SHOW + TELL: Gift Card Mosaic Letters

With one week before our March DIY Challenge deadline, we thought we’d throw a little more inspiration your way! This letter project incorporates a bunch of our favorite things – thriftiness, recycling, bright colors, and kiddos! Here’s what Deb shared…

Hi. I’m Deb DiSalvo and I live in Dublin, Ohio. I’m excited to share with you a letter project that I taught with a group of elementary school kids. I was teaching a recycled arts and crafts class after school with kids in the 3rd and 4th grade. Over the years, I had accumulated hundreds of used gift cards. I am an avid Starbucks coffee drinker and loved the designs on their gift cards. I started saving them and had friends and co-workers saving their used gift cards for me as well. I came up with the idea of having each child cut out the letter of their first name. I helped with this part and cut the letters using heavy cardboard for the base of this project. I, along with the kids, cut up the used gift cards in various shapes and sizes and then glued the shapes onto the letter to create a mosaic look. It was such a good way to use the colorful gift cards and the kids had a great time coming up with their own style mosaic letter.
The kids are so excited that I submitted this project. They are so proud of their work and should be!


I bought the thickest cardboard I could find in the art section of the craft store (Hobby Lobby and JoAnn’s sell this), drew the letters and cut them out using an xacto knife.


We used heavy duty craft scissors to cut the gift cards.


We used turbo tacky glue to glue the cut up gift cards to the cardboard. Double sided mounting tape works as well.



Well, we’ve been working on Letter projects all month, and now we’re inspired to do more! How about you?

SHOW + TELL: Codex Seraphinianus

SHOW+TELL: Codex Seraphinianus #weird #book
If you haven’t heard of the Codex Seraphinianus, it is a beautifully strange book created by Luigi Serafini. First published in 1981, this amazing book is an illustrated encyclopedia of an unknown world written in an unknown language. My boyfriend, James gifted me a copy last year and I could not put it down. I will warn you that the hardbound book is both big and heavy, but you’ll spend hours pouring over each mysterious page.

SHOW+TELL: Codex Seraphinianus #weird #book
SHOW+TELL: Codex Seraphinianus #weird #book
One of the strangest (and most debated) things about this book is that it is written in an invented script. The artist claims it to be nothing more than a pretend language. But one can’t help but wonder if there is a secret code to be unlocked.

What I want my alphabet to convey to the reader is the sensation that children feel in front of books they cannot yet understand.
— Luigi Serafini

SHOW+TELL: Codex Seraphinianus #weird #book
SHOW+TELL: Codex Seraphinianus #weird #book

Want to know more? Check out this interview with artist and WIRED magazine.

SHOW+TELL: Codex Seraphinianus #weird #book
SHOW+TELL: Codex Seraphinianus #weird #book

SHOW + TELL: Our Favorite Lettering Books

Lettering is one of our many passions here at Adventures-In-Making. We are both trained in graphic design, so type, letters, fonts, etc. are all constantly floating around in our brains. Over the years, hand-lettering has become our obsession and a daily practice. Just like any skill, the only way to get good is to practice, practice, practice. Since we are compulsive doodlers, we tend to be practicing all the time.

Once of our favorite ways to practice is to page through a favorite book of lettering for inspiration and ideas. Since this month’s DIY Challenge theme is ‘Letters’ we thought we’d share some of our favorite sources for lettering inspiration.

Rachel’s Favorites

SHOW + TELL: Our Favorite Lettering Books

1. Logo, Font and Lettering Bible by Leslie Cabarga

This is a great book of reference for any graphic designer. And even better for anyone interested in letters. This book is bursting with inspiration, techniques and tips for the aspiring designer.

SHOW + TELL: Our Favorites Lettering Books

2. Hand Job: A Catalog of Type by Mike Perry

This book is a must-have for anyone interested in hand-lettering. Michael Perry showcases the work of tons of talented artists and designers. Some of my favorites are Kate Bingaman-BurtDeanne Cheuk, and Human Empire.

SHOW + TELL: Our Favorite Lettering Books

3. Handwritten: Expressive Lettering In The Digital Age by Steven Heller and Mirko Ilic

This is one of my favorite books for inspiration. A fun collection of posters, books, ads, etc., that all showcase beautifully crafted, hand-lettering.

SHOW+TELL: Our Favorite Lettering Books

4. Custom Lettering of the 60’s and 70’s edited by Rian Hughes

I have a huge soft spot for the colors and psychedelic, groovy style of the 1960’s and 1970’s. This book is a fantastic collection of lettering from the era.

SHOW+TELL: Our Favorite Lettering Books

Alison’s Favorites


5. American Wood Type by Rob Roy Kelly

I was lucky enough to use Rob Roy’s collection of wood type at in college, and to have inherited this amazing collection of type samples. Reprints come up from time to time making this book more affordable- but even in used condition it is an amazing resource for type and lettering.


6. The Art of the Letter by Doyald Young

…or any other book by Doyald Young, who was single handedly responsible for some of the most iconic logos that we grew up with (and typeface of course.) This book has break downs of his letter forms and stories about why he made the decisions he did.


7. An A-Z of Type Designers by Neil Macmillan

This book is mainly focused on the biographies and essays of type designers over the years- but also includes samples of type from almost every era. Since I reference a lot of traditional typefaces in my work, it’s a great resource to have on hand.


8. Little Book of Lettering by Emily Gregory

This one is all about eye-candy. It has sample lettering work from over 100 artists (including friends of the site, Jacqui and Scott Scoggin). Whenever I get in a lettering bind, all I have to do is flip through a couple of pages to get inspired to try a new style, new color, or new composition.

(Not Shown – Sign Painters by Faythe Levine & Sam Macon which I raved about before.)

What books inspire you?

SHOW + TELL: Watch Ali Draw Words

I think that it’s one of life’s small miracles that no one has to listen to all the noises that go on in my head while I’m working. The cajoling, the reassuring, the brainstorming, the problem solving, the bickering, the promises, the compromises… you get it. It’s noisy, but generally productive (“What were you thinking, Ali?” “You can do it, Ali!”) That’s my process.

Since this month’s craft challenge is all about LETTERS, and so am I, I thought I’d give you a little glimpse into the sketching steps of my lettered pieces.

img_6405I showed you my travel kit of supplies, but my sketches rely on just a few tools. A mechanical pencil, a ruler, a compass, clipboard, lots of erasers, and some thin white card stock.

img_6411I usually have a concept that I’m trying to convey in words. Often it’s one of the mantras I repeat to myself while I’m working (which makes the whole process very meta.) I will write down a bunch of phrases, and think about…
• Priority of words (Visual Hierarchy) – The most important words should generally be biggest and easiest to read to reinforce the message of your piece. I like to think that if you only read the big words, it would be like a summary of the whole statement. As fun as it is to make a really big and elaborate THE, it doesn’t make much sense. (THE message gets hidden.) You can also use visual hierarchy to hide a message and make people really look.
• What shapes I can use in the phrase: Is there a representative shape I can work into the overall form of the lettering? If I’m writing about lemonade, should I make it fit into the shape of a glass?
• What kind of typography would best represent the words? – Some words want to be formal (“Typography”) and some want to be flourishy (“Passionate”). Sometimes it’s fun to mix those up.

I’ll also start looking at the way a word is structured so I’m sure to give it enough space per letter.

When I have a general idea of the shapes I’d like to play around with, I’ll build myself a make-shift grid with the ruler and compass. I find that I like to make mostly symmetrical pieces, so I’ll map out the middle of the page and go from there. I end up with a lot of extra reference lines, but that’s fine.

Then I will start very lightly penciling in the skeleton form of letters. I do A LOT of erasing, so light lines are important. Usually while I’m working on the basic structure of the letters, I will start to think about the shape they will take in the end.

img_6421I am constantly working to find the center of a word or phrase. I can count letters in my head, but nothing beats a quick jot down of the phrase. I’ll then count (including spaces) and mark the middle. (This is also helpful because if a word has a lot of skinny letters – like Ilif – it will be much shorter than one with fat letters – MmNn)


(More penciling.)

At some I will inevitably get a “better idea” and shift a bunch of letters to work better. In this case I shifted my grid up, erased and re-lettered.


Practice makes better.

One of the best consequences of lettering practice is that I’ve started to think of writing as “drawing letters” which makes it sometimes possible to write backwards or sideways. This helps with lots of things including spacing words from the center line (see above). It is also SUPER handy when you’re a lefty who loved to drag your hand through wet ink all the time.

When I have the skeleton of the letters basically where I want them, I will make decisions about how to flesh them out. My first inspiration was the word “Letter” which reminded me of a typeface I love in my very precious American Wood Type book. (We’ll be showing our favorite lettering books later in the month!)

I love to keep printed samples of type on hand to look at. I used to try to look at inspiration on a screen, but it never translated right in my brain. I’ve started saving all sorts of printed materials (filed by style) to look at when I’m lettering.

img_6435Again using a light touch, I will start to add details to the letter using my inspiration pieces. Sometimes I make little changes in a letter form to better fit my space (hey, I can do what I want!)

Sometimes the skeleton of my letters will have to move to allow for more space for some letters

and sometimes the letters stretch outside of my borders.

Once I’m happy with the general form of everything, I’ll start erasing the extraneous pencil marks.

IMG_6443Once they are gone, I will sometimes look at the whole thing and decide to make changes.

img_6501Like for instance, I might change the phrase itself.

But that’s okay- it’s just a sketch. If I love it I’ll take it to the next level with paints and ink, and if I don’t love it I’ll put it away to inspire me another day.


What’s your sketching process? Is it anything like mine?

SHOW + TELL : Lotta Prints Book

As lucky as we all are to have Pinterest, Instagram, and the rest of the internet; every once in a while all I want to do is flip through a book. There’s something about having an idea in print in front of me…

It’s been a few years since I picked up Lotta Prints (on sale, because it was missing the templates from the back) and although it has a limited number of projects, I seem to find a new thing to explore every time I open it.

Like this simple screen printing technique. Hmmm… does that mean I should try screen printing next?

I would say that most of the projects are rudimentary, but it’s a wonderful resource if you’re interested in experimenting with printing techniques. (Yes. She prints with a potato.)

I love the way she uses simple, repeating shapes to form gorgeous patterns, and that each page is a new process to explore.

TODAY: Have a Happy Little Valentine’s Day!

love2680Put your heart into doing something crafty today, and be sure to snap a picture and share it with us!

february-diy-challengeSend us photos of your handmade valentines, crafts and treats! Hearts are the theme for this month’s DIY Challenge and we invite you to join in the fun. Submit your project for a chance to win a special award and handmade felt badge! The last day to submit is February 26th. We’ll showcase everyone’s projects on February 27th. Happy crafting! ♥

SHOW + TELL : Paper to Petals Book

Since we’re still a little ways off from real flowers, I’ve been finding myself thinking more and more about the paper version. I thought I would share this beautiful book with you.

Paper to Petals is an amazing collection of vibrant paper flowers that’s sure to impress even the most weather weary. It’s quite hefty, and packed full of tons of beautiful inspiration.

But, it’s not just a coffee table book. The back has tutorials for all of the flowers, and details about tools, materials, and methods– all so beautifully laid out that they are almost as compelling as the flowers themselves.

I’m not much for following tutorials, but the details are extremely useful for learning new methods of working with paper. 

I also sometimes use this book as inspiration for my illustrations. I love the graphic nature of the flower shapes they build.

All in all, this is a wonderful book- full of inspiration, instruction, and eye candy. You can pick it up at your local bookstore, or on Amazon (Paper to Petal: 75 Whimsical Paper Flowers to Craft by Hand)


Featured Maker: Tamara Hess of Card Making Artists
Please welcome our first Featured Maker of 2015- Tamara Hess of Card Making Artists! Tamara is an artist and card maker from Portland, Oregon. A true ‘maker’ at heart, Tamara enjoys creativity of any kind. The cute characters she draws for her digital stamps and greeting cards are bursting with joy and humor. I hope you all enjoy learning more about Tamara’s work, life, and creative philosophies. Also be sure to check out her website and Etsy shop!

Tell us a little about yourself. Where are you from? What is your background?

All my life I’ve felt the need to draw. In my early years I was able to use my creativity as a way to work through some tough situations. Drawing was an escape, helping me deal with my troubles and learn how to persevere. Drawing became my “happy place” which is still true today!

My journey is typical of a creative person; always searching for purpose and meaning in my creativity. The difference I try to achieve is fearlessness in my work. I’ve never met an art project I haven’t tackled. I’m always ready to try new things. I’ve been involved in teaching art lessons, Art Literacy programs, art culture events, theater set design, mural painting, arts and crafts bazaars, web site design, graphic design, photography, illustration, graffiti events, pottery, calligraphy, watercolor, soap making and more. On my journey I have been a featured artist in various galleries including an art reception at the Moonstruck Chocolate Cafe. My fine art work is currently featured at the Coffee Station in Aloha Oregon.

I married my high school sweetheart Paul and we’ve been together for almost 30 years. We have two wonderful teenage boys. We are lucky to have a lot of love and support from each other and family. When I’m not doing something artistically I try to get my boys out of the house. We go hiking, fishing and camping. Living in Portland Oregon we are surrounded by diverse landscapes and culture. I especially love the beach, searching for sea shells and walking with my Corgi, Heidi.

Featured Maker: Tamara Hess of Card Making Artists

Greeting cards handmade by Tamara.

What do you make and sell?

Currently I’m working on digital stamps for card making, clip art for digital scrapbooking and web design. I sell some of my designs on Etsy. I also give away digital stamps on Card Making Artists and I’m looking forward to growing my website. I’m also excited to be working for various graphic companies.

Featured Maker: Tamara Hess of Card Making Artists

One of Tamara’s adorable digital stamps! Available for purchase in her Etsy shop.

What made you decide to take the leap and start your own creative business?

My brother Tim and I have always had the entrepreneur gene. We inherited it from our grandpa. After many years of dreaming Tim and I decided to start our online businesses. We have different objectives but similar goals and we use each other to encourage and inspire. We push each other toward the next step.

How did you get started and when did you launch your business?

I started my website, Card Making Artists in 2013 with the help of my brother Tim. Tim is a web designer and helped create the Card Making Artists website. I love card making; handmade cards are such a fun and diverse medium to showcase all different kinds of art techniques. I was interested in tutorials, tips, tricks, tools and featured card making artists. Plus handmade cards make people happy! Through the launch of Card Making Artists I discovered digitals stamps and graphic design.

Featured Maker: Tamara Hess of Card Making Artists

Do you have any philosophies or ideals you try to represent with your work?

I try to make the card making process fun. I want to help card making beginners feel less overwhelmed and seasoned card makers inspired. I want Card Making Artists to be a resource for all different skill levels and I try to always make it fun and humorous.

Where do you look for inspiration?

I find most of my inspiration comes from the Oregon Zoo. A lot of my designs are little animals. I love going to the zoo and finding specific characteristics that stand out in each animal. Then I will often take an ordinary object rooted in reality and “twist” it to my imagination. Most of my little characters are a result of my “skewed” point of view.

Featured Maker: Tamara Hess of Card Making Artists

Tamara’s home studio space.

What does your workspace/studio look like?

My studio is located in the dining room next to the kitchen. We have a big nook area off the kitchen which is a central location in the house. I read an article once that explained how you need to have your art space located in a central part of your house. Otherwise, you will have an “out of site out of mind” feeling about creating art. Well, I didn’t want to ever feel like my art was out of my mind so I slowly took over the dining area. I have two kitchen hutches that are now totally dedicated to art supplies. Lucky for me, none of the boys seem to miss the dining area. I always feel like I’m in the middle of the action when I’m in my art space. I even have a comfy chair in front of my table that all the boys and Paul will plop down and chat with me while I’m working.

What are some of your favorite tools or techniques?

I love Gimp and Inkscape, free editing software for my digital stamps. My favorite tool for card making is nail polish. I know it’s stinky and not an art supply. BUT for “glitterizing” my hand made cards there’s nothing better for me. Nail polish dries fast and there are so many gorgeous glitter colors!

Featured Maker: Tamara Hess of Card Making Artists

Tamara loves using nail polish to add glitter to her cards!

Tell us about a challenge you’ve overcome in your business? Or something you tried but didn’t work the way you planned?

Where to begin? When you read all those quotes about not giving up when things look bleak or those who fail the most are the ones who succeed. ALL TRUE! I’ve failed many more time than I’ve succeeded. I’m still pushing, with the help of Paul and Tim, to be a successful professional artist! It’s a real rollercoaster ride. One day I get a “yes” and I’m happy. The next day a “no” and I’m bumming. The point is to keep moving forward.

Is your business your full time job? Or do you have a day job?

Yes! I am lucky to be able to start this business as a full time job with the complete support from my husband Paul. One of the top reasons people aren’t able to follow through on a business venture is because of an unsupportive spouse. There is a lot of fear and uncertainty when starting a business venture. It’s hard to make guarantees or know exactly where the journey will take you. Nothing will take the wind out of your sails like a spouse that can’t wrap their head around the process and isn’t on board with the risk.

Featured Maker: Tamara Hess of Card Making Artists

What does a day in the life of Tamara look like?

For one thing, I do a lot better if I have my calendar up to date. Calendars of events and goals are amazing. If I sit down and check my calendar, I get all my goals met and my week feels fulfilled. The problem is I don’t get that dang calendar up to date so half the time I’m meandering from the computer to the work table.

On the computer I will edit my drawings in Gimp and Inkscape, then I will work on a post for Card Making Artists and last I will chat with people and work on social media and marketing. At my work desk I will make some cards using my digital stamps, then I will sketch some little illustrations and last I will paint images to use as clip art.

Learning to prioritize your business is tricky. When you are working on a business you need to make sure you have your eye on the big picture but you need to make sure you are always focused on the details too. It’s like wearing a bunch of different hats. One day I will put on my marketing hat, then my writing hat, then my artists hat (that hat is rainbow colored), then my accounting hat and so on. Where is that calendar of mine?

Be sure to visit Tamara’s website and Etsy Shop!

Thank you so much Tamara for sharing your story with us! Want to be our next Featured Maker?
Visit our Contribute Page for more info!