?…makes sense in my head – basically taking my grandparents self built mid-century modern home and dropping it in the rural countryside of France, with a short commute into Paris, sounds just about right). So in short, as my friend Meta coined it as:

Moody Modern Playful French Industrial

(Ok I guess that’s not that “short”. I need a shorthand version for this style like how Eva coined her “Minimal Bohemian” style. Maybe Playful French Industrial? Any other ideas?)

Playful French Industrial | mer mag

image sources: 6) Paapje Blanket 7) Charles Eames 8) cardboard necklace craft 9) School House Electric office 10) my yellow reading bear 11) girl with head scarf 12) gallery wall with striped rug

Alongside an existing illustration persona, I’ve been working in and developing this more naive style for say the past 4-5 years which has revealed itself mostly within my kid’s crafts (initially so that kids could also make it) and home decor. I simply love the juxtaposition of graphic modern and vintage neutrals mixed with a bit bright pops of colors (shown below in this pic of Little O with our duct tape castle).  This style has both intentionally and organically evolved and continues to develop within my work for kids and adults. It has been a fun adventure and discovery process and I love sharing it all with you!

Interlocking Castle| mer mag

When I was in art school many people asked me what I wanted to “do”. Paint? Design? Illustrate? Make Clothing? Toys? And I all could say was, Yes? I have often told people that when it comes down to it I am a maker. I love to make art within several mediums and in many diverse forms. I’ve never been too concerned with titles such as “artist” vs “illustrator” etc. I know there are worlds that have been set up to support either on of these titles. I do consider myself as an artist. But I also consider myself a maker and creator of all things I find lovely and inspiring, particularly in the children’s world.

I had a conversation recently with a few friends about influences and sharing what we love, and where our inspirations come from, which is always great thing to do. I do this a bit on Pinterest and on other social media platforms but I thought it would be fun to start blogging about it more. Perhaps even have a monthly (I can never commit to weekly ;)) column about inspiration?

All of the images from this post speak to me and take me to my “happy place”. I have also gathered a few works of art that I find inspiring.Inspirational Artistsimage sources: 1) Art from picture book One Step, Two… 2) The Shelf, Nicolas 1955 3) Cy Twombly 1955 4) work by Super Bingo 5) Marguerite by Henri Matisse  6) Hauser & Wirth textiles  7) Matisse paper cuts 8) vintage picture books such as this Czech title by Alois Mikulka

I’m very much in love with this first image by Roger Duvoisin, for Charlotte Zolotow’s  1955 children’s book One Step Two. I purchased a vintage copy when pregnant with baby M and was very excited about adding a little girl to our family. The story is so special to me as it talks about taking moments to notice the little things that children do. It smells perfectly wonderfully dusty and this last image of the mother holding her sleeping little girl is not only gorgeous but tender for me.  The other images showcase some of the more naive and modern work that alongside my narrative work, I’ve always been interested in. And I’ve been searching for ways to connect the two for some time now. I’m also really drawn to the many works by Matisse and am especially enamoured with this Margaruite painting. Not his typical style that you think of when right away but a stunning work nonetheless. What I wouldn’t give to have this hanging in my home! And I love the change from this to his more renowned geometric paper cuts that he did when his eye sight weakened. Beautiful evolution of style due to personal circumstances and tastes. Personally I’d love both together on one wall. The mixing of the two is very interesting and exciting for me.

McKay and Velma

I’m also very inspired by childhood and times past when play was very organic and self made. When mom’s sewed their children’s costumes and toys came from cracker boxes and were carved out of branches from backyards. At the present I’m particularly inspired by my grandparents and their life and home in Boulder, Colorado. They were passionate makers and lovers of beauty, faith, family and cultivation. They figured out how to build a mid-century modern home from the ground up all by reading books! No lie. My grandfather was passionate about music and my grandmother was a painter and they were both completely dedicated to crafting their life with their family. Their legacy and my memories of visiting their home are very close to my heart and now that both have passed (my grandfather last year and grandmother just earlier this month) I feel very drawn to telling some of their story – my story – in my work as well. This little vintage rocking horse was made by my grandfather for my father in 1953. And when I visited my grandmother for the last time this past Christmas I was able to snap a photo on my phone of baby M riding on it. It’s very inspiring and special to me.

VintageRockingHorse

So what about you? When you close your eyes, what do you see as your core style? What things make up you and your story? I’d love to hear as the evolution and journey of personal style is so fun and interesting to me.

An 8 year old Birthday Boy

Happy 8th!

This kid turned 8 yesterday and I can hardly believe it. 8 is such a milestone, a bridge between being a “little” kid to, oh I don’t know what, an bigger kid. We had fun celebrating with him with a little hike, some family gifts, dinner and a Harry Potter movie (which he’s all into now. He and his brother are constantly disarming each other’s wands). His actual party party will take place next weekend. So happy to have this kid in my life!

More Bunny Plate Pals

DIY paper plate bunny pal | mer mag

Don’t say I didn’t warn you about my love of bunnies. So we had to do a couple of “boy” versions or our paper plate bunny friend. You could still make these into bags or just fill with candy and place inside your little one’s Easter basket.

DIY paper plate bunny pal | mer mag

I love the idea of having your little ones paint the paper plates and ears shapes first before adding the face details. You could even cut up scraps of paper to make the eyes, nose, cheeks etc. And We had to add a few bow-ties, making these little friends egg-stra dapper. (more…)

DIY Bunny Paper Plate Purse - filled with Easter candy!

DIY paper plate bunny purse | mer mag

I must give you fair warning that I’m a little bit obsessed with bunnies (do you find that there are a few animals that you always gravitate to? lions, llamas, bunnies, polar and black bears are top hitters for me) so when a holiday comes about that includes say, oh an Easter Bunny, well I feel full license to go full steam ahead with my bunny obsession. So be prepared for a possible onslaught of bunny themed items in the upcoming weeks ahead. Don’t say I didn’t’ warn you ;).

So on that note, I’m excited to share with you this simple DIY Bunny Paper Plate Purse. It’s so simple and easy to do with little ones – and after being filled with treats ends up the perfect little accessory for your child’s Easter Sunday best. (more…)

DIY Silly Face Stamps and a Get Messy Contest!

DIY Face Stamps | mer mag

We love to make stamps out of simple shapes – you can see our first go at making geo stamps in this post here. Recently we made another set with the idea of making silly faces out of them. And we’ve been having a whole lot of fun with them ever since!

DIY Face Stamps | mer mag

DIY Face Stamps | mer mag

To make these we used the same technique as we did with our first set of geo stamps, of cutting out shapes from craft foam and gluing them onto wooden blocks. You can get a refresher of this technique in this post here. You can also download a template of the shapes we used (more…)

Making dresses for baby girl

Baby Dress | mer mag

Last Easter I tried to take a stab at not only making a dress for baby M but making up the pattern as well. I quickly found out that it’s a whole lot harder (for me at least) than I thought it would be. The dress was waaaay to large and had all kinds of puckers and problems. I still liked the color combo however so decided to keep it for when she was older. Cut to the present, a year later, and I just tried it on her this weekend. It’s still not perfect but I had a lot of fun seeing her romp around in it. It’s inspired me to sew more dresses for her and really hone my skills a bit more (I can use a pattern no problem, but making up my own is new territory for me).

Baby Dress | mer mag

I think it would be so fun to try and sew one simple dress (or clothing item) for her a week. Not sure if I’ll be able to keep up with it each and every week but I like the goal. My friend Meta, of One More Mushroom, is also thinking about doing it with me and I’m excited to share with all of you the results.

Baby Dress | mer mag

If you have any good patterns that you recommend I’d love to hear about them! I’m sure many of you are much more versed in this world than I am.