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Thursday, May 1, 2014

Succulent Thrones

I found a pair of chairs from the thrift store the other day and decided to adorn them with succulents.

Of course, I had to crochet some baskets to retain the soil. You might remember the last chair I did this to. Here is the link to the tutorial: Chair Basket

Here they are all potted up: pink hues for Hers, blue for His--or vice versa--who says the bigger chair can't be for the Queen?

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Everyone Has To Start Somewhere

A little over 2 years ago, my cousin, Anna Zakaria, designer and owner of 4 Surya Garden, sucked me into the succulent world. This piece that she made inspired me so much:

She made everything look easy -- just line something (anything) with coconut fiber (also known as coir), add soil and succulents, and you're good to go. Boy, was that easier said than done. I remember it took me hours to make one of my first pieces. I'm almost embarrassed to show it, but everyone has to start somewhere, and maybe some of the things I learned will inspire you, so you can get sucked in and inspire someone else, so they can get sucked in and inspire someone else, so they can.... well, this can go on forever.

Starting out, I really didn't want to spend too much money on a project I might fail at, because, quite honestly, I'm cheap! I started playing around with succulents that were most readily available (and cheap).

First, there was Sedum dendroidium. I inherited a big patch of it from the previous owner of our home. I mistook it for Jade, but later learned it is actually a Sedum. I am constantly having to cut this back, and after 3 years of it, I find it quite boring. I keep a small patch of it in my garden for sentimental reasons. This is not a frost-hardy plant, but its strong will keeps it from dying, and it's hard to hate a survivor.

Next on my list of readily available and cheap succulents was Sedum rubrotinctum. I always recommend this one to friends in the Bay Area who are new to succulents, because it's frost hardy, can easily be propagated from cuttings and leaves, and since it is relatively common and inexpensive, stress experiments can be done without too much concern about the cost of possibly losing the plant. Stressing succulents is the process of withholding water with increased sun exposure. Here is Sedum rubrotinctum with about 4 hours of morning sun and weekly watering:

...and here it is in a pot, exposed to about 6 hours of full sun, with very infrequent watering (once a month, if at all). A closer look, and you can see small plantlets sprouting from fallen leaves.

Third on my list of succulent firsts is the plant most commonly known as Jade. This is Crassula ovata. It cost me nothing but the gasoline to drive to and from someone's home; a Craigslister who was all too tired of having Jade in his front yard. I found it with pale, green, wrinkled leaves, planted under the shade of some trees. I've stressed this plant to the point of losing quite a bit of foliage, but patience produced vibrant, red margins, and pink, star-like flowers:
I liked the look so much, I purchased the smaller version of Crassula ovata, which is what I used in one of my first arrangements.

So, what was one of the first arrangements produced with these plants? Okay, here it is...
Are you as underwhelmed as I am? Would you believe that someone liked it enough to buy it for her brother? Of course, if I had to do it all over again, I probably would, but, you know what? Everyone has to start somewhere, and if you put your heart into it, someone else will love what you do!

I would love to hear about your Firsts in this wonderful world of succulent plants, and if you haven't started yet, come on and join the fun! Let's stress some succulents, because stressing ourselves out will just give us heartburn.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Imprinting Your Own Design On Concrete Pots

I enjoy making my own pottery out of concrete or hypertufa. I wanted to etch my own design onto them, so I experimented with hot glue.

Here are the steps I took in this experiment, followed by any issues I encountered.

1) Obtain a clear, plastic container. It's important that it's clear because you will want to be able to draw the image in the front. In this example, it may not be as important but if you want to etch letters or numbers, it will be a little difficult to write it out backwards in the interior of the mold. The container must be slightly flexible and easy to cut and peel off the pot. Step 6 will explain how I came to this conclusion.

2) On the exterior of the container, use a permanent marker to draw the image you want imprinted.

3) Use a glue gun to outline the drawing from the interior of the mold. You may want to use low-temp glue. I used hot glue and the heat warped the container a little bit.



4) Working from the bottom up of the container, apply the concrete mixture, pressing firmly against the walls. I really recommend using concrete rather than hypertufa for this project. The aggregates in concrete are much finer, which is needed to get into the negative space of the imprints. The perlite or peat in hypertufa might leave unwanted divots.

5) Let the concrete set for about 24 hours.

6) Cut the container and peel it off the mold. Despite greasing the interior, I couldn't pop out the pot, because the concrete wedged in the imprints locked it in place. I ended up cutting and peeling off the container. This is why, in step 1, I recommend that the container be slightly flexible and easy to cut.

7) Drill a drainage hole. You might need to use a carbide bit depending on how solid the concrete is at this stage. In this project, I had to use a carbide bit because the standard bits were not sharp enough to get through the concrete.

8) Soak it in water for a couple of days to leach out any lime; changing the water out each day.

9) Let it dry and then paint it. I used acrylic patio paint. I highlighted the imprints with colored paint, and then went back and whitewashed the whole pot.

I hope you get a chance to try this project! Please post photos on my Facebook page and share your experiences: https://www.facebook.com/BalatongTNC

~Karen

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Pre-Spring Giveaway Details

I just posted the giveaway details on my Facebook Page. Stop by the page, take your pick, and good luck!
Click HERE to go to Facebook.





Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Scarflet Giveaway

I will be posting details on how to win this Scarflet OR the Pattern PDF tomorrow on my Facebook Page:
https://www.facebook.com/BalatongTNC

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Dreamy Doodles

Crafty doodles and squiggly lines are so dreamy when a lovely French woman is singing in the background. Thank you, Carla Bruni...
(French to English translation found here: Translation)

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Dandelions and Dragonflies Alight

Do you ever walk around the Dollar Store to try to get some craft inspiration? That's what I found myself doing yesterday. As I walked around, I wandered into the food section--an area, I rarely step into. I saw a jar of pickled veggies and my stomach somewhat groaned in disagreement, but my craft-thirsty hands plopped the jar into my basket.

"Well, now what?" My legs responded by taking me to the aisle of home decor, where I found a sheet of wall decals and a two-pack of fake tealights--into the basket they went.
Okay, 3 bucks, and some tax; not bad--a small hooray for not having to pay tax on the jar of pickled vedge (food isn't taxed here unless someone preps it for you at a diner).

Ugh, enough about taxes (my conscience is reminding me that taxes are due soon); let's get to crafting.

First, let me put your mind at ease: I didn't go home and scarf down a bottle of pickled vegetables! I washed the contents out and dumped them in the yard debris bin. I peeled the label off and applied a thin layer of vegetable oil on the sticky residue. This made it a lot easier to wash the residue off with dish soap.

I hope you're not judging me for throwing away food. I'm sorry. If it makes you feel better one of the tealights doesn't work, so I essentially wasted 50 cents (and some tax).

Okay, if you're still with me, I applied the decals onto the upside-down jar. Because the jar had some curves, I had to snip the decals at those bumpy areas to avoid any creases.
I inserted a roll of wax paper in the jar.

I used masking tape to stick the tealight to the bottom of the lid, but that's not necessary.
Close the jar, and display!
It sure looks lonely. Hmm... maybe I'll go get some more pickled veggies...
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