Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Licorice Allsorts - a modern twist on a traditional lolly

Remember the suitcase bonbonniere I showed you a couple of weeks back? Well at last, they're finished.... all 50 plus of them. And in plenty of time to pack them ready for the trip to Adelaide!
Well actually, they weren’t quite finished because they still needed to be filled with some of my Dad's favourite things: licorice allsorts and a jigsaw puzzle thank you note. And that couldn’t be done until after a visit to the Central Market to find the best licorice allsorts in town.
So which will it be: the traditional striped and layered allsorts?
Or the less traditional but very licoricy chunky allsorts?
Hmmm.... it was no competition really. The chunky ones are Dad's favourite so chunky ones it will be.
As soon as I got into Adelaide on Friday morning, I headed straight to the markets in the city and made a beeline to Blackeby’s sweets stall where I bought a whopping 1.25kg of the chunky licorice allsorts. Yes, you read that right – 1.25 kilograms! That’s 2½ lbs in case you're not familiar with the metric system.
All that was left to do was bag the licorice allsorts and add the thank you note (which I'd cut into a jigsaw puzzle with a Cuttlebug die). And to complete them I wrapped them with two strips of satin ribbon and glued on some studs.
They were certainly a talking point at the party as all the guests reminisced about the newspaper printed onto the boxes. Using the paper from the day Dad was born was a real hit!
Oh, and in case you're wondering, I taste tested one of each colour licorice allsort just to make sure that they tasted alright! Yumm! 

'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, August 26, 2011

QR Codes - What are these Strange Looking Barcodes?

Have you noticed these strange looking square bar codes that are beginning to pop up everywhere? I've seen them on T shirts, business cards, product labels, and bill boards. Gosh, there's even one in the sidebar on my blog!

QR stands for Quick Response and the technology has been around for about 15 years but its use is only just beginning to gain popularity.

QR codes are big in Asia where they were developed but the rest of the world is just beginning to use the technology. You’ll soon see QR codes everywhere as companies realise how useful they can be.
These barcodes can be encoded with all sorts of useful information such as product information, a website URL or even a video. You need to have a smart phone to be able to read the code which will then provide you with whatever information has been encoded to it.
So, how do you use a QR code reader?
Firstly, download a free QR code reader for your smart phone. I use this one from i-nigma which has versions for the iPhone, Android and Blackberry, or go to your app store and download the one that you like. Open the app and then line up the QR code. The code reader will scan the QR code and then provide you with whatever information has been encoded to it.

So now that you’re armed with a smart phone and a code reader, you’re ready to check out what they can do for you.
Here’s a couple of examples to get you started.
  • The QR code at the top of this post will take you to my website. No need to type in a lengthy URL - the code reader will take you directly to the home page.
  • Visit the Beadalon website and scan the code for product information. You'll soon see the barcodes appearing on all their product packaging so you'll be able to scan the packaging in store to find out more information about the product.
Now that you know what a QR code is you'll start noticing them everywhere you look. You might even notice some coloured ones that have triangle shapes inside the squares. These are the Microsoft Tag version but that's a whole other story!

'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

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

How to Get Your Camera Lens to Focus Sharply on Resin Objects

We all know that a picture is worth a thousand words..... but a bad picture often doesn't tell a story at all.

I use a point and click camera for the photos on my blog and it does a pretty good job without me needing a lot of photographic skills. Over time I have learned to use a lot of the settings on my camera to improve my photos even more and I've also developed some Photoshop skills to help fix the less than perfect photos.

But when I'm photographing my resin pieces, I usually have trouble getting the camera to focus on the surface of the resin. The autofocus function can't work out where to focus on such a non contrasting subject so it doesn't focus on anything at all and you get a result like this: But there's a really simple solution: get the camera to lock focus onto another object in the photo that is the same distance away from the lens. Here's what I mean.

Place an object on the surface where you want the camera to focus. Here, I'm resting a toothpick against the face of the bangle. Now, hold the shutter button down half way so that the lens focuses on that object. Keep holding it down but don't take the photo just yet. You can see the camera has now focused on the toothpick right in the centre of the frame.Remove the object and fully depress the button to take the photo. Voilà! A perfectly focused photo.
I wish I'd learned this trick when I first started working with resin - it would have saved me such a lot of effort. I used to take hundreds of photos until I got one that was OK. Now, I know it's just a matter of getting the lens to lock focus and the camera will do all the work.

'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, August 23, 2011

7 Ways to Deal with Large Holed Beads

Making my own beads out of Friendly Plastic and Opals Embossing enamels is something I love to do. But because they're made on bamboo skewers, they have really big bead holes and getting them to sit nicely on the stringing material without wobbling is a challenge. But it's not a problem restricted to my handmade mixed media beads.

Image of 4 handmade, large hole beads with text overlay: 7 Ways to Deal with Large Hole Beads

With the popularity of lampwork beads and pandora-inspired beads you're bound to have come across this problem yourself, so here's a list of ideas that should help you centre those beads on your stringing material so that they sit nicely instead of wobbling around.
A collection of Large Hole Beads

1. Insert a Bugle Bead or Seed Beads in the hole

Insert a bugle bead or seed beads inside the bead and thread the eye pin straight through the middle. You can use bead caps to hide the bugle bead if it's showing.
Bugle beads of different lengthsStringing a bugle bead onto a head pin followed by a large hole bead

2. Plastic Tubing

Use the plastic tubing designed for covering memory wire. Plastic jewellery tubing in different thicknessesCut jewellery tube to the length of the large holed beadInsert the cut tubing inside the large holed beadYou can buy plain clear tubing or velour coated tubing. Thread the large holed bead onto the velour coated jewellery tubingIf you consider aquarium or brewing tube too, then you have a variety of tubing widths to choose from.Large holed beads need different stringing materials to sit well.Plastic aquarium tube comes in a variety of sizes and is larger than velour covered tube.Thread the bead onto the aquarium tubing.Insert the velour tubing into the aquarium tubing before stringing on the large hole bead

3. Silicone Earring Stoppers

Earring stoppers for earring wires. String an earring stopper onto a head pin to use inside large hole beadsFurnace cane glass beads have large holesThey fit well inside some glass cane beads......Earring stoppers cut to fit inside the hole of a can glass bead also protect the bead from chipping.....but need trimming to fit inside others. Earring stops are made from a fairly soft plastic and they can be trimmed easily with a pair of scissors to fit snugly inside the bead if need be.Trim the earring stopper to the diameter of the bead hole whilst it is on the head pin.Insert the trimmed earring stopper into the cane glass bead

4. Polymer Clay

Use polymer clay to fill the hole if the bead is glass, slide in an eye pin and then bake it. If your beads are plastic and won't take the heat of an oven, consider an airdrying clay that has minimal shrinkage when it dries. Apoxie Sculpt is another alternative - it's a two part resin putty that cures without the need for baking and it doesn't shrink when it cures.

5. Use a Bicone Bead

Place a bicone bead on the eye pin, then the large holed bead and then another bicone bead (one end of each bicone should fit snuggly inside the bead, holding the bead firmly in place). In time, the bicone will chip away with wear so it's not really a long term solution.
Bicone beads act as stoppers inside European style beads and also add a touch of colour to the designBicone beads add some additional colour as well as helping to stabilise large holed European style beads

6. Upside Down Bead Caps

This is a variation of number 5. Insert a small metal bell-shaped cap into the bead hole, upside down.Bead caps with a cone shape fit well inside large holed beadsInsert small cone shaped bead caps into European style beads to stop them from wiggling on the stringing materialChoose cone shaped bead caps that fit firmly inside the rim of the European style beads to help stablise them.

7. Bead Aligners

Purchase commercial bead aligners such as those from TierraCast. They fit snugly inside the ends of pandora-style beads.
And if none of these ideas is the solution you're looking for, you could always consider using a thicker stringing material such as leather cord or rat tail or even a bunch of fibres.

If you liked this article, you might also find this one helpful:
8 Professional Ways to Finish Bulky Stringing Materials

Pin these ideas for later!

Inspiration sheet with ideas on how to string large hole beads

Happy beading!
'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

Monday, August 22, 2011

Glossy vs Frosted

It seems I am in a very blue / black / brown mood at the moment..... these are the bangles I cast in the bangle and ring workshops over the weekend.Today I want to spotlight the two cuffs in that pile.

I was disappointed with both of them when I pulled them from the mould; the tortoiseshell one was dull and lifeless and the marbling in the blue one was very mottled and not really marbled at all.

I hadn't achieved the look I was after in either of them. But I could see a way to improve them both and it just involved a little bit of elbow grease. These two cuffs are going to get two very different looks.... high gloss for the tortoiseshell cuff and frosted for the icy blue one.
Let's look at the tortoiseshell one first.
This was cast with amber resin and marbled with brown and black pigments. It was rather dull and lifeless when it came out of the mould but it had some great black veins of pigment swirling through it. There's definite potential here so I gave it the "Glossy, Glossier, Glossiest" treatment - 9 grades of sandpaper followed by a final buffing.

Look at how the polishing treatment has brought out the colour!
This is a bangle that definitely looks better glossy than matt!

The blue bangle on the other hand is a different kettle of fish.

The colour of this was very cool and it reminded me of sea glass so I decided to give it the frosted look to completely disguise the mottled marbling. This effect is much easier to achieve than the glossy look because you only need a couple of grades of course sandpaper.

The before photo hasn't picked up the translucency or the marbling of this bangle but you can see it's a little bit mottled.After sanding it with a couple of grades of course sandpaper, it has disguised the mottling and given it a lovely frosted surface. It's a great improvement on the original look!
So glossy works for some bangles and frosted works for others. But how do you know whether to buff to a high polish or not?

Well I have a little trick that I use which helps me decide. Hold the bangle under water and then lift it out. How it looks whilst it still has water on it is a really good indication of how it will look if it's buffed. So if you like it, then buff it; if you don't, then leave it be.

I'll be back with another resin tip later in the week.

'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, August 19, 2011

Toothbrush Bangle - Take 2!

So yesterday was a total disaster in the kitchen.

But today was a complete triumph!

With new toothbrushes to work with I had instant success and by instant, I mean in under 5 minutes.

Check out my progress below:

Placing the toothbrush into a pot of boiling water.
A couple of minutes later, it is softened enough to work. I'm using a tea towel and oven mittens to protect my hands.

Firstly, pull out the bristles with pliers - this is quite therapeutic, especially after a hard day at work!
It cools down pretty quickly, so I keep returning it to the boiling water.

A tea towel is great to protect your hands from the hot plastic plus it catches all the dripping water. I gently bend the ends upwards and around......
and keep reheating as necessary until it completely bend around.
Make sure you leave a gap so you can slide it onto your wrist.Now THAT was fun!

I hope you'll give it a go. Here's the link to the tutorial at Apostrophy Designs that I mentioned yesterday. Tori did this with the neighbourhood kids - what a great idea to keep the kids amused.

Go on, have some fun; Do a Google images search for "toothbrush bracelet" and see how many other people have had fun with this!

Happy crafting......

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