DIY Project: 3D photo collage

I’m no crafty lady. Not with yarn, not with needles and thread, not with paint…not with anything. My crafting capabilities include:


That’s it. I’m good at cutting out stuff I like and then glueing it onto other stuff I like. Pretty much anyone who has received a home-made gift from me knows that my skill set lies in decoupage and not much else. This wouldn’t be a problem except that I truly love making people gifts (even if no one really likes to receive them). If there is an upcoming wedding, birthday or other reason for gift giving, I bust out the scissors and glue like it’s nobody’s business. Seeing as how most of my pals are probably tired of opening present after present of cut-up creations, I got a little ambitious and opted to try something new…the 3D photo collage!

Why I like it:
You don’t need any real skill set to make it happen. Just a beloved photo, some scissors and a shadow box frame. Total cost for everything was less than $20, including cost of frame and copies. (Optional materials include Fiona Apple’s Shadowboxer song, which I sang the entire time I worked on this. Shadow box, Shadowboxer…Come on, that’s fun.)

What you need:

  • 3 copies (or 5 if you’re like me and mess things up a lot) of your favorite photo, preferably one with a clear foreground, middle ground and background. (I actually used PhotoShop to create a collage with distinctive layers, but by no means is this necessary, just a fun way to make it super customized if you so choose.)
  • Scissors
  • Shadow box frame (make sure it’s one with adjustable backing)
  • Tape (super clear scotch is best)
How to do it:

  • Tape the background (complete, whole, uncut) photo to the backing of the frame. (Step one is done. See? Super easy. Even a dummy like me can do it.)
  • Cut out the image you want to use for your foreground (in this case, the loving couple playing with a puppy). Then tape it up against the glass of the frame. To do it this way, the front layer has to have some attachment or association to the top, bottom or sides of the frame. This method won’t really work if it’s a “floating” foreground image. Sorry.
  • Now the background and foreground are done. You can call it quits here if you’re happy with the look, but if you’re super hardcore intense (which you are if you’re reading this blog) you are going to want a middle layer. Cut out the middle ground that will be the second image you see popping out of the frame between the foreground and background.
  • Once you’ve cut out the part of the image you want to be used in the middle you are going to need to decide on the best way to separate it from the other two layers. What supplies you use will really depend on the shape of your middle ground. You don’t want it too close to either the front of the back or it will disappear and lose the super cool “I’m a photo and I’m popping out at your face” effect. Some people use foam, some people use tooth pics, I used rolled up little tubes of paper because, well…I had paper on hand. Worked for me. I taped the tubes between the second and third layer along the bottom of the frame but hidden behind the second layer so you can’t see them when you’re staring (you will be starring, because the final product will be 100% fantastic) at the finished photo.
  • You can reinforce the second layer with more paper if it needs it. Fashion a support system similar to what you see in children’s pop up books. You only need paper and tape if you use this method. Use your best judgement on what’s appropriate.
  • Place the back of the frame onto the photo and you’re done!

It’s a no muss, no fuss project. There’s practically no clean up and it can be done in half an hour. Check out Instructables  to see an entire gallery of 3D frames that others have made. Hooray for projects so easy even a crafticap can do them.

Happily Handmade

Handmade Christmas gifts are the best. I like to give ’em, I like to receive ’em. Something about putting the finishing touches on a mediocre craft and boxing it up to distribute to family who are obligated to love it just feels über Christmasy. This year I was lucky to receive my fair share of handmade trinkets and goodies.

A favorite might have been these ornaments my mom made to resemble Stella and Wyatt. Our tree was lacking in doodle-themed ornaments–something that clearly had to be remedied. See the resemblance?

My sister and brother-in-law, of StormulaOne Photography fame, put together these coasters featuring his photography. I’m a big fan of his work, so getting to glance down at mini prints of his photography on my coffee table is really exciting. I might have to commission more.

Heath’s mother made this reversible hobo bag that I can’t wait to use as a travel pouch.

And of course, let’s not discount all the jellies, jams and baked goods from my mother and from Ranjana that will carry us into the new year.

So, too soon to start working on next years gifts? The wheels are already turning.


I’m obsessed with finding clever ways to repurpose what I may have, at one time, considered trash. I’d like to flatter myself and pretend my recent obsession with turning the ugly and useless into something pretty and functional is solely rooted in a deep desire to save the planet and eliminate waste, but honestly, it’s mostly about saving a buck (sorry, Captain Planet). Minimizing the amount of junk I contribute to the landfill is just a great ego-boosting bonus.

We done good so far. Our chicken coop was made using materials we salvaged from the old one in the move, and I saved up my wine bottles over the past few months to create a garden border, but there is still so much to do and not a lot of money to do it with.

Fortunately, I have picked up some recent gems online that I’m 90 percent sure I can emulate.

Stumbling across this hanging shoe rack-turned-vegetable garden on Instructables set my heart in a tizzy. For starters, it’s amazingly cute and I can picture it hanging it from the side of our lackluster metal shed. The space gets ample sun and could undoubtedly benefit from the addition of some gorgeous greenery. Secondly, I have one of these bad boys just sitting in a bag in my closet! The new casa has sliding closet doors that don’t do well with hanging intrusions (like this shoe rack), but I couldn’t bring myself to toss a perfectly well-functioning storage device. Now that I’ve discovered this precious number, it’s only a matter of time before it becomes a funky new yard piece I can show off to friends whether they want to see it or not.

I feel likewise about this pallet herb garden from Apartment Therapy. Our fridge was delivered on a similar pallet that we kept because, you know, free wood, but haven’t found a use for yet. Finding this pretty much solved that problem.

Since visiting the Habitat for Humanity ReStore a month ago, we knew we wanted to incorporate old windows into the garden somehow. At $5 a pop, how could we not?  Using them in a green house capacity was always in the cards but this design was quite inspiring, and I feel falls well within the skill level of Handyman Heath. With freezing temps still very much in our future, getting one of these up and running may happen sooner rather than later.

We have an unofficial wine bottle theme happening in the yard now, so this torch idea from Design Sponge is practically inevitable.  The only hiccup is waiting for the privacy fence to go up before something like this could be installed. That probably won’t happen until spring, but the bright side is it gives me time to collect more bottles (aka drink lots and lots of wine).

Since moving, we’ve acquired about a dozen paint cans that are nearly empty but not quite. I’ve been saving them with the idea that I might need to touch up a wall or two over time, but seeing this creative use of old paint cans on Best Green Home Tips makes me want to attack them right away and use them to spice up a drab section of fence. The only problem is, I’m not sure how advisable it is to dump paint down the drain. Something tells me The Lorax wouldn’t be too happy about that one.

I found this side table made from old shutters on Good Housekeeping. Writing that sentence makes me a little scared of my own domesticity (Stepford much?), but come on, that’s cute.

Wine bottles, paint cans, shoe racks…nothing is off limits. I don’t know that I will make a habit of rummaging through my neighbors’ garbage for salvageable material, but it’s nice to know that when it comes to creating art from junk, virtually anything is possible.

East Austin Studio Tour

Last weekend Heath and I  joined up with friends, saddled some bicycles,  rode into East Austin and essentially put on our hipster hats for the East Austin Studio Tour. The trendy East-side event spans two weekends in November and lets art aficionados and art novices (like moi)  tour hundreds of homes and studios of local artists. We only made a handful of stops but did get to see some pretty funky pieces–some more splendid and eye-catching than others (like paintings of hybrid animals for instance), but the whole tour did inspire me to break out my art supplies and try my hand at being creative.  I would have been inclined to pick up a painting or two for the new casa, but most pieces seemed to start at $400 and went up from there. Perhaps next year we will be in the market to buy instead of just window shop. Either way, the experience was not a shabby way to spend a Sunday afternoon.

Glass bottle border

I’m sure the neighbors hate the steadily growing mountain of used wine bottles that sits to the side of the house. But believe  it not, they are part of a master plan that will soon be able to come to fruition. Once we move, those bottles will finally take their place aside tomatoes and peppers as a fancy and functional border to a vegetable garden.

Just another reason to enjoy a glass of wine.

Renegade Craft Fair

Oh how I do love perusing the colorful and quaint handmade paraphernalia available at Etsy, but I often wish there was an actual storefront for the online craft-lovers paradise. Enter the Austin Renegade Craft Fair. I have my friend Eric to thank for introducing me to all the delightfulness found at Austin’s handmade marketplace. We hit up the Palmer Events Center on Sunday to indulge in all the free browsing of custom-made screen prints, jewelry, knick knacks, art and clothing our hearts could desire.

After being thoroughly disappointed by the lack luster and commercialized selection of booths and vendors at Austin’s Pecan Street Festival a few weeks ago, I was a little skeptical of what this smaller scale fair could deliver. My trip downtown this go-round paid off, as the Renegade Craft Fair was pretty much all I could have hoped for. The art ranged from cutesy to kooky and included a great selection of both local and national artists just hoping to have their work seen. The prices may have been a little steep, but nevertheless it was a great opportunity to pick up one-of-a-kind pieces and indulge in some serious eye candy.

I really loved the food-themed scarves that had been hand knitted by one of the vendors. The eggs and bacon scarf may have been my favorite.

I definitely recommend the Renegade Craft Fair for anyone who has an appreciation for handmade crafts and generally pretty things. I’ve hit up the Palmer Events Center for similar vendor-driven events, which includes everything from city wide garage sales to bridal exhibitions, and the Renegade Craft Fair beat them all by miles.  Do check it out.

Headboard Heaven

Does a homemade headboard warrant its own blog post? It does when it:
a) changes your life and the feel of the entire bedroom, and
b) can be made in an afternoon for less than $100.

Behold our transformation…

I’ve wanted to make one of these for awhile, but was always a little intimidated by price and my ability to make it not look obviously homemade. I was inspired by my friend Heather who made one of her own and gave me a few pointers.

[My inspiration courtesy my friend HB.]

So on a cheery Sunday Heath and I hit up Lowe’s and JoAnn Fabrics (which fortunately was having a 50%-off fabric sale that day) to gather the needed supplies. The whole project from the time we left the house to go to the store to the time we installed it on the wall was about 3 hours, not too shabby.

Heath picked out the fabric (I designated him with that task so I wouldn’t mistakingly choose something too feminine) and did the wood cutting while I was responsible for covering the plywood in foam and fabric and manning the staple gun. The part that took the longest was actually covering the buttons in fabric. Our tweed material was a bit too thick for the button covering kit which inevitably caused a healthy amount of F-bombs to be dropped…but that’s another story. (Just be aware should you too decide to take on the challenging world of button covering.) Overall though, I am very happy with the final outcome. Now our entire bed (excluding linens) is completely hand made by residents of the doodle house.

Trippin’ [part 2]

Mint juleps, fried chicken and horse races; that was about the extent of my knowledge on Kentucky before our Thanksgiving adventure.

Turns out, Kentucky is pretty. Really pretty. That was a delightful surprise. Southern Kentucky is teaming with rolling green hills capped by hundred year-old farmhouses and rustic barns that reminded me of a Grant Wood painting. A few hours into our drive the landscape switched from provincial towns in a sea of farmland to the Daniel Boone National Forest. White fences and old churches were traded for Beech Trees and Kudzu vines as we drove further and further east toward Appalachia. About six hour after crossing the Kentucky border, we were approaching Hyden.

Five Fun Facts about Hyden:

∙ Hyden is part of Leslie County and sits along the middle fork of the Kentucky River.
∙ It was originally settled in 1817 and the population has since grown to a whopping 350.
∙ It’s primarily a coal mining town, but also produces a healthy amount of timber.
∙ Hyden is the birthplace of the Tim Couch, the overall first round draft pick in the NFL in 1999. (There is a road named after him, appropriately called Tim Couch Pass, yuck it up.)
∙ In 1978 Richard Nixon made his first post-resignation public appearance in Hyden, a place he knew he would still have support—he did.

It may seem odd that the former Austin dwellers, live music patrons, rock climbing enthusiasts, and Mrs. Pac Man aficionados would end up in a tiny coal mining town east of the Mississippi, but Laura and Casey seemed in their element in their cabin in the woods. Their home is the stuff of children’s dreams: a tree house on the mountain side, complete with moat and filled with knick knacks they’ve either acquired in their travels or been gifted to them by the locals. Old carousel horses, a massive assortment of VHS classics and deer antlers all had their place in the Gregory/Papendieck domain.

tree bridge




Our hosts were gracious and gave us a brief glimpse into their Kentucky lifestyle. Laura, as captain of the kitchen, treated us to meals fit for kings, making everything from macaroni and cheese to breakfast tacos from scratch. Casey would entertain with his the uplifting twang of his mandolin and both acted as tour guides through the mountains where he spent several hours climbing rock playgrounds, trekking along the ridgeline and falling clumsily into massive piles of leaves.

[Laura is a talented crafter. Check out some of her art here.]

Kentucky was a delightful departure from the holiday hustle and fast-paced flow to which we are accustomed. We cooked without a microwave, soaked up the warmth of a wood-burning stove and drank moonshine brewed in a bathtub. Backwoods behavior? Maybe. Refreshing retreat? Probably. Triumphant trip? No question.