Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Recycling, Caviar, and Dragon Skin (and Possibly Bacterial Culture, too)

Firstly: because this is the summer of R&D, I'm going to be adding a couple of new sections to the Artfire Shop.  One is going to be for experiments, one-offs, and oops, since the thing about R&D is that sometimes it doesn't pan out.  The other is going to be for very-limited-edition pieces, since a number of the things I'm doing involve finite, non-reproducible materials.

So I had a very interesting experiment day with the kiln on Saturday.  I started with making a few sets of buttons and a pendant with my recycled enamel bits technique.  I've refined the procedure enough that I think I can start pricing/selling them. These will definitely be in the limited-edition section, since each particular color blend can't ever be exactly reproduced. I'm not entirely sure what I'm going to do about these once I'm done taking apart the larger pieces I currently have.  Maybe spend some more time on illustration so I can have some more screw-ups?  Making color blends specifically for this purpose seems counter to the point of "recycled".
recycled mosaic pendant

recycled mosaic buttons

After that, I got down to experimental business.

I've been thinking a lot about these recycled mosaic pieces, and how I might get a more precise color distribution or maybe even pattern from the same basic idea of little pieces, and also how I might do something similar with a less-limited material.  Then I remembered that last year, one of my classmates figured out that you could melt glass beads in with your enamel if you're careful.  She used it for making precise points and individual bumps because she had a very structured style.  My style, especially with enamel, is not very structured, and so I wondered what would happen if I treated the glass beads the same way I treat the recycled bits.  The results were awesome.

This one was made with larger beads...

And these were made with smaller ones.

 I LOVE the bumpy texture, and I think, with dark beads, I could effectively start making little dishes of glass caviar. :) The blue/green piece made me think of dragon skin (water dragon, of course), but made the roommate think bacterial culture.  I'm not sure what I'm officially going to call these yet, but they're definitely going to be part of my product line!


Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Fixed it!

I am much more pleased with this version of the Art Nouveau barrette (now with 100% less fail)

The top pic is ostensibly "right-side-up," but I think it works well either way.  Also, looking at it in hair is giving me terrible, tentacle-y ideas about future combs.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Learning is fun!

So I've been doing a lot of work lately with carving acrylic plastic, in an attempt to imitate materials like tortoiseshell, ivory, horn, and bone as used in combs and other hair ornaments pre-1930.  I'm approaching the look I want very slowly, but I'm getting there.  The technique I've been working on lately is tinting/painting/otherwise adding color. Tinted horn, especially, was a popular and beautiful thing in the 1890s and early 1900s.
It turns out that adding color to plastic is a somewhat different thing than the fiber-dyeing I did for years a while back. I already knew that I could add overall color by boiling in Rit dye, but that didn't help with detail painting at all.  See, Rit is both heat-activated and water based, so if you try to paint it on to plastic, it just beads up ad won't stay where  you need it while you find a way to heat it up.  Further research indicated that solvent-based inks tend to work on plastics when dealing with rubber-stamping and printing, so the next step was to figure out how to find or make them.  Commence with the experiments!  There were a few solvent inks available at craft stores, but they were expensive.  I got some of the solvent used to bond acrylic pieces together, and attempted to make my own ink, but none of the coloring agents I tried would disperse in the solvent.
Then, I realized something stupidly obvious.  There is already a cheap solvent ink available.  It is, in fact, so ubiquitous that we often don't even think about it.  It comes in many colors and is fairly easy to apply.  It is, of all things, Sharpie permanent ink. A few quick experiments showed that the color, once scribbled on, could be smoothed out and made part of the plastic by a quick application of the acrylic solvent.  This was a facepalm-type realization for me, since now I have a bunch of other kinds of ink, paint, and pigment that I need to figure out what to do with.  I suppose I might finally take up calligraphy. :)
Anyway, I will still probably eventually upgrade to the more expensive solvent inks, since I'd really like to have something brushable, so I have more control over line, shape, and color intensity, and so it will go on smoothly from the start.  As it is, I've got a good start on saving the fail-barrette by replacing the copper with a green tint.

A little bit of sanding to clean up the edges once the color is done, and I think it will be a nice piece.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Another comb in progress, and a possibly failed barette

I was considering leaving this one plain, but I think lining the curls with a zillion tiny water-colored rhinestones would a) look awesome, and b) be great practice for setting stones in acrylic.  I love those flowing curves and this is going to be a fantastic piece when it's done.

What do y'all think?

In less-enthusiastic news, not everything I touch turns to awesome.  I made this barrette the other day and it is a testament to how changing plans partway through is sometimes a bad idea:

I really do love Art Nouveau whiplash lines, but this just didn't work.  The original plan called for tinting the lines a dark-ish green, but when it came down to it, I had the "brilliant" idea of trying copper leaf gilding. I think the shiny of the copper just clashes with the matte of the acrylic base.  I'm thinking I'm just going to have to scrape out the gilding and see if I can make the tint work. Lesson learned, and this is why I experiment.