Friday, August 27, 2010

Back in the Country and Back in Action

Hello! Wow it's been almost a month since I last posted! Africa was super awesome and I totally loved seeing all of the fantastic wildlife in their natural environment. It also made me really appreciate what a cushy life we have here in the United States. I didn't realize how much I took basic sanitation and good paved roads for granted until I went to Kenya. Plus imagine having to walk 6 miles every day to gather firewood to cook your food, or 3 miles to the nearest watering hole to wash your clothes by hand. It certainly put my life into perspective and gave me a lot of respect for the resourcefulness and determination of the people who live there. Not to mention a much deeper appreciation of being surrounded by modern appliances.

Here are a few pictures I took from the trip.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

First Hammered Wire Jewelry Piece

In previous posts I mentioned that I've been working on hammering silver wire, but I haven't shared anything I've made up until this point. Today I finally put the first one up: a pair of earrings along the same lines as my other elf/nature items. I actually made them about a week ago, but didn't post the on Etsy until tonight because I was fussing with the photographs. But after making many more pairs of earrings (yet to be revealed but soon to come, I promise!), I thought I'd share how I went about making them and some lessons learned.

- Make sure you're hammer is parallel to your block when it hits the wire. Oh Em Geee..... That was really frustrating to learn.
- Hold the hammer at the end of the handle and raise your entire arm up and down. Do not swing your forearm, or else the hammer will hit at an angle and leave a mark on the wire.
- If you want to flatten the wire, use materials that are harder than it, such as steel. If you just want to harden, use softer materials such as wood.
- The wire will want to straighten when you flatten it, so if you're flattening out a spiral, provide counter pressure on the outside of the loop so it keeps its curved shape
- When making earrings, you can tape the wires together and form them at the same time to make sure each earring is identical. Then hammer them out.
- Photographing earrings is really, really hard. I'm still working on this
- Hammering late at night is not good for neighbor relations. Oops.

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Monday, June 21, 2010

Elf Inspired Stuff

After the bazillionth photo reshoot, I finally got some nice photos of the nature and elven inspired jewelry pieces I made. It took finding some rocks to make it work in a way I was satisfied with (and by finding I mean stealing them out of the bottom of a fountain, lol!). Anyways, now I have some nice new listings on my Etsy shop, like this elf pendant and tree branch necklace. Here are some pictures of some other listings I've recently put up:

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Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Etsy Store Items

I've been working hard and been busting out all kinds of jewelry pieces to increase my inventory on Etsy, since lots of sellers on the forums say sales don't really start to take off until you get at least 50+ items in your store. So I've been literally hammering away at wire pieces and also been wrapping some more cabochon pendants. Here are my latest creations!

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Saturday, June 12, 2010

New Etsy Store

Now that school is out, I've been keeping myself busy by playing lots of video games, but after a while I started getting restless. After some self-reflection, I realized is all I do all day is sit on my butt in front of one screen or another. So I decided to take up jewelry making again, which is a hobby I've been doing off and on for the past five years but hadn't done for a while. I had all the tools and lots of extra beads, wire and chain so it seemed like something easy and fun to do on the side without having to spend too much.

But now I have all this jewelry lying around that I don't wear, Christmas is far off and there aren't too many birthdays coming up. So after filing a box full of jewelry and nothing to do with them, I decided to open up an Etsy store. Etsy is a lot more complicated than running my Zazzle store because there are more fees and I have to take tax into consideration and deal with inventory, shipping, packaging etc etc but I think it'll be a fun experience. I've only put up a few pieces so far and plan on slowly releasing them over time over the weekdays to maximize SEO, but for now I think this will be a great experiment.

Here's the link to my Etsy shop main page:

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Monday, May 10, 2010

Latest creations

School has been making life pretty hectic and overall not fun, but there was a brief period before I had to start studying for finals that I was able to do a little bit of design work for my galleries. I came upon the idea of doing a flower series after I walked by a florist on University Ave. So far I've only put up 2 different types of flowers in six different colors, but I'm planning on a total of about 10 different flowers total. I'll probably be releasing them slowly over the course of the next few weeks to keep my gallery high on Zazzle's internal search rankings.

(full product here)

(full product here)

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Saturday, April 10, 2010

New York Times Article

A couple photos of me ended up in an article about TechShop that came out in the New York Times on April 9, 2010. I was doing work on one of the mills trying to make one of the pieces of a test rig I've been designing and fabricating these past couple weeks. It really wasn't very interesting work (I was just counter-boring some holes), but I guess the NYT editors felt there needed a little female representation or something in the photo spread.

Full New York Times article is here: Inventors Wanted. Cool Toys Provided.

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Friday, April 9, 2010

The Summer Palace

Chris and I got Victoria a new cage and it's huge! I put up some info about it on the Hamster Across America blog.

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New Poster

School has been keeping me super busy, but this week while watching lecture I managed to find the time to put together a very basic infographic poster about the solar system. I wanted to get away from the biology-based stuff I've been doing to add some variety to products, and I've been telling my boyfriend that everything is better in space as an argument for why playing Mass Effect 2 is more awesome than Dragon Age, so I decided to make a simple graphic about the planets of the solar system. No Pluto here, although the reason for it was less political statement and more, "Pluto looks like dust on my screen next to the size of the other planets" when drawn to scale. So pragmatism was the real reason for leaving it out.

Full product is here.

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Thursday, April 8, 2010

Hawaii pictures

Wow it's been a while since I posted. School has been taking up huge amounts of my time, but I finally managed to sort the photos I took in Hawaii. I spent most of my time on boats and under the water so unfortunately I only have pics from hiking in Volcano National Park. The album is here:

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Friday, March 19, 2010

Hamster potty training (continued)

Yay! Success! After a couple weeks of scrounging around in soiled hamster bedding, Victoria has finally figured out how to use her potty. It's incredibly cute seeing her climb in, turn around and stick her head out. That probably sounds a bit strange, lol. Anyways, the potty training has made cleaning her cage a lot easier. Next I just need to make a couple additional modifications to her hutch to keep her from chewing at the roof.

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Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Hamster potty training

With all the new modifications and additions, my hamster's cage is getting increasingly difficult to clean. One evening she even decided to turn her observatory into a lavatory and I woke up to find 4 evenly-spaced puddles of hamster pee in each of the nodules. Eew. Ok, that was it. It was time to get Victoria potty trained again. Her previous owner claimed that she had potty-trained her as a wee baby ham, but hadn't provided me with any litter or a box.

Hamsters already have a tendency to pee in only one spot, so litter-box training them is supposedly very easy. So last week I went to PetSmart and bought her a hamster toilet and some litter, cleaned out her cage, put in some soiled bedding in the toilet, placed the toilet in her former potty corner and waited to see what happened. Unfortunately, the toilet doesn't quite cover the whole corner because it's rounded, so she kept peeing in the corner and ignored the toilet. In fact, she started kicking the litter out of the toilet into the corner to cover it up. Tricksie. Very Tricksie. Once I even saw her go into the toilet and carefully position herself so her butt was sticking out so she could pee straight into the corner. Hmmm. I will need to come up with a better solution. 

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Saturday, February 13, 2010

Layers of the Earth

Last week I put together an infographic about the water cycle, but after some reflection, I decided the whole traditional textbook infographic look really didn't fit into my personal art style, so this week I decided to go in an entirely new direction and try out a simple, retro design. This time, it's about the layers of the earth and atmosphere:

Ah, much cleaner and a very different take than many of the other infographics I looked at while doing research (this one in particular was exceptionally bad. I admit I'm no graphic design expert, but that graphic just really made me shudder when I saw it). A larger version of my image and full poster can be found here.

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Monday, February 8, 2010

Water Cycle poster

I was watching a Royksopp video the other day and there was a brief scene showing where the water goes after the main character flushes the toilet. This reminded me of all those posters my elementary school teachers would cover their classroom walls with when I was a little kid. You know, the ones with the cartoon pictures showing the seasons or pictures of whales swimming next to scuba divers or cutaways of the Earth's mantle (oooh, that would be a great poster to do next!). Inspired, I whipped together a quick poster on Saturday explaining the Earth's water cycle. All the posters I've made so far were anatomy or biology based, so I thought it'd be fun to do a diagram on meteorology or geology. The water cycle seemed like a good compromise between the two. The full-size poster is here.

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Friday, February 5, 2010

Hamster Wheel Upgrade

After many a night of waking up to the subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) noise of "squeeeeeeek" from the wheel in Victoria's cage, I decided to take matters into my own hands. Vic uses the same type of wheel as Lizzie did (the Wodent Wheel, which is supposed to be one of the more quiet wheels out there and super safe for little hammy feet), but she runs faster for longer periods of time and I guess the cheap bearings on the wheel just couldn't take it. Temporary relief could be had by liberally applying vegetable oil to the axle, but that would often only last a few days at best. So finally, after a couple weeks of seeking relief at my boyfriend's place (much to the detriment of the hammy, who as a result wasn't let out as much to play), it was time to make some fixes.

The main causes for the squeaking were probably the following: 1) metal rubbing on metal and 2) loose tolerances in overall wheel design. So what is a MechE to do? I decided to replace the crappy bronze bearings with new PTFE (better known by its brand name, Teflon) ones. I figured going with a plastic would help reduce the squeaking and PTFE is super low in friction, which should hopefully reduce the amount of oil I'll need to put on and compensate for the increase surface contact with the shaft. These were flanged to replace the old plastic washers and much longer in length to get better coverage on the wheel shaft to compensate for the bad tolerancing. A hand drill, a hammer and a screwdriver later and it was good to go! Victoria seems to like her modified wheel and was running happily in it last night. I didn't even wake up once! Yay! :-D

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Thursday, February 4, 2010

Graphic on aquatic animals

Over the past few weeks I've been slowly trying to build up the inventory of my newest Zazzle gallery, Infographic. My latest design features various animals that live in the open oceans. My original plan was to show animals at various depths, since I'm fascinated with deep sea creatures, but I quickly discovered that deep sea creatures are not only fairly undocumented but also tend to be on the small side. If I were to put them to scale next to many of the creatures I was planning on putting in the shadows, you'd hardly be able to see them. For example, marlin can be several meters long, but your average deep-sea angler fish is only a few centimeters long. So after some debate, I finally decided to switch the theme to large beasts of the open ocean. Perhaps in the future I'll make a poster specifically for creatures of the deep sea and include cool bottom-dwelling creatures like giant isopods.

Most of the facts I got off of FishBase. You can check out the poster and other products here.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010



Every now and then I foray into sewing projects, especially after some friends got me a new sewing machine for my birthday. My most recent creation is a plush moogle I made out of polar fleece that I gave to Chris. Moogles are fictional creatures from the Final Fantasy game series. They've changed and evolved so much (they started out like this and slowly evolved to this, this and finally this) over the different game series that I finally decided to just come up with my own design, but keep the classic moogle characteristics (wings, rounded body and a poof coming out of the top of its head). Unfortunately I couldn't come up with a way to do the poof right in a way that I liked, so Chris amusingly stuck a red sewing pin in the top of its head and its been there ever since. Personally, my favorite thing about the moogle is its purple wings. Flap flap flap!

Friday, January 29, 2010

Photoshop fun

Since getting into poster and stationery design, I've almost entirely switched over to Illustrator for my artwork, although much of my previous artwork and design was done almost exclusively in Photoshop. Since it's been a while, I thought it'd be fun to make a quick and easy image of my hamster to mark her arrival in Santa Fe (based on our Hamster Across America project).

My original idea was to put her in front of a Santa Fe landmark or some pueblo buildings, but after doing a bunch of searching all I could find were pictures of streets and buildings. Places like the San Miguel Mission were nice, but she would have looked super tiny next to them, not to mention she's the same color as the buildings to boot. Annette had a great idea of putting her with some Indian pottery instead though, so a few photo shoots later and some Google Image searching and voila! Annette put up the picture on the Hamster Across America blog.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

New Zazzle gallery

My latest long-term pet project has been making informational posters for a new Zazzle store of mine called Infographic. Here's the latest poster I've made:It took about 2 days of research and work to put it together. I admit I got a lot of my facts from Wikipedia for the estimated heights, weights and time-periods for each of the dinosaurs, but a lot of it I also got from the Natural History Museum's website.

The Beginning

Lately I've been up to so many different projects and initiatives that I've decided a blog would be the best way to keep track of them and share them with my friends. Most of them involve graphic design for my Zazzle stores, but I enjoy doing jewelry, sewing and random construction projects. Many of these I make as gifts, but a decent number of my projects focus around my pet hamster. My friend and I run a website that records the distance my hamster, Victoria, runs each night and we've been mapping her progress with a Google Maps mash-up on Hamster Across America.

Over the Martin Luther King 3-day weekend I put together a new loft addition for Victoria's cage. Her previous owner had a bunch of tubes she liked to climb in, but the cage I had for her didn't have anywhere to put them, so I decided to make my own custom cage roof to attach them. I dimensioned out the roof using Adobe Illustrator and cut them out on a laser cutter over at Techshop. The whole thing is held together with some acrylic glue and epoxy. The tubes came with interchangeable locking rings so I can attach different things up on top to keep her from getting bored. Right now I have a loop that I like to call "The Observatory" set up. It kind of reminds me of the walkway suspended over the Grand Canyon. :)

Also I put together a little shelf for her to hide under and climb on to replace a similar wooden toy her previous owner had for her but was really chewed up and covered in splinters. You can see the shelf and her new digs in the pictures below.