Sunday, December 14, 2014

Using Technology for Dinosaurs

I guess the first question I should answer is "Who am I calling a Dinosaur?"
Awhile back my parents were talking computers with my brother.  I don't know the whole conversation just that he called them Dinosaurs and that has stuck.
If we think about how fast technology changes and timeline that - well in comparison they are (assuming that dinos lived a really long time ago).  Sort of like the cat or dog years thing.  

I decided to write this article after reading some thing from another miniaturist encouraging other older miniaturists (by age not experience necessarily) to try learning the basics that they are interested in and then branching out.  I thought that was really good advice but I wanted to expand on that idea with some knowledge I particularly wanted to share.

Using help may require using different terms to find

When it comes to learning sometimes we want to look for help in a program or on the internet. Sometimes it is difficult to get help because of the terms used.  So my advice is to search with the words you think it might be called, then try different words to describe the task until can find the help needed.  

Learn the basics so can build on them

My second tip ties in with the first one - when help is provided in a program, it is a good idea to read the basic instructions.  This is because some programs like math build on knowing how to do other tasks.  We can't multiple or divide until we understand how to add and subtract.  Most programs have basic tools that we need to understand in order to do other tasks.

More than one way to do a task

I am a right click mouse person.  This just means that I like using the right click of a mouse to do things.  I love when programs have a good set of tasks on the right click menu.  But I am not trying to convert you to right clicking so much as to illustrate that there is often more than one way to do a task.  For example, to copy something I have highlighted, I can use the right click menu, use a shortcut key set like Ctrl + C keys or I can go to the menu.  There are also function keys (F12 = Save As).  For the shortcut combos and function keys I recommend doing a search.  I find that it is a good idea to find some to add to my personal 'toolbox'.  I don't need to know each one, but it is good to be aware of them so that if I am doing repetitive steps, then I can save myself some steps.
I also think it is good to review these as it could be there is one to add at a later time.  Maybe right now I don't need it but later I might find is useful.  
Also research the shortcut keys in a particular program as there may be more in one program vs another.

When learning, use real world for you tasks

If you take a class in a program or computer basics, make sure you are also trying to do the things you really want to learn.  I have bought books to learn how to use a program.  For example, I have Paint Shop Pro.  The book provided me with cd containing picture files I could use to make changes to.  Instead of using those pictures, I use a copy of one of my own.  Then when I see the results of that particular task, I know what it might be like for my real photos. The best teacher will be a task you really want done and you learn how to do it for yourself. If we use examples that aren't relevant, then learning process requires us to translate to what we might do with it.  I recommend that if you are taking a class, take an example of something you want to work on and ask the instructor to help with that.  Maybe you have to do so after the class is over, but I believe you will get more benefit from the class you take.  It may help the instructor with ideas of what to teach or to provide as examples.

Repeat, Repeat, Repeat

When I was in school I hated to practice, but there is a benefit to doing so.  This is true for digital tasks as well.  The more you do the task the better you will become at it.  But also it will give confidence to try again.  

Don't be afraid to try

I get it, computers and software can be intimidating.  There are terms that don't make sense, there are many options to choose from, and there is that scary time when the computer froze and I just knew it was my fault.  Today's computers are not perfect, sure we can mess them up doing the wrong thing or by not doing something (like making sure to keep an active anti-virus software running), but they have come a long way to making them easier to use.  
This is reaffirming what my miniaturist friend was saying.  When we try something we get a feel good when we are successful.  Trying things you want to do and being able to do them, will help to build on trying other things.  

Technology is ever changing. 

We need to change with it.  Change our attitude and try things again that maybe didn't work before.  A good example is cell phones, just 5 years ago, the number of minutes on a plan was a big deal and the cost to go over was exorbitant.  Today, we have plans that are unlimited for less than those 300 minutes a month plans.  The way it was a few years ago is not necessarily how it is now.  

I hope this article was helpful and encouraged you to learn or try something new.  If there is a particular topic you think I could cover or question you would like to ask, feel free to email me

Happy miniaturing!

Saturday, July 5, 2014

All the Trimmings - and more

All the Trimmings -

that is the label I have on my tin that I now keep most of my ribbons, bunka and other trims in.
When I first started in miniatures I had to buy trims nearly every time I needed something.  Over time, of course, I have been able to build up a good collection of different types and styles.  As my collection grew, the way that I store them has changed as well.  I believe I started storing them with the project.  Then as I finished a project they moved to a zip bag.  Then they were moved to a drawer - this being about the size of shoebox and was all jumbled together.  The zip bag was fine as it was a much smaller amount to sort through but the drawer was a mess.
The one on the left is ribbons that I am unlikely to use in miniatures for 1:48 scale, but I show as that is how that drawer was. The one on the right is a drawer of Christmas styles also unlikely to use in miniatures.
One day as I was getting everything out to find something, I realized that every time I needed something for a project I was pulling out two to three 3x5x3 inch plastic drawers,  and a cardboard drawer like above, and additionally I had stored some in a case binder that had business card holder pockets.  Oh wait, plus I had participated in a supply swap and it was in an additional cardboard drawer. I recognized after the other organizing I had been doing, that I needed to get my trims organized better as well.

My Solution

I started grouping the trims by color and putting then in smaller zip bags.  I even pulled the silk ribbon and bunka from their special smaller plastic drawers and put them in the zip bags.  This was a really big step for me as I was seemingly committed to the drawers for some reason.  I am not sure what my hang up was, maybe the way they looked in the drawer - all lined up like colored files that you could easily see which to grab, but it did take me a while before I decided to add them in the zip bags.  
My ultimate decision was 'what is the most efficient means to store these different types of trims?'  I thought about how I was getting out all these containers and only looking for a particular color.  It occurred to me finally that the most efficient way was to pull out a bag of the color I was looking for and then I could sort for the possible trims to use.  This truly was my best solution.

Next steps - adding more to the collection

A year or so ago, I lucked into a garage sale of items from a miniaturist who had passed.  The lady had a whole bunch of ribbon and other trims.  Her storage solution, as they were mostly ribbon, was to wrap them on paper towel tubes and then pin them.  These were in small paper shopping bags when I saw them.  I purchased the whole lot of bags and got over 200 different ones.  Granted there were some that I decided later that I could part with as they were larger in scale or a type of material that was not conducive to use in 1:48 scale which is what I prefer to work in.  Some of these tubes had 20 or so different trims/ribbons on them.  But the pins seemed to come loose and long term not a solution I wanted to keep.  Maybe it worked for her, but it wouldn't work for me.
So I removed each and wound them onto cards I made.  These cards are just some I cut from thin cardboard.  It is nice to have the ears on the cards, like the cross-stitch thread or bunka is sometimes seen on but I found it wasn't necessary.  To hold the end in place I cut a notch in the side or end of the card to insert the end of the ribbon/trim into.

Well, now my stash has grown and I needed to find a new container to hold it all.  I had been keeping them in a plastic box slightly smaller than the typical plastic shoe box.  But rather than switch to two boxes, which I needed to if I didn't have anything else, I switched to a tin that I have.  

This cookie tin is quite large as tins go and boxy.  I got it quite a few years ago.  I had been storing a project in it.  The tin did keep the dust out, but it was far too easy to forget what was in the tin where it was being stored.  I can't recall what exactly prompted me to change my usage of this tin from storing a project to storing the bags, but I did have to change my way of thinking.  If there truly is a second lesson to be learned here it is to always be willing to re-evaluate your storage options.

Large Tin used to store current collection

This tin was just right for my current collection.  However I always seem to go OCD about a storage solution and find some flaw.  The flaw in this was bags can't be sorted by color. Plus the bags are different sizes.  OK, I can deal with the not having them 'filed', but the bags sizes - I have do something about that.  Fortunately, I had spare bags available. I switched them to smaller bags.  I of course saved the larger zip bags.  Anything that couldn't fit into the smaller bags, well I just divided up the color - making a lighter and a darker of that color.

Alternative storage solution

A few paragraphs above I said a lesson I need to work on is to always be willing to re-evaluate storage solutions.  As I write this, I reminded myself of the remaining solution i have for my trims - a super cool binder - shaped like a box but it has the rings in it.  Inside I have business card pocket pages.  I confess that I am still using that binder.  Silly I know as the whole point of pulling everything into the tin was the make it easier to find what i might use, but I am still hanging on to a prior solution.  

I am not going to beat myself up over this.  I will do something about it.  But I mention it for two reasons - one to drive my point about re-evaluating solutions but secondly because it is truly a great storage solution.  The only problem with this solution for me is it currently cost prohibitive.  Only reason I started it was because I had been able to get the binder and the pocket pages when they were throwing away items at work.  This binder is called a case binder and they come in different colors and different thicknesses.  


I wrote about my fabric storage in a prior post.  It really is nothing fancy - a drawer of bags where the fabric is grouped in the bags by color.  I really only mention it here because yet again, I had a moment when I reminded myself about having more than one place for storing something.  One of the supply swaps I was in included fabric swatches.  Those swatches took a while to be moved to the fabric bags.  And it was not just because I hadn't gotten around to moving them.
I pulled the drawer out today just to see if there was really something to talk about.  Well, even though I had some new to me fabric, not in the bags, at least it was in the same drawer.  When I feel like sorting or I need a particular color then I will have them all in same place and not have to hunt down that new fabric.  That's probably when it will get sorted.  But I am okay with that.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Moving - Rearranging and Downsizing

Moving things around is a really good way to figure out what you have and consider better ways to organize.  Moving house can force us to choose whether we want to keep something or not, especially when the new space is smaller.  Smaller space can be a good thing if viewed from the idea that having things in reach makes one more efficient.  It doesn't have to be a bad thing as maybe the new space can afford more shelving or some other advantage previously unavailable.  So if moving to a smaller space, think of it as positive.  If nothing else, you will get the advantage of going through you things to be reminded of what you have already.  It might also inspire you to work on what you have.

Savers - Hoarders - call us what you will

I know that many miniaturists are savers - some might even call us hoarders - but I do not.  To me, a hoarder is someone who is unwilling to part with things that have no use to them and I believe that some of them have a real medical condition.  I know some things are relative as to whether they are useful, but from my perspective someone I would call a hoarder tends to not really have an answer as to why they have so much stuff.  Another aspect of being a hoarder is someone who will save too much.  Too much can also be relative as a person who makes a kits might have a justification for saving many of something so they can have enough for kits, where someone who only saves for themselves doesn't need a lifetime supply for ten people. Being a saver is one way to stretch the funds available, but there is truly a fine line between just right and too much.

So when it comes to tossing versus keeping here are some points to consider:

  • Do I have a current need for this item?
  • Do I foresee a future need?
  • Is it easily replaced?
  • Do I have too much/many?
  • Do I still have room for it?
  • Can I make it fit into a smaller space?
Each of these questions will be answered differently for different people and at different times.

Current need / Future need?

If there is a current need then by all means keep it.  However depending on the answer to other questions, may still be a candidate for tossing.
Speaking for myself, I am always saving for a future need.  However again, depending on my answer to other questions whether I will continue to save it.  The key here is to be honest with yourself and not just assume that keeping it is the best thing to do.  Moving it or continuing to store it may cost you, sometimes in terms of money but also in the weight it has on your mind. Granted there are some items that we know we should hang on to because of the next question.  

Easily replaced?  

In the miniature world, I learned early on that when it comes to one-of-a-kind items I may see at a show, I need to buy it if I can afford to do so.  The odds are that it won't be available in the future.  But when this question is applied to a material, particularly one that is common every day item that i am recycling - say an egg carton or plastic lids, then I need to limit myself to what I save.
Let's talk about egg cartons - the paper machie kind are good for cutting up to make faux stones, or torn apart and make tree bark.  The foam kind can also be cut up to make faux stone or bricks - just a different style.  Saving them is a good idea - but think about how many to save goes back to whether they are easily replaced.  So I say save a few and toss the rest unless your stock needs to be replenished.  Although I will admit it is ok to keep in mind that the egg sellers may switch from one to the other and sure that is when you probably will need more.  However if you are still connected to the internet, I would suggest to ask other miniaturists if they might be able to share as their egg seller may still have the other kind.

Too many?

One example of the too many question combined with the easily replaced comes to mind.  I have used butter dish lids for paint before. Since butter dishes are something I frequently empty, I don't save every lid as I don't use that many for minis.   I can wash them off and do so for a few times, but then will discard them. Usually by that time there is another one available. 
The big key about saving items is whether I have room to continue saving and whether I have used what I have saved. 

Fit in a smaller space?

When it comes to smaller spaces - one thing I do is remove the packaging.  For example, over the years I have participated in many swaps.  Each swapper wraps the item individually.  Fairly early on I decided to remove them from the wrapping and store the swap items in my divided boxes.  The notes that tell who made it were recorded and then I could discard the notes and the wrapping.  In this case it also makes it much easier to see what I have to use in a project. 

Saving or Tossing Organic Items

When it comes to organic items - here are a few more questions to consider?
  • Is this item spoiled?
  • Is this item contained to keep out critters?
  • If used in miniatures will it be safe from critters then?
  • Has the color changed since purchased?
  • If the color changes will I still be happy with it having been used in miniatures?

Item spoilage

Regarding that first organic question, several times I have chosen to throw out dried flowers because they were growing mold.  This is likely due to the humidity in my house - more so in my prior one as it was not controlled environmentally as well as the house I have now. It is possible that had the flowers been in a project they would not have the mold, but keep in mind these are still organic items and being dried doesn't always mean 'never going to change'.

Keep out the critters?

I have heard stories of how critters have eaten away bits that were glued down.   Also very important to store these items properly to keep the critters out.  Even more importantly is to get rid of the critters before storing.  Heating organic materials like sticks and pine cones to kill critters is a good idea. I tend to steer away from organic materials today because of critters and other issues - read on...

Color change

Exposure to light can change the color of materials that are not color fast.  Read labels.  I used a product clearly labeled as not color fast and then got it wet.  The color ran and I didn't want it in my project.  It was a serious task in order to remove it.  If I had read the label, I wouldn't have used it.
A friend of mine once made a garden of all dried items.  A few years later that garden looked drab and not nearly as nice, because the dried items faded.  There is a lot of time and effort put into making miniatures.  It is such a shame to waste said time and energy only to have it look less inviting a few years later. 
Organic materials are not the only things that can change color.  Take paper for example, ever notice how newsprint changes color overtime.  That's because it has lignin in it.  As lignin deteriorates, it gives off acid and that acid causes the color change.  
It is also good to have acid-free paper for the same reason.  Even if it doesn't change color - it can still cause damage to the miniature it is used in.  I spend too many hours making these wonderful collectibles to knowingly use materials that can damage it over time.
Protect things from light - sun and other sources of light can cause fading.  This is true for things besides organic materials and paper and include things such as paint and fabric.


Ten plus years ago, I decided to focus on 1:48 scale miniatures.  To be honest, I don't recall why I decided to stop making miniatures in 1:12 scale.  Maybe I got a wild hair and just decided I couldn't do it all.  There's a thought.  One that bears consideration for our lives, but will leave that for another day.  
Back to the 1:12 scale minis.  1:12 scale takes up more room than 1:48 scale is probably one of the big reasons I decided I would scale back.  I went through all my things - purchased items, finished items and supplies.  I photographed many of them and sold them online.  I kept a few projects already started - a scrapbook dome and my rabbit collection domes.  One rabbit dome was already full but the second one had not be made yet.  But I knew I wasn't going to stop collecting rabbits so I keep those things I knew would use in those projects.  The rest - either I sold, donated or gifted to my daughter who still has a 1:12 scale house.  
It felt good to downsize. It also helped clear my head of projects I was no longer going to do. Some of the projects I have adapted to 1:48 scale and most of the others I have abandoned.  In that sense - I cleared some space in my brain as these projects hadn't been started yet.

Tools - Downsized

I also downsized my tools.  Sort of.  Mostly this meant that bigger tools that I didn't use for 1:48 scale frequently were put away and not carried in my tool basket.  In this case, I just chose for my tool basket the smallest tool I was comfortable with to use most often.  For example, I have a 6 inch ruler, not my 12 inch in my tool basket (now tool box). I still have the 12,18, and 36 inch rulers available should I need them, but stored away.  In my tool box, I also keep a small square and small right angle.  I store these extra tools in drawers or on the wall - hanging on pins.  
Scissors for example - I have several in multiple sizes, but in my tool box is just a couple.  The bigger ones are put away.  I even gave away some.
When I switched from a tool basket to a small tool box, I had to be even more selective in my tools.  
Last year I purchased a bunch of tools at a garage sale.  Because I bought the whole lot, I got a great deal on the ones I really wanted.  There were many of tools I already had.  I picked through this bunch and kept the ones I really wanted.  Then I gifted the rest to two other miniaturists.  I could have kept that whole bunch, but instead I choose to pass them along simply because I knew that I didn't want to store them or deal with sorting through those when I really didn't need to.  Being a miniaturist, I love my tools, but I recognize when I have too many of something.  But twenty years ago, I might not have.  I have come a long way to being able to part with my things.

Fabric Stash Downsized

Fabric was a biggie that I downsized.  I used do some real life quilting and making my own clothes, so had accumulated some fabric.  When I downsized minis to 1:48 scale, I was very selective in what I kept of the fabric.  First, I examined the weave.  Would I use it in 1:48 scale?  How much could I reasonable use in 1:48 scale project (or projects if it was  common enough fabric)?  What about the print?  Really large scale flowers or prints - they were donated unless I felt I could possibly use a portion.  Anything I kept was a small amount unless I could see using quite a bit of it, such as to make kits.  Also fabric I felt I could reasonable purchase at anytime - well I keep a small amount as well.  Much of the excess was donated so someone else could benefit and I no longer needed to store. 

Landscaping supplies - 

I downsized these as well.  In this case it was to get rid of the excess - either in amount or the types I couldn't see being used in 1:48 scale. 
I still need to work on these.  Right now I have a large cardboard box in the closet of my studio room.  It houses the dried things that are bigger.  When I do landscaping I generally need to purge from this box due to spoilage.  Which should really tell me to stop using these type of things.  
My other location is a three-drawer cart sorted by color.  This works for now, but I want to review this storage for more focused divisions than just a drawer for greens, flower colors, and neutrals.  The main reason is to downsize this further - by consolidating all the same colors and texture into same bags.  I am quite sure that I have multiple bags of same things in this area. 


Again I will say that if moving - see it as an opportunity to explore new options, even if it is to a smaller space it doesn't have to be a bad thing.  Being more organized or more selective in what is stored may be the key to feeling freer and comfortable in the new space.
Rearranging things will remind us what we have.
Downsizing - also can be freeing - projects no longer weigh on the mind or take up space in our lives.  

Happy organizing and miniaturing!

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Increasing Creativity

How being more organized has increased my creativity two times in the past week...

I have been working on a new workshop for the MicroMini Convention that is coming up in March of this year.  As I work on the various parts of the workshop, I have needed to look through my stash for items to complete it.

Looking for one thing I was reminded of another that I had.  This happened to me two times already in just the past week. 
The thing I am posting about is that, had I not organized my stash of beads all in one place, looking for one I wouldn't have noticed the other.  The same was true of another type of medium I have - plastic, that I looked for one and noticed another.  For neither example did the creative thought come when I saw it, it was afterwards.  Both came to me like the proverbial light bulb.  Bam! that would be a great idea for....

I know - from personal experience - that being more organized takes: time, effort and in some cases money.  Time is needed to do the sorting, effort needed to do the task and money sometimes for containers, shelves or whatever to store.  All of these are things that at different points in my life I didn't have. 
Time - do a little as you can.  Small increments add up. 
Effort - well it will be worth it in the end.  Both time and effort are saved when you can lay your hand on an item without searching. 
As for money, I am all about the recycling.  Use what you have now, upgrade later.  Even if that upgrade is just another recycling idea. 

Is my studio a wreck right now as I am working on this workshop?  You bet it is.  Am I constantly moving things to find stuff - yep.  Are all the flat surfaces covered in something?  Yes, that too.  But the supplies are where they are supposed to be. 
For example, When I need beads - I just pull out one of the two boxes I have them (in trays) and find what I need.  I can pull out that one small container from that location and put the rest back.  Later when I decide to switch to another project - that's when the clean up happens.  Would I stash that small container of beads in with the unfinished project?  Maybe, it all depends on whether I am likely to use all them.  Also it depends on how I feel about the project at the time of putting it away.  Whether it was specifically bought to meet a need for that project.  All good questions to think of when I decide where to put away. 
In general, I would more likely put the supply type item back with the others of that supply - so that small bead container would go back with the beads and not necessarily with the project box.  That way, if I needed it for another project it would get found in the beads and not have to remember which project I might have put it away with. 

Well, until I post again...
Happy Miniaturing and Happy Organizing them!