By Emma Featherstone for The Guardian

If you go down to the beach today, you may get a surprise: a smooth pebble painted with a colourful picture (cartoon characters and animals are common) or uplifting message.

Pebble painting, or “rocking”, is a craze that seems to have begun in the US with Megan Murphy’s The Kindness Rocks Project. She came up with the idea after collecting heart-shaped stones and pieces of sea-smoothed glass from the beach, seeing them as “rare treasures or signs and messages” from her deceased parents. “Finding them made me happy and I wanted to provide others with a similar experience.”

Now, a thriving international community of amateur artists decorates rocks before hiding them in public places.

The UK-based Facebook group Love on the Rocks has amassed more than 64,000 members since Vicki Poledoles Stansfield, from Essex, started it a year ago. “I suffer with anxiety and I was looking for a quiet hobby with no skills, that was free, and that I could do at 2am when my mind is racing,” she says.

Jacky Burns, who lives in Morecambe, is another enthusiast. She has some tips for first-timers: “Decorate a pebble using acrylic paint or permanent pens, then seal it against the weather (using clear nail polish or varnish) and write the name [of a dedicated Facebook group] on the back. Hide it in a safe place and wait for someone to find it and post on your group, then watch its journey.”

Some rocks have crossed continents, like the one found by Ian Hines in a south London park, which he later left in Morocco. Others spread a message.

Nikki Lunn, from Stockport, has planned a tribute for the victims of the Manchester Arena attack. With council permission, she is encouraging people to leave rocks painted with the symbolic worker bee and the hashtag #lovemcr in certain city spots on 22 May.

What is it about the movement that has captured people’s imagination? “People are looking to connect with one another,” says Murphy.

By Kristen Stephenson for Guinness World Records 

Julian Martinez was told by his own art class that crafting a mural using just pencils was impossible – but he’s proved them wrong by creating the largest pencil drawn mural.

While no one seemed to have confidence in his abilities, the 24-year-old never failed to believe in himself.

It was this doubt that motivated the Colombian artist to spread his talent across 84.86 m² (913 ft² 61 in²) of wall to earni his Guinness World Records title.

Julian wasn’t always interested in art, so this ambition was quite the mission to take on.

The teacher had previously been studying agriculture production, but realised after several years he had a passion for the arts and sought out to become a tattoo artist.

Thus, he began a 48-day project titled La Realidad Absoluta, which translates to Absolute Reality.

The idea behind his image is show that although others may be different from one another, we can adjust the human perspective to see eye to eye.

Although Julian began the illustration alone, his students and others in the community of Roldanillo came out to help him finish the massive piece upon seeing his intense commitment.

After going through 1 200 pencils, and sketching despite blisters and intense heat, the team of artists now have a detailed canvas exemplifying their hard work.

Source: The Kreative Life

Find some big sturdy leaves, that are waxy and veiny because they work the best. Here is my step-by-step tutorial on how to make skeleton leaves.

You will need:

  • Waxy leaves
  • Large pot
  • Water (12 cups)
  • Super washing soda – also called sodium carbonate (2 cups)
  • Metal tongs
  • Colander
  • Bleach
  • Shallow dish
  • Food colouring of your choice
  • Cooling rack

The amount of water and super washing soda will vary depending on the size and amount of leaves. I would suggest using one part super washing soda to six parts water.

Directions
In a well-ventilated room, mix water and super washing soda in pot and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to a simmer and add leaves. Allow the mixture to simmer for 2-3 hours. After the 2-3 hours, the water will look very murky.

Using the tongs, place the leaves in the colander and run under cool water. (My leaves were pretty tough, so I don’t know if adding all types of leaves to the colander will work or if you’d have to rinse them individually if they’re more fragile.)

Pour out the murky water and rinse out the pot. Fill the pot with just enough water to cover the leaves. It doesn’t have to be as much used before when simmering them. I added ½ cup bleach. Place the leaves into the bleach water and allow to soak for 20-30 minutes. This will remove as much color from the leaf as possible.

Now, this is where I did things a little differently. Instead of using the brush to remove the skin of the leaf, I placed the leaf flat on my hand and ran it under the sprayer on my kitchen sink. The skin started immediately coming off.

After about a minute under the water, the skin was completely removed. I’ll admit that some of the leaves tore a little, but I still kept them because it added a little character.

Mix water and food color in the shallow dish according to the tint you want. I used a blue and green mixture.

Allow to sit for 10 minutes. Remove from water and place on cooling rack. Allow to completely dry.

After mine dried, I painted a cheap frame and used a piece of scrapbook paper for the background.

Now that you know how easy making skeleton leaves at home is, what will you try next?

DIY coffee candle

Source: Crafting News

At the end of a long day, all I can think about is to unwind in front of my fireplace with a good book and a tall glass of wine. And the mood is always set with a beautifully scented candle that fills the room with the aroma of relaxation and home.

So I thought it was pretty cool when I came across this DIY coffee candle. One thing I also like is the smell of coffee in the morning. It usually wakes me right up, and I can feel all my senses come alive. How cool is it that you can make coffee scented candles? I know some of you could use this in your everyday life. I had to try it out for myself, and the results were beautifully scented, to say the least.

A word of caution
Before I made my candle I had read that there is a chance of coffee beans burning if they are too close to the candle flame. I ended up placing the coffee beans around the outside of the candle so that they are not near the wick, and so far have not had any issues. And if you don’t want to take that risk, you can replace the coffee beans with another scent such as lavender or vanilla.

What you will need:

  • Small bowls or glasses. Collect a few colorful containers you have around the house
  • Candle wax
  • Candle wick
  • Coffee beans
  • Vanilla beans, chopped

Making the DIY coffee candle

The procedure and the tutorial for making the candles is pretty straight forward. It is actually pretty easy and no skill is required, just the skill to have fun.

The basic procedure is to melt the candle wax. Then you hold the wick in the center of the container you want to use. After that you just pour in the candle wax along with the coffee and the vanilla while stirring with a chopstick to evenly distribute the ingredients. Or put the coffee beans in last to keep them away from the wick.

You have to give the candle a few minutes to dry up before sniping of the wick and voila you have your candle. The end result is a beautifully scented candle that will melt away your stresses.

For the full tutorial, click here.

You’ve probably seen a few of these smart paper or smart pen things over the years — write in this special notebook and it gets saved to an app, that sort of thing. A new entrant to this niche space is the Everlast notebook, which obviates the necessity of restocking proprietary paper in that its pages can be wiped clean with a damp towel.

No, to answer your first question, it’s not a tiny whiteboard. The Kickstarter page is very clear on that:

The 36 pages (or 32 on the large-format version) are a “waterproof synthetic poly blend,” which when written on with a pen from the Pilot Frixion line can be wiped off over and over again, but only with a wet towel — normal rubbing won’t do it. It’s important to use the Frixions because they use an erasable ink that comes off the page completely (you can also just use the eraser for quick edits).

When you’ve written on the Everlast, you can then capture images of the pages quickly with the Rocketbook app. The Rocketbook, by the way, was the notebook the company funded earlier this year, which you erased by putting it in the microwave with a glass of water for a while and then vacuuming up the ink. Yes, really.

Your notes and sketches aren’t stuck in this random app, though: it’s just for scanning. When you snap pictures, it crops and processes the image and then sends it to the cloud services of your choice.

The clever bit is that you don’t even need to fiddle with the app to do that. You select the services each page should go to by marking them at the bottom. The symbols look more like Lucky Charms marshmallows, but you’ll get used to it. You can send stuff to Dropbox, Evernote, Google Drive, Box, Slack, or to an email address.

A couple minor caveats: the creators are honest about the fact that if you’re left handed and tend to drag your hand along what you’re writing, you’ll probably smudge it, since the Frixion ink takes several seconds to bond to the “paper.” And if you leave the ink on the page for more than 2 months, they say, it’ll leave a faint trace.

The Everlast isn’t going to change the world, and it isn’t for everybody, but this is a cool way to do the analog-digital thing these other notebooks do, for cheap ($34 for early birds) and without actually using any paper.

By Devin Coldewey for TechCrunch

Hobby-X 2018

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There’s a new energy and positive feeling to 2018! And nowhere is this more apparent than at the offices of Hobby-X, the well respected and highly anticipated expo for the hobbies and creative crafts industries, where I am chatting to Elizabeth Morley and Gloria Bastos, organisers of the show. The phones ring with enquiries from potential exhibitors and visitors. The bell rings announcing another contract has just been received. Preparations are in full swing, and the enthusiasm and energy are palpable.

The tagline of this year’s show is “because you love it”, and fittingly the exhibition encompasses a whole lot of fun activities that people pursue purely for pleasure. There is a complete car restoration and customisation area including Monster Trucks, Jet Dragsters and a unique car collection. Paintball and wall-climbing for those who never want to grow up. A food marketplace with exotic and interesting offerings will tempt the aspiring MasterChef.

A Kunsvlyt Theatre, with celebrity appearances by previous winners of the kykNET TV program of the same name, will run “best project” competitions throughout the show. At the nearby Kunsvlyt Café the less bold can try out the materials and projects – without the audience, and with a cup of coffee and a slice of cake to fortify them.

The workshops at Hobby-X have always been firm favourites both with retailers, who want to gain as much product knowledge as possible to be able to impart it to their customers, as well as the consumers who love to try out new projects and learn tips and techniques. This year there will be 10 workshop areas dotted around the show, with continuous hands-on craft workshops. Catering for smaller groups than the previous classroom style workshops, the new format will allow for much greater interaction with the teacher, and greater individual attention. And the choice of topics and projects is broad and on trend.

The core of Hobby-X has always been the materials, equipment, supplies and ideas for hobbies and crafts – and this sector is still fundamental to the exhibition. Paper products, adhesives, silicones and resins, mosaic, art supplies, craft materials, scrapbooking, pewter, power tools, paints, gadgets, gizmos and machinery are well represented. The exhibitors in these categories are all manufacturers, importers, distributors or agents, and a number of overseas principals will be at Hobby-X to support the local distributors of their products.

For Trade Buyers, the benefits of visiting an exhibition such as this are many. It’s a convenient way of staying up-to-date with your industry and current trends, finding new products to stock, building relationships with suppliers and networking with leading companies in your field. Part of the appeal of visiting trade shows is about getting fresh ideas for your own retail space, and finding innovative ways to update your store to give your customers a great shopping experience. But it’s also a unique opportunity to observe consumer behaviour and reaction, and analyse buying patterns at the show, enabling you to make informed buying decisions.
According to the Organisers, the take-up pattern by exhibitors was markedly different for the 2018 exhibition than it has been for the past many years, with a significant number of companies taking a wait-and-see approach before committing to the exhibition. This was directly attributable to the negative sentiment and lack of confidence felt by many throughout most of last year. But the sentiment this year is positively buoyant, and many companies are investing in their future with renewed vigour and optimism. This positive sentiment should also be reflected in the spending patterns of consumers, and so the time is ripe for Trade Buyers to take advantage of the platform presented by Hobby-X to re-stock their shelves.

As I am leaving, I overhear a phone call to a client. “I noticed that you haven’t yet confirmed your stand for the March show, and I wanted to let you know some of the exciting things that are lined up for this year which will make it an event not to be missed”. Whoever that potential exhibitor is, I think, I hope they sign up quickly. This could well be the best Hobby-X ever!

Hobbies have poor shelf lives

The shelf-life of a hobby is one year and two months, according to Brits.

Researchers who polled 5 001 UK adults found almost half have taken up a hobby only to give it up.

Twenty-eight per cent level the blame at work commitments, while 27 per cent said a busy family life prevented them from carrying on.

But this hasn’t stopped them pursuing something new – eight in ten currently have a hobby and dedicate a total of nine days over the course a year to it.

Commissioned by Barclaycard, the research also found 57 per cent believe they are happier and a quarter have acquired new friends – all thanks to their hobby.

Andrew Hogan, Head of Brand Strategy at Barclaycard, said: “Our research shows that in today’s often frantic world, having a hobby can have a huge, positive impact on both our personal and professional lives, as well as our overall health and wellbeing.

“That’s why it’s so important that we overcome obstacles to getting going, whatever that may be.

“We encourage everyone to prioritise their passions and start today.”

The biggest obstacles to spending more free-time doing pursuing hobbies and interests include work commitments, family commitments and not having enough disposable cash.

Although 13 per cent admit they are too lazy to spend additional time doing their hobbies and 22 per cent revealed they tend to procrastinate in their spare time instead.

Regardless of this, 54 per cent are more relaxed thanks to their passion, around a third believe they are healthier and 23 per have seen their confidence levels increase.

And two in five believe their outside interests have given them a more positive outlook on life.

On average, those who have made new friends as a result of their hobby have made 16 new pals.

With one fifth of those who made friends have even meeting a partner.

A third have a hobby they would like to try one day, with ten per cent hoping to give it a go some point in the next 12 months.

And a quarter would like to turn their interest into a career someday.

Over half agree everyone should have a hobby or passion.

Andrew Hogan added: “It’s fascinating to see that so many people daydream of turning their passion into a career – and there’s no reason why they shouldn’t.

“Taking that first step could be as simple as signing up to ukulele lessons or buying a bike.”

https://www.thesun.co.uk By James Cox

Paper perfect

Artist Yulia Brodskaya is a highly regarded paper artist and illustrator who uses two simple materials – paper and glue – and a technique that involves the placement of carefully cut and bent strips of paper to make lush, vibrant, three-dimensional paper artworks.

Brodskaya started working as a graphic designer and illustrator in 2006; however, she quickly abandoned the computer programs in favour of paper art.

“Paper always held a special fascination for me. I’ve tried many different methods and techniques of working with it, until I found the way that has turned out to be ‘the one’ for me: now I draw with paper instead of on it.”

Soon after discovering her passion and unique style, Brodskaya earned an international reputation for her innovative paper illustrations. Her modern take on the paper craft practice has helped her build an impressive list of clients in just a few short years. She is frequently invited to speak at design conferences and design schools around the world. Her original paper artworks are owned by Oprah Winfrey, Ferrero, Hermés, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Paramount Pictures, Country Music Association, Wimbledon, Mr Issey Miyake and numerous other private collectors.

Source: Art Yulia

The rise of kids stationery chain Smiggle

Brightly coloured children’s stationery chain Smiggle, the profit powerhouse ready to roll into Europe, has grown rapidly in just 14 years.

The first Smiggle store opened in Melbourne by founders Stephen Meurs and Peter Pausewang in 2003. Apparel retailer the Just Group, the company behind Just Jeans, bought Smiggle in 2007.

Solomon Lew’s company Premier Investments bought the Just Group in 2008 and at the time, Smiggle was making $19-million from 35 stores. In that same year, Smiggle opened its first New Zealand store.

Smiggle expanded into Singapore in 2011, then in the UK in 2014, followed by Malaysia and Hong Kong in 2016.

It now has 300 stores across Australia and overseas and in the 2017 financial year, made $238.9 million in sales.

Premier plans to expand Smiggle into the Netherlands and Belgium in 2018.

Source: SBS 

The writing tool renaissance

Here’s a fact you have to write down to believe: Over the past 10 years, during which the world has adopted smartphones and social media, sales of fountain pens have risen.

Retail sales, in particular, have grown consistently. In 2016 they were up 2.1 percent from the year before, making fountain pens a $1 billion market, according to a report by Euromonitor International. To compare, the overall market for personal luxury goods—watches, handbags, cars—was stagnant over the same period, suggesting that a good pen is a better investment than the bespoke suit in which it’s stowed.

These forces are even more pronounced in the Japanese market, where a study by Yano Research Institute Ltd. finds that fountain pen sales grew a remarkable 19.1 percent from 2014 to 2015, a leap attributed in part to an increased number of foreign buyers purchasing high-end Japanese products. In the Digital Age, it seems, the written word is the ultimate luxury.

The Nakaya Fountain Pen Co., in Tokyo, was one of the first pen makers to realize this, doubling down on individual craftsmanship even as the industry as a whole began trending toward mass production. What seemed like folly 20 years ago is starting to look more and more like smart business.

Nakaya is the brainchild of Toshiya Nakata, grandson of Platinum Pen Co. founder Shunichi Nakata. Toshiya’s father, Toshihiro, was president of Platinum in the mid-1990s when several of its most experienced craftsmen announced their retirement. For Toshiya, who’d left his banking job to learn the family business at the age of 29, the news came at a precarious time: The looming threat of email had fountain pen manufacturers worried that their product was doomed to obsolescence—or at least to a shift down-market.

Fearing that the workers’ departure represented an irreplaceable loss of skills, the youngest Nakata formed Nakaya, a line that would be a wholly owned subsidiary of Platinum but work independently. “There is a limit to the mass-produced fountain pen business,” says Nakata, a lean man in rimless glasses with a brusque, matter-of-fact manner, when we meet in Nakaya’s tiny but bustling headquarters in Taito City, Tokyo.

The retirees had occasionally been called upon to repair and adjust older pens, but that wasn’t enough for Nakata. “I thought, Why don’t we make some fountain pens?” In 1999 he signed up the pensioners to return to their familiar positions. Kohsuke Matsubara, a lathe master, went back to turning pen barrels from brownish-gray ebonite, a hard rubber material. (Matsubara still turns many of the Nakaya barrels himself.) Kazuo Maruyama, a metal-press specialist, fabricated nibs and pocket clips. Sadao Watanabe hand-adjusted all of the early Nakaya pens. In 2003 designer Shinichi Yoshida was hired away from Platinum to create models for the Nakaya line.

On the 17mm-diameter Long Cigar Chinkin Dragonflies fountain pen ($4,000), designs are carved into an urushi base using chisels, lacquer is inlaid in the grooves, then metal leaf and powder are added.
Photographer: Keirnan Monaghan for Bloomberg Businessweek; Prop stylist: Theo Vamvounakis
According to Nakata, as much as 75 percent of its sales come from outside Japan—even though the company has no presence on the trade show circuit, not even at the annual Collectible Fountain Pen Supershow in Washington, billed as the “largest pen event in the world.” Nor will it be attending the London Writing Equipment Show in October, one of the biggest gatherings of its kind in Europe.

Instead, news of Nakaya spreads mainly through word-of-mouth on message boards such as Fountain Pen Geeks and on blogs, where the pens are described as “smooth,” “glossy,” “glowing,” and “poetic.” The only U.S. distributor is the online shop Nibs.com, which always has some items in stock for immediate purchase and can make minor adjustments on the fly. A few used models can be found on EBay, as well.

The ideal way to experience a Nakaya, though, is to hold it and feel it in your hand. The best way to test the pens is at one of the many impressive fountain pen emporiums in Tokyo: the vast Maruzen bookstore, a few blocks from the Imperial Palace; the airy rooms of stationery superstore Itoya, hidden among Ginza’s luxury boutiques; or the well-stocked specialist shop Kingdom Note in bustling Shinjuku.

Cruising their display cabinets can make a visitor feel as if she’s seeing double, or perhaps even octuple. The pens from Japan’s three big manufacturers—Pilot, Platinum, and Sailor—tend to look awfully similar, and after a while, the rows of dark, somber objects with metal clips and center bands can start to run together.

But even a novice can identify products from Nakaya. The first clue is the color palette, which explodes in reds, greens, pinks, ochers, cornflower blues, even bright oranges, all so shiny the pens almost appear to be underwater.

Some feature small, gold-colored pocket clips, but most are unadorned—no branding, no hardware, just cylinders of glistening lacquer. They’re the sort of sparkly item tailor-made for the Instagram era, but good luck getting the pens’ biggest fans to define their exact appeal.

“You can feel something when you hold a Nakaya that’s different from all other pens”
“I can’t explain it,” says Brad Dowdy. The fountain pen aficionado has devoted millions of words to the merits of analog writing tools during the past decade of producing his Pen Addict blog, but when it comes to the Nakaya Portable Cigar fountain pen—his personal favorite—he’s at a loss.

Sure, the nib is butter smooth, the weight perfectly distributed, and the blue-green finish, known as ao-tamenuri, spectacular. But the Nakaya is so distinctive, it throws him for a loop. “You can feel something when you hold a Nakaya that’s different from all other pens,” he says with an air of slightly exasperated admiration.

For Brian Anderson, a longtime collector, it’s the range of customization that separates a Nakaya from the rest of the market. Anderson, who with his wife, Lisa, operates the thriving online and brick-and-mortar operation Anderson Pens out of Appleton, Wis., says the brand “is intended to be bespoke. You can have whatever model you want, whatever finish, with whatever nib.”

As long as you’re willing to wait. The company makes only about 1,500 pens per year. And because many coats of lacquer are required to create the deep, even finish Nakaya is known for, the process takes about two months to complete.

Today, almost all the newly turned barrels are shipped to Wajima, a small peninsula six hours by train to the west of Tokyo. The area’s claim to fame, and its status in Japan as an “intangible cultural asset,” is the urushi lacquerware that artisans have been creating there since the 1500s.

The smooth, lustrous finish that has become Nakaya’s calling card begins its life as the milky white sap of the urushi tree. Although the trees still grow in Wajima, the region hasn’t been able to keep up with demand, and these days the sap is usually imported from China for the undercoating; the homegrown version is used for the top layers.

Urushi sap turns a light amber when exposed to air, but once it’s been filtered to remove impurities, more colorful pigments are added, and the resulting lacquer is then painted onto the pen barrels. After each coating, the urushi must be allowed to dry—or, more properly, to absorb moisture from the air, which causes it to solidify.

Between layers, the urushi is painstakingly buffed to a high sheen, and on many Nakaya pens, multiple layers of a second color are applied and then polished so the first color is barely visible—where the cap meets the barrel, on the threads, or on the lip right above the nib. Nakaya’s popular 10-sided Decapod model highlights this particular effect: Where the edges meet, reds, oranges, and greens show through the darker top coats.

Given the handmade quality of the pens, the entry-level models are surprisingly affordable, starting at $650. Sailor, Nakaya’s closest competitor, starts its urushi line at $1,900; the mass-produced black-resin Montblanc 149, a classic status-symbol gift, costs about $950.

The Yano study also notes that the increasing availability of high-quality, low-cost models for entry-level users is creating brand-new fountain pen fans. The finding hints at a virtuous connection between Nakaya’s prestige line and Platinum’s full range, which includes the Preppy, a $2 refillable fountain pen for the Japanese market.

Although some partisans of Pelikan International Corp., Montblanc, and other European brands complain that Nakayas lack heft, that lightness is a boon for the people who use them. Dowdy, the Pen Addict, describes his Nakaya as “disappearing” into his hand.

Lightheartedness is also part of the Nakaya spirit. Starting in 2003, the company released a line of converters—devices that allow a pen to use bottled ink as well as a cartridge—that are hand-painted with images of seaweed, tadpoles, cherry blossoms, and maple leaves. The converters aren’t visible through the pens’ opaque barrels, making them the equivalent of Mickey Mouse boxers worn under a bespoke business suit, a hidden bit of whimsy that leaves the stylish facade intact.

In the fountain pen world there is something of a tension between collectors, people who like to play Noah and buy two of each item, and users, those who take pleasure in putting the pens through their paces. Nakayas appeal to both. They are indisputably works of art, masterpieces crafted by hand using skills refined over a lifetime. And yet a pen with a nib this good—sexy, responsive, fine-tuned to the owner’s hand—deserves to be used. It would be a crime against writing to keep it locked away in a display case.

By June Thomas for Bloomberg

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