Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Technology fail!

Excuse brief post, just to let everyone know my main PC has died, which means I am struggling with wonky laptops that make dial up look fast, and stolen minutes on PC's where I can grab them! I can still get to emails, and any orders will be dispatched as quickly as normal, but this will cause a little delay in me getting new listings on until next week. Bah! Technology!

Having said that, I will be hidding in my shed which I have been tidying up to make it useable. Also it's a little cooler in there, my efforts glasswise were an hour on a wonky marble before having a kiln running at 540deg C on one side and a torch with two oxycons in front of me (not sure how hot that gets, but it melts pyrex, evaporates silver and cuts though stainless steel no problem!) finally all that heat got to me and had to give in! I shall have to return to noctural glass making for a while!

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

For people with extra ear holes, feedback needed please

Originally uploaded by steampunkglass
I have never been too sure about making ear-plugs in the past. Now when I say ‘ear plugs’ I don’t mean the sort of thing I used to wear at night when I lived beneath a flat of late night parting Spanish waiters (how can anyone listen to ‘I will survive’ over and over for hour & half is beyond me!) What I mean are those plugs for people who have stretch their ear piercing so it’s a big hole you can stick biros through.

Often they are called ‘flesh tunnels’ which sounds a horrible description to me, often you see various interesting steel or acrylic ones, tunnels are popular I seems as people want to show off the fact it’s a hole and not just a big stud. I have spend a good few hours waiting in tattoo and piercing parlours waiting for friends and ‘the other ‘arf’ to have more ink or holes added to their bodies. During this time there isn’t much for me to do but look at all the steel spikes and bars; or as comedian Dylan Moran put it ‘Stair-rods and nails!’ The few things not made of steel are either carved horn, hardwood, or plastic.

Until recently I thought that glass wasn’t popular, but it turns out Pyrex (borosilicate) is thought to be one of the best materials. I have seen some great dichroic Pyrex plugs made in the USA, and there seems to be a great range of cheap plastic ones in every ‘alternative’ and new age shop, so I assumed people with ‘big-holes-in-their-ears-who-stick-biros-through-them-in-the-pub’ were well catered for with glass too. So I was puzzled why all these people kept asking me if I ‘do plugs.’

I had a play this weekend at making a few, my previous attempts last year I didn’t think much of, but thanks to all the experience I’ve got from marble making I found them much easier to do. In fact the simple shape and challenge of getting an interesting design on such a small canvas was quite addictive! It was also a nice way of testing a few new colours too, but for the time and effort involved didn’t really think I could justify the price I’d need to charge for such little bits of glass.

It was then up to ‘er in doors’ (who has a 10mm hole in her right earlobe, and ensures me she doesn’t poke biros though it after a couple of beers) to point me to some websites that sold Pyrex plugs after telling her no-one would be interested in my experiments.

Woa! How much! Apart from some of these plugs selling for more than my marbles, the thing that really surprised me was how disappointingly BORING some of the glass plugs are! If you want a nice curvy loop the choice was good, but the plugs were mostly just plain colours, with a few dichroics and the odd red brown swirly coloured one.

So, here is a few of mine! I would be very interested to hear from you people with big holes in your ears if these look ‘right’ to you? Which shapes do you like/hate, colours or plain etc? I am really not sure if I have the shapes right, I made one with an extra ‘groove’ to fit a rubber ring on, but I don’t know if that’s good or bad, also is flat or rounded at back/front good for you? Would love to hear what you think, as I really don’t think I’m up for the pain of making big holes in my ears at the moment to try them all out! There are a few more pictures over on my flickr page at; http://www.flickr.com/photos/33872968@N05/

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

The dark shed of shame

I have a guilty shed secrets. The first secret is that I have a shed, and the second is that it is packed full of sadly neglected lovely materials.

A few years ago I spent a great deal of time and energy moving my workshop from a cramped room to my shed (well, lean to between houses) which is about 8-10 METRES long, and 1.74m wide (yes, I know the exact width, I will explain why!) Now the reason I was in a cramped room rather than this epic sized shed was the old leaking roof, made from wonderful bright but holey twin-wall plastic. Also the front was also falling apart.

As part of an epic garden makeover I sneaked into the budget a lean to greenhouse to replace the crumbling wood, and the vital new roof. However, as happens with these things, the money vanished on bills, and I had to cut back on the roof so instead of all nice and new and double glazed, I went with single glazed at one end, and re-use and bodge the bit in the middle!

Not surprisingly it still leaked, but now in new places!

So much patching later, I ended up with a cold and partly dry bit, and a very leaky bit where I had initially stored wood to work on, and now have various moulds and mushrooms instead!

This weekend I endeavoured to do some much needed household DIY which left me up a ladder stretching in ways my couch potato body hasn’t tried to do in years. First the quick repairs to an upstairs window frame – thanks to that ‘bunch of merchant bankers’ (make what rhyming slang you will of that!) and the credit crunch all hopes of replacing the old wooden frames has been dashed for a few years now, so drastic repairs were in order for it to survive another winter.

The next day, rather stiff and sore from stretching on a ladder just a few rungs too short, I decided to have a go and the shed roof again. I had a pond liner librated from the disastrous pond fiasco (soon to refilled with dirt and the whole saga never to be discussed again) which I decided to ‘quickly pop on the roof to help keep the water out.’

I should know that in DIY ‘quick’ means slow/frustrating/dangerous/painful.

So, the shed roof still leaks, and I now have less light thanks to a great black pond liner on the clear roof. I also have a nasty gouge in my thumb from a very dirty nail which was covered in smelly pond mud, and of late with a lot of antiseptic just in case!

On a positive note I am hoping it will become less porous as I plug the remaining leaks. Also it’s re-acquainted me with some of the lovely lacquers and shellacs I have out there, ideal for the impending walking stick project. I did also manage to glue up a picture frame I was making, for which I mixed up some garnet shellac.

I so like making my own varnishes and waxes; shellac varnish is one of the easiest. You buy flakes of shellac (old beetle cases!) which can be found in different shades, then dilute them in meths. And that’s it! Some people strain it through old tights, but I prefer a ‘hot’ mixture with more meths so don’t overload it with shellac. It makes a thinner layer that dries faster, and needs many layers to get a good effect. However I find it’s easier to control than the shop bought varnishes, and doesn’t have that plastic shine you get even with matt varnishes. Any coating on wood should be to protect and enhance the wood, not smother it.

There is also something quite satisfying about using these old time finishes, one of my recipe books is a re-print from 1647 in olde English. All of the recipes are straight forward and work a treat. As I stand in my cold damp shed it even makes me feel like I have a little connection to these craftsmen of olde. Even the working conditions are the same!

Right, off to put my thumb into another bucket of savlon! TTFN

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

Steampunk power walking? A Sterling idea!

Originally uploaded by steampunkglass
With most of London taking a stroll into work this morning, I thought I’d mention something that has been percolating in my mind for a while.

I have been thinking about making something entirely for myself for a change. For ages I’ve fancied getting a really nice walking stick. This is not because I am infirm and need one - although when I’ve done the odd twisted ankle or sprain I’ve certainly wanted one - it’s entirely for vanity!

Many years ago when I seemed to spend more time ‘dressed up’ in various historical (or should that be hysterical?) costume, normally Victorian or Edwardian. The one part of my outfit that was always missing was a nice walking cane. Friends had charming silver skull or Faux ivory dragons topped ones, where I went without - even when I severely damaged the back of my right leg and ended up limping for months.

For one thing I didn’t fancy carrying it, preferring to keep my hands free, also some of the ‘Ladies’ who went to these events tended to be a little ‘aggressive’ when they ‘borrowed’ any canes/swords/artificial limbs etc that were left laying around. Seemed best not to increase the available weaponry!

Of course the other problem was finding one I liked, something with that personal touch. I’ve seen pictures of various Steampunk themed contraptions built into canes, normally fantasy weapons – not for me thank you! I certainly want to build in some nice glass elements though, I have been wondering for ages what to have as a handle before I started making marbles; now it’s obviously got to be a BIG galaxy marble!!!

One thing I originally wanted to add was a sterling engine. This is a strange Victorian heat pump engine that is like a steam engine but uses low pressure air expanding from a heat source one side, then cooled on the other. I have seen a great design that is powered by heat of a hand or surplus heat from a VCR, however they are quite large, and very expensive kits to buy! I am not sure if my engineering talents are up to it either, but I did like the idea of harvesting waste heat from my hand to cool the handle by conducting it down to the cold tip of the can, whilst helping cool my hand!

I certainly will include some high tech energy harvesting green technology, some devices that convert small amounts of energy such as the strike of the cane tip on the ground, small amounts of sunlight, the general movement etc, to do interesting & useful things like power built in torches, lights, spinning zoetropes etc. Maybe even a fake sterling engine too! Alternately I might just try something simple with elegance rather than eccentricity in mind. Now that I’ve told everyone I shall have to make it happen rather than just thinking about it!!

In the meantime if you have a tin can, coat hangers, and time on your hands there are some great ‘build it yourself’ plans for sterling engines on these links;

http://www.reuk.co.uk/Make-a-Stirling-Engine.htm Basic info, plus a little movie of an engine powered by a hot cup of tea!!!!

http://www.bekkoame.ne.jp/~khirata/english/make.htm Nice site, in English of Japanese, with many types of DIY engines from tin can ones to more elaborate ones, plus descriptions of the ‘Sterling cycle.’

http://www.stirlingengine.com/ A great site with amazing kits and ready to go models too, lots of videos and pictures of their ‘hot tea’ and hand warmth ones running.

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

Colour my Blog

I seem to have had a ‘what was I thinking?’ day last week. Apart from a rather nasty increase in the amount of stuff cracking in the kiln (which needs some investigation in case something is seriously wrong, or it could be I just left the door open too long!) I seem to have made a very odd collection of bits. Normally I’d hope to find one of these experiments has produced something interesting to explore, this time I think they shall just be exploring my reject pile instead! I blame it on tidying the workshop, once it's back in a mess I hope normal service will be resumed!

However on a good note some of my blue little world earrings have made it onto a blog by Fiona at http://jewellerymydesign.blogspot.com/ where she has had the inspired idea of showcasing some Folksy sellers items by grouping them together by colour! I seem to have made ‘dark blue/ indigo’ colour theme! Well worth checking out her blog, I think she has made a better display of Folksy wares than we see normally on the Folksy front page! It also really shows the wealth and diversity of talent of makers we have in the UK.

Tuesday, 2 June 2009

Why I think too many craft sites is a good thing

There is a great deal of choice of online stores for people who sell their crafts at the moment. I am concentrating on Folksy and Etsy at the moment, but I also have a small store at MISI as well. Ontop of that there is also Artfire, Corindr, Dawanda, Zibbet, and probably more that I don’t know about. The one thing they have in common is they are all trying to be the next big ONE coping the success of another well know auction site….. You know the one…….

I so hope this doesn’t happen!

If you are trying to sell you’re old slippers or box of onions, or whatever else that is cluttering up your house, it seems there is only one internet auction site worth using. It’s a shame no other competitors from the early dotcom days survived, it could do with competition to keep it on it’s toes, and to give sellers and buyers more choice. I hear from so many sellers bemoaning the sudden rule changes, increases in fees, delisting of auctions for the strangest of reasons. I was speaking to one crafter a few months ago who said she was working from the moment she got up till midnight on her shop, and daren’t take a holiday else she would loose her powerseller status. To me it seems she had stopped working for herself, and was now working for them! Surely this should be working as a partnership between them and us, not a dictatorship telling us how we should run our affairs for their benefit.

I have been selling a few spare plants on ‘a well know auction site,’ and I’d thought they’d got it all sorted until this weekend when I ran into their craziness! Despite already having done half a dozen sales without any queries I was blocked by their automated system because they didn’t like one of my email addresses! It took over an hour to sort out, not helped by constantly having to re-log in on virtually every page change, and in the meantime has ‘frozen’ a sale that’s gone into my paypal account!!! GRRRR!!!!!!!

So please continue to support these smaller sites, even though some will always be small, some will be glitchy, some won’t do enough PR, at least they are helping to keep big sites like Etsy on their toes. Yes, it would be easier if we all sold in one place, but if we loose this healthy competition then I think we will all be poorer for it.