It’s always great borrowing someone else’s fancy kit; a friend was visiting with some £160 LED light boxes so I thought I’d have a go with using this technique for capturing watercolours or other drawings done on textured paper – something that I’ve struggled with in the past, especially when trying to create icons for websites. I was absolutely delighted with the results, now I just need to find some more reasonably-priced lights that will achieve the same results.
I decided I fancied wearing a pair of antlers at a recent event. Here are a few pictures of the process from a foam pool noodle to a wearable set of prongs. I regret painting them gold (mostly an accident!), and if I remake them I’ll take the opportunity to make them more realistically thin, but they’re still eminently wearable.
I’ve had a lot of interest in my etched copper jewellery since we published our super-pretty copper etching video, but I wasn’t entirely satisfied with my workflow. I’ve been doing some experiments to improve the issue, and in the past few days I’ve made some great progress!
Resistance felt futile
My first problem was in selecting the material which will form the design, and resist the etchant’s blandishments, leaving bright, smooth, shiny copper behind. Here are a few I’ve tried in the past, and how they’ve let me down:
- Wax – Fiddly to apply, brittle – will chip or flake when you scratch a design.
- Staedler Lumocolor pen – When working on a very detailed design, subsequent lines will lift off ink, especially around the edge of each stroke, wit ‘orrible results. Can be good for broad coverage though, if applied quickly so it all dries together. Easy and neat to scratch designs on. Hard to mend, though.
- Sharpie – Different kinds of sharpie use different inks, and it tends to dissolve itself, as above.
- Nail polish – Horrible stuff to work with! Thick, gloopy, and peels off very easily when you’re trying to scratch a design. Takes an age to dry.
- Acrylic paint – Another fiddly medium, hard to get good coverage without it balling up, and can’t scratch designs without it flaking off. Also takes an age to dry.
It’s a struggle to fulfil customers’ expectations when I can’t rely on being able to produce consistently good etches (discarding what falls below my standards!), and I have to laboriously re-draw every detail each time on recalcitrant surfaces with uncooperative materials.
I had read about using laser printer toner – transferring designs from paper to metal using a household iron – and it sounded like the perfect solution. After my housemate adopted a stray Brother laser printer I performed a variety of unsuccessful experiments with almost every kind of paper I could find in the house, and was just about to bite the bullet and buy expensive specialist paper when I came across a fantastic tip! The secret: using the left-over backing sheets from Avery laser-printable sticky address labels! The very thing I’d recently started using for shipping out my jewellery orders!
The next part is the backing. It’s important to protect the back of whatever you’re etching, so that there’s still something left when you pull it out of the tank. In the past I’ve coated pieces individually with nail varnish, wax, ink or paint – fiddly, time-consuming and with variable results. I’ve recently, however, come up with a new batch-making process – coat a small piece of plastic with a thick layer of acrylic paint, drop the copper pieces onto it, and wait for the paint to dry before drawing on the designs with pen and dropping the whole thing into the etching tank. Effective, but time-consuming, and sometimes a pain to get off the copper pieces afterwards.
But now, I think I have the ultimate solution – vaseline! :D I use the same general idea, smearing it thickly onto plastic, but now I prepare the design in advance, then smoosh the copper pieces into the vaseline and throw the whole lot straight in the tank. My tests worked beautifully, with perfect protection of the back, holding the pieces very firmly but releasing them easily (running the whole lot under the cold water even solidified the vaseline, so most of it was left on the plastic), and the clean-up was super easy.
My first test (my Making Tuesdays dancing crocodile logo) transferred beautifully, far better than I could have hoped – not a speck of toner was left behind! It was tricky to line up the design with the disc, though, so I’ll have to work on that. The vaseline did its job beautifully, and the whole process was probably the quickest and smoothest etch I’ve ever done! It was a quickie (1 hour etch) so the design isn’t as deep as it could be, but I’m really happy with the techinques, and will be diving into the rest of my commissions with joy. (After a few more tests with resolution, detail and alignment…)
A very exciting opportunity has come up (to be discussed if and when confirmed!) but this is just a quick post to share the work I’m doing today on developing a physical showcase for my jewellery. The idea is to create a self-contained desktop display environment that I can use to showcase examples of my jewellery work – earrings, necklaces, pendants, brooches, bracelets, cufflinks and so on.
Due to my recent acquisition of a fabulously gigantic cardboard box from a friend’s recent extravagant TV purchase, I plan to use cardboard as the construction material, and brown paper as the design/background theme. I’ll see how it comes together. For now, here’s the necklace display I’m working on today. I’m structurally very happy with it, although the carpet core tube will need to be covered in brown paper to hide the yucky glue marks.
Working with members of the great Tortoise Butler (Alia Sheikh and Andy Vine), I was filmed making a sample etched copper piece, and the whole thing set to a lovely piece of music by Roger Paul Mason.
As always, I’m stunned by their arcane mastery over lens, lighting, camera and editing, and this time was proud to add my own touch in the text and credits.
If you can watch HD and full screen – it’s worth it.
I don’t know about you, but I’m inspired! I use the technique (along with a little sterling silver magic) to create some of the jewellery in my Etsy shop.
I’m plotting out a 5-minute presentation for tomorrow, for an exciting opportunity I’ve been working on for a few days now, and thought I’d share my talk-writing techniques, and what worked to get my mouth unzipped.
I’ve always been pretty shy, and really struggled with ‘public speaking’ and giving presentations. Around 2010, though, I started to find my feet and my confidence, and to believe that I could have something interesting to say (running a making-things club helped a lot, I recommend it!). My most memorable turning point was when in our first week, the head of the Science Communication course invited us to volunteer to give a 7 minute seminar on a topic of our choice. My immediate reaction was to sit on my hands, shrink in a corner and avoid eye contact, so I stuck my hand straight up! I haven’t done much in my life I’d consider brave, but that definitely qualifies. I picked a topic I cared about, and that I could cram a high density of amusing anecdotes into, and knocked the socks off an audience of my peers – getting cheers and even a whoop at the end, and establishing my ID as ‘that Morag that makes all the things’.
That and other talks taught me that I can speak well and fluently for ages, given these factors:
- A good start – If possible, interacting at the start, eg. by asking a show-of-hands type question, and use that feedback to tweak your talk’s emphasis if necessary. Forcing that kind of attention also helps prevent automatic ‘in front of the TV’ mode by reminding them that you’re an interactive human being. It also makes your audience a lot less scary – they do what you said, after all!
- Engagement – Paying attention to the audience, making sure they’re still engaged, and tuning the talk to match that feedback. Being amusing is a good litmus test – once they’re warmed up, I keep throwing out little asides which they can respond to or not, letting me know how they’re feeling about the whole thing. If you get no response at all, you’re not on the right wavelength, re-tune! As long as we keep checking in with each other, I can relax and the words will flow.
- Flexibility – Preparing thoroughly, and creating an outline of your talk which overlays a thorough understanding of the topic. Planning out exactly how I’m going to say each thing is guaranteed to make me trip over my words, and doesn’t leave much room for playing to the audience.
My preparation method involves thinking and chatting about the topic with people, writing an outline with my goals for the talk (in this case about 6 words long!) and then chewing over that mentally for a few days.
Once I think I’m ready, I articulate what I want to say by scribbling stream-of-consciousness style on a big bit of paper, in a non-linear series of lists, notes and keywords. I include lots of symbols, underscoring, groupings, outlines, hierarchies, addenda and connecting arrows. Once I’ve meandered down each branching avenue of thought, I review it, highlighting key points and culling irrelevant detail. This process creates a huge structured map of the topic, which I can then crawl, meander or stride across in my talk.
I find that because my memory is apparently very spatial as well as visual, relating topics and points to each other in this way helps me keep the facts at my fingertips when I’m actually delivering the talk. It is also what gives my talks their flexibility – because the information in my head is fractal, I can adjust on the fly how much detail I go into for each ‘area’ – very useful when you run out of time, or when someone asks you to explain something in more depth.
The last stage is to create a compelling ‘story’ of the information – the route down which I plan to lead my audience. Like telling any good story, you need to have something thrilling and intriguing to start off with, to explore your topic in a logical order, and conclude in such a way as to hammer home your points, and make sure that your audience takes on board your key ‘action points’. All this is ‘just’ good communications, which I don’t think I can convey in a post, so for now, I’m off to create my route across this map!