Save the paper!


I am really bad at throwing things away. This came in handy in the lab, when we realize 3 years down the line that the useless images or data we got from when we didn’t know what we were doing actually have worth.

This trait is not so handy when you are living in an apartment, but I know that one day everything can be repurposed!

I can’t count how many times I’ve felt time pressure and received odd looks when opening gifts. To this, I adapt an affirmation most recently uttered by Miley Cyrus: it’s my present and I can do what I want.

I have also had to part with many beautiful issues of Vogue in the past.  Now I have a very elegant solution/excuse to get around that, too.

    I am unstoppable.


This is an assortment of some of the magic that can happen when you hoard paper. A good assortment of washi tape helps as well. Here are some close-ups.

(Also, check out the nice chessboard: a product of My Beloved’s woodworking skills.)

The last project was perhaps the most involved, as it required extra alignment and coverage considerations.

For example, flap coverage and curved edges:


And since I was doing this while the box was flattened, I forgot to account for the extra coverage needed to accommodate folds. In some cases, when the paper was pulled too much, this awful thing happened:


While the tear is not overly visible, it breaks my heart to know it’s there.

To avoid more heartache this time around, I’m doing things the right way. The supplies I need are the following:


  • Scissors
  • Ruler
  • Manual paper cutting blade (I’m sure there is a more technical name for this…)
  • Cutting mat
  • Modge Podge (MP)
  • Sponge brush
  • Paper or papers of interest – in this case, the pink thing sitting up there
  • Washi tape – for all the mistakes that are bound to be made
  • A sacrifice


Here we go:

1. Planning the attack. I had just a proper amount of scrap wrapping paper at hand to cover the entire box. I usually leave alone the flaps and faces that face or often get tucked inside (marked ‘[Blank]’) and just wreak havoc everywhere else. (Note that this side is the interior of the box, and any havoc or non-havoc assignments apply to the exterior.)


2. Going slow. I split the job into a top and bottom half instead of covering the entire thing in one go, even though I could have, given the shape of the paper. I cut the paper in two, conveniently along one of its original folds (you know, from back when it was actual wrapping paper), and lined up its straight edges with those of the box so I would have one less edge to trim to shape.


3. The missing detail. This was what I failed to do the first time: go one panel at a time. This time, I covered just a single panel with MP to stick the paper to…


Before I bent part of the box up to pre-fold the next piece (i.e., before applying more MP, just to make sure it would fall in place once I was ready).


4. Close shave. Once I was done adhering on the top half, I laid the box flat again to start trimming the excess paper. See how on one side the paper and edge are aligned? That was so that I wouldn’t have to trim that side, but I’m going to have to anyway because the paper overshot and it bugs me.



5. Finishing touches. I repeated this on the other half and now have a new box! Well, almost. This is where washi tape comes in.


My principle: Anywhere the paper can peel off or gets tucked in and out frequently during use, APPLY WASHI TAPE. When in doubt, APPLY WASHI TAPE. In fact, don’t think, just APPLY WASHI TAPE.

(Well, I did exercise some moderation and applied tape only to straight edges.)


Just a few more strips for decoration purposes (and because there was a scratch on the front), and ta da!


Given its humble beginnings and relatively simple makeover, I’d say it looks pretty sweet. Too bad I’m not keeping it. I’m going to give it to my BFFFFF, and maybe she’ll put her own collection of washi tape in it. Although, knowing her, she doesn’t need a box; she needs a trunk.




A brief intro to the structure of bling


Oh, crystals! I do love my crystals.

They’re the foundation material for most of my works, but it was not really until I was an undergrad that I really appreciated them.

This was partly because I had not realized that so many of the materials I dealt with on a regular basis were crystalline.

The thing is, when you have a solid material, the atoms have to sit somewhere, but where do they go?! Well, it’s not always easy to answer this, but if you have a general idea of what the atoms are, what sort of traumatic treatments (extreme heat, natural disasters, etc.) they had to face, what other junk got tossed into the mixture, and what the ambient temperature and atmosphere are, you could make some pretty good guesses. For centuries, this is exactly what people did!

Given enough time, energy, and a certain affinity for one another, with all atoms being more or less equal, they will try to sit in an ordered manner with one another. Many of my favorite materials happen to sit in a nice cubic structure, the simplest case being a simple cubic configuration, where one atom occupies each corner:

SC unit cell
It doesn’t get simpler than this.

But that’s just 8 atoms, and what do you care about 8 atoms? That’s practically nothing (seriously)! Well, if you keep propagating that cubic pattern in all the main directions along the cube’s edges (forward-backward, left-right, up-down), you’re going to get a larger crystal.

Crystal building
Yes, this is exactly how crystal structures propagate.

How large you ask? Well, up until you run into a wall.

Well, I guess we’re camping out here. Indefinitely.

And if your atoms just don’t have enough time, energy, or discipline, they just are a mess.

Here’s how this manifests in some real materials you might actually care about:

  1. Some solids are obviously crystalline: diamond, quartz, sapphire, etc. You can tell because they have nice flat surfaces or facets that naturally occur when you try to cut these things into smaller pieces.
  2. Some solids are not so obviously crystalline: metals are the big one. Most metals we deal with are just collections of very tiny crystallites packed tightly enough that you can’t tell the difference between one or the other unless you have a microscope. So unless you’re dealing with something really REALLY special, that hunk of metal you’re working is polycrystalline.
  3. Some solids are not crystalline at all: glass is not just the name of a material but also a structural term. It just so happens that glass is a glass. How about that?

For (1) and (2), you got more or less long-range order, it’s just that for (1) it’s definitely longer than for (2). (2) happens when you have two armies running up against each other to do battle at their boundaries, and yeah, it’s a mess.

As for (3), this is what is known as “amorphous”. I mean, it kind of does have order, it’s just short-range order (OMG, the name of the blog in a blog post!!). It could be just a mess of cubes or polyhedrons randomly oriented with respect to each other, so order is limited to the nearest atoms only (e.g. as far as the cube corners go).

Short-range order

Or it really could be a complete mess, like freezing in time the chaos that ensues when throwing a bunch of primary schoolers into a classroom and ordering them to sit in their seats while candy rains from the ceiling.

Even shorter-range order

Clearly, order takes time to restore. Likewise, cooling silicon dioxide (SiO2) too quickly from a liquid to a solid does not give time for the atoms to settle into place (like it would in quartz), so it remains chaos (i.e., glass). But frozen.

Given enough time, the sugar and natural hyperactivity will wear off, and all the atoms will settle into their lowest energy state.


The end.

Etsy or bust – the journey begins


Once upon a time I did have an Etsy store, but it didn’t take off. I am kind of glad it didn’t.

It was around my second year in grad school and I was trying to galvanize on my jewelry-making skills. I was happy to a have a few techniques at hand and some bouts of inspiration. I made a few creations that I thought were neat and sort of quirky and could have selling potential. But after a couple months with a small inventory on Etsy, frustration with photography, and very little response, I decided I really couldn’t justify the monthly listing fee, no matter how small. I also had much bigger things on my plate, i.e., my thesis.

Looking back, I realized one of the big problems was that while I started developing a signature style, I wasn’t really designing for anyone, much less myself. In fact, not for myself at all. Would I wear these things? Probably not. In the last few weeks, I took out some of the pieces I created all those years ago and just thought “I could do better than that!”

In any case, even if an order ever did get placed, I would have been ill prepared, because I didn’t have an idea on how to package any of these things! And figuring out the shipping? Ugh, the shipping…

So now we are starting anew.

I sometimes tell my friends that the reason why we get a PhD is because we do become Doctors of Philosophy. Aside from our love of wisdom, we spend a lot of time asking ourselves a lot of soul-searching questions:

Why am I here, in front of the electron microscope at 1 AM? Who the heck thought of this nearly impossible experiment? Why don’t I have a real job like a normal human being?

This, like many of our other skills, can be applied easily to other areas outside our specialized fields:

When would anyone wear something that looks like this? How much packaging do I need to make sure things don’t break? Why don’t I have a real job like a normal human being?

One of the major hurdles I had to overcome was being able to take pride in my own designs. I was proud of being self-taught and creating very original, self-thought-up designs, but after some time I didn’t care for what I made and wanted better ideas. I heard a quote once along the lines of “People are people through other people”, which I have taken to heart, because my own style solidified not by remaining a hermit but rather by opening up and seeing what everyone else was up to. Boy, was I dumb, but I managed to beat my pride down and open up.

At the beginning, I was wondering how creative of a DIY-er I was if I was just copying stuff that others presented in their tutorials and whatnot. In the end, just like with my research, by doing the things that people before me had done, I slowly built up to the new things I could all my own (you may know this as “fake it till you make it”).

So, with that out of the way, here are some of my new creations!


They’re still works-in-progress, mainly because I was running low on chains and findings to complete everything, but here’s a close-up of some of the pieces.

First and foremost, Blumen! (German for “Flowers”, pronounced like it’s spelled.) A pain in the bum to make, but a very pretty pain in the bum, indeed.

Remember my recent obsession with using nail polish for pretty shiny things? It’s taking over!!!

I think Blumen will be a signature piece, meaning I’ll have plenty of opportunities to figure out how to make them more efficiently O_o

Additionally, I was able to give a home to leftover supplies.

Delta. Leftover sequin tubes have their revenge!

Delta. Leftover sequin tubes have their revenge!

Tiger Eye.

Tiger Eye.

It. Is. Happening.

Things that grow


After the Treegate incident, I tried to insist on my point that (# of trees) ≤ 1 in the best way that I could: painting more trees.

This one I will call Inverted Sunset because once I started on the tree, I realized that I painted the sunset colors were the reverse of what they should be, assuming the base of the tree is on the ground.

It’s too late now! The command strips have already been applied!

Perhaps this should be Treegate II, because now My Beloved and I are going to get into a disagreement on whether the picture is mounted right-side-up or upside-down. My emotions can only be captured by a WeChat sticker:


On a side note, see the curly branches? I saw them EVERYWHERE in Charleston, SC. I recently went there for Memorial Day weekend and they do love their Angle Oak, (allegedly) the oldest living tree east of the Mississippi. In tribute to its longevity, its influence was to be found in everything, including bling.

Earring charms with hooks removed.

Taking a break from trees, I took another stab at a free-hand painting, intending to “sketch” it out with black paint and then go from there. I think I went through about five iterations of ideas before I finalized this piece. At some point, once I decided I was moderately satisfied with the shading, I decided to make good use of my old Vogue issues and a pot of modge podge.

Coffee table art.

The shadowing may be a bit off because I didn’t have a model for this, but I think it gets the message across: We are flowers, we are in a vase, and we are way too close to that lamp! Woman, what were you thinking?!

Now if only my real plants were nearly this successful.

Ancient artifacts


Some time after I recovered from being sick, I went back home to the heart of it all and occupied myself with a couple new things: this was the first time I discovered the other things I could do with nail polish; this was also shortly after getting my first glue gun and wondering how I survived without it.

This is the post where I strut my re-invention finesse.

This is also the post where I learn that the before pictures in a before-and-after set are valuable.

You? You can go on my wall.

You? You can go on my wall.

Imagine if you will, a purple picture board with nothing but satin pink ribbons and accompanying rosettes dotting the junctions (not a single one to be found here).  It was a gift from a friend in high school and something that had not seen the light of day for more than minutes at a time, because even back then it was not my style.  I contemplated a couple other solutions, including more drastic one such as creating a large wall of parallel ribbons in the background or just taking all the pink things off altogether.  Fortunately, I cut my grief and even utilized some of crafting leftovers to create this much lovelier thing.  Thin ribbons from dresses and shirts have found a new existence!  Broken bling pieces and a NYC transit token can be proudly displayed! Finally, a place for all those things I did not know where else to put…and pictures.

The second item in question has been sitting around out in the open and tarnished as a result.  I regret not going at it earlier with a brush laden with baking soda to remind it of what a shiny thing it used to be, but it’s okay: one day, it will be completely submerged in adorable flowers.  In the meantime, this was how far I got before running out of wire:

This might actually be upgrading its princess status.

On a pedestal, like the princess it is.

Those flowers? Wire and nail polish. I first stumbled across this technique via a pin to this video.  It has changed my life.  Basically, for each of the loops (petals or leaves), you place your nail polish-laden brush flat against it and pull across like you’re making a bubble.  Just as well, you could also just dump the polish out and dip the loop in that way (more wasteful though).

A few tips on this technique:

  1. You know how when you’re painting your nails, you want little excess on the brush so that you don’t end up making a very thick coating that will take forever to dry?  Don’t do that here.  Short of dripping everywhere, bring the liquid on!  You’ll save yourself a lot of grief because the bubble will repeated burst unless there’s enough polish to sustain the entire journey across the gap.
  2. Make sure the metal rim stays visible on the front, make sure you decide which sides are the front and back before you start painting so you paint only on the back side.
  3. After every petal, spin the whole structure around slowly to make sure gravity doesn’t push all your colors down to one side.
  4. For a lot of nail polishes, the finished product may still be translucent when you hold it up against a direct light.  This can be a nice effect, but if it’s not your thing or just ended up looking sad, just apply another coat.

This won’t be the last you see of these flowers!  More solvent-induced madness to come!

Acrylics gone wild


Shortly after directing my dance group’s anniversary performance, I fell sick for two weeks.  I was miserable, but at least I wasn’t obligated to do too much at that point (as if it wasn’t clear that I deserved a break).

Therefore, I figured it was time to break out the paint set.  I had not painted in YEARS. This was going to be exciting.

My first painting was a template from an acrylics kit I bought at an arts store some time back.  It was like painting-by-the-numbers except with no numbers…and with incomplete boundaries….yup.

My approach to this was as wild as them clouds.

My approach to this was as wild as them clouds.

You can still see some of the lines at the bottom where the “grass” is supposed to be — this was painted before I figured out that it’s better to use very minimal water.  The rest of the painting I think I just kind of went on my instinct on it. The original image they put on the box was a bit lighter in theme; perhaps this was reflecting my dark, congested mood.

My first original painting in the bunch came from an idea of some larger project I wanted to do and have since been procrastinating on.

The weed at its best.

The weed at its best.

I wanted to originally paint this, then poke holes in the center of the seeds and stick LED lights through them, but this is still a pending project.  The painting itself was mildly based on stock photography, because, honestly, up until then I had not really put too much thought into the details of a dandelion stem.

And finally in this initial series, I present to you the beautifully gilded, controversial Treegate.

The intended orientation.

The intended orientation.

An alternate interpretation

An alternate interpretation

Which is it?! Is it the side of a single tree or is it in fact two trees standing next to each other? Inspired originally by Klimt’s tree of life, I simply wanted to do a re-interpretation of some of the branches.  My beloved, on the other hand, thought I was hanging the thing sideways on the wall and was confused.  Briefly, I even dared to suggest hanging it at 45 degrees to signify a compromise, but no! No compromise! IAMTHEARTIST!