Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Altered Ornament

After the holiday season I bought a big package of shatterproof ornaments on clearance.  This is the first of them to succumb to my devious whims.  During my journey down the rabbit hole of altered bottles, I also saw quite a few ornaments using similar techniques.

Lace and fake flowers seem to be popular along with a mix of found objects. I decided to not get too crazy and limited myself to some small flowers I partially dismantled, buttons, PVA glue mixed with spackle and tatting. I started with a layer of watered down glue and tissue paper and let that dry to get a nice base surface to work on.  Throughout this project I used a banana holder to hang the ornament while drying.  

What's tatting you might ask, well it's lace made by knotting thread. I don't remember how it came to be on my radar. But once I saw it, I decided I was going to learn to do it and then create the most awesome skull design ever. No skulls yet, but I finally have the basics down.

I highly recommend to get started if you have any interest. Also the Tatted Treasures channel on youtube. Very easy instruction to follow and I love the fact that she did a video for Lefties.  It really hurt my brain trying to learn how to flip stitches left-handed while watching right-handed videos.

I've been trying out snowflake patterns. All the ones pictured are variations of the same pattern. White is a good beginning color because it's easy to see the knots and snowflakes are generally easy patterns to follow. I had given one of my better ones to my mother-in-law and when she found out I bought a bunch of cheap ornaments to play with, she inquired if I was going to glue my snowflakes to them. The ones I've made are too big for the ornaments, but it did get the wheels turning.

I attempted to modify a pattern into a design that would wrap around an ornament. Besides my alterations, which didn't really work, I was very distracted that day and made numerous mistakes. I was a little peeved with myself for dorking it up. But then I thought maybe it doesn't have to be perfect. So I glued it on an ornament anyway, covered up the mistakes with flowers and buttons and built up some areas with spackle-glue. I think it turned out alright and now I know what to do with my other tatted practice pieces.

I added some swirly texture with my fingers in the spackle-glue. I think I'll have to play with this technique more in the future.

It was hard to tell how it was going to turn out until I did a base coat. Before that it just looked like a big mess and I thought maybe I was wasting even more time on a doomed project. I painted half of it at a time because I was holding the other half, so I could really push the paint into all the nooks and crannies. There were a lot of little nooks and crannies. It took four tries before I couldn't see a speck of white no matter which I turned it.

Here's a few more shots of the finished project.  My daughter said it would have looked pretty if I hadn't used such dark gloomy colors.  I used a matte black for the base, sponged on gunmetal gray, then dry brushed on silver and added a touch of pearl white for accent.  It is rather dark and gloomy, but dark and gloomy makes me happy.  

I think the bottom looks like a cabbage.

Friday, January 26, 2018

Polymer Skull Cane Version 2.3

Long, long ago in a galaxy far, far away I was messing about with skull polymer canes even though I didn't know the first thing about polymer canes.  If you truly are interested in making a skull cane, I'd advise you to read through my first post.  First, so you don't make any of those mistakes, but also that post covers a lot more information that I won't be repeating here. This time around I righted some of those previous wrongs, unfortunately I found new ways to muck things up.  So here is more advice on what not to do.

It started out simple enough with a disk of white clay. 
That's about 15mm thick, 6cm in diameter.  

Laying the design on the clay I used a pin to poke an outline.

I cut out the design.  The reason behind cutting it across the middle was to make it easy to remove the white and add the black, like I saw done in this Hello Kitty cane video. Also it worked well for me last time. Since than I've come across this skull video, which is pretty nice by the way and doesn't end up wonky like mine.  I like the way she uses a round cutter to remove the eye area.  Now I would need to create a custom cutter to remove the eyes in one piece, but I think making multiple cuts using a small circular cutter along the inside of the dotted line would produce a similar result.

I used my template again to size the black clay for the eyes.

If this was a movie, this would be the freeze frame with the voice-over explaining why it is from this pivotal moment that everything from this point forward goes wrong. 

Somehow the white area between the eyes became very small.  You can see where I added a strip of white to compensate.  That might have been all right had I taken the time to really blend it in.  I should have also taken the time to shape the teeth better.  See how the bottoms curve up? That's only going to get worse. And while I commend myself for remembering to use a matching clay between the teeth, I should have made the wedges thinner.

Here I've added slices of a different cane to create a boarder around the skull.  The biggest problem here is those individual segments are going to move differently against the skull while reducing.  

Here with past and present mistakes side by side you can really see what I'm talking about. [For reference the starting canes on the left are approximately 6cm wide, while the finished beads on the right are about 2cm.]  The cane below I wrapped a mostly continuous band of clay around the skull before adding slices of decorative boarder and the outer edge of the skull stayed fairly smooth.  Whereas above I didn't and the skull is all jagged.  When you reduce a cane the clay is going to push into any available space.  I knew that, and I still didn't comprehend how the end product would be affected. Hopefully I've learned my lesson this time.  

The cane I used for the purple and blue outer layer was based on this "Static" cane on  I learned a few things the hard way with that too.

My first mistake was buying hard clay. The Blue Bottle Tree has an excellent article on buying clay.  I gave it a little test squeeze in the store and convinced myself that it wasn't "that" hard, mostly because I just wanted to get my clay, get home and get started on this project.  I would've been time ahead if I had just tried another store for softer clay. 

No matter how hard I worked it, it wasn't getting the consistency I wanted.  I didn't have any clay softener, so I thought if I used translucent clay instead of white to make my skinner blend that would help which is sort of, but not exactly, following advice again from The Blue Bottle Tree.  That did make the clay more workable and I was able to make the cane, but it didn't move as well as the softer colors when I reduced the cane.  Beads and Beading mentions using clays that are the same consistency and temperature, along with other useful tips for making canes. Many of which I have demonstrated what happens if you don't follow them. You're welcome.

Also after baking there are little pits and cracks in the static cane area. I've never had that happen before, so I suspect the dry purple clay. They are really teeny tiny and not all that noticeable.  The problem is they are scattered all the way through so no amount of sanding with get rid of all of them and that interfered with buffing the beads to a high gloss sheen.

On the subject of skinner blends, they are often done with the help of a pasta machine.  If you're like me and not invested enough to get a pasta machine you can use a simple roller, it just takes more effort. This is a helpful video about making a skinner blend by hand.

Even though my static cane didn't turn out exactly like the original, I think it looked quite lovely around my skull before I reduce the skull cane.  After reducing you can see in the very first picture of this post the beads look really dark, almost black or midnight blue.  Below you can see how sanding and buffing brings out the colors.  That is in the right light, close up. From a distance they still look pretty dark. In fact in that first picture one bead has been sanded and buffed, can you tell which one?Also see how my skull got all twisty.  I keep seeing people roll their canes and think that I can do that.  Well I can't and the minute I roll it, it gets things all twisty and I need to just stop doing that and only squeeze it.  [See my first cane post if this doesn't make any sense.]

If I had a soft purple and used a plain white clay instead of translucent, I think they would have been a bit lighter, but still not like the original post I saw.  I have since learned that not all skinner blends are equal.  This is a very helpful video showing skinner blend comparisons. I made mine similar to the first example in the video, when I believe the last example would have given me more of the result I wanted.

There is one thing that I did this time around that I am very happy with. I made some complimentary beads using the same colors.  Some of them I covered with thin slices of the cane ends.  I also layered thick slices of my purple static cane and the butt ends of the skull cane and tried some Mokume Gane techniques.  I think it's a good way to use up the distorted ends of the canes. 

The only ones that are sanded and buffed are the top three large beads in the very last picture.  It doesn't show well in the pictures, but the colors of the buffed beads are very vibrant and crisp, while the rest are dull and cloudy looking.

Well that's it for mistakes this go around.  I hope you learned as much as I did without all the pain and agony.  Just the pain and agony of trudging through this long post, but hey you made it to the end you should give yourself a cookie!

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Creepy Crawly Adorned Bottles

This is another experimentation into altered bottles.  For these the common component is plastic creepy crawlies.

Both started out with a layer of  mod podged tissue paper.  The paper makes for a nice surface for everything else to cling to.  Then it was just a matter of gluing stuff on and painting them.

Last year while I was putting away Halloween stuff I thought the spiders made a nice design laying side by side. A normal human being would probably just have glued the spiders on by eyeballing it.  I'm am sure that would work just fine. I can be a little particular.  That's why I measured the circumference of the bottle and used graph paper to evenly lay out the spiders.  I pinned cheesecloth over the graph paper and glued the spiders to their proper places.  I let it set for a minute or two. Long enough for the spiders to stay in place, but short enough that I could pull the graph paper off.  Ignore the concentric circles they're for another project.

Gluing the spiders on the cheesecloth worked pretty well.  Once the glue had dried I applied Mod Podge on the bottle and wrapped the spider cheesecloth around it.  I still had to touch up a few legs with glue, but it was much easier with the spiders already in place.  Because the spider bodies were flat they pulled up a little in the rear, so I added a little layer of tissue paper to cover up the gap.  This also gave a little texture to the smooth plastic.  I probably could have used a heat gun to curve the bodies to the jar, but I didn't trust myself not to melt the legs.  After painting I added the rhinestones.

Next up is this centipede jar.  I really fail at photographing metallics, so you'll just have to imagine rich copper tones, champagne gold, antique bronze and just a hint of metallic green.  Beside plastic centipedes, I used cord, rhinestone mesh and lentils as embellishments.