Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Review: No More Mondays, by Dan Miller

One of my goals for 2009 is to read a book a year. So far, so good. Yes, I know it's only January, but I'm celebrating the little achievements.

My book for January was No More Mondays, by Dan Miller. Gotta love a book with a catchy title.Wonderful first read for the beginning of the year. He's got all sorts of quotes & extra little stories & situations to get you to think. This is all about pinpointing your talents, dreams, & passions - the things that get you excited, & then going on those to build a business, part-time income stream, ministry, or what-have-you.

Specifically geared towards those who'd like to venture out from the traditional "j-o-b" & earn income through more creative pursuits. Freelancer, entrepreneur, consultant, artist, or any other kind of work that lets you be a little more independent.

Answers such questions as:

How to take your talent & find a creative way to earn income by it

How to find more time in your schedule

How to start your own business with little or no money

How to get over your fear of losing the "safety" of a traditional job. (Asks the question - Just how "safe" is a traditional job?)

A wonderfully written, fast-paced, keep-your-highlighter-handy-you're-gonna-want-to-remember-this kind of read. Not a get-rich-quick or easy answers book. It helps you define the types of work you excel at, but applying that is all up to you.

Recommended? YES!

For more info or to purchase, here's Dan Miller's official site.

Febuary's book: Purple Cow, by Seth Godin

Monday, January 26, 2009

Bits & Bobbles Swap

Have a lot of extra crafty stuff lying around? Would you like to be rewarded for shipping some of it off?

Malissa (Sleepy Hollow Folk Art Originals) is hosting a Bits & Bobbles Swap! Basically, just fill a sandwich size baggie with some of the odds & ends (hopefully matching!) of craft goodies you have yet to find a project for. Send it to the name you're assigned to, & you'll receive a goodie bag in return!

Fresh crafting fodder - how fun!

Sign up soon - the deadline is this Saturday, January 31!

Friday, January 23, 2009

Get a Free Doll Kit!

Everything you need to make your very own toothpick doll, except a third hand.

I'm getting ready to launch a new product & I need your help! Toothpick doll kits are themed kits with instructions that are easy to follow & entertaining. They'll include everything you need, from glue to scissors to thread to fun extras. Perfect for an afternoon craft or a project to take on a trip with you.

Want to be a tester?

If you'd like to know how to make a basic toothpick doll, sign up to be a kit tester. I'll send you a sample kit for free in exchange for your feedback (I will send a one-page comment sheet with each kit, or you can fill out a short online comment form). The first two kits offered will be a Pirate kit & a Princess kit.

To sign up, email me ( with the following information:


Age (Must be 12 years or older. Preference will be given to volunteers age 12-18, but I will be sending sample kits to 18+ as well)


Mailing Address

Theme Preference (Pirate or Princess)

Space is limited, & the list will fill on a first-come basis, so please sign up quickly! If you know of someone (daughter, friend, sister) who would be interested, send 'em on over here!

Deadline to sign up: January 31

Friday, January 16, 2009

Black Widows & Semi-Colons

Ever had a defining moment at 6 AM? There are other things I'd rather wake up to.

Last fall, we switched out the decorative wreath outside our front door. The old, summertime one came in the house & the new, fall-y one took its place outside. Well, the old wreath quickly got forgotten in our breakfast nook where it had been stashed, & sat for a few weeks - long enough for a certain creature who had taken up residence in the wreath when it was outside to grow comfortable enough to look for new lodgings in its new location.

Enter a groggy, half-aware early riser (you'd think this would have cured me of getting up before sunrise ever again). I flicked on the light and saw a black spot in mid-air near the ground - a glistening black spider hanging upside down in her web. I leaned in closer & saw a perfectly-shaped red hourglass. Have you ever seen pictures of a black widow in a textbook? Good grief, I'm having to pull my feet up as I type!

Anyways, you want something that will shock you awake better than a double shot of coffee? I found it. Works great.

I actually stood in the kitchen and stared at the thing in shock for several moments, until I realized that I had better do something, as it wasn't going to kill itself. Waking someone else up would probably have been better, but this really inconvenient fit of bravery possessed me, and so here, in dramatic retelling, is my heroic battle...

The spider & I faced off for several moments in the darkened breakfast nook, light from a single bulb illuminating the telltale red hourglass on its hideous black body. I held in my shaking hand a bottle of Raid, and had on my foot a big shoe. The spider had as its defense a lethal poison, ready to foster my destruction. I stiffened my shoulders, bent lower, and held the can above the spider's gangly form. I sprayed, it fell in agony to the carpet below, & I stomped like a bad clogger. The twisted spider lay still, dead, the light still shining off its now mangled hourglass. And so it will be told for time immemorial of my valiant defeat of the black widow in the kitchen at 6 AM.

I hope you read that in your best James Earl Jones tone of voice.

Ever notice that when your brain is occupied with spiders, you see them everywhere? (Sorry.) When I took my glasses off before going to bed that night, I saw a black spot on my dresser (a very fuzzy black spot - I'm rather blind without my second pair of eyes). I instantly reached out to pound it into oblivion & realized at the last second that I nearly killed one of my favorite pairs of earrings - a handmade set of semi-colon earrings from nerdgoddess at If you need to get your mind off of black widows & other creepy crawlies, head over to her shop quickly!

Oh and by the way, yes - we threw the wreath away!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Do You Flickr?

WARNING: Browsing the many fascinating pages of Flickr can lead to the sudden loss of your entire afternoon and/or evening. Particularly when stumbling upon such photostreams as this one by Etsy's Team Miniatures in Dollhouse Scale. Grab a beverage first!

Do you like the toothpick dolls & Penny People you've seen on The Elegant Toothpick? Want to see more? When I've got new pictures to post, the first place they show up is on my photostream at Flickr. Works in progress, finished characters, and experimental projects all seem to end here, where they get along quite nicely.

This is Nereida, a 1-inch tall mermaid in a frame box. Find her & others like her in my photostream.

Have a Flickr account? Add me as a contact! I'm always looking for more photostream paths to wander down...

Monday, January 12, 2009

Queen of Hearts Toothpick Doll Sketch

I get so excited about starting a new doll. Because so few people make toothpick dolls, it's generally a make-it-up-as-you-go art. I learn something new with every doll I make.

My next over-ambitious project?

The Queen of Hearts - a three-inch study.
Reasons I'm excited about this doll:
~ The way-too-big-for-her-head Marie Antoinette style wig. Still working out the design, but should be fun.
~The large heart on the bodice will be entirely jewelled with teeny tiny glass micro-beads of reds, pinks, & blacks.
~ The crazy stand-out collar. No clue how I'm going to do that.
~ The million layers of skirt this woman will have, from the subtle stripe of the first layer to the heavy pink silk of the top layer.
Now, doll-makers will tell you that as they work, the doll will seem to develop her own personality, even dictating what details she should be given as she is completed. I tell you this in the faint hope you won't consider me too far gone when I say that I can already tell this lady is a snob. I had to rework the above sketch so many times because she didn't like the sleeve detail, or the collar wasn't right, or the skirt wasn't grand enough. You'll notice her head is not yet attached to her body - it's because we're still in negotiations on the exact style of wig.
Want to see how she progresses? Eager to find out which of us will win the battle of wills? (So am I!) Check back often - I'll be posting her progress regularly. You'll get to see photos of a toothpick doll from start to finish - that, or me breaking toothpicks in half if she & I don't get along.

Remember at the beginning, when I said that so few people make toothpick dolls? Want to know what you can do to change that awful truth? Check out the Toothpick Doll Tutorial (see the December 2008 blog archive on the right side of this page) & learn how to make a Toothpick Doll! Then, send me a picture! Together, we can bring the knowledge of toothpick dolls to the world! (End of melodramatic rant.)

Friday, January 9, 2009

Bits & Bobbles Swap

Attention, compulsive craft stash hoarders!

Malissa at Sleepy Hollow Folk Art Originals is hosting a Bits & Bobbles Swap. Basically, you fill a sandwich-sized ziploc with all sorts of fun stuff - lace bits, buttons, fabric scraps, etc. The kind of swag that you collect & hoard but may never get around to making a project out of.

You send your little bag of treasures (definitely helpful if the items match each other!), and then you receive someone else's bag - new stuff for a new eye to make a small project out of!

You have until Jan. 31 to sign up.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Toothpick Feature: Ye Olde Dog Catcher

Show & tell time! This was a custom piece of an old Victorian-style Dog Catcher. And yes, he's made of toothpicks.

Confession. It is so much harder to make a male doll then a female doll. Granted, the ladies have flowing skirts, curly hair, fancy sleeves, & miniature roses, while the men have pants, a jacket & a hat, maybe a mustache. But please tell me how you're supposed to make a thin, spindly toothpick leg look like anything other than a thin, spindly toothpick leg if you can't cover it with a wide skirt! I ended up using an entirely new body structure composed of round & flat toothpicks with him.

Confession #2. I really had fun with this guy. Maybe I just like attitude, but it seems that the dolls that give me the most problems end up being my favorite. When they're finished, that is.

OK, time to play spot the details! This dapper Dog Catcher has a newsboy-style hat - someday I'll have to do a tutorial on that. There's a whole inner structure that goes into hats.

He's got contrasting lapels on his jacket, & orange buckles. His sleeve has a tiny insignia.

See his tiny bowtie? Ok, look harder - it's there!

My favorite - his net. It's entirely hand-knotted. Such fun! Such torture.

See more photos at

Monday, January 5, 2009

Happy 2009!

It's already day 5 of 2009! So, how many resolutions have you broken so far?

Have you thought about what you want this year to look like? Do you know what you want to be different in 365 days? (Well, 360 & dwindling.) Ah, the power of goals. So, got some?

I just spent the past week settling on my 2009 goals. I'm a list person - love making them, love checking them off. Unfortunately, I can spend too long making them & not long enough checking them off, but hey, always room for improvement!

And speaking of improvement, here are a few of my 2009 goals:

1) Read 1 nonfiction book a month. No, crossword books don't count.

2) Launch Toothpick Doll Craft Kits. Everything you need to make your very own toothpick doll, except a third hand.

3) Be a craft vendor at a fair. There's this Pirate Fest in southern Georgia...

4) Submit my work for feature in a doll magazine, like Art Doll Quarterly. It could happen!

5) Work through a Chinese Language study course. Why, oh why couldn't I want to learn Spanish?

6) Complete a manuscript for a fiction book. Imagine all the room I'll have in my head when I get that out of there!

So, what about you? Got goals for 2009? How about just for January? Post them!

"He who does not plan, plans to fail." Or something like that. Happy 2009!