Saturday, April 20, 2013

Jack of All Trades, Finisher of None

Oh dear, I haven't posted in a while for two main reasons: 1. I don't real have any readers so each post makes me feel increasingly like a crazy lazy talking to herself, or maybe a little more like my dad who talks to himself while he does things explaining, to himself, each step he's taking and 2. I have been in the middle of about a bazillion different projects (ok, maybe less, let's say more than 5 less than 10?) and have yet to really finish any of them (hence another ever so creative post title) and I tend to feel like posting about my finished projects. So, instead of a tutorial explaining a project I just did, I'll share with my many many readers the many many activities I find myself in the midst of.

And here they are:
  1. A plastic spoon wreath for my mom to celebrate spring (or summer at the rate I'm going).
    Normally I don't like to read other people's tutorials on complete projects because I like to get inspiration and come up with a project on my own. I feel as if following someone else's instructions on his or her idea from start to finish is kind of cheating at worst, unoriginal at best. But I did see someone's spoon mirror and thought, well isn't that just lovely, and my mom just loves lovely things so I thought since I am her lovely loving daughter I would make my lovely loving mom whom I love a lovely thing because she does so much for me since she loves me and I am lovely… ok, enough of that, I truly apologize. Anyway, she loves green and she loves, oh, sorry, she likes green and flowers, especially peonies, which the spoon mirror I originally saw kind of resembled (although the author of the tutorial likened them to chrysanthemums) and put the two together to make a wreath for the front door with different shades of green in a sort of ombre effect. To add my own little twist, I thought I'd melt and bend some spoon "petals" combined with melted and shaped plastic forks to make little flowers to sprinkle here and there amongst the green spoons. Usually this is a project I'd bang out in a matter of a day or two, but since I have to spray paint the spoons, which requires daylight and going outside, and I am a major night owl, it is taking me a lot more time to actually go out and spray the spoons and create at least 6 different shades of green. But I am determined to get up at a decent hour this weekend and paint the 150+ spoons I just spent the night before cutting from their handles.
  2. Yet another spoon related project. I finally finished my heart/peace dove/bent handle pendant from a vintage silver plated spoon I found at an antique shop, but while perusing the vintage
    Chicago Spoon won on Ebay
    spoons on ebay I found a Chicago-themed spoon and came up with the brilliant idea of cutting out the 6-pointed star found on the Chicago flag (I know, I know, I am obsessed with Chicago and its flag) and make a pendant in the same vein as the first one. I have only just received the spoon in the mail so that's my excuse for having done little to nothing with this particular project. This one may be easier than I'd initially thought, however, since I just found the tungsten carbide cutter for my Dremel that makes quick work of cutting out chunks of metal, but it also means I have no spoon innards to save for making a little charm to hang off of the pendant. Oh, the sacrifices we make in the name of art… of convenience…
  3. Several other utensil-related projects, which I will lump into one project together. This includes a couple fork pendant. One of the fork pieces will be an attempt to solder the poor little cocktail fork I snapped in 2 back into 1 so I can bend it into a heart-like shape. I do love making things into hearts… Most of the other involved banging the utensils with a hammer on my vice, which means yet again I have to get out of bed during the waking hours of the rest of my family so that my dad doesn't have to come downstairs at 4 in the morning to remind me how much noise I am making… whoops.
  4. Yet another heart pendant with a pair of scissors, a spool of thread and a needle all made with mixed sheet metals and wire on top of a pink heart made from, you guessed it, shrink plastic!
    "I Heart Crafting" Pendant, finally finished!
    This one is actually almost done, but I'll put it on this list since it's been on the docket of "things to finish" for a while too. As usual, it was the steps that required daylight that held this project back. I wanted to make each half of a scissors out of different metals and assemble it almost like a real pair so I needed to drill a hole into the metals and then into the heart to assemble the whole thing together; then I used the tungsten carbide cutter on the Dremel to cut out the handles (with a heart in one of them) to finish the look. This time neither cold connections (rivets, eyelets, etc) nor soldering could connect all the pieces so I resorted to glue (which I try to avoid) to assemble the pendant and it turned out looking pretty cute, if I do say so myself. I used something called E6000, available just about everywhere, for sticking the metal/wire spool and shrink plastic measuring tape onto the background heart, which worked out nicely. The only part I'm not thrilled about is the super glue I had to use to glue the needle onto part of the scissors definitely showed on either side of the needle where it smeared and it's pretty noticeable, in my opinion at least, but I tend to notice everything about my own pieces, especially flaws, so who know what it looks like to other people. This pendant holds a special little place in my heart (he he) for some reason, maybe because it's so cute, maybe because it feels so idiosyncratic of my own obsessions, or maybe, just maybe, it's because it's a pink heart. Stick a Chicago flag or a red 6-pointed star somewhere on there and it would never leave my own site. Which leads to the next unfinished project…
  5. Chicago flag earrings… made from shrink plastic… and involved fusing shrink plastic… I'm sorry, I really am, but these certain obsessions keeping creeping back into my crafting repertoire. These are most likely going to be gifted to a friend, but I have another version of these that I'm hoping someone might actually buy from my Etsy shop. The finished-ish pair is the Chicago flag, except one of the stars is replaced with a heart (I know, I know, it's adorable if that helps my case any) with an enlarged 6-pointed, red star hanging below the flag from the ear wire. That version is finished and probably on its way to a friend in the near future. The version for sale has the same flag, but instead of the additional star I made a grayscale "charm" of the Picasso sculpture in the Daley Plaza that will hang alongside the flag, but the Picasso is bigger than the flag. I normally don't like even numbers, especially when a piece only has 2 components so I will definitely be adding at least 1 more aspect to these earrings. Perhaps I'll keep the enlarged missing stars from the flag, or think of something else, or both options, who knows. I am experiencing a bit go creator's block with this piece at the time being. Maybe a hot dog charm can join the flag and the Picasso? Hmmm… I kind of like that, although I won't be able to decorate it the way I eat 'em since I love lots of ketchup, yes,, ketchup on my Chicago dog! Blasphemy, I know, so for the sake of my reputation as a lover of all things Chicago, this dog will get mustard and maybe some nuclear green relish.
  6. Yet another pair of gift earrings I am attempting to finish for a friend holds the place of project #6 I hope to finish. Since I finally got a fused Shrinky Dink fish tank pendant/charm that satisfied my demands, I thought I'd make it into a necklace for a good friend with whom I've kind of lost contact with and wanted to remind her I still treasure our friendship (cue: awww), but the necklace itself feels a bit anemic so I wanted to make earrings to go with it. They have two enlarged goldfish like the ones in the tank, with separate air bubbles and a tank plant that will hang on separate wires to add al title interest. I'm almost done with these, as well, and once I am I'll take some pics and post them here along with pics of the other projects as they (slowly) near completion.
  7. This project is of utmost importance: I need to collect 4 pieces to submit for jurying at Oak Park
    Where it all started: Chicao Wallet
    Women's Exchange along with my application to join the collective. They are a little shop in Oak Park that feature only handmade goods from their members, ranging from stained glass to jewelry to embroidery and all sorts of other great stuff. Once accepted, members only pay a yearly due and have to work 8 hours per month at the shop. For that, they get to sell their pieces in the store at only 15-20% commission (which is an amazing rate if you didn't know), a free booth at a huge  craft fair in the fall, wholesale prices on  supplies, along with a couple other perks. This sounds like it's right up my alley, since I seem to be awful at selling stuff online and "networking" through twitter, Facebook, blogs, Etsy, etc. and very much prefer having a chance to interact with a customer and let them not only see, but feel my pieces. I need to pick the 4 lucky pieces to represent myself. Problem is, they can't be up for sale on Etsy since I need to ship those right away in case they sell (not a huge concern, obviously, but you never know). So far I've decided on: a Chicago wallet since they show my sewing skills and personal style (and I have like, 7, so it's no big deal if someone buys one online): a pair of jellyfish earrings that also show my style and use of different materials; instead I was going to use a bird and nest pin set, but they both sold (yay!) so I may use the hair piece I made in the same vein recently, which shows my skills with metal along with style and unique point of view; and lastly my spoon pendant, which also shows my skills with metals and unique way of working with materials (I also intend on keeping it for myself so I don't have to worry about a sale on Etsy). This is my list so far and I probably won't end up changing it anyway, but they jury only once a month on the last Tuesday, which is a week from this coming Tuesday, so I need to get to it so I can start getting truly involved with other artisans and possibly start selling more.

Well, I can actually think of a couple other projects I am working on, but I've already bored you to tears with a wall of text with nothing other than the ramblings of someone with too much time on her hands and too few people to talk about her projects with. If you're curious about any projects and would like a tutorial or want to see pictures of anything I've talked about, please let me know, I'd be more than happy (read: desperate) to share even more with you

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Heavy Metal Poisoning

1st project after getting back into metals
As of late I've gotten my hands back onto metals and it feels sooo good. Years ago, I had taken a jewelry/into to metals, semester-long class, which I loved and had wanted to take for a very long time. Since it all involved saws and torches and crucibles with molten metals, I had kind of cast the idea of working with metals on my own out of my mind until I was a world-famous fashion designer and have my own studio, so, you know, I'd have to wait a year or two. Then I got an opportunity to take another metals class in college, but realized upon reading the syllabus that the class was identical to the one I'd already taken. I mean, identical; I wasn't going to learn a single new thing, but it would take up a good 20 studios hours a week on top of the lab hours way across campus when I didn't have a car and had recently started experiencing health issues that severely limited my physical abilities. Add to that the fact that it had nothing to do with my major or graduating and was taking the class "for fun" (which I discovered doesn't really exist in college classes when you're scrambling to make up relevant hours so you don't end up as that 27-year-old sophomore who crashes frat parties during rush week and hits on the freshman boys who probably aren't even legal, but maybe I could get away with that since I'm asian and already look 10 years younger than I am already and… oh, sorry, I digress…). Long story short, I had once again abandoned the medium I once declared my love to. Well, as I stroll around Michael's a couple weeks ago while trying to sneak as many craft supplies and beads into my cart so my mom will pay for them I stumble upon some sheet metals, metal shears, eyelets, dapping blocks, etc. and realize that perhaps working with metals is once again within my reach! Granted, I couldn't sneakwith my that much without my mom realizing so I shelled out a chunk of change I had saved from Christmas (yes, I'm a 12-yet-old, I get it) plus that gift card I'd been trying with all my might to save and went home giddy as a little school girl.
My Evolving Jewelry "Lab"

Forget marijuana, beads are the real gateway drug. You start out with some string and pony beads, which leads to the more expensive wire and crimp beads, which leads to svarovski crystals and pendants and before you know it you're blowing every last cent on a new soldering kit, butane gas, a jeweler's saw and files, the whole shebang. If my mom every gets tired of my terrible spending habitsthat would be! Anyway, the point is, I have invested further and further into this hobby turned addiction, but I couldn't be happier. As I said in my previous post, the soldering has been put on the back burner (ha ha ha) for a little while until I feel I have watched a sufficient amount of videos and read enough tutorials to be confident my house won't be going up in flames. Ok, it may not be all that dramatic, but even though I've soldered before with a fuel system much more dangerous than the equivalent of a creme brûlée flamer I'm still hesitant to jump into it like I normally do. Well, lucky for me I am in no short supply of projects that need starting and/or completing, one of which is antique utensil crafting.
I'll have to remind her there are worse drugs of choice, I could have chosen to use diamonds or pure gold! Imagine how expensive

I've seen a plethora of jewelry pieces made from old spoons and forks and have wanted to do it myself for quite a while, but can never find the right utensils to start with. Sure, you can buy them online, but it
can get expensive and I really like to hand-pick my pieces and don't trust the internet for something like this. Needless to say I squealed with joy when I found a bounty of old silver-plate forks and spoons at a local antique shop and got myself a nice handful of interesting and pretty pieces to get started. My first attempt was a little bit of a failure, as I didn't do my due diligence of research on annealing metals and assumed I could just heat up a fork till it glowed and bend it, while hot.

My 1st Casualty
Things I learned:

  1. Annealing is not heating up metals so you can bend them while hot
  2. Annealing is actually heating up metal then quenching it, thereby softening it to bend while cool.
  3. Silverplate should never be annealed in the first place
  4. Last, and most importantly, 1+2+3= one sad broken fork (my favorite one, too)
I had reached a fork in the road (again, ha ha ha): do I once again abandon metals because they're more difficult, I'm not sure what I' doing, and they still scare me a little, or do I buck up, learn from my mistake, and try again (possibly sacrificing another adorable little fork? I decided to take the former option, this time googling "annealing metal" and reading past "heat the metal up until it glows a dull red" and actually realizing it needs to be cooled first and then realizing I didn't need to, nor should I, anneal my utensils. I will attempt to solder the fork back together, but for now I had my eye on my favorite spoon to experiment on (ok, I don't learn from all of my mistakes) . Of course, true to my form, I used this opportunity to buy yet even more equipment. Off to Lowe's I go to get a suction-down vice (my "workbench" top aka the bar in my basement is too thick for a clamp) and stainless steel sheet metal that I ingeniously clamped down to the table top with some big ass clamps then suctioned the vice down. I was then able to hammer and twist my new victim, a lovely little spoon, into the exact shape I wanted. I then drilled into the bowl and sawed a lovely heart out, used the piece of silver to make a tinier heart charm to dangle off of the negative space, and filed down all the edges. All without swearing even once! (yeah, right) I'm starting to really love this necklace, though, so this may become an Etsy casualty and end up around my neck instead. At least this is the first one… although my mom has poached several new pieces already, but she more than deserves it so I can let those slide. I could go on and on about the many metals project I've got going on right now, but I think I'll leave it here for now since this post (and all my others) is long enough.

Signing off,

Sunday, April 7, 2013

New Etsy Shop Name

Hello All,

Lucky you! This post will be short and succinct for once. Just a quick announcement: I have chained my Etsy shop name to Crafty Diabeatles. If you go to the old site name, since I'm sure you've bookmarked my shop under "My Favorite Place to go on the Internet," it will redirect you for 45 days, but the new address is: If you're interested in why, feel free to keep reading.

When I first started the shop, I sold wallets and little mini wallets, which are adorable, of course, but I felt they were more of a craft. As I continued to turn my crafts into a business I added jewelry to the repertoire. Because I am most passionate about making jewelry, I tend to put a lot more blood, sweat, tears, and love into those pieces (not that I don't put everything in me into everything I make) and feel that my artistic talent is most represented in them. Thus, I feel my shop kind of transcends crafts (not that there is anything at all wrong with crafts); I also feel the Crafty is a perfect description of me in more ways than one. And so, bum ba da da: Crafty Diabeatles. Diabeatles is a pseudonym/nickname/alter ego I've used since I was pretty young, combining my love for the Beatles (if you couldn't guess) with the fact that my diabetes has been one of the biggest influences on my life, for good or bad… mostly bad to be honest, but it has shaped who I am more than any other factor I've encountered, other than my daily, perhaps.

Thanks for reading and I hope you return for another rousing post of my artistic exploits!
Diabeatles signing off

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

And last, but not least: Fusing! (yes, I'm still stuck on Shrinky Dinks)

So, my adventure into soldering hasn't quite begun yet like I'd wanted, mostly because I'm in the process of setting up an area where it will be easy and more importantly, safe to solder in. You know, those 2400 ℉ torches kind of scare me (ok, they really scare me even though I've soldered quite a bit with much more powerful torches before) and aren't something you just start "experimenting" with like Shrinky Dinks… which is a perfect transition to today's tutorial on fusing Shrinky Dinks, yay! In this post I mention several different plastics and modes of coloration and attempt to explain the different effects, but after writing this I may add another post solely about what I've found from my personal experiences using different media since I've read many contradicting information on other websites and even the shrink plastic's instructions.

2nd Fishbowl Attempt
Fusing is quite fun and gives yet another dimension to the wonderful medium that is shrink plastic. When you initially shrink a dink at 325-350 ℉, the plastic doesn't get hot enough to actually melt, but when you fuse, you crank up that temp to 450 ℉ and the plastic can melt and fuse several layers of preshrunk plastic together. Here are some instructions for fusing before I show you my results and the tips I would offer from my own experience:

  1. Pre-shrink your pieces. That is, color the plastic, pop it in a 325-350 ℉ oven depending on your plastic (remember, it needs to be baked on cardboard or glass, not metal), watch it shrink, squeal with glee as they get all curly and tiny and magical, take out of oven, let them cool, admire. Make sure to pre-punch any holes you may want if you're going to attach a jump ring for jewelry/accessories. Also, if the holes appear anywhere you're planning on layer plastic, line up the layer pre-shrunk and then punch. I'll use the Chicago flag as an example for these steps (if you ever visit my Etsy shop you'll see I kind of have a thing for Chicago and its flag). I cut out the back piece from matte Poly Shrink plastic and left it blank since it turns white after baking.
    Chicago Flag Close-up
    Then I measured the stripes, cut those out of crystal clear Shrinky Dinks and colored them with permanent marker. I started with a slightly darker blue since I new some of the color fades on the crystal clear plastic as well as when you use markers. Lastly I cut those damned tiny stars out of crystal clear plastic and colored them with marker on both sides so that they would remain truly red and because I knew I'd never be able to tell which side was colored side up or down, which is kind of important, so I hedged my bets and did both side. Then, and remember to do this, I punched the hole for the jump ring with the stripe lined up on the background so that when I fused them I could attach the ring.
  2. Crank up the oven to 450 ℉. Oh, and also disregard my dirty dirty fingernails in the pictures, please. I've been crafting dammit, I don't have time for manicures!
  3. Using a glass dish, arrange the layers of your piece on top of each other as you would like them to appear. For the sake of color preservation, I would suggest putting the bottom layer color side up, then the next layer or two color side down. If you put the bottom layer color side down, it tends to get baked on the dish and pulls off of the shrink plastic and kind of ruins the effect. When you put the next layer/s color side-down, you get a nice glassy look, as well as a higher likelihood that the colors won't get distorted when the plastic starts to melt. Also make sure to line up any holes you plan to use in the future. These might get a tiny bit distorted in the fusing process, but I found as long as you don't really melt those babies, most of the holes I punched stayed pretty true to its original size/shape. With the flag, the bottom layer had to color so no need to worry about that but the stripes I made sure to put color-side down. The stars I kept getting really frustrated with because I'd think I had them color-side down and then think, wait, it looks like color on top, what the hell! Swearing like a sailor ensued as well as hair-pulling (I take Shrinky Dinks very seriously if you couldn't tell), then remembered my genius idea of coloring both sides just to be sure the color was maintained. Actually, to be honest, I just thought, to hell with it and just shoved them in the over. I only remembered this stress-relieving step I'd taken after I fused the piece. But I digress. I had to use my special, super sharp jeweler's tweezers to place star pieces and if you can tell in the fishbowl pictures, those air bubbles are tiny!
  4. Now, very carefully and without breathing slide your dish into the pre-heated oven and set a timer for 10 minutes or so. Depending on your kind of plastic and oven, it may fuse thoroughly in just that amount of time or it could take up to 30 minutes. It also depends on the effect you'd like: do you want to just get the layers stuck to each other and kind of soften the sharper edges of the outside of the piece or do you want to get a really melted and washed out effect like some art glass? Obviously, the longer you leave it in, the more melted and soft the layers become. I left the flag and fish bowl in for only 8 or 9 minutes since the shapes are so small and I didn't want to lose their integrity by being melted too much.
  5. You are done-zo! Aside from allowing it to cool, of course, which will take more time than when you take a piece out after simply shrinking them. If you're trying to make a ring or bracelet and want to shape your piece around a mold or form, this is the time to do it, but be very cautious. You can't just gingerly use your fingertips like when you only shrink them in the 350 ℉ oven. You'll need some tweezers or maybe a couple layers of latex gloves, not that the plastic will be like molten lava or anything, you just want to be careful with your fingers. The good part about this is that you'll have a little more time to actually get the right shape since the plastic is hotter and don't have to rush like I always did to get certain shapes when shrinking your dinks
Alright, that is enough for instructions, now for a couple more pointers when fusing:
  • Mix and match your types of plastic. That is, make one part the frosty/opaque (make sure these are always color side up, as the plastic doesn't become magically translucent or transparent as I had initially thought) with some crystal clear pieces for even more dimensional effect. However, for some reason on my first attempt at fusing I couldn't get my pieces to melt or soften on the edges. That time I had used two layers of the matter Poly Shrink brand plastic, and not the official Shrinky Dink brand, so that may have had something to do with it. I did manage to fuse the pieces into one, but the colors became really dark and muddy and it just looked awful… I may post a picture of what a failure I was or successfully challenged as I'd like to put it. Use the matte/frosty plastic if you want a stronger, opaque color that will hold its shape and gets less melty. The crystal plastic tends to lose some of the strength of its color and shape as it melts better or faster, I'm not sure which, and takes on a glassier effect.
  • If you happen to have a jewelry torch and think, hey, I'll be sooooo clever and just kinda hold the
    Don't even think about it!
    flame closish to the plastic and it'll shrink it faster and then I'll have more control over the effect and it'll be faster and I won't have to heat up my oven to 450 ℉ thus overheating the entire kitchen… not that those thoughts crossed my mind, I'm just saying, in case you happen to think of this… don't. When exposed to direct heat, which upon re-reading the instructions I realize they warn not to do, shrink plastic tends not only to char, it will go up in flames. Since they are shrinky dinks, luckily the piece only made a small bonfire that I easily blew out (it was like my birthday, yay! :/), but still, torches and shrink plastic don't mix.
  • Makers vs. colored pencils. It seems that every tutorial I've perused about shrink plastic says that sharpies and permanent markers work best for coloration, while colored pencils may be used if you don't have markers as long as you sand the plastic first. They also tend to say that permanent ink also keeps its color better than colored pencils, especially when you fuse. Maybe I have a magic oven or my colored pencils are magic wands or my permanent markers (Bic brand Mark-It) are cursed, but I've had the exact opposite experience. Whether I put the piece colored side up
    1st Fishbowl Attempt
    or down, the markers fade and bleed when fused, in fact, they fade and fuse even when just shrinking the plastic. This is especially apparent on the crystal clear Shrinky Dink brand, which is apparently the most difficult of the kinds of plastic to work with, but still, sanding and colored pencils have maintained their integrity far better than markers. But, like with different kinds of plastic, you can use these results to create different effects. In the 2nd fishbowl pendant, I used colored pencils on the fish, the plants, and the gravel, so that they stand out a little more and so the fish keep looking like fish since they are so small while I used markers for the outside border, water line, and water which creates a glassier and clear effect like you're expect from a, well, glass aquarium filled with water. On the 1st attempt using all markers, you can see the fish really washed out and you don't get the idea of fish in a bowl quite so easily, especially from afar. I also baked the bowl for that one color side down and it lost a lot of its color to the pyrex pie dish I baked it in (sorry mom, I'll clean, I swear). In the picture to the left, you can see the edges lost their color in some parts and the pieces on top are much softer than after an initial shrink of a dink. So, the readers digest version:
    • Sanding + colored pencils = stronger, longer lasting colors. Whether baked colored-side up or down, color maintains integrity.
    • Permanent markers + bare plastic = more transparent colors that tend to get a little watered down. If you sandwich the color between layers of plastic then fuse, the color stays a bit better, but still not as vibrant as when initially shrunk.
  • The amount you bake your plastic depends on your oven and type of plastic, but ultimately the effect you want to achieve will warrant the time you bake for. For the fish bowl and Chicago flag, I only baked them for 10 minutes, actually less now that I think about it, because I wanted the flag to actually look like a flag and not a melty failure of a salute to American colors, especially since those stars were so darn tiny. If I'd left that in there any longer those stars would've been blobs. You can see in the picture to the right how tiny the flag ended up after the first round of shrinking. Same with the fish bowl, since those fish were so small with tiny details I only wanted the pieces to be fused and stuck together, not melted. My 1st fish bowl attempt I left
    A flag in the hand is worth 2 in the… wait, never mind
    in for a full 5 minutes and I kind of liked how it all looked so watery and melty, but noticed the concept was slightly lost with such a small piece. Had I made it bigger in scale, I'd leave it in for that same amount of time or longer because you'd still be able to tell what everything was even with the soft edges.