Our New DIY Kit!

Hi All,

Sorry I disappeared for the last few months, school started right when I got back from traveling in August and I’ve been super busy running after all the crazy kiddos!  But I am back today with super exciting news, Zipper8Lighting (my lighting business, for any new readers) now has a DIY Kit so you can decorate and make your very own artichoke light!  The Manhasset artichoke light is the cornerstone of our business, and it all started on this blog when I experimented (and struggled) with the very first one.  Well, now we are offering a DIY Kit so you can make your very own light!  Each kit comes with the blank paper circles for you to decorate in your own unique way (our demonstration light was decorated by all my science students at school, grades K-6) and then it comes with the paper lantern and instructions to create your very own light.

DIY Manhasset Light Kit from Zipper 8 Lighting

You can purchase a kit from us online or on Etsy, but for the next three days only you can also enter to win a kit for FREE from All Things Paper, my friend Ann’s amazing paper blog. (If you haven’t checked out her blog before I highly recommend it, she posts about all the most fascinating and beautiful projects involving paper, and also hosts quite a few giveaways.  I always find new inspiration when I head over to her blog.)

DIY Manhasset Light Kit from Zipper 8 Lighting

Feel free to ask me if you have any questions, and head over to All Things Paper for your chance to win a kit for free!

Ciao, Allison

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Altoids Tin Organizers


I am flying out tonight for a two week trip to Europe, so I haven’t had a chance to do any large scale projects this past week, but I have been playing around with my latest craft supply obsession, Washi Tape!  And so I thought I’d quickly show you two small projects I made recently that feature both Washi Tape and Altoids Tins, another favorite supply of mine.  Both projects were inspired by Pinterest, though with my own design flavor.  Above you’ll see a cute stack of tins that I have for holding small desk supplies.  I saw this project on Pinterest when searching for desk organization ideas, but the original post was using actual recycled tins (as opposed to my new and unused silver ones that I had previously purchased in bulk for another project idea.) They also had them labeled with a computer label maker, but I thought that using the Washi Tape would result in a much cuter and more colorful bunch of tins!  The nice thing about this project is that they are all ready to be put into a drawer, stacked on their side with the label edge facing up.  I don’t have a desk drawer to put them in, but you can imagine what it would look like hopefully.  To get the lettering so perfectly drawn I simply typed out the text I wanted on my computer, and then stuck the piece of tape directly onto the screen and traced the text with a thin Sharpie.  The result is a concept similar to my new blog header design, a wonderful combination of computer perfection with hand-drawn aesthetics.  I originally had tried making them using a faux calligraphy style that I learned from Lindsey over at The Postman’s Knock but ultimately that looked a bit too girly for me (I was also using the pink Washi Tape at first) and I think this text appeals more to the architect side of me.  The beauty is that you can grow your collection of tins as you find new specific needs.  I already have a couple more label ideas in mind.

The second project was also inspired by Pinterest, and that is to create a little case for earbud headphones, so they don’t get damaged or tangled in a purse.  I LOVE this idea, because I am always pulling out a snarl of headphone wires from the very bottom of my bag, and since I’m about to be traveling I figured this was the perfect trip prep project.  I was originally just going to decorate the tin with the Washi Tape, but then I thought it looked a bit plain, plus I was was obsessing over the patterned tape and how it didn’t actually line up, and so I pulled out my Sharpie again and started doodling and that’s when I drew the headphone graphic, and then decided to use the pink stripe as a label.  (Same technique, tape on computer screen to trace the text.)  We’ll see how well my new little tin works, but I certainly am pretty happy with the final visual effect!


I’ll be back in a few weeks with a new project, for now I hope everyone is enjoying the last bit of summer, and I’d love to hear about any quick organization projects you might have undertaken recently.  I’ve especially been on a summer cleaning kick before school starts again, so these sorts of projects were just what the doctor ordered for my cleaning/organizing obsession!

Ciao, Allison

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Mason Jar Sewing Kit


So, only a little later than promised, here’s my latest Pinterest project! This is a project I’ve had my eye on for a while, and every time I saw another version posted on Pinterest I just wanted to make it even more. And since I had some time and was looking for a new project, I thought I’d give it a try. I have to say I was a bit surprised, and would definitely place this project in the “looks simpler than it is” column.  the3Rsblog_MasonJarSewingKit_02

Essentially what you are doing is creating a little pincushion with the lid of a mason jar, so while you store needles and thread and other sewing items inside, you can store your pins on the top. (My best friend and business partner Elizabeth, who works in costume design when not working on our lighting business, told me that this was the most impractical sewing kit imaginable. My response was that for people like me who pull out the needle and thread twice a year, maybe, it was an exceedingly practical item! We agreed to disagree…) For materials, all you’ll need is a mason jar, a scrap of fabric, batting, scissors and hot glue. Being a non-sewing person I didn’t have any batting lying around and so made a first attempt with cotton balls. And promptly learned why all the tutorials I checked out said to use batting. My pins and needles did NOT like the cotton balls at all, and I ended up begging for a bit of batting from Elizabeth and making a second attempt.the3Rsblog_MasonJarSewingKit_03

The concept is really simple. Take the inner flat piece from your mason jar lid, and use it to cut a circle out of your fabric. Leave approximately 1-2 inches of extra fabric on all sides, so the overall diameter of your fabric circle is 2-4 inches larger than the diameter of your lid. This is now where the many tutorials I read varied, but essentially you are going to glue the edges of your fabric to the underside of your lid piece, with the batting domed up inside the top part. But as I said, simpler than it sounds, so I’ll share the tricks I discovered as I worked, and hopefully you won’t have to attempt this 3 times like I did. The main problem I found is that if you have batting spreading to the edge of your lid piece, and you have the fabric both on the top and bunched up on the bottom, this creates a lot of stuff where there used to only be a thin piece of metal, and it becomes almost impossible to get your lid to screw back onto the jar. So what I decided to do was to make a little batting bundle by sewing it together with a few big stitches, to make sure my pincushion was smaller than the lid, leaving the edge that fits under the ring piece of the lid free from batting. Hopefully this makes sense. I found this was easier than trying to squish the batting in from the edges once I’d covered it in fabric. I also discovered that you shouldn’t overstuff your batting, because if it gets too compacted it will be almost impossible to get the pins to stick into your pincushion. Once I had my batting bundle I used a tiny bit of hot glue to attach it to the center of the metal lid, and then covered it with fabric. At this point I found it was also easiest if you then put the metal ring over your pincushion bump before attaching the fabric to the underside.  This allows you to pull the fabric tightly, but not so tightly that you can’t get the ring part of the lid to fit securely over the top. Some versions I spotted had the most perfect dome, without any pleats or wrinkles in the fabric. I honestly have no idea how they did that. Stretchy fabric maybe? Personally I found that if you pulled the fabric that tightly so you didn’t have any puckers, you ended up compressing the batting too much, so I had to just give in and live with the puckers. Also, when gluing make sure you are attaching the fabric to the middle of the lid, and not where it will be resting on top of the glass mason jar, again so you make it as easy as possible to screw back on. Finally, I put a very thin layer of glue on the inside of the ring top and squeezed it down on top of the pincushion as securely as I could, so now when I take the lid off of my sewing kit it is all in one piece. the3Rsblog_MasonJarSewingKit_04

As you can see, I can fit three spools of thread and a package of needles into my kit, though I did have to trim down the cardboard around the needles to make them fit. I’ve seen some kits with small scissors and other items but I’m not really sure how they fit all of that into one mason jar. I was already using wide mouth pint mason jars, which are pretty big! But as I said, I’m not really that into sewing and just need somewhere to store my needles and thread in one place. You might also notice a plumbing ring around my jar, that’s because I have hopes that it will become part of another organization project I want to get working on, so keep your eyes peeled for a post about that in the future.the3Rsblog_MasonJarSewingKit_01

Has anyone else tried this project and found it easier than I did? I’m sure we’d all love to hear what tips you have to share!

Ciao, Allison

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Woven Planter Update

Hola Everyone!

A couple of months ago I posted a Woven Bead Planter that I had made using plastic fuse beads.  What you might not know is that after I made that first planter and posted it here, I got a teensy bit obsessed, and continued making more and more planters… In fact I may have run out of space on my windowsill. Just maybe. And since I experimented with a bunch of different patterns, I thought you guys might like seeing all my other planters.the3Rsblog_WovenPlanters_03 the3Rsblog_WovenPlanters_02 the3Rsblog_WovenPlanters_01

As you can see, some of the patterns were relatively simple and some were, well, exceedingly more difficult.  One of the most difficult, surprisingly, was my multi-colored camouflage planter, precisely because there was no pattern, but colors had to cut in and out of rows and be somewhat random looking.  So for this pattern I actually drew out the entire thing on graph paper, and with sharpie I marked each row as I wove it into the piece, because otherwise I got WAY too confused.  Especially since the colored pencil colors didn’t match the plastic bead colors.  (For instance brown might be turquoise.)the3Rsblog_Planter_Pattern_Camo

For other patterns I also drew them out on graph paper, but I would only draw a couple of repeats to get a handle on the pattern and then once I got going I was usually able to just keep repeating the same pattern over and over in the weaving.  I started out sketching patterns on the computer, but then found it was just much simpler and faster to sketch out on graph paper, and so I switched techniques.  Here you’ll see the small plaid patterned planter I made (try saying that three times fast!) and you’ll see the plaid pattern sketched out.  However, you might notice that the pattern doesn’t quite match the planter.  That’s because I either figured out the first plaid in my head, or on the computer, but however I did it I don’t have a graph paper sketch for it.  But I do have a graph paper sketch for another planter I’m working on that I haven’t finished yet, which uses a much larger size plastic container as the base, and so I needed to sketch out how the plaid would get extended when it was six rows higher.the3Rsblog_Planter_Pattern_Plaid

As you’ll see, once I got a handle on the simple plaid I decided to try more of an argyle sort of plaid, and I also got excited about trying it in one specific color palette, pink!  What you’ll notice on the top of this pattern is I sketched out what rows I was going to envision being woven together, and created a pattern of White, Light Pink and Medium Pink intersecting.  I then envisioned the rows moving diagonally down in both directions from the starting point at the top.  As those rows intersected I would decide what color had been created.  So for instance if two Light Pink lines were intersecting they would create Medium Pink.  If a Light Pink and a Medium Pink intersected you got a Dark Pink.  And where two Medium Pink lines intersected you got Purple.  And so on, assuming that the White rows were essentially transparent, so they would get overridden by the colored row. (A Medium Pink row and a White row results in Medium Pink, not Light Pink which is what would happen if you were actually mixing paints, for instance.)  Honestly the hardest thing of all was figuring out the 5 colors of colored pencil to use!  Once that was figured out I found the actual pattern pretty intuitive to draw.  As for beading the pattern, well I made myself a little black cutout template thing that looked like a saw-tooth, so I could slide up and isolate the row I was actually beading in case I was getting lost.  I didn’t need to draw over the rows in sharpie this time because it was easy to see where exactly I was because of the strict pattern and the fact that the colors matched.  (My pattern extended further to the left, I just wanted you to see more about how I built the pattern at the beginning.)the3Rsblog_Planter_Pattern_Pink

I hope these have inspired you to try out some bead weaving patterns of your own.  (And I hope you’ve enjoyed the small glimpse into my huge succulent collection!) I actually have another Pinterest project to show you next week, as soon as I can get it photographed.

Ciao, Allison

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Cityscape Drawing Tutorial

When I was in high school one of my favorite classes was art class. I loved everything, but ceramics was my big passion, mainly because I didn’t get caught up with the vision I had in my head. Painting and drawing were always a struggle for me because I would get this clear idea in my head of what it should look like and I could never manage to match reality to my preconceived vision.  But I have to say, teaching lower school has renewed my interest in drawing, because there is nothing I love more than sitting at a very small table with a group of first graders and working on one of their worksheets with them. This spring after a particularly satisfying class drawing diagrams of birds, I decided to start sketching on my own at night as a way to decompress. I began with colored pencil sketches of birds since that is what I had been doing at school.  Here are two of my favorites!the3Rsblog_SparrowDrawing_2 the3Rsblog_WilletDrawing_2

But this post isn’t about birds, as you can clearly see from the subject line, it’s about a cityscape!  But I wanted to share the part about the birds because it was those little sketches that really renewed my passion in drawing as an art form, and made me open to trying out this next project.  A couple of weeks ago I was scrolling through Craftgawker and I spotted this amazing cityscape from The Postman’s Knock.  Lindsey Bugbee is an amazing artist and calligrapher who not only does this as a profession, but shares her amazing secrets as tutorials and helpful tips on her blog!  Her tutorial featured a gorgeous cityscape of Atlanta, Georgia, that she made for a wedding client of hers.  And with my background in architecture I was pretty hooked the instant I saw it!  I couldn’t get it out of my head and just knew I had to attempt my own, though I didn’t buy it for a second when Lindsey kept encouraging her readers about how easy it was.  And I was right, this is not a quick and easy project, but I am pretty pleased with the results.

First I had to chose a photo to copy.  I think I struggled with this part most of all, and finally chose two photographs that I took a few years ago in graduate school during an architectural photography class.  One was from the daytime part of the class while the second one was from the night photography portion of the class.  (Night photography totally captured my heart, but that’s a story for a different post…)  Here are the two images I chose to work from.  Why two?  Because the first one I chose (with the Brooklyn Bridge) was a bit too difficult for my first attempt.)the3Rsblog_Cityscape_PhotoInspirations

Lindsey talks about free handing her piece, and recommends having a strong understanding of how to draw things in perspective, using a technique that she doesn’t name specifically but which I learned in school as Two Point Perspective. Basically you have two points on a horizon line, and all of your lines start from the vertical and then trace back to those two points. (She links to a YouTube video in her post, I didn’t watch it but I’m sure it explains it better than I just tried to.)  It’s actually pretty simple and a really fun drawing technique, and as I said, one that I understand very well. But even with that knowledge and my masters degree in architecture, I still really really struggled trying to freehand my drawing.  (Would anyone else have known in the end that I felt I had struggled? Probably not. But given my perfectionist tendencies, plus the fact that architecture is my field, and I’d taken the original photo I was copying, close just wasn’t going to cut it.) So I gave up on the freehand and decided to move on to tracing. I opened the photo on my computer in iPhoto and made it as large as possible. Why iPhoto? Because that way I could edit the photo as I went making the exposure very bright to capture detail in the darker sections, and things like that. Once I had the photo up on my screen I opened my big drawing notebook (about the size of a letter or A4 piece of paper) on top of my computer and taped the outer edge of one sheet on top of the monitor section of my laptop. In retrospect since I was going to eventually tear the sheet out of my notebook anyway I probably should have just torn the sheet out at that point, it might have been easier than using my whole notebook. Oops… The paper that I happened to have was from a sketch pad of 60 lb paper so it was relatively thin and you could pretty easily see the image from the screen through the paper. So I forged ahead with my tracing. I got pretty far with my first drawing before I gave up (for the moment, I may keep working on it in the future) and moved onto my second photo. Here’s where I got with the first one.the3Rsblog_Cityscape_BrooklynBridgeDwg

I then moved onto my second photo which I found much easier because it didn’t have all the finicky little lines of the Brooklyn Bridge to worry about. This view is of one of the piers of the Manhattan Bridge, in the Dumbo section of Brooklyn. (For non-New Yorkers, Dumbo stands for “Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass.  This is one of the piers of that overpass.) It is definitely up there as one of probably my top three night photographs I took, so being an image I was really invested in probably helped. First you need to sketch the entire image in pencil.  I wasn’t sure what to do about the cobblestone street so I vaguely sketched in a few of the stones and figured I’d come back to it later.  Playing with the contrast of the photo in iPhoto was what really helped fill in the underside of the bridge which pretty much just looks black in my original photo but actually had a lot of interesting metalwork. I decided to basically draw my entire scene in pencil before starting in with the ink, though if you read Lindsey’s tutorial it looks like she started with ink when she was mostly done with her scene, but would switch back to pencil to work on small details like all the little windows.  I forgot to document my drawing with just the pencil, but as you’ll see from this series of photos I did take a few process shots as I started adding in the ink lines so you could get a sense of how it came together.the3Rsblog_Cityscape_DrawingStages

I used a set of Micron pens for all the ink work.  I really like how these pens draw, and I also happened to already have a set left over from school.  (Plus I don’t know how to use an ink pen and nibs.) It actually brought back a lot of memories because the pens are in a box with the rest of my drafting stuff and seeing the pencil leads and lead holders really brought me back to four years ago!  Learning to hand draw architectural drawings is no joke, let me tell you.  For instance, did you know you have to spin the lead holder as you draw a line so that you don’t flatten one side of your lead (these leads are about 1/16″ thick, not like mechanical pencil leads).  If you spin as you draw then you are always wearing out the point evenly and you never end up with a line that goes from thin to thick.  Crazy, right?!  But I digress…

As I said, I used a set of Micron pens for the drawing part.  I really loved the thin points, the 01 and 005 pens, for getting all the thin little details.  I didn’t get along as well with the thicker pointed 05 and 08 pens, because I just felt they didn’t get a thick enough line.  In the future I might choose to do the thicker black lines afterwards with a different pen.  Here is my drawing when it was finished.  You’ll notice I left the street in pencil because I still wasn’t sure how I was going to shade it in.  I also wasn’t sure what I was going to do about the buildings in the distance so I left those in pencil too.the3Rsblog_Cityscape_DrawingFinal_Watermark

Now it was time to shade it in! I followed Lindsey’s instructions and used india ink for most of it.  I also purchased a set of the Manga pens she mentioned from Faber-Castell.  They have a set of 8 gray and black pens that I found on Amazon.com which were perfect.  When they arrived I discovered that instead of nicely going from black to gray they actually had two sets of gray, a warm and cold gray.  Personally I would have chosen the cold gray (which has more blue in it) because I greatly prefer that color of gray, but I realized the warm gray (more brown) matched the india ink better so I used the Warm Gray IV 273 and Black only.  This is where I might have chosen to do the thick lines using the Manga Black instead of the Micron, the soft felt tip might have made a nicer/easier thick line than the stiff Micron.  Who knows.  I ended up only using the pens on the metal bridge portion (top left corner) and on the black city buildings in the distance, because I realized that if I tried to shade in large sections of space I would get a very streaky color which I absolutely HATE, plus it would be hard to get the nice shading that I could get with the india ink.  So after a bit of careful marker work I really only used ink for the rest of it.  You can see in these process shots how the ink got layered on.  I mixed a few different strengths of ink and did a lot of painting multiple layers to get darker colors. (One of the downsides of picking a night photo as my inspiration, it was very dark and mysterious looking, something that is harder to capture in a drawing!) You’ll also see a blue border, that is the painters tape I used to tape my paper down onto a sturdy board for painting.  I was worried that my thin paper would curl and warp a lot with the wet ink and it did, but miraculously it flattened back out as soon as it dried.  It’s curling slightly now that I took it off the board but I might just leave it overnight under a book to really flatten it out again.  the3Rsblog_Cityscape_PaintingStages

Overall I’m pretty happy with the final results, and even though the bridge stonework is a lot lighter in color in my drawing than in the original photo I figured I’d just think of this as a daytime rendering instead of a nighttime one.the3Rsblog_Cityscape_PaintingFinal_Watermark

One of my favorite parts is the bit of actual bridge that you can see in the corner, the part I colored in with the Manga markers, so it makes me think that for my next drawing I should focus on smaller details, maybe choosing a cityscape with lots of smaller buildings like Lindsey’s instead of one large focus object.  We’ll see. (I was on the roof of the Metropolitan Museum of Art the other night and thought that the view of midtown Manhattan from there would be a great focus of a long panorama drawing. Maybe that will be my next attempt…) You’ll also notice I abandoned the cobblestones on the street.  I tried drawing them in after a dark wash of ink, so it was a subtle pattern, but it just wasn’t looking right so I went back over it with a darker wash and now its basically just solid black.

I also remembered to grab a photo of the supplies I used, the india ink was whatever brand my little stationary store had, but everything else was what Lindsey recommended. I also only had one small brush that’s a little angled wedge, but it worked pretty well and the edge was perfect for thin lines. I did pull out a bigger brush for the big sections of the street, very important if you don’t want streaky areas. I augmented the streakiness for the stones, to capture the natural variety, but for the street I wanted a more uniform look.the3Rsblog_Cityscape_Supplies

I hope you have enjoyed this less orthodox post, and if you haven’t done so already I definitely recommend you check out Lindsey’s blog, it is really fabulous!  I can’t wait to try her Faux-Calligraphy tutorial!

Cheers! Allison

P.S. Come back later this week for a fun and very colorful update to a past project.

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My Light on TV!

I don’t know about all of you, but I’ve never been so excited for a TV show about a robot child and an alien baby!  I’m talking, of course, about Halle Berry’s new show “Extant” which premiers this Wednesday at 9pm on CBS.  And why am I so excited about it?  Because decorating her robot son’s bedroom is one of my lights!  A light that you all saw for the very first time right here when I experimented with making my first light out of paperback book pages.  The light this show chose was made out of Road Maps, but it’s the same artichoke design.  Check out these two screen grab’s from the promos that are already online.  (The light is unlit in the back of the image with Halle Berry…)Extant Screengrab 3 Extant Screengrab 2

I am so excited, even if the premise of the show sounds mighty odd.  It’s produced by Steven Spielberg, what did I expect…

I’ll be back next week with some updated designs from one of my past projects, but for now I also wanted to invite any of you who might be interested to sign up for my new business newsletter featuring new product info as well as any exciting happenings in the life of my business, Zipper 8 Lighting.  We probably won’t be sending out newsletter’s all that frequently, maybe twice a year, so don’t worry it shouldn’t become too spammy…  I know it isn’t directly related to this blog, but since you all have been such loyal readers over the last few years and you’ve really been there as my business grew, I thought a few of you might be interested.  Click here to add your email address to our lists.  And thank you!

Cheers, Allison

Note: Check out this great screen capture from the pilot episode!Extant Screengrab 2

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Soda Bottle Jewelry Organizer

Happy Summer Greetings Everyone!

I don’t know where all of you live, but I’m here in sticky muggy New York City and while the evenings are lovely for walks by the river the middle of the day is much more suited for crafting inside with the AC!  And the perfect time to finally finish that project I mentioned a few posts back, these awesome jewelry organizers made from soda bottles!the3Rsblog_SodaBottleJewelryOrganizer_1



The original Pinterest post I spotted was made out of green soda bottles and was much taller, but I wasn’t able to get any threaded rod cut down and didn’t really want to make a 3 foot tall organizer.  So instead I bought 6 inch long bolts, 1/4 inch in diameter with matching nuts and washers.  The project is pretty simple, you just drill a hole in the bottom of a soda bottle and then make sure to put a nut and washer on either side of each soda bottle to keep it in place.  I used a large bottle for the bottom piece to stabilize the whole unit, and then smaller bottles for the upper levels so you can read in more easily.  I left taller sides on my bottles than in the original inspiration image, though I might go back and trim some of the upper levels down a bit, I’m not sure.  the3Rsblog_SodaBottleJewelryOrganizer_3

The part that I didn’t realize would be so hard was drilling the holes in the bottom of the bottles.  Who knew the plastic was so strong!  But then a friend made a good suggestion, use a screw to drill the first hole, because the tip is pointier than a drill bit, so you are trying to drill through less plastic at first.  I ended up making a pilot hole with a skinny screw, then enlarged it with a larger screw, and finally used two different drill bits to enlarge each hole to the 1/4 inch that I needed to fit on my bolts.  I originally tried using a hot glue gun to soften the plastic but I found then the drill bit just pushed the plastic into a long cylinder and that was really hard to cut off.  So then I changed to the other method and that worked much better.  the3Rsblog_SodaBottleJewelryOrganizer_2

I am so excited because I have a ton of little stud earrings (especially multi-colored lego studs that I wear to school all the time) and this is a great way to organize them, along with all the rings I have.  You can even hang longer earrings off of the outer edge of an upper level and keep matching earring and necklace/bracelet sets organized.

I hope you love this new project, it has been lots of fun, plus its really cheap and relatively easy to make!  And it is really helping to organize my jewelry.  (And is a wonderful example of the 3 R’s, Reduce, Reuse, Redecorate!)

Ciao, Allison

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