Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Beaded Branch Abacus by Judi Kauffman for The Queen’s Ink

I thought I’d go in a different direction for this week’s project. It has undertones of mixed media, and I think my high school math teacher would be pleased with what I designed…An abacus!

I found a photo with a quick online search to use as a reference and made an abacus with glass beads, wire, and a branch. It’s a real (functional) abacus that can be used when it’s flat on a table, but it turns into something that’s decorative and sculptural when it’s hanging. It’ll be interesting to see if anyone recognizes it as an abacus without my giving away the secret…

This project is a good way to use up a lot of beads. It looks great when it’s hanging in a window with light streaming through. And it is super easy and lots of fun to make.

Instead of a step-by-step tutorial, I’m providing only the idea and a few photos. No two people have the same collection of beads, branches are all different – so make it your own way and in a color combination that pleases your eye.

Other Options:
  • Use a painted dowel instead of a branch and stick with a more structured look.
  • Use clay beads instead of glass.
  • Instead of a wall hanging, use memory wire for the top and bottom rows, regular wire in between, and use same-size beads to create a wearable abacus bracelet. (When you wear it you can use it as a tip calculator. I made one with faux pearls and it’s a conversation starter – kids LOVE it…)


  • Gather some beads, making sure that the wire you’ve chosen will easily fit through the holes.
  • Plan the abacus on a kitchen towel so the beads won’t roll around.
  • Rearrange until you’re happy with the way things look.
  • Have fun!

Monday, June 12, 2017

Make New Friends, but Keep the Old! - By Judi Kauffman for The Queen’s Ink

Back in around 2000, my friend, New Mexico artist Jo Rango and I designed rubber stamps for Red Castle, Inc. Her quirky creatures and unique frames were among my favorite stamps, then and now.

Fast forward to 2017. These days many of my newest favorite stamps are from RubberMoon (Kae Pea and other artists), Lynne Perrella, Dyan Reaveley, and the late Laurel Burch – all of the stamps among my ‘finds’ at The Queen’s Ink!

I thought it would be fun to host a ‘mixer’ and introduce the friends from my past to my newest acquaintances (call me the ‘match.com of rubber stamps’!) The dance was a success. They got along, just as I’d envisioned. There will be many second and third dates and it looks like there could even be a couple of weddings on the horizon…

It turned into a very long evening, resulting in a batch of hanging ornaments and simple greeting cards, the kind of projects that are fast, easy, and perfect for coloring on-the-go. Some of the stamps were shy (that's a good way of saying that there was a bit of masking needed here and there). Instead of drinks and snacks, I served up markers, pens and colored pencils.

Mission accomplished!


Introduce some of YOUR oldest stamps to some of your newest. Get silly (or choose pretty stamps and head for elegant instead). Mix in quirky sentiments (or go for ‘happy birthday’ and other traditional greetings).
 The key is to come up with unexpected juxtapositions that please your eye and make you smile! And then MAIL them to far-flung friends and family, or HAND-DELIVER to neighbors, colleagues, and the folks you live with.

For my projects, the frames are all by Jo (from a sheet called Rango Dragonflies and Friends, just in case you can find it on eBay). The scene with birds, worm and tree in the first ornament shown at the start of this tutorial was done with one of her stamps shown in its original frame. Everything else is from the artists previously mentioned.
Do you have stamps with simple frames? Ornate ones? Stencils, perhaps, or dies that cut frames and borders? Because Jo’s stamps are no longer available, you’ll need to make substitutions. RubberMoon has lots of options. You could draw your own, do some cut-and-paste collage, or create frames with stamps that were not originally intended as frames but that can be combined to make them (like RubberMoon Stampstracts).

Head on over to the web store if you want to shop right now or sign up for classes, and be sure to come by the store to check out what’s new and visit in person. There’s ALWAYS something new!

  • Rubber stamps from RubberMoon, Laurel Burch (Stampendous), Lynne Perrella (PaperArtsy), Dyan Reaveley (Ranger)
  • Coloring medium of choice (Winsor & Newton ProMarkers, Sakura Gelly Roll Medium in White)
  • Inkpad in dark color of choice
  • Cardstock
  • Fine metallic braid, chenille needle 

Monday, June 5, 2017

Finding Inspiration: Carla Sonheim - by Judi Kauffman for The Queen’s Ink

I hope that during five decades of teaching art I’ve been a source of inspiration for my students. Helping others gain skills and confidence in their creativity is my goal and mission. But where do I turn for inspiration? Good question (and one I’ve been asked many times over the years). I turn to the work of other artists and designers as well as to the crayon drawings of children. I look at my surroundings, finding ideas in the colors, shapes and patterns provided by nature as well as manmade objects. I try to be a sponge, absorbing odd bits of information through my eyes and hands.

By a stroke of good fortune, I was hired by several magazines to write profiles about artists and designers. During the two decades when this was part of my day job, I got to interview a wide variety of people. Carla Sonheim was one of them, and even though we haven’t met in person we’ve stayed in good touch. Right from the start she’s been a constant source of inspiration. I follow her blog. I have been her student, taking several online classes, and we’ve exchanged ‘real (snail)’ mail, too.

Once a month Carla posts a photo of a sidewalk crack on her blog and challenges the rest of us to find something in the lines that we can use for a drawing. Most of the time I print the photo and then use tracing paper for my drawings. For some reason, this time I decided to draw right on top of the gray-scale printout.

It’s so much fun to turn the paper upside down and sideways, looking at it until a bird, animal, person, a still life or a scene magically appears! As you can see from the cat above and the mice below, there’s no way to predict what I’ll find.

Sometimes I use a pencil so I can change my mind, erase and revise the basic outlines, but most of the time I commit to the marks and use a broad nib black pen right from the get-go. Then it’s all about adding color and more line work.

I hope you now have a new-found respect for sidewalk cracks, or for that matter cracks in ceilings, walls and roadways. Or the wrinkles and folds in your laundry, the patterns that water makes when it flows from the hose and down the driveway after washing the car… That’s the fun thing about inspiration: It’s everywhere and it’s FREE!

A suggestion for all who keep art journals: Instead of working on loose sheets of paper, work straight in your journal! Glue the printout onto a page, paint and draw right over it.

Instead of 8.5” x 11”, work much larger or scale down to postcard or rotary file card size. There are so many ways to incorporate this kind of ‘seeing’ into whatever you’re already doing.

Be sure to visit Carla Sonheim’s blog and if you leave a comment, tell her Judi sent you!

  • Lightweight paper
  • (optional: Tracing paper)
  • Markers and pens of choice
  • (optional: Colored pencils, paints)
  • Printout of sidewalk crack photos

Monday, May 29, 2017

Altered Board Books, Part 1 by Judi Kauffman for The Queen’s Ink

A friend and I have been doing an ongoing altered board book project, sending the books back and forth from one state to the other after each of us finishes a spread. We chose ‘quotes’ as the theme. Each of us found a children’s book at a yard sale and the two books were the starting point. Hers, with curvy edges, is shown today. Mine, with a basket shape, is coming in June as a separate post – Altered Board Books, Part 2.

At the end, we each keep the book that was ours at the beginning. Sometimes we give ourselves a short turnaround time, other times we take longer…no stress, no rush.
We’ve both done a lot of painting, stenciling, stamping and collage. I cut and tore quotes from a stack of Jane Austen postcards and some Graphic 45 papers for many of my spreads. I used stamps and an embossing folder that are available at The Queen’s Ink, along with dimensional embellishments including a mini wire hanger, an air dry clay flower, lace, embossed and sanded Shimmer Sheetz, tags, collage papers, alphabet and number stickers, cork dots, washi tape, and more.

Two of my altered board book spreads are shown here, enough to give you some ideas and help you get started! 

This project can be done solo, or with one other person or several. If you choose to include another person or a group, make sure everybody is on the same page (pun intended!) when it comes to things like theme and deadline.

My friend and I decided not to alter each other’s pages, but have revised some of our own pages several times! Make up whatever rules and guidelines you want and then bend ONLY the ones that really matter. (We changed deadlines, but kept firmly to the rule about not altering each other’s work! And we’ve both been super careful about packing so neither book has been damaged during all of the trips through the postal system…)

Here’s what to do:

Pick a board book.
Pick a theme (or let things evolve).
Work on one page at a time or one two-page spread at a time, or several all at once.
Sketch on scrap paper if you like to pre-plan, if not, skip this step.
Paint, stencil, stamp, glue things to the pages.
Optional: For durability, seal pages with clear medium (matte or gloss).
Make sure that the spreads are thoroughly dry before closing, sending or storing the book!
Tip: We have trimmed pieces of parchment paper to fit between the pages so that over time they can’t ever stick together.

  • Board book
  • Rubber stamps (RubberMoon)
  • Ink pads
  • Gesso in black and/or white
  • Assorted paints, papers, cardstock, stencils
  • Adhesives appropriate to what you want to adhere
  • Matte and/or gloss medium
  • Markers, pencils (coloring medium of choice)
  • Embellishments, stickers, collage papers
  • Suit of Cards embossing folder (KaiserCraft)
  • Shimmer Sheetz in Fire Opal Gemstone
  • PLUS whatever else you want!

Monday, May 22, 2017

Come On Baby, Let’s Do the Twist! By Judi Kauffman for The Queen’s Ink

I’m channeling my inner Chubby Checker, circa 1960, only this time it’s twist cards, not the dance from back in the day. Old rock and roll cranked up in the background and a lot of card making going on!

‘Twist’ cards are one of my favorite card constructions. They fold flat for mailing, then flip open to stand upright, revealing a double-sided center panel that swivels back and forth! I used a die, but you can find free templates with a quick online search. (Some people call them ‘flip’ cards; search for templates that way, too.)

I thought it would be fun to pull together a lot of the rubber stamps I’ve been using for my blog posts in the last few months, adding one from my collection. All stamps except for the vintage arm with hand are available at The Queen’s Ink! They are from RubberMoon, Her Majesty (The Queen’s Ink’s owner, Patti Euler), Lynne Perella (PaperArsty) and Dyan Reaveley (Ranger).

I chose 2-sided 12 x 12 cardstock from Ken Oliver Crafts for all of the cards, over-stamping right onto the designs in the cardstock. I also incorporated white cardstock for some of the sentiments. I cut, fussy-cut and tore the pieces to create the effects I wanted. I added just a few low-relief embellishments – Glitter Dots peel-offs, flat-backed gems, and some small white resin crowns that I found tucked away in a drawer.

Because no two people have the same stamps and papers, please use my cards to kick-start your own unique projects.

Time for a stroll through the photo gallery…