Monday, 26 July 2010

It's been a while...

Yet again I find myself in a position where I've failed to post for several months. The last 5 posts don't really count as I just did them and backdated - they're copied over from my personal blog. I have however been a busy bunny over the last year. My Stardust and Sparkles jewellery and art website has been massively updated and is a lot more alive than it was previously.

Wax PaintingI took up encaustic art (painting with hot wax) around Christmastime and have had a lot of fun with it - check out my encaustic art work on my website. I'm in love with the colours and that you don't need to be able to draw particularly well to produce really rather pretty paintings. I'm just about at the stage where I'm feeling confident talking about it. I've never been much good as an artist so it took a while to get rid of the mindset that anyone looking at my art would be laughing at the juvenileness of it all.

I've also set up a facebook page for Stardust and Sparkles. Its new and still at the stage where I'm overjoyed with any new 'Likes' so click on the box and like me, like me, like me! I promise not to post on it more than a couple of times a week, max and its great for keeping up with new and cool shiny things รก la Stephie :o).

I'm also currently loving deviantart although it's been sadly neglected of late, and the wonderful Eni Oken's Jewelry Lessons site where I'm hoping to write tutorials. I enjoy writing them, I'm pretty good at it but I do prefer writing for cash.

Speaking of lessons, I'm in Creative Jewellery magazine and Stringing magazine this summer - the first with a necklace tutorial, the second with a pair of earrings. I've got tutorials coming up in Creative Beads & Jewellery magazine here in the UK as well - not entirely certain when - this year - but it was done in my capacity as designer for and Georgie, the business owner was handling the mag submissions. So I know I've got one - I think two but I'm uncertain - coming up soonish, along with a bracelet in the winter issue of Stringing.

Anyway... with any luck, the next thing you hear from me will be an update on the 52 weeks project. It's become abundantly clear that with craft fair bookings and small children, I don't have a chance in hell of managing one every week. I've started Week 6 - Bezel Settings but have yet to get to a stage where I feel I've accomplished much. I can set a stone in a plain bezel. Kinda. Thats not spectacular enough for me to be ready to post about it just yet :o)

Finally, I'm in the process of running down the beads-and-findings side of my business. There's still a few bargains to be picked up at my Princess Jewellery website and the main bulk of my stock is on ebay at my Princess Jewellery eBay Store. Postage is free for UK buyers and cheap for international buyers so don't miss out.

Until later!

Saturday, 12 June 2010

52 Weeks: Week 2 - Blowtorch

OK... first off, 'blowtorch' was a bit of a misnomer, used entirely to amuse Jan with my obsession with increasingly high heat levels. It's actually a more generic 'introduction to metalsmithing'. For those of you not familiar with the intricacies of jewellery making, I'm a cold connection - and component-&-bead-based - jeweller. That means my metalworking is pretty much limited to bending bits of wire as things currently stand. I've never touched a saw or blowtorch or drill in a metal-jewellery related fashion.

I havea Book. Well, actually I have several books on the subject, but I'm working with one for this and it's the best in the business. It's Jewellery: Fundamentals of Metalsmithing by Tim McCreight. I've read to page 48 and my design has developed in my head as I've went.

This is my initial sketch (yeah so my sketching ability is appalling. I am well aware of this). then my computer-drawn template

So... having been up in the middle of the night for several hours, I'm going to firstly make sure I know where my copper and silver sheet is, then get some more sleep. Then I need to texture a sheet, mark out the template on the relevant sheets, saw the bits out, file them smooth, rivet them together and solder twirly bits of wire together and to the pendant. The wire design will probably change. Then make and attach a bail.

How hard can it be?

OK.... now finished the pendant and will tell y'all how I made it.

First off was to make the copper base. I stuck (literally, with sticky-back paper) my template onto a sheet of copper, figured out how the eff to thread a jewellery saw and tried sawing. Then promptly gave up and used sheet metal shears instead.


Basic copper rectangle. HOW cute is my mini-anvil?!

Couldn't get away with that for the inside to hunted out my mini drill, drilled a start hole and sawed away the inside. My sawing needs a LOT of work. I spent an awfully long time filing it to right angles and straight edges afterwards.

Hole cut out

Then I ruined all that careful filing by deciding the copper would look better textured, taking a ball-headed hammer and hitting it lots to get the dimpled texture. Then filed some more.


Next I cut two pieces of pre-patterned sterling silver strip and drilled holes in it, marked where the first hole would go when it was on the copper, and drilled that too. Then made rivets for it. Usually rivits would be made whilst in the holes but because the strip was patterned I figured I'd be better off doing the first rivet head before inserting it so clamped the wire with a tiny by sticking up and hammered it to a head. Then stuck it through the holes, trimmed it and hammered the other head on the flat back copper side. Then rivited the other three corners the same way.

Rivited silver strip

And the back where you can actually see the riviting. I'm rather proud of them :p (the back is cleaned up finished!)

Next up was making the curly whatsits which was the easy bit coz twisting bits of wires with pliers is essentially what I do for a living. Then I hammered them a bit to flatten and harden them. and spent quite some time nervously glancing at my blowtorch. I DID do two test solders to get a feel for it on some scrap before I actually attacked the real pendant. My soldering is messy but it IS my first day doing it and it's not something I have any feel for yet.

Between soldering and finishing the clean & polish!

Then it was a case of dump it in some mild acid to get rid of the (terrifyingly dark) marking you get from heating it then cleaned it lots. I was going to make a bail and solder it on but was terrified of killing it so used a pre-made one that I had sitting around here and added a chain. Took about 8 or so hours from initial sketch to completion.

Ta-daaa - finished.

Sunday, 23 May 2010

52 Weeks: Week 3 - Fabric Fusing

OK - this week is fabric fusing, a wide-open area that concerns joining fabric together and marking it using heat. A soldering iron to be precise. I've never tried it before but I read a book on Thursday so it's allll good.

This week is not getting off to the best start. For starters I'd already written the first para of this then Jay used the PC for some sheet music software and it vanished. LJ usually autosaves (I write these in my personal journal initially on LiveJournal - for those of you who are reading from elsewhere) - it hadn't. I'd selected the lot and hit ctrl+C - had it copied? Had it fuck.

Anyway.... what I had written was how this week was off to a less than auspicious start. I thought I had plenty or organza - I was wrong, and organza is the fabric all the lit states is best for starting with. Also it's sheer which for an awful lot of this technique is essential. Nonetheless I've hunted out what I have - mainly scraps - raided the jewellery drawers for leftover organza jewellery pouches, raided the ribbon drawer for organza ribbon and checked  upstairs for chiffony scarves (no joy - I suspect they're packed up in black bags-for-carbooting and stored at my sister's). Tomorrow, I may start looking at clothing I rarely wear in a whole new light... NO, I already packed everything that I didn't like / didn't fit into black bags and dumped them at my sister's. There may be some voile curtains upstairs... and I'm sure there's a small chiffon tablecloth around somewhere as well...

That's what I had written. And what I was coming back to write is that my effing fabric scissors have vanished off the face of the earth which is unfortunate. I have other scissors, obviously, but the fabric ones are REALLY, sharp and good for erm... fabric. I had a relatively new pair of paper & card scissors that would have done the job prior to last week when I was using them to hack sheets of plastic. I rather suspect they're a bit blunter now.

This is why I can't find anything - studio mess!

Anyway... I have amassed large quantities of small pieces of organza, large quantities of larger pieces of non-sheer but definitely fusable fabric and lace & netting stuff, some felt for backing, a bunch of templates (I'm really regretting letting Geoff throw away the zillions of leftover sheets-with-interesting-holes in where he's popped out game pieces from their card sheets in the past). My soldering iron is at the ready, the window is open, and my peculiar-looking but essential anti-poison mask awaits.

Flattering, huh?

I have no idea if if will help with plastic fumes, it was bought to protect against breathing spray-on glue and spray paint. And the final essential - a large ceramic tile. The books suggest glass which I personally feel is a recipe for disaster. Ceramic will work just as well as a surface for working with heat and has the added advantage that the edges are unlikely to shred my fingers. For those of you who visit often enough to recognise it, yes it is the type of tile on my kitchen floor and no, I didn't excavate one an inconspicuous place. Although I may have considered it were there not spares in a cupboard.

Tools & materials & stuffs

The rest of my 'evening' (OK, it's 4am but you know what I mean) is going to be engaged with the boring but essential task of making lots of usable sized pieces..

...and at 6am I have finished cutting bits of fabric up. I know, I know, the main event is taking a little while with this one.

Given that I did not, in fact, have the relevant amounts of organza I am largely going to ignore the hand-holding that goes with following craft books. I'm also going to play with small panels rather than big ones coz I don't have the fabric for large....

OK turns out I do have a bunch of voile curtains sitting unused for the last 3 years. I've nicked two (I have more but only two colours).

Initial tests with soldering iron - my first time!

Initial experiments taught me two things. a) Pastels are not my friend in this medium. b) I need to sharpen my soldering iron tip to a finer tool.

And sadly the rest of my Saturday were taken up with real work, Finn's birthday party and - arghh! - being ill and sleeping and now, at 4.30 on Sunday morning the sickness is not feeling any better. I feel fairly crappy although my temperature is now back within the realms of normal which is an improvement.

So.. Sunday 2pm. Sunday I have produced something that I like - see:

My first real fabric fusing piece

It's done by fusing layers of fabric and then cutting pieces away from the top - see?

How I did it

What do you see? I know what I see (and Darren got it instantly in a that's-obvious voice. Geoff took a bit of squinting but again got it more or less right with a bit of prompting). It's currently entirely fused-with-a-soldering-iron fabric pieces with a bit of purely ornamental hand stitching. I am considering adding machine stitching for definition although I may save that technique test for another project and leave this one as is....

...OK, I did opt for adding machine stitching and am pleased I did. I like the finished effect. And that's it for this week coz I'm out of time. There's a LOT more with this I'd like to try and at some point in the near future will try and put aside some play time. It was fairly time intensive, plus I've been ill and busy doing real stuff this weekend but for a first effort I'm pleased with what I produced. It doesn't photograph well, fabric too shiny and sparkly.

Machine stitched and finished - about 8 by 8 inches

Next week is an even vaguer topic in that it's 'do something with acrylic medium'. Which could be anything really, haven't decided yet. Mainly I just want to know how it behaves as I've never touched the stuff.

Monday, 17 May 2010

52 Weeks: Week 2 - Friendly Plastic

So... what is friendly plastic?

It's a craft-specific material that comes in plastic strips (and pellets but I'm not using them at the minute) which is malleable when heated. It comes in a wide range of metallic and foiled finishes. See the picture below.

Friendly Plastic & tools.

Having spent a couple of hours getting a feel for the material and heat required I needed more. Specifically, its a product I don't have any literature on, anywhere. After a couple of hours I also came to the conclusion that this particular material would benefit greatly from the use of some bezel settings although sadly I don't have any.

Early Efforts

Early efforts kinda look like a 5 year old has went mental with modelling clay and metallic paint. So some refining neccessary...

Completed componants

I did a fair amount more. It's not growing on me particularly. It's kinda like a very limited version of polymer clay (which is all kinds of awesome). Sure it has a speed advantage - poly clay needs to be over baked - but while polymer clay is incredibly versatile, friendly plastic just isn't. You're stuck with the colours it comes in, EVERYTHING sticks to it when it's hot and needs coating in oil to prevent this - which also means after it needs washing in soapy water, it's thinness means making items with embedded components (like loops to form drops or pendants) isn't terribly practical - you'd need to double up sticks and relatively speaking that works out rather costly.

Textured and made into a brooch

Also you can texture it - it does take textures nicely, subject to coating everything with oil - but the minute you need to heat it up again (I've found that late heating for re-cutting and for adding a backpiece are both frequently neccessary) you lose the bloody texture. Silicone stamps / texture plates work well, plastic ones do not - even with the oil as a release agent they stick.

What can I say about it that's nice...? The colours are cool and it makes nice brooches and it IS pretty fast to work with. I might have found it more palatable if I had some bezel settings which I suspect would work very well with it.

Finished Jewellery - Other Brooches


Pendants & Necklace

Either way, it's reasonably well suited to jewellery and so jewellery is what I turned the shiny bits into and I think my main problem is that Friendly Plastic is, well, plastic. It feels cheap and from the back, at least, looks cheap. Polymer clay is plastic as well but doesn't have that cheap & nasty feel to it (and poly clay can imitate just about any material that isn't transparent).

Cheap-looking back

While I've made these bits into jewellery, I actually see me having more use for it incorporating bits into mixed media artwork which among other things, firmly hides the back (as would the bezel settings I wished for earlier).

So all in all this week was disappointing. Next week... fabric fusing. Largely a mixed media art experiment although I'm curious about the necklace / bracelet making potential as well.

Sunday, 9 May 2010

52 Weeks: Week 1 - Wax Landscapes Part3

OK... better day today. Somewhere along the line I improved a couple of earlier ones (or at least modified them!) so I'll start with them.


I mentioned to someone that I thought this might look better with little flowers added. And figured I didn't have anything to lose. It does look better. Not brilliant, but better than it did.


This was my first attempt at castles. Due to the nature of the medium, they're more suggestive. Not especially happy with them but needed to try.

Now... onto the actual attempts

Attempt 11

Attempt 11 - Another castle attempt while playing with textures and marks. I'm... undecided on this one. Done on the hotplate with a silicone rubber tipped thingy. Thats a technical term.


Attempt 12 - heh, I like this. Crystaline cave. The 'crystals' were done by dabbing a brayer on (little mini rubber roller), waterfall done with tissue and sponge.


Attempt 13 - I quite like this as well. Sky could be more variegated but I like the slightly surrealistic colour. Part iron, part sponge.


Attempt 14 - this I like although the background could do with softening. It looks better 'in the flesh'. Done with iron, stylus, tissue and hotplate


Attempt 15 - my final one before calling it quits on week 1. and I do like this. Sea, sky and island all done with hotplate and tissue, foreground done with the iron.

So... the objective was to improve my wax landscape technique and I did. In about 10 hours total over 3 sessions. Objective was also to explore techniques I shy away from usually and there's a fair amount of iron and stylus work there both of which aren't my usual MO. And there was some new techniques in there - stamping with my brayer and working with tissue are both things I haven't tried before.

Just to finish up I played around with abstract texture and depth.


Texture 1 - This was done entirely with cotton buds. Yes the thing you clean your ears with. Then iron-blotted with tissue afterwards.


And this was done but putting my wax card down onto the hotplate on it, drawing melty wax strips on it then dragging a wiggly poly clay cutter down and up and left and right. Then blasting it with a hot air gun. To see what happened.

It's been interesting and rather fun :) Next week is Friendly Plastic, something I've never used before.

Saturday, 8 May 2010

52 Weeks: Week 1 - Wax Landscapes Part2

OK... well I'm slightly disabled this morning with stressy everyone and hordes of children wandering into my office (where my studio is).


But Attempt 6 went ahead nonetheless and reminded me of two things. 1. The first picture of a session is ALWAYS crap. 2. I hate using metallics for anything other than detail & highlight work. Don't try and paint hills and skies in them.


Attempt 7 - at this point I figured it would hurt too much to have a little hotplate help.

I also came to the conclusion that I find it REALLY difficult to do anythingwith constant interruptions, noisy kids, and stressy husband. So after a little play on the hotplate, I'll end part 2 and try again in the middle of the night when there's no-one around to bug me.

So attempt 7 anyway. I'd switched to the hotplate because I was frustrated putting the sky down with an iron. Hotplate and tissue got the colour mix I wanted but it did kinda go downhill from there once back on the iron. Just... messy and not very good.


Attempt 8 was a deliberate hotplate abstract. Quite often abstracts can suggest landscapey type scenes so it was a case of putting the wax down, crossing my fingers and plodging my card in. I quite liked what I got and added ironwork around the edges. I see the view from inside a cave, looking out at the reflection in a lake of a forest burning. You may see whatever you see fit.


ATTEMPT 9 Upsidedown

Attempt 9 was literally cleaning up the wax on my hotplate fro the previous. I haven't decided which way up it goes. There's either a sky or a river depending on the orientation. Its not great but it WAS just cleaning up wax.


Finally attempt 10. hotplate & tissue sky, ironed hills and foliage. Kinda makes me think of the beginning of spring in the Swiss alps. Why Swiss... dunno it makes me think of cowbells and shepherdess girls in traditional dress. But fails to impress, hence coming to the decision that this is perhaps better done without distractions. Or at least when I'm in a marginally better mood.