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Author Archive | Erika Martin

Vendor Spotlight & GIVEAWAY: Pick and Draw Card Game

Reported by Erika Martin
I’m a sucker for card games. I also happen to be a sucker cartoon drawing. I carry a pack of playing cards in my purse that comes in very handy when we’re trying to pass the time while out and about. I took it out when we were at IHOP and waiting for our food during a busy lunch rush and the kids and I played a quick few rounds of Go Fish. I also carry a small notebook in my purse, along with pencils, erasers and a pencil sharpener. The kids know they can always dig in my purse and find something to pass the time with if they get bored and impatient. I’ve now added a new deck of cards to my purse. The Pick and Draw game.

I have two kids. Zach is 12, autistic and very creative. He loves to draw and use his imagination. He’s always drawing pictures for his sister to color. Elise is 11, and has a wall in her bedroom covered with her amazing drawings. I love that both of my kids can find hours of entertainment with simple coloring tools and paper. It’s one of those pasttimes when they actually engage with each other quite well.

Pick and Draw was created by Rich Davis, a children’s book artist, and it was created to be used in presentations to children of all ages at public libraries and schools. Rich had a vision “to see childen unlock new pathways of visual thinking to empower them, and do it in an unsuspecting fun way.” When he saw kids and parents come alive in their creativity, that’s when he knew Pick and Draw had a life of its own and wanted to get out to the world.


So, what is Pick and Draw?
Here’s what the Pick and Draw website has to say about the card game:
  • Pick and Draw is a fun, one-of-a-kind drawing game that teaches you how to make very creative cartoon faces.
  • There are 60,000 different possibilities in the game (a deck of cards – there are 9 cards each of 5 different categories: face, nose, hair, eyes and mouth).
  • The game uses mainly simple shapes everyone already knows how to do thereby giving confidence to those who try.
  • It is simple and easy to use providing endless hours of fun and learning. In five minutes or less you will know how to play.
  • It can be used by one person or by any group number.
  • It also opens up creative thinking and using the imagination.
  • This makes “success” possible providing a good kind of confidence to encourage continued learning.
  • Best of all, it’s a lot of fun!

The deck of cards includes 7 instruction cards that walk you through how to play the game.

Here’s a quick overview video showing Rich using this game in school settings.

Rich also has a really cool blog that my daughter loves keeping up with, as she’s always looking for new ways to draw and enjoys making pictures for her friends and to add to her sketchbook.
What I really found interesting about Pick and Draw was that Rich recommends this game for children on the Autism Spectrum and those with neurodevelopmental disorders. Because my son, Zach, is autistic, I was fascinated by the concept of the game. For kids with these disorders, Pick and Draw:
  • Promotes motor skills and flexible/creative thinking
  • Is engaging: both relational and simple
  • Develops decision making skills
  • Works on comparing and contrasting
  • Builds confidence
  • Is small and mobile for use anywhere
  • Is a great story telling tool
Pick and Draw is easy learn and play and you can even try it out yourself on their website.
The Pick and Draw game is only $10 for the deck and it comes in a sturdy plastic case. (I keep mine in a zip-loc baggie in my purse just for safe keeping.)
Elise and I like to play this game together and she even asks me to play it with her. We both started with the same cards for this round.


Here are the two pictures that Elise labeled (her nickname at home is “Girly”). Notice how she turned the nose one way and I turned it a different way. She made her mouth smaller and I made mine bigger. It’s amazing that you can give two people the same cards and they come up with something so different…or even a little similar but with their own personalities.

Here’s a couple videos of my kiddos using the Pick and Draw game. I even love to sit down and draw with the kids so this game isn’t just for kids. It’s for the young and the young at heart.
Here is the cartoon that Elise drew in the first video. The nose hair cracks me up and I love that she added a beauty mark after she was finished.
And here are the cards we used for Zach and Elise’s drawings in the second video.

Elise’s cartoon is on the left and Zach’s is on the right.
Here’s another fun cartoon that Elise drew using the cards in the Pick and Draw game.

Being that Zach is autistic and also has ADHD, he doesn’t have the world’s longest attention span. It’s awesome to see him sit down and actually engage in a game for a little while. I love the little giggles and noises he makes when he turns over the cards and draws. He truly finds this game funny.
While Zach can sit through one or two rounds of the game at a time (he’s getting better with his attention span – another great benefit of this game), his sister, Elise, will keep playing over and over again and when she’s done with all the cards, she wants me to shuffle them all over again and keep going. When she found out there were 60,000 different possibilities in the game, she said she wants to do every single one of them! This game was a life saver on a recent road trip we took to Niagara Falls at the end of April. We had a 7 hour drive home and my daughter was getting bored, so I pulled out the deck of cards and she took out her sketch pad and colored pencils and the next hour went by SO fast and SO fun! You should have heard the giggles and laughter coming from the back seat of the car. Well, the front seat, too, since David (my hubby) and I were laughing at every cartoon Elise drew.
Pros:
  • Only $10 for the deck of cards – inexpensive gift for teachers, friends, doctors offices, families, kids, Sunday School teachers, etc.
  • Comes in a sturdy plastic case
  • 7 step-by-step instruction cards included in the game
  • Coated heavy-weight cards that will stand up to lots of use
  • 60,000 different possibilities of cartoon drawings in one deck of cards
  • Great game for kids and adults of all ages
  • Wonderful tool to use with kids on the autistic spectrum and with neurodevelopmental disorders
  • Fun way to engage socially and use imagination and creativity
  • HOURS of endless fun
  • Everyone wins in this game! No losers!
Cons:
  • This isn’t really a con, but the only thing I would love to see is additional sets of cards that can bought with even more facial options. I’m hoping that with the “Game 1” printed on the top card of the deck, it means that Rich Davis will be putting more Pick and Draw games out with new options.
I honestly couldn’t find another con but that one. This game has a permanent place in my purse and goes with us everywhere. If only I could teach my dogs and cats how to play when the kids are in school! With summer vacation coming up, I seem to be the “neighborhood mom” and every kids on the street ends up in my yard. When they get bored, this is going to be the perfect game to pull out for them. I’m also looking forward to using this game with a table full of adults. Good times!

GIVEAWAY
The creator of Pick and Draw is giving one lucky reader a game of their very own. To enter simply answer any of the questions below in the Comments section of this article on our website. One comment per person, please.

What games does your family play? Would this be something your kids would love too?


Winners are chosen at random. Contest closes Sunday, June 12th at 6pm CST. Good Luck!
Click on the link at the top of the page to visit Craft Critique for comments, giveaways and more!

Vendor Spotlight & GIVEAWAY: Shapelets

Reported by Erika Martin

If you’ve never heard of “silly bandz” or “shaped rubber bands,” then you may just have been living under a rock. They’re all the rage in kids circles and schools. My daughter trades these shaped bands with her friends and has quite the collection going. Remember when we used to trade jelly bracelets in school back in the 80s? Shaped rubber bands are the jelly bracelets of the new millenium, and they’re taking the world by storm.
If you ask my daughter, “What’s better than silly bands?” she would say, “Making my own!” And that’s where Shapelets come in!

Shapelets is the “stretchy band design system” that allows you to create your own designs right in your kitchen! Shapelets bands are formulated to take on the shape you create on a peg board after you put it in your oven or toaster oven.
There are different ways that you can purchase Shapelets.:
  • The Shapelets Design System is a kit contains 1 pegboard, 32 pegs, 24 specially formulated bands, and 3 cut and punch templates. This kit retails for $9.99.
  • The Shapelets Class & Party Pack is a kit that contains 10 pegboards, 320 pegs, 96 specially formulated bands, and 30 cut and punch templates. This kit retails for $49.99.
  • You can also purchase refill bands when you run out so that you can continue creating. The refill packs come with 24 bands and Shapelets offers 4 different pack choices. Basics, Brights, Glow and Glitter. The refill packs retail for $4.99 each.

The Shapelets website includes a gallery that anyone can put their designs on and you can access it for ideas to use with your own bands.

The process behind Shapelets is a very easy one. There are 5 simple steps, according to the Shapelets website:
Step 1: Insert pegs into the pegboard to create the outline of a Shapelet shape you would like to make.

Step 2: Thread a new Shapelet band around the pegs to form the shape. Make sure the band is not stretched too tight. If you need to you can move the pegs to loosen the band a little bit.
Make sure that you choose the correct size band that your template calls for.

Step 3: Ask your parent or another grown-up to preheat the oven to 225°F. Then bake the Shapelet band for 10 minutes. CAUTION: PARENTAL SUPERVISION REQUIRED! (The pegboard and pegs are rated to withstand the 225° oven so they will not melt during normal use. Make sure not to forget them in the oven because they WILL melt and make a mess if you turn on your oven later on to a higher temperature.)
Step 4: Wait 5 minutes to allow the system to cool down. Then remove the Shapelet band from the pegs.
Step 5: That’s it! You’ve made your own Shapelet band with the Shapelet Stretchy Band Design System! Now you can wear it, show it, trade it, and much more.

When I took the Shapelets templates out of the oven, I got a strong whiff of plastic melting. I have chemical sensitivies (yes, I know, I use all sorts of crafting supplies, but it’s a worthwhile trade-off) so the smell bothered me a bit. I have a really sensitive schnoz, so others might not notice the smell. If you want to keep the odor contained, you could place the templates in a covered casserole dish so it doesn’t “hit you” when you open the oven door.
When you purchase the Shapelets Design Kit, you’ll receive a piece of newsprint type of paper that includes 3 “cut and punch templates.” These templates are a great starting point for using the kit and especially for younger kids that aren’t quite confident yet in creating their own designs. Directions are included on the sheet to instruct you on how to use these easy templates.

There is a useful FAQ section on the Shapelets website and this came in helpful for my daughter and I when we had bands break in the oven when we were creating. We had too much tension on some parts of the affected bands. This can also happen if you’re using a size of band that is too small for the template and pegs.

The bands that had even tension turned out great.

Another thing that we discovered is that you should make sure all of your bands are untwisted between each peg before you put them in the oven. If the band is twisted in between the pegs, you’ll get weak spots in your bands after baking. This could cause them to snap and break when being stretched later on. Some twisting of the bands between the pegs might also have played into why the bands in the above photos broke during baking, besides being tight on some of the pegs.

The FAQ section also gave us the idea to do up to 5 of the same shape at once. This way, my daughter could make a bunch of matching bracelets all at once. It cut down on the time and also on the electricity for our oven.
I think the one of the best resources that Shapelets offers, though, is their Create page on their website. You can create your own templates using the grid provided. You can add pegs, move the pegs and the band, print the template, submit your design to the gallery and the program even tells you which size band would be ideal for your design. It’s really important that you separate your bands by size so that you don’t put the wrong size on your pegs and ruin them in the baking process.

I tried my hand at creating a heart template. It takes a little bit of patience to figure out how to move the pegs and band on the program so that they’re going in the right direction for shaping but once you get the hang of it, creating new templates becomes addictive.


When I was done with creating my template, I printed it out on a piece of computer paper. It will also print with instructions and takes up a half page. To make the most of your paper, create another template and put the paper back in your printer in the opposite direction that you originally had it in so that you can print the next template on the black half of the page. Each template you create should have the size of the band needed at the bottom of the template, just like the cut and punch templates that come in the Shaplets Design Kit. However, the heart design that I made printed out as an “invalid size” so I tried different sizes of bands until I found that the smallest of the bands was a perfect fit.
Computer paper can be hard to poke the pegs through so use something sharp to make the holes in your paper to line up with the pegboard underneath. I used a seam ripper to poke the holes and the pegs went in really easy. You could also use a pin, a pen, the small end of a stylus, etc.
I lined up 5 bands and put them into the oven and they turned out great!


My daughter was excited to make some bands for the Penny Fair that we’re going to be having at our house on the last day of school (to benefit our local humane society). Look how serious she is about getting the bands just right.


We need prizes for the prize booth and since these bands are all the rage with her friends, we thought this would be a great addition to what the kids can earn at the fair.

Really, now…could you have asked for a cuter model to show off these Shapelets bracelets? Of course I’m biased, so I’d say no. *wink*

Pros:
  • Great price point for Design Kit ($9.99)
  • Shapelets offers a Class & Party Pack at an affordable price with plenty of materials for a fun party activity
  • Shapelets offers refill bands at a great price
  • Even though you’ll eventually use up all of bands in the kit, you still have the peg and pegboards to keep creating
  • The Shapelets website offers a gallery of designs, as well as a grid program to create your own designs to print and share on the site
  • Just as much fun for adults to create as it is for kids to create

Cons:

  • Only 3 cut and punch templates in the design kit, though you can find and print more on the Shapelets gallery and Create grid
  • For people with sensitive noses, there is a melting plastic type of smell that comes out of the oven when you take your templates out but this could be easily remedied by placing the templates in a covered casserole dish while baking
  • Some of the templates I created on the Create grid printed out as an “invalid size” – if this happens, you’ll need to experiment with different size bands to find one that fits well
The cons were not that big of a deal and we had a great time creating together. I can see this being a great activity for my daughter and her friends/cousins to do when they get together.

GIVEAWAY
The folks over at Shapelets are giving away kits to two lucky readers. To enter simply answer any of the questions below in the Comments section of this article on our website. One comment per person, please.
Are you or your kids sporting these bracelets? Would you purchase this to make your own designs and what shapes would you pick?
Winners are chosen at random. Contest closes Sunday, June 12th at 6pm CST. Good Luck!
Click on the link at the top of the page to visit Craft Critique for comments, giveaways and more!

Vendor Spotlight & GIVEAWAY: Faber-Castell Creative Journaling Kit

Reported by Erika Martin

I’ve long been a fan of watercolor pencils. I still have the set that my parents gave to me for Christmas when I was 12 years old. Some of them are worn down to a stub and others still have a bit of life in them but I refuse to use them anymore because they remind me of the Christmas when my parents could only afford to give me that set of colored pencils and a box of stationery. They were and are my favorite set. That was the set that made me fall in love with watercolor pencils. They also happen to be from Faber-Castell. I made sure that, when the opportunity to review one of Faber-Castell’s kits came up, my name was on that list to be considered.

I was thrilled to be sent the Creative Journaling kit to play with. Yes, yes, I know I’m supposed to “review” it, but I look at reviewing as playing, it’s so much fun!

Did you know that Faber-Castell is celebrating 250 years? WHOA! Faber-Castell, founded in 1761, is the world’s oldest pencil manufacturer and started out as a small pencil workshop in Germany. Maybe that’s part of my love for their products – my German heritage (my grandparents immigrated to the US in the 1950s). It’s owned by the 8th generation of its founding family. There’s your little history lesson for the day. *wink* (I love stuff like that.)
Being the earthy-crunchy, tree-hugger hippie Vermonter that I am, I really appreciate the environmental responsibility that Faber-Castell is passionate about. According to Faber-Castell, 

“80% of our pencils are produced from pine wood grown and harvested from a sustainable 25,000 acre Forest Stewardship farm, where millions of tree seedlings are planted each year. This conservation of natural resources also guarantees the consistent wood quality we are know for….We use environmentally-friendly water-based varnish and each pencil is constructed with a patented SV-bonding of the pencil pigment to the barrel to ensure longer lasting pencils.”

I’m always seeking out companies with art products that are also environmentally conscious, so this was a big deal to me.

On to my review of Faber-Castell’s Creative Journaling Kit.
This kit contains:
  • 4 Art GRIP Aquarelle Pencils
  • 3 PITT artist pens (black extra superfine nib, sepia superfine nib, gray brush nib)
  • 1 graphite pencil
  • a sharpener and eraser
  • 15 sheets of decorative papers
  • 9 illustration boards
  • gesso
  • craft glue
  • 12-page blank journal
  • 3 book rings




For those that are unfamiliar with “creative journaling,” I like how Faber-Casetll desribes it on their website and also on the first page of the illustration boards:  

“Keeping a journal is a private dialogue with oneself in pursuit of self-discovery and an archiving of one’s daily life. When you combine the written word with doodling, painting, or pasting in memorabilia you are creating an “Art Journal.” Creative Journaling (sometimes called Art Journaling) unites our love of writing with a visual poetry of images and offers a dynamic new venue for self-expression.”

 
The first thing I did when I opened my kit was to put a hole in the top left corner of the illustration boards with my Crop-a-dile and run a ribbon through it to keep them together. I much preferred having all my illustration boards together rather than having them all separate and floating around on my desk.

The illustration cards are full of great ideas, sample photos from other art journals, tips, techniques and inspiration. I used many of them while creating my art journal. I’ve been creating journals, mini books and altered books for many years and consider myself an advanced artist when it comes to those, but these illustration boards showed me new techniques that I hadn’t tried yet and got me to think outside the box. It doesn’t matter if you’re a newbie to this art form or if you’ve been doing them for a while, there is definitely something in these illustration boards for everyone to learn.

When you open the illustration board, it not only gives you a run-down of what is included in the kit, but also a list of optional tools and materials that you can use in your art journal. This is a great starting point for crafters creating their first art journal. My ‘aha moment’ came when I turned to the page in the instruction cards that gave a run down on working with Art GRIP Aquarelle Pencils. One of the techniques talks about color mixing. To be honest, as I was looking at the colored pencils in the kit, I wondered what in the world I would be able to do with just three colors. Well, let me tell you that I found quite a few things to do with just three colors. The color mixing experiment opened up a whole new world for me. By including the three primary colors in the kit, you have all you need to “create an incredible array of colors,” as the instruction board says.
I scribbled color in the shapes of triangles within a circle, as shown on the instruction card, and then used my wet paintbrush to blend the colors together in the blank spaces. Total eye opener for me!


So, I got to work on starting the front cover of my art journal using the blending technique that I had just learned with the Aquarelle Pencils. I used the black PITT artist pen to draw a scene onto one of the white blank journal boards.

I added some color with the Aquarelle Pencils.

Next, I used the paintbrush from the kit to blend my colors together.


When I needed brown paint for the soil in my scene, I took out a piece of watercolor paper to use as a palette. Knowing that green and red make brown, I scribbled yellow, blue and red onto the watercolor paper.
I used my paintbrush and a little bit of water to blend the colors together to get the brown that I needed.
I pulled the color off of the make-shift palette that I made to paint it directly onto my journal page.

I filled in the rest of my board and blended colors as I went and was so excited at the final result. I can totally see myself carrying a small journal around and just three colored pencils from here on out. Such a small amount of things to tote around, but the results are amazing and addictive. I’m looking forward to trying this color blending technique out on a big sheet of watercolor paper soon.


My next page was a combination of collaging, doodling and color blending. I started out by blending colors on a piece of watercolor paper and then painting it on my journal board as a background. I chose some collage papers from the kit to work with.
One of the instruction cards suggested building on a theme to tie your journal together. I used inspiration from my journal cover to decide to use a spring theme.
I cut some grass from a piece of collage paper and then used the craft glue included in the kit to adhere it to my journal page.
I did some doodling on the page with the black PITT artist pen to add some detail.

I cut some butterflies from the collage paper, along with a sun and added more doodling for outlines and journaling to complete my page.

On to my next page, I tried the “Unique Batik” technique from one of the instruction cards. This involved first scribbling and blending some Aquarelle colors together on my journal board.
I blended the colors together with a paint brush and water and then covered the board with plastic wrap.

The result was a very subtle batik pattern. A more dramatic effect could be gotten by using more water and/or not completely blending the colors before the plastic wrap was put on, as well as scrunching up the plastic wrap more. Definitely a technique I’ll be experimenting with more as I like the potential effects that this technique has.

I wanted to try out the brush nibbed PITT artist pen (Cold Grey color) so I tested it out on a rubber stamp by applying the ink directly onto the stamp.

I huffed the stamp a bit and then stamped it directly onto my dry batiked journal page.
I created some colors on a watercolor paper palette and pulled the color off with my paintbrush to paint in my stamped image.
I added collaged elements, doodling and journaling to finish it off.
I also tried the cross hatch technique done with the Aquarelles that was shown on one of the instruction cards.

Once the cross hatch design was dry, I turned to the Mini Sketches section of the instruction cards and tried my hand out at it with the brown PITT artist pen. I really like that the PITT pens are waterproof. It makes for great sketching before watercoloring.

Here are my two purple pages facing each other in my journal.
Next up was doing a gesso technique. The instruction cards include some quick information about gesso, which is a “white paint primer used to treat blank canvas or art board and to add texture to watercolor paint.” You can also use it as a white paint and to cover up something you’re not keen on having show.

The kit comes with a small 18 ml bottle of gesso, but unfortunately, the gesso is my kit was unusable. It was all dried up into one big clump. I always keep gesso on hand in my studio so I just pulled one of the bottles I had off my shelf and used that instead.

I started off by gluing down a piece of collage paper to a blank journal page using the craft glue included in the kit (which works great, by the way) and then lightly swiped over the entire page, collage paper included, with gesso.

This gave the page a subtle background that I was still able to journal over afterwards without competing with the pattern.

I next created a page that was completely collaged with different patterned papers and wanted to try stamping on it using the Aquarelle pencils as a make-shift ink pad. I scribbled onto a piece of watercolor paper and blended the colors using a wet paintbrush.

I then pressed the stamp directly into the blended Aquarelles.
I stamped the image onto my collaged page and I didn’t really get the look I was going for as the ink didn’t fully absorb into the paper.
I tried this same technique again and stamped on a piece of smooth, white cardstock and it turned out great. Depdending on the look you’re trying to get, it’s best to experiment first with your papers to see if your ink will absorb or not.
I used the brown PITT artist pen to doodle and journal in my collaged page and also used gesso around the edges.

I created shadow effects for the flowers using the grey brush tipped PITT artist pen.

I still have a few pages to fill up in my art journal, but for now, I put the book rings into the journal to assemble it and added some knoted ribbons on the rings to dress them up.

The Creative Journaling Kit retails for $29.95 and comes with a total of 35 pieces, all housed in a handy and sturdy case.
In reviewing the Creative Journaling Kit I learned some new techniques and had my mind opened up to the possibilities that exist in just three watercolor pencils in the primary colors. I thoroughly enjoyed the freedom of the process of art journaling and highly recommend this kit to anyone looking to get into art journaling.
Pros:
  • Well rounded kit with everything you need to get started with art journaling.
  • Instruction cards in the kit include a good variety of techniques and information on how to use the items in the kit.
  • These may not seem like a big deal to some, but I love that the kit also included a pencil sharpener and artists eraser. I don’t know about the rest of you, but my kids are always stealing my sharpeners and erasers (they call it “borrowing” but I never get them back).
  • The kit even included craft glue in a convenient size for taking on the go. Great for artists that want to travel with a kit but not take large bottles of glue with them.
Cons:
  • The gesso in my kit was dried out and unusable.

 

GIVEAWAY
The cool folks over at Faber-Castell are giving away Stampers Big Brushes to one lucky reader! Just leave a comment on either of the Faber-Castell reviews today answering the question in the Comments section of either article to be entered to win!
Have you tried any Mixed Media projects? What do YOU think of this journaling kit?
 
One comment per person, per article, please. Winner will be selected on Saturday, June 4, 2011.

Disclosure

Click on the link at the top of the page to visit Craft Critique for comments, giveaways and more!