Electronaut.

electronaut 1

It all started with that Blaqk Audio concert. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

My original plan after doing what seemed like umptyteen portraits in a row was to work on an egg design that’s been in my head since last year.  But that design is complex and beaded and would take a while, and I also really wanted to put some new stuff up for sale that was faster to create, and less expensive, since the beaded ones take forever, and aren’t.

So then I was going to do some swirls, which to be fair, I haven’t done in ages and ages, but always do well, and I could bang out a bunch of them in rapid succession.

And then I went to go see Blaqk Audio on World Goth Day, which was the first WGD in YEARS I wasn’t working my ass off myself, and having then seen the greatest cover of Erasure’s A Little Respect, was trying to find out if someone had filmed it and put it on youtube so I could show…well, everyone, because holy shit guys, that cover was amaaaaaaaazing.

That led to my making some of my own concert videos visible on youtube (I usually keep them hidden) and I wound up finding a bunch of videos from a VNV Nation show at the Bowery Ballroom that I was at in 2014. I filmed that night too, as happens, but I was up against the stage, so I never had a view of the crowd behind me, which was really cool to see.  Someone had filmed most of that night from the balcony, stage right, which meant that at some point I realized that I could see myself in the crowd against the stage, stage left. That’s a surreal moment, seriously.  Im just watching along and Im like “well damn, my hair is bright….”

I got to see some stuff I hadn’t filmed myself (I didn’t film the whole show, just a few tracks to send to Lee and Pie, really) and thoroughly enjoyed rewatching it all. At some point, I got to watch Electronaut.  And you know what? I’ll link the video here, because then YOU can watch it too.  (and thanks to 49metal, whomever you are, for filming this.)

 

I am rather definitely in that crowd.  But more importantly, about 2:40 this wonderful lightshow starts, all teal and silver and black with a bunch of binary code. I have no idea what it says, though I’m sure Ronan and Mark do. That got me thinking about how to abstract that idea.

Which led me to this egg.  The holes on the bottom are all the people in the crowd, the wave is the music, the lights are… well, the lights, and the carved bit at the top says “ELECTRONAUT” in binary.

And that’s how we got here.

The interior is teal, the highlight color is silver, and the egg alternates between a black glitter matte and a duochrome gradient teal/blue/purple. Though the egg isn’t particularly oversized, I think it’s technically a jumbo.  Might be an XL. The stand is duochrome teal with black and silver highlighting.

And it’s not a commission, which means if you want it, you can take it home for $100 plus shipping,  unless you’re IN VNV Nation, in which case, just message me.

I will probably be doing some swirls before I settle in to do the phoenix egg I really want to get into, so if there’s any color combos you really want to see, let me know!  Also Im going to be updating my lightbox again, because Im *still* frustrated with how my photos come out.  Ugh I do so much better shooting buildings.

Here’s some other angles on this one:

 

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Hope you like this one!  I already have my ticket to see VNV Nation in October (which I got at face price, no thanks to the crazy scalper nonsense that was going on. WTF, seriously.) Also, if you get a chance to see VNV Nation or Blaqk Audio in concert, you should take it.  They both put on great shows.

 

 

 

 

Love Grows.

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It also is very hard to photograph.  Yes, that’s a portrait on the inside of the egg.

I don’t usually shoot this angle but when I shoot from the front, if the inside is lit, the exterior is overexposed, so I added an extra image.

Obviously, this was a commission- I mean, I didn’t just paint two random people.  Like all of them, it looks better in person (you don’t usually look at it from a distance of two inches.)  The painted surface is about 1.75″x 1.5″, so a bit smaller than the ones that are done on the exterior. It’s very small, but this particular egg was really wide, so it gave me a good surface to work with.   The original image I was working from is this one:

 

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Which I cropped, filtered and simplified  to here:

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Part of the reason for the difference is in the curve of the egg – it looks fine when you look at it all at once, but shooting it from a narrow angle causes distortion due to the concave curve on the inside of the egg. Overall though, Im pretty happy with it- it’s so tiny and on a curved surface, after all.

The exterior is a simple vine pattern in white over a lightly crazed black.  The exterior is a semigloss but I sealed the interior in a dead matte so as not to cause glare on the portrait.  Protip:  that pink paint bleeds terribly once the sealant hits it.  It took forever to retouch the portrait.    There’s some sculpts on the front that are primarily there to support the bridge pieces on the front. I made the little heart out of the material I had left over.

This is the last portrait I had on my plate.  Next up? Things that are absolutely not portraits.

It’s a small, small world (that I am never revisiting. Seriously.)

castle egg 1a

Back in December, my father asked if I could make this egg.  This one, right up here, for an immediate family member who happens to work for the House of Mouse. I have never been so relieved to hear that an egg reached its destination safely, because I am not painting this again.

It took somewhere between 250-300 hours to finish. Just getting the following disclaimers out of the way:

  1. No, it is not for sale.
  2. No, I will not make you one.
  3. I am happy to make fairy tale castle themed eggs generally, but I am never, ever again painting THIS castle. I mean it.  As I said, this was done at the request of my father for an immediate family member who works for the Mouse.  It wasn’t made as a sale item.

There are fourteen visible characters in front of the castle.  That isn’t a typo.  Fourteen. It would have been sixteen but the mice got nixed by request. Interestingly, the stand took me about 36 hours, and was made custom. All of the rest of the time was painting the egg, as there’s maybe a half hour’s worth of carving on the back.

This is the second round of this one- the first one had a weird perspective issue once I carved it so I ditched it and started over. That one isn’t included in that painting time estimate, either.  It’s much smaller than you think it is. It’s a jumbo chicken egg, and at max height is about 2.25″.  Each side is about 2″ across.

But I learned a ton doing it. Primarily, that I have to change my commission scale when working from a photo.  When I originally made my commission rates, no one had ever *asked* me to paint from a photo before- I didn’t think about it. But it takes me orders of magnitude longer to do them that way, WAY more than the commission scale will allow.  I worked on this for a solid month, roughly 10 hours a day, to the exclusion of all else. I am so, so tired.

Most of the painting was done with a 10/0 brush.  Just so people understand the scale of that, here’s a handy reference.

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And believe it or not, there were many times it was too big for what I was doing.

I do have other angles on this one, though. I know normally I have a top and bottom photo too but none of them came out very well (bad angles, mostly.)   You can click on them to make them larger.

 

I’m now working on finishing the portrait work on the egg from the last post.  Which is also super hard, since it’s from a photo.  But at least it’s not fourteen characters.

 

 

 

 

Adventures in portraiture.

Hi everyone!

So, as I said in my last post, the Breaking Bad egg afforded me the opportunity to learn about how to paint portraits at that scale.  Portrait work has never been something I’ve been particularly good at, not even counting for the curvature and surface of an egg- I’ve never even been very good at it on paper, particularly when it comes to working from a photograph.

However, I learned that by simplifying the data in an image, I can very easily re-create it in the tiny scale I’m working at when painting on eggs.  Such a revelation!  It takes me a bit of filtering in photoshop to get the data simplified, but that’s still much faster than trying to take on all the data in a photo without any alteration.

The reason for the problem with an unaltered image is scale.  There’s just too many fine and subtle colors in a photo to have any hope of recreating them that small.  How do you get all of that data in on something that’s less than two inches square?  You can’t, and if you try, it gets to be a muddy mess anyway.

So by simplifying the information, you can just breeze through it, comparatively.  As a little tutorial in “how the hell do you do that?”  I’ll show you the process.

This is the original image:

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Trying to paint all of this in the space I have would be nearly impossible for me to do (Im sure SOMEONE can do it but that someone is NOT me, so.)  What I did was crop the image to get out as much unnecessary information as possible.  I then made the photo black and white, and then, using several layers of varying transparencies, I filtered the resulting image using a cutout filter in photoshop.  This left me with this image:

 

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To which I obviously have overlaid a grid pattern. Though using a grid is helpful at any time, in the case of eggs, which curve in two directions at once, it’s critical to help keep the various areas *mostly* in balance.  But as you can see, this image is significantly simplified.  The basic substance is still there, but it’s much easier to paint at a tiny scale (and bear in mind, the size at which you’re viewing it on your screen is much larger than that at which Im painting it.)

Using this method I can comparatively breeze through the active painting process.  So with that, here’s where  the egg is now:

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I’ll be doing more work on it tonight, but I’ve made a fair pass at blocking in 1/3 of it.

More on this egg and the next one very soon!

 

The Breaking Bad Egg.

Im sure there’s at least several bad puns in there somewhere.

breaking bad egg front

Compared to the Yankees eggs, this one was like lightning, even though the stand took a few days to put together.

Back in December, when I was still elbows deep in baseball eggs I got a commission for this one.  Once I was finally able to get started on it, it only took about 10 days including the stand. (I had to make the stand twice. It needed a different engineering method.)

As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve never seen the show, but reference images are not difficult to come by, so I worked it out in pretty short order. The interior of the egg is aqua like the stand and the portrait on the front is 1.5″x 1.25″.  It’s smaller than it appears in the photo.

I learned some useful techniques doing this one, which will make doing portraits in the future a lot easier. As happens, I have 2? 3? commissions sitting on deck, one of which contains a portrait as well, so I’ll see how well those new skills translate.   I also have to get one done for the etsy store which I keep meaning to do, but Im trying to clear the commission list first.  I already have a theme for it, I just need to get it going.

In any case, here’s this egg from all the usual angles:

I’ll be moving right along into the next one (which has already come out of the bleach) so expect an update soon. 🙂 Enjoy!

 

Almost done.

If you’ve been following my instagram, you have been subjected to about a zillion process photos of the next egg, but it’s almost done now. Actually, the egg itself is done- Im just waiting on supplies to make the stand, which should be here by Friday, so I figure a stand should appear by Mondayish.

I’d been asked to make a Breaking Bad themed egg, which was somewhat of an adventure as I’ve never seen the show (yes,. I know it’s a good show. I just don’t have a lot of time to actually watch anything and I use that time for Penny Dreadful, Face Off, Archer, Bob’s Burgers and Venture Bros. most of the time.)

But I asked a lot of questions, and got a lot of reference images to help me out.  In the process I learned how to do portraits of pretty much anyone in this same style. In a large scale it looks like a graphic design poster but at this size it looks much more realistic.

This was SO much faster than the Jeter egg because I painted ONE person in the same space I painted 20.  This took me my normal speed of about a week. So here’s some process images.  As I said, the egg is basically done, but it won’t be “finished” til the custom stand gets built for it.

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That portrait,btw, is 1.5″x 1.25″. It looks better in person. Photos never do them justice, but this one especially.

While I wait for the stand supplies to arrive, Im going to begin work on three other eggs (yes, at once) and bounce between them.  Yes, I can do that, yes, I can take your commission too.  Or just buy one already made from the esty store!

But expect 3 new eggs (plus the end of this one) shortly. Each one is themed wildly differently than the others, so there should be something for everyone.

 

NYY2 (the Jeter egg.)

NYY2aNYY2c

 

That took WAY longer than I expected it to.  WAYYYYY longer. But it’s done now.  Hallelujah.  This one matches the first one, and there’s one more coming after this. The photo makes this painted bit look much larger than it is. It’s only 2″ x 1.5″.  Believe me, trying to get in details at this scale is really hard.

Here’s the other angles:

 

I’m hoping to send this one on its merry way tomorrow.  I have a bunch of eggs backed up waiting to go here, including a new one that will be up for grabs (as well as two commissions.)

More soon. 🙂

 

 

Amid a mad tangle of arms.

Hi everyone!

I hope everyone had a great new year, and that 2016 is looking better for us all.  Today I wanted to update the process blog with the latest on that second Yankees egg. If you’ve been following the instagram feed, you’ve been seeing it inch along.  Well, “inch” is an overstatement.  Basically it’s taking me several hours to do each square centimeter.  Most recently, I spent about ten hours trying to work out this hot mess:

This looks like it would make a great jigsaw puzzle. but sadly that makes it a little hard to paint in a space of about 1 cm square or so. After ten hours of it, I got it all in, but I was really exhausted by the time I got that section done. So help me after I finish these three eggs the next time someone wants me to paint something off a photo Im charging more for it. This is *nuts*.  But good practice.

The latest image I have of the egg is this one:

Bear in mind the *total* painted area is 1.5″ by 2″, and each square is about 1cm square. (I know, I’m mixing measurements. I know.)  As you can see, I have a ways to go on this one yet. It’s really slow going. But I diligently poke away at it every day.

In the meantime, I really need to work on some other eggs. I have two commissions (not including the third Yankees egg, which I’ll work on after this one, obviously.) and I need to make three others as well.  I’m going to start the sketch work on the next one tonight.  I have an idea that I need to work out.

Til next week!

 

 

The Giraffe Egg.

The Giraffe Egg - SOLD.

The Giraffe Egg – SOLD.

 

Though I usually have catchy titles for eggs, this one doesn’t have one.

About six weeks ago I was asked to make a giraffe themed egg with a custom stand. Though the egg went pretty quickly, the stand took something akin to forever, and I only finished it (finally) this morning.  The egg interior is sort of a golden tan and the back side is painted with giraffe spots.  The stand is obviously what it is and was sculpted from scratch.

Both the egg and stand have a semi-gloss finish.  The stand is solid (not hollow.)  Here’s some other angles.

 

 

So now I have to finish that second Yankees egg, start the third one, and potentially start another commission as well.  Happy new year everyone!

Still firing with both barrels.

So, we had a holiday, and then I got real sick, but now I’m back for an update on the giraffe egg and the Jeter egg.

  1.  The Jeter Egg

This one so far has been easier than the previous one. With a solid plan and some tricks on how to do it without losing a whole mess of eggs in the process, I’ve managed to get this second egg in the NYY series (there’s a third one coming after this one) to the point where all that’s left is the painted image on the back.  But I’ll get to that in a minute.

Right now, the sides of the egg basically match the style of the last one- that is to say, bats and balls (with teeny red stitches) on a blue background.  The front is a little different. Instead of the baseball + stitching it’s a jersey number + pinstripes. Let me tell you, these pinstripes are a pain in the ass to paint. Im sure there’s people in the world who are really good at this naturally? I dont know who they are. I just winged it and did my best but it looks pretty good.  I’ve put a quick sealer coat on it so I can move on to working on the back side, which is the famous image of Derek Jeter diving into the stands at Yankee Stadium in July of 2004.  I’m not sure how much detail I can get in a 2″x1.5″ space, but I’ll see what I can do.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2. The Giraffe Egg.

The egg itself is actually finished.  The thing that’s taking oodles of time right now is the stand, which I may have gotten a little carried away with.  It was such a cool idea in my head, and Im sure it will be cool when it’s done but the stand is taking some time, as it’s a lot of actual sculpting to do.  The idea was to basically use the egg like a “body” and make the stand into feet.  But because I didn’t want the giraffe to be standing (where one good smack with a vacuum cleaner could send it flying from a stand, down several inches) I made the giraffe legs lying down instead, so it would be much closer to the ground plane.  This isn’t difficult, per se, but it is time consuming. This has been compounded by a malfunctioning vacuum cleaner (I don’t want to continue to sculpt until I can vacuum up the mess it creates.)  but I am hoping to fix the errant Dyson today. In the meantime though I seem to have become an accidental surrealist.   It will make slightly more sense when it’s painted.

Slightly.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In other news, you have two days left to order from the Etsy store to be sure to get whatever it is by Xmas. Which I hope you do. Because I’d love to see some of this neat stuff get great forever homes this month.

Double fisted.

I’m currently working on two eggs at once.

When the NYY egg arrived at its destination, the person who ordered it ordered another one in the space of 5 minutes.  It’s got the same format as the one before, with a different front and back image.  I got to work on it right away, and as of now I’ve got it about 25% carved out, as well as gotten the stand painted (you can see it on the right.)  It matches the first one as well.

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At the same time, I have a totally different commission (and if you want one in time for the holidays, order yours by December 5!) , which is going to look like an abstracted giraffe.  I’m about halfway done carving that one up now, but so far, its held together pretty well.

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The teeny stand makes it look way larger than it is. It’s only a jumbo chicken egg on a very small stand.

The green stuff is literally, “green stuff”.  It’s the liquid version of a 2 part epoxy modeling medium.  I painted it on the little bridge pieces to help keep them stable during carving, as Im removing a LOT of material from a very, very thinly shelled egg.

After the egg is bleached I can just paint over the green with white once again and you won’t know it’s there. But it makes this kind of carving possible.  When you remove this much material, with such thin little bits holding it together (none of them are larger than 1/16″) the vibration from the carving tool will shatter those little connector pieces without additional support.

I expect the giraffe egg to be ready for bleaching on Monday and the NYY egg to be ready on Tuesday.

As always, I have a bunch of eggs that are ready to ship on the etsy store, if you want to grab one that’s already done.  I can guarantee you’ll get it by Christmas if you order it by December 10.  For custom orders, I need the order by December 5.

More soon!

 

Eggciting gift ideas (and bad word tricks.)

holiday 2015

 

It’s that time.

If you’re looking for a unique, hand made, one of a kind gift or ornament (or ornament as a gift),  you’ve come to the right place.

If you’d like to order something custom (that I don’t have in stock) please be aware I cannot *guarantee* Christmas delivery after December 1.  Some designs are complicated and I can’t guarantee they’ll work right away.  However, orders from stock (stuff I’ve got already –please see What’s Available for details)  will be guaranteed to arrive if ordered by December 10.

Eggs can be made freestanding, or into ornaments (assuming whats asked for won’t make them too heavy for that to be safe. I’ll do my best.)

Support an artist.  Order an egg. You can order custom orders from this page, or if you like you can order a stock item from here or the Etsy store.

 

 

The Old Stadium, After the Reconstruction.

The Old Stadium, After the Reconstruction - SOLD

The Old Stadium, After the Reconstruction – SOLD

NYY3

Back in September, I got an email from someone who wanted to know if I’d be willing to consider doing a baseball themed egg. I’m not sure why he thought I might say no, but I was happy to give it a shot. It helped that it was a NY Yankees themed egg.  Not specifically because I’m a Yankees fan, though I am, (I was born here, I get to do that.) but because what he wanted specifically was something to commemorate the old stadium building. I’ve been in that building countless times since childhood, so I felt confident that I could at least make a decent try of it.

This egg took months to do, and I mean that literally.  The logo on the front side is an almost impossible thing to carve, due to its inherent design.  I broke quite a number of them before I found a trick to let me get it to hold up long enough to have the egg make it to the bleaching process. Though the NYY logo is an iconic (and honestly brilliant) little piece of graphic design, it does not do well as a thing carved into an egg. Seriously, it’s a giant pain in the ass to do, and I was only able to accomplish it through the use of a glue resist- that is to say, I painted the logo with glue in order to absorb some of the carving vibrations. It’s an imperfect technique and I got imperfect results, but it got me there, so I’ll take it.

The sides are dotted with a combination of dots, bats and teeny little baseballs (yes, I painted stitches on them.)   But I was really worried about painting the back side, as transferring a flat image (I was using a photo for reference) to a round surface is a little tricky, especially at that size.

This is a process shot, obviously, but it clearly gives you an idea of how big the egg is. (Um, if you’re in the UK that’s roughly the same diameter as a pound coin.)  The painted area is approximately 2″ high by 1.5″ across. (about 5cm x 3.9cm). Due to the satin finish on the egg, and the lighting, it’s a little difficult to see all of it, but I have a shot I took before I did the final touchups and sealant.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As usual, I have side/top/bottom photos as well.

So I hope to ship it out on Monday.  Play ball. Or something.

 

Starting over. (and over. and over. and over.)

About three weeks ago, I got a commission on a new egg.  It was a baseball themed egg (Yankees, which is convenient as I live not too far from the stadium and was born with my pinstripes), and I got to work on it straight away.  (*yes, yes, I know the Mets made it to the Series. I already congratulated my friends who are Mets fans.  I hope the Mets take it- they’re due.)

Immediately, I ran into a problem.  The NYY logo, whilst a really iconic piece of graphic design, has some inherent and serious flaws when you try to carve it out of a small egg.  This is one of those instances where a larger egg would work more efficiently, because the shells are significantly thicker and hold up better under carving strain.

Two posts ago, I highlighted all of the areas on the logo that were problematic. Let’s review that.

This is the original egg I had been working with.  The blue areas represent potential problems. All of them are actually the same problem- when you carve out material around three sides of an area to create a peninsula, the single point of attachment is very fragile. Without additional structural support, the torque of carving twists the egg such that those points will almost always shatter.

And shatter they did. Over, and over, and over again.  Normally I can get an egg out in a week.  But time kept ticking and I was no closer to having a usable egg.

In the middle I had two hard event deadlines I had to meet, so I put the egg down and finished all of those items and then decided to redesign the entire thing, and go with a different NYY logo- the one with the hat sitting on the bat.

This is overall, less problematic in some areas, but just as much of a problem in others.  The logo in question is this one:

The problem with this logo (forget the text- there’s no good way to carve that onto a surface this small) is that the hat overlaps the stitching on the upper right side. This leaves you with a series of nearly impossible choices in terms of how to carve the thing, because cutting out the red areas mean the whole design falls apart near the top, and cutting out the white areas leaves nothing for the blue part around the bat to hold onto.  It winds up being a complete mess of decisions.

I tried to fix it by just altering the angle of the hat so it didnt overlap the stitches. Though technically, this actually worked, in the sense that the egg didn’t break, it was a terrible idea in terms of how it looks. It just looks WRONG.  Like, fantastically, horribly, awfully WRONG.  It’s sitting on my desk in front of me and after days of working with it I realize that there’s no way I can really fix it because it’s a proportion issue.  The bat is too wide, the angle of the hat is wrong, and the whole thing just looks off-model.  I dont even want to photograph it. I keep looking at it angrily.

(this by the way, is the problem with replicating logos of any kind- they are designed as two dimensional objects on a flat surface, putting them in 3d on a curving surface is fraught.)

So now I have an egg that’s carved and bleached and painted but… it’s not right. and Im not sending it out until it’s right.  so…..Im now starting it AGAIN.  Back to my original design, but modified.  I made the logo smaller, which doesnt SOLVE the problem but it makes the distance I have to deal with much shorter, and hopefully less shatter prone.  I’ll probably also shore up the peninsulas with a glue wash to help hold them steady.

But the egg won’t go out until it’s right.  (Sorry, Randy, Im still working on it!)

Also, this is the last few days of the skull egg sale, so if you haven’t ordered yours yet and you meant to, get moving!

I interrupt the normal flow of things for an emergency broadcast.

Last night, the tour van belonging to God Module and Die Sektor was broken into after a show in California. They lost 10KUSD worth of equipment and personal items. There’s a gofundme here:

https://www.gofundme.com/godmodule 

These are genuinely nice guys who totally did not need this. However, for all you egg fans….

I am putting up a sugar skull egg, all proceeds (not including shipping) to go to help them buy new stuff.  If you want the one I already have, that’s fine also.  I’ll happily give that one up and send the $150 to Jasyn and the gang.  If you want one custom colored or themed, I’ll do that too, for the same price.

Beaded/and sculpted ones are $250 as always, and again all proceeds will go directly to help the bands get their stuff back.

Just go to the COMMISSION AN EGG page and fill that out- just indicate you’re doing it for the fundraiser, and I’ll take care of it.

Because this is a fundraiser the skull sale prices don’t apply here. Im sorry- I am willing to take a sale price if the money is going to me, but I want them to get the full amount.  This is an emergency.

 

 

 

The Boys of October.

So I haven’t posted in a couple weeks, but not to worry. I had a friend in from out of town and have been nursing a tendon injury in my left leg.  But I did start on a new commission- a baseball themed one at that. Believe it or not no one has ever asked me for one before.

As ha

ppens, the commission is for a Yankees themed egg, specifically referring to the old stadium (not the old, old stadium.  You know, the middle one.)  In fact I can take a photo of this one in front of the new stadium when it’s done, as it’s a short trip for me to get there.

Every egg comes with its own set of lessons and challenges.  This one is no exception.  The stand got done first, because the idea seemed to come to me backwards.  Granted this one is filtered, but you can see the base is blue and white.  The egg itself is a little small, I think it’s just a large, an extra large at most.

One side will have a view of the stadium field on it(and will be really challenging at that scale), but the other is the side being carved.  After some thought, since this egg is sort of a generic team egg rather than any one person in particular, I decided that perhaps I should go with a classic design.    But there’s some problems with the classic NYY logo.  One of the problems with carving is “peninsulas”.  There’s a huge danger of shattering when the egg is only connected to the “mainland on one side.  This logo is especially challenging in this area.  Have a look.  The blue areas indicate places where breakage is likely to occur. 1b627a9ec70fcac13b08a634a930349bYeah.  This could be problematic.  But Im going to carve it up tonight and hope it hangs together.  It’s like the end of baseball season, I guess.  If it does, I need to use science to create some guides on painting the back side.  Cross your fingers, this is going to be difficult.

Also, remember that the Halloween Skull Sale is still going on through October, so get yourself a skull today!

halloween egg sale

One spooky sale.

halloween egg sale

In honor of the impending approach of Amateur Hour, I’m having a sale on skull eggs.  I even made up a whole page to talk about it.

From now til Halloween, all skull eggs are $25 off, and I’ve put up options for plain (unpainted) and black and white only skulls too. Go have a look.  The sale is on the website only (because there’s too many options for me to mess with porting to Etsy.) But there’s a lovely order form on that page.  Check it out!

Calavera.

Calavera - AVAILABLE - see "what's available" for details.

I finally got a skull to stay together. Hallelujah. To be fair, this design worked on the second try. The secret is to carve the mouth last.  Once the mouth is in, you can’t really do anything else to it- it will shatter. I was originally nervous that the egg wasn’t round enough to make this work but it worked out fine.

Here’s the rest of it:

It’s available, btw- it’s not a commission. if you want it just go over to the page here.

Speaking of, btw, since people like the skulls so much, I’ll also soon be offering carved and sealed, but unpainted skulls, as well as skull ornaments, in time for both Halloween and Gothmas.

“Wait. What?” 

Yep.  This year for gothmas I’ll have skull ornaments for your tree.  The thing is though I can’t add a lot of sculpts to them- they’re just too heavy once the sculpts go on them to make effective tree ornaments. Unlike heavy, but plastic, if these fall off the tree, it’s over. So if you want sculpts on it, they have to be minimal. I’ll have a selection available for everyone.  I’ll have more information about that in a couple days.

Of course you can have regular Xmas ornaments too, but the same rule applies- minimal sculpts, if it’s going on a tree.  Seriously, they just get too heavy to be stable if I have to apply a lot of green stuff.  But if you want something heavy I can happily pop it in a stand or a base for you.

I should have halloween/gothmas info available within 48 hours. As usual I have to do the post-egg catch up before I start up again.

What is it with sugarskulls?

No matter how complex a design, the sugarskulls are always the absolute hardest to carve.  I just lost another one, almost as soon as the drill hit it.

So frustrating.  I’ll try it again, but I need to blow out another roundish egg and let it dry first. The only other one I have blown out right now is not the right shape.

In other news, someone at Flickr Explore must like me since the mardi gras egg photo made explore also.  That’s two in a row!  Let’s see if I can do the threepeat.   Now I need to decide on a design for the egg I currently HAVE.  I know I have a list here somewhere….

Headed to New Orleans…

Well, not me. But this egg is. It’s finally done. (also, it was a commission so it’s already sold. But if you want one, just ask.)

Do You Know What It Means To Miss New Orleans - SOLD

Do You Know What It Means To Miss New Orleans – SOLD

There’s a ton of process photos on my instagram, if you want to see how this one was built.  But here’s the relevant details.  This is an extra-large chicken egg.  It’s about 2 1/4″ high, not including the base.  The interior is gold glitter, courtesy of lustre dust. I know the glitter doesnt show up in this photo but I promise, it’s there.  There’s four kinds of beads on the egg itself, and sculpted beads as well. The headgear is made of sequins (obviously.) The base is not attached to the egg, so you can remove the egg if you like, however the beaded strands on the base are permanently affixed.  The green beads on the base are Austrian crystals (the gold beads are imported as well, though I can’t recall from where) but the purple ones aren’t fancy, though they look real cool.

I have shots of it from all angles as usual:

The sculpted beads are finished with a pearlescent metallic finish.Whew. Glad it’s finally done!  I have some other work I have to finish but I’ll be able to start a new egg in about 2 days! Maybe I can get a skull done. We’ll see.  But hey, there’s still several eggs available over at the etsy store (hey buy one! I pay rent that way!) and if you want a commission, get in touch with me over at eggrotechNYC@gmail.com.

See you next time!

Do you know what it means….

(either you know the other half of that lyric or you don’t. If you don’t, go look it up.)

The good news is that the photo I took of the Sakura egg (the main photo) made Flickr explore.  That was great- 3500 people saw it in 24 hours.  Thanks to everyone who stopped by.  It’s still available (the not so good news, but on the upside every time I pass it on my way to my desk I am more satisfied with it. It really is nice, gotta be honest.)

The week kind of got away with me with other stuff (and this week is traditionally problematic anyway) but I began work today on the next egg.  I still have a rather long egg shape to work with (my next one should be good to go on another attempt at a skull.) But as happens I have a commission for a(nother- Ive done one before) Mardi Gras themed egg.  This one will be more elaborate than the last one, with beads and sculptural elements (Im totally still willing to do plain eggs with neither, but these are really a lot of fun and I like using some other skills and media.)

So far, I’ve sketched out the design basics and added the roughs of the green stuff(though these are just meant to be beads so there won’t be much cleanup) and Ive started working on a base (also beads) separately.  I’ll attach the base once it’s done- it’s too sticky to add in advance without the green stuff deforming under the weight of the egg.  I used a sharpie to indicate either beaded or green stuff areas and pencil for carved areas.  It will take a couple days to fully get the base together- the green stuff is too sticky to do more than four or five beads without letting them cure and attach.

I am not sure if I need new beads or not- I have beads in green, gold and purple aplenty, but I am not sure they’re the right size for what I need.  I might need greens and purples in a 15/0 (I have gold in that size.) So here’s the beginnings of the new thing:

 

 

Right now, the green stuff is curing. I’ll work on it more tonight.

Finally finished.

Sakura - AVAILABLE (see "what's available" for details)

Finally, it’s done.   I was hoping to have it ready yesterday… well I actually did.  It was entirely finished when I realized that it wouldn’t sit securely in an egg stand, so I had to sculpt a base. That’s *really* tricky when the egg is already carved.  Somehow I managed to do it without breaking the egg and got the whole thing sealed up a couple hours ago.  I posted about a zillion process photos of the painting process to instagram if you want to have a look at them, but I’ll just post the finished ones from other angles here.

I have a few other projects to finish up before I start on the next one, but it will likely be in the next couple days. I have a list of potential themes.  The next egg is also a little long rather than round, so I’ll see which theme on my current list will work best with that shape.

 

The dangerous part.

So for the past couple days I’ve continued working on the egg I was discussing last time.    I went over the egg with an xacto knife, trimming away any green stuff that looked out of place, and creating a more tight and finished looking design for my branches.  I used liquid green stuff to fill any gaps.   Mostly I just made it tidy. Once that was finished, I sketched out in a general sort of fashion, where I wanted the negative space, that is the space I was going to carve out, to exist.  I had to both leave room for the flowers and to avoid certain carving choices that were likely to cause shattering.

I know it looks like a hot mess at that point but really, it will be ok.    At that point though, the dangerous parts of doing this sort of thing begin. They’re the parts where you’re likely to lose the egg to shattering.  I’ve lost hundreds of eggs over the years. Sure, I lose far fewer than I did when I started, but don’t let anyone tell you that eventually, they all work out. They don’t.

Usually, when eggs go under, it’s one of four causes.

1.  A design flaw.  Many designs look good on paper, and don’t work out in practice.  Anything with long figures, or a lot of undercuts (like fancy swirls and such) that are made out of one contiguous piece, often just don’t work.  Basically, if your design involves creating a sort of peninsula with the egg, where it’s only attached on one side? It’s going to be very hard to carve it to completion.  As you’re carving, the vibration just takes that piece out at the attachment point.  Also, anything where you’re going through a significant circumference of the egg (like the mouths on the skull eggs. )  The vibration stresses the piece that’s still attached, and you can’t easily clasp the egg to stop it.  So far I’ve lost four skull eggs this way.  Fortunately, adding the green stuff sculpted parts significantly helps with vibration stability, so you can do some more daring stuff you wouldn’t be able to get away with without it.  When you have a design flaw like that, learn from it and redesign it.  It’s easier than attempting the impossible,  and a lot less frustrating.

2. An egg flaw.  Sometimes, the egg is just flawed in ways you can’t see.  Hairline cracks that won’t appear to the naked eye will take out a design when put under carving stress.  It happens.  It’s not something you can easily check for, either, though you can hold up your egg to the light to try and see anything obvious.  Other than that it’s just a thing you accept.

3. Artist error.  This is a polite way of saying “you got distracted.”  Usually, I blame the cats, as it’s usually their fault. But, anything will do it- the doorbell or my phone ringing suddenly, a door slamming… any sudden sound that distracts me from the moving, live carving bit in my hand that’s attached to my egg.

4. Overdyeing.  The mechanism by which egg dyeing works involves acid (in this case, vinegar, like you use for easter eggs) eating away at the eggshell and making it more porous and able to accept the dye in its liquid medium (in this case, water.)  However, that does not come without a cost.  Dyeing an eggshell weakens its structure.  The longer an egg sits in the dye bath, the weaker that shell becomes.  No one cares on an easter egg because youre going to peel it and make egg salad anyway, but in this case the dye is not there to color the exterior of the eggshell. That’s just a side effect.  The dye is used to color the interior of the shell, and the darker you want that color to be, the more time it has to spend in the dye bath.    This is why black interiors are so difficult to do.  The resulting egg is so fragile that it’s very hard to paint.  Overdyed eggs don’t really shatter, either. They just sort of *poof* into a pile of dust, like something out of a cartoon.  This, by the way, is why I charge extra for black interiors.  The amount of work is increased, as it the likelihood that I’ll have to run the egg multiple times before I get one that will stay together.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.  First, I had to carve this egg up.  Because of the green stuff sculptural support, I was able to carve huge, huge holes that believe me, would have almost certainly shattered the egg otherwise.  I was able to remove an enormous amount of material from the egg.  If you want to see a video showing all sides of it once it was carved, check here (I have no idea how to make that embed here.) But it took me a couple days to get all the carving taken care of. I was careful to stop the moment I felt too tired to be able to focus completely on what I had in my hand.   I used abstract shapes, sort of like the areas you see between the branches of trees.  But because of the presence of the green stuff, I was able to carve way, way bigger holes than I could otherwise, so I took advantage of it.

Once the holes were carved up, I had to put the egg in bleach.  I was asked this morning why I do this. It’s because on the interior of an eggshell is a membrane. You can see it in the photo- it’s why the holes look sort of ragged and fuzzy.  It’s also why sometimes you have trouble peeling your hard boiled eggs.  You can see how this works in this infographic here. I want to remove that, so the holes are clean and there’s nothing but eggshell remaining.  The membrane is made of protein, and so bleach will dissolve it.  Basic chemistry 101, how acids and bases work sort of thing.  I keep a plastic tub of bleach (it’s a pint container from some egg drop soup.) and I top it off every time I add another egg. Every so often it will get supersaturated and I’ll have to filter it (very boring process involving a funnel and a coffee filter) and start over.  But generally, adding a fresh shot to the container works fine.  Because it’s dead time otherwise, I tend to just leave it in the bleach while I sleep.

After I got up today I filled the sink with water and used a plastic spoon to fish the egg out of the bleach.  I put it in the water and swished it around a little to clean it off.  I didn’t bother to care about the leftover pencil marks and such. I could remove them completely but I’ll be painting over them anyway, so it doesn’t much matter.  So far, the egg has held up.  Hallelujah.  I set it to dry and once it did I looked it over for obvious flaws or damage. So far, so good.  Now comes the scary part- the dye.  If it makes it through that, it’s unlikely to break before it’s done.  This is the worst part.  Fortunately this design doesn’t call for a dark interior color.  I decided on a pale blue.   Dye needs to be heated and activated, so I tossed the dye pot in the microwave after I added some extra vinegar (I keep several base colors ready mixed all the time)  and once the dye was hot (I kept it in the microwave for about 90 seconds) I slowly lowered my egg into it, checking on it every few minutes, rotating it to get even coverage, and making sure it stayed together.  The photo is a fair bit darker than it is in person. The egg is definitely a pastel, sky blue.  I removed it from the dye bath the moment the egg’s interior seemed dark enough and carefully dried it on a paper towel, blotting the egg and rolling it gently to remove as much dye as possible from the exterior so the acid eating into the egg would be more limited, and set it to dry.  The next steps are sealing, painting and beading, but those have to wait until I am certain the egg is completely dry, so it’s just sitting around doing nothing while I write this post.  But in the meantime, last night, I worked on my twig piece.

I used the stuff I bought at the bead store, some glue and a paintbrush, and a toothpick to create a little cherry blossom branch.  It came out perfectly. The only thing left to do on it is to paint the green stuff that’s adhering each blossom to the twig. The first thing I did was put several coats of dead matte varnish on the twig.  This way it’s preserved, even though you can’t see it.  What you can’t easily see in this image is that the petals are iridescent and go from a deep pink to white, with a flash green thrown in. You can see the flash on two of the blossoms in the photo.  But the beads are to different colors/sizes to give some variety of color and shape, and the petals are some flower shaped sequins with a hole in the center. This was ideal, because it let me put a bead of green stuff behind it, press it in, and adhere it firmly to the twig.  All I had to do is let it dry overnight (which I have) and I’ll just paint those areas when I paint the branches on the egg itself.

So that’s where things stand on this one as of now. I expect it to be finished by Monday and ready to roll.  If you want to call dibs on it, let me know!

The process of creation.

As I mentioned yesterday, I had an idea for a new egg.  I was trying to find a way to work with the somewhat elongated egg shape I had, and most of the designs on my list work better with a more rounded egg shape. Finally, I sat down with my sketchpad and came up with this:

IMAG0674

My idea was to get a twig to attach to the egg (either behind or through) that I could then decorate with some small sculpts and beads, carve some negative space out of the egg, and use sculpted material to shore up the positive space (leaving those areas unsculpted is an option but probably stupid on my part, as without that additional support I’d go through 100 of them before one would stay together. The sculpted part adds additional dimensional texture, but more importantly from a creation standpoint, it shores up the egg’s structure under carving conditions.)Then, I could use beads for the flowers.  It’s unlike anything I’ve ever made before (In fact I don’t think I’ve ever done an egg with pink on it.), and seemed like a nice idea to try out.

So, first thing I did was go outside with a sandwich bag and collect some small twigs.  Fortunately I live right near a good place to find such things.  So I took a half hour to wander through the woods and get some likely candidates.IMAG0675

I actually didn’t find that many- most were too big or didn’t have good branching (I found a lot of straight sticks, but small, branched twigs were not as easy to find.). But I got to spend a half hour outside, which isn’t bad, and found some honeysuckle plants I didn’t know were in the neighborhood.  All in all, despite the relative scarcity of very small, branched twigs, it was a successful outing all the same.  I came home with about five different twigs I thought might work, and then sorted through them to find one that I thought would best suit my needs  .

After sifting through what I’d brought home, I found a likely candidate and set it aside once I got it aligned in a way I thought would work, marking the region of insertion on the back of the egg.  IMAG0678

I was kind of surprised I’d found a twig that so closely matched my original idea, but hey, I won’t complain about it.

After I’d gotten those areas marked out, I looked around online for some reference photos.  Even when I abstract a design I need to be sure it reads in a recognizable way once it’s finished.   For example,  I wanted to be sure I had the right number of petals on the flowers,  even if the flowers are abstracted due to their small size. I wanted to check how the flowers formed on the branches (one at a time? or in clusters?) and get a general sense of how to use those details to make the abstracted version recognizable in the finished product.

Then, I had to draw the design out onto the egg itself.  Mostly I just grabbed a pencil, put on

IMAG0679an episode of Face Off season 1 and started drawing. Since this design is organic, rather than strictly geometrical and does not require any kind of symmetry (just balance) it didn’t take me very long, and eventually, the egg was finished with a rough design I could then use as a template to which I could add sculpted material.

A couple people have asked what I use (and used for the tentacles on the tentacle monster.) The answer is Green Stuff (that’s an actual product name.)  It’s a two part epoxy sculpting medium, often used by miniature model makers.  It’s different from clay, and takes time getting used to (Im still learning), but it has some distinct advantages.  It’s not brittle, even when dry, so it’s not a huge breakage risk.  It air cures, so I don’t need any kind of heat firing process, and doesn’t have shrinkage issues.  I am still learning how to work with it, though, so it’s going to take me some time to become proficient. Fortunately, proficiency isn’t really needed for this design- in fact, roughness is better. as that would look more natural.

Most of my evening was spent applying green stuff to the egg, along the pattern I’d created for the branches.  I just workedIMAG0682

a little at a time, and eventually it all got covered. I trimmed off anything too wide or unsightly with an xacto knife and set it in the egg tray to cure up a little.  After a couple of hours I realized that most of the flower areas had rubbed off. This was an issue, as I needed to know where the flowers were likely to be, so I knew to carve out areas that weren’t too close to where the flowers were. Since I’m adding beads for the flowers, I don’t want the negative space coming too close to where the egg will have additional weight added on to it, especially in areas with potential undercuts.  Down that road lies breakage, and tears.  So I added the flowers roughly, using a couple of sharpies (I own sharpies in about 40 colors) and sketched on in grey (which isn’t in this photo) the areas that were safe to potentially carve out.

The big issue is how to handle the top of the egg.  Though I could remove it entirely, which could look really, really cool, I worry about shipping an egg like that without structure t hold it together at the top.  I’d have to figure out how to pack it, and at this point seriously, I have no clue .So I think that for this one, i’m going to leave the top on. Perhaps I can add another branch that will intersect with the top of the egg in a way that would include it in a way that makes sense (that’s probably the best idea right now.) IMAG0683

Once I figure out how to handle the top of the egg, and finalize the general area the flowers go in, I have to clean up any green stuff issues.  I need to make sure Im happy with how that looks, because once I carve the egg up, it’s very hard to fix it, as the underlying egg structure won’t be stable enough to handle much pressure.

Then, finally, I can carve the negative space I want to remove. But first I need to get to the bead store. I don’t even have any pink beads.  As much as I hate midtown (seriously, I don’t know how anyone works there without getting arrested for assaulting someone out of frustration, MOVE, people.) it’s a very good store, so I’ll brave it.  I need three bead colors in two sizes, and I keep meaning to pick up some beading needles (and forgetting.)

So, more soon.  We’ll see how it goes.

The shape of things to come.

IMAG0673   So now that the little tentacle beast is out of the way, it’s time to start working on some new eggs. At the time I blew these out, they were the last two eggs in the house.   So I didn’t really get to choose their shapes very well (not every egg around here gets hollowed out, and I definitely pick which eggs to just crack like normal based on their lack of carving qualities.) These two are kind of long.  The one on the left a little less so, but both of them are a bit long in the z axis, which makes them a poor shape for a bunch of different ideas. After they were clean and dry, I grid sketched the one on the right and stared at it for a good half an hour trying to figure out what to do with it.  It’s a terrible shape for a skull, which was my plan (I am having problems carving those skull eggs- once the mouth goes in their stability goes to complete hell)  The other concepts I had floating around my head weren’t really suited to that shape either.  After about an hour of coming up blank on what to do with that shape, I went to bed.

I’ve mentioned previously that I watch entirely too much Face Off.  I’ve been listening to it constantly in the background for the past two weeks solid, and it’s one of the very few shows I watch religiously.  Though I’m a fair sculptor, my lack of interest in the film industry (I’m really not a movie and tv person)  means I don’t have any desire to be on the show myself, but I do think it’s completely compelling as a design exercise.  I watch this show so much I dream about it.  Seriously, I really do.  But weird as that might sound it does make me think more laterally and openly about my own design process in creating these ridiculous little eggs.

 

The very first challenge ever on Face Off was a little foundation challenge where the contestants had to use objects from the room they were in (a party in a hotel) to create their work. Well, to be fair I do that all the time, and my house is mostly like an art supply store.  But I spend way more time here in my tiny little corner that I laughably call a “studio” than I do outside.  So, what I swapped the challenge to myself and wondered what I could create with stuff I found outside.   Once I did that I got a concept almost immediately, and it was one that allowed that long shape of the eggs to be a benefit and not a problem.

I sketched it up quickly before it got away from me, which is a new part of my process. I always sketch for other products – furniture, jewelry, even clothing, I sketch.  But I had never sketched an egg design until the tentacle egg I just completed.  I’m not sure why I never did- the ideas just popped in my head and I’d explore it as I went. What I found though was  that it really helped me keep on track throughout the project development.

So I’ll be going outside in a little bit to get the couple things I need.  It also looks like I have to head back down to the bead store for two new colors. Since both these eggs are a little long, if I lose one it’s not the end of the world, and with this design it’s entirely possible it will take more than one try (there’s a lot of carving on this one) and if I can make it work it will be really magical looking.