Thursday, February 6, 2014

Embroidery from Game of Thrones

Okay, I have not been doing much for the last month except torturing myself trying to take sharp pictures of resin pendants with the only camera I own, a slim little digital point-and-shoot. This setting, that setting, outside, inside, downstairs, upstairs, in my lady's chamber...

Sorry, got a little carried away there. I've got a couple of friends who understand photography and I've begged them for help, but it's difficult because they speak Photography. I'd understand them better if they spoke Swahili and that's not a figure of speech, it's the literal truth. Anyway, looks as if a slightly more sophisticated camera may be in my future.

The last few days I've been thinking that I don't want to make any more resin pendants if I can't find some way to photograph and sell them, and isn't it about time to get back to playing with fiber, maybe a small embroidery....Then a friend sent me a link to Michele Carragher's website. and there went the afternoon, drooling over her incredibly rich work - and yes, she does the embroidery for Game of Thrones. Now I want to encourage everyone I know to waste their own time looking at all the pictures on this incredible website. By the way, the home page has a link to a page called "How I Create an Embroidery." Don't miss it. And be sure to scroll down until you get to the jeweled bugs.

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The rest of the dichrophane saga

OK, so it's not "tomorrow" in terms of the last post. Things take more time now. And we're at the other end of the resin-setting spectrum, when it's so chilly in my workshop that I have a really long working time with the mixed resin...and a really long period of waiting for it to set up. A nice incandescent lamp over the stuff would speed the process; maybe I'll set one up before the cold weather ends. Anyway, I've been fooling with that polymer-clay-and-dichrophane piece. First thing needed, obviously, was to tone down that brilliant background. The bezel had a watery feel to it, so I poured a thin layer of lightly tinted blue-green resin.

A lot better than the initial look, but it still wasn't as dark as I wanted it. So when that had set up, I added a tiny silver fish and covered it with seriously dark blue resin.I wanted the value to shade from light at the top to very dark at the back, so while this was curing I deliberately didn't lay it quite flat. Two little pieces of paper towel lifted the top just enough to encourage a glacial drain towards the bottom. I think the cold weather and long setting time helped here; in summer I might use just one piece of paper towel. Or one piece of copy paper. A little unevenness goes a long way!

I'm happy with the colors now, so in a few days...when that pour was finally set up....I added the swan charm and covered everything with clear resin. The clay bezel is resin-coated too, to protect the layers of paint and patina and dye that I used to get the color I wanted.

Does this last photo look just slightly better than the first two? I finally broke down and bought a tiny little light box. I've spent several days fooling with lights and angles and have finally decided that there's no way I can get the Great Big Photo Flood Lights that I bought for photographing quilts to play nicely with the light box, not when it wants to sit on the work table and the floodlights want to stand on the floor. It's just too darn hard to get the lights at the angle I need. This is the last photo I snapped before dismantling the whole apparatus,and it's not as bad as the others; all my test pictures were of more difficult pieces that came out either all shiny and glaring, or sunk in deep shadow, or half of one and half of the other. So I've ordered a couple of tabletop photo lights, and we will try again after they arrive...which should be just after Three Kings Day.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Dichrophane and resin and polymer clay, oh my!

So....this summer I finally overcame my fear of two-part epoxy resin,thanks to Carmi Cimicata's wonderful blog Resin Crafts and all the juicy, sparkling things she makes.

For a while I went through the stage of putting anything stable and shallow enough into a bezel,containing it in resin,and usually dropping in some glitter or pearls or AB crystals,and that was very satisfying. Then it got to be mid-July. In Texas.

Two-part resin likes two things. It likes to be stirred for 5 minutes to get the resin and the hardener well and truly mixed. And it likes a nice warm room to help it set up faster. Well, by midsummer the my studio was so warm that my resin was trying to set solid while I was still mixing it. O kay. I can take a hint. God doesn't like people trying to mix resin in the height of the summer. So I put the equipment and supplies away and decided this would be a good time to organize the studio,throw out dried-up glue and paint and moldy sponges and alien life forms trying to crawl out of the bucket of soda solution I was saving in case I suddenly needed to dye anything.

It was a slow process,even with my Organizer daughter's help; we spent a lot of time languidly reclining with our Diet Cokes and discussing the utter discomfort of being in the last month of pregnancy during the hottest month of the year.But we got it done. And two days after that,she produced the First Grandkid. And two days after that,I got out of bed and screamed in surprise at the lightning bolt of pain running down from my left hip.

Everybody's body starts falling apart eventually,and the details are not really interesting to others,so I'll try to keep it short.After rounds of appointments with orthopedists,spine doctors, X rays,an acupuncturist,and pain management specialists,the consensus of opinion is that my lower vertebrae are crumbling like a Roman ruin, whenever I move they pinch a nerve,there's no obvious surgical fix,and how about some nice hydrocodone to help with the pain?

I loathe taking opiates;they make me slow and stupid. I'll take one at night,because I'm not planning to use my brain anyway,and Steve was finding it disconcerting to have me move in my sleep and wake up screaming.And I'll take half of one in the morning to help get through the morning stiffness.

The rest of the day I chew rusty nails and grind the enamel off my teeth.

So what does this have to do with ART? Well...just that my life has grown smaller all of a sudden.Working through pain,whether it's Art or merely laundry,is surprisingly tiring.I've shaved my housework to the minimum,and I find myself attracted to small,quick projects that don't require much stretching and bending.Alors,back to the resin pendants.Except now I want more space for my mini-compositions,and more depth so I can create,well,a sense of depth.A study of supplies online convinced me that I'd either have to do some serious metalsmithing or pay through the nose for pendant trays that were not even what I really wanted.

Enter polymer clay.I'm not sure how this will work out in the long run,but I've produced several pendant trays that aren't half bad.The example at the top is textured black clay brushed with Pearl-Ex,with a square of dichrophane pressed into the back layer.It's too much; it's too glitzy; I need to tone it down some so that the mesage of the piece won't be,"Hey,Ma! I got me a big new sparkly thing to wear with my pole-dancing outfit!"

Solutions, possibilities. I'll try something today (if I wake up in time)and report on the results.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

A brief return to quilting

For those who may think that I simply skip from project to experiment to project, I present this as evidence that I do so finish (some) things! Granted, the First Grandkid is already three months old, but I know of some grandchildren who were in kindergarten before their crib quilts are finished. It's not a very demanding design, but it's to the Organizer's specs: she said his room theme was going to be elephants, and elephants he got; red and gold ones galumphing all over the quilt. (You can't tell from the picture, but the red pieces actually have gold elephants printed on them.)

Fortunately she didn't add the information that his room theme was going to be grey and ecru elephants. At least this doesn't clash with them, and I explained to her that most of the elephants I'd seen up close and personal were in Tsavo National Park, which has red soil and little rain, so they actually were red - well, covered in red dust. They blended quite well with the landscaps. A little too well. The road from Mombasa to Nairobi was, after you got into the uplands, well over two hundred miles of dead-straight two-lane and it was dangerously easy to get into a sort of driving trance in which you assumed a red elephant in the road ahead was a piece of the distant horizon until you were much too close to him. At which point one would turn off the engine and sit very quietly and politely in the car until the elephant decided to move.(As a matter of principle, I never honk at anything that outweighs me by more than two tons.)

Ah well, that was 40 years ago. I wonder if they've kept that road low-profile and easy to cross in the interests of the wildlife, or if it's been turned into a freeway with fences and occasional bridges over Designated Animal Crossings?

Monday, November 25, 2013

Dichrophane dragon in detail

Let's start by taking a look at the whole dragon. All the dichrophane was fused with the painted side down, so you look through the iridescence at the color. The two sample pieces I photographed yesterday didn't look all that different, but as you see, the colors really pop once you press the dichrophane flat onto a neutral surface. I used Pinata inks for all the colors; diluted for the wings, full strength for the body and flame.
There are plenty of subtle color variations within each piece, too.
Look how clean and sharp the pointy bits are! I embroidered over the edge of the whole piece to define the outline (and,to be honest, because I never totally trust fused things not to start curling up at the edges) and none of the dichrophane split, even when I got to the teensy little ends of these points.
I got out my embellisher and felted down lots and lots of coordinating fibers to reduce the glare of the dichrophane to a hint of glitz peeking through. Okay, a lot of glitz. It's still not as blinding as the initial version, trust me. The needlefelting worked because I was using mohair fibers and the base fabric was felt. It would also have worked if I had used a piece of cotton fabric bonded to felt as the base, which probably would have been a better design decision.
I didn't do much needlefelting on the flames coming out of his mouth because I wanted them to glow. I did add a little orange embroidery along the mouth to dispel the disconcerting impression (in the initial fused piece) that the flames were just coming out of nowhere.

So - that's it! You've got glitz, color, flexibility, fusability, no fraying, and you can stitch through it by hand or machine. I am so in love with this stuff!

Friday, November 22, 2013


That's what I'm calling the results of a happy accident. Because it's shorter than "Cellophane that's been abused until it looks like dichroic glass." A while ago, probably when I was avoiding some real work,I decided to try something I vaguely remembered from an English embroidery book.(Q: Why are the English so much more innovative and exciting in the field of embroidery? And so far behind us in art quilting?)Anyway, what I thought I remembered was something about coloring and heat-treating cellophane to create a surface for stitchery. So I had a package of iridescent cellophane, because I'm the kind of person who has things like that (Hmmm, I don't know what I'll do with this but it looks interesting) and I had some Pinata alcohol-based inks, which just looove nonporous surfaces, and I brought the two together. And when the ink dried I attacked the cellophane with my heat gun and created this amazing stuff. Here's how,step by step:

1) Acquire some iridescent cellophane.

2)Cut off a chunk of it. Actually, you see two chunks here, because I want to demonstrate different media.

3)Color one side, either side, with whatever works. I used alcohol inks for the blue-green piece and oil pastels for the other. There are probably lots of other possibilities. Experiment!

4) Use a heat gun to create a bubbly, wrinkly surface. Here's what it looks like partway through. If you hold the heat gun too long in one spot you'll get a hole in the cellophane, which is fine if the application you're planning requires holey dichrophane but rather a nuisance otherwise.

Ta-da!You'll get stronger colors on the colored side, more iridescence on the flip side.

So what's so great about this stuff? Well... it doesn't fray. You can cut intricate, detailed shapes out of it without any worry that those spiky bits on the edge are going to dissolve into their component threads. You can fuse it: after ordeal by heat gun, an iron isn't going to bother it. It's flexible. You can needlefelt fibers over it, which I often do to knock back the shine a little; you can machine-sew through it; you can hand embroider it with a big fat embroidery needle and it won't split. And that's just the fiber-arts virtues of it.

Tomorrow I'll post close-ups of the dragon at the top of this post and say more about the fiber-arts techniques involved.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Always seeing rainbows

I got the string of green glass beads up some time ago (i.e., talked my tall husband into hanging it) and surprise, surprise, it didn't need any extra support; it hangs in a graceful swag from far left hook to far right hook. So I used the free cup hooks to hang loops of green glass beads. Took forever to get a picture, because you have to catch it at the right time of day and there was this problem with getting my camera back from the house hob, which required an abject apology, some groveling, and the sacrifice of a handful of ballpoint pens. But here it is:
At this time of the year, most of the day,the sun shines right through it, which makes it impossible to photograph but in compensation, the chandelier crystals throw mini-rainbows around my workroom and the kitchen. I've also cleaned up the windowsill and filled it with things like tall jars of sea glass and desert glass and a big abalone shell and a shell-shaped bowl to hold my strings of pearls.
There remains a rather large window through which you can still see Central Texas; but right now Texas is remarkably green, so I'm not highly motivated to work on that.
Come the dry season, when the window shows a lot of dead grass, I'll probably think of something. In any case, this'll be the last decorating blog for a while, because I've been making things that I want to talk about.