Stained… Plastic? Part 2!

I figured t’was the season for a little Halloween festiveness, so the next installment of my melted bead series has a pumpkin-y twist.

I promised you all a votive holder, and a votive holder you shall receive!  I made this project is a little less free-form than the koi bowl, though you could do any design you want.  This project will require a baking pan or sheet, a soldering iron, and sand paper, along with, of course, beads to melt and an oven to melt them.

Let’s get started:

You will want to end up with four squares of the same size (five, if you want it to have a bottom).  I made one large square, 14×14 beads.

*NOTE* After completing my piece, however, I think my life would have been easier if I had started with four separate smaller squares, than with one big one.  If you do that, then you can skip the whole part about cutting the squares apart. *END NOTE*

I wanted my designs to have a black border, but you could have your colored beads go all the way to the edge.  I used one row of black beads to separate each of the four panels.  These beads will eventually be cut in half.  I was going to make all four sides have jack-o-lanterns, but I was running out of orange beads, so I switched it up for two of the sides.  You can copy the patterns I did, or do a different patter, or solid colors.  Whatever floats your boat.

Bake like the last project, 435F (~224C) until the beads have completely melted together (mine took about 22min).  This time, I didn’t do any swirling.  Remove the plastic and let cool.

Using the soldering iron (They only cost about $12 at a hardware store.  I love having one around), cut between the panels.  You’ll want to make your cuts down the back of the plastic, to keep the front looking cleaner.  If you have a metal ruler (which I don’t) you could use that to make sure your cuts are straight.

Once you have your panels cut, sand down the edges.

Hot glue the sides together, inside and out.

Now, the top and bottom of the votive holder are not very smooth, so we’re going to heat them to finish it off.

Heat up your baking pan on the stovetop, medium-low heat.  Place the top side down on the heated baking pan.

Take the pan off the heat and flip the votive holder over.  Melt the bottom down the same way.

Remove from heat.  Some of the melted plastic will be sticking out now.  I just broke it off with a small pair of pliers.

Now, if you make a fifth square for a bottom, this would be the time to glue it on.  If not, you’re done!

*WARNING* Do not use a real candle!  This is plastic.  Plastic + fire = bad.  Get yourself a nice battery powered candle.

Alright, that’s two out of three plastic crafts I promised you guys.  The next and final melted bead project will be jewelry.  I’ll try making a few different pieces in different styles to show you all some options to spice up your look.  Until then, happy crafting.

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Stained… Plastic?

Anyone who frequents Pinterest has probably seen the evermore popular craft trend of melting pony beads (those cheap, plastic beads we all made keychains out of when we were in elementary school) and turning them into suncatchers or fancy bowls.  Some people were clever enough to turn them into light fixtures, basically by making a bowl with a hole in the middle.  (http://www.craftster.org/forum/index.php?topic=100703.0) They end up looking a lot like stained glass, and I only wish I had come up with it first.  These sheets of melted childhood can be used like sheets of glass for stained glass, or for fused glass jewelry.  Multiple pieces could be put together to make boxes or other 3D, geometric models.  There are so many crafting possibilities, I can barely contain myself!

Well, lucky for me (but possibly detrimental to my crafting neurosis), I kept all my pony beads safely tucked away in my closet.  I was going to throw them away when I moved, but discovered in the nick of time how valuable they really were.

Since it’s been a while since I last posted, I’m gonna give you guys a special treat, and do a sort of mini-series based on this idea.  Please, contain your enthusiasm.

We’re gonna make a fancy votive holder:

This one is glass and is being sold for $75 (http://www.sensia.com/chmacdonald.htm).  I think we can improve upon the price, while customizing it for ourselves.

We’re also gonna make some lovely jewelry:

Fused glass jewelry like this would normally require a kiln that reaches at least 2000 degress.  We will put our jewelry in a household oven. (http://www.kolekreations.com/originalwork.html)

But, first, we’re going to make a plate, but it’ll be a little different from the ones you’ve seen…

Alright, so we start the same way everybody else does, by dumping a bunch of plastic beads in some sort of metal pan.  Every place I read said that you don’t have to line the pan with foil, because the sheet of melted plastic will just fall out when cool.  I’m trusting them, so hopefully I won’t ruin by baking pans.

You may notice that not all of the beads I’m using are technically pony beads.  Any plastic bead will do, really.  It just depends what you have around, or what’s on sale.

*Safety Warning*  Breathing in plastic fumes is really not good for you.  Open all your windows and get a fan going.  I put on a light mask on every time I opened the oven.  One lady I found did her melting outside on a barbecue.  This is probably a good idea, but I don’t have a barbecue, so there we are.

I put my pan in a preheated oven at 435F (~224C).  We’re going to try something I haven’t seen anyone doing yet (that doesn’t mean no one’s done it, just that I haven’t seen them post anything about it online).  To avoid that hexagonal look that so many of these projects have, we’ll try mixing up the plastic a little.  About 15min in, I took it out, and, using the back end of a metal utensil, drew swirls in the plastic.  I had to repeat this twice more, because, every time I opened the door, the beads cooled down and became too stiff to swirl after about 10sec.  I waited 5min between swirling, and then another 10min after the last swirl for the plastic to completely flatten.

When your plastic layer is flat, take your pan out of the oven and let it cool.  It shouldn’t take very long, especially if you have a fan going.  As promised, when I turned over the pan and gave it a clean whack, the plastic popped right out.  I was quite relieved.

Part two of this I’m-not-sure-how-many-step process will be to make the focal point of our artsy plate.  I decided that my blue swirls looked like water, so I chose koi fish as my centerpiece.  You can make whatever suits your fancy.  Just find a picture, then lay your beads over it to get your design.  I’m one of those artsy types, so I free-handed it.  You’re more than welcome to copy mine.

We cook the design, just like we did the first batch.  I did a little bit of swirling on the fish, like I did before, on the tails and fins.

We’re going to step back to the blue swirls for a second, now.  Take that first, lovely sheet of plastic, and break it into pieces.

Now, place your design where you want it in your baking pan.  Take the broken pieces of your background swirls and place them around your centerpiece(s).  Fill in any gaps with more beads.

 

Bake as usual.  Do a little swirling on the added beads.

Now, we could stop there, and we’d have a lovely suncatcher, but I like my craft projects to be a little more useful.

Find a glass or metal bowl whose general shape you find appealing.  Place it upside down on a baking sheet.  Rest your plastic sheet on your bowl.  Bake as before.

It should only take 7 or 8 minutes for the sheet to fall around the bowl.

Let the plastic cool, then remove it from the bowl.

Now you have a lovely little bowl to hold your keys or change or something.  I don’t think it would hurt you to eat food out of it, but I don’t know if I’d risk it.

Well, that was part one of our three part series on melted plastic beads.  Stay tuned for the next chapter in our saga, when the hero, in a fit of madness, risks it all to make a plastic candle holder.  Until then, happy crafting.

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Just a Quick Update

So, for those of you who wait with bated breath for your next crafting inspiration (I know, I know, that’s all of you), I have an excuse for being MIA recently.  I spent a week getting ready to move across the country, a week actually moving across the country, and week getting settled on the other side of the country.  That being said, I don’t have a new tutorial for you yet (I know, I know, “boo! hiss!”).  Gimme a break, guys, I just started at a new school.  Here’s what I’ll do for you, instead: check out my deviantART page,  http://recycledrapunzel.deviantart.com/ and tell me if anything inspires you.  Maybe, if I like you, I’ll show you how to make it.  Or, if there’s something else you’ve found, that you’d like me to figure out how to make, I’ll take a stab at most anything.

Alright then, I’ve said my piece.  Happy crafting.

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Water Lily Cake

Well, I’m sure, by this point, everyone who read my last post has made him/herself a lovely coral necklace, right? good.  On to the next project!

Monet

For the past few years, I’ve been making extravagant birthday cakes for my friends, mostly because I’m bad at picking out gifts, but also because they’re awesome (the cakes and the friends both).  Another birthday celebration has come along, so I’m gonna walk you guys through my process of making a cake based on Monet’s Water Lilies.  Impressionist paintings are a good place to start if you want to break into artsy cake decorating, since the frosting kinda looks like oil paint, and nothing has to be (or should be) perfect.  My cake won’t just be painted in frosting, though.  That would be too easy.  We’re gonna make a gumpaste water lily to go on top, and that’s where we’re going to start:

Materials:  gumpaste (I bought a mix from a craft store, but you could make your own), powdered sugar, rolling pin, flower cookie cutter (optional), food coloring, small bowls/cups, small paint brush, sharp knife or fondant cutter, cake, frosting, pastry bags or sandwich bags, wax paper

Prepare your gumpaste as per the instructions on the package.  I only needed enough to make about a 1½ -2” (~4-5cm) diameter ball.  I used white as the base color for my lily, but you could also use light pink or yellow, which you would mix in before starting construction.  Roll out your gum paste.  The thinner it is, the more like a flower it will look, but the harder it will be to handle, and the more likely it will be to break.  Roll to the thickness that makes you comfortable.  Next, cut out a six petaled flower, however big you want your finished flower to be.  Now, I already had a large flower cookie cutter at my house.  You could also free hand cut a six petaled flower.  My cookie cutter wasn’t quite the right shape, so I cut down the petals to make them pointy.

To give the flower dimension, drape it over the bottom of a small, rounded-bottom bowl.

Repeat this process, this time cutting each petal about  ¼” (~6mm) shorter than the first set of petals.  Instead of draping over the bowl, this time put the flower inside the same sized bowl.

Make one more set of petals, about the same size as the last ones.  Put them inside a smaller glass/bowl, such that they are pushed up and together more than the previous petals.  Curl the tips of the petals slightly inward.

You could make more than three layers, if you felt like it.  Real water lilies have more than 18 petals.  You’d just need to gradually make them smaller (or bigger, depending on how you look at it).

Now we’ll make the inside part of the flower, the stamen and pistil part, I guess.  I didn’t think about it at the time, but I probably should have added yellow dye to the gumpaste I used for this bit.  Not a crisis, though, since I just painted it yellow later.  Anyway, roll out a very thin snake, and cut the snake into ~1 ½” (~3.7cm) sections.

Layer the pieces as shown.  Make a small ball of gumpaste, and put in the center.  Fold the strips up around the ball.  My gumpaste was getting a little dry at this point, so I need to rub a little water over the pieces to make them stick.

Let everything dry until it doesn’t bend anymore.  A few of the petals broke off, but, since this flower is layered and will rest on a flat surface, it’s not a big problem.

Time to add a little color to these plain, white petals.  Mix up a little food coloring with some powdered sugar and water, so that it’s a shade of pink you like and about the consistency of white school glue.

With a paintbrush, carefully paint the tips of your petals, then blend the color with either a second brush or your clean finger.  Do this on the inside and outside of every petal.

Now mix a yellow with a tinge of orange for the center part of the lily.

Once all the color has dried completely, we can assemble our lily.  You may have noticed that more petals broke.  In fact, all of them broke apart, but I’m still not worried!  Mix some powdered sugar with water, so that it’s thicker than our colors, but still spreadable with a paintbrush.  Assemble your smallest set of petals.  Coat the bottom of the yellow piece with the wet sugar, and place it in the center of the petals, pressing gently.  Let dry.

Coat the center of the medium set of petals with the wet sugar, and place the smaller set inside.  Repeat with the largest petals.

Your water lily is done.  This can be prepared well in advance of when you need your cake to be ready, so that your cake can be made not too long before you eat it.

Now for the actual cake part:

I’m focusing on the decorations here, so make round cakes of whatever flavor cake you want and let it cool completely.  The cake doesn’t really have to be round, but I have a round cake carrier, so I’m partial to the shape.  If your cakes came out very rounded on top, cut them so they are flat.  Put three or four strips of wax paper around the edge of your serving tray, which you will remove later.  This will keep your serving tray clean for a better presentation.  Layer your cakes.  Give your cake a thin coat of frosting, a “crumb coat”, if you will.

We’re getting closer to the fun part now.  Make dark, medium, and light blue frosting.  You’ll also need dark, medium, and light greens, a pale pink with a hint of blue, and pale yellow.  If you have pastry bags and tips, you can go ahead and use those, but sandwich bags work equally well.

Give each color of frosting its own bag, cut off a corner, and go to town on that cake.  Squeeze out swirls and wiggles of frosting, grouping the colors, so you give the impression (Impressionism!) of water, lily pads, hanging vines, and clouds reflecting in the water.  You’ll probably want to be looking at one of Monet’s paintings while you do this.  I did one color at time:

Once you’re finished making a mess, carefully remove your wax paper, place your finished gumpaste lily artfully off-center on top of your cake, and bask in your awesomeness.

Your friends and family will be so impressed if you make them this cake.  You know what?  If you’re intimidated by the gumpaste flower, you can leave it out and still have a great cake.  Just paint a few big frosting lilies on the top of the cake.
Hopefully you’re inspired, so, until next time.

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Coral Necklace

$3000 necklace

I found this necklace on one of my travels through the internet, and thought that I would love to add it to my collection of jewelry that is gorgeous but I never wear.  I click on the necklace, and am redirected to a store page, which lists this necklace’s low low price as $3000.  Well, I would have bought it then and there, except I had just spent $3000 on a pair of diamond encrusted jet packs, so the well was running a little dry.  Luckily, as a child, I bought anything that looked cool in the local arts and crafts store, including some polymer clay.  I promptly gathered my materials and got to work.

Materials:  polymer clay (I used red with a little orange, but you could use pink or blue or whatever color you like.  I think white would look pretty classy.  You’ll need about the amount of the orange in the picture, plus another half that), a waterproof clear glaze (I used clear nail polish because I had it around), a large metal paperclip (this will serve two purposes), a tape measure, a medium sized oven-safe bowl, and aluminum foil.

You’re going to need to start by measuring around your neck.  The tape measure should fall loosely about the nape of your neck, right past the little dip of your collar bone.  For me, that was 18″ (46cm for everyone whose country isn’t terribly stubborn).  You’ll continue by squishing the life out of the clay to soften it up (also to mix colors, if you have more than one).  Once your clay has been softened into submission, roll it into a thin snake, about the length you measured for your neck.  Cut (or just pull) the snake in half.  It doesn’t have to be exact.  These are the back bones for both sides of the necklace.

Now, take your oven-safe bowl, turn it upside down, and cover it with a sheet of aluminum foil.  This will serve as your mold and baking apparatus.  Drape your clay snakes over the bowl.

Start building the branches of coral that will come off the backbone.  I found it easier to put them together on a flat surface, and then put them on the mold, but you could build directly on the mold, if you wanted.  Make larger branches first, then fill in gaps with smaller pieces.

Now we have to make the hinge for the back of the necklace.  Remove the outermost straightaway of the paperclip.  If you have wire cutters, good, if not, you can just bend it back and forth until it breaks.

Then wrap a flattened piece of clay loosely around the paperclip piece, as shown.  You should be able to easily remove the clay from around the wire.  Make two ends for the hinge, as shown.

Attach the hinge the back of the necklace.  Smooth out the hinge and add coral branches.

Make two hooks for the front of the necklace.  The inspiration necklace has some sort of gold clasp, but I didn’t really like that.  If you wanted, you could buy a small clasp, either a hook kind or magnet, and hot glue a bead or button or something to it.  I’m just ignoring it, though.

Attach the hooks so that they will catch each other when the necklace is pulled open.  Even after baking, the clay will be slightly pliable, so you will be able to twist the hooks slightly to hook and unhook the necklace.

We’re done constructing the necklace, so now it’s time for finishing touches before baking.  Take the rest of the paperclip and, with the rounded end, smooth out all the joints where you connected pieces of clay.  You want to diminish the appearance of seams.

Pull out on the edges of the foil.  You’ll want the bottom edge to flare out slightly, so that it will sit more comfortably on your neck.  This step is more important than it seems, since you really don’t want the clay poking you in the neck when you wear it.

Still on the bowl, bake your necklace, following the instructions on the packaging of the clay.

Once the necklace is completely cool, carefully peel off the foil.  A piece a mine broke when I took it out of the oven.  Don’t panic if that happens to you; just glue it back on with a good craft glue.

Give it one or two coats of the clear glaze, and you’re done!

I’m not gonna lie, making all those little coral branches took a while.  From start to finish, I’d say it took me about three hours to make this necklace (including wait time for baking, cooling, and gluing the broken piece back on).  Giving myself minimum wage, which would be $21.75, plus about $4 in materials, making this a $25.75 necklace, which is just a hair’s breadth less than the $3000 inspiration necklace.

Well, that’s it for my first tutorial.  Lemme know what you think, and, if you take on this project, send me a picture!

Happy crafting.

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The point of it all:

Having always been an avid crafter and renowned cheapskate, I find very few things more satisfying than making something myself that is totally awesome, unique, and costs way less than if I’d bought it in a store.  Whether it be textiles, food art, jewelry, furniture, 2D art, or what-have-you, I’ll try my hand at pretty much anything that doesn’t require heavy machinery (who knows, I might even try that in the future).  The plan for this blog is to go through some of my favorite projects, while continuously hunting for more, and explaining how I did it.  Hopefully, I can get your input on the final products, and see if you have any suggestions for how I could do it better, how I could mix it up, or similar projects you think I should try.

Here are some examples of the kinds of things I’ll be showing you in future posts:

Recycle Plastic Rose Necklace

A necklace with flowers and beads made from recycled water and soda bottles.

Easy, but beautiful cherry blossom painting on cupcakes covered in fondant.

Duck Tape Wallets

Wallets made from duck tape (yes, “duck”, I’ll explain in a later post), with 10 credit card slots and a coin purse.

I hope I’ve whetted your appetite for some crafting, so, until next time.

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