One Last Summer Show

We’ve had such a great Summer, doing two successful craft shows and we have one more to do. We’ll be at the Sacramento Old City Association Annual Home Tour and Street Faire on September 15. We’ve done this event twice before and it’s always been fun. We skipped it last year, so we’re looking forward to returning. Hubby will have some of his butcher block cutting boards, bird houses and squirrel feeders. My sister will be joining us with her eclectic switch plate covers and door blessings. And I’ll have jewelry, coasters, and maybe some lamps and cut bottle glasses.

The free street fair will be in the parking lot of the old Clarion Hotel across the street from the Governor’s Mansion at 16th and H. And did I mention that it was free? Check out this link for more info.

Crafter’s Log – July 22, 2013

When I last checked in, I mentioned that I would be taking a little break from crafting for about three weeks following my first craft show of the year.  I didn’t stop making things completely, but I didn’t touch my torch for two weeks.  I even managed to get a little bit organized.  A very little bit.

is key.

When organizing, descriptive labels are key.

I was hoping that during that time, I’d get my new oxygen concentrator so I could hook up my new torch.  Plus, I was giving my left hand a chance to rest.

Is it a bead, or a paperweight? Largest bead I’ve ever made.  I couldn’t grip anything for two days afterward.

My poor hand…  Ever since I started testing the limits of my Cricket by making larger beads, my mandrel-holding/spinning hand has become swollen and achy.  According to WebMD, I most likely am suffering from DeQuervain’s Syndrome**.  It’s also called, “mommy thumb,” “washerwoman’s sprain” and “gamer’s thumb.” I think it’s time to add “lampworker’s thumb.”  Or maybe “bead maker’s thumb.”

That reminds me…  While taking some time off from crafting, I did some searching for new craft fair venues.  I came across a Craigslist ad asking for craft vendors and telling them to contact them via email for an application.  So, I did telling them that I was a lampwork artist and jewelry maker.  I got a response back that said, “We’ve already got enough jewelry vendors, but we could use your lamp artistry.” /facepalm

Sigh.  Yet another person who thinks “lampwork” means making lamps.  What is a girl to do?  Oh, yeah.  MAKE LAMPS.  So, I did, though not with my torch.  I used my bottle cutting “artistry” to turn a Skyy Vodka bottle into a hanging swag lamp.  Of course, I had some help from my hubby when it came to actually wiring the lamp, (and when I say “help” I mean that he wired the whole damn thing before I could even snap pictures to use as reference,) and it turned out pretty nice.

Skyy Vodka makes a nice lamp.

Skyy Vodka makes a nice lamp.

The awesome thing about bottle cutting/lamp making is that it can be done inside my air-conditioned house, rather than the garage.  OMG, it’s been so hot lately that I really have to go out to torch by 6:00am just to get a couple hours in before it gets too hot to work out there.  It’s been too hot to work out there, even when just etching the copper for earrings…

Etched 5 pair of earrings, including these dragonfly pride earrings.

…Which makes me really glad that I found (yet) another thing I can do in the house during inclement weather – beading.   It was brought to my attention that all of my jewelry (bracelets, specifically) were very breakable, being that they were made from glass.  A young girl at the Summer Stroll in Yuba City asked me if I had any bracelets that just tied on.  I didn’t, but I started looking at stuff on the internet and learned that macramé is making a big comeback.

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Triple wrap, 4 stitch bracelet with one of my lampwork beads as a closure. Let’s see a 12 year old do that!

Other than some embroidery floss “friendship” bracelets I made when I was a kid, I never learned how to macramé.  I watched some video tutorials, dug deep into my bin full of stringing materials, and tried my hand at making some macramé bracelets.  I imagine that a twelve year old at a summer camp is probably accomplishing the same thing right now, but still.  I was pretty proud of myself.  I grabbed a few of my “almost” orphan beads (which means that there are only 2 or 3 matching beads) and strung up a few on some cord that I had.  But, I can’t truly feel like it something new unless I buy a bunch of stuff from a craft store or two.

So, that was a couple weeks ago and there has been an evolution from hemp cord macramé to leather mosaic wrap bracelets.  I watched a video tutorial and fell in love with these bracelets.  They are comfortable to wear, fun to make and apparently, pretty trendy.  Four trips to the bead shop and $100 later…  It never ends.

Leather mosaic wrap bracelets - Craft du Jour

Leather mosaic wrap bracelets – Craft du Jour

My next sale will be Sunday, August 11th, 8:00am – 3:00 pm, in Placerville.  I’m going to be partnering with Susan Lopez of Patsy Emporium again.  Come say hi!

** Either I have this De Quervain’s Syndrome or osteoarthritis which sounds like something that someone of a more advanced age would have.  I’m going to go with “Gamer’s thumb.”

Obsession of the Week -January 25

Copper etching has been the obsession this week. I tasted sweet success last weekend and I want more. I’m still trying to get my process down. I’m looking into an alternative to the Ferric Chloride etchant because I think I’m going to be using a lot of it and it’s not readily available locally. Also, I’m trying to look ahead to disposal of the used etchant and it’s kind of a pain the butt to get rid of responsibly.

I came across an Instructable for using hydrochloric acid and hydrogen peroxide. It seems less expensive and reusable, so better for the environment. Also, (girlie moment) during the process, it turns a lovely shade of green, rather than the black mucky color of the Ferric Chloride. This stuff is a little more hazardous, but I’m OK with that seeing as how I play with fire on a regular basis. I’m hoping to pick the stuff up to try this out tonight.

The other part of my process that needs tweaking is a little more worrisome. Right now, I’m searching the interwebs for a way to get my toner/transparency process to work more reliably. I’ve had only moderate success. Clearly, I’m doing something wrong. Either I don’t get it hot enough and the toner doesn’t stick, or I get it too hot and it’s sliding around, thus leaving an icky, smudgy mess. There’s a fine line there. I just need to find it. So frustrating.

I decided to try some different (non-bird or butterfly) designs and different application techniques so I downloaded a couple different images from the internet. One was a tree of life with swirly, scrolly branches and another was a cool looking Chinese Zodiac deal… 2013 is the Year of the Snake. (Saved you a trip to Google, didn’t I? You’re welcome.)

My intent was to make earrings but only two of the toner transfers worked to my satisfaction (and by “satisfaction” I mean that they weren’t miserable failures and could be sort of saved with painstaking Sharpie application.) Wouldn’t you know it; one was the tree and the other one snake. Pfft. These might be destined to be pendants.

I wish I could pitch the whole toner/transparency thing all together and use rubber stamps and StazOn ink. It is WAY easier and quicker. Unfortunately, it’s also very limiting. You can’t resize it and it’s difficult to find stamps that are small enough to fit on the 1” rounds I’m using. I have a couple stamps, but really, how many pairs of freakin’ butterfly earrings do I need? Not nearly as many as I have at this moment, I can tell you.

Weekend Update

I’d classify this as a very productive weekend. On Saturday, I started with some lampworking. I had oversold a bracelet during the week to my coworkers so I had to get crackin’ on some beads. (Isn’t it weird that you can have stock in your inventory for over a year and nobody is interested then all of a sudden BAM, and you need to hustle to fill demand?). So, I hit the torch early and hard and cranked out everything I needed plus a couple extras for insurance. I also prepped a couple plain spacer beads that I would put to good use later.

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I actually think these are better than the original.

Then the fun started. I broke out my brand-spankin’ new copper etching materials and got jiggy wid it. There were some rough moments with ironing my toner printed image onto the copper disk but I soldiered on. Soon enough, I had my copper disks soaking in a Ferric Chloride bath. Then I waited, then waited some more. I am soooo not a patient person. I checked them every ten minutes despite the fact that I knew they would take at least 45 minutes. Finally, I threw caution to the wind and fished them out of brown muck.

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I put a bird on it! And some etched lampwork spacers.

It wasn’t a deep etch, but it was enough. I slapped some patina on them, buffed them up then dapped them then punched them, then strung them… Wow. Tortured copper. Heh.

They turned out way better than I had hoped and I love them so much that I’m going to keep them, which is way out of the ordinary for me. I’ll eventually get around to putting some in my Etsy store when I get my process nailed down better and get some time to make something other than beads for oversold bracelets.

How to make tile coasters that look expensive but aren’t

This past Christmas, my husband Eric and I carried on our holiday tradition of gifting handmade goods to our friends and family. Being that we had exhausted our bag of tricks the Christmas before, we had to go out and find something new to create.  I decided to make coasters mainly so that Eric and I could both participate, me by doing the image transfer and him by using his woodworking skills to make the holders. Family and friends loved them! Of course, they could just be being polite. So, I’m going to share my secrets with the world. Disclosure: I did not pioneer this process so they are not technically my secrets but we’re going to overlook that part.

What you’ll need:

  • 4″ tumbled marble tiles. (I got mine at Home Depot and they sell 9 of them for $4. Keep in mind that not every tile in the bunch will be suitable for this project.)

    IMG_0007_2

    With the tiles bundled up like this, it’s really hard to see if you have good ones or bad ones. It’s a crap shoot. Pro tip: buy 3-4 packages and take the good ones out. Then return the bad ones to Home Depot. 🙂

  • Liquitex Matte Acrylic Gel Medium. (I got mine from Hobby Lobby – using a 40% off coupon but Michael’s also carries it – typically found in the paint section.  You don’t need to use Liquitex brand. Any acrylic gel medium will do.)

    IMG_0618

    I’ve created about 50 individual coasters with this bottle and I still have about 2/3 of it left.

  • Laser printed image.  This is important.  The image needs to be printed with toner, rather than ink, so use a laser printer, or a copy machine, not an inkjet printer. ** A quick word about images: I use a 3.8″ image, rather than a 4″.  The tiles are just slightly under 4″.  Also, if your image has words, it is very important that you “flip” the image horizontally, otherwise, your words will transfer to the tile backwards. No bueno.**

    Notice how the words on the bottles are backwards.  This is important

    Notice how the words on the bottles are backwards. This is important.

  • Cork or felt for backing the coasters.  Personally, I like the cork.  I bought mine at Michael’s and one roll does a lot of coasters.IMG_0009_2
  • Foam brush. I suppose you could use a regular paint brush, but I like the evenness of the coat that I get with the foam. It’s important that the acrylic be applied evenly.
  • Spray polyurethane matte finish, clear. The matte finish makes the tiles look more natural, in my opinion.krylon
  • Optional – an old tooth brush and an old cookie sheet.

Step 1:  Choose your tiles.  Like I said, not every tile in the package is going to be suitable for this project. Some of them may have holes in them that go all the way through the tile.  This would defeat the purpose.  Rule of thumb, the smoother the better.

This is an example of a bad tile. There is a hole that goes all the way through.

This is an example of a bad tile. There is a hole that goes all the way through.

Step 2:  Use a damp paper towel to wipe the tiles down and remove the dust.  You don’t want that transferring to your acrylic gel.

Just wipe

Just wipe.

Step 3:  Use a foam brush to lightly coast the  tops of the tiles with the gel medium.  LIGHTLY.  Don’t glob it on.  In this case, more is not better. Let this dry completely.

A nice light, complete coating.  The gel is slightly shiny when wet but will dry transparent and matte.

A nice light, complete coating. The gel is slightly shiny when wet but will dry transparent and matte.

Step 4: Lightly coat your laser printed image with the acrylic gel.  Same rule as before – do it lightly, but completely.

Make sure to get the entire image gelled up.

Make sure to get the entire image gelled up.

Step 5:  Center the tile face down on the gelled up image.  Give it a little press to ensure good contact, then go ahead and flip it over.  Smooth out all of the air bubbles using a credit card, or the back of a spoon, or anything else you have handy that won’t damage the image.  Remember, it’s moist at this point so it’s a little fragile.  Be gentle.

Center it as best you can.  It's easier when it's upside down like this.

Center it as best you can. It’s easier when it’s upside down like this.

Smoooooth.  Be gentle.  Don't rip the paper or you'll have to start all over.

Smoooooth. Be gentle. Don’t rip the paper or you’ll have to start all over.

Step 6: Dry those suckers.  You can go au naturel if you want and let them sit over night, being extremely patient and not peaking.  Or, if you’re like me and not really the patient sort, then you can pop those babies into the oven at 200 degrees for 10 minutes.

Step 7:  This is where things get messy.  One you have your tiles dried or cooled, it’s time to check out what we got.  To do this, wet the paper and peel it off.  It won’t come off cleanly.  It’s going to tear and split in half and leave behind a bunch of paper fiber.  Now onto the hard part.

Sometimes it comes off nicely, other times it doesn't.  Don't worry if it doesn't peel up like this for you.  The next part is the same regardless.

Sometimes it comes off nicely, other times it doesn’t. Don’t worry if it doesn’t peel up like this for you. The next part is the same regardless.

Step 8: Remove the paper fibers.  Yeah, that sounds easy but it’s not really.  I use an old toothbrush to gently remove as much of the fiber as I can, then you just got to rub.  And rub.  And rub. Keep your fingers moist, but not so wet that you can’t get good traction on those stubborn fibers.

If you use a toothbrush, remember to be gentle.  Scratching too hard will damage the acrylic and leave a scrape in your image.

If you use a toothbrush, remember to be gentle. Scratching too hard will damage the acrylic and leave a scrape in your image.

Sometimes the best tool for the job is one God gave you.  Just keep rubbing until all the paper is gone.

Sometimes the best tool for the job is one God gave you. Just keep rubbing until all the paper is gone.

Step 9: Take your coasters out into a ventilated area and give them a good coat of that polyurethane.  Let it dry, then repeat it two more times.  You want your beautiful image protected against dastardly cups and glasses.

Step 10:  Back the tiles with cork or felt of something that will protect the table they are supposed to be protecting.  We use the self adhesive cork and we make doubly sure that it sticks by giving it a little E-6000 glue insurance.  Note: E-6000 is awesome, but it is kind of slow to dry.  Don’t spread it on, then stack up your coasters.  It will come through the cork and bond with the tile beneath it.  Ask me how I know.

So, that’s it.  You’ve got some brand new, handcrafted coasters! Similar sets sell on Etsy for anywhere from $25 to $40.  I even saw some plain tiles (no images) going for $18.  Sheesh!

One of the best things about this process is how customizable it is.  I made some coasters for my in-laws using images of Disneyland ride posters.  I made some for my sister using vintage bicycle advertisement posters.  I also purchased some pre-made graphics from Etsy by searching for “coaster printables.”  You can use family photos, old postcards or scrapbooking paper.  Sky’s the limit.

The Perils of Trickle-Down Inspiration

It’s funny, the things that inspire people to create their art. Every now and then, when surfing Etsy looking for something to inspire me, I stop and read the “Featured Seller” article they have on the front page. Typically, it’s some middle aged woman standing in a modern-minimalist beige studio wearing a crazy multi-colored scarf and talking about finding spontaneous inspiration in nature or at a bazaar in some third world country. I am sooo not like that. I don’t go for long walks in the forest and think “I should make art that represents this day.” I don’t get inspired by rocks. I don’t look at it and wonder of the history it’s seen and want to paint its story with glass. It’s a frickin’ rock.**

Last week, I posted a picture of some Valentine-esque beads that I was inspired to make after a retail therapy session. I mentioned that it was really rare for me to have themed beads well before the actual holiday. I’m going to mention it again because it was really, really rare. Really.

One reason it’s so rare is because I’m a natural procrastinator. Why do something today when I can put it off until tomorrow? It’s been a problem for me ever since I was a child and discovered that it was quite easy to do yesterday’s math homework in today’s English class thus leaving my evenings free for reruns of The Cosby Show and playing Super Mario Brothers on my Nintendo. Hard to believe that I didn’t do better in school, heh.

Where was I going with this?*** Oh, yeah – Inspiration…Here’s what really inspires me- Seeing someone’s beads or jewelry on Etsy or a forum and thinking “I can do that.” Or, “I can do that better.” Buying a new tutorial for a new process or reading tips on a forum inspires me. The closest I come to finding spontaneous inspiration in the wild is in the seasonal section of Wal-Mart.

Anyway, because I mainly rely on what others have made to inspire me, I’m always behind the curve when it comes to seasonal themed beads and jewelry. Relying on Trickle-down inspiration isn’t the most efficient way to create on-trend or seasonally appropriate stuff.

Luckily for me, the retail community has really stepped up to the plate in terms of getting inspirational materials out to prior to the holiday. I saw Easter stuff out at the local craft store last week. Based on that, I gather we’re only a couple weeks out of Independence Day and maybe a month out of Halloween. That means that in a couple months, it will be Christmas again. That means I’m already behind on starting to procrastinate about making snowmen and Santa Clauses.

Oh, well. I’ll do it tomorrow.

**I haven’t personally seen an article where someone says they were inspired by a rock, but I’m sure there’s one out there.

***I also have a short attention span.