Monday, July 6, 2015

How Did You Make That??? "Dryad" Exceptional Adornment

This "Dryad" piece glows with the earthy colors of the forest - lush greens and fiery oranges. Graceful leaf shapes create a striking silhouette that evokes magical woodlands and forest nymphs.
The iridescence is also transparent, creating a unique stained-glass effect, and it flashes and reflects the light in a spectacular and magical way as you move.

So how did I make it?

Faerie Magic, of course!

Well, okay, perhaps that's not completely true - my magic is made with mundane materials and techniques I've developed through experimentation. 

Here's a Walk-Through of how I crafted this "Dryad" adornment.

Sketches and test prints

I keep a sketchpad nearby and scribble my rough ideas when they come to me.  These sketches are then either scanned into my computer, or simply used as a guide to create the final designs in Adobe Illustrator.

Designing shapes in Illustrator.

The design is in black and white - the white parts will end up being cut away, leaving the intricate black shapes.  I have to be mindful of how to construct the designs so that they cut well on my electronic cutting machine.  It's a balance of visual harmony and structural integrity.  In the case of this piece, which will be made out of several individual pieces connected with rivets, I designed each piece separately, carefully shaping them so they will fit together correctly.  At this point, I'll print out the design and roughly cut it out with scissors and hold it up to my neck to see if the sizing works, and adjust the design until I'm satisfied.

Setting up the cutting sheet in Make-The-Cut

 Once I'm happy with the design, the pieces are imported into the Make-The-Cut software that works with my Zing cutting machine.  The pieces are arranged on the virtual cutting mat, which corresponds to the actual cutting mat that is inserted into the machine.  A piece of Kraft*Tex (a marvelous material that I will write more about soon), is cut and pressed firmly to the mat, which has a tacky temporary adhesive on it.  The machine then cuts the shapes from the Kraft*Tex.

Gluing pieces to iridescent film
Once the pieces are cut, I choose some iridescent film colors.  In this case, I layered 2 colors of film, and alternated the order of the colors; the oak leaf shapes have orange/green on top and a more blue-green underneath, so the orangey tones are more visible, with the blue-greens adding subtle undertones.  The other leaves have the blue-green film on top, with the orange/green underneath, so their main color tone is more green, with the oranges as the undertones.  This ended up working out beautifully to create 2 alternating colors that harmonized perfectly together.

The Kraft*Tex pieces are sprayed on the backside with a spray adhesive and pressed face-up onto the top layer of film.  The second film color is then layered below this and ironed for a few seconds to melt the 2 film layers together.  The heat also shrinks and the film a bit, creating some organic dimension and texture, and sometimes shifts the colors a bit in serendipitous ways.  Too much heat/ironing can burn holes in the film, so this is a tricky step.

After ironing the 2 layers of film
Next, the excess film is trimmed off by carefully running an Exact-O knife around the edges of each piece on the back side.

Trimming excess film
The front of each piece is then brushed with a clear gloss acrylic medium, which seals the surface and laminates the Kraft*Tex layer to the film layer.

Applying acrylic medium
I do 2 coats of this, brushing the first coat in one direction, so the liquid pools up against one side of each cut-out area, let it dry, then apply a second coat in the other direction.

Acrylic medium pooling around edges of cut-outs
Once the varnish on the front is fully dry, I apply a thick coat of Diamond Glaze to the back side of each piece.
Applying Diamond Glaze to back side
This non-toxic liquid is self-leveling and hardens to a clear, durable, yet flexible resin-like surface.  This gives each piece a bit more substance and weight, seals and protects the film layer and creates a smooth feel against the skin.

Diamond Glazed backsides
 Once the glaze has cured, a coat of clear satin polyurethane is sprayed onto the front side of the pieces. This adds a water-resistant protective seal coat, and dulls the glossy varnish down a bit, which gives the Kraft*Tex a more "leathery" look that I think looks better than the shiny gloss finish.  

Spraying on polyurethane sealer
I use the massive Uline catalogs the company keeps sending (despite contacting them twice to tell them I don't want paper catalogs) as a quick and easy spraying surface.  Simply flip open to a clean spread, set the pieces down, spray and carefully relocate to the drying area, then close the catalog.  The sprayed pages stick together, so when most of the pages are stuck, I throw it into the recycling bin and grab the next one on the stack.  

Satin finish has dried and gems applied
 Next, embellishments such as Czech glass crystals or glue-on rivets are applied with Gem-Tac, a heavy-duty adhesive made to attach jewels to clothing.  It dries clear and flexible and strong.  

Assembling the pieces with rivets
Once the pieces are finished, they are arranged in proper order, being careful to get the overlapping parts correct, and brass rivets are hammered through the hinges.  A pair of long ribbons are attached with crimped findings and the piece is finished!

The finished product!

These simple materials have now been transformed into an Exceptional Adornment!  Lightweight and flexible, with movable rivet hinges and long ribbon ties so you can adjust the shape, fit and hang; you can wear this piece as a necklace or a choker, with a few bobby pins you can fashion a headpiece, or use some hidden safety pins through the ribbons to adorn your decolletage...make a hatband or attach to a belt - the possibilities are as endless as your imagination!  

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