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:



.  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:


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!



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