Thursday, 18 May 2017

Learn from my mistakes

A lesson In What Not To Do With Enamel

Maybe I'm too impatient to ever become any good at enamelling. Or maybe I need a more dedicated space to work at it, so I don't rush to be finished so I can put my kiln away and clean the table for supper. Or maybe I'm just looking for an excuse.

Bear in mind that I didn't properly sand these pieces because they aren't going anywhere so you will see some of the cloisonné wires that would normally be sanded out.


These are my favourite pieces and I'm mad at myself for messing them up. They are simple cloisonne and meant to represent the red cliffs of Prince Edward Island at the edge of the sea.
My use of colours was pretty good and I paid attention to Ricky Frank's instructions about using a salt-and-pepper method to blend colours. I paid attention to his hint to slightly dome the piece so there wouldn't be as much stress. What I forgot was to put a layer of counter enamel on the backs. Between the lack of counter enamel to relieve stress and probably an overly thick layer of transparent on top because I got impatient,  the glass cracked in the last firing.


This was another cloisonne piece and I used glass threads on top of the design. I really like it and it would have been a nice piece once sanded and with another few coats of transparent, except for one really really dumb mistake.
I cut the piece at the top to make a bail. Bend it and roll it over and it would make a lovely, enamelled bail. Yup. Try bending glass.







This piece WAS really pretty before I fired it the second time. Another one with glass stringers and I should have given up on it before it ever went in the kiln. I'd put the stringers on in the design I wanted, and lift the firing screen to put it in the kiln and my hand would shake and the whole thing would fall apart. About five times. Of course, by the time I finally got it in the kiln, I had my fingers all over it and by that time I was getting a turkey ready for the oven so this lesson is that greasy fingers and enamelling don't mix.


And one last lesson that should be obvious. Because I'm using copper until I figure out what I'm doing, I get a lot of firescale on the back of the pieces. Especially when you forget the counter enamel. When you are doing cloisonne, you have to put multiple layers of thin transparent over the piece to build it up to the top of the wires. I was using powdered transparent and as I shook it on, I was shaking little pieces of firescale onto the paper below, and then I'd pour it back into the container, thinking the screen would filter it out. It doesn't. You can really see the little flakes on the first picture. Guess I'm going to have to break down and order more transparent. And be a little less thrifty.

When you don't have access to classes, except online, learning things like enameling and metalsmithing is definitely a lesson in humility. I suppose the advantage to doing it without an instructor is that, unless you post it on a blog, nobody else has to see your blunders. Anybody who is interested in trying cloisonne, Ricky Frank of Rio Grande has some terrific You Tube videos. For straight enameling, try Craftsy; they have torch fired enameling, which is fun. You didn't get the pictures of that.


Monday, 15 May 2017

Sea Glass Fun

There's nothing more exciting than finding a nice piece of sea glass on a beach walk. And it's particularly nice if you can make a piece of jewellery with sea glass that has a provenance.
This piece of pale blue is from Old Chelton Beach in PEI. I was practicing different types of bezels from a Craftsy class and this one decided to be a little organic, reminding me of seaweed cradling the glass. It is made with .999 silver and my original plan was to antique it but it looked too nice with the bare silver. In my opinion lol.



Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Game Of Thrones - Bah!

I just binge read all 5 books of George Martin's Game Of Thrones and now I'm sorry I did. I've never watched the TV show of the same name and if I had, would probably not have started the books. Couldn't put them down, mind you, and had a couple of 4 and 5 in the morning sessions.
Each book gets progressively darker and weirder, with a cast of way too many sadistic and monstrous characters. The only ones with redeeming qualities seem to get killed off or ignored in the story line. Book I sucks you in by making you want to know the story of the Stark children which is why I read and read and read, only to finish book 5 still not knowing where they will end up.
I should know better, after reading Robert Jordan's Wheel Of Time series, which went on for something like 13 books and kept me waiting year after year for the next one to come out. And then Jordan died before the last book was published. I figured it was either him or me. That series was much better, with a smaller cast of characters in which you could invest your liking and interest. Game Of Thrones has too many bloody (literally)  plot lines that you have to read to see if the people you're interested in happen to make an appearance. The books are so long they read like a gory Charles Dickens, like Martin is being paid by the word. I guess with the TV series, he is.
Now I should really do some housework.

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Gluten Free Deep Fried Fish

There are so many people diagnosed with celiac disease that feeding them has become a profitable market and it's much easier now to get half-decent tasting food. I don't feel deprived, although, occasionally I miss a really good craft beer and pub style chicken wings or fish and chips. The fish and chips craving seems to come on those miserable, cold winter days when your body says, "feed me carbs! Now!"
My Christmas present to myself was a little T-Fal deep fryer and its purpose was to fulfill the carb craving by deep frying little spring rolls made of rice paper, shredded meat, carrots and cabbage. I figured the healthy inside made up for the fried outside. It's amazing what you can talk yourself into believing.
In a fit of trying to make myself eat more healthy food, I bought a package of frozen cod fillets. So, naturally, I looked for the most fattening way I could cook them. When I stumbled across this recipe on reclaimyourhealth.com.au, I thought I'd try it but didn't hold out much hope that it would taste like fish and chip shop fish. BUT IT DOES!!! It's probably even better than some shops sell and the unfortunate part is that, now that I've tried it, I'll want it often. So much for dreams of boiled cod and veggies.
This will make enough batter for 6 large fish fillets. I quartered the recipe to cook one and still had enough left over that I could have cooked 3 more.

Best Gluten Free Fish Batter
2 cups rice flour (I used a blend without Xanthan gum from Bulk Barn)
1 tablespoon baking powder
3 teaspoons sea salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper (optional)
350 ml sparkling water or soda water
1 egg beaten (quartering this was impossible, so I used a whole egg and a little less water
1/2 cup rice flour for coating
Oil for deep fryer - coconut oil would be a healthier choice

Mix together the rice flour, baking powder and salt in one bowl and the water and beaten egg in another. Pour the water mixture into the flour  and mix until smooth. It shouldn't be a thick mixture, more like a pancake mixture.  Dredge the fish in the flour, shake off excess and dip in the batter until coated, shaking off excess. Deep fry in preheated oil 4 - 6 minutes until crispy.
Make sure your oil is good and hot before putting your fish in and this will prevent too much oil soaking in. Rest the fish on a paper towel when removed to blot up excess oil.

Maybe I'll lose weight when it's warm again.



Sunday, 12 February 2017

I'm back!

Have you ever noticed that as you get older, time seems to compress? I can't believe that it's been two years since I posted.
Started doing agility trials with my dogs, practice a lot, sold my store this fall, bought the SC2 kiln I've always wanted, am making a lot of mistakes teaching myself enamelling and that's basically my life the past few years. Now that I've got my head around the fact that I'm free, it's time to start creating. Hopefully.
I've always wanted to make the little clothes out of metal, maybe because growing up I wanted to be a fashion designer. Didn't happen but I made really good cutouts for myself as a kid, haha. So...looking through my idea book, I saw a sketch of a dress. It's bloody cold, so I decided to make shorts and a top on a hanger. Wishful thinking. Can't visualize well from a sketch so I decided to do a prototype. I used 26 gauge brass, thin enough to cut with scissors. Sketched the shorts and top at the bottom of the piece of metal, folded it and cut around the first pattern. Remember, this was a prototype so I could have done it much neater. Once it was cut out, it needed some serious filing, since the metal was so sharp. Then I took some 18 gauge hardware store copper and designed the hangar, just by bending and making a loop. Next time, I'll put a small straight stretch under the loop and a couple of rings of binding wire around it to look more like a hangar. That's why I need a physical prototype.
Once I got all of that done, I realized that done properly, all of this could look really good and definitely wearable without enamel and without a kiln. And without soldering, which is how I was going to join the back and front.
Cut out the back and front of your design,  fold in half. It doesn't matter what gauge metal you use, but the heavier the gauge, the more careful you will have to be folding.
Bend your wire for the hangar.
Place the hangar to hang the outfit. I used the blade of a pocket knife to open the design enough to slide it in. Then use E6000 or Krazy glue to glue the front to the back, under the hangar. Put something heavy over it until glue dries.
Paint with nail polish or permanent markers. It wouldn't hurt to put a coat of clear resin over it to keep your colours safe.
Hang!
If you want one for winter, how about a pair of red long-john combinations?
How easy is that?