Tuesday, 24 August 2010

The Value of The Dry Run

One of the limitations on doing fairs for me is that I can't drive. In all these years I just never got around to learning. Living for so many years in London didn't help, as it's easier there to hop on a bus, tube or train than sit in a jam too. I figured whatever I would have spent running a car I'd spend on tube and occasional Taxi fares.

It does make getting to fairs tricky, especially if I want to take plenty of stuff with me. For the upcoming Dark Mills festival I wanted to improve my stall layout, a lot of other crafters have mentioned adding height to their stalls too. If I was a car driver no doubt I'd invest in some nice glass display units, but I had to come up with something light I could flat-pack.

My solution is this simple stand which is designed to take the new boxes I am now using. It starts as two thin planks, two flat panels, and a bundle of wooden dowels. Four bolts lock the corners together, which isn't that strong until all the dowels are pushed into place, then the whole box becomes much more rigid. The jewellery boxes are then laid onto the dowels which holds them up at a nice angle, with two holding the back and another acts as a register to support the bottom edge - the new boxes even have a lip which helps with this. When I first tested it out I found I could fit 60 of the large sized boxes in this, on a table space I'd originally have got less than half that onto. They look pretty good too, as each pendant is framed by the white foam they are on. Also the inside area will act as a neat storage area for lids and spare stock - much better than a suitcase on the floor which is what I used before for storage!

I set up a dry run of this in my living room, which turned out to be invaluable. Since first making it I'd added runners so I could slip a black card down to hide the storage area, but they now stopped me getting the bolts on! Plus the paint now clogged up the holes so the dowels now didn't fit! So glad I found that out when I could rush to my shed for tools rather than at 7am on site! Once that was done I tried laying out the other side of the table with the busts and new bottle stopper display (a funky new acrylic holder I've made too.) It took a while of moving bits around, but got it looking 'ok,' but it wasn't quite right still. As this was a dry run it meant I could leave it and come back to it, and move things around at leisure. That was invaluable as it took just moving one thing to go 'ah ha!' Not only had I got a layout I liked, but realised that I could use one of the busts to fill in space when (thinking positively here!) the ribbon necklaces sell out! I just need to make a device to hold the little world stud boxes next.

One of the extra things I realised from the test setup was the digital picture frame looked lost, and took up valuable space on the free side of the stall. I picked it up and lent it on the main stand meaning to shuffle things around, and suddenly saw that was actually the best place for it! Out with the drill, a few extra mounting holes (stab myself with a stanley knife, typical!) and it's now at eye-level! I just hope the rechargeable batteries last all day!

Now as it gets nearer the time I am starting to get nervous, I've spent a lot on bits for the stall so I really hope it does well! At least with this dry run out of the way I now know how the stall will look and have got some daft problems resolved in advance. Fingers crossed the weather stays fine now!

Friday, 20 August 2010

Unobtainium and Jellyfishes

Having a few more hours in the day has allowed me to get a little extra time to try some more difficult materials and techniques. One of these has been to play with an unusual glass called 'Unobtainium!' This has a fabulous pearlised/metallic blue finish, but it's not without its problems.

Although it's been around before the film 'Avatar' I think most people know the name from that film (I know fellow geeks will also remember in 'The Core' it's what their ship was made of too) and according to Wikipedia it's any mythical material that can't be made. It does look like it's not glass, looking more like metal with it's sparkling shine, so I guess that's why Northstar gave it this name.

One downside of it is that it does have alot of metals in it, which sometimes can cause compatibility problems., and they recommend not deeply encasing it. Of course that's the first thing I did! I've played with it a few times, but this week I wanted to really give it a hard test to see if it really was that temperamental, I'd certainly had it cause cracking before. I did everything wrong, used loads of it, deeply encased it, let it cool outside the kiln - and it was fine! I even tried this with small samples I have of it's related big brothers 'Super Unobtainium' and 'Silver Unobtainium' and they were fine too! Then typically I made one last night that figured would be fine and it's cracked badly! Ho hum!

One other thing I've been trying again is Jellyfish. Jelly's and mushrooms are two of the first things most boro people seem to make, but I'd never really tried them very much as they always seemed to lack detail. Having seen some different techniques (plus inspired by one of those shock-horror TV documentaries 'Killer Jellyfish Swarms' or some such terror title!) I tried again. I can't get them as deep or large as I'd like, but I'm starting to really like the effects. I even tried putting a couple into a shaving brush handle, which they seemed made for! It's really at the top extreme of size that I can make with my present setup but I think once I can afford to upgrade to a more powerful torch I'll be able to make them more reliable and the jelly's bigger and deeper.

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

It's all gone a bit mad here!

Isn't it always the way, that everything suddenly happens at once? The big one for me is the Dark Mills festival, which I've been making lots of pendants and stoppers for, and as you can see here some of the pendants ready for quality control!

Quality control in this case is my other half, who volunteered to help out. I'm my own worst enemy, I tend to be very picky on the smallest details, so it's great to get an independent eye (and ex-quality controller at a jewellery warehouse to boot!) I had realised how many pendants I'd actually made until they were all laid out, so it's been a quick (and expensive!) order for more silver crimps and cords!

Even with the extra help my 'to do' list seems to be lengthening by the day, when I got confirmation of the opening of a new gift shop and gallery in York where I will have some of my marble stoppers and jewellery on display! It is opening at the start of September, and I need to have the first parts there..... just before the festival! Ekk! On top of that a 'day job' project is about to come to ahead too. So it's going to be a manic few weeks, so please excuse the intermittent listings and blog posts until normal service is resumed! If you are in the Colchester area I'll also be having a stall at West Bergholt on Saturday 20th November, more details here! http://creationsfayre.blogspot.com/2010/08/meet-stallholders.html