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Thursday, April 3, 2014



(An A to Z 2014 Challenge Entry)

One would think that it would feel weird coming back to blogging after such a long hiatus. That hasn’t been the case for me… yet. I guess there’s the fact that it’s only been three to four months. That feels long to me, but some people return after more than a year — or longer — of not blogging. I’m not sure I’d be as unaffected being away that long as I am now.

I don’t feel it’s necessarily like riding a bike. Sometimes you have to completely rediscover your voice.

During my departure, I wasn’t completely negligent to the creative spark that yearns to be expressed, which writing allows me to accomplish. I’ve just been channeling it in different ways — I feel this helped my transition back into blogging, rather than had I remained stagnant — and I’d like to share one of them with you.

3D Abacus Life-Counters
Nothing beats a handcrafted gift, right?
These are three 3D abacus life-counters that I made specifically for my brothers (yes, I have three, as well as some step-siblings) as gifts for Christmas 2013. All of them are made from Magic: The Gathering cards, a collectible card game (CCG) we all have played on and off for over ten years.

I am not the originator of this idea, as I stumbled across people making them online, but thought it was something I could do. Not only do, but enjoy doing. And I certainly have the surplus stock of cards! The other materials were a bit more spendy than I had anticipated, particularly beads.

This is one of the first artistic projects I’ve worked on in a long time. During the process of every single one, I disliked it, became discouraged, or thought the project was turning out terrible. By the end, though, I was proud and pleased with how each looked. Especially so, being they were my first attempts.

As mentioned above, I use only Magic cards (some people use foam, while only using 3 actual cards) to create the layers (between 25-30 in all). What is unique about my designs are that I take different cards and overlap them together to make a collage piece. Many just layer one image, which still looks good — I plan to do some like this as well — but I feel the collage picture just adds so much more. I also place a plastic window as one of the final layers to protect the art, which is important because some of the cuts are extremely thin and fragile.

I will show you some up close shots and then highlight the cards used in each, so you can see how they are intertwined in the final product. I apologize for the pictures not keeping their upright settings and for some reason defaulting to their sides.

This was the very first one I made. It was particularly special, because I used cards this brother liked and utilized often during gaming events. They were staples in his deck at the time. Not only that, but I used the very cards he played with to make them, adding to the sentimental value, which I think is lost to him… but at least it’s meaningful to me!

This life-counter was made for our brother who just recently finally got back into the game. His was a little more simple and straightforward. There wasn’t as much intermixing of the various card art. It was here that I learned just how different the card frames were between generations of cards. I had to make sure I found filler cards (for the stacked layers) that matched the cut-out dimensions.

This final gift was made for my youngest brother and took the longest to imagine into creation. I had so many ideas of what I wanted to craft for him, I wasn’t sure which to use. I’d decide on one and then change my mind. I can’t even recall how many times I went through that indecisive process. Finally, an idea came to me and actually stuck, which is what you see above.


As you can tell, there were some themes going on. Each life-counter displays the art of at least 3 different cards and each maintained the same color scheme (chosen based on the colors my brothers predominantly play). Also, the majority of the cards used are common (denoted by the black expansion symbol to the middle-right of each card, where applicable). The first one displayed (White) is the exception to this, since it consists of specific cards that brother actually played with.

All the filler cards are common basic land cards, with the exception of the plastic window layer.

My brothers were really surprised and enjoyed their gifts, which made me really happy (although I’ve yet to see them actually use them… hmm). We will ignore the fact it took me a week past Christmas to complete all of them, and then another week to arrange a time and place everyone could gather!

Noting that a handful of people were selling these online, some at a quality I felt I could challenge, I decided I should continue to make more and attempt to do the same. I soon made one for the sole purpose of selling. While I would love to share it here, this is already becoming lengthy, so I’ve decided to save it for another entry next week.

Even if you aren’t a gamer or someone who enjoys Magic: The Gathering, I hope that you have enjoyed the artistic aspect of these crafts!

Do you partake in any specific crafts? If so, what? Have you ever contemplated, or are currently, selling your crafts? If a fan of Magic: The Gathering, any suggestions on what might make for a sweet 3D abacus life-counter? I’d love to hear whatever feedback!


  1. Very impressive! You know what else is impressive? The fact that your posts are coming out in the morning and not just before the stroke of midnight like we came to expect during last year's challenge. LOL. Look at you go! I don't think there's much rust to shake off with regards to blogging. You seem to have picked up right where you left off.

    Seriously though, those are some pretty sweet Christmas gifts! Handmade gifts are always the most fun to give, I think. I always try to do some handmade things. I think people appreciate the amount of time and thought that go into them.

    I have a bit of a crafty side, though the majority of my projects involve a sewing machine. I like to think I'm pretty good with it. ;)

    1. Haha I have to believe the timing of my posts is beyond any perceived impressiveness one gleans from my crafting abilities! I would barely have seconds before the click over into the next day, to make my posts, and even then sometimes I put them up incomplete. I would then edit and finish them up into the early morning hours. Those were the days... And thank you, by the way.

      I was pretty stoked when I decided to make the gifts... that gave way to a bit of frustration, though, during the process heh I've made a habit of making hand-made gifts now and again. I agree people generally find them a lot more meaningful and appreciated the time/effort put in.

      Do you still craft? Ever shared anything? I'm sure you are really good! :-)

    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

    3. For some reason, I can't post the link here, but yes I have shared a craft. It was a Doctor WHO wallet that I made for myself.

    4. That is odd. The link showed up in the email preview? I don't think I have links blocked, but I can check.

      That sounds sweet!

      Wait a sec... Ha! it IS sweet! I clicked the link on my email preview! That is really cool, Jessica. Is it the only one you've made?

  2. I have no idea what you're talking about half the time re: Magic, but this is really cool.

    For two years I trained as a metalsmith/jewelry designer, so my eyes immediately went to the stones. What stones are they? I must know! (Sorry if you already stated and I just missed it somehow).

    Also, 25-30 layers?! That's insanity. Did you use an Xacto knife? Or something similar? Or scissors? I absolutely hate meticulous cutting, so hat's off to you, sir. I don't know how you did it.

    They are beautiful, whatever they are ;P

    Crafting? Let's see. I've just purchased some beads myself (exploded glass, mint green) to weave some necklaces with hemp. (Can no longer work as a metalsmith as have found out am highly allergic to most of the chemicals! Back to hemp and beads.)

    And I'm off to the art store to buy some glitter today for a magical project that I don't know can be considered crafty.

    Thanks for sharing!

    1. Oh, Raquel, don't worry about! Most people have no idea what I'm talking about on a regular basis. This phenomenon has become known as Jak-Speak.

      For the abacus I use beads from a craft store in the area. They are usually plastic or glass. The ones I've been using are glass I believe. There are stone ones, but I have to be fairly picky about the shape/size to make sure they all can fit within the confines of the card. I went to a bead specific shop once and they had a ton of stone beads. They looked awesome, but were expensive! If planning on selling, I could add those materials into the cost (along with the cards if need be), but am uncertain just what extent people would be willing to pay for them.

      I use an X-acto knife yes. Even had to buy a smaller bladed one, for even finer cuts, but even then some are too thin to make. I need like... a micro X-acto knife. Maybe I can make a post describing the process and details that go into making one of these.

      Thank you very much for your compliments.

      Sorry you can't work as a metalsmith. I have sensitive skin, and most chemicals cause me varying degrees of irritation. I'm sure nothing in comparison to your allergies, though. I think most of the beads I buy are meant to be used for necklaces. Do you ever sell your crafts or just use personally and/or gift them out?

      Good luck with your possibly non-crafty project!

    2. I definitely recommend looking into online stores. There are about one billion on Etsy-- I've been ordering Czech glass which is gorgeous and inexpensive, esp. online. Just make sure to measure in millimeters (usually) what you need and double check w/ the items description (a no brainer but easy to forget w/ jewelry and other small products).

      Maybe you can offer real stones as an option if folks want to commission one, that way you can price it accordingly. Just an idea.

      A post describing the process would be awesome!

      I never realized how volatile the metal worker's materials were until after my stint I had skin rashes, scalp psoriosis, a nasty cough, and no eyebrows. I have sensitive skin, that's all, no allergies! And I wore all the protective gear... ah. At least my eyebrows have grown back, it's only taken about a year :/

      Thanks. I'm so freakin excited about glitter!

    3. oh! and the jewelry hemp stuff is just for love, for now, and for myself. No gifting! I'm greedy

    4. Hmm I'd have to make sure the stores had photos of the actual product. That is something some stores have neglected and is a pet peeve of mine. Stores are on Etsy? I know that is where I was thinking of placing up some of my crafts. So they are stores that exist on Etsy that cater to beaders? That is interesting. I've never really explored the site.

      The diameter of the hole in the beads and overall size is what I worry about without seeing it and touching in in person. I suppose measurements would work fine >.< as long as I don't somehow mess something up and order a ton I can't use!

      Commissions seem to be the go-to plan that these other people have when crafting these life-counters. I think that is a good idea, because then everything can be discussed beforehand and everything will be tailored. My only fear with commissions is time frame. With these I've had a good gap of time in between each. I could sit and do one in probably 3-4 hours, but I seem to have focus issues... I'd really have to lock it down if I did commissions.

      Yikes... Well, I won't ever mess with anything of that. That sounds absolutely terrible. I'm glad your eyebrows have since come back! Yeah, no thanks, I'll pass heh

      Haha I guess if I sell I'm also greedy >.<

  3. Awesome. Can't say I ever discovered the magic that is Magic, but I did spend many hours in a little animation studio at my school. That's where I discovered the joy of creating stories. :)

    1. Well, I would say you were missing out then, but it's definitely not for everyone. I love the art and strategy involved in designing a deck and playing. I mostly just collect, though.

      My school was so small we never had much variance in class/learning opportunities. I'm glad you were inspired to create and have followed through with doing so! Motivation is something I lack. Especially in the world of fiction writing. Some day... some day...

      Did the animation studio ever inspire you to draw as well? I haven't explored the entirety of your blog/site yet. Hopefully I can soon, maybe after the challenge.

  4. Great post! So much 'C' alliteration n this post: Creative commons, Cards, counters, commonalities, crafts, creativity -- such a well rounded 'C' post.

    It is so great to see you showcasing your art, finally! I cannot wait for you to make more, I love looking at them and enjoying them, and where applicable, helping you craft the layout of the creations. Keep at 'em and don't let A to Z distract you too much!

    1. Thanks, I guess I didn't pay a whole lot of attention to that outside of the word play of the title, being the cards I use are "common" rarity and all.

      I thought it would be nice to share. I've wanted to as soon as I made them, but I was already out of the blogging business by then.

      No worries, when it comes to layering and finalizing the final piece I always ask people their opinions, so you will definitely be involved in the process :p

  5. Are those life counters in the game or real? I honestly can't tell -- they look totally real to me. :O

    1. Not sure what you mean by "in the game", unless referring to the digital version of the game, but these are real physical life-counters I made with actual MtG cards for people to use as they play the actual cardboard (not digital) game :) Hope that clarifies!

      Thanks so much for visiting, Lexa! It's been ages.

  6. Dude, very cool. Now, why are do your counters go to 100?

    I love the way you did these. I saw them when you posted on Facebook, and I'm glad you're back in the Blogosphere, sharing them here as well.

    Your girl Dyanne was asking after you the other day, as well. GOOD TIMING, dude!

    1. Thank you, Lizzi! I forgot, you are about the only one out of those in the Blogosphere to have access to that spiffy sneak-preview knowledge.

      Hmm I use 9 "10 count" beads on top and 9 "1 count" beads on the bottom, essentially making it 99. I figure if you hit 100+ you are on your own lol There are life gain decks, but those usually end up looping for infinite life gain, so 99-100 max won't matter anyhow.

      Then there are game formats called EDH/Commander and 2 Headed Giant where starting life totals can be 40 or 30 respectively. In those games, even with minimal life gain and circumstances, I feel life totals can range from 30-75 fairly easily. So these cover that.

      I also plan on adding dual purpose "poison/commander casting cost" bead counters soon, once I figure out the design I want to go with!

      It seems a handful of people were already contemplating A to Z and even my grandmother, before I could surprise her Monday with news I had a new post to read her (a pastime of ours), she asked if I would ever be writing and/or blogging again anytime soon.

      So, I guess that is enough to convince me I'm on the right track heh

      Thanks for stopping by and the words of encouragement.

  7. There are so many ways to express creativity. I've been through my own conflicts about my writing and know just what you're talking about. I look forward to visiting you again!

    1. So true, Karen. It's always good knowing that you aren't the only one out there. I appreciate you stopping by! I will try to return the favor soon!

  8. Have you been looking through Pinterest? Because this is a VERY Pinteresting project!

    1. HA! I see what you did there :) I haven't really invested much time checking out Pinterest. I have an account, and even have tabs on the blog for it, but no one really seems to use it. Even on my FB, so wasn't sure how prominent it still was. People basically just pin pics there?

    2. Pics and directions how to do things. You can link it back to your blog and get blog hits that way.

  9. Those life counters look great! They must have taken some time to make.
    Coming back from a long blogging break myself, I did wonder how easy it would be to get back into the swing of things, but after less than a week, it feels like I've never been away! :-)

    1. Thanks, Kirsten! They can take me a good while to finish completely. Tedious.

      I'm really glad you are back from your hiatus and are finding it easy to assimilate yourself back into blogging with little trouble. I was really worried about it.

      I think the A to Z helps a lot, at least for me personally.

  10. Hi there, I found your blog through the AtoZ Challenge and seeing these cards, I'm so glad I did.
    Both my kids play MTG....for play read are obsessed with! Hours are spent online, deck building, sleeving cards, removing cards from decks into the spares pile.....I'm sure you know how it goes.

    Although I signed up for the challenge on a whim, I'm happy that I did. It's given me the boost I needed to kick start the written section of my own blog....I hope it has a similar effect on you


    1. Welcome to The Cryton Chronicles, Flip!

      I definitely know how all of that goes. I've shared photos of my collection on the blog before, I have thousands of cards (and I want to buy more!). It can be overwhelming. In fact, they are still overtaking my living room. Thankfully the Ladyfolk doesn't mind tooooo much...

      Hope you are enjoying the A to Z. It can really help get some content down and hopefully some followers and new friends in the process. Good luck with it all! I will try to swing by soon :)

  11. I'm really enjoying the a to z, it's great looking at all these different blogs. Nice to follow and connect

    1. Thanks for stopping by my blog :) There is definitely a wide variety out there that you come across doing the A to Z. That is a large part of the fun!

      I appreciate the follow and connect. I will stop by soon!


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