Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Girls on Fire Boxed Set: Ten books for 99 cents

I'm excited to buy this new set of books which comes out June 16, 2014. The cover was just revealed yesterday and you can see it above. This set is exciting because you can get 10 YA novels for 99 cents. I'm assuming this must be a promotional thing and it won't stay this price, but I think it's an awesome deal. 10 books for 99 cents!

I've only read a few of the authors, but I'm excited to get a sampling of new authors, especially at that price. Included in the set are books by Amber Argyle, Angela Corbett, Christy Dorrity, Tamara Hart Heiner, Cindy M. Hogan, Laura Howard, Elana Johnson, Rachel Morgan, Lee Strauss, and Lani Woodland.  Happy reading!

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Interview with Kanti Kane, Prop Artist

I discovered Kanti's work exploring the internet. She does amazing prop work, including hooved shoes and many types of horns. She is currently working on a full size silicone mermaid tail. The coolest thing about what Kanti does is that she posts tutorials about how she does what she does. She was kind enough to agree to let me interview her.

Valerie: Tell me about your nickname Kanti Kane and how you got it.

Kanti: The name is actually from a character from an anime called “Furi Kuri” or FLCL (spelled Canti). I didn’t get the name because I liked the character, though. One day my sister was designing a website and she called it “Kanti’s something” after the guy and I remember saying hey I like that nickname so we rolled with it. The Kane was only added later after a joke was made about people asking me how to pronounce my name. I’d tell them “Kan-TEE” sort of like candy which people would say “Candy Cane”.

Valerie: How did you get into prop making?

Kanti: Renaissance Fairs and Anime Conventions. I would say overall the Renaissance Fairs are what got me into actually making the props. I had been to several Anime Conventions and instead bought costume pieces rather than try to make them, I guess because it’s mostly clothing there. One of the very first things I ever bought at a Renaissance Fair was a pair of horns and shortly after that I started making my own.

Valerie: How long have you been doing it?

Kanti: Only the past few years. I was always pretty good at art but I never tried much other than drawing on paper or the computer. I think my very first actual prop was maybe in 2008 for my birthday we made a portal cake but I only recently got into doing it full-time, so I’d say since 2011.

Valerie: Tell me about your goals when prop making and your preference for
the slender, natural approach when creating your prosthetic pieces.

Kanti: When I make props I try to do it as accurately as I can for the price that I’m able to. For prosthetics it’s what you said. I like to try and make them look natural and seamless, not bulky and obviously fake. I love to make people wonder about how I did it or try to spot where the prosthetic starts and ends.

Valerie: How do you know how to do it (How do you know what programs to use, what materials to use, etc.)?

Kanti: Lots and lots of reading and watching other people do it xD I guess it also depends on the prop. I like Pepakura as a base for things like helmets, armor and stuff like that since it’s pretty straighforward and gives a nice skeleton to your piece, but generally I just sort of sit down and sketch my ideas on paper. I like to draw how I would make them, how they’d fit, and try to think of what sort of problems I may come across in my designs and what materials would best stand up to such problems. I usually spend months designing the actual piece and deciding on whether or not it will work, that way right when I jump into it, there’s more of a chance that I’ve already thought of everything and anything.

Valerie: I saw that you mentioned Pepakura Designer a few times in your tutorials. For those who don’t know, give us a brief overview of what Pepakura is.

Kanti: Pepakura is basically a 3D design program. You essentially “sculpt” something over the computer. However, unlike most 3D design programs your final product is meant to be a little blocky so that you don’t have to fold and cut the paper a zillion times. It’s popular for paper crafting and is meant to be able to dismantle your sculptures and be able to print them out on paper. It’s essentially a 3D puzzle creator.

Valerie: Do you have any favorite websites or places you go for inspiration for new projects or to learn about prop building?

Kanit: I used to use Youtube a lot and just search anything I could for hours but now I sort of just go on websites like Smooth-on, BrickintheYard, MonsterMakers, and things of that nature to read through material property charts and think about what things I could use them for. I check out Volpin Props every now and again as well but mostly just for fun xD

Valerie: What are your favorite materials and why?

Kanti: Probably resin, foam and silicone. They’re all tough, waterproof and easy to clean. They also have great versatility and can do virtually anything you can think of.

Valerie: What suggestions do you have for people who want to get into prop making (as far as necessary basic equipment, best materials to learn to use, etc)?

Kanti: I think there are so many different ways to do things it’s sort of difficult to give general advice. I guess just be hard on yourself when you’re making things. When you think of a way to do something, don’t stop there. Try to think of a better way to do it or try to think of what can go wrong. Always accept criticism from other people and ask questions about the supplies you want to use. Start small and work your way up. Experiment with every new material you try before actually starting your project.

Valerie: How do you pick what your next project will be?

Kanti: Whatever I’m most excited to do, haha. I try to aim for new things and upgrade outdated products if and when I can. I have a hard time choosing sometimes because I wish I could do a million things at once.

Valerie: How popular are you around Halloween? Be honest. Do all of your friends come raid your house for Halloween costumes?

Kanti: Haha amongst my friends, no, they don’t necessarily care about me around Halloween. It’s around convention time I get a lot of calls for stuff and even then, nothing too bad. But for my customers I’m way too popular. Last Halloween I was completely unprepared for it and got completely run over.

Valerie: I saw that you attend Renaissance Festivals. For those of us who haven’t really been to these, tell me about them. Who goes, what people do there, etc.

Kanti: Renaissance Festivals/Fairs are events that usually take place in a park of some sort, outdoors. For a few weeks at a time, the park is filled with tents and stalls where people do everything renaissance-styled. They sell reinassance themed clothing like corsets, leather bracers, even metal armor and swords, renaissance themed food like turkey legs(the best sh*t ever), pickles, pretzels, BEER OF COURSE, they put on shows like falconry and jousting, and everyone acts and dresses up in fantasy/renaissance themed clothing. They’re great fun!

Valerie: On your blog I saw that you had a tutorial for Helmets. Tell me about your inspiration for this.

Kanti: Me and my boyfriend thought it would be cool if we were Daft Punk for halloween. Unfortunately I didn’t meet the deadline haha. Ive been meaning to remake them, though. Not sure when I’ll get around to it, it was very difficult work.

Valerie: I also saw that you make Hooves and Horns. Again, what was the inspiration? What are they made out of? Do you hand paint them all?

Kanti: The hooves were actually meant for a Draenei costume for a convention. A friend of mine was going as a WoW character and told me to cosplay alongside her as another character from the game.. I naturally liked the Draenei so I went off to try and make a pair of hooved shoes for them. Along the way I saw some very nice work, Chris Channing was definitely an inspiration. His hooved shoes are phenomenal. My horns were inspired from my first renaissance fair. I just liked wearing them and thought they looked really cool. They’re made from polymer clay, well they were, now they’re a mixture of resins. But yea, I hand paint them all, same with the hooves.

Valerie: You also are doing a tutorial for a Silicone Mermaid Tail. Tell me about your inspiration for this. I saw that you had a raffle going to raise money towards funding the project. How is that going? At what stage are you at in the tail making process now?

Kanti: Yes. I was very excited to do mermaid 
tails for a while. I had been part of a mermaid forum for only about a year now and my inspiration for making the tutorial was actually due to the fact that no one else was willing to teach anyone how to make one, hah. Everyone who knew how to make silicone tails was so secretive about it, it annoyed me. So far it’s going pretty well, I’m still in the sculpting stages and making many of the pieces in which to mold. It’s the longest part but once it’s done, the whole process will be downhill from there. The raffle itself is at a standstill, we have almost half the tickets sold. I’m already starting, though, based off a couple of buyouts I had for the tails, so I am able to actually start the tutorial.

Valerie: Are you the next Eric Ducharme or Mike Van Daal?

Kanti: I’m not sure about that but I certainly hope so. Not in a replacement sort of way, though, haha. I think there’s room for a LOT of really good tailmakers out there. I really would be honored to be either of their friends or to even be nearly as well known.

Valerie: Are you secretly a little afraid of using such expensive materials, or are you pretty confident in your abilities?

Kanti: I am cautious but I wouldn’t say scared. I always read up so much and overthink things that by the time I finally do decide to order the materials I’m pretty confident in what’s about to go down. But, hey, sometimes things do go wrong and sometimes you overlook things, so anything is possible. I always try to do a couple of tests before actually attempting the real deal so I don’t waste nearly as much if things do happen to go wrong.

Valerie: Do you have plans for future projects yet, or are you just focused on finishing the things you’re working on now?

Kanti: I always have future projects! xD I probably have like 15 I’d love to get started on right now, but I do have to pace myself and work on a few things at a time. I’m very thrilled at my recent support so I will hopefully get around to doing everything I want sooner than I thought I could before!

Valerie: If you could make any prop/project and had no monetary limitations, what would you love to make?

Kanti: That’s a tough question.. I used to daydream about it all the time but recently I’ve tried to be more realistic about things. I’d say a full-body prosthetic of some sort with some completely insanely oversized horns and wings haha. I’d definitely like to remake my old dragon costume.

Valerie: What are your career aspirations?

Kanti: Best option possible would be to get hired to make props and prosthetics for movies and become faaammmouuuss! That would be incredible, but I’m also striving to be my own person. Maybe someday I’ll be the one making the movies. I’d also really love to teach classes on how to make things. Maybe one day I’ll try to audition to FaceOff. I have a lot of hopes and dreams. Maybe one day!

Valerie: Besides prop making and art, what other interests do you have/what else do you enjoy doing?

Kanti: I like videogames and wasting hours upon hours on the internetz but I’ve also been striving for more athletic activities as well such as archery and swimming. I definitely want to get into horseback riding+archery combination someday!

Valerie: Do you have artists/prop makers who inspire you, and if so who?

Kanti: I’d say my biggest idol has to be Harrison Krix from Volpin 
Props. Not only is his work amazing but he always tells people exactly how he does things. I think he’s a great inspiration because someone who is truly good at what they do doesn’t need to keep secrets.

Thanks, Kanti, for taking the time to answer my questions :). You can see more of Kanti's work on her Facebook Fan Page or check out her tutorials on her blog.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

First Experience with Art Clay

Today I experimented with Art Clay. I really like the idea of it, and with some practice I think I will really love working with it. I purchased a basic kit  at Firemountaingems.com. These are the pieces that I used today:

I had to go to Walmart for a 1 a.m. run to get butane for the torch. I used a mold because I didn't want to go too crazy when I didn't really know what I was doing. When I opened the clay, it was pretty basic clay. It felt like normal, wet clay. It was pretty sticky, so it's a good idea to oil your fingers a little so you don't waste a lot of clay when it sticks to you. Also, oil your mold if you are using one (I didn't do that the first time and there was no way that clay was coming out of the mold). They didn't specify what kind of oil to use, so I used olive oil.

So, after pushing the clay into the mold and letting it dry a bit, I pulled it out and filed the edges a bit to give them more definition. This is what I ended up with:

The only difference I felt between working with this and regular clay was that it was a little heavier. It had the weight of the metal despite looking like normal clay. I had to blow dry the piece a little because I didn't want to wait 24 hours for it to dry on its own. Then, I was ready to torch it. My torch was a little disappointing. It didn't seem to work that well, but it did the job. You torch the clay until it changes a salmony pink color. Once it is that color, you time it for 2.5 minutes. You are expected to have about 8-9% shrinkage.

Following the torching, your piece still looks like clay, but when you it with a wire brush, it brushes off the bonder and reveals the metal and gives it a satin finish. Working on it with the agate-tipped burnisher gives it a high polish finish.

I know it might seem like I am missing some steps, because, bam, all of the sudden we have a fine silver (99.9% silver) pendant. Not bad, eh? I think it might look better if I knew how to antique it so that the pattern stood out more.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Interview with Author Heather Ostler

Valerie: Today I'm lucky enough that I get to interview author Heather Ostler, who's already published one book, with the second in the series coming out this summer. You can learn more about her and her project on her blog. Heather, tell me about your first novel The Shapeshifter’s Secret. What inspired that story?


Heather: The Shapeshifter’s Secret is a coming of age novel about a 16-year-old girl who finds out she’s a werecat shapeshifter. I love big cats. Tigers, lions, panthers, and jaguars are just mesmerizing to me, and I liked the idea of someone being able to shapeshift into one of these powerful and dangerous animals. From there I began thinking about a character that would go to school in order to learn the art of shapeshifting.

Valerie: You have another novel coming out this summer. Tell me about that one.

Heather: It’s Julia’s second year at Lockham castle, and just when she thinks she’s beginning to grasp her new life, she’s confronted by a group of sirens. The Sirens reveal life-changing information, and Julia must decide who she can trust, and where her fate truly lies.

Valerie: I understand you have a Launch party in June. Who is invited to these launch parties? Is everyone invited, like it’s open to the public? Or are these exclusive events for the elite to rub shoulders and socialize with one another?

Heather: Yes, the launch party will be on June 15th at the American Fork Deseret Book. Everyone is invited! We want everyone to come party with us and celebrate the launch of The Siren’s Secret. I like to have prizes, giveaways, and treats so everyone has a good time.

Valerie: Awesome! Hear that everybody? Mark your calendars for a party on June 15th with author Heather Ostler for the launch of her book The Siren's Secret. Next question Heather, did you always want to be a writer and what made you want to become a writer?

Heather: I realized I wanted to be a writer when I was in Jr. High. I saw the positive impact books had on my life, and I wanted to create that same influence for good.

Valerie: Why do you write? Out of all the possibilities of what you could do in the world, why this?

Heather: Writing makes me happy. My mind never stops creating new characters and stories, and if I don’t write, then I’ll never get to share these characters I’ve grown to love. I’ll listen to a song or see a photograph, and my mind races with possibilities for new stories.

Valerie: Who are some of your favorite authors/what kind of books do you like to read?

Heather: I love fantasy with all my heart, but I’m also a sucker for happy, lighthearted middle grade novels. Some of my favorites include Ella Enchanted, Harry Potter, The Series of Unfortunate Events, and anything from C.S. Lewis.

Valerie: What’s the best part about being a writer?

Heather: Being able to share my stories makes me incredibly happy, and receiving positive feedback is the best feeling in the world.

Valerie: What’s the worst part about being a writer?

Heather: Editing! I really appreciate editors because there are enough grammar and punctuation rules to make my head spin.

Valerie: So you have a shapeshifting book, and you have a siren book. What’s next? What are you working on now?

Heather: The Siren’s Secret is the sequel, which comes out this summer. I’ve just barely begun working on the third and final book in the series.

Valerie: What advice do you have for aspiring writers?

Heather: Read a lot, write a lot, do your research, and be persistent. Beyond that you can check out my “Advice to Writers” tab on my blog.

Valerie: Did you always believe you could achieve your dreams? a. If yes, why?

Heather: I always knew I would be an author because I was so passionate about writing. However, there were many times when I became discouraged. What helped me was knowing that every successful author goes through a certain amount of rejection. I think when you get your first rejection letter you should celebrate, you’ve begun the journey to publication!

Valerie: Most of the blurbs about you talk about you having a “rambunctiously entertaining family.” Can you expound upon this for us? Tell us about them. Come on we want some stories.

Heather: Haha. I have a lot of siblings, and sometimes we weren’t very well behaved. We would play pranks all the time. One time we threw a life-size doll off the side of our house and yelled to my aunt that a child had jumped off the roof. She didn’t think it was very funny…

Many times we dressed up like cowboys or superheroes and would go to stores trying to stay in character, but would burst out laughing anyway.

One time we put a mannequin head on the front of our car where the old hood ornament used to be. The mannequin’s head was creepy with huge eyes. We would drive really slowly behind people in parking lots. When they finally turned around, there would be a creepy mannequin head right behind them!

Valerie: I saw that at LTUE you participated in a podcast about writer’s block and different aspects of writing romance. When will that podcast be available and where can we find it?

Heather: It will be posted on Foreverwriters.com, and should be up within the next month.

Valerie: I’ve notice on your blog that you seem to do a lot of traveling. I’ve seen pictures from Hawaii and New Zealand. How have you managed to travel so much (Vacation? Inspiration? Priority? Adventure?)? Where else have you been, and where do you want to go next? What would be your ultimate destination if money was no object?

Heather: Oohh, I’m big on adventure, so let’s go with that. Some of the coolest places we’ve been to are Australia, New Zealand, Italy, Hawaii, Belize, Cozumel, and Orlando (Yeah, Harry Potter world was pretty incredible). New places and experiences really inspire me, and a lot of my novels have parts based off of our traveling adventures. I would really like to make it to Asia and Africa someday!

Valerie: I read that you have two pugs. Tell me about them.

Heather: I have a girl pug named Mille, and a boy pug named Ruffus. Both are adopted and have very distinct personalities. They’re a lot of fun, and they like to sit next to me while I write :-)

Valerie: Do you love all animals or just dogs?

Heather: I’m a big animal person and have always wanted to start an animal shelter. We always had a lot of pets growing up and it taught me to love animals.

Valerie: If you weren’t a writer, what else would you want to be?

Heather: A Ballerina. Don’t be fooled by the pink tights and tutus, ballerinas are tough! I’ve been on a couple of different ballet companies, and though pointe shoes are extremely painful, it was worth it. I love dancing.

Valerie: That's awesome. I want to see pictures. Besides writing, what else do you enjoy doing?

Heather: I love reading, traveling, dancing, and acting. I also like making friends with awesome people like Valerie ;-)

Valerie: Thanks, Heather, for taking the time to let me interview you. Good luck with your launch of the Siren's Secret this summer :)

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

My Amazing Dollar Bill

Today I thought I might like to send my missionary sister a dollar bill, maybe disguised as something else. I went online and saw a picture of a dollar fish. He was really cool, especially his scales. I thought to myself that I would like to own a dollar bill fish (because by then I was distracted from my original goal of disguising money for my sister in the third world country). So I looked up the instructions. For those brave individuals who want to try it out and have a few extra hours to spare and a dollar bill, a koi fish is within your grasp if you just follow this link: http://www.origami-resource-center.com/support-files/dollarkoifish.pdf
 Honestly, how cool is this fish? That picture above is actually my fish (the one I MADE!!!). Not bad for a first try. And it only took three hours...

A close-up of his scales

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Heard of Cake Pops?

I hadn't heard of cake pops or cupcake pops, but apparently they are a relatively popular phenomenon invented by Bakerella (google her).  Basically you make a "sucker" out of cake and chocolate candy coating.  Some people are really ingenious and make pigs, or snowmen, or reindeer.  This seems like an appropriate Thanksgiving/Christmas holiday activity, so I am trying my hand at it.  As we speak.  I'm trying out cupcake pops, because my sister has a crush on cupcakes.  If they turn out I'll probably take some to her for a surprise tomorrow (she's going on an LDS mission to Nicaragua on December 15th) and some people are throwing a farewell bash for her.  Anyway.

The idea behind these cupcake pops is to mix a baked cake that has been crushed up and destroyed with an appropriate amount of cream cheese frosting and put them in the freezer to harden.  When they're hard, you can shape them into a cupcake shape with a small cookie cutter and then dip them in candy chocolate, and put them on a stick and decorate them however.

I made my cake with only two eggs instead of three because I forgot to get more eggs at the store.  How important could that last egg really be?  I figured I would pretend I put in three small eggs, instead of two large eggs.  That way, it would be just like I'd put in three eggs... I'll let you know how that reasoning goes.

I found one website that had shortcuts.  I like shortcuts.  So I microwaved the cake.  Who knew you could do that?!!!  It turned out like a normal cake in about 10 minutes.  Now that is crazy.  All the instructions say to use a food processor to blend up your cake, but my cake just sat there in the blender.  I had to just stir it up into crumbles.  I think you can skip the food processor step.  Your cake will turn into dirt when you're stirring frosting up into it.

There are a lot of useful websites and tips, but I liked this one a lot:

And now.... The moment of truth.  Did I succeed?

My First Cupcake Pop

On all of my subsequent cupcakes, I swirled the "frosting" (vanilla candy coating with food coloring) to make the cupcake look more authentic.
Aren't my cupcake pops packaged in a lovely fashion?
An artful shot for you
And here's all the ones I made today.
I actually got some good advice from my old visiting teacher for these.  Thanks, Natalie!  Pretty fun.  I particularly liked her recommendation to freeze whatever cake you don't use (then you don't have to finish it all off if you don't want to).

Friday, November 12, 2010

Bead Making Tutorial

If you have several small beads hanging around, or maybe some lure beads and fishing line, you should try making a cluster bead.  All you need is twelve of your little beads, and some fishing line (or tigertail, beading thread, etc).

First, string four of your beads onto the middle of your string.
Then, take the end of your string and go back through the first bead.
 String three more beads onto your string.

Now take the opposite end and string it back through the last bead you put on your string.

Notice how the string is kind of sitting on top of the bead to the right.  Go ahead and string your beading wire or fishing line through that bead.

String on two more beads!
Take the end to the left and string it back through the last bead you put on the line.

If you pull both ends tight, you'll get something like you see below.  Go ahead and string the line through the bead on the left that it's kind of sitting on top of.

String on two more beads.
Go back through the last one you strung with the opposite end.
 You should only have one bead left.  String it on.

And go back through it with the opposite end.
 To make the bead sturdy and finish it, you have to go back through the last beads.  If you've done everything else right, when you finish at the end every bead should have two lines/strings going through them.  To finish it you take one end of your string and go through the last three beads on top that don't already have two lines through them.  I've marked the beads in the picture.

Now conveniently both ends should be coming out right next to each other.  Go ahead and tie them in a double or triple knot until it feels secure to you.  The beads should feel sturdy and look something like this:

You can make it out of any type or size of bead than you can manage.  You can string it on through the hole pictured above, or you can hook jump rings/wires onto the fishing line.