Wednesday, April 27, 2011

A Visit to the Mint - It Makes Cents!

Isn't that a catchy title?!! It's the tagline on the tourist brochure for the Royal Australian Mint and I think no visit to Canberra would be complete without a visit to The Mint.

How's this for a staircase? Go on, take a closer look...... Can you see the coins?On closer inspection, you can see that the risers are completely filled with 5c coins!Now, take another look at the whole staircase. Notice how all the coins are tumbling down from the top of the staircase to fill the risers from the bottom up. How neat is that!

The staircase leads to the viewing gallery where you can watch the coins being made and learn all about the coin making process.

The first part of the process is really low tech and it occurred to me that it is similar to how I'd produce a design in my own studio. It starts out with an artist who sketches the design on paper and then carves it into a plaster disk the size of a plate. This is painstakingly refined until the design is perfected. Now, I might not carve my design but I'd certainly use plaster or polymer clay or something else that I could mould or sculpt to create my original.

The next stage is to create a rubber mould from the plaster disk so that the image is reversed. This would be the next step in my studio too: creating the mould from silicone. This one is really shallow but that's all that's needed for the next step.

And the bit that got me the most excited: they use epoxy resin to create a hard copy of the original plaster design! Wow, just like I would do in my own studio! At this point we leave the artist behind and computers and technology step in. But I was struck by how unsophisticated this part of the coin making process is - it is exactly what we, as artists and crafters, would do in our own studios.

And I just can't finish this post without commenting on how similar the resin coin above looks to the one in this post (before I aged it). Who'd have thought?!!

I'll be back soon with more coin related posts.

'Til next time.....

If you can't get enough of My Tutorials and you want even more inspiration, click here to find my books and printable pdfs

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Gem Craft Winner

Thank you to all of you who wished me well on my 3-year blogaversary. It is wonderful to have you interact with me here on my blog. I know that I see some of you at workshops, and there are others who are my online buddies as well as those of you also who stop by my blog regularly to see what I've been up to but it's always heartfelt when you leave me a comment, so thanks to you all for helping me to celebrate this milestone.

To the winner of the Gem Craft kit, I hope you love playing with your new prize. So here goes........

The winner is (as drawn by Random Org)

Comment number 3 - Julie P.

Congratulations Julie P. Please contact me withing 3 days to claim your prize.

Thank you all once again for stopping by to help me celebrate.

'Til next time.....

If you can't get enough of My Tutorials and you want even more inspiration, click here to find my books and printable pdfs

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Gem Craft Giveaway!

When I decided to open my studio to the blogosphere just a little over 3 years ago, I didn't give too much thought to where my blog would go. I just knew that I made stuff and that it would be good to share that stuff with other like-minded souls who happened to stumble across my blog. I didn't dare to think I'd still be blogging beyond that first year. It had certainly occurred to me that maybe no one would read my blog... that was a scary thought, but I went ahead and blogged anyway. And it was strangely satisfying.... putting ideas out there and sometimes reaching someone who appreciated it. Anyway, here we are 3 years on and I'm still blogging away regularly. I think that's quite an achievement!

So, to celebrate my 3 year blogoversary I'm having a giveaway. For your chance to win just leave a little comment at the bottom of my post. But first, a little tutorial!

Today I'm working with the Sakura Gemcraft Kit. This is one of the easiest ways I know of to create your own dazzling opalescent pendants. The kit comes with full instructions and all the materials you need to create the gems but you'll need an adhesive (I used 3D Crystal Lacquer), a pair of scissors and UV light. You can use good ol' sunshine if you don't have access to a UV lamp.

Select the pendant tray of your choice from the kit and a piece of the black card stock.Place the corner of the card into the corner of the pendant tray and use your thumb to impress the edge of the tray into the card.
Cut out the card just slightly inside the impression.
Apply 3D Crystal Lacquer into the bottom of the pendant tray.
Place the card in the bottom of the pendant and leave it to dry completely before moving on. Whilst this one was drying, I switched to a round pendant in the following step which I'd prepared earlier.

Apply a thin layer of the UV Base Coat onto the card, making sure it goes all the way out to the edges. You can tease it out with a toothpick so that it just kisses the edges.
Dip the toothpick into the gem particles......
and then place the toothpick into the Base Coat, patting down the particles so they lay flat.
Add a variety of colours until you're happy with how the gem looks. It's good to leave some black space to make the gem really pop!
Place the pendant tray under a UV light or out in the sunshine for 1 minute to begin the curing process.Take a pair of fine scissors and trim away any particles which are sticking up.
Apply another layer of the base coat and then return to the UV light or sunshine for 3 minutes.
Finally, apply the UV Top Coat so that it creates a slight dome.
Return to the light for 15 minutes or until cured.
It's a really simple process with quite stunning results. Each kit contains 8 assorted pendant trays and enough materials to make many, many more than that.

Now, back to my giveaway. If you'd like to win one of these Gem Craft kits, just leave your comment at the bottom of this post. I'll draw one lucky winner randomly on Tuesday 26th April. Don't forget to check back to see if you've won or if you like, you can leave your contact details so that I can let you know if you're the lucky winner. If the winner hasn't claimed their prize within 3 days I will draw another winner.

'Til next time.....

If you can't get enough of My Tutorials and you want even more inspiration, click here to find my books and printable pdfs

Friday, April 15, 2011

Spiral Leather Cuff

One of my best finds at CHA this year was a wonderful company just entering the jewellery making market: Silver Creek Leather.

Up until now, Silver Creek Leather has manufactured traditional leather craft products and tools but they have just introduced a truly unique range of silver plated jewellery components to compliment their leather craft range and I wanted to share with you one of their newest innovations: interchangeable focal centrepieces and leather bracelets. 

The bracelets are made of quality cowhide leather and are pre-punched with holes spaced perfectly apart to accommodate the screw in focal centrepieces in the range. They come in black, brown and saddle tan.

I've put together a tutorial below so you can understand how the components work. You can download a printable pdf from Mill Lane Studio.Begin by collecting all the materials you’ll need:
  • Silver Creek Leather Bracelet J7033-02 Brown; or a plain leather bracelet and leather punch
  • Deco Focal Piece J7023-00 Sterling Plated;
  • 8” (20cm) Sof-Suede Lace 749 – Pacific Green;
  • 26 x 3mm AB Jet flat back crystals;
  • Screw driver;
  • Adhesive suitable for leather
Remove the screws from the back of the Deco Focal using the screwdriver.Apply adhesive to one of the screw posts.Coil one end of the Sof-Suede Lace around the post adding adhesive to the Lace as you go. Continue coiling until you are just short of the half way mark of the cord.You should have a nice even spiral of approximately 4 rotations.Coil the free end of the Lace adding adhesive as you go to secure the Lace. Continue coiling until it is the same size as the first coil.Apply a small amount of adhesive to the remaining screw post and secure the coil in position.Place one of the screws into the leather bracelet from the back.
Position the Deco Focal over the screw and use the screwdriver to tighten.
Screw the second screw into the remaining post.The Deco Focal and spiral are now held securely in place.Arrange the crystals in a pleasing manner over the bracelet and spirals. Glue into place with the adhesive.
When you're ready for a change, you can change up the look of your jewellery by unscrewing the posts and inserting a different focal. Or add one of the great suede shapes that also come in the range. For another look, you can screw in a set of stud focals instead. As I said, the pieces are interchangeable. Isn't that a great idea?!!

I hope you'll search out this very clever range of components. They are something really unique to the jewellery making market!

'Til next time.....

If you can't get enough of My Tutorials and you want even more inspiration, click here to find my books and printable pdfs

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Inspiration from The Mint

I got to spend this past weekend in in our nation's capital, and for the first time in a long time, I was travelling for pleasure rather than for work.

I've always liked Canberra - there is a lot to see and do, and mostly it's free. You've gotta love that! We crammed in a visit to the Mint, Parliament House and also the War Memorial. But today's post is inspired by the Mint.

It was fascinating to learn about the process of making coins and it inspired me to dig out my collection of old 1c and 2c coins to turn into jewellery........ specifically, resin jewellery.

OK, let's stop there! It turns out that 1c and 2c coins are still legal tender in Australia. Who knew! They've been out of circulation since 1994 and it would be next to impossible to get anyone to accept them as payment but, by law, you can still use them!

In my research, I discovered this page on the Royal Australian Mint's website which explains in quite clear terms that it is illegal to deface our currency or to replicate it. Now, most people would have worked that out for themselves but without knowing that 1c and 2c coins are still legal tender you could land yourself in a lot of hot water. So I guess I won't be creating any moulds or embedding any 1c or 2c coins in my jewellery designs after all.

After rethinking today's project I remembered a cast I had in my stash made using a Krafty Lady mould (AM048 Confucious Medallion) and resin. It looks quite like an old coin so it will be perfect for a tutorial on turning resin into metal.

I've started out with a transparent orange resin casting. The orange will actually help create a bit of a rusty look to the finished coin, but any colour casting will be fine to work with. The detail is quite shallow, just like a coin so it will need a bit of highlighting to bring out the design at the end.
Apply a tacky adhesive to the coin. Here I'm working on the back. Depending on how you plan to use your finished coin, you may need to cover both sides. Just work on one side at a time. Allow it to dry to the tacky stage......then place it face down into a sheet of copper leaf. You can see that I've already applied variegated leaf to the back. Carefully remove the excess foil.Use a soft brush to gently push the copper leaf into contact with the tacky adhesive so that the detail is visible.
Apply a layer of black acrylic paint......
and once the gloss has disappeared (i.e. it's almost dry, but not quite), pat off the excess paint with a cloth. Apply more paint to the rest of the coin and repeat.Next you'll need AMACO's Rub 'n Buff in Patina.Apply the Rub 'n Buff with your finger to the whole coin.And then rub away the excess with your finger. Take care not to rub too hard as the copper leaf may also rub away.Lightly dry brush black acrylic paint across the surface to add some definition to the design.And there you have it..... an ancient looking coin that looks like it's been unearthed from an archeological dig.
Now that's alchemy!

I hope you enjoyed the tut. I'll be back later in the week with another coin related post.

'Til next time.....

If you can't get enough of My Tutorials and you want even more inspiration, click here to find my books and printable pdfs