Monday, July 25, 2011

"I can't come up with a good design!" how to methodically come up with unique designs when you are stuck.

How many times have you sat in your design space feeling like you just can't come up with anything good? You have all your materials in front of you, but the ideas just aren't coming. I am going to show you a way to come up with something great and original, completely without the aid of looking at other peoples designs. You will need a couple sheets of paper, a pen or pencil, scissors, and a book or magazine with pictures.
 Step 1. Trace around your cab or focal bead onto a plain piece of paper.  Step 2. cut out the shape from the inside of the shape leaving a hole in the paper the size and shape of the stone you intend to use. This will become your view-finder and help you find your inspiration.
3. find a book or magazine and open to a page with a picture on it. It really can be any random picture. 4. Move the viewfinder around the page until you see lines and shapes that inspire you. When you have decided on a spot you really like, use painter's tape to lightly hold the view-finder in place.
5. The next thing you want to do is sketch the design and plan it. Use your cab to trace the stone shape for you sketch. Use the lines in the view-finder to inform your sketch. plan how many wires you are going to use, where you are going to bind the wires, and how you are going to keep the stone in place from the back side as well. I chose to draw them in lightly. Write any notes that will be a helpful guide in your design process. This sketch is just that...a sketch. You can modify your plan in your final piece if you like. There are no rules. The point of going through this process was to come up with something original and get you out of the creative block you were in. I modified my design in that I didn't have a rectangle Czech glass bead, so I used a round metal one. I also decided that a woven bail would be too busy for this design, so I made a normal bail. Then I added my signature, the spirals. This is a no-fail process. I never would have made this piece if I hadn't intended to write this blog article. Now I have a new design that I can expand on in other pieces. You can do this too. I would encourage everyone to try it. Happy creating!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Pan Glue 101 (This falls under the category of "Eclectica")

This all began as a discussion about making Christmas wreaths. I've been a floral designer for 21 years now and thought I'd give a little primer on this product, a staple to the floral industry, pan glue. This glue comes as dry chips, as seen here and is melted in a skillet for quick and easy use when designing with silk and dried product. What makes this so superior is its holding power. Many glues, including traditional hot glue (glue gun) will become brittle and pop off in changing weather. Pan glue (in particular this Oasis brand product) can withstand a torrential downpour, snow and ice, and extreme heat, making it perfect for wreaths and other outdoor floral decorations. Having the glue melted in a skillet makes for easy use as well. Pinecones can be dipped in the glue and shoved right into a wreath. It bonds in a couple seconds, no waiting for it to be safe to let go. Stems can be cut, dipped in the glue and inserted securely and easily into grapevine or into floral foam without worry. However, of a mistake is made, you have to think fast before it has permanently bonded.. It is also wonderful to be able to take a dowel or an old unused floral stem and use like a paint brush to paint glue on the back of small blossoms or pieces of ribbon to tuck into arrangements, wreaths and garlands. I cannot imagine designing anything silk or dried without the aid of this wonderful product.

So, here is my skillet of pan glue. I bought this skillet over 20 years ago at Goodwill and have used it exclusively for my pan glue the entire time. I have only scraped the hot glue out of the skillet one time. It was necessary because I had dropped a whole sheet of moss in the skillet and the dirt from the underside of the moss degraded the glue. I have about a third of the amount of glue in my skillet that I really should have. But, you'll get the gist of it. This is what the glue looks like in the skillet after it has been melted and solidified many times, or in my case, hundreds of times. It is an opaque golden color. The color of mine is a bit darker because it is really old and really full of pollutants.
Once the glue starts to melt, you can mix around the glue with a dowel rod or an old floral stem. Don't use a spoon or a knife. The metal will conduct the heat and you will burn the hell out of your hand when you try to pick it up and use it.. You can see here that the glue is melting, but not quite ready yet. The corners are still semi hard.
Another way to tell the glue isn't hot enough is that you will create lots of "strings" or "webs" with the glue between dipping the stem in the glue and inserting in your arrangement. The glue should be about the consistency of room temperature honey, and should be completely melted. If you start to see bubbles or the glue just runs right off your stem or stir stick, you have the heat turned up too high. Turn it down and wait until the glue is the right consistency to use it. This product isn't generally harmful, unless the skillet is boiling the glue and you hold your head over the glue steam and breath in...heehee..
NEVER leave the room with the glue pot turned on. If you have to leave the room, unplug it. It's not going to cool off that fast, so you can plug it back in when you return. Once you have established a consistency you like, leave the temperature dial there and just unplug it and plug it in every time to heat it up perfectly.
Once the glue is just right, you are ready to design. Dip the bottom of your floral foam right into the glue and insert into your container. I didn't actually glue my foam in, because I use this container for fresh flowers usually. Then cut your stems with very heavy duty pliers. The stronger and sharper the pliers, the better. Keep in mind that if you are cutting through a silk stem like the ones I am using in this example, you may be cutting through six to eight 24-16 gauge steel wires all at one time. It may look like one stem, because it has been wrapped with green floral tape, or is encased in plastic. But believe me some of these stems truly take brute strength to cut through. For this one I squeezed as hard as I could while leveraging the tool against my leg. The better the cutters, the more efficient and ergonomic the situation.
Next, dip the end of the stem in the glue and use the edge of pan to scrape off any excess if it gobs on.
Insert the stem about halfway down. If you force it all the way to the bottom, and there are many more stems going into the foam, creating a hole that deep will reduce the integrity of the foam, If very many of the stems will be large and heavy, using a thicker depth of foam and reinforcing it with a cage of chicken wire will provide better structural integrity to your arrangement. I used a healthy amount of glue on these stems because they are quite large and heavy. I also inserted them a little deeper knowing that the other stem insertions going into this arrangement will be small and few. In theory, this would have been turned into a contemporary plant garden. Hence, the parallel stems... But, since I only did this to demonstrate the glue. It really isn't going to be made into anything at the moment. Happy gluing everyone! P.S. this does not work for jewelry!

Monday, July 11, 2011

How to make a bead cluster pendant or earrings!

STEP 1: Gather supplies! You will need a selection of beads in multiple sizes with one (optional) larger bead, two 6mm jump rings, head pins, and chain nose pliers. You will need French hooks if you are making earrings.
STEP 2: OPTIONAL. Choose a larger bead to be an anchor in your bead cluster.
STEP 3: Decide whether you'd like to do a wrapped loop at the top of each bead, or a simple closed loop. This is really your preference. However a wrapped loop will always be more secure.
STEP 4: Stack the individual beads on headpins that you'd like to use in your bead cluster, and finish each with a loop at the top. If you are making earrings, consider the weight of the beads you are using. In the case of the pendant I am making, I used some pearls and resin beads in with the glass to make it lighter weight.
STEP 5: Stack your wrapped beads on one of the jump rings. 5-7 beads will do. See that your anchor bead is in the middle. Sometimes it is helpful to lay your beads out, since you will be loading your jump ring from one side. I hold the jump ring with my pliers while I load. It is far easier than holding between my fingers.
OPTIONAL STEP:  You may decide you'd like your cluster more free and elongated. If so, close your jump ring and add another jump ring to the main one. You will stack your remaining beads on this second jump ring, and then close.
STEP 6: If you have chosen to create a tight bead cluster, all of your beads will go on one jump ring. Keep adding beads until you can't add anymore. Be sure to add different beads next to each other adding the smallest beads last. You may want to lay out all of your beads before loading the jump ring, in order to assure that each side of the larger bead is balanced. Once you can add no more, close the jump ring.
STEP 7: While you still have your jump ring full of bead in your pliers, add a second jump ring at the top, which will serve as a bail. If you are making earrings, you do not have to add an extra jump ring before adding your French hook. The choice is yours.
STEP 8: Thread chain or a cord through your jump ring bail, and finish with a clasp!