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Review: Chip Art by Melody Ross for GCD Studios

For the last few weeks I’ve been working with and evaluating the Chip Art tools by Melody Ross for GCD Studios, and having a great time with them. They are unlike anything else in the scrapbooking market, and they are a lot of fun. However, I think it only fair to warn you – they are also noisy and they are not fast to use if you include the chipboard drying time.

I don’t think these tools are for everyone, but I do think that they are very cool and I encourage you to take a look at what I’ve done with them so you can decide for yourself if they are something that will work for you. First, let me explain the tools themselves:

There are both alphabets and decorative  images available in this line, all sold separately. They are metal and you use a mallet to create an indentation into damp chipboard. The images come in a dense blue foam, the alphabets are in that same foam, but the foam sits inside a beautifully decorated tin. If purchasing some you will also need the tool handle. This (shown below) is the piece that you fit into the back of the image so that you can use them. There are two sizes – 1/2″ for the larger images, and 1/4″ for the smaller ones. The alphabet shown above has the 1/4″ tool included.

The product line also includes a mallet, spray bottle (for wetting chipboard), and a block (hard plastic) to use as a work surface. I found that while very nice to have, I would consider those items optional. I tried the tools out while working on a hard wood surface, with a small hammer, and using a sponge to apply water to the chipboard. That said, using them with the GCD tools was nice, especially the  work surface that is slick and easy to wipe excess moisture off from.

To use the tools on chipboard, first you need to wet the chipboard and let it set for a minute so the water soaks in. It doesn’t need to be dripping wet, just damp enough to soften. Then select your image (or letter), attach it to the tool handle, and place where you want to have the image. Take the mallet and bang the top of the tool handle a few times. I usually found two-three times worked well. The noise level is similar to traditional eyelet setting tools, and I wouldn’t advise doing this while others are trying to sleep in your house.

This worked on both plain chipboard and chipboard that had been painted with acrylic paint (dry) and then moistened with water. To get more images, simply keep selecting more, and wet the chipboard again and again as needed. A word of caution: you don’t want to soak the chipboard or pound too hard.

Above is an example of a soaked piece of chipboard. It took me three tries to show you what I mean – but if you pound too many times, especially on soaked chipboard it will fall apart as my “M” has on the far right. Below you can see some butterflies I stamped into white acrylic painted chipboard.

To add contrast I rubbed (with my finger) purple acrylic paint into the butterflies and surrounding area.

Then I gently sanded off (once dry) the excess purple paint to achieve the distressed look shown below.

In my experimenting I found that the tools worked well on any standard chipboard pieces, so long as they weren’t treated with a finish that prevented water from soaking into them to soften them. I also found that other thick products that could be softened with water but that would harden and hold the shape once dry worked well. I had success with pulp paper, and I have yet to test it, but I believe leather would work well too.

Above is a name stamped into thick pulp paper I took from my mother’s papermaking stash. The key is really something that will soften with moisture, but really harden and hold once dry.

Here is a ChipArt mini book cover that I created for an inspiration book meant to hold images and thoughts that I want to use at future dates. I should mention that I am very happy with both the quality and designs of the chipboard books and shapes available in this line.

I really like that I can keep adding more images as I feel like it, and I will tell you I have a lot of fun banging the images into chipboard. It is artsy play at its most fun.

Of course, I have to keep testing and trying different things! I took a random butterfly from my chipboard stash (no idea who made it) and sprayed it heavily with glimmer mist instead of using water to wet the chipboard. Then I used a letter to monogram my pretty butterfly.

I could see both putting a few letters on chipboard pieces to customize my layouts, and putting some images on chipboard letters being things I do often in my scrapbooking. It doesn’t take much time, and I love the personal effect it gives.

In the above layout I used the Homespun Chic and Artsy Urban lines by Melody Ross for GCD Studios, as well as Cosmo Cricket chipboard stickers (brackets), a Pink Paislee number (5), and mom’s typewriter font.

I have had a lot of fun testing out these new tools, and I see myself using them a lot in future projects. It’s true I either have to take them outside to use (due to children sleeping) or work quickly with them during times when the girls are awake, but they are worth it. One thing I discovered during quiet time is that you can stamp with them.

I like the soft look from the Ranger Distress Ink Pads (wild honey and tumbled glass used above). They aren’t designed to be like rubber stamps, so don’t expect perfection. I just loved the little images I could add into my projects – adding tiny details here and there. This is a great way to (silently) use these products.

I have not been this excited about a new tool in a long time. I feel like I am just scratching the surface of the possibilities of these tools, and I am hoping to add more alphabets and a few more shapes to my collection. While the noise might be a deterrent to some crafters, I see possibility here for mixed media, wall art, scrapbooking, and so much more – I’m looking forward to my next project.

All of the products used are now available in stores. All of the ChipArt can be found at www.artsyfindings.com, a new site that Melody Ross has created  where all her products will be available. The shop at Stampington is also carrying a selection of the ChipArt tools.

If you have any questions about the tools please feel free to leave a comment here or e-mail me at may@scrapbookupdate.com.

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26 Responses to Review: Chip Art by Melody Ross for GCD Studios

  1. Erin Reason March 25, 2010 at 12:53 am #

    Thanks for the demonstration! I wasn’t sure how I would use this tool — you gave me some terrific ideas. Thanks!

  2. OctMom March 25, 2010 at 5:04 am #

    I think this is one of those tools that look cool in the beginning, just for the sheer novelty of it. But, in the end, I don’t see myself using it often, esp if it’s loud and I do most of my crafting at night. I also just saw the price on HSN – WOW! You need to invest a whole lot to do just one thing. I’m thinking they will come up with something better someday that does the same thing. Remember when eyelets first came out? Now, I have some that use my ball point pen that used to need a hammer and setter.

  3. joni March 25, 2010 at 7:48 am #

    Based on the samples, noise and cost, I don’t really see these as a must have for my scraproom. It’s just my personal opinion, but for my crafting style, they would have a very limited application.

  4. Addie March 25, 2010 at 10:23 am #

    I have a heat tool with many different heads that could be used with stencils to emboss chipboard, achieving the same or similar effects. The heat would make wetting the chipboard unnecessary, and I think if I worked fast enough I could avoid burning the house down.

  5. Betsy Burnett March 25, 2010 at 2:53 pm #

    I also wonder how the set compares to “leather working tools” these remind me of the ones I used at summer camp at the leather shop (the technique is similar too)

    • Anne K May 9, 2012 at 8:16 pm #

      Yes, I found my brother’s old leather stamps in my dad’s garage, and they work on chipboard just fine. The handle that came with my brother’s alpha stamp set (from Tandy in the 1970′s!) is just the same size as the larger handle for the Melody Ross stamps. Find your brother’s old stamps and instantly get a set of tools with that retro vibe! I got a rubber mallet out of my garage (a rubber mallet filled with metal shot is about $10 at the hardware store). I also dug out my Karen Foster metal stamps and started playing around. I didn’t know how you were supposed to use the metal stamps, so I dabbed them on my stamp ink pad and just stamped on dry chipboard. Makes a nice, clean debossed image on dry chipboard. Then I didn’t know how to make the chipboard look pretty, so I’m glad I found demos online showing how to make stains out of acrylic paint and Mod Podge, etc.

      So, all I bought new were 3, 3-pc sets of Melody Ross little image stamps (on clearance rt now at my local Michael’s), and combined them with a lot of stuff I already had. Hmmm… the small independent local scrapbooking store also lets us use their die-cutter on any paper or chipboard we buy at their store, so I potentially can get my hands on a lot of chipboard shapes… This will make for a summer of puttering away…

      Lastly, practicing on chipboard is a cheaper way to teach kids the basics of leatherworking than using actual leather, by the way… can I get a retroactive Scouting badge for this this summer?

  6. Donna C March 25, 2010 at 9:33 pm #

    It looks cool, but I don’t know that I’d want to make room for it to be honest and I consider myself a “tool junkie”!

    That said……….i love the buttons on your layout May, where are they from? A few look like Jenni Bowlin style, but I just love the cute little flower one!

  7. May March 25, 2010 at 9:46 pm #

    Everything but the chipboard # and bracket are by Melody Ross – if you go to her site (linked in article) you can see it all. Lovely things!

  8. Karen March 26, 2010 at 12:52 pm #

    You did a great demo. This reminds me of the Karen Foster punches that came out a few years ago. I still have them in a drawer…may have to revisit. Also loving those buttons!

  9. Tobey Shepherd March 28, 2010 at 5:19 pm #

    great demo of this, makes me think I should consider it, depending on the price…..the wetting of the chipboard opens up possibilities to incorporate other products like glimmermist, like you showed……

  10. Barbara Sieving March 30, 2010 at 12:29 pm #

    HSN has the entire kit…for a very nice price. Use coupon code C74242 and get another 15 off. You can get two easy pays. With tax, shipping it comes to about 90.00. You get board, mallet, bottle, chipboard, two upper alphabets, and two other things…I added everything up. You are saving almost 45%…with the coupon code…

  11. Heidi Sonboul March 30, 2010 at 6:39 pm #

    Hey girls,
    It’s Heidi Sonobul (From GCD Studios)
    This is a great demo! Thanks for doing this.
    You are 100% right… wetting the chipboard TOO MUCH will mess up the project. It take very little water. Yes, there is drying time needed, but with a hair dryer or a heat embossing dryer… it’s ready to go in 1 minute :) Super fast!

    We understand that this tool isn’t for everyone. If you don’t like Chipboard… then…. it’s totally not for you. However… if you LOVE chipboard… this is totally for you!!!
    This tool stores easy, and allows you to take raw chipboard and turn it into a personalized look. If you love detail, you’ll love this.

    In about 2 more weeks, the GCD Studios blog will be filled with new FUN ideas and “how to’s” for the tool. Our new DT gals are working hard at getting it all ready. WOOT!

    Again, Thanks for demoing our tool and the projects look great.
    Oh… the buttons are from our Artsy urban collection :) I love them too. They are so vintage fun!

    Thanks
    ~H Sonboul

  12. Juliana March 30, 2010 at 7:25 pm #

    Great demo and review May! I have just started playing around with this new tool and I absolutely love it! No, it might not be for everyone and it might be a bit nosy. However, if you love chipboard and you love to create and craft then this tool is for you! I really feel like the possibilities of how to use it with chipboard are only limited by your imagination! I have had fun so far using it with paint, ink, Glimmer Mist, Shimmerz, and Shimmerz Paintz!

  13. Jennifer Wuthrich March 30, 2010 at 7:55 pm #

    What an awesome demo of this tool May! As a chipboard junkie this tool has opened up a whole new world for me! I was one that thought this wasn’t really a tool for me until I tried it. Now I can’t put it down! I love the artsy feel that I can acheive by using this tool, some paint and basic chipboard. I have used it on cards, layouts, and even altered art!
    One of the best things I love about the tool is the fact that I am now using up old chipboard that I was considering tossing – this tool is helping me give a “trendy/artsy” face lift to older product – let’s face it we all have older stuff sitting around – I promise you with this tool you will be inspired to use it! So in the end you will save money by not wasting that products you already own!
    Also, have you checked out all of the chipboard that goes a long with this line? Wowsers! (*yes, like I said earlier I have a major chipboard addiction!)

  14. May March 30, 2010 at 11:44 pm #

    Jennifer I see you’re a design team member for GCD – thanks for chiming in with some thoughts! As I mention in the article I was very happy with the GCD chipboard – it’s very nice.

    I’m looking forward to working with these goodies for a nice long time.

  15. Julie March 31, 2010 at 12:17 am #

    Thanks for the fab demo May :) I have just begun playing around with this tool & am enjoying the opportunity it provides to really “jazz” up chipboard. I am a BIG fan of texture on my projects & this tool offers a fun & unique way to add that special something to your typically flat, chipboard surface. I have broken out my mists, paints, and glaze & am TOTALLY LOVING investigating all the fun things this tool can do :)

  16. May March 31, 2010 at 12:26 am #

    Another GCD girl! Awesome to see you ladies out here and sharing tips. Thanks Julie!

  17. Heidi Van Laar March 31, 2010 at 1:21 am #

    [Editor's Note - This comment is from a member of the GCD Studios design team.]

    Great review and demo May, your examples are just beautiful! I love the idea of inking these up and using them that way too!
    I have this tool and have to say that I am loving it! The more I play with it the more I find I can do with it. I totally agree with you in saying that you feel like you are just scratching the surface…I think it has TONS of potential! I have even broken out some FIMO clay and made some custom embellishments with the stamps.
    The initial cost of buying everything at once could be considered steep, but If you just buy the basics and add a new set of stamps here and there it’s not bad at all. When you have the tools, you have them forever and chipboard is really inexpensive!
    Anyone like me, who likes to experiment and create custom embellishments will really love this tool.

  18. Nancy Nally March 31, 2010 at 1:40 am #

    Ladies, while I appreciate your enthusiasm for your company’s products, please note that you are in violation of Scrapbook Update’s comment policy for not identifying yourselves as design team members.

    Please review the policy here:

    Comment Policy

  19. lori roop March 31, 2010 at 11:34 am #

    I’m also a DT gal for GCD Studios. I had the privilege of using the tool at CHA this winter. We got very positive feed back by most of the people who participated in the make and take. And our make and take booth stayed VERY busy. I also would like to add. That the drying time depends on how much water you apply to the chipboard. Using a heat gun or hair dryer between coats works well. *Use the heat tool with caution. It may bubble some paints and sprays.* It only takes a light coat of water. I also learned that the smaller dies take less force to deboss on the chipboard. And the larger dies take more force.

    Ultimately, it’s like any new in depth tool. It’s takes trial and error to achieve some results. The more you use it the better it works for you. Practice makes perfect. :)

    Fabulous job on the tut! The l/o is so cute. I love the crackled bg!

    p.s. like Heidi stated above. this tool is not for everyone (what tool is). but if you like to be artsy. it’s super fun!

  20. Windy Robinson March 31, 2010 at 10:03 pm #

    Hi all! Windy Robinson here… I’m a card gal for GCD Studios DT so I’ve had a chance to play with this tool over the past couple of weeks. Just a little tip to share for the sound that works for me (I picked this up quickly because I have two little ones… thus I scrap only late at night… and my work space is right outside their bedrooms;)… I simply put a rag or old towel over the end of the tool handle and that muffles the sound from the mallet’s strike enough that I can use it at night without waking my little ones.

    Other than that, this tool has turned a non-chipboard lover (me) into a chipboard lover because of its endless artsy and play opportunities. I love being able to take something as plain as chipboard and turning it into a work of art that is uniquely mine.

    Thanks for the demo May! The stamping idea looks super fun… I think I’ll go break out some paints and try it:)

  21. Melissa Mann April 1, 2010 at 5:41 pm #

    Hello! I too am a GCD Studios DT Member! I have been working with this tool over the past couple of weeks and also agree on how many endless possibilities there are with it! It’s a very cool tool! Thanks for writing the great tutorial on the many uses you have tried out! A couple of them intrigued me, so I’ll be testing those out too!!!

  22. Kristen Swain April 6, 2010 at 9:17 am #

    Hi there! I am another gcd studios team member who wanted to say first of all- GREAT tutorial May! your layout is stunning and I adore your idea book! I too have been playing around with this tool set, and feel as if I have just scratched the surface in it’s uses. I definitely feel like i can jazz up my old plain chips, you know, all those rounds and plain tags that I have sitting not being used because they are plain. I think for those people on the fence, when we see more and more ideas on it’s use, will change their minds and buy it. I for one think it has more possibilities for craft use, can’t you just imagine this on an artsy chair? Or a wood frame?

  23. Kevin November 2, 2011 at 2:40 pm #

    They also work extremely well for leather work. I have not done much with chipboard but i have to imagine leather working stamps you get at the Tandy/leather factory would work just as well.

  24. Ouida Rinauro May 20, 2012 at 4:39 am #

    Of course, what a great website and instructive posts, I will bookmark your blog.Best Regards!

  25. delporte June 29, 2012 at 11:59 am #

    Bonsoir

    j’ai vu votre blog alors j’ai craqué CHIP ART de melody ross mais j’ai un problème :
    c’est la première fois ce que je recois là mais justement je peux fair mon choix abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz c’est de les insérer leur embout dans la manche mais aprés avoir tapé un A sur le carton puis c’est bloqué je ne peux plus enlever A de sa manche ???

    merci de votre aide

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