Wednesday, June 23, 2010

You Have Snail Mail

When e-mail was new, finding out that “you have mail” when you were online was an exciting thing. Now, e-mail, text messages, tweets, etc. bombard us all day long and are no big deal. It is quick and easy to send out these missives, read them and discard them. While they are now a useful part of how we communicate, another form of communication not practiced as much today, the hand written note sent by snail mail, should not be overlooked.

Why would you choose the hand written note over instant electronic communication? I find that taking the time to sit and put pen to paper helps me collect my thoughts and more clearly express myself. Getting a piece of snail mail can be like getting a little gift. Make someone’s day with your little present. When your piece of mail arrives on a pretty piece of stationery or note card, the images you choose, add to the words that you send. A hand written note conveys to the other person that they are worthy of the extra time and attention given to them by the sender of the letter.

There are times that you want the person receiving the note to have something tangible, that they can hold in their hand. Maybe this note will be saved for later reading and will bring a smile to the recipient’s face once more.

I find it helpful to have a stash of a variety of note cards on hand, so that when the need arises, I can find one that complements the message that I plan to send. I carry several sets of note cards that allow you to express yourself with a variety of images. These images are original and photographic art prints that I have created. They are available in my shops EDCCollective and EclecticSkeptic. Many of my other photographic art images are also available as note cards. Contact me if you are interested in checking on the availability of other images.

So, next time you are about to dash a note to someone by e-mail, think for a second. Do you have to get the message to them immediately, or would your message be better a couple of days from now, as a little surprise present wrapped in a note card waiting in the recipient’s mailbox?

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Fencing to Mitigate Traffic Sights and Sounds

If your side or rear yard has a clear view of a street, odds are, the sight and sound of the traffic can be anywhere from a minor imposition on your enjoyment of your yard to a downright annoyance. If you suffer from this problem, there are many ways to add privacy by screening out potential gawkers and reducing the noise of the traffic.

If you are lucky enough that the street that you want to screen is a quiet one, with no chance of an increase in traffic or of being widened, then the ubiquitous wood fence can be a decent option. However, with the inevitable wood shrinkage, most wood fences wind up with vertical gaps that allow passersby a view of your yard and let in sound. Even if these are not issues for your situation, then the need for maintenance or replacement due to weathering down the road may send you searching for fencing options.

There are many options to choose from such as vinyl, masonry, stone and composite fencing. You might even opt for a combination of wrought iron and landscaping to mitigate the impact of the traffic on your yard. While all of these materials have pros and cons, I’d like to share the solution that I chose for a side yard project recently. This choice was less costly than masonry or stone (both really good choices for sound mitigation and longevity), a bit more expensive than vinyl (to me, most look fake and don’t seem dense enough to mitigate the sound well.), and needed less room, maintenance and time for plant growth than a wrought iron and landscape option.

This particular side yard had been unfenced for about 40 years. Initially, a rural two lane road was separated from the house by about 20 feet of bar ditch (right of way) in addition to 25 feet of side yard. Over the years, traffic increased until finally, what was once a quiet rural road, was widened to a 5 lane thoroughfare. In doing so, 11 feet of the side yard was taken for the project. Now there was only about 9 feet of ROW between the curb and lot line that included a four foot wide sidewalk. The road pavement was now closer to the house than where the original lot line used to be. The traffic noise was a constant imposition, even inside the house and the traffic (vehicle and foot) felt on top of anyone trying to enjoy the patio or use the side yard.

The product that I chose for this fence, to serve as both a visual screen as well as a sound barrier, was a composite material, Trex, that has been used extensively for over 15 years in outdoor uses such as decking, outdoor trim, garden boxes and fencing. It is an environmentally friendly product made from reclaimed/recycled wood and plastic fibers. I chose the Trex Seclusions Privacy Fencing to enclose the side yard and connect into the existing chain link fence of the year yard. There are many styles and colors to choose from and many more good things I could tell you about this product, however to keep from making this post extremely lengthy, please visit the Trex website for more information. (I have no financial interest in this company, I am just a longtime fan of its products.)

As for how the project turned out, everyone involved considers it a huge success. The pictures in this post are of the project just after completion. The traffic noise outdoors and inside (especially noticeable improvement in the bedrooms that are on that side of the house) was greatly reduced. The side yard actually became usable again from the definition and privacy that the fencing provided and the patio area was once again something that could be enjoyed without feeling like being in a fishbowl.

If you need any assistance putting together a solution for a problem in your yard, you can find my contact information on my garden coach web page.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Design This – Pendant from Dead iPod

What to do when your dead iPod with the custom engraving that is special to you doesn’t work anymore? You can’t just throw it away. Let Etsy’s alchemy section come to the rescue! Earlier this year I found an alchemy request titled “Make me a pendant out of a dead iPod”. At first I was stumped for an idea, then I decided a nice wooden frame sounded like a good way to accomplish this. I sent a convo to see if the requestor liked my idea and if so I needed a few questions answered so that I could make a bid. After a bit of discussion, the requestor decided to accept my bid saying, “I like the idea of a wooden frame with embellishments from the circuit board. The contrast of natural/industrial is great.”

After I received the iPod from my customer, I had to take it apart to see what was available to become part of the pendant. I took photos of the pieces(#1) and sent them to my customer to see if there was anything that especially caught her eye. The only real imperative at this point was to incorporate the custom engraving and to have an open backed frame in a dark wood color, so I mocked up a few frame and circuit board embellishments for us to contemplate(#2). The aspect ratio of the pendant mock ups kept bothering me though. I didn’t like that the pendant would be wider than it was tall. I started to think about how I might make a rounded frame. Inspiration struck and I sliced some sections off a small, cured sycamore branch and cut out an opening. I sent a photo of this to my customer and after some minor adjustments, it was a winning idea.(#3)

Now that I knew what my frame opening would be like, I needed to cut out the metal section. The iPod case was a bit tougher than I had expected, so I had to buy some less fine and stronger blades for my jewelry saw. After getting the section cut off that included the inscription, we needed to decide on what would show through the open back of the pendant frame. We finally decided on a section of circuit board.

After securing the metal piece with the engraving to the circuit board section and then the wood frame front and backs, came the part that I was really looking forward to. I had had an idea for filling the gap between the wood frame on the edges that my customer agreed to let me use.(#4) I had not worked with the materials myself before, but had seen it used in many similar circumstances and really wanted a chance to try it out myself. I thought the gap would look great filled with inlaid crushed stone. Malachite would be a great color to coordinate with the green of the circuit board. I’m pleased to say that it worked out just like I had wanted it to.

Now the only thing left was to attach some hand formed “jump rings” so that my customer could attach her pendant to a necklace and send off photos for final approval from my customer.(#’s 5 & 6) I’m happy to say that she thought the pendant was beautiful and loved the way that it turned out. It is rewarding to be able to rise to a challenge like this and successfully turn someone’s idea into reality.

Please e-mail Eclectic Design Choices or request a custom item from EDCCollective if you have a custom project that you would like to see if I can help with.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Thanks for the Treasuries - May 2010

During May, seven of EDCCollective's items found their way into Etsy treasuries. One of them, my "Love the Grape" purse charm was even featured twice! Below is a collage of the 7 items that were showcased during May. (Click on the collage to see a larger view.)

It is really cool when one of my items is featured by the treasury makers. To thank them, I have listed below (in alphabetical order) links to the 6 different shops that featured at least one of my items, as well as an item from their shop that I like.

Enjoy window shopping and I encourage you to click on the shop links of anything that pleases your eye.

BellaVioletta's upcylced art includes embellishments, like these colorful peace signs and more, journals, stickers and pins.

Wine-related products make the perfect gifts! If you are a wine connoisseur who happens to appreciate hand made items, look no further.

Exclusive handmade jewelry designs such as this stunning necklace are presented by GaBeadz.

This husband and wife duo creates amazing nature themed wood carvings, such as this blue heron, and stained glass items.

Awareness ribbon, natural beauty, angels, ham radio callsign buttons and polished stone and paper jewelry are some of the great gift items you will find at Hotdogcrafts.

Amazing works of art from original watercolors to prints to ACEOs are available at rhradcliffeDesigns.