Saturday, January 28, 2012

Silver Creek Leather at CHA

Somehow I managed to finish everything on my work table and get it all packed in time to leave for CHA on Friday morning. It's a strange thing: Friday was yesterday...... and yet I am now in LA and some 18 hours after leaving Brisbane, it is once again Friday...... and about the same time as it was when I left Brisbane. Ah, the wonders of crossing the international date line!

If you're lucky enough to be attending CHA (and I know there are a few of you out there), pop by the Silver Creek Leather booth (#1325) on the first day of the show (Sunday) from 1pm - 4pm whilst I'm demoing with the fabulous Real Leather Jewelry components and Sof-Suede Lace. You'll see how easy it is to weave a simple but elegant lattice bracelet even if you don't have any jewellery making skills.You've got to love a project like that!
And I have it on good authority that there is a bracelet kit to be given away, so do stop by for a look and discover this very clever and unique range of jewellery making components for yourself. I promise you, it will change the way you look at leather jewellery forever.

Now, I'm off a shopping excursion......I'll be back soon.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Happy Australia Day!

I'm so excited! It's Australia Day and I'm actually IN Australia to celebrate it!

At this time of January I'm usually already in the US for Winter CHA but this year it starts just a little later and I'm still home in Brisbane.

So what could be a more Aussie way to celebrate Australia Day than with a barbie, a pavlova, some lamingtons and of course, some good friends. Yep, that's the menu at our place today. And we'll wash it all down with some Aussie wine and cold beer.

I still have bags to pack and work to complete in the studio but that can wait just a little bit longer.... I'm off to celebrate our national day!

Have a wonderful day Australia!

'Til next time......

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Not All Shrink Plastic is the Same

I am so impressed with the results I got using the printable shrink plastic for my tags that I wanted to show you how much better it is than regular pre-sanded shrink plastic.

You can see quite clearly the difference in printed quality. The top one is the one I printed last year on pre-sanded shrink plastic and the bottom one is the Grafix Inkjet Shrink Plastic.

But let's take a closer look.
Even though the pre-sanded shrink plastic can be run through an inkjet printer (and it did the job quite adequately!) but the ink bleeds if it gets any moisture on it and it has a definite blurriness about it.

Now let's look at the Grafix shrink plastic.
You can see how crisp and clear the printing is. It looks so much better than the pre-sanded shrink plastic.

So the difference in quality of the printing is quite obvious but let's take a look on the back of the two samples to see what other differences there are.
See how the type is reversed? You print on the reverse side of the pre-sanded plastic because the front is glossy. So there is an extra step you need to take before you run it through the printer - reversing your type!

Now let's look at the reverse of the Grafix shrink plastic.
This is the clear inkjet shrink plastic but it isn't really clear at all once it's shrunk; it has a frosted look about it. So if you wanted to, you could also place an image on the reverse.

Have I completely sold you on the Grafix Inkjet Shrink Plastic yet? It was a lot more expensive than regular shrink plastic at approximately $5/sheet after postage but I think the results speak for themselves!

'Til next time.....

Saturday, January 21, 2012

More About Inkjet Shrink Plastic

At 2.30am this morning as I was attaching the last of my shrink plastic charms I discovered a couple of the tags didn't have holes: one was only partially punched and the other missed getting punched altogether! Oh, dear, I desperately need to get to bed but not before I solve this problem.

Given that I had already wasted 2 sheets of this film from my pack of 6 sheets, there was none left to print off more so I really needed to use those last two tags. There was only one thing for it: drill the holes and hope that the plastic didn't shatter.

I decided to start on the one with the partial hole hoping that it would be less likely to crack. And to my relief, my little battery operated drill easily and cleanly drilled a 1mm hole without any damage to the tag at all.

Next I lined up the hole-less tag and drilled straight through that one as well. Success!

So all is not lost if you forget to punch the holes before you shrink, or even if you decide afterwards to add more charms to your "charm": just grab a drill and carefully drill the hole where you want it.

'Happy crafting!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Ever Get that Shrinking Feeling?

It's back to the production line again today to finish off the last and most important item of my giveaways: my contact details!

I ordered some clear Grafix Inkjet Shrink Plastic from Over the Rainbow to use as tags on my jewellery giveaways because it's strong and durable. Plus, it looks like a little charm dangling from the chain so it does double duty as being both practical and aesthetically pleasing. The beauty of this product is that you can run it through your inkjet printer and there is NO sanding is required!

So let's take a look at the process.

According to the package instructions, it will shrink to between half and one third its original size and suggests that you make your items 50% bigger than the finished size.  Armed with this information, I used a size 12 font to create my label and then printed it onto plain paper so that I could measure it against my template. It was exactly 50% bigger so I went ahead and printed it onto the shrink film. (More on this at the end of the post.)
And it printed beautifully; no smudging, no wet ink; just really clear, crisp type! I have to say that I am truly impressed with the printing.

So the next step is to trim. I've used deckled edged scissors so that I didn't have to be too precise with my cutting. I like the look it gives when the plastic has shrunk.

Before baking, it's important to punch any holes. You have to remember that the holes shrink too! I used a 3mm (1/16") hole punch.

And then it's into the oven.
In case you can't read it, the oven should be 170°C (approximately 350°F) and it will take about 3 minutes to shrink the plastic. Here's a really great tip I picked up from the Grafix website: put a piece of silicone baking paper over the top to help prevent the shrink plastic from curling up and sticking to itself. I know this takes all the fun out of watching it curl and shrink, but it really does work.

After about 3 minutes, you can remove them from the oven and run a rolling pin over the top layer of the silicone paper whilst the shrink plastic is still warm - this will flatten them out completely so they're ready to use in your project.

Along the way, I had a few little hitches to deal with.
  1. The first was that my printer wouldn't accept the plastic because it was too thick to feed through. Luckily I was able to use a friend's inkjet printer.
  2. The size 12 font I used on my practice run was too small and it was unreadable when it was shrunk. Take my advice and only print one label first; not a whole sheet!
  3. The font I used on my second practice run was also too small. I should have taken my own advice........ I wasted another whole sheet! In the end, a size 16 font was the best size for my charms.
So now I have all my "charms" attached to my jewellery and I'm feeling a little bit better prepared. But I can't rest yet; there's still lots to do. And I can always sleep on the plane!

'Til next time.......

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Sketching your Designs - A Lesson from Matisse

I had the loveliest of outings on the weekend: a trip to GoMA (Gallery of Modern Art) in Brisbane to see the Matisse: Drawing Life exhibition.

It was quite insightful wandering through the rooms of the gallery studying his sketches: the thought and inspiration that went into each piece. There are very few finished art works in this exhibition but that's what it's all about: the preliminary sketches.

It is a great lesson to learn: even great artists don't just commit paint straight onto a canvas. And it is evident by the 300 odd sketches in the exhibition that Matisse sketched several preliminary drawings prior to putting anything on canvas. There is a great quote above one of the works which says:  

"For this Enlévement d'Europe, which is perhaps my best canvas and in any case the one I care for most, I made more than three thousand sketches, yes, three thousand..."

So what does this mean for the rest of us who enjoy creating in our chosen medium?
We may not be budding Matisses, but perhaps it suggests that in order to create great art or great designs, we too should sketch our ideas first, before we commit ink to paper, bead to string or thread to fabric.

I have to admit that this is a foreign concept for me and I rarely draw my designs before I begin work. Mostly, my sketches are in my head (along with all my lists of things I have to do - it is cluttered in there and I need a better filing system!). I'm always so anxious to get started on my project that I hate to spend time committing my design to paper first. But perhaps it's not necessary to spend a great deal of time on the sketch. The thing that struck me most about Matisse's sketches was that many of them were nothing more than a few major shapes or outlines.

I am taking this lesson on board this year and will be trying to put it into practice on occasion, with the emphasis on "ON OCCASION" - a quasi New Year's Resolution. After succeeding spectacularly with this approach last year where I committed to procrastinating LESS, I've discovered something new about myself. My undisciplined, disorderly, and dare I say it, creative brain responds to this approach really well. So let's give it a go again this year and see how I fare.

'Til next time.......

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

A Mini Resin Exhibition at GoMA

I was so excited when I walked into GoMA yesterday and this is what I spotted: a wall of resin platters by a little Aussie design company that you might have heard of: Dinosaur Designs. It was an absolute privilege to see these extraordinary pieces up close and personal.
Well I'm not sure if you'd call them platters because they stand well over a metre high. See that guy on the far right of the picture? He gives you a better idea of just how big these platters are.

Here's a couple of closer shots.
This one is my favourite because it reminds me of a resin pendant I made a couple of years back.
But it's not until you flip the pendant over that you see the similarities: the colours; the blending, and the swirl effect. It's striking, isn't it?
And yet, the two pieces are coloured using entirely different techniques: the colour in the platter is embedded in the resin whereas the colour in the pendant is a surface application. Still both results are stunning.

If you're a resin enthusiast and you happen to be in Brisbane any time this year, check out GoMA and the wonderful platters created by Dinosaur Designs. You will be pretty impressed.

'Til next time.....

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Bead Shopping with a friend.... it can be dangerous on your wallet

I had the great delight of corrupting one of my paper crafting friends yesterday..... I took her bead shopping! And what better introduction can you have than to go wholesale shopping in a bead showroom?

You should have seen her face when we walked into the room. To say she was completely overwhelmed would be an understatement but it didn't take long for the "I don't know where to start" expression to fade from her face and you could see the excitement begin to grow as she realised how much fun this was going to be.
 It wasn't long before she was adding a strand of this and a strand of that to her basket...... she says I was a terrible influence on her!!

That may well be true. But she was a way worse influence on me......... I spent double my allocated budget for this event!!

It was more than 2 hours before we emerged from this beady wonderland, and we had a ball. After all, what girl doesn't like a good shop?

'Til next time....

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Great Balls of Wire!

My jewellery giveaways are progressing nicely since yesterday's post. But after assembling the beaded chain, I decided it needed a bit more razzle dazzle and I had just the thing in mind - coiled wire beads.
Collection of crazy wire beads
These Great Balls of Wire are made using the Coiling Gizmo.  I've had this neat little gadget for quite some time but I hadn't used it before so this was the perfect opportunity.

To make your own balls of wire, you first need to create a coil following the instructions that come with the Coiling Gizmo. I've used the thinner mandrel and 28 gauge non tarnish silver wire for bright, shiny beads. It took about 3 metres (10 feet) of wire to make a coil the full length of the mandrel. From that I coiled about 7 beads.

Once you've made the coil, cut the anchor wire and slide the coil off the mandrel.
Trimming the end of the wire coil with flush cutters so it can be removed from the mandrel

Unwind the first couple of coils and wrap the wire around a headpin.
Unwinding the first couple of coils and wrapping them around a headpin.

Continue wrapping the coil around the headpin stretching it as you go.
Beginning to wrap the coil around the headpin, stretching it as you go.

Continue wrapping the wire back over itself.
Continue wrapping the coil around the headpin stretching it as you go.

This will help create a fuller bead with a rounded centre.
Coiling the wire again, over the base

The bead should look something like this.
Finished silver wire coiled bead

Now push the ends of the coil together squeezing the wire coils into each other. This will help make a firmer bead. You can also reshape the bead a little by pinching and rolling it between your fingers.
Push the ends of the coil together squeezing the wire coils into each other. This will help make a firmer bead. You can also reshape the bead a little by pinching and rolling it between your fingers.

Use flat nose pliers to turn the headpin at a right angle. Trim the headpin to approximately 8-10mm.
 Use flat nose pliers to turn the headpin at a right angle. Trim the headpin.

Use the round nose pliers to turn a loop and the wire ball bead is ready to be incorporated into your project.
Use the round nose pliers to turn a loop and the wire ball bead is ready to be incorporated into your project.

And here it is amongst all the pretty AB beads on my beaded chain.
Shiny, coiled wire beads and black bicone beads with an iris finish dangle in a bunch on a silver chain

Now I'm much happier with the way it looks.

If you'd like to make your own Great Balls of Wire, you can download the printable pdf version from the tutorials page at Mill Lane Studio.

Now, it's back to the production line for me - there is still much to do!

Pin it for later!
Make your own crazy wire coiled beads from wire inspiration sheet.

'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

Production Line

Prominently marked on my calendar in January is CHA - the Craft and Hobby Association's Winter Trade Show and Conference. It's an important event in the crafting world and it's where all the new crafting products are released. If you are ever offered the opportunity to go you should grab it with both hands and squeal with joy because being a crafter on the show floor is like being a kid in a candy store!

So, for me, January is a very busy time making preparations for the Show. This week I'm working on little giveaways for visitors to my Designer Showcase. It will take a whole week to create these little treasures and today you get to take a little peek at the progress I am making. The most efficient (and fastest) way to tackle a project like this is to set up a production line. So here goes.....

There are lots of loops to turn. It's a good thing I like turning loops!

I find it less tedious to do them in batches of 10. It also helps me keep count of how many I've done.

To make sure I don't leave out any components whilst I'm assembling, I line them up on the work table in little trays. Then I just pick what I need from each tray.

It's fiddly work attaching the beads to the chain but they're really pretty! A lot of people don't like using AB beads, but I LOVE them and they'll work especially well with this project!

Now you've seen the beads..... but to make it uniquely Mill Lane Studio, it has to include resin.

There's a lot of casting still to be done and with at least four layers on each piece, I will be casting for several more days. If all goes to plan, these will be finished by early next week and then once all the pieces are cured, I can start the job of final assembly.

I really want to show you the finished piece, but as always, these things have to stay under wraps. So instead, let me show you what I made for the last show back in July.

This is one of two different resin rings I made. What could be more fun than wearing a delicious, mouthwatering sundae on your finger? Cherry Sundae is such a fun piece!

And here's a shot of the second ring. I don't seem to have a clear close up of this ring so it's a bit difficult to see the detail in it. The Flamenco ring is elegant and striking (and it was also very popular!).

Perhaps by the time the show rolls around again in July I'll be able to show you the finished piece I'm working on at the moment. I hope you can wait that long.

More pics to come... hope you'll come back soon!