Monday, June 30, 2008

I'm back!

Don't really need words to describe my weekend... so here are some pictures (more can be found on my flickr page)

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Away for the weekend

Hey all, I'm taking a trip up to the Adirondacks this weekend to see family so I won't be around obsessively checking my blog, deviantart, flickr, and etsy, haha.

I will, however, bring my camera for any neat animals I may find... hopefully some cute salamanders.

Before I go here's a little treat for any of you spider lovers - some photos I took of my fishing spider who laid an egg sac. I released her before the babies hatched because unlike wolf spiders (which carry the babies on her back for a while first), fishing spider babies scatter instantly.

I've noticed some people confusing the two (fishing spiders and wolf spiders) so here are some tips: Fishing spiders and wolf spiders have similar bodies, although the fishing spider has more elaborate patterns. Look at the legs: wolf spiders have shorter legs, and the fishing spider can reach legspans of up to 3". And look for stripes! If it has striped legs, it's a fishing spider.

Also, how a female carries the egg sac. Wolf spiders carry it from the spinerrettes on the abdomen, while the fishing spider carries it in her pedipalps by her mouth.

Don't miss me too much!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Fake taxidermy

I've seen this concept floating around the internet for a while, and with a little inspiration I've decided to try some for myself.

It started with a magazine advertisement I have hanging on a shelf where I keep my insect collection.I always thought it was a funny idea (I keep lots of insect themed drawing, photos and ads around my collection space), and came across it again once I started sewing insects many months ago. It's been in the back of my mind ever since.

Then I started coming across etsy sellers who created their own fake taxidermy, and I remembered the ad and thought I might try it for myself. I'm always thinking of different ways to portray my insect creations, as plush toys as well as jewelry and accessories, so I thought having another "functional" purpose would make them more appealing.

I started with a few for myself and my father, and when I put a praying mantis in my shop it sold the same day! And I've since sold another mantis, and a stag beetle... as ideas come to me, I'm creating more. My latest is an orchid mantis.

I highly recommend everyone check out these sellers that make great fake taxidermy:
GirlSavage makes amazing feltidermy, a word she coined herself that sounds as cute as her creations. She's part of my original inspiration and one of my favorite etsy sellers, I'm hoping to splurge on one of her pieces soon.
Morninglori makes fascinating sculptures of imaginary beings, hanging one of her pieces on a wall will be sure to grab peoples' attention and start conversations.
Cherrybox makes plushkill forest creatures, dead plush likenesses of animals like deer and ponies.
Erachel only has one item in her shop, but it's a most fascinating deer head!
Thefamilytree has a cute little teddy bear taxidermy.
Honeypulp has some interesting sculpture animals like a shrew and bush baby.
Rubyslounge was a featured seller on etsy and rightly so - the patterned deer heads and other animals are fantastic.

I've also been tossing around another idea - Riker mounts. These are the display boxes that you always see insect specimens for sale in, like this:
I'll have to check on bioquip (my favorite entomology supply company) to see how much they cost and if it'd be worth it to give a few a try.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

When pets and crafts collide

Most people know how cats and dogs can interfere with creating crafts and artwork... the whining, jumping, stealing, playing, begging, not to mention getting fur and paw prints everywhere.

But even snakes can cause trouble.

Last night I was feeding all my snakes (I have seven, five different species), and I got to Jacques, the little ball python. His cage is in my room, next to an overflowing basket of fleece fabric.

I use tongs to feed him (they all eat frozen/thawed mice) because he doesn't have the greatest aim, and I've had my fingers mistaken for a mouse before. So I lifted up the lid and dangled the mouse.

He got a bit overzealous and launched past the mouse and grabbed a mouthful of fleece! I dropped the mouse into the cage and gasped as he coiled around a section of the fabric in a death grip. I grabbed him and tried to uncoil him, but he wouldn't budge. That felt like a furry mouse and he wouldn't be convinced otherwise!

After a minute or two I was able to uncoil him and pry his mouth off the fabric. Once again in his cage I dangled the mouse, and he struck, strangled and ate it.

I then got out my scissors and cut away that section of fabric, luckily it was towards the end.

I didn't get any pics of the action, but here's the little trouble maker Jacques:
He's a bit bigger than in that photo now, but still a cute handful of snake.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Impulse Purchase

We all have those purchases where you hem and haw and debate in your head endlessly over whether you really should buy something that you're not sure you need.

Well, I went to a thrift store today, and found a beautiful sewing machine. It's old, portable, and has all the parts included (even the manual). However it's rusty and in iffy shape, and so it took me a while to decide to take it home.

Of course I relented. For $40 it was worth the chance.Some issues:
1. The company doesn't exist. Or at least, not since the internet has been around because I can't find any information on it, at all. I've found references of "eesco" being an electronics company, and a fabric company, but nothing about sewing machines.

2. How old is it??? The manual has NO INFORMATION about the company (not even the name) or the year. In the back section about ordering new parts, it says to contact the store where you bought it. Nice, huh. It has a serial number but that doesn't do me much good without the company. Made in USA, at least.

3. It doesn't really work. I plugged it in, pressed the foot pedal and it make some horrible noises, and the needle went jerkily up and down a few times. Definitely needs some work, but it has potential! I'm thinking some cleaning up and a good dose of oil will do it a world of good.

My grandfather sews and has several really old machines at his house, so I'm hoping he can help me. If not, I'm having a garage sale soon and could pass it on to someone who has more experience. However I'd really hate to give up this pretty machine.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Art show!

It's been a very busy few days, and I thought I should give an update about the Art on Lark street festival on saturday!

It was an amazingly good time - perfect weather, set up and take down went quickly and smoothly, I had the most wonderful comfortable chair (got for FREE at a garage sale), my mom kept me company and we enjoyed people watching together, the people were super friendly and supportive, got to meet some other etsy people (yay!), and I made about $200. Not too bad, and I have a bunch of possible custom orders. Oh, and I gave out all my business cards - I had to stamp more while I was there!

Overall I couldn't have asked for a better day.
Oh, and everyone loved Cedric the centipede. After a while I got tired of carrying him around and so I hung him from the support beams of my tent, he got a lot of comments and giggles.

Here are some shots of my setup:
Everyone had to touch the caterpillar - at least one out of every three people that walked by. He's just so tempting! People had to touch, squeeze, pick up, hug, show their friends, scare their kids... I think I should disinfect the poor thing, he got really man-handled.

I also had some of my artwork, a book with photos of some of my plushies and custom orders, and lots of promo goodies! Gave out all the goody bags I had put together of other etsy people cards discounts and promos, as well as all of my own including my business cards, handmade stickers, plushteam pins/cards, and mad scientists of etsy cards.

One of my favorite visitors was a man who I observed really scrutinizing my work, looking through my book, seeming to give it all a lot of thought. I was busy talking to other people inside my tent and he wandered off. Later he came back, and brought up one of my drawings. He said he had bought a drawing from me at the Stockade art show two years ago (when I was still in high school), and he wanted to do it again. So he bought my harlequin beetle (the red/black/yellow one). I thought that was so cool :)

And I also got to meet three super cool etsians - sagittariusgallery, mamavsoap, and momerath. It's really fun to put a "real person" to an online avatar.

One more interesting tidbit - the show took place along a street, and my tent was outside a planned parenthood building. So on the corner of the street, and behind my tent, were people with giant signs and pamphlets protesting, as well as a bunch of guys with a bible and a huge jesus on a cross, praying. I found the whole thing rather amusing, it lasted most of the day. My favorite shot that doesn't include pictures of anyone's faces may be seen here.

So, that was my day, lots of fun and I'm still unpacking. Etsy shop is back up and running and I'll be anxiously awaiting more custom orders :)

Thursday, June 19, 2008

"I want to be just like you when I grow up"

Don't kids say the cutest thi..... what? I'm grown up? When did that happen?

Really though, I did a presentation at an elementary school classroom today. I did this a few times last year and it was a blast. Wasn't planning on it this year, but a teacher requested I return. I bring some of my pets and backyard animals I've caught to give a talk and let the kids ask questions. I like sticking to local animals (with a few exotic surprises) to teach kids about what they might be able to find in the wild, what's safe to touch and why, etc.

It's a really rewarding, but EXHAUSTING experience. This time I brought: House centipede, fishing spider with egg sack, local millipedes, giant african millipede, toads, salamanders, baby turtle, garter snake (caught this morning!), milk snake, and corn snake. Some are family pets, some are with me just for temporary study. I have a license from the state to temporarily capture, study, photograph and then release small animals like reptiles and amphibians.

It's so difficult to maintain order in a packed classroom (other classes joined us) with a bunch of 3rd and 4th graders extremely excited to see the animals and ask questions and share their own stories. I tried my best to relay information in a way they could understand, without being condescending. If there's one thing I hate, it's when adults talk down to kids, almost to the point of baby talk, when they're trying to teach them something. And I got some tough questions.

One kid asked how to tell male and female reptiles apart. I said it was tricky, depended on the species, usually can't tell just by looking. Later he asked again about snakes - now, for snakes, you have to either force the penes (yup, males each have two) out of the body to check, or stick them with a metal probe to check out the, uh, naughty bits. So I told the kid if you have a pet snake and want to know the sex, ask a pet store worker if they know how, or find a snake specialist :P Lots of "how long do they live", "how many eggs to they lay", "is it poisonous" questions, things like that.

And lots of "my mom/friend/brother/aunt/grandpa found a snake/salamander/turtle/toad just LIKE that and teased me with it/stepped on it/killed it" You know. Everyone wanted to share their stories, and kids that age take a long time to get out simple sentences under pressure.

Overall it was wonderful (and that comment in the title really threw me for a loop), but so tiring, and I'm sure the animals are glad to be back home or in the wild. The kids could only touch the giant millipede and the corn snake, neither of which minded at all. Monty the corn snake is a cuddly teddy bear of a snake.

And now for some photos I took of the garter snake before I released him. Little guy was *not* pleased with me and it took me a while to get these shots.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The circle of life

My friends sometimes ask me jokingly, "If there was an earthquake and all your pets' cages broke and the animals escaped into the house - what would win?"

Mind you I have several species of snakes as well as various lizards, salamanders, cats, rabbit, parrot, tarantula, and backyard visitors such as toads, frogs and turtles that hang out for a while.

There are never any real confrontations, in fact the cats are terrified of the rabbit and they stay away from the parrot's beak, so there is harmony here for the most part.

However... earlier today, Pepper the parrot squared off with Monty the corn snake.We keep the board over the tank because otherwise the cats sit on the screen to look out the window - and today Pepper climbed up the curtain and decided to explore. He was tapping his feet and squealing, and he peeked over the edge to find a hungry snake staring back at him. Monty stalked him just like he stalks a dangling mouse, shaking and sniffing and coiling up. And of course Pepper, the instigator, had to keep poking at the screen and squeaking.

Eventually Monty got bored, and Pepper climbed off the cage, but it was hilarious watching their stand off which lasted almost 10 minutes. Monty is a pink snow variety (not albino) corn snake, and about 4.5' long. He's a cuddly friendly snake, have had him for about four years now.

I wonder who would win if there was no screen between them? I'd be glad to never find out :P

Craft show promo goodies!

So, I'm doing a craft show this saturday (Art on Lark street), and I've been collecting promo items and business cards from Etsy sellers to give out in goody bags at the show. Here's what I've got!Includes:

What fun! There are pins, cards, discounts, even seeds and tags and other things. I'll also have baskets out with extras that didn't fit into all my goody bags. I'll certainly take pictures of everything at the show! Hope this helps with everyone's sales :)

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

That was fast!

So my latest creation is a praying mantis fake taxidermy head/neck/front claws. It's all hand sewn and made of green wool felt, black felt and white pompoms. It was quite fun to make, in fact I spent most of the time outside in the evening watching the fireflies as I was sewing.

So... yeah. I listed it yesterday and woke up today to it being sold! To someone who found me on deviantArt, which I think is pretty cool. So my praying mantis (which looks just like how I draw them all the time) is going off to Greece today.Also: now I know why my dad always yells at me to not go around the backyard in bare feet (aside from the rabid racoons that are drooling all over the grass, uh huh)... two days ago I had spent a long morning outside, barefoot, with my camera taking pictures and exploring the woods/pond. Everything was fine, and the grass and mud and moss felt wonderful under my feet. Later that day, my dad asked me outside to look at a cool cloud formation. First step I took on the grass - BZZT. I stepped on something, likely a small bee, that stung the arch of my foot. It alternated between stinging slightly and not feeling anything at all.

Well, yesterday it was swollen up the size of a quarter, hot, throbbing and deeply itching unbearably. My feet are super sensitive/ticklish, so that certainly hasn't helped. All the ice and soaking in cold water and neosporin and anti itch cream hasn't helped at all (the ice helps temporarily, but thats it). It's gone down slightly but still itches like crazy, I barely got any sleep last night because of it.

So - I'll be wearing my flip flops from now on. Sigh.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

You don't fool me

Even beetles know how to roll over and play dead - this guy was quite convincing.It's a type of metallic wood boring beetle (family Buprestidae), though it's mostly concerned with eating dead/dying wood, not healthy wood, so it's not much of a pest. They're quite stunningly beautiful... and have cute faces.My dad caught this one flying in midair, and so of course it was my job to identify it, poke at it, and take photos of it. Ah, such has been my life. I love it.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Aerial Pest Control

That's the title of my latest nature article for Kaatskill Life magazine (section titled Learning about Kaatskill Kritters). My father and I have been writing for the magazine for many years, this article should come out in the fall issue. It's about dragonflies, and I created a treasury on etsy based upon it.

Here's a sneak preview:

It was an early summer morning and I had just finished picking myself some of our own blueberries for breakfast. A walk around the backyard brought an entourage of buzzing insects to my side, mosquitoes and horse flies, amid other unpleasant pests. After swatting a few away, I suddenly felt something crash into my head with a loud flutter of wings. Aghast, a large dragonfly alighted on my hand. Upon closer inspection I discovered it had a mosquito in its mouth. Happily perched on my hand, it munched away without taking notice of my fascination. I had always known dragonflies were very helpful creatures that eat all sorts of insects, but I had never seen one in action quite so close up.

I try to keep things interesting as well as informative and apparantly we have some loyal readers. So those of you in the Catskill region of NY, keep on the lookout for Kaatskill Life magazine, you'll surely find something by either me or my father (we do all our own photography as well).

Thursday, June 12, 2008

My favorite fish

Yup, fish are cool by me too. And my favorite has GOT to be the yellow tang (above image is from stock.xchng). There's just something about those cute little fins and that bright solid color...

I love snorkeling in the Caribbean when I get the chance, and there are some fish that make me squeal. Yellow tangs, balloon/porcupine fish (LOVE playing with them, I have kevlar gloves), and stingrays are just a few. I take a disposible underwater camera with me everywhere, but I sadly don't have any of my photos scanned onto my computer. Next time I go, I'll have a digital setup.

This plush yellow tang is part of an aquarium set I did as a custom order, this time for a 2.5 gallon tank. A more affordable option for those that would like a maintenance free fish tank.As always if you'd like one for yourself you can contact me in my shop.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Singing froggies

So, the other night I caught some treefrogs just for fun, and thought I'd share the cuteness.

One of my favorite summer hobbies is tree frog hunting during their mating season. I go out once it gets completely dark, and hunt for them only by sound. Once I get one within a few feet (deafening noise), I turn on a flashlight, and capture the guy with my hands (I let them all go after a few minutes). The mating season is just starting, so I only found three around my pond. I don't think they're too stressed, as they continue to chirp and call the entire time! Let me tell you, it really confused the cats.
And here's a movie of some of their calls:

They are all gray treefrogs, Hyla versicolor. I've sometimes kept these as pets. One was named Splat, she lived with me for a few years. Was really tame and always ate from my hand. One was Lucifer, though he wasn't really a pet, because he lived outside. However, he lived underneath the same board leaning against the shed every summer for three years. I would check on him every day, and sometimes bring him grasshoppers to eat or have him sit on my shoulder as I walked around the yard. Finally, last summer, he failed to appear under the board.

And then, there was Harold. I caught him when he was bright green, 1cm long, and just emerged from the pond. He was just a little hopping speck in the grass - I had to sweep my net in grasses and shrubs every day to catch him tiny leaf hoppers and things to eat. He grew and grew and finally matured into a fat happy adult male treefrog. When I left for college he went to a family friend, where he was pampered and lived another year before passing away. He was a fantastic frog.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Stickers!!! And how to make your own

Because I'm on a "make everything myself" kick, I did some of my own promo stickers.And because I'm feeling really nice, I'll tell you how I made them!

You'll need:
Stamp making supplies (see this tutorial)
Colored paper/cardstock
Paper cutter
Square paper punch
Xyron 150 (1.5" wide) sticker making refill (NOT the actual sticker maker)

To start, you'll want your own image for the stickers. I used some of my bug stamps I've carved myself previously. You can also draw your own images, but stamps will be much quicker once they're made. You can also make a stamp with your business name, or write it out yourself.

Use the square paper punch to make pieces to use for the stickers. The squares should be just under 1.5" wide. Also cut strips of paper for the top label of the sticker pages where you'll have your business name/website/other info.

Now go crazy with the designing! And once you've got your images ready, you can begin with the Xyron refill sticker making paper. You can use either the permanent or repositional.

First carefully pull out the bottom sticky sheet (don't touch the sticky part!). Start placing your stickers on the sheet facing right side up. Put them in groups of however many you wish, I did three, and make sure to leave spaces between them so you can affix your label.

After you put on a small group of images, cut them off the roll. Then take the top "rub and peel" part, and place it carefully over the top of the bottom sheet, making sure to cover the whole thing. Then rub with your fingernail over every gap, making sure not to miss any spots. The rub and peel paper will pull off the extra stickiness.

Then, pull off the rub and peel sheet, and you've got stickers! Just cut apart the sections you wish, and staple a piece of paper with your business info to the top.

You can of course do variation of shapes and sizes depending on the punches you have and the size xyron sticker making supplies you use. Hope this helps :)

Sunday, June 8, 2008

New packaging! Woohoo!

After many hours of carving and cutting and stamping, I've got new packaging for my items (and piles of extras made for my future products).

Every stamp is hand carved by myself... I'm admittedly not very good at doing little letters but at least everything is readable, I hope.

And I also have new business cards - printed on cardstock paper I went out and bought because I've used up every single box in the house, haha.

So, that's what I've been up to the past few days. I'm also making my own stickers, which I'll have pictures of once I whip up another batch (already sent some out as promo goodies).

Friday, June 6, 2008

Pepper strikes again

With even more caique silliness! This happened again while my brother and I were watching wrestling, and I had left one of Pepper's cups in his cage. I heard him cooing, and it sounded funny... it turns out that was because his head was IN HIS CUP.

After taking some pictures he crawled out and back up onto his perch.
And then he did it again.He also likes reading the comics, too. He sleeps under the newspaper sometimes if we leave a sheet on top of the cage bottom. Perhaps he'll sleep under the newspaper upside down with his head in the cup? That would be a parrot silliness trifecta!