Archive | Books

Book Review | Mixed-Media Paint Box – Edited by Tonia Davenport

Reported by Maria del Pinto

Mixed Media Paint Box cover

Mixed-Media Paint Box: Weekly Projects for a Year of Creative Exploration” is a collection of mixed media projects which were submitted by different artists to introduce the reader of a variety of techniques.  I came across this book while cruising the isles of my local bookstore and was so excited to locate such a great find. This book, published in 2010 by North Light Books, was published in the early rise of mixed media and features names such as Claudine Hellmuth and Kelly Rae Roberts that are now much more well known.

I love that this book is set up as a weekly journey. I have two jobs and go to school full-time, so I do not have a lot of free time to dedicate to taking craft classes. However, I can find bits of time, once a week, for creative self-expression through a simple project. Sometimes this means I am working on a project in the middle of the night but I haven’t found too many art stores that offer classes around that type of crazy schedule! For me, this book is like taking a weekly class that is tailored to my complicated schedule. I just love it!

The book has great step-by-step photos of the projects. The techniques themselves are varied and are introduced in a way that makes it easy for the reader to follow. Also, each week introduces the reader to some new media, as well using materials that the reader is already familiar with (and has on hand). There are projects using traditional materials like watercolors while at the same time, offering some application technique ideas.

The contributors have done a great job at keeping the projects and interactions simple and easy to manage.  It allows for the reader to quickly grasp a technique and yet provides a good starting point for more in-depth future projects. There are also some templates and tips in the book.

The materials used in “Mixed-Media Paint Box” are easily purchased online or at your local art supply store.

Mat Acrylic Medium Collage Technique

One of my favorite techniques in the book is the “Special Occasion Collage” by Corey Moortgat. It is super easy to follow.  It combines collage with painting.  The project also introduces the reader to the use of glazes, gel pins and other materials.  I made the above bead using the technique that I learned from this project.

by Maria DelPinto for Craft Critique

The crackled owl above is made using the techniques I learned in the “Crackled Background” project by Alama De La Melena Cox. The project in the book uses fabric, canvas, and paints to create a cool piece of wall art.  The reader learns how to combine the acrylic paint and crackle medium to create different textures. Then the project introduces using metallic fabrics, glitter, and adhesive to collage on top of the crackled surface. The final results are pretty fun and I recommend checking out page 48 in the book to see it!

by Maria DelPinto for Craft Critique

I personally found some great ideas in the book that I could use to create jewelry pieces, like the watercolor washed bead above. This book really incorporates a great amount of ideas that will offer the reader a broad introduction into a variety of techniques. It also provides a great starting point to apply the techniques introduced to other creative projects. For those who are interested in trying their hand at digital painting, Susan Tuttle has a digital painting project in the book on page 52. She also includes some basic Photoshop Elements techniques to help you with the project.

If you are interested in a time intensive project, then the “Paper Pendant’ project by Stephanie Lee on page 118 is not to be missed. It has a lot of steps to it but the final piece is well worth the effort. Plus, she teaches some great techniques through her fabulous step-by-step photos.


  • Easy to follow instructions and techniques.
  • Easy to locate materials.
  • Great variety of techniques.
  • Includes nice introduction on each contributor, along with web and/or blog links so that you can learn more about them.


  • No index is available to quickly refer to a particular technique. You will have to refer to the “Table of Contents” to find anything.
  • No product list is available at the end of the book.  You will have to do an online search to find the materials or get more information on a particular product.
  • You may find yourself spending more time playing the with techniques you learn in this book and less time doing your daily chores or homework.

Mixed-Media Paint Box: Weekly Projects for a Year of Creative Exploration is  published by North Light Books and is available in paperback and on Kindle Unlimited from

Books | Craft Fail: When Homemade Goes Horribly Wrong

Ever get the feeling looking at Pinterest that you’re the only one whose craft projects don’t come out picture perfect every time? CraftFail: When Homemade Goes Horribly Wrong to the rescue!

Craft Fail cover

Craft Fail is a website – and now a book – that is the brainchild of Heather Mann (who also writes the blog Dollar Store Crafts).

Rather than show moments of crafting perfection, Craft Fail focuses on enjoying those other sorts of moments every crafter has all too frequently: the moments when vision ends up in a different zip code from reality.

The book pairs photos of internet tutorials with photos of real crafters’ attempts at replicating them. (Lest you think Craft Fail is making fun of poor unknowing crafters, rest assured that the crafters are in on the joke and submitted their disasters to Craft Fail.) The results are howlingly funny, and not just because of the crafts gone wrong. Heather’s sly and at times slightly off-color narrative ties it all together into a package that will entertain you while delivering the reminder that no crafter achieves perfection 100% of the time. Sometimes, the joy  – and humor – is in the process itself, not the outcome.

So, if you’re looking for a crafty gift this holiday season, or just some crafty fun…don’t miss CraftFail!

Project | Cross Stitch Card

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Long before I was a scrapbooker, I was into cross-stitch. I’ve long been familiar with the concept of adding small pieces of cross-stitch to my paper crafting projects, but up until now I’ve not done it because combining Aida fabric with my paper projects takes extra steps to protect the fabric from fraying and adhere it.

But then this book from Annie’s Paper Crafts landed on my desk, and I discovered that there is a material that I’d never heard of before that makes it easy to make a cross stitch card: perforated paper.

Easy Cross-Stitch Cards cover

The book was Easy Cross-Stitch Cards & Tags, which contains 27 cross-stitch projects that are designed to be made with perforated paper and then finished into cards and tags using paper crafting supplies.

The projects are small enough to finish in a few hours of stitching. I made this sympathy card in a few evening sessions. Assembly instructions for most of the projects are detailed and also simple enough for even inexperienced paper crafters.

Cross-stitch Sympathy Card


Working with the perforated paper was surprisingly easy compared to working with fabric Aida. It doesn’t fray, and you don’t have to worry about accidentally catching a stray thread instead of the hole you are supposed to use. The only difficulty I had was that I had to be careful not to scrape the edges of the holes when pushing my needle horizontally to weave my thread ends in, or the paper would delaminate and the back layer would peel off.

The design of the patterns in the book are mostly very simple, using only a few colors. This is great for ease of stitching – and also for ease of modification of the color schemes. With only a few colors that you are working with, it’s a simple process to swap out colors from the pattern to create a different look and help make the patterns usable over and over. Below on the left are the three colors used for the sympathy card I stitched. On the right, are three possible substitutions that would create a more vintage – and metallic – look for the design.

Embroidery Floss

Easy Cross-Stitch Cards & Tags contains patterns for a wide variety of occasions, and currently retails for around $10 on