Wednesday 30 March 2016

Through and Through - Rough Image Transfer Adventures

I've been working out various things this past week or so. Refining how to make 'through drilled' or at least, 'through holed' flat tile beads without them having to be unattractively thick. I have got it pretty much sorted.
I bake a thin image trans tile, then press another unbaked blank onto the underneath with a bead pin or similar in between the two layers to provide the stringing hole (once removed, which I do before baking, though afterwards would probably be OK too). The unbaked blank has to be less than the thickness of the bead pin or similar for obvious reasons. The bead is then baked again. This process avoids having to drill a hole through a solid flat bead, which would be a very delicate operation unless the bead was quite thick, which, as I mentioned before would be undesirable.
Not an exact science and not the neatest result in the world, but if I felt it was important enough I could neaten them up more than I choose to. The look suits the general vibe my work has. Kind of artily and enthusiastically rough round the edges, "Rustic". Though that word seems to be less important as a tag according to my etsy stats. . . "tribal" and "boho" get more hits. .
I made smaller versions with the smallest cutter in my set, and made them double sided. It was OK to make them a bit thicker, I thought, as they look quite nice a bit chunky. . .

The image trans technique involves using clear liquid poly clay and a heat gun, and is best done outside or in a well ventilated space. Kato polymer clay, which happens to be the trans liquid I have, has a particular smell that I don't get on with, especially when it burns. . . (oops. .) I'm not going to go into details about the technique as you can probably work out what I did. I like the effect, though I shall take a break from my experimenting with images and do something else for a while as I don't want to risk getting too obsessed and repeating myself.
The images themselves are my own digital creations, this time less geometric repeat pattern orientated and more random organic in nature. 
They still have this old/new conflict going on, which is fun I think. Ancient looking things with non ancient images on them.

I need to leave image trans for a bit and get back to texture based work I think, but finding new approaches and ideas. That will need some thinking about, and some playing with. 
I might list a few more things in my shop and then leave it for a week or so and see what I want to do next. 
I'll keep you posted,
Jon x

Friday 18 March 2016

Instinct and Round Numbers

Well I've been kind of busy this last week or two, making stuff and generally following the proverbial fascination, like I do, but with a specific aim in mind. I wanted to have 300 items available in my Etsy shop. A bit of an arbitrary figure I know, but a nice, round one. And anyway, it's quite useful to have a target. Helps the motivation.
It started off well, in as far as not selling very much, therefore enabling me to build up the numbers can be called starting well. . . Then at the end of Feb, and through the first ten days or so of March I sold a whole bunch of stuff, which was great, but dented my intention to get to 300. (If indeed you can dent an intention. Whatever. You know what I mean.) Undeterred, I plugged away, making stuff and listing it, and eventually, despite people insisting on buying things, I got to 300! I also got to 300 sales at about the same time, so cause for double celebration.

I'm not sure whether having over 300 items makes the shop somewhat hard to find specific items in and hard to navigate generally. A lot of supply shops have more than that but I'm not a bulk supply shop. Oh well, I guess if someone is interested enough they will trawl through the goods until they find what they want. after all, it's all wonderful stuff. . .

As you can see, this fascination following I have been doing has been quite productive. I haven't prevaricated. I have been letting my instinct guide me and just got on with it. 
For instance, I had been meaning to try my tile beads in actual bona fide, proper square metal bezels, to see how they would look, so I bought a few. I had a tile bead or two hanging a round so I sanded the corners off a bit and stuck it in a bezel. Very nice.

But a couple of blank baked poly clay squares caught my eye and I tried another thing I had been meaning to try for a while. Which was using PVA as a resist. So I painted a simple design on the poly clay square with PVA, let it dry, or rather blasted it with a heat gun as I was impatient, and the heat gun was within arms reach, then painted some indigo alcohol ink onto it. Once that had dried, all I needed to do was peel the PVA off. Only it didn't want to peel off. I picked it off with a finger nail and it had worked fine, the simple design was left white. So I put some more PVA on and painted with a different colour, dried it, picked it off and the result was a rather cool, vibrant coloured, kind of abstract expressionist poly clay square. So I sanded the corners a bit, polished it up and stuck it in a bezel. I also grunged up the bezels with Alc ink and gilder's wax etc, as they were a bit boring left blank, and I wanted to make them 'my' bezels. Not everyone's cup of tea but I like it. A lot actually.

Trusting your instinct is a good habit to try to adopt I think, as when it works, it encourages you to have faith in your creative powers. When it doesn't work you can comfort yourself with the thought that you had the courage to step outside your comfort zone, and each time you do, you learn something useful that staying on the well trodden path wouldn't have taught you.
People go on about knowing when to stop, in the creative process. I think the converse is equally important. Knowing when to carry on, when to keep going and find that flash of inspiration that can turn a seeming disaster into a work of art. Learning from your mistakes and then turning them round. Persistence it's called.

So, encouraged by my success at poly clay squares in bezel making, I used up some more tiles I had knocking around, and worked up some more blank squares into interesting abstracts, either by painting as before, or engraving a simple design and scratching and sanding the hell out of it, selectively. It was fun. I have even made them into simple pendants by sticking each of them on a chain and making a simple clasp. I have put them up in my shop, so we shall see what the consensus from potential buyers is on them.
I was going to write about the other stuff I have been making in my journey to my nice round number but that would have meant an unfeasibly long blog post, and a bunch of bored readers. So I shall bore you with it next time.
J x

Friday 4 March 2016

Bead Frenzies and Textures and Tools

As I wander around on my day to day travels, taking the longer, more scenic way to the post office maybe, or on walks round the local bird reserve, or just wherever I happen to be, I am always half looking out for interesting things that might make a good texture on Polymer Clay. I'm sure there are many fellow texture obsessives out there who know just what I am talking about.
It's surprisingly hard to second guess which of the things I pick up will work and which won't, (too big, too small, not detailed enough at the right scale etc.) Some of the things I find look promising but don't deliver when it comes down to it, some are ok but nothing to write home about, but others are really cool and work beautifully. The ones above were pretty nifty. And they just look beautiful anyway. The closer to the minutiae of nature I get, the more wonderful I find it.

The other thing I look out for, though not in the same places, obviously, are tools. There is a secondhand tools stall on our local market that I like to keep an eye on. I have snagged a few useful things really cheap. A pair of parallel motion pliers for about 3 quid for instance. OK, theoretically useful things I mean. I haven't found a use for them yet, but if I wanted to bend several wires of the same width at the same time, for instance, they would be just the job. . .

But the extra small, bent nose pliers below, £2.50, and the fine point round nose pliers £1.00, are very useful. Not sprung handles, but sometimes that is a disadvantage as they can spring open when you accidentally relax your grip for a split second, causing you to drop things. And you know what happens when you drop things don't you? They bounce, and unless you manage to follow their progress with a hawk eye, they vanish, only to be found feet away from where you thought they could ever possibly end up, if they get found at all.

I have to say I do get a kick out of 'finding' things, whether in fields or in secondhand shops, it allows the Universe to smile on you from time to time I think, which is always nice.

 Here are some more texture finds. Bone is always good, with that kind of bubble structure. The middle one is Sugar Beet stalk I think, as that is the only thing grown in that field that could produce something of that size and gnarly-ness. The thing on the right is familiar but I can't remember what plant it was from. Winter is a good time of year to find plant related stuff.

Below are more twigs, rosehips, cedar cone remains, flint and a dried root of something or other from the garden. 
I really need to allocate a special box for my texture finds, as my windowsill is getting stupidly cluttered. . .

I used some of these texture items on some of the beads I made in my latest bead frenzy. A selection of said textured beads are pictured below.

The shape of many of them is due to the ad hoc bead rolling device I have been using, viz - a clear perspex block, which, all things being right with the world, is intended to have a silicon texture sheet stuck to it. Of course, being me I use it for no such thing. . . 
The edges of said block are bevelled or grooved to improve the hand's grip on it or somesuch. This groove is hemispherical in cross section. 
So what I do is kind of push or roll a ball of clay down this groove using a texture implement of some kind to propel it and impart texture at the same time. 
Sometimes I use found bits of nature, as seen above, and sometimes my photopolymer texture sheets. The result is a sort of centrally textured, flat ended, ball shaped bead, which is a shape I really like. Kind of pleasingly 'primitive'. . .
It remains to be seen if anyone else really likes it, as these beads are only lately listed in my etsy shop. I think they look cool all together anyway.
Jon x