Friday, 31 December 2010

Secret santa - take two

We're doing a secret santa on folksy as well and I've been itching to post this make for ages, but I didn't want to risk my victim finding out it was me - so I decided to wait a little while until we did the reveal.

Swapping is all well and good, but I have a shop full of plastic cupcakes and as much as I enjoy kawaii crafts, I wouldn't actually wear any of it myself as it simply doesn't suit me. I'm always quite mindful of this when swapping as I worry my swap partners wouldn't wear it either as it's quite a niche craft, so I tend to try and go for something a little different if it's a suprise gift.

My secret santa partner from folksy this year is the super-mega talented Tanya from Bluebutton and Bluebuttonbride; who makes, amongst other things the most gorgeous button bouquets. Her work is quite simply stunning and appeals to my love of bright colours, simple shapes and non-fluffy things. I've decided therefore to go for something unfussy and simple and actually make some jewellery for a change. Earrings are out, as I don't know if she has her ears pierced, so it looks like a necklace will be the way forward.

I'm not going to pretend that this is the first attempt I've had with metal clay and I should probably admit I have done a silversmithing course in the past too before I start.

This is 1 mm thick half-hard sterling silver wire, which I've cut into several short lengths. I like half-hard wire as it behaves itself when you are trying to bend it, but isn't too soft to get bent randomly.

This is PMC slip, a suspension of PMC in water. It's like a thick paste and I find it quite nice for painting on things like flowers as you can burn away the core to leave the fine silver metal shape. I rather like it as a medium because of the way that it flows. Most of the time, you'd use it to repair cracks and stick things together, but I find it useful as a material in its own right.

I'm just dipping the ends of my bits of wire into the slip so I get a blob on the end, then allowing it to drip down to form a more organic shape. I want it to look a little like unopened flower buds or snowdrops, so I'm rotating it a little as it dries off so it form almost petal-like ripples. Once the first layer has dried off a little bit, I can repeat the process to build up a bit more slip, then leave it to dry again.

I like to leave it to dry off a little bit before I fire it anyway, so I've just stuck the ends in blu-tack to support it and left it overnight.

I find this stuff actually fires fine on the gas ring of the cooker. Please remember to protect your hands if you want to do this.

Curling the end around a cocktail stick and putting a soft curve into the wires provides me with four little irregular silver buds.

After firing, I can use a polishing wheel and an engraving tool to burr out any remaining bits of crispy matrix and lift off the firing marks. In this case, I've chosen a course polishing wheel and have continued up the wires to texture both the petals and the stems. This serves to smooth out the join between the metal slip and the wire and make the whole piece look a little more continuous. The coarse polishing wheels leave a more intresting textured finish as well rather than a high shine, which I quite like. Working the wheels round the buds allows me to open up some of the waves in the fired slip so the whole thing looks a bit more organic. Fired PMC behaves like the metal of a similar thickness would, so it's quite mallable and amenable to being poked around. I strung the buds onto a slightly oxidised silver snake chain for a bit of contrast.

And finished :) I apologise for the naff lighting again, it's really late!

I packed this up in a black cardboard box, then packed the whole thing into a larger box stuffed with organza and some buttons insted of packing material as I know the recipent would be able to find a use for them (and it would making pre-Christmas guessing hard!).

Thursday, 9 December 2010

Secret santa

We are doing a secret santa at work. We don't normally, mainly because my boss thinks it's a pants idea, but after a lot of persuasion, he agreed. Only I was in Germany when they dished out the names so I only found out about this on Monday. And it has to be done by tomorrow.

I have one of our undergraduate project students - so I can't torture them too much. Actually, I could have but I didn't have time to have a t-shirt printed with "If the North is so great, why are you here?" or "I love Thatcher" - both of which he would have found beyond offensive.

So it's into the craft stash for a quick throw together.

I have this box that I liberated from the recyling at work. It used to have my hot air gun in it.

I had actually attempted to paint it red, but I didn't actually have enough red paint to finish the job properly.

The box also has an insert, which I am going to leave in place though to help hold the contents where I want them.

I've just loosely tucked a piece of tied-dyed cotton over the insert, put it back in the box, then cut an opening in the front of it.

Because the painting didn't work, I've covered it red wrapping paper.

Then cutting through it to reveal the opening I made before wrapping, tucking the loose paper underneath and adding some die-cut lettering.

Fill with an assortment of scary alcoholic things and some sweets, then inserting a piece of clear overhead projector film over the opening gives the final product.

Hopefully it will make him smile tomorrow morning.

Sunday, 28 November 2010

Simple things...

I have been searching for stamps with snowflakes on for a long time (mainly for stamping wedding things, but also for stamping OH's forehead when he's asleep), then I came across these in Muji a couple of weeks back.

It was in fact - one of the highlights of my trip to London - having watched a crazy opera I didn't understand (talking dogs, Soviets and ermm... testicles?) and wandered aimlessly round Camden market looking for a dress.

I did my degree in London (and it wasn't even that long ago) but I remember Camden market being a bit more arty than it is now. I think I must have seen the same t-shirts on fifteen different stalls. Even the goth shops are full of plastic and shoelaces rather than the velvet and ribbons I remember. Noone uses nice fabric anymore.

So I spent a few minutes this afternoon decorating my folksy envelopes, because we don't have snow in Oxford - just coldness. It's a simple thing, but it made me smile.

Especially this one...

because it looks like a virus...

Saturday, 13 November 2010

Build a baby burger

I love Japanese craft kits. These are my latest acquistions from Etsy. The red one is a fast food play dough moulding kit and the blue one is an ice-cream eraser kit, both of which are really quite fun and quite unlike anything you can find easily in the UK. Well, as I'm a bit too old for play dough, I figured that there must be some other use for these really lovely little moulds.

Recently I've been making large quantities of Christmas sugar cookies. The reciepe I use is a fairly simple one - just 100 g of icing sugar to 300 g of plain flour with 200 g of butter rubbed in, cling film the dough and bung it in the fridge for 30min - then baked for 10 min at 180 degrees after shaping.

I like this recipe as the cookies don't spread so they work well with tiny cutters and don't create the "one big sheet of cookie" problem.

I can press some of my cookie dough into the mould - it helps if you put a layer of clingfilm between the dough and the mould so you can flip the finished shape out easily. Burger bottoms...

I can knead a little bit of cocoa powder into some of the dough to colour it...

...and make the patties using the other part of the mould.

Buns, bottoms and patties all ready to bake.

They look a bit dull like this, so I've just coloured some marizipan yellow...

...and made a cheese slice.

Doing the same with green, to make some lettuce.

Building up to give the final product.

You're never too old for play dough!

With thanks to: ThisandthatfromJapan Please check out her store for some really cute fabrics, great books and wonderful craft kits.

Sunday, 31 October 2010

Beware the cookie monster

I have been so tardy, I'm really sorry! Lots has happened since my last post, I went on holiday, I finished the mother of all projects at work and I got engaged. So have been trying to plan a wedding in another country. For Feburary. This coming Feburary. No pressure.

Apparently I need a "certificate of no impediment" in order to get married, which basically just says I'm not realated to my OH or married to some other poor unsuspecting person. Once I have my certificate, I need to take it to Germany so OH can prove I'm not related to him and I'm not married to someone else. Then I can send the whole lot to the authorities in Finland who will do exactly the same thing. It's like one of those computer games, where you can't progress to the next level without collecting all of the relevant magic items. What could possibly go wrong?

Well, when I'm stressed out my default response is to bake cookies. People at work like it when I do this and often joke about spiking my coffee with things to keep me even more awake. But as I'm out of sugar in the kitchen, it looks like they are out of luck this time and it's back to the craft table to keep myself distracted.

In my stash of bezels that Angela kindly supplied me with - I have some square ones that look like this:

I have made a map square using one of my other square ones, but I didn't bother to post the make as there is only so much identical resin work that I can pass off as novel. But the thing itself looks like a teeny tiny baking tray to me.

I have hundreds - literally hundreds of these little silicon moulds which I use for making kawaii sugary things. This one makes a cookie about a cm in diameter.

That's too big for what I want to do with it, but you can use the inside in the same way as you would use a texture mat. Tiny ball of clay first...

... then just press it onto the inside of the mould so it picks up the imprint from the inside.

I can repeat this a couple of times to make some teeny cookies. As long as the clay ball is about the same size, the final product should be too.

I've just used one of my sugarcraft cutters to nip a bite out of one of them.

I've used a small snowflake cutter here as I can't seem to find the lily of the valley one I normally use for bite marks, but anything that leaves a small enough imprint will be fine.

Baked in the oven until done and they are ready to glue onto the bezel. I've used E6000 glue here as it's really strong and will bond things to metal, but any craft glue should be fine as the cookies are so tiny and light.

Cookies on the tray! I've added a few tiny tiny crumbs of brown polyemer clay around the bitten one.

3D fabric paint is great for adding mock icing to things. I like this stuff especially as of all the brands I've tried it dries really fast and leaves a nice non-tacky finish. Icing the cookies...

...adding a little bit of fake sugar. This stuff is actually small shards of plastic, but it looks like sugar sprinkles and sticks neatly in the paint.

And we're all done.

Cookies in the absence of real sugar! I guess I better get back to my paperwork!

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Travel files - Korea

Yet more holiday photos from the last year. Well, I say holiday, I mean work.

One day I will go somewhere that doesn't have a conference attached to one end of it, but at the moment, I'm just enjoying the ride.

Monday, 6 September 2010

The one with the wedding cake

I apologise for the intermittent blog service; I think I've just hit my limit when it comes to emergency baking...

This is a 9 inch single tier wedding cake. I made it last week and then spent the two days trying to get it to absorb as much firewater as it will take. Anyone who's ever made a vodka water melon at short notice will understand.

Then I marzipanned it and iced it. I was going to take photos, but I was so wrapped up in the project I couldn't even take a decent shot at the end. It's iced in ivory fondant, dusted with pearl lustre powder and finished with white royal icing and gold and ivory organza ribbons. The spray is made from sugar stars, sugar hearts, real pearls and gold glass beads held onto white florist wire with jewellery making crimps.

I have developed a new love of pearl lustre powder, it's awesome. It hides everything. Okay, so it makes me look like I've been clubbing with a load of underaged kids, but I can live with being shiny for a couple of days.

I think I need a holiday!

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

The rhythm of my heart

I have been having fantastic fun with these heart shaped bezels and resin, so I thought I'd try out mounting something other than watch parts.

This is an old copy of a depressing piece of choral music that I retrieved from a room being cleared out at work. I'm normally a bit funny about cutting up things like this, but as it damaged beyond repair and destined for the recycling, I don't feel too bad about it.

I can cut out a shape to fit my bezel using a craft knife and trim the edges in so it fits.

One thing I found out the hard way is that resin eats paper. It makes it go transparent. One way of stopping this is to give the piece to be set a quick coat of PVA glue before applying the coat of resin.

In this case, I've left a few spots clear of glue because I want to make the paper look older but I've coated most of the surface. As I don't want to see the bezel underneath, there are actually three paper heart shapes underneath this one, so even when it does go transparent I should see faded ageing paper rather than shiny silver.

These bezels take about 3 mL of resin, so I'm only making up a small volume here.

Applying the resin and resisting the urge to poke it for what seems like an eternity and you get this. The one on the left has three layers of paper and looks much older than the one on the right - which just has one and has been fully sealed.

This screams gothic to me, so I'm just finishing it of with some dark ribbons and a Czech glass bead to add a bit of sparkle.

Huge thank you to Angela for feeding my new found craft obsession! - her Folksy shop A Bead Cornucopia is here, and she has lots of these wonderfully deep settings in different shapes.