April 21, 2016
Every year I promise myself I’m going to stop buying people Christmas presents and start making them then I remember about two weeks before Christmas and realise I have not the time, the requisite skills, the time to learn the requisite skills or the inspiration to actually do this. This year I sort of managed to edge towards this ideal, although massively misjudged by needing to order some stuff in which took far longer than expected.
I’ve been toying with the idea of getting some stuff laser cut for a while, I’ve got a big bunch of sketches and ideas for a variety of homewares and entertaining tat and I’d been talking to Paul about some ideas we may at some point work on together so thought I would give making some Christmas decorations for friends a go.
I had two made up (see pics below) for my friends Tim and Caitlin who are keen on (hopefully) Christmas tat and animals. I was hoping the process would be simple enough that I could start selling decorations on my Etsy store but unfortunately the production cost has slightly killed that for now. The material costs were incredibly low but the cutting cost was really high (for the size of decoration), excluding shipping it worked out at just under £20 for both decorations, which is great for a one off gift for a friend but not viable for retailing.
As it happens the cost is driven up by the number of curves in the designs. Straight lines are quick and easy to cut, curves expend far more energy. All of my current designs are quite curvy and I don’t have the energy to come up with new designs right now. We did investigate buying our own laser cutter but that’s currently way outside our financial reach for a couple of ideas which may never generate any cash, also it looks like the power consumption may be the real killer.
You can see in the photos where I skated underneath the minimum width for parts of the design and ended up with some very fine cuts, they look quite cool but are fairly fragile.
The two here were cut by RazorLab out of 3mm MDF. I was going to paint them but the burn marks made by the cutter give them quite a nice handmade look anyway.
I would still like to have a crack at making some bits to sell but will need to find out if I can get the production cost down a bit first.
May 19, 2014
I built a barn. Not a real one you understand, that would be insane, I don’t even own any livestock (or land on which to place it). I made a tiny barn out of card and glue and balsa wood then painted it.
I’ve had an ongoing mission over the last couple of years to learn to do things with my hands. So much of my creative output has been purely digital I feel like my making stuff skills are slowly withering away (they were not well developed to begin with). A few of these projects died before they had a chance to get off the ground, mostly down to my failure to identify what resources were needed to achieve them (mostly in terms of space and spare time).
The barn came about through an unexpected turn of nostalgia. My mum finally got sick of her attic containing large chunks of my childhood and not-so-childhood and asked me to sort through it in order to re-locate the contents either to our attic or to a better cause (the closest recycling plant). Amongst the juvenile ephemera I re-discovered severel boxes of old copies of the Games Workshop publication White Dwarf, home to all things role-play and fantasy battle. The initial reaction was to either wang them directly to the recycling pile or see if anyone on eBay would be interested in 100-ish slightly tatty copies of a magazine stuffed full of goblins and space marines. I foolishly decide to have a leaf through a couple of copies and discovered memories of hours spent hunched over a desk applying acrylic paint to tiny orcs, manticores, Eldar and space marines. I’d somehow forgotten or possibly blocked out quite how meaningful this had meant to me at a significant time of life.
I remember clearly how much pleasure I had got out of building the scenery and terrain for wargames, spending far more time on creating little abandoned buildings and ruined temples than on the miniatures themselves. After a bit of attic exploration it turns out that somewhere between house-moves the box that had contained all my hand crafted landscape oddments had not made it through. Saddened by this as I had genuinely spent a lot of time, energy and love on these things as a child I considered binning the magazines and everything else. Karen convinced me this was bad idea which I would regret (I would) and I should just have a crack at making some more. The loss is probably no bad thing, my memories of perfectly rendered walls and forests are probably very inaccurate and the reality would likely not be quite as exciting.
After a couple of false starts I found some good general scenery building guides in some of the old magazines and started on the barn.
It took about two and a half months in all. It didn’t actually take very long in terms of doing stuff but finding time between work, childcare and other grown-up responsibilities stretched the process somewhat. This worked in my favour as it meant I actually gave each stage time to dry and settle before rushing onto the next part.
I’m pretty happy with the outcome, for a first go in nearly 20 years it’s turned out well. I really should have paid attention to the repeated advice from ALL the articles I read which stated “don’t use cardboard for the base, it will warp” I can confirm, if you use cardboard for the base, it will warp. I even tried glueing two sheets of stiff good quality card together, it still warped. Don’t use cardboard for the base. It will warp. Next time I’m going to grow up, get over my fear of DIY stores and buy some MDF.
It’s a little on the dark side, I painted the wood with a wash of black then gave it several layers of progressively lighter browns and greys. It looks great in sunlight but too dark otherwise, a deep brown base would be better.
Polyfilla is the king of craft materials. Really, it’s cheap and brilliant. I used it to make the base for the grass and to embed the rocks in. It’s also lovely to water down and paint on for a rough plaster/stone effect on walls (which I’ve since used elsewhere).
Speaking of rocks. I bought a big sack of slate chunks from a garden centre for about a fiver, washed and dried them. I saw a very small jar of the same thing available in a craft shop. Shop around for you materials!
I struggled with the flock material (the grass). I don’t remember having used it before and couldn’t find a decent guide on using it that didn’t involve buying a bunch of speciality glues and materials. In the end the best result seems to have been to plaster down a decently thick later of PVA/White Glue, throw on far more flock than you need, press down on it VERY lightly then leave it as long as possible before tipping off the loose bits. A couple of people had recommended sealing it with hairspray, although this seems to work ok it also makes everything very shiny, a better suggestion which I’ve since used elsewhere is to get a small spray bottle with a mix of PVA and water and cover with that.
Drybrushing rocks to make them look like rocks is a weird concept but it’s all about the scale. I quite like the effect.
The planking looks odd if you look at it, the first wall is incredibly straight and even, but I realised this was supposed to be a knackered old barn built in the middle ages so it get’s increasingly rugged on each wall.
A good collection of different grades of sand and gravel is very handy (again DIY/Pet stores far cheaper than craft stores). Depending on amount used and paint choices it can double as pathways, moss, mould & ivy.
Overall I’ve really enjoyed the process and have already started working on some of the more challenging projects from some of the old copies of White Dwarf, it was pretty easy but also a really relaxing process and a surprisingly cheap way to spend your time. Now I just need to convince Karen we should take up Warhammer 40K.
Here are some pictures I took in a box, with a torch!
May 9, 2013
I started this a while back (about six months) but other things kept getting in the way. I was inspired by some craft projects my friend Caitlin had done and some of the projects on Cut Out and Keep. It’s my first attempt at decoupage (which I still cannot pronounce correctly). I bought a cheap wooden frame and a cheap hardback from a charity shop. Buying the book was the biggest challenge, I have an irrational negative reaction to the idea of ripping up a book for any purpose at all so I chose one that I would absolutely never read (an action thriller of some sort, no offense to the author it’s just not my sort of thing).
Rather that buy expensive decoupage paste I used cheap white glue mixed with water, it took a while to work out the best mix. It turns out the best method when using paper from a paperback is a lot of water and to absolutely soak the paper before applying it or it just comes right off when it dries. I should probably have sanded down the frame first or applied a layer of matt paint, it was fairly glossy and it took a lot of work to get the first layer of paper to stick.
Once it had dried I gave it a bit of a paint over with some white watercolour to brighten it up a little then coated the whole thing in clear acrylic varnish. Pretty happy with the result, I want to try again but something a bit more planned and designed.
Once again I failed to take before/during photos.
I am Bob. This is my blog. It is an outlet and a substitute for real life. It contains my art, photography, illustration and thoughts on mental health (I deal with anxiety on a pretty much constant basis).
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