Friday, November 14, 2008

Getting Ready for a VSN

SCS's "Cabaret" VSN, which I have been looking forward to participating in for weeks, is happening tonight and tomorrow. I’m a former classical musician and have played a variety of wind, string, and keyboard instruments. My disability has stolen many things from me including my ability to play several of the instruments I was quite accomplished with but it hasn’t affected my love of music, of Cabaret, of the entire performance genre. Oh, how I miss it! But oh, how I’m looking forward to what excitement lays ahead for us tonight!

This is my second full VSN as a member of SCS. I joined SCS barely two weeks before the August VSN but I jumped in with both feet and absolutely no clue as to what was involved, how to prepare, or even what to expect. The lessons I learned from that first, somewhat pathetic effort helped me to be better organized for both the World Card Making Day Challenges and the Mini Cabaret that was held a couple of weeks ago. I learned how to set things up for a much more successful (less stressful, more efficient) Challenge event, and that even guided me in how I’ve organized my studio.

Not everyone is blessed as I am with a room in my home that is devoted to my crafting. But there are things you can do to prepare your work space to maximize your efficiency for the timed challenges. Both the WCMD and Mini Cabaret took place before I moved to my “new digs” and here is how I prepared for both.

First, organize yourself and your family to minimize distractions and interruptions. Have dinner in the crock pot or already cooked and in the refrigerator, or plan for take-out. We have four dogs, three of whom have medical issues and need medications and special diets. When I fed them this morning, I also prepared their dinner so that anyone can feed them quickly and easily. I put their food, medication and supplements in little bowls, covered them with plastic wrap and taped their names on their respective bowls. These are in the refrigerator and ready to go when it’s time to feed the dogs. They just need 30 seconds in the microwave and a fresh bowl of water.

If you haven’t already done it, right now is a good time to check over your supplies and make a shopping list so you can restock things you’re low on and that you know you’ll need no matter what the challenges might be, such as adhesives, embossing powder, plain old cardstock, and watercolor paper.

Negotiate an area in your home that is off-limits to everyone else for the duration of the VSN, where you can spread out your work into “stations”. Then set up “work” areas” for different tasks in a logical way. Bring out the things you use the most – you don’t need to bring out everything you have, just the things you are most likely to use, plus whatever is on the VSN shopping list. But this is also a good time to organize your stuff wherever you have it and rediscover things you might have forgotten you have.

I am manic about cleaning my stamps and paint brushes immediately after I use them and so I set up a stamp cleaning area by the kitchen sink. I love micro fiber towels (you can get packs of 25 at Sam’s Club) and I use them for all kinds of cleaning chores. They are great for drying stamps. I do use a fair amount of paper towels as well so I make sure that there is a fresh roll on the spindle and extra under the sink. I set out my stamp and brush cleaners, a stamp cleaning pad, and a soft toothbrush, which is another one of my favorite cleaning tools.

For the Mini Cabaret, I commandeered our living room and dining room which is one large room. I had my husband set up a large folding table that I used as work station and planning area for designing the cards, gathering what I would need for a given card, and painting with watercolors or coloring with my Prismacolors.

I used the dining room table to set up stations for cutting, stamping, embossing, and assembling the cards, and also set up a “bling bar” on the china cupboard. I’m one of those folks who loves china and fancy things, and how I set up my tables for the VSNs as well as my studio reflects that. When I set up for the Mini VSN, I dug out silver serving trays and baskets and a pretty crystal goblets and bowls. When I moved into my new studio, these things went with me. I think being surrounded by beautiful things enhances my creativity. Certainly, having things organized and neat allows me to stay within the time restrictions of the VSN.

My cutting area has my rotary cutter, Cropodile, and CM cutting system, which I laid out on a quilt cutting mat. For cutting a single oval, the CM cutters are much quicker to use than the Cricut, and so despite numerous dies for the Cuttlebug and cartridges for the Cricut, they are still among my most favorite tools.

I set the rotary cutter on the corner so I can sweep small scraps right into a trash can. To the left of the cutting area I set out some paper – not a lot, just some seasonal stacks, some pre-scored and folded card backings, and some extra plain white cardstock. On a small step stool (so I don’t have to bend so far to get to it), right in front of the paper area and out of view is the plastic file box I store my scraps in. My scrap file is the first place I look for paper before heading to my large organizers, and when I’m cutting, I set new scraps on top for filing during clean-up. If I don’t clean up my areas after each card, my work area rapidly descends into complete and total chaos!

I also set out a basket with my most favorite punches, including the lace edge punches I use the most and some shape punches that I’m likely to use as well – mostly seasonal ones and some corner punches, plus a couple of different hole punches. Yes, I love the Cropodile, but if it’s set for brads, and I simply need to punch a hole for ribbon, a small punch is much more efficient.

Moving around the table, I set an area to stamp and next to that, an area to emboss. I found a package of two cutting mats for $2 at the grocery store that have proven invaluable at containing messes. These are pretty large – about 18 by 24 inches – and made of very thin, flexible, heavy duty acrylic of some sort. They are designed for chopping vegetables on the counter but I like them because they are a flat, smooth surface that cleans up easily. I am an expert at making a mess so I also lay out wax paper when I am going to stamp a background.

Again, I don’t bring out every stamp I have; I chose some old favorites and some seasonal stamps, and also some new ones I’m itching to try. I can always go to my stamp cabinet and get whatever I need, but it helps to have a few stamps already in mind and close at hand. Likewise, with the ink, I set out some of my favorite color stacks, plus the embossing ink, greeting ink, and the stamping inks I use most often. I also brought out the embossing powders I use most often as well. Although my heat gun is right there on the dining room table, off to the side is a an old TV tray with a wood laminate top that I use for embossing, so I can set the paper down on it, hold it with my tweezers, and heat it up, safely away from my wood table and other things I don’t want blown all over the place. I also have a hairdryer handy on the tray. I learned the hard way that a hairdryer is much safer to use to quick dry ink or glue or watercolors – I’ve burned too many projects to count trying to hasten the drying process with the heat tool!

The place where I actually put my card together is recreated from my work table in my studio. I have all of my adhesives, tape runners, Inkessential pens, pencils, ruler, my favorite little detail scissors and tweezers, paintbrushes, Exacto knife, and a mat to work on. In the basket are extra tape refills, glue dots, corner mounts, and adhesive. I don’t want to have to spend precious time on search missions for things I’m likely to run out of.

Our china cabinet was the perfect place to put the finishing touches and accessories. Again, I chose a selection of ribbons I use most often, plus twine and gold cording since I use those a lot as well. On a tray, I organized brads, eyelets, rhinestones, pearls, beads, and other things, and also set out glitter. I also have a fishing chest full of buttons and other little accessories that I set down in the corner next to the cabinet.

The last time I set up for a VSN, I think it took me an hour and a half. But that investment of time and effort allowed me to thoroughly enjoy the VSN and to make fully half of the cards without ever leaving this work area. Yes, there will be things you’ll have to get – different stamps, paper, dies and embossing folders – but having the area set up allows you to spend your card-making time very efficiently, and for an even like this, where you have time constraints and . One thing I set out at the last minute is a couple of clocks so I can keep track of time. While I have always made a supreme effort to stay within the time limit for the VSN, with the Mini Cabaret, I actually made a note of the amount of time I spent on each card, and that has helped me to see what kinds of techniques take more or less time, and also to help keep me on track for the time restrictions.


jpmayo said...

Your post is so informative and wonderful!!
I am a hostess tomorrow and I cant wait to see what you do with my challenge;)

Cathy said...

Congratulations on being a hostess! I'm SO looking forward to this!

Katherine (beadfreak22) said...

Thank you so much for posting such an awesome endorsement of VSN on your blog! I am a VSN hostess (my challenge will be posted tonight at 9 pm :-), and I'm so excited that you are going to play with us! I agree, there's nothing like the adrenaline rush and comeraderie of VSN. I'm looking forward to meeting you tonight!

Anonymous said...


I see Jimmie beat me here, but I just wanted to say thank you and that you sound like future VSN hostess material. Think about it. The entry is wonderful!
Naturecoastcrafter one of your Coordinators for the Cabaret!

Cathy said...

OH my goodness... you all are making my head swell!

I have to say, your idea for a Cabaret is totally awesome. It is going to take some doing to come even close to that in terms of a theme in the future!

I'm tickled to death you've all found my blog and find it helpful. As for hostessing in the future.... that's a definite maybe. Maybe once I get thorugh the current chemo protocol and back on my feet it won't seem so overwhelming. But for right now, you all are doing such an incredibly fabulous job, I'm content to simply love every minute of getting ready, the anticipation, and then eventually the card making... to start in little more than an hour!!!

Thanks again for such uplifting comments!

JoAnn (sarahzoe) said...

Thanks so much for the detailed entry on VSN. We truly appreciate the fact that you are helping to spread the word. Happy to hear that you enjoyed yourself so much at the mini. We have a great show
planned for tonight and we'll be looking for you. Healing hugs for your continuing daily health issues.

Diane H said...

Looks like you are well prepared for VSN. Can't wait to see what you make. Thanks for the promo. Diane 617 (I'm one of your hostesses this weekend)

Denise said...

WOW! You are so awesome to make this post! We are looking forward to seeing you there! Hope you enjoy what we have planned for you!