Sunday 21 December 2014

Downs and Ups

Downs -
Yesterday was a bit depressing. I got some feedback informing me that I had messed up big time.
A month or two a go I made some 3cm ish size textured and surface messed with disks as a way of showing my groovy textures. I then had a bright idea, they would make really nice buttons. So I drilled a couple of holes and put them on Etsy. Yay, Buttons! They got some likes and some kind soul bought some.

The trouble was, in my haste to get them out there, and with my concentration on what they looked like, I had overlooked an important thing about buttons and about the durability of polymer clay. Buttons have to be pretty strong, and a largish disk of polymer clay at about 2.5mm thick is not going to be strong enough to withstand the stresses that buttons need to withstand.
Sure enough, they broke and the buyer left a fully justified bad review. I of course apologised and offered a full refund including postage. I felt really stupid and guilty. . . Still do. So I have taken all the buttons I was selling off Etsy and will not offer any more for sale until I know that they are up to the task. I'm so annoyed at myself.

Ups -
This morning I sold a necklace! One of my image trans tube beads ones. Don't worry, unlike my buttons, my beads are solid! And the clasp on the necklace has been vigorously tug tested so that shouldn't embarrass me anytime soon. I sincerely hope!

And a local gallery sold two sets of my glass coasters. That cheered me up. I needed a bit of affirmation to counteract the button fiasco.
Well, onwards and upwards is what I say. .
Jon x

Wednesday 17 December 2014

An Experiment. . . .

Glass coasters from my Etsy shop

As you may or may not be aware, I have been making and selling framed tiles and glass coasters of my digital designs for a while now. To do this I use a process known as Dye Sublimation to transfer the
printed images onto the tiles or coasters. This involves using heat and pressure via a special heat press, specially coated tiles etc, and special printer paper and inks.

OK, Dye sublimation likes certain kinds of plastics and I was pretty sure that Polymer clay was likely to take a dye sub image pretty well. 
I decided to experiment as I had my specially set up printer and loads of paper, so I printed out a sheet of small images to mess around with. 
What I decided to do was use a disk of unbaked clay to apply the image to, but put a thin coating of liquid clay onto the image so that it stuck to the image and to the clay. The reason I wanted to stick the image to the clay was that I was intending to use a heat gun to 'bake' the liquid clay and transfer the image to it. If the image wasn't stuck down it would end up getting blown away. (I'm too impatient to bake them in the oven, and I wanted to do one at a time to see the results quicker)

So I tried that. I gave the image about one minute with the heat gun on medium. ( my heat gun has a heat intensity dial, which is very useful - Wickes sell that model ) I was careful not to burn it. The image became visible through the paper quite quickly but I kept heating it just to be sure it had transferred. 
I then wetted the back of the image and rubbed the paper off. You can soak it in a bowl of water if you wish, same difference. The clay disks weren't properly baked so I baked them in the oven for about 15 mins or so to cure the clay. The results were very clean and clear.

More or less un-messed with image transfer disks. Just a bot of Alcohol ink round the rim.
Too clean and clear for me ;-) having established that my method worked I decided to get stuck into some surface treatment on some of them. I tried my usual various combinations of alcohol inks, inca gold and gilder's wax in various colours, sanding it off a bit and then adding more, and so on and so on.
They looked nice, but there was no way of stringing them if I wanted to use them, so I made them into the front layer of some circular hollow beads, using the Claire Maunsell method with different sized cutters. This of course required the whole thing to be baked. . .
The trouble was that baking would melt the gilder's wax and disperse or otherwise mess up the alcohol inks intensity. Oh well, couldn't be helped. They came out solidly baked but a bit muzzy and fuzzy. So I used the same alcohol inks that I was painting the back and sides with to paint round the 'frame' of the front image. The resulting beads looked seriously beat up but cool all the same. Like something dug up from some archaeological site, on another planet. . . Which is fine by me.

But not as beat up as my attempts at transferring black and white images onto already baked clay disks. The image didn't stick to the clay as nicely as with raw clay and kept peeling off in an annoying way. I used some 'heat tape' that I use for dye sub stuff to hold it down but that wasn't always successful. I did the same as the beads above, giving them the surface treatment, then deciding to make them into usable beads by sticking another disk of clay behind them and then baking.

These ones look like they've been dug up from an ancient site, thrown off a cliff and then run over repeatedly by a chieftain tank. I like them though.

Next time I shall do things in the right order, but I shall still go for the messed up look ;-)
I might even do a proper tutorial in due course.
Jon x

Wednesday 10 December 2014

Waste not. . .

Even though polymer clay isn't ever so expensive I still don't like consigning potentially useful bits to the scrap . . . er. . . lump in my case. (What there is of it gets rolled into a multicoloured clump, like the way plasticene always ended up when I was a kid.)
So when I made these hollow beads I posted about before,

I used the squares cut out of the middle of their inner layers, to make these hollow beads,

Then the squares cut out of the middle of those beads' inner layers got made into these non hollow beads.

Only the little scrappy edge bits left over were fed to the 'lump'. . .

What I liked about this whole progression was that only the first part was planned, the rest was a spontaneous reaction to seeing the cut out bits in front of me.
I'm not trying to maintain that this was a major piece of lateral thinking or a unique insight, just the kind of enjoyable creative diversion we all make from time to time. Let's call it 'Play'. . .

I'm sure I read something recently about how useful play is in the creative process, (the Fall edition of Polymer Arts magazine I think) and I can only concur. The imagination and inventiveness involved in play make it a valuable and precious thing. For reasons I can't fathom those attributes are often underestimated and even dismissed, seemingly just because using them can involve fun, and of course anything fun is somehow not 'serious' and therefore not really the domain of adults/professionals/serious practitioners.
Yeah well, I'm happy to leave the serious work to the Grown Ups. I'll keep playing with stuff and see what I can come up with.
You can join in if you like ;-)
Jon x

Monday 8 December 2014

Cheap prints!

I extended my price realism still further - to my Tiles and Coasters shop. I have had abstract prints for sale on there for a fair few months now and though they have accumulated a fair number of faves and views, none have sold.

This is a shame, so, in the spirit of 'realism' referred to earlier, I have knocked the prices down by about 40%. This may result in nothing whatever changing, but at least I will know that it isn't the price that is putting people off buying.
Jon x

Sunday 7 December 2014

Destashing some old stuff and extending my price 'realism' ;-)

On having a look at the first listings I made on my Etsy shop, when I was nought but a green youngster. . . (Well, all right, four months ago. But I was green youngster in terms of selling beads and suchlike.) I realise that I have moved away, (I won't say 'on' as that is not for me to judge), from that stuff somewhat, and that as I don't feel quite so attached to those items I would be quite happy to see them go to a good home for a reduced price. Or possibly a more 'realistic' price, whatever that means.

I've also knocked the prices of some other items down a bit as I feel I would like to see them move on from their Etsy limbo. Plenty of likes, which is nice, but a few more sales would be cool. I'd like them to be out there in the big world, being used and worn and enjoyed ;-)
Not that reducing prices brings sales particularly, the psychology of perceived value being what it is, but it might be an incentive.
So check out my shop and see what you think.
Feel free to comment ;-)
Jon x

Friday 5 December 2014

Black and White

It occurred to me while messing around with my Image transfer stuff, that a simple black and white image might look striking and graphic on a tube bead or two. While pondering this I remembered the images I have been using to make the negatives for my Photopolymer texture sheets, which were conveniently black and white and available. I got some examples printed off at the local copy shop and tried some out.

I thought they came out pretty well. The rounded pattern looked a bit like those African eye beads you see around, but nicely different. I tried some chunkier beads than my usual. I'll try some hollow ones at some point I think, that way they would be lighter.

I still have to work out how they should be presented on a pendant or necklace and what beads they might go with, but I'll mess around until something clicks.

Jon x

Monday 1 December 2014

Image Transfer - more musings

Having been somewhat obsessed with rolling my image mapped bits of clay round tube beads, I decided to change focus for a bit and try using the flat images as just that, flat images. As the designs suggest tiles, and were initially created to echo tile designs in the real world I made what you might call tile beads with them.
I used a technique that Claire Maunsell shared a while back, for making hollow beads using cutters of different sizes, to construct a few square, hollow, double sided tile beads.

Basically, you transfer a couple of images using the water and index finger attrition method described in my previous post, making sure the image is slightly smaller than the larger of your two cutters.Then you cut out a couple of blank squares the same thickness as your image trans squares. Then, taking the smaller cutter, chop out the middle of the two (or more if you want a thicker bead) blank squares. Make sure your image squares are dry and not going to smudge ( I put a coat of Klear floor polish on them ) put the first one face down on your work surface, stack the two blank squares with the centres chopped out on top and finish off with the second image square face up. Gently push together without squashing or distorting.

Make a hole about 3/4 of the way up what will be the vertical side of your bead when strung, on both sides in order to allow string/thong to be threaded through, poke a barbq skewer or suchlike mandrel through the holes to suspend the bead on whatever kind of rack you use when baking, then bake. . .
Being me I had to mess around with them after baking. I painted the sides with alcohol ink and then gently sanded the top and bottom where the ink had encroached onto those surfaces. As they had been varnished and fired the sanding didn't erode the images as long as I was careful, but did take away some of the ink, giving a nice, faux ancient effect.
I'm really pleased with how they turned out and am going to mess around some more with this technique, when I get some time. . .
Jon x