Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Tutorial Tuesday - DIY Silk Screen for Jewelry Packaging with PhotoEZ

I've had a roll of PhotoEZ for a while now with the intent to use it to place my I Spy logo on handmade mixed media items, but never got around to it.  When I made the decision to invest in my Native Bloom line, I knew for sure I would create a logo with this super easy silk screen material and place my Native Bloom logo on my jewelry boxes.  I ordered simple kraft colored jewelry boxes from Rio Grande.

I ordered them in size 3 1/2 x 3 1/2 inches.  

I worked very hard on a logo that I am so pleased with, only to find out that my image is too fine to burn into the kind of PhotoEZ I have (which is standard - I need the high resolution for this to work.   I will still be using it on business cards, so not really wasted time there. 

Create a Silk Screen for Jewelry Packaging with PhotoEZ

Materials and supplies
PhotoEZ sheet or roll
Printer paper
Sheet of glass or clear acrylic (larger than your image)
Cardboard or thin flat surface for base
Clips (any kind, just thick enough to hold sandwiched glass and board)
Black paper or material (two pieces)
Bowl of water
Small brush (like a used toothbrush)
Sunlight or UV bulb
Patience - optional, but it does help
Towel or drying surface

To Print
Good ink
Squeegee or thick, flexible card
Item to print on
Water to rinse
Old towel to dry screen on

1.  Choose your image.  Start with a nice crisp design, in black.  If you have an image with fine lines or half tones, you will need the high resolution PhotoEZ.  Otherwise, use the standard sheets.  Here's the design I ended up with.

2.  Print your image. Print it out to the size you want it on regular copy paper.  This will allow you to test your design size on your item before you print the image on your transparencies.  

Cut the design out and place it in position on your item, and make sure everything lines up and looks the right size.  If not, resize and reprint.  If the image is the right size, go ahead and print it out on your transparency.  It is not necessary to flip your image.  Print it as you would read it.  

I double-checked mine once I printed it on the transparency.  This will give you the best idea of what the image will look like on your item.  

Print other sizes out if you need them.  I printed one out for my bags too.  

3.  Prepare the PhotoEZ.  Make sure when you are dealing with PhotoEZ that you do not expose it to sunlight or UV light bulbs until you have the image placed and are ready to burn your image.  It is best to work in a windowless room when you need to cut the PhotoEZ.  

Cut a piece for each image, making sure to leave plenty room around the image to use your squeegee.  Also, cut a small test piece.  This will come in handy and help you test exposure time.  I wasted a lot of this material unnecessarily because I did not know the proper exposure time (it's winter, so I did not have bright sunlight).  Place the remaining PhotoEZ back in its package.

Take your cardboard and place the black paper/material on top.  Peel the protective film off the PhotoEZ.  It's kind of a pain to remove.

 Place the PhotoEZ sheet shiny side up in the black material.  Place your image face down on the shiny side of the PhotoEZ.  You can see from the picture below that any words you used on the image will appear backward to you from this view.  Place a sheet of glass or acrylic over the sandwiched layers and clip down tight.  If the image is not down tight you might end up with a blurred image, or a solid screen.  Place a piece of dark or thick cloth or material over the whole board and image to prevent premature exposure.  

4.  Expose the PhotoEZ.  You are ready to take the image to a light source and expose it.  Please review and use these guidelines before exposing the screen.  Today was a nice day for winter, but a winter day none the less.  Here's a view from my front door at noon today.

Since I did not have full sunlight, I needed to lengthen the exposure time.  For a transparency in bright sunlight, the exposure time is 50 seconds.  After many tests and failures, I figured the correct exposure to be right at 4 minutes.  You can tell the screen is ready when it turns from green to a dark teal color.  Don't overexpose or you could end up with an image that will not wash out.  If the screen turns dark blue, it is probably overexposed.  I placed my image flat on my porch, but if the sun is bright it is recommended that you hold your image at a perpendicular angle to the light.

Here's my properly exposed screen, and you can sort of see the letters in green.  In person, when you remove the image from the screen the image is visible on the screen and looks very green in contrast to this teal color.  

5.  Time to rinse.  Place the screen in a bowl of water and let it soak for a couple of minutes.  

After the screen has soaked for a little while, place it on your hand shiny side down.  The shiny side will be soft and easy to damage, so this will protect the detail in your image. 

 Hold this under running water for a minute, then start to clean the screen where the image is with a toothbrush.  Use soft, gently circling motions to clear the screen where the image is.  Do not scrub too hard or you will remove too much.  If you find that the image does not come clean, it might be overexposed.  If areas other than your image are coming off, the screen is underexposed.  

Hold the screen up to the light to make sure the image is cleaned out fully.  If you see any remaining material on the design, rinse and brush again.  

6.  Finishing the screen.  Once the screen is cleaned out, place it back into the sunlight for at least 10 minutes to finish the screen.  Since it's winter here, I left mine out for 20 minutes.  

Here are some of my screens.  The first two are still drying and need to be exposed again to finish.  The third screen is fully exposed and ready to print with.  

Here is a finished screen with a piece of the PhotoEZ material on top of it to illustrate for you the difference in the color of the material from start (unexposed green) to finish(dark blue).  

An attempt to use the screen with cheap craft paint.  Notice how bad the bleeds are.

An attempt to use the screen with tube acrylic.  It does not flow well and I ended up with several gaps.  

I don't have any black silk screen ink, but I do have some yellow that hubs found me at a thrift store.  The difference using this ink is incredible.  The image is clear and crisp, and the ink is raise and looks sort of embossed.  

I can't wait to get some black ink and test this out!  My packages are going to look so smooth!!!!!  I will update this post when I get some.  :)

Monday, December 30, 2013

Metal Clay Monday - Failures and Successes

I thought I would give you guys a peek into the craziness that has been my life the last couple of weeks.  I have been busy, busy, busy making jewelry for the family, and I had some awful failures and sweet successes.  I can hardly believe that I have used almost three 200 gram packs of BronzClay and made jewelry for 23 friends and family members.  I have cried, thrown in the towel, picked the towel back up, and came back from my failures to feel almost like a pro.  I have a ritual, I know my clay, I love the feel of it, I love the smell of Badger Balm.  I have stayed up all night long on at least three occasions running my kiln (I am afraid to run it while I sleep - I have two young ones an a wonderful hubby so it is not worth any measure of risk) so I could make last minute gifts.  What's crazy is that I hope my life is just as crazy after Christmas.  I will be running this jewelry business part time to bring in extra income, and I hope to do this much volume all the time.  

So here is my set up, how I work when I need to make something shiny.  I got a lot of my supplies from Rio Grande, but Cool Tools is just as wonderful (they even send me extra goodies with bigger orders).  I have Cool Slip for my texture plates, water with lavender oil in it to rehydrate my clay, a work surface, steel stamps for numbering fingerprints, molds, clay, and tons of tools.  Don't forget the sweet tea!   

Here's a close up of my tool box.  I used the olive oil the first time I used BronzClay to condition my clay.  I read somewhere that it is necessary, but I found that I had problems with all the pieces from that batch.  I have not conditioned the previous two batches and had no problems with them, the clay feels better without it and is more workable.  I also read on the cool tools site that the clay is better when cold, but I work with mine and store mine room at room temperature.  I have no luck with cold clay.  The alcohol is there for use with my alcohol inks.  Badger Balm is amazing.  It keeps the clay from sticking to my hands, smells great (like wintergreen), feels great, and helps to keep the clay smooth when I ball it up in my hands.  

I was not too terribly happy with my first firing of BronzClay.  The pieces showed some small signs of over firing, and the oxidation was rough.  I also had no idea how to finish my pieces.  I got the firing information from the Cool Tools site BronzClay Firing Guide.  My kiln is a 1680 watt Paragon SC2, so my target temp was 1490 degrees F, I held at 2 hours, and the rate was 212 degrees F since my pieces were about 7 mm thick.  

I read somewhere on an Etsy thread that some people were having success with a two stage firing schedule.  The first on a fiber blanket to burn the binder off, the second in the carbon to sinter.  Wanaree Tanner uses this method for CopprClay with success, so I thought I would try it with BronzClay.  I also dried my pieces in my oven.  My results were pitiful, and made me want to cry and give up.  I have $3000 invested in a business making BronzClay and CopprClay pieces and I could not get a batch to work, I just kept getting worse.  I was miserable!!!!!!  All of my pieces look like they were battered in carbon and deep fried.  They all had cracks and none were salvageable.  

Deep fried misery......

Carbon half picked off, revealing cracked clay and embedded carbon.......

Somehow the metal leached into the carbon surrounding the pieces.  I am still so confused with this.  I did do something different with this batch that I suspect may have something to do with this.  I used nursery water (with fluoride) to rehydrate my clay.  That might be why this happened, or it could be that I ran my second part of the firing too long.  IDK!

So I cried, I threw things, and I said many a bad word (well, just one, over and over again).  For a minute I thought for sure this was another thing I just wanted to try but would have no luck at, that I would never get the hang of it and just fail miserably.  I pitied myself way too much.  Then I got right back on that horse.  My next batch I tried a few common sense adjustments and it was almost perfect.  I had two pieces that bubbled just a bit, but the rest of the batch turned out just fine.  

First I lowered the temperature of my oven when I dried my pieces from 350 to 250 degrees F.  This fixed the cracking issue I had with the previous batch.  250 degrees F, 10 minutes on one side, flip, 5 to ten minutes on the other side.  Perfection!

Then I ran the same firing schedule I figured out before but lowered my target temp to 1470, same rate (212/hour).  Just a bit of bubbling on two pieces, so I lowered my target temp on my next firing to 1465 and have had no problems yet.  

I also switched from coal-based carbon to coconut carbon.  It is cleaner and seems to help the pieces fire more evenly.  I cannot remember who I have to thank for this info, but it has been invaluable.  Probably Mardel Rein from Cool Tools.

Here are some pieces on wax paper ready to be dried in the oven.  I use an old cookie sheet.  I have tried aluminum foil, but if the pieces are very damp they somehow soak up some of the color of the aluminum.  Weird. I have no problem at all with the wax paper.

Dried pieces being drilled.  I save my flakes for later (to make paste with or rehydrate).

Here is my latest batch straight from the kiln.  The darker pieces were closer to the bottom.  I had two layers, and these were in the bottom layer.  The ones that look two toned are that way because of the clay, not their location in the carbon.  For some reason the BronzClay has swirls of a lighter color that are not very apparent until they are fired.  Not a big deal, I just fix it with patina.  

Here the pieces have been brushed and then treated with liver of sulpur and are still wet from the neutralizing bath.  You can treat them with liver of sulphur without brushing them first, but the cleaner they are, the more even the coating of patina from the liver of sulphur.  I have yet to try this with ammonia added in to the mix.

A whole batch of fired pieces with LOS patina.  If you are curious about the owls, I will have a post on them this Thursday.  I love the patina from the LOS,but it smells so bad.  It is ridiculous, and hubby hates it worse than I do.

I love how the liver of sulphur brings out all of the detail.  

After the pieces have dried from the neutralizing bath (baking soda and water), I brush then with a brass brush.  If I want a more matte look, I brush them with a steel brush.  Here are these same pieces after a good brushing.

And same pieces after a quick polish with my 3M Polishing Paper.  I have been using the pink (4000 grit) because it was the first one I tested with and I have since lost all the others from the assortment.  It polishes without removing the patina in the texture.

And here they are all put together on a necklace for my grandmother.  I call her Granny, and she is awesome.  My kids and I see her and my Papaw just about every Friday, and she always cooks way too much food for us and they spoil my kids.  We adore both of them.  My sis-in-law, my sister, and my cousin and I all got together and worked on getting prints, they helped my pay for materials for her and other family members and I did the work.  

Here's a closer view.  I love seeing all the fingerprints, they are all so different.  

I am happy to have all this experience, and I hope to have my shop full of customizable items by mid January.  I know I am ready now for deadlines and multiple sales.  I hope every one of you had a Merry Christmas, and are looking forward to the New Year.  I know I am!

Friday, December 27, 2013

Denim Blue Dangles Winner

The winning comment was comment number 43 from Kirsty Fox.  She wins my Denim Blue Dangle Earrings!  Thanks to everyone who participated, and Kirsty I will be sending you an email right away requesting your mailing info.  

I hope everyone had a Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and I hope that 2014 is a wonderful year for you all.  Have fun looking back on 2013!  I'll be back in a few more days with another giveaway!

Friday, December 13, 2013

Giveaway - Denim Blue Dangles - Ends 12/27/13

Need a nice giveaway to brighten up your holidays?  Well, I aim to please.  These dangles started out as test strips from my first ever CopprClay firing, but they turned out so perfect I had to use them as earring components.  I thought of you guys when I got them done.  I have been so overdue for a giveaway, and I wanted to offer something new and exciting.  

Here's the back of the earrings.  I carved the texture with one of my new Dockyard carvers.  The beads are glass pearls in a nice denim blue that compliments the copper very well.

I also added some blue alcohol ink to the front to bring out the texture of the copper.   

How to win:  Each comment counts as a vote.  I will use Random.org to determine the winner, so make sure to make each entry count by listing them INDIVIDUALLY.  International players are more than welcome, this prize is very light weight.  ;)  You can leave your email address, or just check back with me on the 28th to see who won.  Make sure if you are a minor that you get your parents' permission before you enter.  Below is a list of ways to enter.  

1.  Comment below  and tell me whether you prefer bronze or copper jewelry.

2.  Follow my blog!  I'd love for you to follow me, and I will be offering tutorials and giveaways so it will be beneficial to you too.  Try me out and if you are not happy with my content after a few weeks, just unfollow. Just leave me a comment that says something like "Hey crazy jewelry lady, I am now a Native Bloom follower."  If you have a blog, feel free to include a hyperlink to yours, I will return the favor (and other readers may too).  If you are already a follower, just leave a comment saying that you are a follower.  

3.  +1 this on your Google page if you have one.  Add a link in your comment please.

4.  Like my Native Bloom page on Facebook.  When I start my jewelry sales the beginning of next year I will use this page to offer deals and discounts.  Leave a comment letting me know you liked my page (along with your FB name).  

5.  Share this post on your Facebook page (include a link to your post in the comment).

6.  Repost this on your blog (make sure to include the link in the comment).

7.  Pin this picture with the headline "Denim Dangles Giveaway by Native Bloom - ends 12/27/13." Once again, include the link please.

That's seven ways to win!!!!!  Make sure to post each entry individually to give yourself extra chances to win.  I'm going to let the giveaway run until Friday, December 27th, 2013 at 11:59 PM Central.  A winner will be announced in a separate post on December 28th, so follow my blog or make sure to check back on that day.  I will give the winner(s) a week to email me their address and claim their prize.  If no one responds after a week, I will pick another winner. 

Hope you guys have a Merry Christmas, hope to hear from you soon!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

CopprClay First Firing

Oddly enough, after braving my first firing with BronzClay, I was still very nervous about firing CopprClay.  Maybe because of the high temperature, or the shorter firing schedules I found...I don't know.  I ran a test today and found out I had nothing to be nervous about.  I used the two part firing schedule suggested by Wanaree Tanner, you can find her PDF with tons of useful information for top load and front load kilns on her bog post HERE.  I did alter it a bit because two of my pieces were rather thick.  I did not want them to warp, so insead of a 1100 degree F ramp, I used a 700 degree rate.  I also fired some test strips, but made them pretty and drilled them just in case they turned out okay (which they did).  

Here's the schedule I used.

Part 1:  On fiber blanket placed on top of ceramic spacers.  Kiln vented on top (cone removed).
Rate: 550 degrees F/hour
Final temp: 550
Hold time: 15 minutes

Part 2:  In steel container on ceramic spacers with coconut carbon.
Rate: 700 degrees F/hour
Final temp: 1750
Hold: 3 hours

Here are the pieces before firing.  The textures are made with plates from Cool Tools, except for the back of the test strips which were carved with a Dockyard V gouge.  I use Cool Slip to keep the clay from sticking to the texture plated. 

I didn't get a picture between the first part and the second, but here are the pieces straight out of the kiln.

They fired mostly just right with little oxidation or blemish, except for a spot in the middle of the back of the medallion and a tiny spot on the back of the rose.  These spots almost blistered a bit and looked a deep rosy color.  There were also some pieces of carbon embedded into the texture of the medallion.  Next time I will place a bit of ceramic fiber to cover the texture and lower the temperature of the kiln a bit.  I plan on ordering some steel mesh to wrap detailed pieces and a ceramic firing pan to regulate the temperature inside the firing container.  That will also allow me to lower the temperature of the kiln a bit.  (All these troubleshooting tips I discovered from the PDF by Wanaree that I referenced above).    

The pieces after a quick brush over with a steel brush and a bit of burnishing.  I also hammered the test strips out a bit, they developed a bit of curve in the container.

You can see the texture on the back of the medallion is improved in the next photo.  I hammered it a bit to make sure the piece had fully sintered (which it had), and found that it evened out the texture a good bit.  The little black pocks from the carbon are still kinda noticeable.

I really enjoyed working with the CopprClay so far, and found the firing process to be pretty simple.  I can't wait to try some patinas out on these shiny little pieces.  I did turn the test pieces into a pair of earrings (with a bit of alcohol ink to enhance the texture), and I will be giving them away tomorrow.  So be on the lookout for a long overdue Native Bloom giveaway.