Guest Post from a Wonderful Customer

Okay, true confessions should be first:  I am originally from Durham, grew up there, graduated from Durham High School back when it was still known as DHS.  Now, the confession part, I’m in North Raleigh.  Don’t hold that against me.  I am a believer in Durham, tout its great vibe, good funk, and wonderful variety to any who will listen.  And, I get over there any chance I can.
Almost always when I am in Durham, I will stop by Bull City Craft.  Love to check out what’s new; but, my real reason for being there is to play with Frances and visit some with Franklin.  First, I had to earn Frances’ confidence as, to begin with, I was a stranger.  After a few visits, I was someone she recognized but still wasn’t so sure of.  Then, a magic moment, we both were looking at the wooden pull toys, one of us (can’t remember who) made a rumbly motor sound.  Then, we both started ‘talking’ by using elongated vowels in conversational tones.  The conversation didn’t last that long; but, it was long enough for us to bond.  When I visit now, I can pick up where I left off and just have more art fun with Frances.  Very nice.
It’s always good to see Franklin.  It’s hard to have an on-going conversation with him as customers come in the store and have questions.  Also, the phone is ringing and needs attention.  In between, I get to catch-up with this warm, generous, good-hearted man.  This loving family has created a place that is safe, full of art, and celebrates all that is positive and good about being human.
 I recommend that you visit it as often as you can, as I do.
Deborah Gary Brogden, DHS class of ’67

Frances’ Favorite Crafts

Kinderstil, an online retailer of children’s apparel and gifts based in Raleigh, recently invited me to write a guest post for their blog. I wrote about some of Frances’ favorite craft materials and activities during her first three years. Here’s a quick rundown of the list. You can read the full post here.

1. Rainbow Rice

Bull City Craft Rainbow Rice2. Paint with Water

Bull City Craft DIY Paint with Water3. Felt Shapes

Bull CIty Craft Felt Shapes

4. Paint Glue

Bull City Craft glue paint

5. Tape

Bull City Craft washi tape

Making a Photo Backdrop

I was planning a Valentine Photo Shoot event at the store with Raleigh photographer Elizabeth Galecke, and I offered to make a photo backdrop. We agreed it was a great idea and I jumped on Pinterest to get some inspiration. I noticed right away that most of the backdrops were not painted, but instead embellished with balloons, banners, crepe paper, glitter, and other items that can just be hung on a wall or fence. Hmmm…well, I had promised painted, so I decided to just jump in.

OK, it’s not as easy as it seems.

DIY photo backdrop

We bought a large canvas drop cloth and spread it out in the garage on top of some old drop cloths. We had some leftover chalkboard paint from recently updating the chalkboard in our store. I also had some red and pink paint sample jars that I had gotten free with a magazine coupon. First I primed the whole thing with Low VOC Kilz– it used up the half can I had, and I didn’t even reach the edge of the canvas!

The next night I measured and marked the canvas. I decided to do a simple heart about the width of two people. I sketched the heart and painted it with a combination of the red and pink. I painted around it with the chalkboard paint. I figured if it looked boring, I could always add chalk drawings or text. I also made a felt and paper heart banner and some heart wands for props.

heart wands and banner

The third night I touched up some areas and cleaned up the edge of the heart. When it was finished, Elizabeth came over for a practice photo shoot, and the results are amazing!

Elizabeth Galecke Photography

Elizabeth Galecke Photography

 

Art Table Makeover

Over the holidays, Franklin and I had a little time to do some projects around the house. He had a great idea to up-fit Frances’ old rescued -from-the-curb, beat up, sad looking art table with a hand-me-down easel (thanks Kelly from LabourLove Gallery!) and some fresh paint.

First, he painted the table with some blue paint we had on hand.

painting the table

Then he disassembled the easel. He took the whiteboard side of the easel and the two rulers and attached them to the top of the table. Ta-da! Now Frances has a whiteboard tabletop with built in rulers! It looks a lot cuter, too.

up-cycled art table

 

Painted Pumpkins

Last week I had the pleasure of appearing on My Carolina Today to decorate pumpkins with the hosts Valonda and Mike. It was a lot of fun! Mike was very warm and funny, and Valonda was gorgeous and absolutely sparkled in person.

Bull City Craft on My Carolina TodayWe have also been decorating pumpkins at the store for a family craft event and drop in crafts. I wanted to give a bit more detail on how I made each pumpkin. I used papier maché pumpkins, which are great because you can save them and use them again. They are also very lightweight. You could easily use these techniques on real pumpkins.

Bull City Craft pumpkins

The first pumpkin I did is a monster pumpkin, inspired by our monster doll kits. I painted the pumpkin black and painted a neon green oval for the face. I also added a little black glitter paint around the face.

Bull City Craft monster pumpkinThen for the fun part! I cut out a felt mouth and felt circles, then I popped googly eyes on top.

Bull City Craft monster pumpkin

For the next one, I realized I needed something really quick and easy that could be completed on a very short TV segment. I prepped the pumpkin with neon orange paint and a neon green stem. I found that the neon paint was not very opaque, so I used 2-3 coats and mixed it with a little white. I sprinkled some superfine glitter onto the stem. Then for my genius idea–skull and crossbones duct tape! I cut the tape into triangles encircled the pumpkin with a banner of tape, similar to a cute pumpkin I had seen on Pinterest. For the final touch, I added green jewels reminiscent of leaves.

We use Platypus Designer Duct Tape, which is from a local company in Raleigh. They have great designs and the tape has a nicer feel, almost like fabric. Plus the guys who started the company are super nice! They taught us the parchment paper trick–  I put strips of tape onto parchment paper and then cut them into any shape I want. It makes it much easier to work with.

Platypus Designer Duct Tape

For the last pumpkin, I painted it white and used wood grain duct tape for the stem. For a Raleigh “City of Oaks” theme, I drew and painted oak leaves of different sizes using neon pink and orange.

I was really happy with the combination of traditional and unusual elements. When we let the kids make pumpkins with these same materials, they came up with some really fun ideas!

 

 

Before You Make All Those Pinterest Craft Recipes, Read This!

I’ve put together a Pinterest board of all the homemade art supplies and kids’ creativity toys that I’ve come across. Frances and I have slowly been trying them with varying levels of success. Here are the recipes you should make, the ones you should tweak, and the ones to avoid!

1. Sidewalk Paint– Make it!

Bull City Craft Chalk Paint

Bull City Craft Chalk Paint

Chalk Paint at Camp

Painting with Chalk

So easy to make, and so fun to use. As you are painting it doesn’t look like much, but when it dries (and it dries quickly), it looks great. It’s also fun to combine with regular sidewalk chalk. Super simple ingredients (just cornstarch, water, and color). I used liquid watercolors to color it instead of food coloring, and I was a little worried it might stain the sidewalk, but it washed away completely when it rained.

2. Slime–Make it, but make it right.

Clear glue slime at Bull City Craft

Slime at Color Camp at Bull City Craft

Slime at Color Camp at Bull City Craft

Definitely worth making for the fun factor, but tricky and messy. I’ve tried a couple of recipes for this, and sometimes it has worked better than others. I’ve tried it with regular white school glue and with Elmer’s clear glue; I thought the latter worked much better. I haven’t yet tried the recipe that requires liquid starch because I haven’t been able to find it.

 

3. Bath Crayons–Don’t Make it!

Yikes! What a mess. Hard to mix, even more difficult to form into anything resembling a crayon, and nearly impossible to use. Maybe it was an operator issue? I say just buy yourself some nice Crayola bath crayons and call it a day.

Good o'l Crayola bath crayons-not homemade!

4. Lightbox-Make it!

Even I like playing with this one. I don’t remember where I originally saw it, but it was easy to put together in a moment of desperation and a trip to the garage for a plastic tub and Christmas lights. I added some transparent plastic colored lids and later some awesome small transparent colored discs we found at a teacher supply store (they’re meant for counting activities). We’ve had lots of fun sorting colors, counting, and just rearranging objects on the light table.

Light Box with Colors- Learn and Play!

5. Colored rice–Make it!

It sounds too simple, but kids really love this! I have a big bowl of it with seashells in it, and everyone wants to play with it. It just feels good. The only drawback is sweeping up frequent spills.

colored rice at Color Camp at Bull CIty Craft

I’ll post more reviews as I make them!

 

Paint with Water for Preschoolers

Recently we let Frances take home one of the Paint with Water Pads. She loved brushing the water on and watching the colors on the pages magically blend into paint.

When we ran out of pages, I realized we could make our own! I got some paper, a permanent marker, and some regular markers. Stamp markers would be great for this project if you have them.

I drew a picture with the permanent marker (Frances requested a pig). Then we filled in the picture with stripes and dots using the regular markers (or stamp markers). Then we were ready to paint our very own paint with water picture!

Drawing Basics

I’m currently teaching “Drawing and Painting Food and Flowers for Kids” and this summer I’ll be teaching an adult version at the Durham Arts Council. Yesterday we talked about some drawing basics that can really apply to anything that you want to draw.

First, think about techniques and materials. You can draw a simple contour line drawing with pencil or pen, a shaded drawing with pencil or charcoal, or a color drawing using any combination of colored pencil, markers, or pastels. Color can be flat for a more graphic effect, or layered with shading for a 3D effect. Experiment with materials and techniques to find one that you love.

Drawing Food at Bull City Craft

Next, what to draw? Of course you can get ideas from your memory or imagination, but often it helps to start with a reference. Reference material can include drawings by others, photographs, and drawing from life (the actual objects or people). Copying a drawing is the easiest and best way to learn to draw something–artists have used this method for centuries. After practicing by copying, then you can move on to drawing from photos and from life and develop your own style.

Happy drawing!

Drawing Flowers at Bull City Craft

 

Spring Birds

We recently did an event to benefit the Durham Arts Council at Northgate Mall. It was a free Children’s Festival with lots of performances, vendor booths, and the Easter Bunny. We brought this cute and easy paper bird craft. You can make these at home to create a bit of spring! They look great when made with scrapbook paper, but can also be made of construction paper or even white paper that you can color. Or you can even make them from felt.

Bull CIty Craft Paper Birds

Simply cut out a bird shape and two separate wing shapes. Punch holes and attach wings with brads (paper fasteners–they even have fancy shaped ones like flowers now). This allows your wings to flap so little birdy can fly! Add stick-on googly eyes for a little silliness. Spring is here!

Bull City Craft Paper anf Felt Birds Bull City Craft Paper Birds

Crafts for Preschoolers

For Mommy and Me Art, we love to draw inspiration from books for our projects. Creating a craft after reading a book is a great way to extend an activity and add some skill building to story time. For preschoolers, we like crafts that use several different materials to keep them engaged.

I loved the way these adorable heart and bird bracelets for My Little Sweetheart by Sara Gillingham turned out. Paige combined watercolor hearts that had crayon resist messages from mom with felt birds. The bird shapes can be precut and your little one can help glue everything onto a paper towel cuff.

bracelet craft

The cuff bracelet can be adapted for lots of crafts, and kids love them. Just split a paper towel roll vertically and them slice into 1″-2″ bands. Anything can be used to decorate them and turn them into bracelets. Just slip them on, or for a more secure bracelet, punch holes in each end and tie with yarn or ribbon.

bird heart bracelet