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Blackberries

Blackberries & thorns – ready for a soap label
Blackberry thorns alone
3 Blackberries

I spent a surprisingly long time arranging the berries. I may still go back and add the little hairs to them and possibly a shadow. It may not be noticeable, but each berry is a slightly different color because I wanted to make it clear that they were distinct even when they were on top of each other like this.

The hardest part of the thorns was getting the lighter color to run down the middle. I’m still not 100% happy with it, but after spending hours trying to fiddle with ‘mesh gradient’ until I gave up, I’m going to call this good enough for now.

Edit: here’s my soap label made from the above images.

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Final word in 2018

Obviously just making horse HEADS wasn’t going to be enough so I made a wire frame and made a whole entire horse.

I don’t yet know how to do the fine details or smooth out the tool marks, but here it is. It’s about 6 inches tall. Once I had it made in modeling clay I realized that I don’t know how to cast this, even if I made a two part mold for two reasons. 1) the shape and 2) the only time I’ve done a two part mold I embedded the original in modeling clay to make the first half. This is made of modeling clay so what do I embed it in?

horse sculpture

And finally, for a year-end wrap up, I made a gallery page of the ‘best of’ 2018.

I never finished cleaning up or posting my photos from France – I still intend to do so.

I also did a few more test paints of the chess set. This is blue, with a metallic blue finish and the Warder has his shield, helmet and sword painted with an ‘interference’ paint – it will shimmer green or red depending on the angle of view.

It has been suggested that I’ve gone a bit off the rails since I went to New Mexico to learn how to make SOAP MOLDS and this is clearly not a soap mold. But I learned something very valuable: making custom molds is expensive and I should definitely do everything I can to avoid having to make custom ones from silicone!

I’ve been puzzling over the size and shape of conditioner bars. I now have a formula I really like but I still need to settle on the packaging and the shape. I think I’m going to try a round column mold – I might make out out of PVC with a teflon liner – and since PVC comes in all sizes I can probably find one to exactly fit the 2 or 4oz tins I’ve been thinking of using as packaging.

More soap to come in 2019

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Lewis Chessmen

While learning how to make molds I became accidentally obsessed with the Lewis Chessmen.  We saw them first two years ago on our trip to Scotland and I tried to 3-D print one to make a test mold out of when I went to NM.  The 3-D print wasn’t detailed enough and soon after I discovered that I could purchase pre-made molds.  They are latex, not especially durable, and  I’m a bit afraid to cast resin in them.  I ruined one already by trying to cast wax into it and then couldn’t get the wax back out again. 

The originals are from the 12C and were discovered on the Island of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides.  There are 78 chess pieces in total.

Some of the original chessmen in Edinburgh.  
A bishop.  One of my molds includes this particular figure.
A berzerker.  This would take the place of a Rook.  I LOVE him.  Alas, he is not included in my set of molds.
The sets were originally white (walrus ivory) and red (paint).  I’m tryint to re-create that original look.
Playing around some more with warmer/cooler casts and one silver-on-black just to see how it looks.

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Mold Making

Last week I went to visit a friend in Albuquerque and pick his brain about how to make molds for soap and resin casting.  There was a LOT of information all at once and I’m still organizing it in my mind.  Here are some of the photos I took during the workshop.

I have workshop envy

This is the shop where he makes his molds.  Lately he’s been moving more into metal casting than resin, and one March (this year or next) I may come to a metal-casting workshop.  In the back notice the very large mold of the very, very large horny-toad.  I loved that sculpture.  On the back wall there is also a nice mold of the classic archaeopteryx fossil.  I would have taken a casting of that if I’d had space for it in my luggage.  As it was, I barely fit the molds I made myself plus the LARGE quantity of hot green chili I brought back.

 

 

 

 

 

Platsil 73-25 2-part mold silicone. And Nathan’s cool tray to allow it to pour more easily.

Vacuum de-gasser. We only used this once but I think it did reduce bubbles in the silicone

Some molds poured, other forms waiting to be set up.

Shapes glued down and ready for the mold form to go around it. I used cups or PVC for the round ones and foam-core board and hot glue for the rectangular one.

Lizard on a bed of clay ready for mold material to be painted on. This will be a 2-part mold.

 

 

Completed molds are trimmed and dusted with talc so they don’t pick up dust and dog hair.

Nathans epic $100 variable temperature glue gun. The glue sticks are a foot long and 1cm wide.

 

Completed chess mold after the 3D printed original was removed.

Heating wax to pour a shape that can be sculpted more

The final array. Everything I brought back with me: molds, originals, casts in resin, wax and plaster, extra wax and some new sculpting tools.

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3-D printing

I’m getting ready to make some silicone molds for soaps and here are my first prototypes for the designs I want to use.  A trilobite, a ‘white lotus’ from Avatar the Last Airbender and the BAT SIGNAL.  The last one is because I’ve really wanted to make a menthol-peppermint soap and call it “HOLY MENTHOL, BATMAN!!”

 

Trilobite (Girl Genius) and White Lotus (Avatar: the Last Airbender)

Trilobite on a plaster cast of a 4oz round soap.

The bat signal!

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Cross Stitch Patterns

I do not cross stitch myself, but I have a friend who does, and who has clever ideas, and I have images that I want to see get out into the world.

I spent about a week trying to find ways to convert images into cross stitch patterns using online tools, then GIMP, then Excel, then Gimp Plugins.  Here are some of my preliminary results.

The octo-gear needs a simpler color scheme and to be made smaller.  I think the owl needs more contrast but the rocket turned out well.

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Paint Pour Art

The local 4-H Arts program had a workshop where the kids could learn to make acrylic-pour art on canvas.  Since I’d been looking at exactly that just a few weeks earlier and thinking that I wanted to try it out, I jumped at the chance to sign up with my two younger children.

We did a ‘flip cup’ pour with only 3-4 colors as this was suggested to get the best results for the kids.  And I held back a bit to watch how everything turned out.  Part of the secret seems to be patience – don’t rush the process of letting the colors spread out.

Spreading the paint

The initial flip

 

I happen to like the one made by my youngest best, I think choosing highly contrasting colors help the final outcome.  I also noticed that the color I used most in the cup isn’t necessarily what you get most of on the canvas. (For mine, I used nearly 1/2 purple, but it’s not dominant in the final painting).

My final painting using purple, green, light blue, and white

Youngest daughter’s final result using red, orange, purple and silver. I really didn’t think these colors would work, but now it’s my favorite.

My middle child’s effort. Sorry about the glare here, I’ll get a better photo when it’s dried. He was going for ‘space’ and didn’t quite achieve that, but it’s still cool.

They are still drying right now and will have a poly finish applied before they are ready to go.

The kids loved this so expect to see more!

 

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Prehistoric Caves

In addition to the mushroom cave, we went to 4 other caves during this trip:  Lascaux 4 (reproduction), Font-de-Gaume, Chauvet-Pont d’Arc (reproduction) and one more where the kids went spelunking and rappelling (and I did not!).

The ones that I went to are all caves that have famous cave paintings in them. Lascaux is the most famous, but I think the Chauvet-Pont d’Arc paintings may be more beautiful.

The reproductions were interesting.  I had some hesitation about going, thinking ‘why would I spend my time going to a fake cave, better to just see the real one and skip the others.’  I’m glad I didn’t do that.

For Lascaux 4 and Pont d’Arc, the process of making the reproductions was just fascinating.  They are full size, to-the-millimeter, faithful reproductions of the inside of the cave. To the extent possible the paintings were replicated using original techniques.  My favorite bit: they hired a ‘professional nose’ to visit the caves and replicate the SCENT – which is now pumped into the replica, so that it will feel even more like you are in the real thing.  No photos are allowed inside the full reproductions (or in Font-de-Gaume – the only original cave I visited) so all of my photos are from the museum at Lascaux.

aurochs, horses and reindeer

yellow horse. See how much he looks like Preswalski’s horse.

closeup of the reindeer

3 aurochs and the yellow horse

This was not the only place, but Lascaux 4 was the first place we encountered armed military guards. They’ve been taking things seriously since the terror attacks.

Horses in Pont d’Arc (from Wikimedia Commons)

In Lascaux 4 the most common animals were aurochs and horses (17,000 years old). Reindeer were the most common food but were not depicted with nearly the same frequency.  In Chauvet-Pont d’Arc is by far older than Lascaux, at over 30,000 years old and had good preservation as the entrance to the cave was blocked for tens of thousands of years. Font-de-Gaume has some as old, and is primarily a bison cave. No photos were allowed here. I bought a book, but the photos don’t do it justice. The drawings aren’t in as good condition but in the dimly lit cave, with a light playing over them, much as it must have been with crude lamps when they were drawn, the animals seemed to reveal themselves more clearly.

Common to all the caves: predators were rare and were always ‘hidden’ they were in the shadows, in the cracks, hard to see. Humans were rare and crudely drawn, especially compared to the beauty of the horses and bison.

PS  We got lost looking for Pont d’Arc cave and accidentally drove past the actual Pont d’Arc – a natural bridge, and the original cave sight, although we didn’t know it at the time.

Pont d’Arc

PPS We also drove past some signs indicating that the road would be closed for the Tour de France, but I didn’t get a shot of it 🙁

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Sandalwood Tree

Or at least – ‘artists impression of a sandalwood tree’.  I admit it looks more like a madrone (and like all my other trees so far), but I’m happy with it.

A little break from photos of France.  I am getting ready for my fall soaps and thinking of new labels in color.  I wanted a wood grain, but when I tried looking for photos of that I was disappointed in the results.

And if you are thinking “what is a madrone tree?” They have a very striking cinnamon color bark that peels. The outer bark can get rough and darker, the inner bark is smooth, flowing and can be orange to green. They are a broad leaf evergreen that lives in the pacific northwest.