Saturday, July 30, 2016

Friday, July 29, 2016

Headpin Tutorial Round-Up

As part of our August art headpin design challenge (click the link for more details), I thought it might help to do a round-up of some of the tutorials we have written over the years here at AJE that utilize art headpins. Any of these tutorials can be altered into something different...the earring tutorial doesn't have to be earrings. It could be a pendant. I know when I make headpins, I try to make the wire pretty long so the designer has more options.

Just a couple weeks ago Sue shared this earring tutorial using her cute flower headpins:

Last month Sue shared her flower disc bead earring tutorial which includes an option for using art headpins:

In this 2-for-1 things to do with headpins tutorial, Caroline shows how she made a ring and a link with a headpin.

In her tutorial Simple Headpin on Headpin Earrings, Niky shares an elegant way to use art headpins:

Sue shares tips on mixing and matching headpins with beads to make earring stacks.

Caroline shares a tutorial on how to use headpins to make some funky leather bangles.

I share a basic funky wire wrapping technique for headpins that takes longer to describe than to actually complete. I've used this technique for earrings and pendants and it always looks great.

Hopefully something here sparks your imagination! Have fun creating with headpins and don't forget to join in the challenge for the month of August.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

August Design Challenge - Art Headpins!

New headpin design by Jen Cameron

We interrupt our regularly scheduled component of the month challenge schedule to try something new for the month of August....a headpin challenge. But not just any kind of run of the mill headpin. We're talking fancy schmancy art headpins. Have you ever wanted to try your hand at making art headpins? Or maybe you have several in your stash that you haven't used because you're saving them for a special occasion? Well, dust those puppies off because that special occasion is now.

Headpins by Sue Kennedy. Click photo to see the Etsy listing

What is an art headpin?'s a headpin that is handcrafted by an artisan, has been manipulated in a manner that is more than just a ball end, and has the potential to be the centerpiece of a creation rather than just playing a supporting roll.

Headpins by Jen Cameron. Click link to see the listing on her website

What is the challenge?

To create your own art headpin component and/or to use one or more art headpins in a finished piece of jewelry or other creation. Headpins used can be purchased from any artisan.

Headpins by Sue Kennedy. Click the link to see the Etsy listing

Who can participate in this challenge? 

Component designers and jewelry designers, mixed media artists or anyone else who can dream up an art headpin design or a creation using an art headpin.

Headpins by Lesley Watt from several years ago. 

How do I sign up?

1. make sure you have a blog.
2. Email jennifer.glassaddictions @ gmail . com (remove spaces) by August 27th.

When is the reveal and blog hop?

August 30, 2016

This should be a really fun challenge, you should definitely join in!

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Bringing the Green Man to Life

Some months ago I made this wall tile of a sleeping green man and ever since then it has sitting in my studio waiting to be glazed and brought to life. I have to admit that it's probably taken so long because I've done very little work on this scale and was a little nervous about being able to translate the picture in my head into reality. A special chemistry occurs when you glaze fire a piece of ceramic and it doesn't always produce the result you were expecting. With beads this is not really a problem but with a piece such as this that took so long to create it can make or break the finished piece. But there comes a time when you just have to take a deep breath and dive in and I'm sharing that process with you today.

This tile will be be wall mounted so the back won't be seen but since it was a little bit messy for my liking I used a green underglaze to tidy it up a bit. Underglaze doesn't melt in the way glaze does so I would still be able to prop it on its back to fire it.

In my minds eye I saw my green man as having a foliage of a mottled green with some leaves picked out in a darker green for contrast. I also wanted to pick out the veining and try to give some depth to his features, maybe giving the impression of bark around the eyebrows. To achieve this I settled on using two oxide washes and two glazes.

Oxide washes create a staining effect which can either be used alone or layered with glazes to alter the effect of the glaze. To begin with I used a Rutile wash (which creates an ochre finish) to pick out some of the veining on some of the leaves. Once the wash was dry I wiped it back form the surface areas leaving it just in the recessed veins.

Then I went for an Iron oxide (which gives a dark brown finish) on the remaining leaves and around the facial features and again wiped it back form the surface. I actually like the finish this wash gave at this stage so I'm thinking I might make another of these and just use washes on it - a bit like a sepia version.

Next comes the glaze proper. The majority of glazes in their wet form bare very little resemblance to their finished colours with many of them being a shade of red which is why you need to have a clear idea in your head of what you want to achieve. It certainly won't look that way during the process of glazing but that's what makes it so exciting when you open the kiln to see the transformation.

I used a crushed crystal glaze appropriately called 'speckled forest' for the central area. This type of glaze contains crystals which melt and flow during firing to produce lovely colour and pattern effects. If you look closely you can see these crystals in the uneven texture of this glaze.

The perimeter leaves I glazed with a smooth dark green glaze - again appropriately called 'Forest pine'. I also used this glaze to pick out and enhance the eyebrows.

So, once he had been left to dry fully it was time to (hopefully) make the magic happen and put him in the kiln. I only takes about three hours to fire this type of clay but I have a very heavily insulated kiln which takes an awfully long time to cool down so it was a bit of a nail biting wait until it was cool enough to take a peek. When I did my first reaction was phew - he's still in one piece and my second reaction was he has a spot right on the end of his nose!

But once he was was out of the kiln and cooled down fully (glaze colours can continue to change as the glaze cools fully) I decided I was pretty happy with the result. The spot on his nose is one of the crystals and doesn't impact the finished look - trees after all are not blemish free. I love the speckled effect and the contrast of the glazes and I got the bark effect I was looking for around the eyebrows.

All in all, a pretty successful project which I plan to revisit in the is after all my favourite colour!

Monday, July 25, 2016

Handmade Picture Frames

I've been making lots of tiles recently. I love having a larger area to design on. After firing a couple, I realised that I'd completely forgotten to put holes in the back to hang them. So rather than try and glue something on I decided to have a go at making some frames. I've tried making frames once before but it was a bit of a disaster. I got over ambitious with mitred corners but it all went terribly wrong, so for this attempt I decided to go for a simpler technique using butt joints. The name comes from the square ends of the wood butting up to each other. Much easier than getting your head around angles!

Gathering materials
I bought some offcuts of Oak from a cabinet maker, pilfered a load of tools from my hubby and set to work.


To start I measured the tile and decided to take 2mm off each side to sit the tile inside the frame.

Marking out
The wood was marked with a set square to get a perfect 90 degree angle.

Cutting the wood

And each piece was cut to length.

Checking the size

The pieces are joined using dowels, so to work out where I needed to drill holes, I knocked a panel pin with the tip snipped off in to the end of one of the pieces.

Marking the drill points

This pieces of wood were lined up so that they were square along the edge and I pushed them together so that the pin marked a hole where I needed to drill to set the dowel.

Lining up to mark the opposite piece

Drill points

You can see the two holes here once the panel pin was removed. I did this for each of the four corner joints. I also numbered the pieces so that I could make sure that the right bits were joined together.

Drilling the dowel holes

Next I drilled down in to the wood with a bit slightly smaller than the dowel I'm using to give it a snug fit. The tape on the bit is so that I drill each piece to the right depth.

Making the dowels

I took a length of dowel and cut some rods.


The dowels were glued with gorilla glue which needs the wood to be damp to cure.

Fitting the frame

And the whole frame was pushed together.

Clamped to dry
The glue takes a couple of hours to dry and requires pressure, so I clamped the frame, making sure it was square and left it to cure.

Routing the groove for the tile to fit

Once dry, it was time to cut out the back of the frame for the tile to sit in. I got this brilliant router attachment for my dremel drill. Big routers are terrifying, so this little version was much better. I used a guided bit which has a little bar on the end to run around the inside of the frame so that you get a neat, even finish all the way around. It took a few passes to get to the depth needed for the tile to sit flush in the frame. And with each pass I stepped the router down a little bit more until the tile sat nicely in place.

A coat of wax for protection and colour

After filling any gaps (using a PVA and sawdust mix) and a good sand all the way around, the frame was given a coat of wax. This is Jacobean Oak colour. It goes on looking pretty rough, but after a polish it has a lovely warm finish.

Fixing the tile

The tile was secured using some corner grips.

Ready to hang

And a hook was added to the back for hanging.

The finished frame

And here's the finished framed tile. I'm really pleased with how this turned out, the first attempt took a whole day to make, but once I'd got the hang of it, I worked much faster.

I made a couple of chunky versions for smaller tiles.

This one for a blue glazed design.

Smaller framed tile

And another with added handmade nails for a more rustic finish.

Frame with handmade nails

I'd love to try to make some tiny versions of these for small pendants, little hooks in the top, would make cute wearable art, or a group of them would make a brilliant wall display!

This could also easily be adapted for framing art with glass. Follow the same steps, and use the router to cut to the depth of your piece of glass and a hardboard backing.

Custom wood frames are really expensive, but for a few £'s/$'s you can make your own to fit any piece of artwork you create!

Friday, July 22, 2016

Take a Walk on the Wet Side...

Take a walk on the wet side - wet felting that is... 

A month or so ago now... I know - its been that kind of summer - I decided to take a Sunday "off". My husband was at the beach and I stayed home, house to myself, heaven. What do I do with my time off? Make art of course! 

Joke's on me actually. I am a full time artist and part time art teacher, so while it WAS time off from production, custom work, replenishing inventory... it was still art/job/doing what I love. 

I took over the kitchen and made a mess:
Dive in, such rich colors... 
Sorry for the yellow kitchen lighting... first piece ready to begin! 
I had a plan to wet felt some ocean themed landscapes. The image above is the first one laid out. I "thought" it would shrink by a third... But I was using some lovely ivory batting from Sarafina Fiber Arts as my base 'canvas' for the first time and wanted to test it out. The landscape is built up with loose wispy layers of brightly dyed wool roving, and a few "curly locks". Here are the results of the first piece:

Can you see it? Beach, waves, ocean!
So it felted together wonderfully! The process involves soap, water, bubble wrap and much repetitive rolling of the piece on the counter. Roll it like 100 times, turn 1/4 turn, roll it 100 times... I used Sarafina's You Tube videos as my basic instruction manual. 
I love the way the colors blend as the fibers lock together. I am visually drawn to the curly locks simulating breakers in the waves; they need a little needle felting to secure them fully, but I like the accent of texture. And the shrinkage? Ummm. nope. The batting felted my top coat colors and did not shrink much at all. Hmm. This piece is rather large at  app. 12". Lets do another... 
Trying to go smaller: 2 before and after comparisons. 
My supply of wool  plays to my preferred palette, so I had a variety of teal and turquoise and not much for a light sky. I lone the purple stormy sky and the teal water together though. The second pictured here is a bit more abstracted, and I am pleased with that too. I WAS playing after all - experimenting with the materials, and not having any hard set expectations. The process is actually good for me - its nice to have some control at the start and then leave it up to the process and be pleasantly surprised at the end. 

Working most all of the day, I made 10 tapestries. The largest 12 x 12" and the smallest 4" square. My plan is to embellish them in some way, using beads and found treasures from the beach. I can't walk on the beach and slip at least a shell or 3 in my pocket... 

I imagine the long shell beaded on with 2 'ropes' of small seed beads... 
That saturated color thrills my eyes. 
Over the course of the afternoon I was able to size the pieces much better! I have some shadowbox frames I will use for the smallest pieces and fashion hangers/dowel rods of some sort for the larger pieces. I am not in a hurry - I did many and have time to play and experiment!

These 2 are the smallest at 4" - but they will fit into frames I have once they are completed. 
At the end of the day I threw a few more colors into the mix, breaking away from the landscape format... This was not planned, but after the felt dried, I saw the kelp... the polymer mermaid was made for my monthly goddess seed bead project, but was a little too large. I think she will settle comfortably here, don't you?
a few deep sea palettes? 
I'm sorry that they aren't finished yet for today's post - I have been teaching clay camp since mid June - and very much look forward to getting back to my work in the studio next week! Great kids, great times, great energy... but I have Bead Fest to prepare for.. 

Until then - I hope you get your toes in the sand!