Category Archives: I made it

Fused, Slumped, and Pretty Sweet (if I do say so myself)

Hey, kids, I have finally emerged from my drug-induced haze! Hooray!

The post-surgery pain hasn’t left me completely, but it is manageable with just a little Advil here and there,which means I can now spend (most) of my day in an upright and un-looped condition.

To be honest, I don’t remember a whole lot from last Tuesday through about Saturday. It’s all kind of a jumble of painkillers,  blood,  Arrested Development, ice packs, and pudding cups.

While I was convalescing, my husband was kind enough to go and fetch my finished fused glass pieces from the class I took two weeks ago. I was so excited to seem them. (Well, as excited as one could be while biting on a giant gauze pad and randomly passing out.)

They turned out even better than I expected! In fact, I loved them so much that I used one of my few moments of semi-lucidity to get online and start shopping for kilns. Let’s just say that it is a good thing I didn’t have access to my wallet (and it was time for another pain pill) or I probably would have made a very expensive impulse buy. Instead, I passed out.

Crisis averted.

I still desperately want a kiln, but they are far too pricey and would most likely fry the wiring in our old house (we can’t even turn on the microwave and toaster oven at the same time, lest we trip the damn breaker).

Aaaaanyway, I wanted to share how I made these in case anyone else wants to give it a try. I found a pattern online for something similar, but it didn’t really give the best instructions. If you know how to cut glass, this is actually a pretty simple process.

Square Fused/Slumped Dishes

The first thing that I did was cut three 5″ squares of glass to serve as the base (I used an aqua color for two of them and a swirly blue/light blue for the third).

After I had my bases, I started cutting random squares and rectangles out of several different colors of glass (in shades of blue and green). I was advised not to stack the glass pieces more than three high (including the base). So, I arranged the larger squares/rectangles on the bottom and then put a smaller square/rectangle on top (you can see this in the process photo at right).

I continued arranging and fitting the cut pieces together until the entire base was covered. I tried not to leave any large gaps in between pieces, but a little extra space is fine. It is hard to cut pieces that will fit together perfectly.

Then came the fun part (that took me for-freaking-ever to finish). I pushed the top two layers of glass of the base and began cleaning the pieces. You want to use window cleaner and paper towel to get any fingerprints, bits of glass, etc. off.

After each piece was clean and dry, I used a toothpick to apply some hairspray (yep, the instructor gave us each a little cup of hairspray to stick the pieces together) and then put each piece back onto the base in the original arrangement.

Since I don’t have a kiln (yet…heh, heh), the instructor took the pieces with her to fire in her kiln. I am told that the process involved firing each piece until it fully fused and then firing each one a second time in mold (this process is called slumping). This second firing is what gives the dishes their raised sides. Otherwise, they would have just been flat squares.

The whole process is fairly easy if you have glass-cutting experience. Even if you don’t, it is all a series of straight cuts, so very beginner friendly.

Here are a few more photos of the finished pieces…

photos : fused glass dishes by yours truly

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A Little Something Different

When my muse left me and  I was in the deepest throes of unspiration, I signed up for a one-night open studio fused glass class at Harford Community College, where a friend of mine works. The price was unbeatable, and it turned out to be a great introduction to a medium that I was not terribly familiar with.

My experience with glass never really moved beyond a brief attempt at mosaic work in my early 20s, when I lived a stone’s throw away from one of the largest art glass suppliers in the country. It mostly involved me making a mess and leaving glass shards embedded deep in the carpet fibers for future tenants of our apartment to discover at a later date.

Basically, my only skill walking into the classroom last night was scoring/cutting glass (and, of course, making a mess).

Fortunately, that skill served me quite well, as the project I had planned involved cutting squares and rectangles, which is about as simple as you can get when it comes to glass cutting. Other people in the class used the grinders, but I found them a bit too intimidating my first time out.

My goal was to make three 5″ square dishes that will be slumped in a mold to give them slightly raised sides. The pattern I found seemed simple enough – cut a base piece of glass and then stack random rectangles and squares on top of it.

As with most things that look easy on the Internet, it was a lot more work than I had anticipated, especially when you factor in my perfectionist/OCD nature. Not surprisingly, the three hour class time was not enough for me to finish and I ended up keeping the instructor an extra half hour while I frantically cleaned and re-assembled my pieces. Fortunately, she was a good sport and didn’t seem too put out by my tendency to bite off more than I can chew.

And now, we play the waiting game.

Ah, the waiting game sucks. Let’s play Hungry Hungry Hippos! (Yes, a gratuitous Simpsons reference – you’re welcome!)

I will get to pick up my finished dishes next Tuesday night and I must say, the waiting is interminable for an instant gratification girl like me. One of the most difficult parts of this process was not knowing how the finished product will look. I tried to study some before and after photos of fused glass projects before the class, but I still felt I was going into this thing blind. Hopefully, the finished product will be somewhat representative of what you see in the photos.

So, the class and instructor were great and I definitely got more than what I paid for ($29 for the class and $25 for materials).  HCC is a bit of a schlep for me, but it was totally worth it. If you live in the area, I would highly recommend looking into this class. I may take it again the next time it comes around, so you may even see me there! Hmm, on second thought, that may be a deterrent for some of you. Heh.

photos : pre-fused glass by yours truly

 

 

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It’s Done, but I Still Don’t Love It.

I had some time to myself on Saturday (I know, I couldn’t believe it either), so I decided to buckle down and finish my magazine holder.

After several hours and a lot of cursing under my breath (Honestly, have you ever started a project and wished you hadn’t, then felt compelled to finish it even though you just want to QUIT and trash the whole thing? That’s how I felt about 15 minutes after starting work on this project.), I finally had the whole freakin’ thing covered in polka dots. I was tired. My neck was sore. But, I had finished!

And I hated it.

I really, really hated it. It was WAY too bright for my taste and far too bright for my studio.

What to do? What to do?

After all of that work, I knew I needed to salvage the thing somehow. My vintage magazine and knitting pattern stash needed a home, after all. I just really needed to tone down the almost-neon thing that was going on.

First, I tried a silver acrylic wash. I really liked the way the metallic paint settled into the texture of the tissue paper, but it made the whole thing WAY too shiny and actually made the colors brighter.

Oy. Next!

My last ditch effort was to thin out some white paint and use it to cover the whole thing. I wasn’t entirely pleased with those results either, BUT it did tone down the colors and that is what I really wanted. So, I’m just going to go with it.

The reality is that, aside from occasional visits from Sir and Big Sir, I am the only one who is ever in my studio to see the thing anyway. It definitely serves its purpose and that’s all I needed anyway, right? Right!

Now, on to cleaning the studio!

Or not.

photos : by yours truly

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So, There I Was, Cleaning My Studio…

First off, I wanted to say thank you to everyone who left such nice comments on my PPF post last week. I’ve been trying to stop by everyone’s blogs to leave a little note of thanks, but, well…I’m easily distracted. Heh.

Which brings me to the subject of this post…ooo, a bird! Wait, what? What was I talking about? Oh yeah, distraction.

Anyway, I headed up to my studio last weekend with the best of intentions. The mess up there has gotten way out of control and it was time to do some serious cleaning. So, there I was, cleaning my studio when this happened…

Just as I was beginning to fret over what to do with my unruly stash of vintage magazines, I unearthed a wooden magazine holder that I had bought at IKEA ages ago. All cleaning operations came to a grinding halt (and stayed that way) as I grabbed my trusty tub of white gesso and got to work.

I decided to use some tissue paper to give it some interesting texture. Then, I brushed on a thin layer of orange paint. I didn’t like the way the orange looked, so I painted over it with some thinned out magenta. I still didn’t like the way it looked, as I usually tend to shy away from bright colors. But, I decided to go with it.

Then, I got distracted for 4-5 days. Surprise, surprise!

I really need to finish cleaning my studio and I knew it wasn’t going to happen until I finished this little project, so today I gave it my best effort and…I got distracted. Seriously.

I picked some colors for the polka dots and worked out a little pattern in my head. As I started painting, I got distracted and totally screwed up the pattern. Then, I tried to fix it. And I screwed up again. Then my OCD kicked in and I got all flustered and just had to quit working on it for today.

So, as I’m sure you have surmised, my studio is STILL a mess. *sigh*

UPDATE: I finished it, phew!

photos : by yours truly

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Making Crayons : A How-To

Friends, I am happy to announce that, with regards to crayon making, I have redeemed myself!

After ruining my first batch of crayons (read all about it here), I decided to change my methods a bit and give it another go. I learned three very important things from my first failed attempt at crayon making:

  1. Plain Crayola crayons work much better for this purpose than Washable Crayola crayons (I have no idea why, but it may be the difference in texture).
  2. Molds with small/thin parts (tips of stars, fish tails, etc.) are far more likely to crack than chunky shapes like circles and hearts. Honestly, the stars were a complete loss even on the second go-around. I won’t ever use them again.
  3. Crayons must be left to harden for 2-3 hours before being removed from the molds – the longer the better!

Take heed, people, and learn from my mistakes.

Okay, so, you want to know how to make crayons for real this time? Well, here goes.

Depending on the size/shape of your molds, this will make about 12 small crayons or 6 crayon sticks (if you’re using the silicone molds from IKEA, like I did). Adjust accordingly for the number of crayons you need.

What you need:

1 box of 24 Crayola crayons OR broken pieces of crayons you want to recycle
1 silicone mold with shapes like hearts, circles, etc.  (I bought mine at IKEA for $1.99 each)
non-stick cooking spray (optional)

 

What you need to do:

If using new crayons, peel the labels off and then break the crayons into small pieces (I broke each of my crayons into about 4-5 pieces).

Pre-heat oven to 225°.

Spray molds with non-stick cooking spray, if desired (I did this with the first batch and not the second and noticed no real difference when it came time to release the crayons from the molds).

Place crayon pieces into the molds. You can mix colors however you or your little ones please. Put enough in that they are stacked slightly over the top of the mold.

Place your mold(s) on a foil-lined cookie sheet and put them in the oven.

Watch crayons closely. They should melt fully within 10-15 minutes. If wax begins to smoke, remove from oven.

When all wax is evenly melted, carefully remove from the oven and allow to cool undisturbed for at least 2 hours (the longer the better). Note: some instructions suggest putting the crayons in the freezer to speed cooling, this DID NOT work for me and I think it may have been part of the reason for all of the cracking.

After crayons have hardened, remove from molds. Patience is key here – slow and steady wins the race (or, in this case, doesn’t end up with a bunch of broken crayons). Carefully stretch the molds around your crayons to release them. You may here some popping/cracking sounds during this process. Once all parts of the crayon are released, they should pop right out. Some instructions suggest running warm water over your molds to loosen the crayons, but I didn’t find this necessary the second time around.

If any of the crayons crack, place them back in the mold and re-melt the wax. Let harden again and remove them from the molds as stated above.

Other things that are helpful to know:

If most of your wax is melted, but there are some lingering chunks, carefully mix them in with a toothpick. They should blend in quickly and easily.

Wax will stick to your molds. To remove it, fill mold with water, microwave for about 1 minute, dump water, and wipe molds with a paper towel. I would still recommend using molds that you do not intend to use for any food-related purposes though.

Wax can also be melted in the microwave (although, I’ve not tried this method) for 1-2 minutes and then poured into molds. Just be sure to watch carefully so as not to overheat wax.

 

What to do with them:

Give them as gifts (we will be passing ours out to Sir’s classmates on the first day of school).

Use them as birthday party favors.

If your child’s school doesn’t allow food treats for birthday celebrations, pass crayons out instead.

Keep them for yourself and color, color, color!!!

photos : our lovely homemade crayons by yours truly

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Making Crayons : A How-Not-To

Do you ever get tired of those people who seem to be able to do freaking everything AND do it well? You know, the Martha Stewart types who get everything just so on the first damn try and never, ever find themselves cramming the remains of a failed crafting attempt into the deepest recesses of the trashcan, lest their failure be visible to the world.

Yes?

Well, you’ve come to the right place because, friends, I am NOT one of those people. To put it bluntly, I f*ck shit up. All.The.Time. And today was no exception.

Several months ago, an art teacher friend of mine posted a link to a crayon-making tutorial. Ever since, I have been diligently picking broken pieces of crayon out of Sir’s supply and squirreling them away until I had occasion to make these oh-so-easy recycled crayons. I even bought some silicone molds from IKEA in preparation for the big crayon-making extravaganza.

Sir will be headed back to school in just a few short weeks and I have been planning on putting together some little gifties for him to share with his new classmates. This would certainly be the perfect opportunity to bust up and melt down a bunch of crayons and turn them into super cool, super cheap, super colorful AND super easy gifts for Sir’s new friends. Right?

(This is the part where you say, ‘Right, Ruth! Sounds like a brilliant plan! And I’m sure that in your capable hands everything went swimmingly and you now have several perfectly molded crayons ready for gifting!’

And then I burst into tears and tell the story of what really happened.)

I began peeling, breaking, and dropping crayons into the lovely little star-shaped molds. I also made sure to photograph the whole process so that I could tell you all how easy it was and give you my brilliant pointers on how to make crayons yourselves…you know, because I’m nice like that.

I popped my filled molds into the oven and watched the colors melt, mix, and swirl until they were completely liquified. I then pulled them out and carefully placed them into the freezer (narrowly avoiding disaster in the form of a broken foot when some random frozen chicken breasts tried to make a break for it) to harden. I could hardly wait to get to work on writing up my tutorial and posting a lovely photo of my brand new flawless crayons. With a great deal of ill-conceived hubris, I even posted on Facebook and Twitter about my crayon-making prowess while I awaited the unmolding of the Perfect Crayons.

Finally, after spending the proper amount of time in the freezer (fraternizing with sweet potato fries, ice cubes, and popcorn chicken), they were ready to be released from the molds to fulfill their destiny as the Best Crayons in the Entire Universe! Or something.

And I just KNEW they would slip effortlessly out of the molds because I had taken all the proper steps to make them do so. Not only had I sprayed the molds with non-stick cooking spray, but I also ran them under warm water to loosen them up (tips from two different crayon-making sites). But, slip they did not. Break, however, they did. Every.Single.One.

Yep, all of my beautiful star crayons cracked. I held out hope for the crayon sticks though. They were much thicker and sturdier. They couldn’t possibly crack.

But they did (all but one of them, that is).

Maybe I didn’t let them harden long enough. I really don’t know. What I do know is that I now have a significant amount of crayon flotsam lying around my kitchen that I need to find a use for. I’m thinking of giving this crayon thing another go, possibly with some less detailed molds (circles, anyone?). Or maybe I’ll just bury them in the deepest recesses of my trash can. Nah, I’ve already shown this particular failure to the world. Speaking of which, here are some photos taken before things took a turn for the worse.

Editor’s note (that’s me, I don’t really have an editor – heh): I figured it out! Learn how to really make crayons here.

photos : the great crayon catastrophe by yours truly

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The Sketchbook Project : The Sketchbook That Almost Wasn’t (or How to Re-bind Your Sketchbook)

For someone whose life and well-being rely upon order and carefully made plans, I sure do find myself in a lot of How-Did-I-Get-Myself-Into-This situations (typically, without a proper exit strategy).

Such was the case with a recent attempt at working on my Sketchbook Project.

Spurred by some recent comments on Twitter, I decided to finally buckle down and get to work on what I had committed to buckling down and getting to work on months ago. Heh.

Conscious of my tendency to get a bit overzealous with water (and alcohol*) in my work, I knew that the sketchbook’s current pages were not going to stand up to my aqueous abuse. So, I decided to pluck out the staples and replace the thin pages with something a little sturdier.

And pluck, I did (the results of which can be seen in the photo at left)! Then, I got to work on cutting some new pages from watercolor paper and a large sheet of black paper I acquired during a recent art supply buying binge.

After cutting (and subsequently tossing onto the scrap pile) about 7 billion crooked sheets (damn my wonky eyes!), I finally had all of my pages ready to fold and staple back into my sketchbook. Excellent, right?

Wrong.

As I (quite literally) dusted off my trusty (dusty) stapler, I discovered that my new heavy-duty pages were too thick for my wimpy little staples to penetrate. Damn. And here I thought I had it all figured out.

Back to the drawing board (also known as issuing a plea for help on the Internets).

Nothing that I was finding in my book-binding searches was proving helpful. That’s when Jessica Mack of Brown Paper Bunny fame came to my rescue with this video on how to make a stitched notebook. If you don’t want to watch the video, but want to try it for yourself, here are the basic steps.

  1. Fold your cover over the new pages (make sure everything is nicely/evenly folded).
  2. Using a ruler held along the main fold of your pages, mark the middle of the fold with a pencil. Then measure/mark in 1″ increments in both directions to establish your ‘poke holes’.
  3. Hold your cover and all of your pages firmly and poke through the marked spots using an awl or paper piercer.
  4. Thread a large needle with embroidery floss and sew through the top hole from the inside, leaving enough of a tail to tie up later.
  5. Use a running stitch to go through each hole. Then, go back through in the opposite direction (it will look like a backstitch).
  6. On the last stitch, tie the ends of the floss together tightly, so the knot sits firmly on the inside of your sketchbook.
  7. Snip off the loose ends and you’re done!

If any of this is confusing, the video will make it clear. Again, you can find it here.

My sketchbook was back together! And the peasants rejoiced!

Yay.

Honestly, this method was much easier than I anticipated (especially since I didn’t have a paper piercer or an embroidery needle and had to improvise). I will say that I kind of messed up the cover during the process, but only because I may have forgotten to properly clean my work surface after using pastel sticks and there may have been pastel dust everywhere. Oops.

Now that I have this newly-bound sketchbook, I suppose I should think about what I’m going to put in it. Meh, it can wait. My brain deserves a break.

* rubbing alcohol, not drinking alcohol – heh. See what I do with it here, here, and here.

photos : the sketchbook that almost wasn’t by yours truly

 

 

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Lookie What I Made : An Inspiration Board

My studio has been in desperate need of an inspiration board for quite a while now. I have been tacking up a few things here and there. Sadly, though, most things have been piling up. My cheapness has kept me from investing in a fancy (because I can’t bear to have some plain ugly brown thing hanging on the wall, even if I am going to cover it with pretty things) cork/white board.  This week, I finally got the kick in the butt that I needed though.

The oh-so-talented Deirdre of DKM Art & Illustrations has been working on a little something for me and this week she sent me some pictures of it. She calls it a doodle, but I call it completely.freaking.gorgeous (and certainly not something to be tossed on the ever-growing pile in my studio to languish). So, when I was rummaging around in my basement looking for something (I have no idea what now, but I certainly didn’t find it) and found a dog-hair covered cork board hiding amongst the rest of the random basement junk, I knew it was time to get to work.

For anyone who is interested in how to fancy up an old cork board, read on…

Step One: Rescue grungy, dog-hairy cork board from the confines of the equally grungy, dog-hairy basement.

Step Two: Work diligently to remove any and all grunge and dog hair.

 

Step Three: Start rolling white paint onto cork.

Step Four: Realize two very important things: a) cork is a pain-in-the-arse to paint because it’s like a freaking sponge and sucks up massive amounts of paint and b) no matter how hard one tries, it is impossible to remove all the dog hair off of anything.

Step Four: Grumble and curse while continuing to alternate painting and picking dog hair out of wet paint.

 

Step Five: Dig through collection of patterned paper you’ve been hoarding keeping for just such a project until you find the perfect design.

Step Six: Bust out the Mod Podge and slather up the frame of the cork board so the paper will stick.

Step Seven: Tuck paper edge between frame and cork and then carefully, fold paper over the wet Mod Podged frame, pressing firmly to help the paper adhere. Continue in this manner until the whole frame (minus the corners) is covered. You can also staple the paper onto the back of the frame for extra stickability.

Step Eight: Finagle something to cover the corners (I can’t explain how I did this, but it bordered on advanced origami, heh).

 

Step Nine: Embellish! Or don’t, whatever.

 

Step Ten: Get out your hammer, nails, and level and hang your board.

Step Eleven: Realize that the walls in your old house are completely freaking wonky and there is NO WAY to hang anything level without putting at least half a dozen holes in the wall.

Step Twelve: Put about half a dozen holes in the wall.

Step Thirteen: Sit back and admire your inspiration board (while trying desperately to ignore all the stupid holes in the wall).

Note: I found three square pieces of cork lingering in my studio. So, I painted and embellished them to match.

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