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Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Sweet Paper Chocolates

Giving a handmade, personalized, no-calorie box of paper chocolates is bound to elicit surprise and curiosity from the lucky recipient. “How did you do that?” “Are they hard to make?” Here’s how to answer these questions. But first, a disclaimer: Paper chocolates are just as addictive as the edible ones. It’s hard to stop making them!

Crafters will recognize that the basis of these creations is a paper art form called “quilling” which involves shaping and rolling small-scale paper pieces into patterns and shapes. Last year, talented artist and I.D.E.A. Store volunteer Ruta Rauber showed me how to make them, and I especially loved the variety of shapes and “toppings” she developed as examples. The materials you’ll need—often available at The I.D.E.A. Store -- are construction paper and/or scrapbooking paper in chocolate and mint colors, white glue, a Styrofoam craft ball, and paper raffia and shredded paper packaging in accent colors. Helpful tools are scissors, a paper cutter or strip-cut paper shredder, hot glue gun, and toothpicks.

First, prepare your papers and toppings. Use your strip-cut paper shredder or paper cutter to turn construction or scrapbooking sheets in 1/4” wide strips. You’ll need 4-5 strips for each chocolate. Use scissors to cut scraps of papers into paper confetti. As you can see, Ruta reused cupcake baking pans as toppings organizers.  

Next, condition or train the paper strips to curl by running them between your thumb and fingers. This helps the rolling go more smoothly, saving strain on your hands. Before you begin rolling a strip, have your glue and a toothpick applicator ready to use. To make a round chocolate, keep the paper rolled somewhat tightly. Getting started is, in my experience, the most challenging step but with a little practice your fingers will learn how to convince that paper to cooperate. Ruta found that the scrapbooking paper was easiest because the paper fibers are longer and the quality is better. As you get to the end of the first strip, apply the glue to the last ¼” to secure it to the roll, then hold it for a few seconds while the glue sets. Start the next strip by applying glue to its first ¼” and butting its end against the first one to keep the roll looking seamless. Add strips until you achieve the desired size. To create squares, diamonds, ovals and other shapes, you’ll be pinching the paper as you roll it. I referred to the book Miniature Quilling by Diane Boden Crane which features a nice range of options and clear pictures.

Now you’ve reached the “fun part” steps of doming the rolled shape and adding toppings. You can use your finger to carefully and slowly push the layers into the dome, then apply hot glue into the dome to hold the shape. Another way to build height is to stack and attach three roll layers to each other. Once you’ve established the overall shape of your “chocolate,” apply white glue to the outside of the dome and dip it into your choice of topping, or carefully position topping bits with tweezers. My favorite topping looks like grains of salt or sugar, made by cutting a Styrofoam craft ball in half and rubbing the two pieces against each other to produce the small pieces. Other toppings are made of finely-cut paper raffia, construction paper scraps, and fancy pre-shredded paper packaging

To continue the illusion, place your finished paper chocolates into candy cups which can sit easily in a paper jewelry gift box. I love the gift tag ideas at For inspiration, check out the fine examples at

Youngsters can help finish these paper chocolates by adding the toppings. Some may be challenged by the paper rolling, so here’s a related easy and quick project they can do.

Start with small plastic or paper condiment cups and cut a chocolate-color paper band to cover the cup. Tape the band in place,

If you keep the cup right-side up, it can hold a small treasure or gift like an edible chocolate. Create toppings or lids by making paper circles of various sizes to stack. I chose construction paper, used Valentine’s Day greeting cards, and a young friend’s photo. To add height between levels of your stack, cut and glue reused paperboard pieces in place of adhesive foam dots. (I cut up the lid from a box of noodles.) Use the same toppings to decorate, adding glitter or other little inedible-looking bits as desired. Attach the top with a hinge of tape, leaving room for the lid to open wide enough to take out whatever small edible chocolate treat or small gift your child wants to place inside.

Happy Crafting from your friends at The I.D.E.A. Store!

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

In the Hot Seat

Check out our favorite furniture made from recyclable materials and unconventional objects!

1. Wiggly Side Chair by Frank Gehry 

2. 100% Recycled plastic furniture by Rodrigo Alonso 

3. Recycled Fiber furniture by Mario Bellini 

4. Wine Cork Chair by Gabriel Wiese

5. Compact Disc chair by Belen Hermosa

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

As Cute as a Button

I don't know about you, but over the years it seems that I've collected a ton of buttons. Not knowing where
they go, they sit in a jar on my desk waiting to be used. I searched for different uses and below you will find my top 5 favorite IDEAS!

1. Button Tacks via FellowFellow

2.  A Button  Calendar

3. Button Necklace created by Little Miss Momma

4. Button Clock from Buttons Galore and More
A great DIY button clock that anyone can make easily.  Get the full instructions and make your own clock today.

5. Button Bowl found on SheKnows
Button bowl

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Little Free Library at The I.D.E.A. Store!

What is “Little Free Library?”
Little Free Library is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to “promote literacy and the love of reading by building free book exchanges worldwide.” Their goal is to “build a sense of community as we share skills, creativity and wisdom across generations.”

How does it work? 
Come to The I.D.E.A. Store to visit the Library anytime during store hours (Tuesday-Friday from 12:00pm - 7:00pm, and Saturday from 10:00am - 5:00pm). The Library will be stocked with art, science, architecture, and crafts books which are available for anyone to borrow. When you’re done reading, please bring your books back to the store and place them in the Library!

How can I get involved?
By reading lots of books! The Library will only be a success with the support of the community. Borrow books, bring them back, tell your friends, and enjoy!

For more information, refer to or email questions to

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Artist Showcase: Inspired

What do you make? What do you make it out of?
I create mixed media work ... using mostly reused materials.

Do you have an art background/education or are you self-taught?

I studied at the Ivy School of Professional Art in Pittsburgh

What originally inspired you to start making art from stuff that others may regard only as potential landfill fodder?
Early on, in my teens, I would scavenge through the woods — always searching for old bottles, bones and rusty what-nots. My parents gave me a room above the garage to use as a studio and a place to display my stuff. At times, though, my mom would go in there and clean it and throw away stuff. She once got so mad when I dragged home a huge rotted stump. I cleaned it all up and her friends wanted to buy it, and so I took their 25 bucks. I think that is when my mom realized I was on to something.

Ever been Dumpster diving? Stopped the car to grab something from the curb?

My Dumpster/curbside diving began in my early 20s. My then-boyfriend and I owned a 1950 G.M.C panel truck that was once a fire truck. The old pump and hose were still inside when we bought it. Once a month in my hometown of Pittsburgh people put out their unwanted large and small things that were in a different trash class. I lived for those Mondays, and we would cruise the neighborhoods in search of treasures, which included vintage furniture … a cedar chest that someone had painted brown, an old oak secretary and a maple dresser. Once I found a set of old National Geographics from the beginning of the publication. My parents were not thrilled about me lugging things home and storing them in their basement. Years later, though, after I moved out, my father refinished the cedar chest and it is still in their family room. Ironically, my mother got over her embarrassment and began curb-collecting also. I have lots of stories of our adventures, and then later, with my own girls who are graduate curb collectors.

Do your friends leave junk by YOUR door?

Over the years people have brought me things — sometimes they send them from 5,000 miles away ... all kinds of stuff. I was recently sent a twisted piece of wood and a flattened toad. People are always telling me they were going to throw something away but, alas, they thought of me, and there it is at my doorstep when I least expect it. And I usually have to guess who dropped it by.

Where do you find your best source materials?

I have such a massive collection of junk that I try to not collect or look for any more and just accept and thank the universe for what drops from the sky. So there is no real favorite source for materials ... it comes from the junk Gods.

Do you have a favorite piece — or body of work — you’ve created from repurposed/upcycled materials? Tell us about it!

Wood of all sorts is my favorite as I enjoy the 3-D assemblage part. And painting on 2-D wood also excites me. My "junk yard dogs" are made from broken pieces of furniture. Large pieces are composed of anything that can be fastened, screwed, glued tied, etc. My last exhibit was titled “Fair's Towers” — 13 towers each created from different materials.

How do you think your work makes others feel when they experience it — in ONE word?

"Inspired." Once there was a quote on the outside marquee of the Salvation Army and it read: "Aspire to Inspire Before You Expire." I live by that motto.

Where can people see your art and learn more about your it?

Photo by Michael Gilbert Fine Art Photography

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Our First Ever...

Amy Meyer

How long have you volunteered for The I.D.E.A. Store?
2 years
Why did you decide to volunteer?
I had recently quit my job and found myself with a lot of free time on my hands, so I wanted to find somewhere that I could contribute my time. I really enjoyed the idea of The I.D.E.A. Store and am a big believer in keeping items out of the landfill and, at the same time, raising money for the local public schools.
What is your favorite aspect of volunteering here?
I enjoy detail oriented work, which is easy to find in volunteering here. I also love meeting and interacting with children through parties and outreach and, specifically, the ArtSpeak program I am helping with.
Has volunteering here changed the way you live your life in any way?
Ever since I started volunteering here, I have begun collecting stamps and I am able to come up with more creative uses for items and creative activities to do with my niece and nephew. I have started to shop my house more by looking at items differently than their intended use instead of just tossing them out when their original use is over.
Do you have any advice for people looking to volunteer at The I.D.E.A. Store or in their community?
Be sure to find an organization where you feel a personal connection. It is much more beneficial to you and to the organization if you are able to get a sense of commitment and fulfillment out of volunteering. It is also important to be realistic about how much time you want to give and what type of work you think will be best for you. Volunteering should be enjoyable for you, so make it that way!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Artist Showcase: Modern

What do you make? What do you make it out of?
Products I make include scarves made from T-shirt and tote bags, and aprons and coasters made from fabric purchased at The I.D.E.A. Store. Also, gift bags and boxes made from catalogs and magazines.

Do you have an art background/education? Or are you self-taught?
I would say I’m self-taught. I went to college with a major in fashion design, but with no intentions of creating the products myself. It wasn’t until after college that my mom turned me on to etsy. I thought this could be the perfect way to use my interest in fashion without moving to a big city. I quickly began studying my favorite sellers and collecting books on sewing. I spent several years learning how to sew and deciding what kind of products I would like to make and sell.

What originally inspired you to start making art from stuff that others may regard only as potential landfill fodder?
It was The I.D.E.A. Store itself that gave me the initial inspiration. A friend introduced me to the store, where I started buying fabrics and craft supplies to experiment with. Shortly afterward, I heard the store was hosting its first craft show. I signed up for the show (“Merry Treasures”) and came up with a few repurposed products to sell. My ombre infinity T-shirt scarf was a happy accident that has now become my best seller.

Ever been Dumpster Diving? Stopped the car to grab something from the curb?

I haven’t, but my husband has. He’s picked up a few things for my craft room. A white wire bookshelf that I stack my fabric on, and a black table that holds my printer are two of the things we still have from his finds.

Do your friends leave junk by YOUR door?
I have received several donations from friends and family once they know what I use to make my products out of — things like T-shirts, magazines and fabric.

Where DO you find your best source materials?
Goodwill for T-shirts, The I.D.E.A. Store for fabric, and friends for magazines.

Do you have a favorite piece — or body of work — you’ve created from repurposed/upcycled materials? Tell us about it!
I love the tote bags I’ve created out of recycled fabrics like curtains. They are the first product I’ve created using my new serger.

How do you think your work makes others feel when they experience it — in ONE word?

Where can people see your art and learn more about it?
I have a Blog, Facebook and Pinterest that they can follow. I also sell my products online in my Etsy shop.

Cassie will once again be a vendor at The I.D.E.A. Store’s “Merry Treasures” DIY bazaar on Friday, Dec. 13 and Saturday, Dec. 14! The sale takes place in the store’s classroom; hours are 4-7 p.m. Dec. 13 and 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Dec. 14.