Crafters Log, May 31, 2013

A couple weeks ago, my husband and I took a weekend trip to the Mendocino coast to celebrate our 13th wedding anniversary. It was gorgeous up there and we had a great time. I took lots of pictures and when I got home, I wanted to make some beachy-type beads. I looked at a few samples on Etsy and, inspired, decided that I really needed beachy-barnacle-looking murrini.

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On a one to five scale of success, I think I hit a three, which was a marked improvement over my previous attempts. I didn’t burn myself and it was round-ish, and I was able to snip it into slices. Just saying “snip it into slices” makes it sound like no big deal, but let me tell you, those boogers fly EVERYWHERE. Wear safety glasses. And shoes.

I’m still pulling my murrini too thin so I ended up with some baby barnacle things. Ah, well. The beads still came out OK, and that’s even considering that I made them using my new extra-large Zoozii’s Straight Sided Lentil press. This press is like 4 times larger than my previously largest press. Holy cow, does it take a lot of glass to fill. Midway through wrapping the glass on the mandrel my carpal tunnel kicks in and I have to take a break and rest my hand.

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Having the moderate success with placing my own crappy murrini, I took out the precious butterfly slices I had purchased over a year ago from… Oh, goodness. I can’t remember where I got them, but clearly, the guy (I remember it was a guy) can make WAY better barnacles than me. I’ve hoarded these butterfly chips for a long time. I think I’ve used a total of three of them now. Anyway, feeling brave, I used a couple of them. Again, on a one to five scale of success, I’d say I hit a 3. I gave myself a point for not smearing it too bad, but you can clearly see a line where the clear glass in the murrini ends and my clear encasement glass begins. Meh.

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Now, I don’t like to toot my own horn, but LOOK at the SKY!! This is a major accomplishment for me. Do you know how many times I’ve tried to make a realistic blue sky background? I always end up using flat Light Sky Blue glass and looking enviously at others more realistic sky. Then, BREAKTHROUGH! Someone (I think it was the fabulous, generous Jacqueline Parks, aka GemsInBloom) had suggested Dark Sky Blue encased with CIM Marshmallow, which is a semi-opaque opal white. Now I can’t wait to make birdy beads with it. Or trees.

With the arrival of the end of the month comes payday, comes my monthly spending spree. I only get paid once a month so there is typically a flurry of purchases during the first few days, then a major spending diet for the rest of the month. This month’s flurry, brings some new glass (basically just refilling some of my old standy-bys, and restocked my Dark Sky Blue and Marshmallow since I’ll be making so many skies) and ordered myself a nice treat:

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My poor little car (named Violet – Yes, I named my car. I always name my cars,) has been through it lately; nails in the tires (multiple), a rock to the windshield courtesy of a cement truck and an unfortunate hit & run in a parking lot that scraped up her right rear quarter panel and rim. I decided to treat her right and replace the ugly black and yellow car dealership frames. Actually, I’ve been meaning to do it for a while but the frames finally went on sale during the monthly flurry.

And one last bit of info to share… I’ll be doing my first sale of the year on June 22nd in Yuba City for their annual Summer Stroll. I’m partnering with another lampwork artist and all-around crafty person. It should be fun. I’m going to work very hard during these next few weeks to beef up my inventory and show displays.

Crafter’s Log – May 9, 2013

I’ve decided to change things up a bit since the normal weekly updates just aren’t working for me (obviously since it’s been over a month since my last post).  Between crafting and writing about crafting, I just have no time to actually have a life.  So, I’m just going to do sporadic updates when I feel like it.  Hey, guess what?  I feel like it today.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been a very busy little bee.  I made a bunch of beads, mostly random, but some with an intended purpose.  I tried out a couple tutorials for the first time with varying degrees of success.  The first one was from Jacqueline Parkes’ My Secret Garden, which is awesome.  There’s a special tool required, but I was able to pick itup locally and very inexpensively, which is like a first for my special lampworking tools.

Not my first effort.  That one lives somewhere in my "never see light of day" pile.

Not my first effort. That one lives somewhere in my “never see light of day” pile.

My first effort was passable.  I used the same glass as what is used in the tutorial but it came out just meh.  I’m too conservative sometimes, I think.  Anyway, the big learning curve to this tutorial has to do with timing and placement of the components.  Anytime I have to pull components first, it usually doesn’t go well, but this time, I had minimal shrapnel.  One flower made and I decided to tackle another one since that had gone pretty well.  This time, I tried pink – the same pink I hadn’t been able to make the rose petals with.  Yeah…  It didn’t go well, but I don’t think it was all my fault.  Sitting in front of the torch, pink rod in hand, creating my gather, I noticed it.  A bubble formed at the end of the rod, then blew out.  There is a small hole down the length of the rod. $#@!

I think that most of my newer dark pink glass has this hole, which really ticks me off since that glass is not cheap.  Grr…

Getting better with the flowers.

Getting better with the flowers.

The other tutorial I tried was the Kerri Fuhr Raven.  It went pretty well.  The background I tried was one from her tapestry tutorial.  Now, I’ve tried this tutorial before and frankly, I really suck at it.  Stringer work has never been my strong point and neither is raking, both of which you really need to do this successfully.  I’m getting better though, but since I had already messed up the tapestry bead, I figured, “I’ll put a bird on it.”

The raven came out pretty good!  It’s nearly impossible for me to photograph without setting up my light tent, but yeah.  I’m happy.

If you totally ignore the background, this one isn't too bad.

If you totally ignore the background, this one isn’t too bad.

In other news, I have a new hobby.  I need another hobby like I need a hole in the head, but I’m weak in the face of learning something new that is both fun, functional and marketable.  What is this thing?, you ask…  glass bottle cutting.  Someone on Lampwork Etc. had posted some picture of wine bottle glasses – basically just the bottom of the bottle cut to the length of a drinking glass.  They posted a link to a YouTube video and I was off.  It’s so easy.  At least, I think it’s easy because I haven’t actually tried it yet.  My cutting contraption is on its way from Amazon right now.

Then, I started looking through the forums and saw a few threads on making beads from bottles.  I’ve thought about this before, but it always seemed kind of difficult.  But now, I think I’m OK to tackle this.  I have a kiln now, which I didn’t have when I first thought about it.  Also, with recycled glass, you really can’t mix it.  Bottles don’t come with the co-efficient of the glass stamped on them.  This is important because you can’t mix different COEs because one glass will cool much faster than the other which will cause it to shatter.  No bueno.  You really have to not mix the glass.  Even say, beer bottles from the same 6-pack might have different COEs so you really need to keep the reclaimed glass separate.

But really, what’s the fun in making a bead that is only a single color with no decoration?  Not much, at least not for me.  The ONLY time I do this is when I’m making simple spacers.  Boring.  Enter a new tool/idea to my life…  Stamping it with leather stamps.  I picked up a couple of cute designs – flower and butterfly – so I can make some beads with some dimension and interest, even though they are all one color.

I put some feelers out to my friends and co-workers about saving their glass bottles for me, so hopefully I’ll get a good amount of free glass to try this stuff out on.  Luckily, a lot of my friends drink a lot, which I guess is why they are my friends.   What I’m hearing a lot from them is “I only buy the really big bottles.” That’s cool with me because I can make vases and candle holders.

Time Warp…

I actually wrote this a couple weeks ago but never posted it because…  Yeah, I have no excuse.  I just didn’t post it.  Moving on…

The bottle cutter arrived and I excitedly tried to cut a couple beer bottles.  Miserable failure is how I would classify it.  I thought, maybe the beer bottle glass is too thin, so I tried an old wine bottle.  Again, miserable failure.  But the wine bottle was green, so I took it out to the garage and whacked it with a hammer.  That was satisfying.  Then I turned on the torch and melted it down.

Recycled/upcycled/reclaimed glass beads

Recycled/upcycled/reclaimed glass beads

Melting the glass down and pulling it into rods was pretty fun.  I used a new press to make the sweet little flowers, then I dug out my old presses to do the other things.  I actually love the leaf press for this reclaimed glass.  I’m going to try it with some brown/amber beer bottles soon.

Success!  Tumblers.

Success! Tumblers.

I finally had some success cutting the bottles down to “tumbler” size glasses, so I grabbed a pretty Skyy Vodka bottle my sister gave me and tried that…  Yeah – NO!  The bottle didn’t cooperate, so…

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Bwaa ha ha!  Let it be known… This is what happens to naughty bottles in my house, bitches!

Weekend Update and Catching Up, March 24, 2013

I didn’t drop off the face of the Earth. I don’t have any good excuses for neglecting my blog other than “I just didn’t feel like it.” Until this weekend, I hadn’t done much of anything craft-wise for about a month. It was a combination of laziness and gaming. I’ve been playing the new Sim City game. Maybe you saw something about that in the papers because the launch of the game was a disaster. I’ve looked forward to this game for a long time. Instead of it tasting like rainbows and unicorns, it tastes like… Well, “Sim Shitty.”

So, onto the weekend update. Easter is next weekend and I still hadn’t used my new egg-shaped bead roller thingy. But first I had to do my least favorite part of bead making: clean and dip mandrels. It helps a little that I had some entertainment while I was doing it.

It was a good day at the torch. With warmer weather, I had far less to worry about with shocky glass and breakage and things just flowed.

Heart shaped bunny beads and Easter Eggs

Heart shaped bunny beads and Easter Eggs

Bunny Pendants and Earrings

Here they are all made up into jewelry.

So, that was it for the weekend.  Hoping to get back out and torch at least once more before Easter, but with my goal met, it’s going to be hard to get motivated.  I want to find a good craft fair to sell at so I should start building a stockpile.  Maybe that will be enough to motivate me. 🙂

Until later… Peace.

WTB Trained Monkey

Once upon a time I had a big order to fill and a very short amount of time to do it. I recruited my husband to help me with as many tasks as I could so that I could maximize my time at the torch. Plus, while I love just about everything about lampworking, there are some things about it that aren’t so far up on the “bliss” scale. If I could pawn those off, my life would be so much easier.

I gave him two lessons on dipping mandrels in the bead release. After two days of making nearly Pandora sized holes with mandrels that are supposedly 1/16”, I had to admit defeat and take the task back over. There’s nothing that slows your mojo so much as going out and firing up the torch and realizing that you have no good mandrels ready. It was way easier to dip the freakin’ things myself then to have to explain why more did not necessarily equal better.

So… Annoyed lampworker seeks trained studio monkey for menial lampworking tasks. Must understand plain English and take simple directions well. Husbands need not apply.

Weekend Update – Jan. 27, 2013

After work on Friday, I went to buy the stuff for my new etchent. I started at the pool supply place and picked up two gallons of hydrochloric acid. Yeah, I didn’t need two, but that’s the only way to get it. Grr.

After that, we trekked across the street to Rite Aid for hydrogen peroxide, nail polish remover and ice cream (mint chip, FTW). With that, I had all the things I needed to mix up my new etchent, toner transfer trials and dessert!

Saturday morning it was time to go to work. I fired up the torch and made plain spacer beads. I wasn’t feeling up to anything complicated but I did melt some glass that I’ve had for a while and hadn’t used because it was expensive. See, that’s what happens when I torch every week for a few weeks in a row. I gain crazy confidence.

Unfortunately, the glass gods didn’t get the message and the raku glass is just brown and the super fancy Double Helix Kalypso glass is just meh. Ah well. Can’t win them all. I was still going to use the Kalypso beads with the etched copper. No sense in letting it go to waste.

And speaking of the etched copper… On Friday night, I figured out the toner transfer. Every thing I saw on the web said that you had to iron the transparency for three minutes. WTF. I’m not sure what transparencies they’re using, but the ones I have shriveled up like Shrinky-Dinks after about 30 seconds leaving a black smudge on my copper. That’s where the nail polish remover comes in. I cleaned the same 4 pieces of copper probably 5 times. Wipe, wipe, wipe. Scrub, scrub, scrub. Rinse, repeat.

In the end, the thing that worked for me was heating the copper with the iron, then gently laying the transparency on it and very lightly burnishing it for about 10 seconds before lifting it off. I was worried a little because you could plainly see toner left on the transparency, but I decided that I was just going to see what happened. I was pretty tired of messing with it.

Disks all tonered up and ready for the acid bath.

Disks all tonered up and ready for the acid bath.

So after the torching session and a quick trip to In N Out for breakfast (don’t judge) I mixed up the new solution and grabbed six copper disks from the night before. It was amazeballs! The solution turned a lovely green and the etch was quick and clean. It took about 20 minutes to get a deeper etch than I was getting after an hour in the ferric chloride.

Acid and peroxide bath

The green means it’s working!

Once the copper was cleaned up, I got everything lined up for the painting. I got some new paints from Metal Me This on Etsy that I was anxious to try. You’d think that between the sample six pack of those and the entire Vintaj patina collection that I would have just about every color covered. Not so!

I really wanted a true red to use on the Year of the Snake earrings. I ended up using the burgundy color from Metal Me This. It’s nice, just not what I had envisioned for this particular project.

Snakes!

Snakes!

So, Saturday was good. Sunday, not so much. My new toner process was hit or miss with more “miss” than “hit.” I’d do one or two just fine, then the next three would be crap. I took the five good ones and headed out to the garage for the acid bath.

I knew things weren’t going as well as yesterday when, after 30 minutes, they looked barely etched. It probably had something to do with the liquid being so much colder. So, back in they went. Then I noticed it… Little black pieces floating on the surface. I peaked at the disks and sure enough, the freaking toner was coming off the peacocks. Shit!

All painted and domed and looking like they didn't give me any trouble.

All painted and domed and looking like they didn’t give me any trouble.

I got them out of the bath with the intention of sanding them down and starting over since they didn’t look etched at all, but a crazy thing happened when I hit them with the steel wool. They were fine. One peacock had some broken lines, but damn if they didn’t look OK. Actually, all the disks looked OK. I did my thing with them, then worked up some earrings; six pairs in all.

Earrings!

Here they are… Etched copper earrings with lampwork beads.

Sunday is family day, so we went to my parents house for our traditional early dinner. My sister and I headed to the bead shop because I needed to get some clip on earrings for her birthday present. She’s crazy allergic to metal so only clips for her. While we were there, she spotted a lovely pendent in the display case. Since I needed something else to give her for her birthday, I thought, “what the heck.” So… Why buy when you can make, right? I got the stuff to make it (and I bought extras since my luck was crap all day Sunday.) But when I got home… Success on my first try. My first filigree wrapped pendant.

Filigree wrapped pendant

I can put this here since my sister doesn’t read my blog. I’m not bitter.

So, that was my weekend. Hard to believe it’s over all ready. Damn. Tomorrow, it’s back to the grind.

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.