Monday, May 28, 2012

Calendar Journal Update & Tips for Pyrography

Hello all!
Remember the calendar journal that I started this year and the ideas I had for decorating it? Well, I have finally found the time to decorate it! I have finished the woodburning and now all that is left is to pick a stain, stain it, and layer on the poly! Below are some photos of the calendar journal box, followed by some tips that I have picked up and learned while exploring this neat form of art.

So, I have been exploring the art of woodburning or pyrography for about a year now and here are a few tips that I have picked up along the way:

  • Sketch out your designs first. Try out shapes and lines and ideas on paper and once you've decided on a design, pencil it out on the wood. 
  • Keep a piece of scrap wood nearby to practice burn strokes, to check the temperature of the tip, and to practice a particular shape.
  • Have a piece of sandpaper nearby to run the tip of your pen on periodically. I found that carbon builds up on the tip and makes it more difficult to work with. It often makes it so you must be slower with your strokes to get the darkness you aim for. 
  • Be sure the wood surface is smooth and free of roughness. Sand prior to burning. 
  • Be aware of the characteristics of your burning surface. Something that still plagues me when I burn is softer grains in the wood. They burn more quickly and cause darker spots in lines, as shown below: 

  • As you can see along the darker wood grain, I found a softness that caused these indentations and dark spots. Another way to avoid this is to remember that it's not about the pressure that you apply to the pen, it's the length of time it contacts the wood surface. I have yet to master pen to wood contact and it shows. :P 
  • The type of wood used will affect the experience and the result. Lighter-colored woods like sycamore, basswood, beech, and birch are better for pyrography because the markings show are more visible. And some woods have much longer contact times for contrasting burn marks than others. 
  • Be creative. Don't be afraid to have long contact times. It gives a really nice contrast between the dark burn marks and the untouched wood surface. Experiment with different tips and woods. And even try a wire-nib burner (more on this below).
Those are just a few things that I have picked up along the way - I am definitely not an expert on the matter. I have yet to use a wire-nib burner which has variable temperature and as for the solid-point burner (constant temperature) that I use, I have only used two tips extensively. I have a lot to learn and a lot of practice to go, but this is something that I have enjoyed so far! 

Hope these tips were helpful to anyone looking to try it out! If you have any other tips or tricks to share, please feel free! 

Until next time, have a good day and stay excellent! 
- Jenny - 

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

College Lessons

As I have closed the chapter of my life titled “College,” I have looked back on my four years and smiled. I have learned so much – much more than just what I paid to be taught. College is a time of independence, self-discovery/solidification, and adventure. In this post, I’m going to share some of the things that I learned in my college career but first, I need to lay out a few details: (1) I went to a “party” state school, (2) I chose a difficult curriculum and a medium level of extracurricular activity, (3) I was not a part of the greek system in any way, and (4) I don’t do drugs (never have, never will). That being said – these are a few of the lessons I learned outside the classroom and the lab. The first few are reality-check-type lessons and the last two are life-is-beautiful-type lessons. Enjoy!

·        This ain’t high school
And it’s fabulous that it isn’t. In my experience, friendships and relationships are much simpler and much easier in college. I think it’s mostly because we’ve grown up, we’ve moved on, and we’ve “been there, done that” with the drama. And for those poor souls that don’t learn this lesson early on, they’ll find that many people simply let them go and move on to “chiller” friends who have learned it.

·         The best fun is not the college party.
This is a lesson that I had already kind of expected to be true before I got to college but after going to parties and having their “fun,” I found that it is much too overrated. Too many a college student can’t hold his/her liquor or dignity. I honestly don’t relate to this, “I don’t remember it, so it must have been a hell of a fun night,” mentality. Logically, it doesn’t make sense. But don’t get me wrong, I’m of age and I enjoy alcohol, really I do. Ha! But, I don’t enjoy the college culture that involves it – it’s immature.

The best fun is simple fun. The kinds of activities that bring you back to the things that really matter, the things that you neglect most of the time. Things like your friends (and their glorious, sober personalities that made them your friends), childhood innocence, delicious food, relaxing, and hobbies. The best memories I made in college were going to concerts, having movie nights and marathons, playing video games, and cooking and eating great food with great friends. This is the true fun – not that drunken daze b.s.

·         Some people are ready for independence and some are not.
I saw this everywhere throughout my college career – not just freshman year, though frosh was probably the worst for most people. I was ready for independence. Freshman year, I had high grades, had a job on campus, balanced my checkbook like a good girl, went to all my classes, had my brand of fun, and kept my life, studies, and room in order (organization and cleanliness). But there were examples of people who were not ready: girls who drink too much and get hurt or taken advantage of, people who eat unhealthily just because they can or because that’s “what college students do,” people who skip their classes all the time, and people that don’t know how to even do their own laundry. Even as college wore on evidence of those needing a little more guidance was everywhere – dishwashers are apparently very difficult to run and load properly. :P

Now on to Life is Beautiful :)

·         Get involved!
Even a big school has unity and getting involved is the best way to tap into it. Go to the sports events, attend the free social events put on by the school, join a club, do intramural sports, go to the gym, partake in fitness classes, go for the free food and free t-shirts, learn your school fight song (and love it!), wear your school colors with pride, get to know the people you see in class often, participate in community events put on by the city/town in which your school is located, donate your time, donate blood – Get involved!

WSU is bigger than any school that I have gone to, though it is small for a state university. But no matter how big or small you see WSU, it is undeniable that the school spirit is strong – it’s verging on cultism, if you ask me! :D But I went to football games (Apple Cup!), basketball games, concerts on campus, bbqs, and more! I know my fight song like the back of my hand. I was part of a club for ChemEs and also a part of the multicultural students group for a while. I went to the gym often (though not as often the last year…). I knew my class well, did intramural sports, worked on campus for a dining hall, donated blood, attend the annual Lentil Festival in Pullman and so much more. Doing these things connected me to my school, my community. I urge everyone to get involved. It’s a beautiful way to have fun, stay active, and give back.

·         It’s all about the journey.
I’ve grown a lot since I was a wide-eyed freshman – I have solidified the person that I developed in high school into a stronger, more confident version of myself. Though I have changed a lot, I am still very much the same person that left my high school four years ago. It’s been a beautiful journey through college and it’s important to remember throughout the adventure that is higher education that it’s all about the journey. In the grand scheme of things, one bad grade is just a blip on the radar. Bad weeks, bad semesters, hard classes, difficult projects, late nights, and the multitude of challenges that students face are finite – they will end and give way to better, brighter, and happier days – especially when you persevere and succeed. Take the ups with the downs because without the rain, we’d not appreciate the sun.

Enjoy the ride and don’t sweat the small stuff.

Remember to have fun.

Life truly is beautiful.

- Jenny -

I didn't make this - don't remember the name of the person who did (found it on Facebook during Apple Cup week). If anyone knows, let me know so I can give him/her credit! Thanks! :)

Thursday, May 3, 2012


Hello all.
It has been, yet again, a little bit longer than I would have liked since my last post. Promise this will not become a habit! Things have been straight up insane here, with my final college semester coming to a close. I am finally finished with my design project, my final exams, and my final papers/projects for other classes. I am finished and have successfully completed my Bachelors of Science degree in Chemical Engineering in four solid years of academics (including all three summers in between years). I'm not sure how I feel about being done with school; I've been in school for my entire life up until this point and I'm not sure how I'm gonna feel out of it... But I'm excited! :D

I've thoroughly enjoyed my college years <3
It's been fun, difficult, adventurous, memorable, and exciting! I don't regret a thing about my college experience and feel I balanced the fun of life with the school work well.

In preparation for the big day during which the school congratulates its graduates and sends them off into the world to be real adults, I have decorated my mortarboard (or grad cap, if you like). Here's what I did and how I did it, with a few tips on how to make your own stencils at home and make the difficult parts of implementing them, easier!

What I had:
  • My mortarboard
  • Glitter DecoFabric fabric paint pens (in sliver and red)
  • Silver and black plastic gems 
  • A printer
Here's what my mortarboard looked plain:

Next, I printed the outline of the WSU logo, the cougar. I used an X-ACTO knife to cut away the pieces. For those who know the WSU Cougar Logo, the eye of the cougar is in the "S" of the "WSU" that make up the cougar shape. In order to get the eye in just the right position with just the right size and shape, I keep the "S" portion after I cut out the eye. Here's what the stencil looked like:

So when you go to use the stencil:
  • Place the main part of the stencil (the cougar that is cutout and is left in a square piece of paper, shown on the left in the picture above) where you want the logo to be.
  • Next, place the "S" part of the stencil (on the right) back into the cutout, like a puzzle piece. 
  • Now, you have the eye portion set just where it is supposed to be and you can trace the shape and have it placed perfectly.
  • Take away the "S" portion and trace the remainder of the shapes! 
This of course works for all sorts of stencils! I thought a specific example would help explain it best!
No more trying to eyeball those little pieces! I use this handy trick all the time. :)

Alright, so using my stencil, I traced the cougar really quick just to get it laid out. Then I removed the stencil and went over the trace a couple more times to make the line thicker and the color bolder. This is what it looked like after all that:

Next, I wrote my name and the year of my graduation in the red glitter paint. I did about four coats over the lines to get the vibrancy I wanted out of the paint. The fabric absorbed a lot!

And for some added "bling" or whatever, haha - I added the plastic gems in lines on the other edge.

I love how it turned out actually. It's simple, which I like, but loud enough that I think it will help my family find me in the sea of caps (hopefully!). And if not, I'll still have a cute piece to hold on to, to remember my graduation day!

Do you have any good ideas for a mortarboard design? Have you done one/seen one that's crazy cool?

Well, that's all for now, my friends. I may be back in soon with another graduation related post. Until then, stay excellent!

- Jenny -