Saturday, February 25, 2012

Telephone Ring (get it?) A Resin Tutorial

As I'm sure you all know, I do not fancy myself a jewelry designer by any stretch of the imagination, but I do love to make wearable mixed media art now and then.

When I started working with this ring blank from Susan Lenart Kazmer's Art Mechanique line, I intended to do layers of tissue paper, resin, rub on decals, watch gears and clear mica pieces, but once I started looking at the 7 Gypsies tissue paper I'd just purchased, the project took on a life of its own.

What you'll need for this project:
  • Ring blank - this one is the ring bezel in bronze from the Art Mechanique line by Susan Lenart Kazmer - the flange around the edge was an integral design element.
  • Numbers - I used 7 Gypsies Collage Tissue in "Numero", however, you can easily create your own numbers using a tape transfer technique and images of telephone dial numbers or old typewriter keys.
  • Resin.  I prefer 2-part jewelry grade epoxy resin with a 1:1 mix ratio like ICE or Luxe, both of which I use.  Make sure you have plenty of measuring cups and stir sticks.
  • Clear-drying adhesive or sealant/varnish
  • A steady hand  try practicing by playing some Operation with your little brother.
  • Tools:
    detail paintbrush or bamboo skewer
    sharp, small scissors
    something to hold your ring level
  • Acrylic craft paint (optional)
As always, start by opening all of your supplies and by cleaning your ring.  I just use a little 90% rubbing alcohol.

When you are working with a deep bezel in a bronze or dark color like this, layers will show up better if you start with a brighter background.  I just dabbed a little paint (I had Golden's Fluid Acrylics in Titan Buff on hand, but you can use any light colored acrylic craft or artist's paint).  

While you wait for the paint to dry...

Don't sneeze.

This was definitely the most difficult part of this project - cutting out the tissue paper and NOT blowing the teeny pieces across my worktable.  I used a very sharp pair of spring handled Fiskars snips, which made cutting the delicate tissue without tearing much easier. I think it was worth the effort though, because the sepia tone of the paper blends well with the bronze of the ring blank.  

Before we go crazy gluing things all over the place, let's take a look at an actual rotary phone.
Those of you under 30 probably didn't have one of these in your house.
magnifying glass is double plus good
If you look at this like a clock, you'll see that the 3 and the 2 sit right on either side of 12 o'clock and the 8 and 9 sit, similarly, on either side of 6 o'clock.  I know you're already noticing that the 5 and 6 are right at 9 o'clock and the 4 and 7 sit in the space left between (the 1 and 0 just drop in line).

I started off at the top of the "dial" with some glue dots to mark where the 2 & 3 would go.  

I affixed the first two numbers (picking them up with a dampened/blotted detail brush) and tacking them down with some clear sealant - just enough to keep them from 'floating' around when I put down a layer of resin later.  Then I moved to the 5 & 6 and then the 8 & 9 before placing the other numbers.

By dotting clear sealant over the top instead of my usual silicone glue, the tissue paper took on a "wet" appearance and blended in with the bronze of the ring bezel even better.  

While the numbers dry, I'm going to bring the base of my bezel "up" by adding a layer of resin.  

But first, a word on using resin:

Mixing resin isn't as difficult (or as stinky) as it used to be, but there is definitely a trick to doing it well.  I always try to work on a dry day - cold and rain don't mean that I can't pour resin, but it makes it that much more tricky.  The MOST important rule - and it is a rule - is to follow the mixing ratio EXACTLY.  Resin is not something you can just eyeball.  It's best to mix an ounce at a time, but since I use resin in small amounts, it's not always cost effective.  However, the smaller your batch, the more perfect your measurements need to be.  

Add the resin first, adding drop by drop and letting the product level out between drops, until you reach your measurement exactly.  In this case, 2 drams or 1/4 fluid oz.

Add the hardener next, again adding drop by drop until you reach the correct proportion.  Since this resin has a a 1:1 ratio, I want EXACTLY 4 drams or 1/2 fluid oz.

Once you have your resin measured out, you can begin mixing.  I've found one of the best tools is a plastic palette knife - they're plentiful and easy to clean off with rubbing alcohol and a paper towel.  Unlike popsicle sticks, they are not porous and are not going to hold any humidity from the air (I learned this tip from jewelry designer Barbe SaintJohn, who uses a metal knife, and it has been a life saver).

I mix the two elements together by scraping the sides of the cup slowly and stirring gently for about a minute or so until the mixture turns from cloudy to clear.  I don't worry too much about bubbles, they usually work their way out before I get to the piece.  After mixing, I pour the resin into a clean mixing cup -a tip I learned from Annie Howes- being careful not to scrape the resin off the sides or bottom and screw up my nice homogeneous mixture.

At this point, you can release some of the bubbles by letting the resin rest for a minute, then tap the cup firmly on a table or other surface.  

For small pieces like this, I just drip the resin into the bezel using my (cleaned) palette knife - you can control the amount of resin much better than by pouring directly from the cup.

You'll have plenty of extra resin, so plan ahead to do something with it.  I coated some of my little handmade magnets with what I had left over from this batch.  

Let this cure on a level surface overnight before moving to the next step.

This little center piece, which just happened to be the same size as the bezel, is what changed the direction of this piece - I realized while I was dry fitting it the first time, that this would make a fun "telephone."

Like the numbers, I affixed this piece of tissue paper to keep it from rotating or curling when I apply resin later.  I used a clear sealant instead of glue - making sure that the unprinted portion of the tissue looked nice and evenly translucent.

I cut the tip off of a larger "5" to
create a dial stop.  Clever girl.
Once the sealant is dry, mix up another batch of resin and place your ring somewhere so the bottom is level.  You don't need a fancy fly-making rig like I have - just put a couple of popsicle sticks over a cup and place the ring on top.  Voila!

Apply some resin around the edge, over the numbers and out to the edge.  Next, use your palette knife to drip resin into the bezel.  You could repeat the layering process and add another element in at this point, but I decided to pour the resin right up to the top of the bezel so it will dome nicely.

You can also bring any bubbles to the surface with a heat gun on low or a hair dryer, but be careful, especially if you've filled the bezel to the top.  

Allow your piece to cure for 24 hours before you move it and 3 days before you wear or ship it. I won't be shipping this one anywhere.  I love it and am keeping it for my very own.

Crafty love,


p.s.  Please ask questions if you have any in the comments here - if I don't know the answer, I'll find out or make something really convincing up.

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Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Yucca Flats, New Mexico

This is my new favorite blog.

It is not my favorite because it's written by two of my favorite artists, Wenchkin and Scott Krichau, who also happen to be my good friends. It's not because it often features a tripod Jack Russell Terror named "Pabst," and photos of New Mexico sunsets. Neither is it because you'll find free coloring pages and the occasional tutorial written conversationally with a twisted sense of humor and fun.  It's because when you add all those things together, you really DO end up with more than the sum of their parts.

"Two artists and one crazy dog in a busy Albuquerque neighborhood."
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Thursday, February 9, 2012

Customer Don'ts: Privacy Goes Both Ways

As many of you know, I have been writing a series of articles called "marketing tidbits" designed to help small business owners, artists and others in the DIY community avoid the pitfalls of poor customer service.  However, with each article there has been something nagging at the back of my mind - namely, the responsibilities customers have in each of these situations.  Initially, you might think a customer's only requirement is to pay for the item ordered, but I would argue that each customer is almost, if not as responsible, for the relationship as the artist/shop owner is.  

Let's start here, because this may be the most important "don't" that I ever write:

We all know it is unacceptable for shop owners to share the personal contact information of their clients.  I would never provide e-mails, phone numbers or addresses of my clients to another shop owner.  I don't even use the information from my customers' invoices to create a mailing list - I find that rude.

However, one of my good friends and  a popular diaper bag/overnight tote/purse designer, Brooke of Brooke Van Gory Designs, told me today that one of her customers (unnamed) distributed Brooke's home address to several of her friends, none of whom Brooke knows.  Apparently this customer volunteered the address so her friends could mail in orders, thus circumventing Brooke's online ordering system.

I was just short of horrified.
We're not talking about the published business address of a large corporation here, but the home of a woman who runs a small business while caring for her two children.  Just because Brooke is a business owner, she has not given up her right to keep her home address relatively private.

Once you get past the terribly invasive act of distributing someone else's home address, there is another "customer don't."  Brooke has an online shop for a reason.  She keeps her inventory there and tracks her sales and projects.  Anyone who wants a bag from her is always directed to her shop (and the turnaround time is currently 6 weeks).  None of these women had any reason to expect it was OK for them to circumvent the BVG ordering process, least of all the original customer who suggested it without first checking with the business owner.

Never think that small business owners are so desperate for your order that they will let you run rough shod over them.  Some may, but the best ones never will.

Read all "Customer Don'ts."
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Sunday, February 5, 2012

Marketing Tidbit: We Want IN-formation! (You won't get it!)

I'd apologize for the über geeky reference in the title, but let's face it.  We all know I'm not sorry.

I received an artist call the other day.  It was forwarded to me by a friend of mine, who received it from a friend of a gallery owner.  The theme fit one of my paintings perfectly and I was very excited to submit a piece to a gallery I had never worked with before.  Word of mouth is a great way to find out about shows, don't get me wrong, but I just spent an hour trying to track down information on the gallery.  By the time I finally found a useful link, I was almost past caring.  Almost.

So, here are a few tips to folks helping to promote shows.  Whether you represent a group or gallery or, in this case, are a friend trying to spread the word to help out, you must include as much of the following information as you can gather.  If you don't, you're doing your gallery/friends/artists a real disservice because the best and busiest will give up.

Name of the gallery - Use the full name (i.e., Joe's Gallery or Joe's Art Palace or whatever - not just "Joe's").  When you provide the name, please make sure it is spelled correctly.  One of the reasons I couldn't find this gallery was that I only received the first name and it was misspelled.

Location - It's nice to know where the gallery is, generally speaking.  If you are forwarding information from a small group where everyone knew the location, add that little tidbit of info on when you forward.  It helps (especially when other information is missing and one can't simply Google for a quick answer).

Theme - It's no fun to submit a painting and find out after you spent time on the application that there was a theme.

Deadlines & Timelines - That's pretty self explanatory.  When is the show?  When must the art be delivered?  Is it a one-night show or a month long commitment?

E-mail addresses and links - please make sure they are correct.  Links are always better than e-mails since an artist, if they're worth their salt, will find out what they need to know about a show before they bother the curator.  The link I followed today went nowhere.

Basically, if you're going to help your friends by promoting their gallery or shows, you need to provide the above information or provide information that will lead people quickly and easily to that information.

You know what else we need to talk about?  How an artist should approach a gallery/show.  Yep.  That's on my list for the next tidbit.

See all the Marketing Tidbits
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