Wednesday, November 25, 2009

By the way

if you are wondering how some of the Prismacolor turned out ... here's some recent pictures, plus some more chain maille. Happy Thanksgiving, people! Remember all the things you are thankful for ... not just today, or tomorrow, but every day. We all have *so* much that I think we don't even think of.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Post-Show Musings

My friend Julia (Art of the Firebird) and I were at the Down the Street Bead Show this past weekend. The people were wonderful, as always; it is lots of fun to chat with returning customers, new ones, and of course other vendors. I'm always so thankful for the people who stop by and look, and talk, whether they buy or not! This year our friend Tara Roberts had made a pile of fleece hats with animal ears--everything from pert cats to long dangly rabbit and sheep ears--and several of us bought them. Julia and I each had one, and they were a conversation piece (AND were warm!). If you are on Facebook, Tara's husband John posted pictures of the show, including a picture of Tara in her bunny hat and other lampworkers in theirs.

In terms of money,the show was disappointing. Sales were slow across the show, and there was one four-hour block where we made only one sale. I was very thankful that at my faculty meeting on Friday I brought out my "box of sin" and was cleaned out of all my Prismacolor pieces! The other area of disappointment was Cobb Galleria's treatment of Miss Daisy, our favorite food vendor, who was ejected by the Cobb Galleria management. Audrey was very unhappy at that, as Daisy doesn't make much on these shows yet can't store the finished food--everything is seriously fresh, which is what makes it so yummy. So she bought Daisy out and then shared with all of us. Wouldn't take a penny, either. I hope that Cobb lets Miss Daisy back in next show; she's a lot of fun (and her chocolate is to die for!).

However, the slow pace of the show meant that I could finally sit down and figure out chain maille, which I have enjoyed ever since seeing Julia's absolutely gorgeous work. When I say "figure out chain maille," I am not implying that you can sit down and be an expert. What I figured out was how to hold my pliers, work, and rings while only spilling the rings seriously once. I still shed rings all over the floor (which I had to pick up ... and pick up ...) I started with a simple box chain, but I tarted it up with square wire. As a box chain is rather rectangular and, well, boxy, I thought I would see what happened when I used square wire. Lo and behold, it was elegant! I need to dig it out of the show box and take a picture of it.

Julia was working on a barrel chain with anodized niobium wire, and I really liked the look of the resulting bracelet. There's a trick to barrel chain! I hunted around on the web and found instructions to a barrel chain with a single inner ring, elegantly named Rhinos Snorting Drano. No, really. Who makes up these names? Anyway, RSD looked quite good in copper square wire, and was incredibly easy to construct. I like easy! I then tried half-Persian 3-1, but either my rings are too small, or the square doesn't work. I can see *how* to do it, but can't make the blasted things go. Will try again with larger rings.

So then I returned to the barrel chain, this time doing a real barrel chain. I added bright blue lampwork beads, with copper bead caps, and really liked the result.
I have the earrings made, too, but no picture. I really like the way this weave is soft in a round wire and is almost engineering-steampunk in the square wire. It makes a nice contrast with the soft blue of the beads.

One other thing about a slow show is that one gets to talk to other vendors, and in general, the vendors at the DTS shows are very generous with time and information. I got some more tips on the Prismacolour-on-copper process, and shared how I made my copper displays. , All in all, it was tiring--but a good time was had by all.

Now on to Christmas!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Adventures in Prismacolor and Copper

Everything happened this month! My Subaru died an untimely but very spectacular death, I caught the (NOT swine) flu, I had unexpected administrative work to do at my university, and I was teaching overloads. Until this Monday I hadn't turned on my torch since the last time I updated!

I did try to fit some interesting things into the cracks and corners of time, and one of them was playing with Prismacolour markers on copper metal. The pieces aren't finished, but here's the fun I have been having. These pictures are from different projects that I have going all at once, not from one project start-to-finish.

I started with raw copper, either annealed, as in the first picture, or plain. Then I roughed up the surface with 220, 180, and 60-grit sandpaper to make the patina stick. The rougher the surface, the better. Afterwards, I pickled the annealed copper to remove firescale, and then thoroughly washed the copper pieces. Oil from your hands on the copper will prevent the patina from adhering to the metal. It needs to be fairly well bonded to the metal, unless you want copper showing through on your design.

Once your piece is clean, you can patina it. There are lots of formulae on the web that work faster or slower, so pick your poison and be *careful* handling it! My first time I used a commercial patinaing formula that I picked up at Binder's art supply. You can get a similar formula from JAX chemicals. I laid some of it on too thickly and didn't make my copper rough enough in others, so when I worked with the patinaed piece I had to be careful and use a very light touch--and incorporate the places where the bare copper showed through as part of my design. The next time I used the slower method of salt and ammonia, which produced a more durable finish. Some people on the net have suggested urine, which does have ammonia in it. While it may have been an acceptable laundry bleach substitute in Ancient Rome, and Lindsey Davis describes her character, Marcus Didius Falco, giving his landlady (the laundress Lenia) the ... umm ... results of his day's intake of fluids, I really don't want to use pee on anything I make, wear, or sell. Given the sheer amount of liquid my current foster dog, Gator, produces, it would be a cheap patina ... but no. Just no. Thank you.

I also made the mistake of sanding a larger piece of copper, putting a patina on it, and then sawing or snipping out my final shapes. Bad move, because even a strongly bonded patina can be delicate at this stage. My reasoning had been to make sanding and patinaing more efficient. However, next time I will sand a larger piece, then cut, drill, and file my final shapes, and then add patina.

Anyway, next comes the fun part! You guessed it--COLOR! I bought a few Prismacolor pencils in bright cheerful neon colours, and began laying them on the patina with a very light touch. Then I swabbed each piece with a bit of turpentine and let it dry. Next came -- you guessed it -- more colour, and so on until I was happy with the result or the copper would not take any more colour. I baked the pieces for about ten minutes in my oven (I want a dedicated toaster oven!) to melt the Prismacolour wax; the turps will not catch fire at 275 degrees. Then I sprayed the pieces with a lacquer. People have recommended Krylon for its short drying time, and I see why -- the stuff I had around the house took an age to dry! It wasn't an issue because I was fitting in these steps into the "cracks" of my day, but now that I have more time it is going to be a PITA to wait. Krylon, here I come!

If I liked the colour at that stage, I stopped there. If not, I sanded each piece with 0000 grit steel wool, very lightly, and did another set of Prismacolour and turps rounds, followed by another fast bake and another spray of lacquer, and so on until I was satisfied. Once I liked the colour, or knew that the piece was as good as it was going to get, I finished up with a spray of lacquer followed by a thin layer of that wonderful magical substance, Renaissance Wax. Then, you guessed it, I baked it for 10 minutes.

Finally, I used 0000 grit steel wool to sand each piece again, and buffed and polished it. With this lot I still have drilling and assembly to do, as you can see in the final picture (above). However, the next time I go through the process I will have pre-drilled, and all I will need to do is some final forming, if needed, and assembly. I want to add small lampwork beads to these pieces!

Metal and colored pencils and chemicals, oh my! How much more fun could there be? If you try this, by the way (speaking of fun) make sure you work outside or in a well-ventilated area. Turps and Renaissance Wax have noxious vapours, and filing / sanding metal isn't particularly healthy for the respiratory system.