Thursday, November 24, 2011

Now It's Called Steampunk

When I did more art experimenting and artist trading card swapping and crafting, there was a trend. There were Victorian themes and things like skeleton keys, padlocks, clocks, gears, wings, hinges, and doors. There were metal charms and stickers and rubber stamps showing these themes. Using antique ephemera in collage was popular. The look of distressed things, everything sepia, and using products and sandpaper to make something look old and worn out was popular. Alongside, nature themes were popular such as butterflies and bees and flowers.

Somewhere along the way something called steampunk started to happen. I knew this to be related to books such as the Leviathan series by Westerfeld.

While in Barnes & Noble yesterday I spotted two books highlighted in a display. One was about making steampunk jewelry and the other was about making little knitted stuffed dolls that are embellished with metal objects and calling them stempunk.

When I looked at the books what I saw was the same design element which was being used a lot in 2006-2009 when I was busy crafting. Only now, people are calling it steampunk. The designs include metal pieces, gears, keys, locks, and chains as well as wings, butterflies and bees. The metal pieces are combined with glass beads and metal beads and chains to make pins, rings, necklaces and bracelets. They are perhaps embellished a little more heavily rather than being dainty and "nice", to look a bit more confused and combined into nonsensical "objects" that never existed in real life.

In order to make jewelry, collage or art objects we followed basic directions but used the elements of our choosing. Now the directions are available but specifically instructing you to use this or that element that they feel is steampunk.

Well it's just surprising that what was popular five years ago is still popular today but with a new name and so it seems like a new fad. Or maybe the trend grew and it needed a name to keep it going? I find it all a bit odd, the naming of it and pretending it is something new, I mean.

I still like art with clocks and butterflies and keys. I'm just not sure that I like steampunk or that I need to call those things "steampunk style".

Well if you like steampunk, enjoy it, that's all that matters I guess!

Polymer Clay:


Thursday, January 27, 2011

Autodesk Sketchbook Pro 2011 Software Review

Autodesk Sketchbook Pro 2011 Software Review by ChristineMM

My Star Rating: 5 stars out of 5 = I Love It

Summary Statement: Fun and Easy for This Amateur Artist to Use

SKETCHBOOK PRO 2011 contains DVD two discs that can be used on either a Windows or Mac based computer. You do need a DVD drive to use it (three of our home computers don't have a DVD drive). You also need a mouse, that's all you need.

This is a fun program in which you manipulate the mouse to make art. Since I own and use Adobe Photoshop Elements 7 I note some of the controls are quite similar such as selecting the tool and opacity and working with layers.

To start, you just click on the type of medium you want to use (i.e. marker, pencil, paintbrush) then select the thickness, color, and opacity and you are off and running. The menu bar is in the corner and you can expand some of them if you find that easier.

I started fooling around with this without directions, since none came in a paper form and I'm a book person. However there are tutorial documents on the disc to help you. On a whim I used an internet search engine and found video tutorials from the manufacturer on YouTube. These helped me the most.

I am an amateur artist and enjoy this program. I let my kids test it out, they are aged 10 and 13 and both found it simple. They used the tools intuitively and found more features than I realized existed. They really liked the split screen mirror image tool and the one that repeats in the four quadrants what you do on the screen (imagine drawing with one line but seeing an image like a kaleidoscope).

Since I am new to making digital art, I realize there's a learning curve. While I can control a regular drawing pencil in my hand to sketch on paper, it's a completely different skill to use the mouse to replicate the same thing. It's an odd feeling to try to do something you know you can do with pencil and paper but struggle to make a smooth or straight line with the mouse as the tool. In the beginning it feels like a trick on the mind to use a mouse and see the medium you usually associate with a regular marker, paintbrush, or pencil making magic on the screen.

I have no compaints about this product.

As with any computer program or with any traditional art medium, what you get out of it depends both on what you want to do with it (translating your concept to reality) and also how much time you put into learning the skills, procedures and techniques necessary to get it to do what you want it to do. I'm a newbie and I find this program fun so far.

Disclosure: I received this item from the Vine program. I was not paid to write this review nor to blog it nor was I encouraged to write a favorable review. For my blog's full disclosure statement see the link at the top of my blog's sidebar.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Anime Studio Debut 7 Software Product Review by ChristineMM

Anime Studio Debut 7 Software Product Review by ChristineMM

My Star Rating: 5 stars out of 5 = I Love It

Summary Statement: Inexpensive, a Bargain Really! Really Easy to Jump in with Beginner Mode

My sons are manga readers and anime watchers. They have been teaching themselves to draw manga using how-to art instruction books. They have enjoyed taking film-making classes doing live filmmaking and editing at a film center. The downside to those classes was they were taught to use very expensive professional software programs that we would never purchase for home use due to the high cost, so their live film-making adventures have been put on hold. Also the classes are too expensive for them to take year round, truly it would make more sense for them to do it on their own at home, however we don’t own any film editing computer software (yet). Meanwhile, they also wanted to dive into creating anime (cartoon) movies. I thought this software would be a good fit for them since it is compatible with our Windows-based home computer system. (This software is compatible with both Windows and Mac.)

The low price of this ANIME STUDIO 7 is a major draw. For about the price of one video game you can have this software that can provide a lot of entertainment that is creative (rather than passive entertainment like a video game is). The price of this program is less than what we paid for two hours of classes at the film center (read: dirt cheap).

Another important thing is this software has a beginner mode. It is so easy to use that anyone can dive right in and start using it. There is a quick start user manual in PDF format in the program that takes you step-by-step through the process to get up and running immediately. I tested this myself and found it easy to use. The tools and language are similar to photo editing software so if you know some of that this program seems easier to approach. The beginner mode was so simple that my ten year old used it all by himself. (I left him alone with the program as part of the product testing process.)

You will get out of this program what you put into it. If all a person wants to do is fool around in the beginner mode, that may be good enough for them. If they are willing to apply themselves and learn to use the technology more fully to create more in-depth and complicated anime, that capability is there. I was impressed to see that the software allowed importing of photos and audio files so the customization seems pretty impressive given the low price of this software. As with everything, to master a new skill, there is a learning curve and time and effort must be put in. How far someone takes their use of this program is up to them. The program can do a lot if you are willing to put in the time and energy to play, create and explore with it.

No additional equipment is needed, this program uses the computer and a mouse.

This mother of a tween son and a teenaged son who are both interested in creating anime at home is impressed with the ease of this use of this software and the low price. So far this is good enough for our family.

Disclosure: I received a copy of this software from as part of their Vine product review program. I was not paid to write this review. I was under no obligation to blog this review. I was not under obligation to give a favorable review.

Oral-b 1000 Professional Care 1000 Electric Toothbrush Product Review by ChristineMM

Oral-b 1000 Professional Care 1000 Electric Toothbrush, White and Blue

My Star Rating: 1 star out of 5 = I Hate It

Summary Statement: Buy an Oral-B Smart-Series Instead!

As I've shared in previous reviews for Oral-B electric toothbrush products, one of the Oral-B "regular" electric toothbrushes (similar to this ORAL-B PROFESSIONAL 1000) made my teeth sensitive to the point of having pain. My dentist, who had praised the Oral-B toothbrush in the first place, diagnosed the Oral-B electric toothbrush as being to blame for taking the enamel off my teeth. This was a temporary condition that resolved on its own once I discontinued its use per the dentist's order. At that time under the dentist's direction, I went back to using a Sonicare electric toothbrush. However not much later, Oral-B came out with their first "SmartSeries" which has a special sensor that monitors if the user is pressing too hard on the teeth--this is indicated by reading the signals on an LCD display. My dentist then recommended the SMARTSERIES model.

My husband and two children have been using the [[ASIN:B002HWS9GG Oral-B Professional Care SmartSeries 5000 Rechargeable Toothbrush]] for a few years. We own two units because my kids have their own bathroom. They all like the SMARTSERIES 5000. I like that it helps teach my children just how much pressure is enough and when it is too much. The dentist and I feel this helps prevent damage to their enamel due to erroneous use of too much pressure.

After trying the ORAL-B 1000 PROFESSIONAL CARE electric toothbrush product I was reminded again that I'd rather not risk hurting the enamel on my teeth. I feel that the Oral-B seems very "hard" and puts a lot of pressure on my teeth compared to the Sonicare or hand brushing, I just don't like the sensation of the Oral-B 1000. I'm sticking with the Sonicare while my family will stick with the ORAL-B SMARTSERIES 5000.

I see that what the Oral-B 1000 series has going for it, is it's the lowest priced Oral-B electric toothbrush on the market . However you can find the [[ASIN:B002HWS9GG Oral-B Professional Care SmartSeries 5000 Rechargeable Toothbrush]]just 20-25% above the cost of the 1000 series. Spread over the 3-4 years or more that this will last it seems worth the expense to me!

I rate this product 1 star = I Hate It due to the fact that my dentist diagnosed enamel damage from a similar non-SmartSeries Oral-B model. Given that Oral-B offers an alternative that would prevent such accidental mis-use I just can’t recommend any other model produced by Oral-B.

THE ONE WE LIKE IS this model.

Disclosure: I received this item for review purposes from the Vine program. I was not under obligation to rate it favorably nor was I bound to blog my review. I did not get paid to write the review.

Happy with New Comb Binder Machine

I received a comb binder machine from the Vine product review program. I have wanted one of these for years but was putting it off due to the cost. I wanted it so I could print e-books I purchase. Lately I am also buying knitting patterns and knitting books that are self-published. I plan to also comb bind some documents I create for our homeschooling such as log books to document my children's educational work completed.

I find staples sloppy. Pages get much more tattered and torn when they are not protected by thicker covers. I have been three hole punching papers and using 3 ring binders but often those are too large and bulky, and then the holes on the pages tear during normal use anyway.

The machine I own is the Fellowes Office Comb Binder Pulsar 300 and it is considered a middle of the line product. I wrote my review for's Vine program and published it on my other blog. The rules of my BlogHer account prohibit me from publishing that review on this blog so if you want to read my review click here to link to read it on my other blog.

Fellowes Office Comb Binder Pulsar 3000 Product Review by ChristineMM

Fellowes Pulsar Office Comb Binder Product Review

My Star Rating: 5 stars out of 5 = I Love It

Summary Statement: Great - Easy for Binding Home-Printed e-Books and Our Family’s Personal Documents (Non-Electrric)

I wanted one of these for years and am thrilled with the FELLOWES OFFICE COMB BINDER PULSAR 300 which is more than adequate for our purposes. (This is not electric.) We are a homeschooling family. We purchase e-books for educational purposes, and I also buy e-book knitting pattern books. We need to have them in printed paper form. Now I can also create my own document booklets such as homeschool student assignment log books and have them neatly comb-bound.

Having a comb binding allows for durable front and back covers and allows for less ripping than when using staples or binder clips. I find the internal papers in three ring binders often tear. Usually even the one inch three hole punched binder is too wide and takes up too much space on the bookshelf.

This PULSAR 300 can punch 15 20 lb. paper sheets at one time. This device comes with a starter pack of 10 clear plastic covers, 10 thick paper back covers, and 10 combs (sizes: 5-6mm, 5-8mm). See my list below for comb sizes to page count so you can order the size you need at the same time that you purchase this device. I loved that there are comb size checker slots in the storage tray since the size of the comb is not printed on the combs and we need to know how many pages fits in the comb.

The PULSAR 300 is the middle of the line product by Fellowes, classified for ‘moderate’ use and binds 2-300 pages . Fellowes also makes the models Starlet 90 for ‘light use’ and the Quasar 500 for ‘regular’ use. I have not used those other models so I cannot do a side by side comparison. However I demonstrated this for my husband who has used a professional model at former employer (brand name unknown) and he said this Fellowes is far superior as that other one had only one handle. It required you to punch all the papers, put them to the side, and then assemble it at the end. More movement of papers allows for the holes to become misaligned and can take longer to do.

The directions are only 1.5 pages long and are pretty skimpy but this is not rocket science. You place the comb and open it with one handle. A different handle does the hole punching. The blades are inside so there is no risk of injury. I used it working from the back to front. I punched holes in the back cover, and moved it directly to the open comb. Then I punched the interior pages starting at the back, and I loaded them right onto the open comb. Then I did the same with the front cover. Then move the comb’s handle to close it, and it’s done!

Regarding size and storage:

The device is as large as a typical computer printer if you were thinking of keeping it out on your desk be forewarned you’ll need to have a fair amount of space. The device is deeper than my desk bookshelves so using those as storage when in use was not an option for me. The storage drawer extends out to the right side so you may need to move it around when in use (depending on the layout of your desk and what is to its right side). It is lightweight and I found it easy to move to a clear work surface.

CAUTION: If you load the extra combs into the comb tray then put it back in the box to store in a closet, it sits on its side and the combs dump out inside the device. This happened to me and then the tray got jammed when I tried to open it. I had to pick it up and shake it vigorously while someone else kept the tray from flying out to rectify this situation. I was happy the combs didn’t get wrecked in the process. If you plan to keep this stored on its side in the box, I suggest putting the combs in a large zip top plastic bag instead of keeping them in the storage drawer.

The comb sizes go with these page counts (using 20 lb. paper):

6 mm = 2-20 pages

8 mm = 21-40

10 mm = 41-55

12 mm = 56-90

16 mm = 91-120

18 mm = 121-150

22 mm = 151-180

25 mm = 181-200

32 mm = 201-240

38 mm = 241-340

I’m happy to finally own a comb binder and look forward to reducing my use of staples, binder clips and three hole punched paper in (often too-large and too-bulky) binders. This is simple to use and my sons (aged 10 and 13) asked to give it a try and were able to use it with ease.

Disclosure: I received this item from for the purpose of writing a Vine review on I was under no obligation to rate it favorably or blog about it. I was not paid to write or blog this review.