Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Laser Etched Coasters

I just wanted to share with you guys what my sister Charisse did when she went to Boston. Today she's giving us an in depth explanation on how she made these laser etched coasters. She is an industrial design graduate and you can check out more of her work on her Behance page.


Hi guys! Today I’m gonna show you how I made these fancy coasters!

A little background

I signed up for an introductory workshop at Danger!awesome, a laser cutting and engraving shop that also customizes stuff. The workshop included free 30 mins of using the laser machine for myself, so what better way of spending it than by making fancy coasters!

The strength of laser cutting and engraving is that it works like a printer and CNC machine, so you can do a pretty complex design and it’ll show clearly. Also, you can make a gazillion copies and not get tired, because there’s little manual work.

Designing the engraving

First, I thought of a design to make. I wanted to do something complex to make most of the laser’s capabilities, so I wanted lots of patterns. It is kind of a trend now to use owls in design, and I think it’s really cool to incorporate patterns into the owl form.

I looked for a photo of an owl, opened it in Illustrator, and traced the owl off. I changed the owl along the way, I’ll just show you the before and after:

Now with those shapes laid out, I chose what patterns to fill and what shape the coaster will be. The computer will only read black and white, so whatever that’s going to be black is going to be engraved/burned off by the laser. I made a few studies as shown:

After finally selecting the design, it’s time to save it and go to the shop!

Laser cutting

The guys over at the laser shop would explain to you the technical stuff regarding file output. For this project, I had a .PNG file of the engraving and a vector cutting path. Anyway, here’s what the laser machine looks like with a plank of wood inside:

Another good thing about lasers is that you can work on a very wide range of materials, such as wood, metal, glass, plastic, leather, even paper! But for this one, I used thin plywood.

I started off with engraving and cutting only one coaster, so I could get the settings right for the next ones (left photo). And then I did the others in a batch to save time (center, right photo).

When the laser has cut through the plank, the pieces just usually fall off. When you take them out, the edges are black with soot and they’ll smell kinda burnt but that’s okay.

Now they’re off the machine and they look awesome! Since they are coasters, I have to put some coating on them to prevent water from seeping in.

First I wiped off the soot from the edges. That kinda takes a while. And then I had to sand the coaster off a bit until it was smooth to the touch. Note: be careful with the engraved side! Sanding it off vigorously might cause splinters in the engraving and we don’t want that.

Then I wiped it off with a damp cloth, not too damp, just enough to absorb the sawdust. When it’s dry and dust-free, we can now apply a finish! Yay!


There are many finishes that can be applied to plywood, but I chose clear paint sealer (the one on spray paint cans) instead of plain varnish because I don’t want to see irregularities on the coat from brushstrokes and I don’t want a glossy finish. It’s totally fine if you want it glossy, or brush-on, or whatever, just be sure to apply them right.

I did the job outside the house (you don’t want fumes lingering inside). I didn’t use newspaper underneath because it might stick to the coat, and that’s a myth I don’t want to test.

I did what the can told me to do: spray on from a distance, and wait until 3-5 mins before applying the next coat. I did three coats. I tried it first at the back of one coaster before trying it on all the others. I did the back first, then the front.

After the coat dries up, you’re done!

Monday, July 29, 2013

Using Wall Decals

Here's a design tip. Decals are not just for store front signage, you can also use them as wall decoration for your home. If you are renting an apartment, and the building has strict rules against painting and installing wallpaper, then wall decals are the way to go.

Another advantage of using wall decals is that they are highly customizable - you can install them however and wherever you want. There are many different styles for wall decals that are available everywhere. In this case, this huge gold heart shaped decal from Urban Walls was used as a "statement piece" for an office.

There are also patterned wall decals that totally look like wallpaper. I like the triangle decals in the photo because they make the room look fun.

Wall decals are easy to apply as long as the surface is clean. It will stick to almost any kind of surface. And if in the future you change your mind and decide to replace them, you can just easily peel them off. Also, they're easy to clean. Since wall decals are made of vinyl, you can just wipe them with a damp cloth.

Here's another patterned wall decal: plus signs. The black plus signs look cool against white furniture. It looks clean, but it shows a lot of contrast.

And here is one of my favorites: Gold polka dots. 

Gold polka dots also look nice in a little girl's bedroom. It's totally different from the usual pastel painted kids rooms. No, they won't make your room look like it's infected with chickenpox. Because really, they're cute and quirky. And even if you're a grown up it will still look nice in your room. :)

Friday, July 26, 2013

Bottle Cap Magnets

Pippa from BuzzFeed gave me an opportunity do a craft challenge by using nail polish in unconventional ways. Aside from the water marbled drawer knobs and the earrings makeover, I decided to embellish these bottle cap magnets with colorful nail polish.

You will need: bottle caps, magnets, mounting tape (or hot glue), different colors of nail polish and clear nail polish. These step by step photos below already speak for themselves! :)

Kelly Green Accents

I am in love with kelly green at the moment because it's such a glamorous color. But I like to use this kind of green sparingly. In a room that has a black and white or neutral color scheme, you can add kelly green as accent. That extra pop of color will make the room look even more sophisticated.

My favorite example is the entryway below by City Dwellin'. Upon entering the room, you are greeted by the solid, bright green credenza along with the black and white patterns on the wall and on the floor. The bunch of white peonies also gave the room more charm.

1. Entryway via City Dwellin'
2. Living room via Charm Home Design
3. Dining room by Kay Douglas via Veranda. Photo by Mali Azima
4. Dining room by Christina Murphy Interiors via TRADHome. Photo by John Bessler

This is my inspiration board for the color scheme. Also, I love the wallpaper. It's very Great Gatsby.

1. Superfresco Easy Cinema Wallpaper, Graham and Brown
2. Emerald Table Lamp, Lowes
3. Credenza, Fabulous Mess
4. Parsons Side Table, Bungalow 5
5. Arbor Trellis Linen Print Pillow, Shades of Light
6. Quincy Pillow in Green, Joss & Main
7. Stockholm Three Seat Sofa, Ikea

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Spray Painted Ombre Glass Bottles

Last weekend I did an upcycle project on glass bottles. I turned them into flower vases and spray painted them ombre-style. (Those are fake flowers by the way, haha)

My sister, who is a graduate of industrial design, has a collection of bottles that she used for her packaging class. She doesn't need them anymore so I asked her if I can have them. 

I removed the labels, washed the bottles, and wiped them dry. Make sure you cover the floor with newspaper so that the spray paint won't mess up your flooring. And then place the bottles upside down. I sprayed about 2 coats of white paint with flat finish.

While the white paint was drying, I took a photo of the spray paint that I was going to use as accent colors for my bottles. The colors are (not so) baby pink, cool green, and lilac. I bought these at the hardware store.

Your bottles should still be upside down. When using your accent spray paint, aim your nozzle at the bottle's bottom about 10 inches away and at an angle. You should be able to cover half of the bottle. Sorry I don't have a photo of me doing it, I couldn't take a photo and spray at the same time. But I made this so others can visualize what I did:

The effect should look like this: Saturated at the bottom, and it gets lighter and lighter to the top.

Wait for it to completely dry before you can use them. I bought these fake flowers at the department store and placed these vases in my bedroom. If you're into fresh flowers, then I guess that's better :)

And you're done!

Monday, July 22, 2013

My Experiment on Mac and Cheese with Broccoli

When I was younger, we didn't really have mac and cheese for snack time. Because we usually had pancit canton. I know mac and cheese is a popular snack for kids. My niece loves this but I think it's better if you cook it home made than eat the boxed kind. So I had to experiment and make my own version of mac and cheese - with broccoli too.

- 2 cups elbow macaroni
- 2 cups milk
- 2 cups grated cheddar cheese
- 1 cup parmesan cheese spread
- 1 head of broccoli, chopped (maybe around 2 cups too?)
- pinch of salt and pepper

1. Chop the broccoli and boil until cooked. Drain with a strainer and set this aside.
2. Pour 2 cups of milk in a pot, and 2 cups of macaroni. Let it cook for around 5 minutes. 
3. When it's starting to get thick and bubbly, add the cheddar cheese. I had a bottle of McCormick Parmesan Bread Spread that I don't really use, so I added this on my mac and cheese.
4. Mix mix mix. Turn off the heat and add the broccoli.

The result is an ooey gooey cheesy mac and cheese. I like it. Not bad for my first attempt. But I do recommend adding different kinds of cheese, not just the cheddar type, for more flavor.

How do you want your mac and cheese? Should it be creamy? Should it be milky? Or do you overload it with cheese?

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Good Finds at 10a Alabama Arts and Crafts Fair

Yesterday I went to the 10a Alabama Arts and Crafts Fair, where you can find handmade goodies. There were so many pretty items! The sellers were very friendly and they did not hesitate to answer my questions about their products.

I bought this kitty felt pin from Gawani Femi and a cute ice cream ring from Pop Junk Love  Both of these are for my little nieces. I also bought a chevron printed notebook from Spellbound, and I got a free back issue of Real Living Magazine! 

I wanted to buy a lot of things, but I didn't have enough money :P But here are other good finds at the fair:

Sleeping eye patches by Monsterella

Dreamcatcher necklaces and bracelets by Eureka Design Co.

Origami earrings by Orig.Kami

Adventure Time stuffed felt dolls by Pop Junk Love

Tansan (bottle cap) pins by Pop! Pins

Hand painted resin pendants by Thingamabobs

These cute hand painted bottle cap clips. I can't remember the name of the seller :(

Felt speech bubbles by Gawani Femi

Friday, July 19, 2013

Coral and Navy

Here's another awesome color combination: coral and navy.

Navy and coral make a pair of complimentary colors. This means the colors are opposite each other on the color wheel. Navy blue is such a rich and classic color, while coral is bright and energizing. Navy is somewhat masculine, and coral is more feminine. 

Both are bold colors and strongly contrast each other. You can partner them with neutral colored items, and gold and white accessories. Your room (or your outfit?) will look amazing.

1. Living Room via Style At Home. Photo by Stacey Van Berkel-Haines
2. Bedroom via Decorchick
3. Dining display via Design Sponge. Design by M Design Interiors. Photo by Justin Officer
4. Nursery via Cococozy Photo by Pam Cooley

Here are some items for the home that would fit the color scheme.

1. Love Knots Guest Towel Tray, One Kings Lane
2. Peach and Gold Pot, upintheairsomewhere
3. Coral Reef Ovo Table Lamp, Lamps Plus
4. Trellis Coral Pillow Cover, Oh My Pillow
5. Baris Decorative Pillow, Furbish Studio
6. Lampert Sofa in Venice Navy, Jonathan Adler
7. Homespun Trellis Navy Rug, Rugs USA
8. Red Coral Study, Williams-Sonoma

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Handmade Dolls by Simpli Jessi

Jessi Halliday Mesalic is an architectural designer, whose hobby for making dolls has turned into a crafty business. She owns Simpli Jessi, which is a store that sells handmade dolls created by Jessi herself.

These dolls are made from recycled and organic materials such as natural linens, organic cotton stuffing, felt, yarn and recycled fibers. Each doll is unique and has his/her own special character. Every doll has a different hairdo, different facial feature, and different clothing style.

She also makes customized dolls specially made to look like her clients, their kids and even their pets. And it's so cute that she makes the dolls wear mini versions of her clients' clothes.

If I were a child again, I would probably enjoy having these handmade dolls as a toy. 

This doll even has her own superhero costume :)

Jessi sells these dolls at craft fairs and she will be at the Ann Arbor Art Fair from July 16-20. You can visit Jessi's website here and read her blog here.

Photos by Jessi Halliday Mesalic

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