Hat Trick.

I finally finished the hat on the carnival clown.  I’m working on the mask/face now, but I want to talk for just a minute on how to best attack the problem of ornamenting curving shapes (and give a news update too.)

So, the issue with the hat on this egg is that the shapes are not only affixed to a curved surface, but they curve themselves in their own ways, and interact with one another to form odd angles and tight curves.  Here’s the hat just after it was sculpted:

 

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.  Now, I took this shot before I had even put the egg in the bleach, so that explains the ragged look around the eye holes.  First of all you should know those little hat fronds have a wire armature to help keep them up while they cured.  If I hadn’t done that, they’d have collapsed under their own weight before they would dry and hold their shape on their own.  So each of those little fronds has a triangular wire armature that’s allowing them to hold their shape during the curing process.   They’re not entirely uniform, and that’s largely because they don’t have to be.  In the end, the differences between them are minor, and won’t matter once the whole thing is covered anyway.  But most importantly, you’ll see that the interior shapes of each one are a little different, and the one in the middle presents its own problems, because it’s behind the other two and therefore has a tight space between where it ends at the base, and the back side of the other two. This created a design problem if I wanted to completely cover the hat in beads.

What I decided in the end was to use composite leaf on the interior curves of the fronds, and just use gold beads on the edges of the interior side.  This is an active design decision, but it’s done with common sense physics in mind – the interior curves aren’t uniform. It would be impossible to create an interior beaded surface in which the beads all aligned in a way that wasn’t a complete mess on that middle piece- there’s just so little room to maneuver in there and the angles are complicated by the presence of the other two pieces.

I sort of approached it like I would an upholstery project.  Just like one of those, it’s the edging that pulls it all together. and in fact, the beads when applied with that in mind, really do make it look sort of “padded”.

You can see- it’s the edge beads that make it work.

 

When I prototyped how the bells would sit I used just a bit of twisted wire, but for the end product I used crimper beads that I then threw some composite leaf on (I only had silver ones here and this was a faster solution than buying a whole gold pack.)  They give a more finished appearance to the final version of the hat.

The beads themselves are applied with a long beading needle and thread. I put a whole row on a strand, and then lay them down.  I allow the glue to tack up for about 5 minutes, then carefully, while holding the first and last bead in the row down, pull the thread out slowly, leaving the beads behind. This allows the beads to remain in alignment in any shape I give them, but unfortunately isn’t useful in cases where a bead pattern is interrupted by another one (like in that Miami Dolphins egg with the number on the back.)  In a case like that, I mostly have to lay the beads one at a time.

Bottom line, is when one material won’t work due to space or angle limitations, you can always find another that will.  However, if you choose to use leaf (of any kind) it’s good to have good leafing technique.  I was trained on how to do real leafing (both oil and water gilding) but the kind of leaf I use here is stuff anyone can use, if they don’t rush and always follow two simple rules: don’t rush the size (glue) and wear cotton gloves. Yeah I know the cotton gloves make you look like Mickey Mouse but they really are important.  The oil on your fingertips will absolutely cause the leaf to stick to YOU rather than the surface you’re trying to lay it on, so it’s key not to touch it directly.  Further, depending on what kind of material is in your leaf, you’ll get oxidized fingerprints in your leaf as it ages if you’re not careful. So it goes like this:  paint your surface.  For warm based leaf colors I recommend a red (so generally speaking, throw red paint under gold leaf) and for cool based leaf colors I recommend a blue.  For copper leaf I actually tend to use a green because that creates patina effects.  Let it dry completely.  (this is important.)  Then paint a thin layer of size (glue) .  THIN.  You don’t want puddles.  You want it to be a uniform, thin layer.  Then walk away and don’t touch anything until the size is clear.  (It will go on a milky white.)  once it’s clear, it’s tacky to the touch.  If you have to test it, use a knuckle.  Don’t use a fingertip.  You can then wear your cotton gloves, and apply your leaf with either a gilding brush (for a whole sheet) or with a fluffy paintbrush if you’re just using flash pieces like I did here.  Tap it down gently, but firmly and then if you need to burnish (polish) it later you can do it once it’s down and dry with a burnishing tool.

In the end, this is the final version of the hat:

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The hardest part was the one row of gold beads at the very base of the interior of the middle frond. That was, to be fair, a giant pain in the ass, since those beads had to be laid by hand and there’s just no room in there to maneuver them in to place very well.

As I said earlier, I have to do the mask and face next.The mask will be done with three kinds of gold/bronze beads and the white parts on the mask will be done with pearlescent white tube beads. As you can see, the stand is already being prepped to create a custom base, but I won’t get to it until I don’t need the stand  while I work anymore.  It will eventually be turned into a neck ruffle.


Again, Im strongly considering doing that show in December, so I may make a couple of similar, but different ones to this one to bring along.  If you want to help support that idea, please buy one of the eggs I have in stock , or order a custom egg or egglace here.   I’d really appreciate it.  It’s very hard to decide to do this show, but everyone’s support makes it easier.

Im hoping to update with some brand new ideas on Friday.  See you then!

 

Seeking the next level.

No matter what you do, you’re always looking for ways to get better at it. A lot of that just comes with simple, repetitive practice, but sometimes it’s an active choice– a series of decisions to do something difficult for the sake of forcing yourself to get better at whatever you’re doing.

That seems to be a theme for me recently. Those quail eggs carve quickly, but because they’re so small, sculpting them takes a while, since you can’t find a way to easily hold them while you’re doing it.  I made jewelry for the first time, and then radically improved upon how I do it.  I got lightning fast at making basic patterns.  And most recently, I’ve been working on a really, *really* elaborate egg.

The egg isn’t finished yet.  I think it still has a week left in it. A lot of this is glue setup time.  I can only lay down so many beads without letting the glue really take hold before moving on. Not waiting long enough causes the beads to float out of position on the wet surface. So it’s two rows, wait… two rows, wait…. The actual beading itself is challenging because the surface curves in multiple directions at once.  The sculpted shapes are more elaborate than usual, and I’ve used a bunch of metal leaf (I own 24k leaf but this is composite.) and hand laid hundreds of sequins(there’s gotta be a better way than how I did that, but I’ll figure out what it is eventually.) Ultimately, this is an exercise in expanding the limits of the top end of my product line.  But this is what I have so far:

 

 

As I said, it still needs work.  I am still working on the center portion of the hat, which is a complex  issue due to the bead pattern and the shapes involved.  However, the inner side of the hat is leafed with composite, which gives it a nice swirling color effect against the gold. The bells are 4mm tiny anklet bells, and they do jingle.  Once the hat is finished I have to move on to the mask, trim and “brows” and start sculpting the stand out further.    The bag of popcorn (rice or beans or any other dried thing like that would be fine too) is there to hold the egg in whatever position I put it down in, so it doesn’t roll.  The stand really only holds the egg effectively in one position, so the popcorn bag will hold it in place at odd angles that I need to apply beads so they don’t slide off the egg’s surface.

So in addition to all of this, Im being encouraged to put my eggs in what would be my first craft show in December.  I normally avoid this sort of thing pretty hard.  First of all, transporting the eggs is a pain in the ass.  I mean just, full stop, it’s just a hassle.  Second, because I am exactly the opposite of the person who wants to be in that position.  Im really introverted, I am uncomfortable in situations like that, I present as *really* awkward, and I have to constantly watch out for the eggs in a situation I don’t fully control.  It’s exhausting. But the biggest problem isn’t any of that. It’s that display solutions are *really* hard to do in this situation.  Putting them all on egg stands on a table is so terrible an idea that it’s not worth considering.  However, the idea I DO have and would work effectively, has proven to be REALLY hard to make happen.  I would need some custom pieces of high density foam cut to order.  Yes, I know there’s oodles of places online that claim to do this.  So far though, none of them have been able to do what I *actually need done*, which is to take a 6-8 foot length of cylindrical foam (think like a bolster, something 4- 6″ in diameter and cut a 1 1/2″ hole in the center, and then cut the whole thing crosswise at various lengths, between 3 and 1o inches in height.  Basically you wind up with something like this:

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(the color doesn’t matter as long as I can paint them.)   No, styrofoam won’t work.  No, foam grips won’t work.  The walls need to be thick or it becomes a toppling risk.  They need to basically look like pillar candles with a hole in them.  I’ve contacted several “custom cut foam” places and no one can do this (except for the one really nice guy who CAN, but only if I get 72 feet of it. Which, seriously, I don’t have anyplace to put, and wouldn’t have a use for anyway.  I just need between 12-25 individual cut pieces, not  250.)

Other display ideas have been thrown around that might be able to be easier to get, but all of them share a common problem- they would  block my vision while sitting down, and I plan to work on paint/bead stuff while Im there as a kind of demo. But until I can sort out a display solution, there’s no point in paying a booth fee.😦

If you know anyone who can do this at a reasonable price, btw, please send them my way.  And of course, please buy stuff.  I’d like to do this show, but can’t, obviously, without the booth fees and stuff.

 

 

 

Halloween is coming.

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I’ve been working on so much stuff that I haven’t really posted here. I know I’m entirely terrible at media and promotion. That’s not news. However, I am good at makin stuff.  I just finished these two skull egglaces (these two are sold, but I make them to order.)   If you want one before Halloween though I really suggest ordering no later than October 7 as they take some time to sculpt up.

For those worried about fragility, these eggs have been coated in epoxy putty during the sculpting process on all sides.  The only parts left untouched are the ones that are carved away later.  So they’re much less fragile than you’d imagine. The eggs themselves have a very pale mottle to the finish (it’s not visible unless you’re looking very closely) but they are a natural product mimicking another one so that’s to be expected.  I realize there’s no scale here, but these skulls are quite small- about the size of a grape tomato.  They are smaller than a walnut, and the beads are the size of poppy seeds.

Im also working on some *serious* next level stuff that I’ll be showing everyone in a few days.  In addition, Im looking into doing a show in December, if I can figure out a good display solution (custom cut foam solutions are not as easy to obtain as you imagine.)

In the meantime, get yourself an egglace!

 

Basic Patterns are now online!

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The photos took me some time to edit, but now all three basic patterns are available both on the etsy store (where I included the stand because etsy is kind of a pain in the ass to customize that way)  and right here on the custom order form (where you can leave the stand off if you want.)

I can turn these around very quickly, so they’re perfect for gifts for all kinds of special occasions. As a reminder, these come in at $55 (including the stand, $50 without) so they’re way more affordable than the really elaborate ones. A perfect way to start a collection!

 

Basic pattern set 1.

So, I’d been getting some feedback recently from people who really liked and wanted an egg (or many eggs) but just couldn’t make the price point on the ones that are truly custom. To be fair, I can understand that, just as they totally understand that the prices are based on how long they actually take me to make – there’s only so fast I can go, especially when they get really complicated.

At that point, I tried to think of a way to create a line that could come in at a lower price point in order to meet that need.  I have a couple of sets like this (there’s an animal one that I’ll be talking about very soon.) but I wanted to give the heads up on this idea first.

I’ve come up with three patterns that I can do quickly, regardless of what colors people want (except black interiors. Black interiors will ALWAYS take me longer because that is how science works.) Because I can bang these designs out fast, I can offer them at a lower price point than a truly custom egg.  I have the sketchwork done on all three designs (I’ll carve them out as samples tonight) but just to give a basic idea, here’s what they are.  These are raw images just out of the box so you can see.

  1.  The flower top.

 

In this design you have four “petals” covering the top of the egg. I can carve the “middle ring” like it is sketched here or leave that solid.  Doesn’t matter.  The bottom part of the egg is uncarved and can be painted.

2.  The single swirl.

 

This is essentially the same pattern I used for “Arrakis”, only without the themed paint job.   It’s a single spiral around the egg from top to bottom.  The rest of the egg is painted.

3.  Candy stripe.

 

This is the same pattern I used for the Pulse egg, just without the painstaking paint job (that rainbow gradient was challenging.)  It’s two parallel swirls that go from top to bottom.

I’ve made some eggs like this in the past.  Here’s some examples:

 

 

But I can make them much more quickly now than I did years ago, so it’s possible to drop the price on these specific patterns.

Here’s how it works:  though my regular prices for themed, beaded and most especially, photographic eggs will remain as they are, these *specific* patterns will be available at $50- each, plus $5 for the stand (stands aren’t included for these specific patterns automatically) and shipping (which is you know, shipping. Also, tax if you’re in New York State) If you want all three as a set, they’re $130, not including stands ($10 for 3 stands, though, so you save there too.)

You get to choose:

  1. Which pattern you want.
  2. Your interior color (one color. Black is ALWAYS $10 extra, because black is a PITA to create.)
  3.  Your exterior colors (max of 3, please. Yes, you can choose metallic colors.  That’s fine.)
  4. Your choice of matte or gloss finishes.

The turnaround time on these should be about 36 hours, tops, so they’re good for gifts.  Yes, if you order a set you can pick different colors for each one. That’s fine. The key for me is that the patterns and paint jobs are things I can turn around quickly.

I’ll get the order form on etsy very soon, but if you want to jump on this (and I hope people jump on it, really) you can fill out one of the customization order forms, email me directly at eggrotechnyc@gmail.com or just poke me on twitter @eggrotech.

I will have animal patterns coming out in this same idea in a couple days. In the meantime- go get some of these!

 

 

Dolphin Dreams

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Dolphin Dreams – SOLD

 

A few weeks ago I was asked if I could do another sports themed egg.  Different sport this time, and a slightly different kind of design.  What I was asked to make as a birthday gift for someone’s mom was an egg featuring a specific version of the Miami Dolphins logo, along with an entire beaded section on the back for Dan Marino’s number (along with a lightly customized base.)

The Dolphins have changed their logo a few times. The one they’re using these days is much more graphically simplified than the one I was asked about.  The biggest hassle with this was painting the tiny little orange rays around the “sun” on the front side.  Since the dolphin itself bisects the circle, the carved part isn’t creating a peninsula, and is therefore much more structurally sound than some of the previous things I’ve been asked to carve.  I basically carved the negative space between the “sun” and the dolphin out and left the interior white as it would be on a 2d surface.

But that meant that carving the back side was not going to be a good idea, as that visual trick relies on a solid color on the inside of the egg.  In this case, part of it would be a solid surface and part would be missing.  So a choice had to be made as to which side of the egg would get carved and which would be left whole.  It was eventually decided to bead the entire back side of the egg instead.

There are some unavoidable problems with this, and they’re worth mentioning. First of all, even if beads are technically all the same size… they’re not all the same size.  In most circumstances that’s not meaningful, but at this scale those differences matter, and they can throw off an entire design.  Some of the “blank spots” were filled in with modeling compound and a little paint and glue, but it’s an imperfect solution (though not immediately visible at normal viewing distances. Because of these small differences, the 3 is actually one row shorter on top than it is on the bottom- again, not really meaningful and you don’t easily notice unless you know it’s there. If I had extended it up one more row, it would have been taller than the 1, and keeping the numbers of uniform size was important. At the same time, raising the height of the 1 one more row throws it off in relation to the “point” on the 1, which by that time was already set in glue and dry.  So this was the compromise position.

The other inherent issue is that it makes one side of the egg much heavier than the other side. This doesn’t matter much in terms of creating it, but it’s important when it’s displayed that it’s set properly in the stand so it doesn’t slip.  In fact, a tiny piece of non-skid rubber (like a bit of one of those rubber “jar openers”) placed IN the stand wouldn’t be a bad idea either so it doesn’t slide.

Although I did take my usual six shots of this one, the sides. top and bottom are all just a plain, uncarved orange, so I’ll just show the back unless someone really wants to see the rest of it . (let me know.)

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It’s good to know that all of these beads are REALLY TINY and were placed by hand with tweezers, a toothpick and a needle and thread.

If you want to commission an egg of your own, just go here and do that! (please. do that.) and there’s 11 eggs on the etsy store you can get right now, too (buy those!)

This clears my commission plate, so send some my way!

When good things go wrong.

One of the things I try to teach people about designing anything is that you cant allow yourself to become so close to an idea that you can’t toss it if it just doesn’t work.  So here’s an example, and it shows why you have to just be able to rip it out and do it again.

 

Im halfway through another sports themed egg.  The front is already done, but the back is a big beaded section with a number on it. I spent 13 full hours on it yesterday and finally got it to here:

 

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Looks fine, right?  Yeah I thought so too, until I looked at it from some other angles.

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My first sign something was wrong was looking at it from the bottom.  It’s off center.  Notice how the design on the bottom part of the egg is offset from that on the top by about 5 degrees. Instead of the lowest row being straight up from the hole, it’s offset to the left. Well, maybe it’s not that noticeable, right? Let’s check the sides.

 

 

Uh oh.  That’s a problem.  Im almost afraid to look at the top.

 

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Oh, ew.

By this point all I wanted was to go to sleep.  Two people assured me it wasnt worth fixing.  I was in bed for ten minutes already, half awake and not wanting to throw away a full day of work.

I got up, went back to it, pulled off every last bead, and went to bed.

This morning, I redrew the back side, repainting the frame position and redrawing the numbers.

This is the top view now.

 

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It isn’t precisely perfect, but with beads on it won’t matter. it will still line up perfectly.  the numbers are centered now, too.

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So I lost 13 hours of work, but when this one is done, it will be right.  Do the work do it right, and do it again if you have to.  Always. It will show in the finished product.

As for me, back to the beads.