Saturday, November 30, 2013

Gold and good cheer ...

For me, gold painted branches always induce oohs and ahhs. They're like Mother Nature with a Bob Mackie makeover.

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So, I began thinking of ways to incorporate this look into my own holiday decor this year. I've seen so many inspiring photos of tree branches festively dripping with ornaments and mini-lights.

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Whether suspended from a chandelier or perfectly balanced in a vase, I love the way tree boughs and twigs move indoors as seasonal decor.

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That really started me thinking about our recently pruned Mountain Laurel tree and the beauty of the branches that had been removed.


Images above via Franciskas Vakre Verden (left) and Austin designer/stylist Maureen Stevens (right).

Taking my cue from unadorned gilded boughs, I decided to tackle this little experimental project for the holidays.

Golden holiday tree via Alamodeus.

With my daughter visiting today, I put her into service assisting with spraying a coat of gold paint before adding a light dusting of snow and ornaments.  So easy!  Now, my office will not be barren during the Christmas season.

Kraft wraps ...

There's nothing like the simplicity of Kraft paper for creative gift wraps. So, come all ye crafty ... let's find inspiration in twigs and twine, stamps and stars and bits of buttons and bows.

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The moment I saw the 'trees' on the gifts above, I knew I wanted to create this look for Christmas presents this year.  I have a stockpile of twigs, yarn and thread, and plenty of Kraft paper.


Images above via Makoodle(left) and Sweet Paul Magazine (right).

Small remnants of fabric, twine and little notions are fabulous for adding personal pizzazz to simply wrapped presents. I'm a big fan of yarn and pompoms, too.

Gift wagon by Alamodeus

For the holidays, I decided to decorate my little green wagon with small gift boxes wrapped in Kraft paper. Each package is tied with recycled red felt that was used to create bows and adorned with berries, leaves or small glass ornaments.

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Stamps are a natural embellishment for paper wraps, too.  Love the birds (above) and the sweet little trees (below) used to add a lively charm.

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Stickers, either purchased or crafted by hand, bring so much pleasure to the gift recipient, and become the focus of holiday wraps.

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I can't say enough good things about the marriage of twine and paper.  Love, love the work of the clever maker of these gift card wraps who made a handsome statement by hanging these from a tree branch.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Removing labels from wine bottles ...

I needed to remove labels from some of my collected wine bottles to complete a little project I had in mind. So, I surfed the net for suggestions. Let me tell you, the advice I found online was all over the map. So, I jumped in and did it with a little self-training along the way.

Here's my tutorial on removing labels from wine bottles:

1.  Gather the bottles and cut the metal label from the bottle neck with a razor to remove. (You want this collar off because it will become exceedingly hot during the next step.)

2.  Heat oven to 350 degrees F.

3.  When oven is at temperature, lay the empty, uncorked bottles directly onto oven rack for about 10 minutes until the bottles are hot.

4.  Use oven mitt to remove one (very hot) bottle at a time from oven, and place bottle on a towel.

5. Holding neck of bottle with oven mitt, gentle slide razor with other hand under the label edge and pull up.

6. THIS IS THE TRICKY PART. Some labels will come off easily and cleanly. Others will not.

7. If the label does not come off, set the bottle aside to cool. Once it has cooled completely, immerse the bottle in a tub of hot water for about 20-30 minutes.


8.  Using the razor, once again try to peel the label from an edge.

9. Dry the labels on wax paper to save. Once dry, labels can be pressed under a heavy object (like a book or bread board) to flatten.

10.  The bottles can be scrubbed to remove any glue residue from the labels.

Viola! Labels are ready for future use, and bottles are now ready for my next project.

All photos by Alamodeus.

Making glassware from wine bottles ...

I've wanted to make glassware from wine bottles for the longest time. Last Christmas, I received a glass cutting kit (thank you Santa!) and have been waiting to carve out time to use it.

Ephrem's Original Bottle Cutter Kit. Image via Alamodeus.

First I removed the labels (click here for my tutorial) and cleaned off any remaining adhesive residue. After drying the bottles, I adjusted the cutter to the desired glassware height and scored the glass following the kit instructions.

Wine bottle placed on adjustable height glass cutter.  Image via Alamodeus.

The bottle is then heated with a candle along the score line. This takes a little practice to make sure the bottle is hot enough without being so hot that cracking occurs.

Ice is applied to the score line all around the bottle causing the glass to break (more often than not, exactly as intended.)

Now it's time to wash off the candle soot, dry and sand the glass edges. The sanding takes some time, but worth the effort to get a smooth edge finish.

Glassware made by Alamodeus from wine bottles.

I love how my rustic wine bottle glassware turned out. These will be fun to use at our completely casual Thanksgiving.

Finished wine bottle glassware. Image via Alamodeus.

First, these green goddesses need a test run.  Perfect timing for the just released Beaujolais Nouveau 2013 from Georges Duboeuf.  Santé!

Style stalking: Factory chairs ...

The industrial design renaissance has revealed some new obsessions for me. Somewhere near the top of that list are factory chairs, or machinist chairs as they were originally known.

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Before the 1920s, workers often labored in factories on backless benches. Productivity declined and and the pain of poor posture afflicted countless workers. Then, in 1922 a company called Tan-Sad Chair Co., a British office furniture manufacturer in London, developed a swiveling chair with a curved backrest that could be adjusted to suit the height of each worker.

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It was the first chair manufacturer to produce ergonomically correct posture chairs for machinists and factory workers, and lo and behold, productivity increased.


Images (above) via Ormston Saint.

Now, these UK manufactured machinist work chairs are the darlings of vintage collectors and can easily cost $800 - $1200 US. But, there are more beauties from this side of the pond, too. 


Images above via My Lovely Things (left) and Blue Egg Brown Nest (right).

You have to give credit to the Toledo, Ohio based Uhl brothers, Joe and Clem, for taking a design of simplicity and strength and tweaking it to create an enduring industrial star. The brothers began as bicycle makers in 1897 in Toledo, but saw bicycle demand falter with the dawning of the automobile. So, the Uhl’s began producing furnishings for commercial and industrial use around 1910.

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In the late 1920s, the Uhl brothers began crafting the American industrial 'Uhl Art Steel' adjustable height work stool from their Toledo Metal Furniture Co. The Ohio built workbench factory stool is equally appealing in its simplicity of form and function, but will cost a hefty sum if purchased restored and reconditioned.

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I love that the uber cool La Bandita Townhouse Restaurant (above) had no qualms about using some less-than-perfect recycled Tan Sad chairs for customer seating. With original seats missing, a little ingenuity was all that was needed to add canvas fabric for comfy sling seats in this Tuscany retreat.

If you have the money to spend, I good place to start your quest for vintage chairs like these is Chicago's Urban Remains online antique shop. But, I'll have to scour the fleas and second hand shops for these trendy characters. After all, I do own a factory and a girl needs a fashionable place to sit!

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Homemade peanut butter ...

Of all the food I've made over the years, homemade peanut butter is the easiest (and probably among the healthiest.) All it takes is roasted peanuts, a food processor and five minutes. Yep, that's it. Not an additive to be found.


I start with about 12 ounces of dry roasted peanuts and put them in my food processor. I think a blender might work if you don't have a food processor.


The first stage (left) is going to take about 2 minutes of processing on low-medium speed. After about 2 minutes more at high speed, the peanut butter will become creamy (right) and, for the most part, smooth.

Place the peanut butter in an air-tight container to store. I keep mine refrigerated, but I'm not entirely sure that it's necessary.

This all-natural peanut butter is so tasty, and I feel good about snacking on it with celery sticks mid-afternoon when I have a bout of hunger. Love it! No additives = healthy snack.

All photos by Alamodeus.

Cricket stools ...

I'm always in need of a few more inches in height, finding it necessary to climb a step ladder almost daily when pulling product from top shelves in our soapmaking facility. I finally tired of dragging around a ladder and decided what I needed was a little 'cricket stool.' I was confident our design build team (consisting of me and my husband) could handle this project.

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First, a little cricket stool history from antique dealer Peggy Mclard. "From the 17th through the early 19th centuries the terms ‘footstool’ and ‘cricket’ were interchangeable in everyday life. Stools were separated into three groups based upon their height. Lowest was a footstool or cricket, measuring no more than 12” tall. These stools were used as seating for children as well as a place for sitters to place their feet."


Images above via Malle Jet Brocante (left) and Etsy (right).

These cricket stools, as the contemporary market often refers to them, have been the darling of antique dealers and decorators for decades. I had more than a decorative application in mind for my cricket and began looking at functional designs for inspiration.

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I finally found the perfect piece (above) to influence the design details for our project.  I decided on dimensions 14" wide, 8" deep and 11" high, then drew out the pattern for my husband to construct.

Cricket stool photos by Alamodeus

Just a mention about the wood used: My husband and I planted a Red Oak tree on our property 24 years ago as a wedding anniversary gift to one another. An ongoing drought over the last few years brought on its demise, and my husband cut down the dying tree and took it to a mill to have it planed so we could retain the wood. The planks dried for a year and are taking on new life in many forms, including the cricket stool constructed by my amazing husband.

Cricket stool photo detail by Alamodeus

I didn't like the way the stain turned out, so I softened it with a rubbed application of watered down blue paint. I added a heart to forever symbolize the love this 'Anniversary Oak' represents. And, as my very tall husband noted, it makes a perfect kissing stool, too!

Cricket stool photo by Alamodeus

I'm so happy with this little cricket! Even though it's newly constructed, it comes with a long, joyous history. I finished the painting last weekend, and it's been kiss tested and climbing approved!

Friday, November 8, 2013

Japanese aprons ...

My must-have of the moment is the Japanese apron.  Blame it on blogging.  One of my favorite blogging artisans is ceramicist Rae Dunn, who happens to have the coolest personal style.  Love her work and her studio attire that almost always includes a fun, funky apron she has made.


Photos above via 

When working in my studio, an apron is a necessity. I'm truly a mess when the creativity flows. But, I can't tolerate anything hanging around my neck. So, that generally eliminates purchased aprons.

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Then, I discovered the cross-back style of Japanese aprons. Viola! My neck is saved and a totally viable apron is mine for the making.


After a little research on the internet, I found a great pattern, tutorial and video. It took some investment in time to print out the pattern sections and piece them together, but once that was done, it only took an hour or so to make the apron.


Clothing designer and friend Kathleen Sommers is hosting a pop-up designer fabric outlet to sell her enormous stockpile of remnant fabrics, and I selected yards of great linens for my apron project.

Japanese apron by Alamodeus

Here's the first Japanese apron I made from a slate gray linen and added a must-have pocket.

Japanese apron by Alamodeus

I'm happy with the results and plan to make several more. By the way, all the wine bottles you see in my studio are for another project underway ... upcycling bottles into glassware for the holidays.

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