Monday, August 24, 2015

"With Love" - Bonbonniere Tags

A few weeks back I shared how to create a silicone mould for casting tags that will be attached to the bonbonnieres for my daughter's wedding. With the mould made, it's now time to cast the 100 tags needed.
We chose polymer clay as the casting medium for the tags - it gives them a nice weight. And because they will all be painted later on, we were able to use up lots of scrap clay that I had in the studio.

To begin, roll out the clay to the thickness of two wooden stir sticks. Timesaving tip: Use a pasta machine to roll out a whole sheet of clay to the desired thickness rather than rolling out enough clay for one or two tags at a time. My brain was a bit foggy with project overload before the wedding but if I had been thinking clearly, I could have saved a heap of time!

Cut the clay using the same oval cutter that the mould was made from. 

Insert the cut tag into the mould positioning it so that it lines up.

Press the clay down into the mould so that the clay is impressed with the pattern.

Carefully remove the clay from the mould.

Use a bamboo skewer to poke a hole in each one and then bake in the oven following the manufacturer's instructions.

This was a great way to use up a lot of scrap clay and the tags were actually quite pretty - it was almost a shame to paint them.

But paint them, we did! After painting with a couple of coats of very dark burgundy craft paint, the raised lettering was highlighted with a gold marker to add the finishing touch.

In my next post the bonbonnieres will really begin to take shape. Join me to see how they turned out!

'Til then......

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

New Studio Lighting - Daylight LEDs

Good lighting is essential when you do a lot of close up work. When I moved in to my studio 5 years ago, I had a suspended double fluoro installed above my work table to make sure that the work space was well lit. But even with this central light, tasks lights were still needed at every station around the table. Having a suspended light seemed like a good idea at the time but with light only hitting the tables, the rest of the room was dark. And with so many cables and cords dangling from the ceiling, it looked untidy.

But today, all that has changed. I had an electrician install two new ceiling lights which are flush mounted to the ceiling. 

I am quite impressed with how much light they give off and as I sit here at my computer, I am amazed that the light is reaching this far.

You can see that I still have the power cords dangling from the ceiling (for power at the work tables) but it's much tidier now without the cables suspending the old lightfitting. But the best part of these new lights is that they are daylight LEDs and they give off the kind of light you get from a bright window.  

They will be extremely helpful when I'm photographing my work - I will no longer have to switch off the overhead lights to eliminate the blue cast thrown by the fluorescent lights which confuses the camera so much.

I won't be getting rid of my daylight task lamps any time soon because I'll still need those for close up work but I am grateful for the extra light I now have in the studio.

'Til next time.....

Friday, July 31, 2015

Art Deco Inspired Wedding Jewellery Featuring Long Bugle Beads

If you follow me on Facebook, you will have had a little sneek peek of the jewellery components I'm using for my daughter's upcoming wedding.
Wedding jewellery components in Siam and Golden Shadow

I'll be sharing these pieces with you after the wedding but in the meantime, here are some pieces I designed for another very special bride, a friend who lives half way across the world in Chicago.

She has chosen emerald for her bridesmaid's dresses. The Maid of Honour's dress is strapless and features a pleated panel that fans out like a sunray at the waist whilst the sunray is featured at the neckline of the Bridesmaid's dresses. Her brief was to incorporate the sunray into the jewellery. Here's how I interpreted her vision.

Firstly, for the Maid of Honour, I created a multi layered pendant featuring extra long gold bugle beads arranged in a semi circle, edged with Swarovksi bicones in Aurum and Emerald. The central focal consists of two layers of gold german filigrees which are encrusted with Swarovski crystals and atop this is an emerald rivoli set in a half rondelle.

emerald and gold swarovski pendant

With such an elaborate focal pendant, simple drop earrings are all that are needed to complete her look.
Swarovski emerald and gold drop earrings

The necklines of the the Bridesmaid's dresses is quite high so a necklace isn't suitable. Instead, the bride has opted for a bracelet and earrings. Once again, the design incorporates the long gold bugle beads with Aurum and Emerald Swarovski bicones arranged around a cluster of Clear navettes. This design has such an art deco feel about it and because it's stitched together with Fireline, it drapes softly and elegantly around the wrist.
Emerald and Aurum Swarovski bracelet featuring long bugle beads

The sunray design is repeated in the fan-shaped earrings which completes the Bridesmaids' outfits.
Emerald and gold earrings featuring long gold bugle beads

The bride was delighted with the bespoke designs created especially for her big day. When designing jewellery for a bride, I like to create a design that is distinctively different because, afterall, every bride is different!

I hope you've enjoyed the eyecandy today. I'll have another wedding-related post next time.

'Til then.......

Monday, July 27, 2015

Mould Making Do's and Don'ts

Putting your craft skills to work is a great way to add one-of-a-kind personal touches to any special occasion. In our household, we're busy preparing for a wedding and being a crafty pair, my daughter and I decided to incorporate some handmade details to add that extra pizazz to her special day.

One of the projects we're tackling is the bonbonnieres. Hers will feature a handmade polymer clay tag with a sentiment on it. It's a big undertaking to make 100 so to speed things up, we made a mould from silicone rubber.

But before we get into making the mould, we created a master tag by following Marie Segal's tutorial from Art from my Heart. Marie suggests looking in the Mexican aisle for the alphabet noodles she uses to create her sentiments. In Australia, I found them in the Italian aisle. But no matter where you are in the world, look for something like San Remo's Soup Pasta.

Begin by conditioning the clay and then place it between the wooden stir sticks and roll it out.
use paddle pop sticks to roll out the clay
Use two sets of two wooden stir sticks taped together as a thickness guide for rolling the clay.

To create the tag, we used an oval cookie cutter to cut out the clay.
Use a cookie cutter to cut the shape
Press the cookie cutter into the clay

The sentiment is created by pressing the alphabet pasta onto the clay oval. Whilst we wanted the sentiment to be raised, the letters still needed to be evenly pressed into the surface of the clay so for a depth guide, we replaced the stack of stir sticks with a single stir stick plus a bamboo skewer on each side of the oval. Once the letters are in position it's time for baking. Just follow your clay manufacturer's instructions.
evenly press alphabet noodles into clay
Place the alphabet noodles into position and press them into the

Once cooled, it was over to me to make the mould. You can use silicone putty to make the mould as Marie did, but for this project, a mould made from silicone rubber will make a better, more flexible mould. I've used a shallow plastic lid that is a little larger all around than the master tag. It needs to be at least 6mm (1/4") deeper than the master too. I didn't use any adhesive to hold the tag in place but you could use some double sided tape on the bottom edges if your were concerned about the silicone seeping underneath - but don't tape it into position yet.
create a mould from a plastic lid

Now you're ready to prepare the silicone. To work out how much you need, fill the lid with water and pour it into a measuring cup/jug. Make sure to thorougly dry the lid again and then position the tag in the centre of the lid. Measure and mix the silicone according to the package directions.

Pour the silicone into the lid in one spot, allowing it to spill over the oval tag until there is at least a 6mm (1/4") thickness of silicone over the top of the tag. Pouring in one spot helps eliminate air pockets from forming. Set the mould aside to cure.
create mould by pouring silicone over item

Once cured, ease the mould out of the lid.......
pull silicone mould from the lid

.....and then remove the master from the mould.
master tag alongside silicone mould

Voilà! Now we have a mould ready to create the 100 tags needed for the bonbonnieres.

You can see it's a pretty straight forward process to make your own simple mould but it didn't go completely to plan for us. You'll notice the title of this post is "Mould Making Do's and Don'ts". So now it's time to show you what not to do.

The photo below shows the first master tag we made. We made sure to spell the words backwards like you would on a stamp.
text reading backwards

And then we proceeded to make the mould and remove it from the lid. Can you see the problem yet?
backwards tag and mould

Here's what happens when you cast from this mould.
tag with reverse writing
Everything is backwards!

So you can see that even experts make mistakes!

Don't forget to stop by again later in the week to see how we fared with the casting of the tags.

'Til next time.....

Friday, July 24, 2015

Take a Virtual Tour Through Mill Lane Studio

Are you like me, always looking for new or better ways to store your craft supplies? Isn't it  interesting to peek into the studios of other creatives to see how they organise their supplies? It's fun to see how they decorate their space and see what storage systems work for them - after all, organising is a neverending task. Don't you love it when you glean a little storage or organisation tip that might help in your own crafting area?
The BEST Craft Organizer system is excellent for storing beads

Today, I invite you into my studio so you can learn some of the little tips that keep all my supplies organised. Cut Out + Keep take you on a virtual tour of my workspace whilst I talk about the trick that makes my studio look clutter free and how I store my supplies to keep them under control. I can tell you it doesn't always look so tidy but it does function well as both a studio and a classroom. I hope you'll find some helpful tips for keeping things in order in your craft space. But if nothing else, enjoy the pretty eye candy in my studio. I hope you find it inspiring!

I would love to hear about your storage and organisation ideas too. Please leave your comments below or better still, show us a picture of your work space.

Til next time....

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Baroque Pearl Earring Remake

I always find doing jewellery repairs an interesting challenge - you can learn so much about jewellery construction by studying the way the piece has been put together. Many of the costume jewellery pieces I've repaired over the years are constructed using different methods to those we regularly use as jewellery makers today and I find I learn valuable techniques to add to my repertoire by studying the way a piece has been constructed. The baroque pearl earrings on my desk today are a really good example so I want to share with you the step-by-step reconstruction of them. My customer received them as a gift from her mother so they have sentimental value to her but after years of wear, the fine gauge wire that they're constructed with has become kinked, making the earrings unattractive. So a remake is in order - my brief is to try to recreate the original design if possible.

The earrings have an unusual construction method: one continuous length of wire runs through the pearl and then becomes the earring wire. Another uncommon design feature of these earrings is that the pear-shaped pearl sits horizontally rather than vertically in the design. It's quite a clever construction method however the challenge will not be in the construction, but rather finding a suitable wire that won't kink quite so easily and isn't so thick that it requires the holes in the pearls to be drilled out.

The original wire is dead soft and easy to manipulate but that's what has lead to the kinking so I've chosen Beadalon's 22g Stainless Steel Artistic Wire. Stainless Steel wire is less malleable than regular Artistic Wire and it has more spring it it so it should hold it's shape better but still be pliable enough to work. It is also thin enough to fit through the existing bead holes.

So let's get started.

1. I've cut a 20cm length to work with and threaded one of the pearls onto it, leaving a 3cm tail.

2. To make the loop that the earring wire sits in we're going to create a wire wrapped loop, so bend the wire above the pearl at a 90° angle.

3. Create a loop with round nose pliers at the bend. You can move the pearl out of the way to do this.

4. Wrap the tail twice around the neck of the wire and trim away the excess. I use old flush cutters for this rather than my good ones because stainless steel wire can damage the blades.

5. Leave a small gap between the pearl and the wire wrapping (you'll need this space for the following step) and bend the wire where it exits the other end of the pearl. Bring it back towards the wire wrapping. You want the wire to sit firmly against the side of the bead but you need a little slackness for step 8.

6. Wrap the wire once around the base of the wire wrapped neck.

7. Now bring the wire back around the other side of the pearl so that the pearl is cradled on each side by wire.

8. Insert the tail through the first loop.....

8a ...gently easing it through the loop so you don't create any kinks.

9. Thread the tail through the second loop cradling the pearl so that the wire cradle sits firmly against the pearl.

10. Use flat nose pliers to bend the loop upwards just above the wire wrapping - this will be the loop to hook the earring wire through. (Sorry, forgot to photograph this step).

11. Form the remaining wire into a round earring shape the width of the pearl. Use flat nose pliers to bend the wire at a 45° angle where it meets the loop and then trim the tail to approximately 5mm.

12. Use a cup bur to smooth the end of the wire. Make the second earring to match.

And here's the remake.

Time will tell if the Stainless Steel wire proves to be a permanent solution or a temporary one but for the time being, my customer is happy that she can wear her baroque pearl earrings again!

'Til next time......


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