Thursday, January 29, 2015

Blogging for Thor: The Cloud is Our Friend

Hello Spiders. Today's update is small, but at least it'll be on time. I received a comment from one of you, an actual human Spider. At least, he sounded human. He brought up something that I've been noticing myself: some of the pictures on older posts have been disappearing. These are photos that I've linked to via Instagram, Flickr, or Facebook, so I assume it's those services (or maybe me) fiddling around with back-end stuff and messing up the links.

Well, that's kinda lame. If a new Spider wants to crawl around in the blog, they should be able to see the lovely photos and examples. So I've gone through and repaired all the broken links, uploading the troubled photos directly to the blog. I'll be doing this from now on, and checking regularly to see if there are any further broken links. If you see one, just leave a comment! I do love comments!

I actually have a real update for this week, but I want to give it another day or two. It's regarding some of the anthotypes I started exposure on waaaay back at the beginning of December. Winter isn't a good time to do anthotypes, but I figured I'd give it a whirl. Applying to grad schools and going over all my application packets always makes me incredibly twitchy, but it reminds me of the other two experiments that I'm working on. I generally only work on one at a time, so sometimes I forget. Cyanotypes have been eating my attention for months, but I figure come spring, I'll get back to lumens and anthotypes. Won't that be nice?

Seeya soon, Spiders!

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Blogging for Thor: Sickness and Ideas.

Hi there, Spiders. I'm very tired. I've been coughing pretty much non-stop for a month, and it's rather annoying. The doctor hasn't been a lot of help. I don't appear to have tuberculosis, bronchitis or anything else particularly nasty. So, just coughing. Maybe I'll cough my way to a fitter belly? Who knows. My diaphragm muscles sure are getting sore. Hopefully today's blog, posting on Thursday, will maybe make up for skipping last week entirely?

Artistically? I'm actually struggling with budgets and brainstorming. My grant came in, so I've got a decent amount of money to make fifty (50!) pieces of art. Well, it's a decent amount when you take it as a lump, but it becomes far smaller split 50 ways. The real issue for me is how best to present these items for shipping and handling while keeping them aesthetically pleasing, environmentally friendly and cost-effective.

The cost-effective issue is a big deal, mostly because I value my own time. It took me a lot of work to assemble the pieces for my show in Asheville. I don't want to go through that mess again. So I need to find a fairly simple way to present these prints. 

I'm splitting the 50 pieces into 20 wearable objects (necklaces, rings, scarves, earrings) and 30 traditional prints. Oddly enough, the prints are actually going to be the ones that require the most work. Assembling the ready-made jewelry with parchment prints is pretty easy. It's even easier using wood prints. Scarves, at least the small kind that I discovered for Christmas, are fast, too. For the prints? Those I have to make (easy, fairly cheap, takes time, though) and frame. The framing is the sticking point. I don't want to do traditional frames, glass and all, I want something simpler.

At the moment, I'm considering mounting the parchment prints on wooden blocks or artist panels. We'll see how that goes. While tooootally not cost-effective for this grant, I might use some of the left over money (ya know, the amount that goes to me for my time) to buy some interesting products. I discovered a company that makes exotic hardwood artist panels, and realized that you can use Etsy to purchase all kinds of stuff. I'm thinking some live-wood (bark and all) slices of osage orange wood would make a great background for some round prints. Wouldn't that be cool?

Any of you spiders know where to get logs of exotic hardwood... and a belt sander? I need those. 

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Blogging for Saturn: Baby's First Budget!

Parchment Cyanotype, Framed
Heya, Spiders! I know, I'm still late. I'm just really bad at writing during the days and now that I have a social life, I keep doing things on Thursday and Friday nights. It's a real issue... except for the part where I'm out, having fun with friends. So. Not a huge issue, really. Thor might be getting a bit miffed, though.

Today I'm blogging for Saturn, because he's the Roman God of (among other things) wealth and fortune. Why? Well, Spiders, I'm happy to tell you that I've gotten my first grant. The Art & Science Council of Mecklenburg County offered a grant for artists to participate in a Community Supported Arts program. I was selected as one of nine artists to be featured this year. I'll be making 50 small pieces of handmade art, to be distributed to the people who buy shares of the program.

For me, that means making 50 of my cyanotypes on parchment, wood and bone. In all honesty, I'm extremely unlikely to include any bones in the grant program. I'm only getting a budget of about $40 per piece; the bones are just worth too much to me. They're hard to make and the materials are a bit scarce. I'd rather use them myself. So, instead, I'll be making prints on wood and parchment for the grant program. My offerings will be a combination of the wearable art that I've been experimenting with, and the normal parchment prints that I've been doing for some time.

My biggest challenge is going to be the framing and packaging. I've got to keep my costs low, and my time fairly limited on each object individually. The type of display I used for my show in Asheville, seen above, is too labor intensive and costly as far as materials go. I'll need a simpler way to present the parchment prints. The wearable art will probably stick fairly close to the early test models, like the ones featured in the last two weeks. The material and time cost on that is pretty low.

Obviously there's going to be some research into how best to package everything, where to get the best value frames, how to assemble everything, what adhesives to use... but that's actually kinda fun for me. I'm excited, because if I can get this all down, then future work will be that much easier to make!

All of this is pretty amazing. It means I'm getting paid to continue with my experiments. I have a budget! I'm actually being paid to make art. Honestly, that doesn't happen very often for me. I'm very, very excited. You can rest assured that as I move forward with the grant, I'll be posting updates on the work made for it and what I learn during the process.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Blogging for the Baron: Paper Jewels

Tracing out sizes for parchment cyanotype blanks
I've been out of it, Spiders. Since Christmas, I have entirely lost track of time. My dog became increasingly ill after some surgery and had to be put to sleep to keep him comfortable. I came down with one of the nastiest colds I ever remember, right about the same time. This cough syrup is messing me up worse than I figured. I even missed the Folded Paper Project for the first time. Basically, I've just been all kinds of messed up.

Still, there has been some progress. I've completed two more of my cyanotype parchment jewelry pieces: a ring and a pendant.

For this week's update, I'm going to go through the process step-by-step. It'll be fun! Trust me!

The first step is the "negative" which, in this case, is made by sticking a small leaf onto a piece of clear packing tape. I use the tape because it works great for when I'm dealing with bones (which are anything but flat) or felt, or anything else that doesn't lend itself to simple contact-printing under glass. When dealing with very small leaves and plants, it's also handy to keep them in place and keep track of them. It lets me arrange roots, small leaflets and even multiple tiny leaves easily as well. So, stick all your plant material onto the packing tape. For longer shelf life of your negatives, you can double-layer the tape, stick-to-stick, so that they're 'sealed'. I don't do this, because I'm alright discarding the negatives after a few uses. I'd rather find new material than keep using the same leaves over and over. Still, it's an option. If you don't seal the tape-negative somehow, it will accumulate dust, debris and gunk.

Next, stick or place your tape-negative onto your coated parchment. I've discussed the actual process of coating in some detail, so I won't go into it here. You could, in theory, use another sturdy material to make similar pieces. Heavy paper, or even stiff cloth could be glued down and covered with a protective layer. I use the parchment because, well, it's kind of my thing, ya know, Spiders? Dead stuff, necrography, etc. This last bit is very important: do not trim down the material yet. You want to leave extra space around the final border of your print so that you can trim it to fit exactly into whatever object you're going to be placing it in. Parchment and paper both deform and shrink a bit when soaked, so be mindful. Do all your trimming and sizing at the end.

Once you've got the tape-negative in place on your material, place it in a frame. I actually have a nice itty-bitty 4x5 contact frame that I'm using for this, but you can use any of the jury-rigged contact frames that I've demonstrated before, or just a picture frame. Whatever works! Then leave the frame out in sunlight for a complete exposure. I'm extremely lax with this. Due to the weak sunlight in the winter months, I tend to set my exposures out the night before and collect them in the afternoon. That gives them a good 6 or 8 hours of exposure. When you're just doing photograms, its almost impossible to over-expose. If you were trying to print image negatives (which is an option!) then you'd want to go with a shorter, more controlled exposure.

Cyanotype Parchment Pendant
After the exposure is done, just remove the tape-negative and coated material from the frame. Unstick the tape negative, if necessary, and drop your prints in the wash. For me, considering the size, I don't really wash the prints. I let them soak in a Dixie cup full of water for a few hours. They're done within 2-3 hours, tops.

The nice thing about these prints being so small is that it's fairly feasible to speed up the drying process for them with a hair dryer. Keeping them from flying all across the room while doing so? That's a bit harder. I stick 'em in place with a push-pin driven through one corner (which will get cut off anyway). At this point, you're really done with the photography portion of the exercise.

Cyanotype Parchment Ring
Now all you need to do is trim off the excess material, getting down to a size that fits exactly into your setting. Of all the steps, I find this the most annoying, especially for rounded shapes. It drives me nuts, but some of y'all may have really awesome ideas for cutting down on the annoyance. Lemme know if you do! I recommend using paper templates to ensure you don't over-trim your finished prints. That's sad when it happens, because you can't un-snip a cut print.

I recommend a silicone epoxy like E6000 for glueing parchment to metal, but if you decided to go with paper, cloth or some other material, use whatever bonds best. E6000 is pretty great overall, but it can be quite messy, fume-y and a little toxic. Use with care.

That's really it. You just make your tiny cyanotype, cut it to fit the jewelry object, glue it in place, and you're done. You can go further, with things like fixing a glass bezel in place as a protective layer, or pouring resin on top to seal things up, but I'm just starting experiments with that. They're totally optional. Parchment is a very sturdy material, and the cyanotype process is extremely archival. Items made this way, even without a protective coating, should last for decades.

Have fun, my Spiders!