Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Alice and chains

Of all the craft that I see on folksy , the work that for me comes really high up on the "wow" scale is that produced by the yarn crafters. I have absolute admiration for anyone who can take a strand of yarn and turn it into something so beautiful. Folksy is awash with beautiful gentle shawls, funky modern knits, purses, handbags, toys... the list is endless. So much skill and time goes into these pieces - and I love the fact that in almost all cases, something functional is also a work of art.

I have been unsuccessfully trying to learn to crochet for quite some time. I can just about manage a granny square, but anything more than that is beyond me. My wrists complain after a few stitches, I get tangled up in wool and I can't get the tension right at all. With crochet, I have met my match.

I wasn't going to show you my latest disaster because as I was experimenting with this OH walked past and asked me why I was knitting a strand of seaweed. When I got up the following morning he'd pinned a paper fish on it. I came to the conclusion a while ago that following a pattern takes more skill than I have and as everything I crochet looks like Medusa on a bad snake day, I might as well embrace it. So I have a ball of acrylic yarn and a 4.5 mm hook.

This is my seaweed strand. I made a long foundation chain (I honestly can't remember how long it was) then I looped it back and put a single stitch into each loop. Occassionally, I chained off another short random length and looped it back to make the branches. I also occassionally skipped a stich and added a single chain here and there to make some little bumps and so it wasn't as regular as it should be. I want it to look like a thorny creeper and they aren't renowned for being straight and smooth.

I've added some details in a second colour of yarn, again in an irregular fashion. I've twisted and turned the stand so I can pick up stitches from all sorts of parts of the strand, occassionally chaining over the top to change sides.

These are felt leaves, I've just cut them out freehand from a felt sheet. The green thread is from a box of random old haberdashery supplies I found ages ago.

I'm just going to stitch the leaves onto the ends of the chains and add some details with the thread.

I made these ages ago and they have been sitting in my craft box ever since. When I mean ages, I mean over three years.

If I link my two ends together, I can sew one of the roses onto the join.

And this is the final product.

I'm not sure I'll ever have the courage to wear it as it's quite in-your-face as far as alternative jewellery goes, but it was a fun experiment.

Thursday, 22 July 2010

Deus ex machina

I had a little bit of extra resin left over from my last project, so I thought I'd do more of the same and cast another small object rather than throw it away. The photos for this make were taken at the same time as the ones for the heart pendant, so I apologise in advance if you get an odd sense of deja vu; I promise I'll try something other than a miniture version of scrapheap challenge soon!

The resin moulds I acquired ages ago haven't acually had a great deal of use other than for my first little resin attempt (the one with the angry piranhas), so I thought it might be nice to give them another shot with some of the spare bits. I want to make a keyring out of the finished piece, so I'm just dropping some of the watch parts into the bottom of the shape.

I've chosen a selection of cogs here, rather than the random parts I used in the last pendant. I really like these cogs - I was toying with the idea of making them into a bracelet but they are a teeny weeny bit sharp for that. Actually, that's an understatement. I could arm an entire legion of micro ninjas with them.

I want them to settle in the centre of the heart rather than be evenly dispersed as I think the curvature of the cogs goes well with the curvature of the pendant and I like the slightly disorted effect. This also means I don't have to layer up resin to get them in the middle.

Filling with pre-mixed liquid stress and leaving it to set. It did come out of the mould eventually - I left it 36 hrs before I touched it. I forgot to coat the inside of the mould this time, so I consider myself lucky that it came free.

Sanding off the back... I'm using a tiny toothed wheel here - not sure what it's called, but it seems to bite well into the resin and allows me to shear off the slightly raised edges you get as the resin shrinks slightly when it dries.

Drilling a hole to take the findings - this is just a 1 mm diameter drill bit; but it's wide enough for the jump rings I use normally.

and adding the clip, connected in with a couple of jump rings...

All done.

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Going Postal

I do occassionally redeliver letters to the right address on my way to work; but now I'm getting doorstepped parcels. Three in a week. One left with a neighbour, but the other two left wedged under the door knocker; so suspended 2/3 of the way up on the front door of the flat. Once again, I'm told that such complaints are taken very seriously - and that they handle a large volume of mail, such incidents make up a very small proportion of the total mail handling capacity. Well, thank you. That makes me so relived to know I'm taking one for the team in being the constant crappy outlier in your vast data set.

However, I did get back in one day last week to find a lovely package on my door mat. The nice thing about ordering art supplies is that, for someone like me who works in miniture most of the time, they are small. Small fits through the gap in door most of the time - sometimes not it seems; but that's a whole different rant.

I have these, which was pretty impressive given I only ordered them a few days ago. Since my last resin project, I've been looking for receptacles like these for ages.

As much as I like the resin moulds from the evil PMC website (more of that to come later once the burns heal), sanding things is one of my least favorite jobs, so anything I can do to avoid that is a good thing. In addition, one of the things I worry about with steampunk art is how sharp it can be. I lose count of the number of times I've inserted small cogs under my fingernails or into my top layer of skin by accident. If I ever got abducted by aliens, they'd think I was manufactured in Switzerland.

I spend hours painstakingly flatting parts so they are smooth and sanding off rough edges, coating things in varnish and adding backs so they don't catch on things. So that's another reason these sorts of settings, little glass vials and tiny boxes appeal. They help stop the sharpness.

This is crystal resin; I've had it ages and the packet basically consist of two bottles of stuff that will remove the top layer of your skin. They get mixed two parts resin (big bottle) with one parts hardener (little bottle) to create a mixture that also burns.

It's been a while since I last got the resin out, but this time I'm armed with some graduated plastic dropping pipettes and a set of disposable shot glasses; which hopefully should make the combining part a little bit easier.

I can spend ages fiddling about with cogs and bits, so I've just selected out some parts that will fit into my setting.

Just before I start arranging things, I'm going to add a little bit of resin intothe bottom of the setting - this really is to stop things sliding about as I place them and also to make sure that there isn't any air bubbles underneath the cogs.

Staring to place objects...

adding more resin to cover them..

Resin doesn't dry that fast, so after 24 hours, it was solid enough to handle without it dribbling liquid burn juice all over my fingers.

And that's it. I will probably hang this on a black or scarlet ribbon rather than a chain, as it sort of fits in a bit more with the V&A meets Rocky Horror theme of these sorts of pieces. Only another two kilos of watch parts to go if you have any ideas!

Friday, 9 July 2010

The best laid plans of sugarmice

I have been trying to be good and take lunch to work each day rather than defaulting to the sandwich shop or just eating crisps. Sadly, as I couldn't organise an alcohol fuelled party in beer production facility at the moment, these plans have gone a bit astray.

Take today. I packed: three bananas, a can of coke and a box of noodles with stir fried veg and tofu (leftovers from last night). By the time I'd got to work, the box had split, stuff had gone everywhere, the bananas looked like someone had stamped on them and the internal pressure of the can of coke could have razed an atoll in the Pacific. So it was falafel and houmous on olive ciabatta *again*.

Well, I managed to salvage my bag - which is currently in the wash, none of the papers were that important and my cheque book is drying nicely on my desk fan and fluttering about like - well - chequebook shaped bunting soaked in chilli sauce.

I now have these bananas, which I can't eat as they are brown. I only eat bananas when they are green. Green = good. These are not good. Bananas amaze me. I hit traffic lights on my way to work that change colour more slowly than these things. I am assuming they do it to protect themselves from their natural predators.

The don't look that bad once they are all peeled and chopped up though. I was pretty sure they'd be damaged on the inside after all the trauma they've been through.

8 oz of soft margarine, 7 oz of sugar - beaten lightly until sort of homogenous. Not too much, don't have time for all that Delia stuff.

Four eggs.

8 oz of self raising flour, 1 tsp of cinnamon, 1 oz of dark sugar, 1.5 oz of porridge oats, tsp of baking powder.

Add chopped, and somewhat traumatised, bananas.

Muffin cases - this mix makes about 18; fill about 2/3 full and shove into the oven at 180 degrees for about twenty minutes.

Look a bit like this when they are done...

I don't frost these, but a little bit of grated chocolate works fine as a topping

Mmmm... warm damaged banana muffins :)

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Beside you in time

I was thinking yesterday exactly where my time goes and realised that half (well, most) of my problem is that I absorb things. If you look at my project set at work, I currently have some extra data sets from an old colleague whom I still work with off and on, a data set I picked up from my boss as he had needed another pair of hands, a synthesis for somebody upstairs and a seventeen step synthesis for someone in my group. This is on top of my normal day-to-day work, which at the moment involves growing viruses, messing about with things I know nothing about and trying to write the usual pile of crappy reports.

My work life balance toppled over a long time ago and I never managed to stand it back up again.

So the theme of this make therefore is time. I adore steampunk style things for so many reasons; the intricate parts of machinary put on display as art and the fact it's a testament to the power of upcycling.

I do quite a bit of this style of artwork for my own personal amusement but don't list it for sale as my own shop is full of tiny kawaii sugary things. This amuses most people that know me, as I actually lean more to the gothic side of art and fashion myself and what I make to sell doesn't suit me at all. Black suits me; frills do not. I'm not exactly the anti-kawaiist when it comes to my wardrobe, but I'm close.

I have these after a late night last minute caffeine fuellled ebay snipe. They used to be watches and they aren't any more.

I've made vial necklaces before on this blog, but I think they would work very well to use up some of the tiny watch parts I can't really solder to larger things without injuring myself; so this make is a bit of a repeat of the previous one with the plastic fish. I do apologise for my lack of orginality at the moment, I don't have as much time as I'd like thanks to a long running and very dull experiment which has been feeding on my life force and pile of paperwork so large mountain goats have colonised the top.

I'm using another of the little round glass vials - mainly because they look like lightbulbs and that fits with the industrial look.

Adding small watch parts to the vial.

I like these little clear glass pellets, so I'm going to add a few of them in too. Once they are underneath the oil you can't actually see them, so they give the impression that some of the watch parts are suspended in the middle of the vial rather than are stuck at the bottom.

Filling the vial with oil, capping and gluing shut gives me this; I've added another large cog on a jump ring too and connected it to a fine silver chain.

Now I have time, literally :)

Sunday, 4 July 2010

Running with scissors

I have sort of long hair. When I say "sort of long" I sort of mean that it used to be longer than it is now but it's still not as short as it has been in the past. I'm a bit nervous of the hairdresser - she is very nice and very very good, but she does put blades up against my neck and that makes me uneasy.

Anyway, I was going to have it cut really short again as it's warm but decided to leave it a little bit longer at the last minute. The problem now is is that it's too short to tie back and too long to leave loose. Everytime I try to tie it back, I get bits flapping round my face and they get in the way so it's really annoying. I do a lot of close work, in both art and science and the last thing I want is my hair covered with paint and viruses. So I need an alice band. I have some metal ones which I wear from time to time, but they don't fit all that well and I want something softer that wouldn't be a means of upsetting a phrenologist.

I haven't worn an alice band since I was at school. It doesn't bring back good memories. I wandered into town earlier today and couldn't bring stay for a long time in any shops that would sell them; on account of being twice the age of most of the clientelle. It was like standing in the crowd in an Alphabeat gig all over again - that's a different story and one day my therapist will let me talk about it.

I've been wondering what to do with this stuff for for a while.

It found it's way back in my suitcase after a trip to the Far East. This, I can promise, is the worst place on Earth to put someone with an addiction to ribbons; and is one of many travel related reasons my flat is full of junk.

A length of thick ribbon and a short bit of elastic.

I admit, it would probably be easier to hand sew this, but my fingers are really sore at the moment because I've been typing so much, so I got the machine out. Ribbon, plus elastic = cursing.

The ribbon is wider, so I folded it in to make it a bit tidier. It doesn't want to hem - at least not with this needle, so I've just sewed it over several times to stop it fraying.

All done. It's like to 80's all over again. Wicked.