Saturday, 31 May 2008

Quick sketches

I decided I'd experiment with some quick line drawings and water colour wash, since these are the media I'll be taking with me when I travel overseas later in the year. So I'm just doing quick sketches from memory of things I have been doing each day. Some have captions, some don't yet. It's really more about mood that representational drawing. ATASDA people covering the library books.
Drafting my daughter's wedding dress on a grey day
Shopping with my darling mother-in-law - I often think we must loook like Fatty and Skinny! Not sure why this one came out so grey, though it was a grey day. I really enjoy her company.
Erica and I went to the Hunter's Hill Quilt Show yesterday and they had these beautiful little quilts hanging up in the sunshine. It's an an old sandstone building with these beautiful semicircular steps, made just for the pleasure of the shape.

Tuesday, 27 May 2008

More Melting stuff

Yesterday, I went on playing with melting Tyvek, and playing with the beads I made before. This time, I was using the soldering iron, because Kaite in Bathurst had quite different effects using that on her beads instead of the heat gun.

First, I melted some strips of plain Tyvek, similar to the ones I used last time. This time I only used neat pre-rolled strips, rolling them on and adding a dab of UHU glue to hold them. This is what they looked like when melted: As always, it's hard to take clear close-up photos, but you can see that the medium didn't puff up and shrivel the way it did when heated with the heat gun. You have much more control of where the heat goes, using the soldering iron, so it's easy to make marks but, as the tip is small, it's harder to get big effects. I tried a sort of colouring-in approach with the tip of the soldering iron, to melt large areas of the Tyvek and that gave a interesting, rough surface. I painted one of these beads afterwards with red acrylic paint, dry-brushed on.

Then I wrapped some of the wristband Tyvek strips and melted them with the heat gun. Again, it was easy to make marks and melt the wrapped ends, but the layers didn't melt away and distort as they did with the heat gun. The colouring-in approach worked well here too, but it was also fun to make holes and lines.

We found that the wristband beads tended to be tacky afterwards, whether heated with the heat gun or the soldering iron. After some epxerimentation, we decided that it was the residue of the glue that is on the end of the wristband strip to adhere it around the wrist. If this glued end was removed, and the end of the strip adhered with UHU glue, the bead did not end up being tacky.

One of the thing that interested me was how the Tyvek beads would take colour after they had been melted. I took some red acrylic paint and dry-brushed it onto some of the plain Tyvek beads from last time. The paint adhered really well and gave a nice thick coating. Dry-brushing seemed to emphasise the roughness of the bead surface.

Then I painted the acrylic onto the free-formed plain Tyvek beads from the last time - the strips that were allowed to flap about under the heat gun as they were rolled. The left side bead was dry-brushed, while the right side one was painted with a wet brush. The paint adhered much less well when applied with a wet brush, the paint colour was much lighter and there were visible brush strokes in the paint surface. This looked fine on the asymmetrical shapes of these beads but might not on the rolled beads. I also used the wet-brushed red paint on one of the small gift ribbon beads, and it adhered OK but I'm not sure how permanent it will be once it's dry. It looks as if it might rub off over time. This isn't a big deal since wrapping ribbon comes in so many colours anyway.

Finally, as I had the paint handy, I painted over the white patches on some of the wristband tyvek beads that I had melted with the soldering iron. The colour on these beads was from the surface of the wristband and, as they melted, a lot of this colour disappeared, showing the base white Tyvek colour. I painted just the white areas with the red paint. I really liked the way these turned out. It's hard to see the contrast on the orange beads, but the red has added shadows in an interesting way.

I still have a lot of questions to ask about melting Tyvek, and of course I've hardly tried melting acrylic fabric into beads! But I now know that, by myself, I can make interesting beads in certain shapes to use in my work, so that's a start!

Monday, 12 May 2008

Burning stuff

This post is in honour of Beverley's husband who wanted to know when she was going to start "burning stuff". Well, today she did and so did I, at our Fibrecircle playday.

First, I wound some strips of Tyvek around a bamboo skewer, added a dab of PVA to hold it and zapped it with the heat gun. Then I took the coloured Tyvek wristbands, found for us by Kaite, and did the same. Finally, I used more plain Tyvek strips but let them twist onto the skewer as they wanted to.
The top image shows the Tyvek (originally in the form of disposable overalls) and the wristbands. The second shows the bugle-bead-shaped plain beads on the left and the free-formed ones on the right. The middle one was made with non-melting thread wrapped around it, which acted as a resist to the heat, so it has deep ridges around it where it melted less and hollows where the heat could reach unobstructed. The tendency of the Tyvek to puff and distort seemed more noticeable on this one. I plan to try painting some of these to see how the Tyvek takes various media. (Sorry the photo is so poor, but I tried all different ways to photograph them with no better success!) The wristbands melted and distorted in really interesting ways, as the layers melted individually allowing the heat to reach the inner layers. I suspect it's because the printed colour affected the way the medium melted. They would be quite spiky and uncomfortable used in jewellery against the skin, but they have very organic shapes, like coral.

Next, I melted cheap chiffon ribbon. Like the Tyvek, this was much more interesting if the ribbon was wound on with folds and twists. Others in the group experimented with using two colours of ribbon and allowing them to twist as they were wrapped onto the skewer. They looked really good!

Then I played with melting yarn. Like most craft people, I have a huge collection of the new fancy acrylic/polyester yarns, including eyelash yarns. We wondered if these would melt into interesting beads. I used four different yarns - the variegated one which I can't identify, a thick orange and red one called Showoff, the pale wispy one called Sparkle and Paton's Feathers in purple and navy (not photographed). In each case, the yarn was tied to the skewer with a slip knot and then the yarn was twisted onto the skewer as it melted. All of them melted most satisfactorily. The fronds of the variegated one melted very well but the braid didn't so, although the beads are quite stiff, they look like threads wrapped around each other into tiny balls. Showoff was very thick and quite slow to melt but it created lovely textured beads that are quite soft to the touch, although they are well adhered. The pale Sparkle was a surprise. It melted into a very stiff plastic bead, with much more intense colours than the original yarn. Feathers behaved rather like the original variegated yarn, as the wisps melted and tied the braid together. I really think this is something worth exploring, as each yarn seems to yield different results.

Prue had been playing with melting gift ribbon so I tried that too. Her ribbon was pink and gave small, firm, very solid beads. I tried pearlescent ribbon but mine were not as tidy as hers - more "organic", as we artists like to say when we mean kinda weird looking. Again, the pale beads were very hard to photograph clearly - probably needing a black background for contrast. This is really fun and easy, and if you rolled them first and glued the ends, you'd get very neat spacer beads, the ultimate in recycling.

One area I wanted to explore was melting man-made fibres. In the end, I only made one textile bead. It was from a fairly loosely woven fabric in shades of red with a streak of gold thread through it. Some fibres, especially the gold, did not melt as fast as other ones, so the result was a very fibrous bead, with lots of glitz. The other bead in the photo is made from a short section of 1in chiffon ribbon on which I had stamped a flower in acrylic paint for another project, but not used. It really looks great, and I think this is worth further experimenting too.

Carol tried a medium called UTEE, Ultra Thick Embossing Enamel, over some of her beads. It worked best with beads that had some texture to begin with, so the medium could get a grip. It was best used as a couple of layers, rolled on rather than dipped, as too many layers tended to become cloudy and crack when the bead was moved on the skewer. It could also adhere the bead permantly to the skewer, if allowed to get under the edge. However, it gave the beads a really interesting glassy finish, which might look particularly good on the painted chiffon ribbon, and adhered tiny beads really well. Something else to try out! We would also like to see if it gives a different finish to painting beads with clear nail polish (no, not heating it, just painting and drying naturally!).

Not everything worked, of course. The foil from chocolate wrappers melted but could not be removed from the skewer. We hypothesised that using a short section of drinking straw underneath it might solve this problem, but we didn't have any to experiment with. Similarly, some heavier fabrics melted but could not be removed. Some things just didn't melt at all, at the temperatures we were producing, and one fabric turned gray-black at the same time as it reached melting point. Usually there is a small gap between melting and burning point, which is what we were exploiting.

So I had a fun day and have a small pile of interesting beads to play with. And, as usual, a lot more questions.