Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Review of the Labyrinth of Jareth Fantasy Masquerade Ball 2011

Some folks might say it is nerdy to attend an event like the "Labyrinth of Jareth Fantasy Masquerade Ball".  That might be true for some, however for people like me who love to design and make costumes and props........this is a must see event.  
Many of the folks who attend this ball work in the entertainment industry and the stuff they create is worth seeing.

This year the "Labyrinth of Jareth Fantasy Masquerade Ball" was held on the first weekend of  July 2011.  
Her dress had over 100 lights.

It was a fabulous event with a wide selection of costuming skills and design.  

This year's theme was the "Royal Court of Sypher" which has opened its gates to visitors to  

join in the masquerade and become involved in the story of line of "the elvish tribes".  

There were many different types of elves and fairies represented at this venue.
Some of the make up artistry was really fun.  The lady below had these cool brackets all over her skin to keep in the theme of her character.

The location was decorated to create an environment of enchantment and fantasy,
This structure looked like something from a sea adventure film.

 utilizing props and creative lighting effects combining both images & color blends
The lighting on the wall changed colors all night long.
To create the illusion of the elvin kingdom throughout the venue.  Throughout the show there were several stages that had a variety of entertainment to amuse the guests.  

This included "Stilt" performers who danced and gigged their way around the venue.

The night included an interesting assortment of music and performances by various local artists.

As well as bands performing to allow for dancing (it is a ball after all).
For this event, costumes were encouraged

You can not see it, but his face lights up.

or the attendee could wear formal attire as long as they wore a mask.  

This event provides a vast opportunity for designers and costume makers to show off their talents and express their creativity.

Her costume is airbrushed on (except the tutu).

Both had something that lit up in their costume.

This headpiece lights up....
There was a trend for costumes that light up this year.
Of course you can't have a party without a few vampires appearing.
Or a few cowboys, saloon girls, etc. 
There was also a great selection of very fun make up.  From airbrushed to hand painted, it was all there.

There were also folks sporting the "Steampunk" look, along with some cool accessories.

Mermaids seem to be a popular choice this year.

Then there were the "Disney Princesses" and other "Disney" characters in attendance. 

These two princess give their costumes a new look!

and you can not leave out the drag queens.

and the construction crew and prop builders ....who never miss a party.

It was very interesting to see the varied costumes and accessories.  Unfortantly, it was too crowded to take very many pictures. I missed out on photographing some really wild pieces due to such a large crowd in a tight space.  However, it was still a fun and eventful evening.


Tuesday, July 19, 2011

My review of the Sizzix Big Shot Machine

Recycled Soda Tin Floral Barette
Above is a cool view of a recycled project made from aluminum soda cans.

The flowers were cut out using the  Sizzix Big Shot Machine Only (Powder Blue & Teal) by Ellison  die cutting machine.  The teal is the newest color in the series and works just as well as the pink and black one.
Big Shot Machine

Lately, it seems like every craft show I attend has someone demonstrating and/or using a 
Sizzix Big Shot Machine or the Sizzix BIGkick Machine Only (Vintaj Special Edition) by Ellison
that is created specifically for metal at their booth.  I have seen people use such a variety of materials with these machines that it never ceases to amaze me.  Even beyond that, is the projects people make with their die cut pieces.  This tool appears to be one of the "must haves" for an avid crafter and recycling junkie.  

At the "Unique LA" show I attended recently, I watched my friend Stefanie Girard (author of 

 Sweater Surgery and reporter for Craft Gossip), demonstrate how to use the big shot to cut shapes out recycled felted wool sweaters and make fun jewelry.  These were popular workshops that were sponsored by various groups and organizations, including Craftside Publishing.   The folks in attendance just loved being able to use the "Big Shot" to cut up the sweaters to make cool jewelry pieces like the ring below.  For more great recycled project ideas, just visit one of her many blogs (included the card album blog).
Recycled Felted Wool Sweater Ring
Seeing all these cool demonstrations, has made me want to own a die cutting machine of my own.  I have a very limited crafting space so I had to do a little research to figure out which machine would do the most for the price, size, and cost.  The "Big Shot" retails for $99.00 (plus shipping) on the Sizzix website.  I did a google search and found the price on the Sizzix Big Shot Cutting-and-Embossing Roller-Style Machine varied depending on the retailers and some of the specials they were holding on machine.  Amazon offers it at a great price.  Also, I have seen it sold with accessories in kit form at various scrapbooking and craft shows (ex:  beginners kit, advanced kit, etc.).  So the price can vary. 

The Sizzix Big Shot Machine Only comes with:

  • Big Shot Machine (14-1/4 by 12-3/8 by 6-5/8 )
  • Multi Purpose Platform
  • Directions imprinted right on the platform so you wont lose them (unless you misplace the platform)
  • Pair of standard Clear cutting pads

Sizzix Big Shot Starter Kit
  • The Sizzix Big Shot Starter Kit on Amazon comes with:
  • Big Shot Machine
  • Standard Cutting Pads
  • One Extended Multipurpose Platform
  • One Bigz Die
  • Two Sizzles Dies
  • One Textured Impressions Embossing folder (these work with thin metals too)
  • One Framelits Seven die set
  • Ten Cardstock Samples
  • Instruction Booklet

My first question upon opening the box, was "what is this multi purpose platform for?"  It looked a bit odd so I did the smart thing and read the instructions.   I love the fact that the machine is so easy to set up.  The cool multi purpose platform itself has flaps called tabs.  Each tab gives the directions for using various dies, embossing and texture sheets printed right on it. The multi purpose platform is important because it shows many of the Sizzix products and how they are compatible with this machine. If you shop at the Sizzix website it has a button that leads you to all of their products that are compatible with the big shot.  Additionally, the platform allows you to use other company dies, embossing, and texture sheets with this machine. 

The base of the big shot is sturdy which is helpful when trying to use the extra long dies like the "Suitcase" die (#657124).  

Upon reading the directions, I realized that the Big Shot cuts and embosses a wide variety of materials.  Since, I had a limited amount of dies to test out, I decided to take advantage of my local craft store sale on dies and pick up a few to help me test out the machine's capabilities.  Once I was armed with enough dies, I had a field day running different materials through the machine and trying out the dies.  

I tested an wide assortment of materials including, acetate, card board, corrugated card board, card stock, 
aluminum and plastic from soda containers

chipboard, papers (different weights and textures), plastic, place mats, fabric, thin leather, some hand 

made papers, tin, sticker paper, rubber, and more using the Sizzix Die's.  Basically anything that was less
the blue felt material above is 1/8" thickness

than 1/8" went through the machine.  I tried out some craft wood that was the thickness of wall paper and very soft.  It went through without any problem.  

I have listed below some of the different materials and results I got from testing the Big Shot. 

Aluminum Cans
I started with some rinsed soda and energy drink cans then using an old pair of scissors, I cut up the cans.  I wore my leather 

gloves to protect me from the sharp edges that I was bound to encounter while cutting up the soda cans. This was a smart move, as I ended up with quite a few sharp edges.  I flatten out the piece of a aluminum and then ran through the "Big Shot" using my

butterfly die (#654996 ).

The finished piece was very cool and since this die is a butterfly and I could fold up the wings to give it more dimension.  

I decided to test a nice orange burlap place mat that I had on hand.  I put a small piece through the big shot and used my Flowers Layer (#654982) die cut.   It did cut the burlap but the burlap started to unraveled fairly quickly.  So I decided to try the old stand by "Modge Podge" on the burlap.  

I used the my favorite gloss-lustre because it gives everything a little bit of shine.  I applied it to both sides of the burlap (allowing to dry between applications). Once the material had dried, I ran it through Big Shot machine.  This time it cut the burlap without any unraveling problems.  The dried Modge

Podge also made it easier to shape the petals.  I added a bit of glitter to the petals,  then attached a pin back to make it into a flower pin.

Cork Board
I tried a round cork board drink coaster in the machine that was a little thicker than 1/8".   I found that it was too thick to run through the machine.  So I decided to try a thinner piece of cork board (less than 
1/8") and then ran it through the "Big Shot" using my butterfly die (# 654996).  It worked just fine.

Aluminum Can and Cork Project:
I combined the aluminum can pieces that I had cut earlier with the cork board pieces to make some fun butterflies.  

Then my girls mounted them onto some plant sticks for one of many teacher's aid gifts that we have been working on.  My daughter added some sequins onto the butterflies to catch the light and make it fun.  
I love that my girls can join me in using the things we die cut from this machine, as well as its' applicability to kids crafts.

Felt Craft Sheets - Self Adhesive
I wanted to use one of my "Hello Kitty" dies that I had on hand, so I decided that one of those self

adhesive felt craft sheets would be fun to test the "Big Shot" on.  I tried a single thickness and it worked very well.  
Hello Kitty Die Cut in Felt

I decided to try a double thickness and it did not cut as cleanly as the single thickness did…so I think I will stick to a single layer of the felt for future reference.   

Second Project - Hello Kitty Tote
Since the felt is flexible, I decided it would be a great accent on a tote bag for one of my girls.
Hello Kitty Tote Bag

Foam Sheets
I received a really cute suitcase die cut that I was curious to try out and see if it would work with the foam sheets you can find at the craft store.  The suitcase die is very long and requires using longer clear

extended platforms to run this particular die through the Big Shot.  The felt sheets were a little less than 1/8" thickness.  I cut the sheet to fit the die and ran it through the machine.  Running the extended platform through the big shot takes only a bit more work than the shorter ones.  You need to hold them together until the die is 1/4th of the way through, then it run slowly through to get a nice cut on your paper or material.  Needless to say, it worked great and the thickness of the foam made the suitcase a little bit sturdier than if I had cut it out from card stock paper.   The foam did not fold as easily as paper would have and it did need to be stitched with thread to stay in the suitcase shape. However the end result was worth that little bit of extra effort. 
Foam Suitcase
Plastic 1 liter bottles
I washed out the bottle, then using very sharp scissors I cut the top and bottom from the bottle.  Then I cut down the center and laid it under some heavy books to flatten it out.  Once it was flat enough, I cut the plastic to fit the die.  I ran the die through the machine and it cut it out quite nicely.

It was very sheer so I decided to paint the petals before I put them together to create the flower in layers.  I used the Plaid Enamels to paint the plastic and they worked really well together.  Once the paint dried, I shaped the petals by pinching the ends and then put the flower together.  Since it was  plastic, I realized it would be great to use to decorate a pin wheel for the garden.
Plastic Bottle flower attached to pinwheel
Plastic Place mat
I had a plastic place mat made from a harder plastic than the 1 liter bottles.  The animal print just screamed to be used in some type of fun flower.

I cut the plastic to fit the Flowers Layer die cut (#654982) and put it through the "Big Shot" using the extra long clear plastic pads.  I was glad to see that it worked well cutting out the petals without leaving any sharp edges.

Third Project - Animal Print Flowers
Using the plastic flowers I cut out from the animal print place mat, I took the pad from my pergamano set so I could use a stylus to give the petals some shape.

I glued the pieces together, added a brad in the center, and then glue them to pin backs so they could be used as a pin.
The animal print flowers were so cute that I decided to add them to a gift bag to decorate it and for  the receiver of the gift to be able to use the wearable pin later on.
I also made some cute barrettes from some of the many flowers we had cut from the placement (which was a very large place mat).

Rubber Shelf liner
I picked up some the non-slip rubber shelf liner and put it through the machine using my Flowers Layer (#654982) die cut.  I was able to run 2 sheets at a time with out any problems.  It probably would have done 4 but I only needed a few flowers for this test.  It did cut the through the rubber without any problems.  I tried putting the petals together to make a flower but it was too thin to hold it's shape well.  So I decided to coat the rubber with the Modge Podge and glitter to see what would happen.  I let it dry overnight and it stiffened it up the petals so I could attach them to some flip flops to make them a little more decorative.  They came out cute!

Self Adhesive Plastic Shelf Liner
This is a little thicker than most shelf liners, however,  it cut without any problems.

The girls used the cut outs to decorate journal pages and an old tag I had from a trade show.
decorate tag
Competitor Dies
According to the information on the tabs, you can use the wafer thin die and other competitors dies on this machine.  So I decided to give it a try. I had a set of the "Spellbinder Nestabilities" frames in my craft box to try out. These are so versatile and it would be fabulous if I could use them with the Big Shot.
I placed one of the clear pads on top of Tab Number 2 (which means both tabs are under the pad).  Since the Spellbinder frame die is considered to be fairly thin, I decided to see what would happen if I feed it through without the proper backing (foam pad).
It went through without any problems but did leave deep marks on the clear plastic cutting pads.  You can see below how clean this machine cuts through the paper.

Then, I followed the actual directions on the tabs for wafer thin dies.  I placed the die face up on the pad.  I put a piece of paper stock on top of the die followed by a piece of foam and the second clear pad.  It cut clean without any problems.

Using the impression part of the die, was a little trickier.  I put Tab Number 2 through the machine first to hold the platform in place.  Then, I placed the Spellbinder Nestibilities die face up directly on top of Tab Number 1.  Then placed the paper.  I covered the die with two pieces of foam, and the clear pad I ran it through slowly.  

When I removed the pads, the die had left an impression perfectly, 

however it did leave some cuts on the piece of foam.  
I checked the Sizzix website and found that this problem is easily fixed by using the sizzix silicone pad and by following the directions on that packaging.  However, for now at least I know it works with what I have on hand.
Next I tried the Sizzix die "Shells & Starfish" (1/8" thickness).  This is a fun little die with a summer beach theme.  The shells and starfish on this little die are so cute!

I put it through the big shot and using card stock and it cut through cleanly.

I decided to try to cut another piece of soda can tin and I was surprised to see that it cut through the tin cleanly.  

Texture and Embossing
I also read that you can use texture sheets and embossing tools with the Big Shot.  I do not own any embossing tools, so testing those were out.   However, I did have some texture and embossing sheets from other companies to test out.  I decided to try one of the Cuttlebug embossing folders (Provo Craft) out in the Big Shot.  I used a piece of

aluminum can that I had cut from an energy drink.  Using the enclosed platform, I made sure that tab
number 2 went through the machine first.  I placed the cutting pad with the "Cuttlebug Emboss Sheet"
(Victoria) sandwiched between the top and bottom pad.  I laid them on top of Tab number 1.  I ran it through the machine.

I carefully removed the aluminum from the embossing sheet.  The design embossed beautifully and looked great on both sides of the aluminum piece.

I then tried the "Makin's Clay Plastic Texture Sheet" and the "Shade-Tex" rubbing plates (Scratch Art) which are significantly thinner.  I put a piece of foam down onto the platform, then I placed the texture sheet on it.  I put a piece of parchment paper on it and then a piece of foam followed by the top pad.  I ran it through the machine.  The texture sheets are not made of the same material as the Cuttlebug sheet and they did not work well on this machine.  Both did leave a slight impression on the paper but it was not much of one.  I think the texture sheets you use on this machine need to be made of sturdy materials to work well, instead of the lighter plastic or rubber.

For the money, this machine is a great investment because of its versatility and portability.  My friends and I enjoy having outdoor crafting parties and often there is no electricity easily available.  The Big Shot offers a tremendous potential for both my crafting needs and my upcycling projects.  The fact I can use it too cut so many different types of materials is a real plus.  I often switch between fabric projects and paper projects, to be able to use the machine for both is a not only a spacesaver but a money saver too!  Also, having seen some my favorite recycling gurus out there utilizing this machine to create some really cool art is inspiring as well. I would highly recommend this machine, for its many great qualities and affordable price.

  • Always use the right platform or cutting pad board with the appropriate die.
  • Carefully place die or texture plate facing the correct direction (according to manufacturers directions).  If you are new to using these types of machine, just know that the clear plastic pads will get scratched and cut over time.  The die cutting process does leave its mark behind on those, so try to remember to rotate and flip the clear pads to get even wear on them.
  • Local craft stores do not have a large selection of these dies in stock, they are trending towards the electric die cut machines which I think is a mistake.  There is a need for both types, especially if you want to take your die cutting machine with you somewhere where there is not electricity readily available. Anyway, you can find a great selection on die's online.
  • Check the Sizzix website to get some more project ideas to make the most of your machine.
  • The Big Shot comes wrapped in a huge plastic container.  If you cut it carefully, you can use that same plastic and run it through your big shot to die cut it and use it for craft projects or mini books.
  • The longer dies are harder to push through the machine, but have patience and it will go through.  If you put a rubber anti slip mat under the big shot while using those longer die's it helps keep it from moving.

Leave me a comment, I would love to hear about your experience with this machine and hear what types of materials you have cut with this machine.