Monday, 12 March 2012
Sunday, 23 October 2011
Monday, 3 October 2011
Part I - Paper laminations
This was an easy process for creating a translucent, paper-based panel. Ingredients are diluted PVA glue (50% pva, 50% water), tracing paper and various found objects to trap inside a paper sandwich. You also need a paintbrush, a roller and a plastic bag to work on (you fold the bag over and roll it to squeeze out the glue and bond the two pieces of tracing paper together).
I tried various bits inside - crochet was fairly successful. Ginkgo biloba leaves have such an iconic shape it's hard to make a bad image when using them. The most successful was an afterthought - I had various scraps of waxed backing papers from working with a thin roll of double-sided tape lying around on the table from an earlier experiment. I threw the scraps in, along with some torn pieces of bright magenta paper. The result is a random, modern-looking abstract panel. The final piece is made from a piece of orange webbing, some string and a few threads from steel wool (the kind you scrub pans with). The steel wool rusts almost immediately, giving it an antique feel.
Sunday, 12 June 2011
Finally, the lamp project that would never end, is done. Bought a lamp base and brass top. Then tidied up the seams and applied a copper patina to the seams and the brass top.
I'm surprisingly pleased with the finished piece. This project took so long that I got fed up with it & put it away in disgust for well more than a year. We've had a lot of work done on the house lately and found myself with a newly-decorated little room that really wouldn't be right without a stained glass lamp, so I brought the pieces out of retirement.
I have learned from this that:
- you should never put a piece away without cleaning it, because the flux and crud causes the solder to oxidise
- once the solder has oxidised, it becomes very difficult to rework. I thought my soldering iron had died because the old solder simply wouldn't melt. Eventually it did, but it took ages, much longer than it should have
- you can't apply patina to brass -- had to 'tin' the brass top first, i.e., apply a thin layer of solder over the brass because the patina didn't take until I did that
- my soldering is shocking - it's full of holes and lumps, but fortunately as an 'art noveau' piece, an "organic look" is OK. It kind of looks like woody stems. If it were art deco, it wouldn't look right at all, so I'm saved once again by my favourite goddess, Serendipity
I don't even want to consider how much this lamp cost to make. Materials roughly £120 - (the base alone was £68). Although it's true that I used some offcuts and still have quite a lot of opaque glass left. But the hours in it - I don't even want to think about it. Never again, my Tiffany days are done! But having said that, I surely must have spent as many hours, or more, on the Queen of the Night and never got tired of it. I don't know what it was about the lamp that got me so fed up, but I sincerely hated it for a long time. Never mind, it's done now.
Sunday, 15 May 2011
A few months ago I took a week's worth of art classes at West Dean College to chill out and draw. One of the courses was called 'Mapping a Personal Journey'. So I used that time (2 and a half days of solid drawing!) to make a Mappa Mundi for my little Ecks. It was surprisingly useful in helping me articulate the Eck's long history and come up with additional episodes in their story.
The map reads from left to right, following the river from its source in the primeval forest, the Vast Wild Orchard. (You can see a little Eck peeking out from behind a tree). From there, they crossef the fallen tree bridge into the desert and up to the caves in the mountains. Further on, there are Stonehenge-like monuments and a notation of where ancient treasure can be found. Southward toward "Skree's Furnace", the volcano where they discover fire, and over the ford where they lived a nomadic, plains-dwelling existence. Moving to the right, you can see the tidy farms and orchards and then down the river to the very modern, very civilised, medieval city. The map celebrates the marriage of the king and queen, which joins up the kingdoms of the north and south. They're in the upper right-centre, in Tudor-style dress.
The map, for its time, is modern and scholarly. It uses mystical symbols, geometry and other details to convey the tri-partite nature of the world as they understand it. It's also a traveller's guide (here there be monsters!). Finally, and most importantly, it is a mechanism for showing off the wealth and prestige of the two rulers who have now merged the two greatest nations in their known world. Still not finished - more detail needed in the shield in the upper left corner, which shows the Coats of Arms for the two kingdoms. He is the 'Sun King of Eck' (see the sun image in the very centre - and note that he commissioned the map); she is the earthly manifestation of the four-handed, two-tailed goddess after whom the kingdom of Ixthia is named.
The image was drawn using pencils on Bockingford watercolour paper, with Daler Rowney and other water soluble coloured pencils, Winsor & Newton paints and permanent markers in sanguine and sepia. It was way too big for the scanner, so it was scanned in sections and put together in Photoshop CS5.
Had been wanting to make a map for quite awhile - very impressed by the fabulous Grayson Perry's map. Here's a video of him talking about the Hereford Mappa Mundi and his own self-portrait map.
Saturday, 11 December 2010
So this was as old-fashioned as illustration gets - pencil drawing, some pigment and a lot of splattering. There's some fountain-pen ink on there as well. Spent a happy evening listening to a Doctor Who audio book - life just doesn't get better than that.
Wednesday, 8 December 2010
Still learning how to build a Zazzle shop!
How's it going?
No Zazzle sales yet, but it's early days. I have a tiny but fairly steady stream of customers at Cafe Press, but that shop's been open for years. With, I hasten to add, as little input from me as possible. I threw some products on and just let it sit there. It does cost $24 or so a year to run a premium shop (last time I checked, it's probably gone up), so all my little 30 cent commissions are eaten up by the annual charge.
Zazzle, on the other hand, costs nothing for the equivalent of a premium shop, allows people to customise the content - in my case, change the words inside the card - AND, this is a big plus over Cafe Press, allows me to put my company logo on the back of the cards and "lock" it in place, so people can't delete it. This means that I'm advertising my own shop alongside Zazzle. Cafe Press doesn't allow customisation of the back of the card, so every sale I make reinforces their own market position but The Typothecary doesn't get a mention. In theory, I could put a LOT of effort into marketing my CP shop and get the big mark-up, but I have a day job. Cafe Press lets you mark up as you like (to earn maybe $2 per card while still selling a bit cheaper than their own standard prices) but then they steal your business through their massive SEO presence and only gives you 30 cents if someone finds you by searching their marketplace. I really don't think I can compete with their huge advertising budget. It would be jolly nice if people only found my shop thru direct links, but I'd rather be designing than learning about search engine optimization.
So far, I find Zazzle:
- free for equivalent functionality vs $24/year up front costs on Cafe Press
- much slower to make the products available, so patience is needed; I'm also finding it a bit confusing as to whether or not a product is actually finished and seem to have made a couple of duplicates by accident
- not quite so intuitive (at first) to use for shop building as Cafe Press (but I've been using CP for a long time now, so maybe I've forgotten the pain of learning); as I've been using it and learning its quirks, it's getting easier
- has a much nicer-looking default shop front than CP
- has only the low 'marketplace style' commissions, so I earn maybe 30 cents on a card, but at least they're upfront about it
- much better at the "designing for sale" model - it will put the same design on all varieties of each product more or less automatically, so for example, on buttons. This means I only have to design ONE button instead of having to explicitly design mini-buttons, 2.25 inch buttons etc., and then faff around with positioning them all on the page
Actually, the only real quibble I've got is that products don't appear more or less instantly on Zazzle. And there doesn't appear to be a possibility of the high-markups that Cafe Press promises, but I very rarely get the benefit of that anyway. So my verdict is a big thumbs-up to Zazzle, because I don't want to spend money on advertising or put a lot of effort into learning SEO.
An experiment in direct advertising on LinkedIn
I've also had a go with some direct advertising towards the existing Cafe Press shop on LinkedIn (they offered a $100 voucher plus a $5 trial fee). So far I've spent $75 of LinkedIn money, $5 of my own and earned about 90 cents in commission. Plus I don't even know if those sales actually came from the LinkedIn campaign or not (CP says "no"). So maybe it does work, sort of, but only in a sado-masochistic kind of way.
I've changed the link to point to Zazzle now - there's a couple of days left to run on it (have limited it to $18 a day) so we'll see if any clicks come up.