Dig box: completed

After much trial and tribulation, it is done.

Aw, look at the reflection, it's smiling!

The last week of the project, I ran into some unexpected problems.

When I decided I did want to attempt some 3d elements, I did tests. I thought spot welding would be the right solution, but it made the wire brittle and easy to snap. So I moved on to JB Weld, even though I felt kind of insecure about using epoxy, having little experience with it.

I attached a metal leaf to the wire I was using with JB Weld, let it set, and then tested to see if I could bust it. I could not! Hurray!

Weighting down the leaf-wire-metal sandwiches while the epoxy cures.

So I spent a day or two cutting more leaves out of steel shim stock, cutting wire to the right lengths, and sticking it all together with JB Weld (I used smaller pieces of sheet metal on the back, to sandwich the wire properly. My tests showed I had to make a sandwich to keep the wire in place.) Then I spray-painted them and drew on the veins with a paint pen.

The painted leaves, with the wire stems bent into approximately the right shape.

Then, the evening that I was going to epoxy the leaves o the top of the box, one of the “welds” failed. I was trying to gently bend one of the leaves, so I could get a better connection between the box top, the epoxy, and the leaf, and POP, the leaf came free of the epoxy holding it to the wire.

A friend very kindly spent some time that evening helping me test out some other kinds of epoxy (and Gorilla Glue, borrowed from another Asylum member), but at that point I had an alternate plan in mind. And then it turned out the other epoxies/glue weren’t any better than the JB Weld. Yes, it did take some work to pop metal free of the epoxy, but the fact that it could be done made me fear for the long-term survivability of the box. It’s going to be in public, right? Someone, at some point, isn’t going to be able to resist “testing” it. So: butterflies.

The reason I wasn’t trying to weld or bolt/screw/etc. the leaves to the top is that we were not supposed to put holes in the top surface of the box, because no one wants rain inside their newspaper box! And, well, I don’t know how to weld AND my materials were so thin that welding actually seems . . . ill advised.

The front panel had holes in it already. In fact, I pulled off an “extra” panel that was originally on the box (and used it to test paints and methods) to use the holes it was attached by, and then discovered there were EVEN MORE holes in that panel than it seemed. So the front set of leaves have wires that go through the holes and are epoxied in place.

I also drilled additional holes through all those leaves so I could tie them to the box with thin wire (painted to match the veins). Mechanical attachments – better than glue! Unless you have REALLY AWESOME glue, which I don’t.

Since my original plan was to wrap several metal vines over the top of the box, I now had to come up with something to do to the top, because leaving it just plain blue was kind of boring. I settled on butterflies. And some other flying creatures. And things.

Butterflies, a dragonfly and grasshopper, even a tiny tricopter.

Ultimately, I’m pretty satisfied with this. The vines draped over the top did look good, but on a conceptual level, they didn’t seem quite right without something to really be wrapped around.

The troubles were not over with the painting of the top, because I still had the varnishing step to go, to give the box some protection from UV.

I had a convenient test panel, which I sprayed with 2 or 3 coats of varnish to see what, if anything, would happen to the various kinds of paint I had applied.

Well, it smelled bad while the varnish was still damp, but otherwise, it worked just fine.

So, a couple coats of varnish in, and I noticed that some of the most recent butterflies were, well, dripping. I wiped one of them off completely (and then drew it back on days later, because it left kind of a hole. Well, I noticed). The others I just left kind of fuzzy.

The presentation was over a week ago, and someday soon, the boxes will be removed from the Asylum and placed on the street. Here’s a post on the Asylum’s site about the first round of boxes, with video showing them being put into place on the street. There’s a map here showing the locations.

This was a fun project, and I’m glad of the advice I got from many people, some working on their own boxes.

When I had my test panel lying out one day, with some early sketches of the leaves, a couple different people, without prompting, pointed out which style they preferred . . . and it wasn’t what I thought I’d be doing! So I started asking more people for their opinions, and eventually  someone said, “It looks like these different blocks of leaves need to all be tied together somehow,” so I played around with that and discovered that by using all three different styles (black outline, green outline, black over green), I got a really great illusion of depth.

More pictures:

Left side

Back of box

Right side

Spring clips and a spider

A bird peeks out, perhaps spying the tiny helicopter flying by.

Lizard and some other creatures

Something is hidden back there. I don't know what it is, either.

I put a lot of little creatures into the design. Many ants, because they were quick and easy and besides if there’s one ant somewhere, there are probably a thousand (though not on the box. It was a vine box, not an ant box).

There are some additional pictures on Flickr, including pictures of other artists’ boxes.


Busy with several things

In addition to getting ready for the Together Festival in just over a week, I have been working on several other things. Many of which also have deadlines in the next 10 days. WHEE.

This had no deadline, but I needed the space on the top of the cabinet, where I’d had the objects laid out for weeks, and then I had some free time while waiting on an ear casting ( . . . uh, more on that later) so I took care of it:

I wired several of my favorite large pieces of found stuff on the end of this cabinet.

The top of the cabinet is, of course, now piled with other things. But that was the point of wiring the metal stuff to the end of the cabinet.

And I came up with this:

New ear cuff design

More of these at the festival! I was trying to duplicate a really old, early ear cuff design, and, well, things happened. I still haven’t duplicated the old design.

And then there’s this:

Models of things one might find in a skatepark

I made the quarter-bowl shapes by covering part of a rubber ball with paper soaked in glue.

And, at long last, after more horrors than I care to recount or remember, the Dig box has its primary coating of paint, and I’ve spent some time testing out my wonderful, wonderful paint pens, which I’ll be using to do all the detail work. (Also I have some tiny bottles of Testor paints!)

Testing out designs and pens and paint for the Dig box

FINALLY I am done with stinky paint


Dig box project

The Asylum and Dig Boston have a joint project going whereby members of the Asylum get to give some of the Dig’s older, more experienced (i.e. rusted, pitted, faded, abused) newsboxes facelifts. Here’s the Dig’s original article on the program.

Round 1 recently finished, and some of the boxes are out on the streets.

I am in round 2 (at the link: photos of completed boxes, and plans for the next round). Here is what I have to work with:

One of the Weekly Dig's newsboxes, which I will be repainting.

Once I clean off all the sticky and sand this thing down, I can really get to work.

Battered, rusty corner of Dig Box

This looks like the worst damage on my box. Really not that bad!


Plastic tape on a newsbox that has developed a network of fractures

This is not cracked paint. This is clear tape that has aged and fractured in a neat pattern.

I am going to cover it with vines. Mostly painted-on vines, because I am no great metalworker, but I’m considering making some of them three dimensional, coming out of the sides near the top and curving over it.

And I want to hide things in the vines. Birds and bugs and spring clips and tiny robots and glowing eyes and maybe a squid or two. There’s plenty of space for all sorts of things!

First, I will have to clean off the remaining sticker residue, sand it down, and possibly do some minor repairs to rusted areas (but my box is not nearly as beaten up as many).

And I have less than 4 weeks.


Body parts by mail and other fun

Since most of my necklaces do not lie nice and flat on either a table or a quick-and-easy necklace bust, I decided that the best way to photograph them – and form them, to a certain extent – would be to acquire a mannequin.

Here is my new assistant, who is close enough to my size that I can dress her up with my own clothes (. . . which is more disturbing to think about than I was expecting). I think she needs a layer of decoupage (her actual color is a much more unappealing brownish pink than the photo shows, not to mention the texture of the plastic). And a name.

Plastic female mannequin torso in a cardboard box

Now I know how much of my dismembered carcass would fit in a box. Most of it, is the answer. There's plenty of room in there for arms and legs. (Also note the lack of packing material provided.)

So I’m working on some projects for a literacy fundraiser, which means literary themes (hence TINY BOOKS!), and somehow my original ideas unexpectedly turned into an idea for a mess of beads and charms linked together in a way that I usually don’t work with because making links kinda makes me want to cry or throw everything out the window, but it was such a neat concept that I couldn’t resist. *sigh*



I decided that to make the links less tediously the same (it is contemplating the sameness that fills me with despair and loathing), I would add leaf and tendril elements to some or all of them.

Of course this means I couldn’t just decide that the first way I found to do it – which is a perfectly reasonable way! – was good enough and stick with it, oh no, suddenly I have MANY MORE IDEAS for how to make bead links more interesting while incorporating leafy things. So instead of working on the damn project, I am sketching ideas onto the paper and then compelled to test them out for real.

Because if I don’t, they will bother me until I do.

Some sketches and prototypes for ways of linking beads together while making the wire do interesting things. The link in the middle is what I am currently using; the link on the bottom I like a lot but haven't used - yet. The one on the top seemed like a good idea when I sketch it, but I dislike it now. The beads and charms on the left are part of the necklace that is troubling me; the pile on the right consists of potential components.

I’ve probably said it before, but the mechanical aspects of making jewelry with wire is at least half the fun. So I may be complaining about feeling forced to experiment when I have something that needs finishing, but it’s like complaining about having to choose between hot fudge and caramel. (Naturally, one puts both on, arranged so that they can be enjoyed separately OR together.)

Speaking of exciting mechanical challenges:

Two TINY BOOKS wrapped in wire, to be used as pendants.

Two TINY BOOKS! Carefully wrapped in wire such that they can be worn as pendants! AND TAKEN OUT OF THEIR TINY CAGES!!

My excitement about these things is inversely proportional to their size.

And also, the ideas for enclosing them! TOO MANY. Or, perhaps, just enough; some of them are clearly awful even on paper. Whatever, there isn’t enough time to give them all a proper tryout.

I have another project in mind that is more of a research project than a physical making-stuff project: there are approximately TOO MANY TOO COUNT different online marketplaces focused on selling handmade stuff, and they all offer slightly different costs and benefits, and I have yet to find any single source that puts them all together so that you can, at a quick glance, compare them.

This is on my to-do list now.


Weekend summary: pigeon bead necklace done and other things in progress

Helpful hint: Misplacing your prototypes is not a good idea. Forgetting which opaque container they’ve been stored in counts as “misplacing.” (And of course the container was literally right in front of me.)

This among other things has emphasized the importance of getting some better storage going for the beads and jewelry stuff and small tools and etc. etc. I think the old metal tool chest is going to be my jewelry/small tool storage, so now that I know what it will be good for, I have even more reason to get back to that project.

And now I see I haven’t uploaded any photos of the tool chest. After some extensive searching, it appears that is because I hadn’t taken any pictures. I could have sworn I did!  Well, I do now:

Old tool chest

Needs some work.

(Things needing doing to the chest: finishing cleaning out drawers. Reline with felt? felt over cardboard? velveteen? Possibly repaint the exterior. Would delay getting it into useful state, because it would be better to paint before putting in nice new lining. Unless the lining was easy to remove; see: gluing the fabric to thin cardstock so the liners could be lifted out intact. I’d have to sand it all down before painting, and working around the drawer pulls and the decorative bits would be a real pain; ditto painting around them. But it would be really pretty; I’m imagining a rich metallic green.)

Speaking of photos languishing, I have finally finished uploading all my abused/abandoned bicycle pics, including a few brand spankin’ new ones (but mostly they are old ones, the pictures I first took when I started collecting them). This is the first photo of the latest uploads; go forward from there.

Bicycle without wheels, seat, or handlebars, sinking into the ground.

One of my favorite ruins: Bicycle without wheels, seat, or handlebars, sinking into the ground.

Finished remaking the pigeon bead necklace – after comparing different looks, I went with the metal link style:

Comparing beads on a string to beads on wire

Comparing two different arrangements of beads on a string to beads on wire

Completed pigeon bead necklace

The finished pigeon bead necklace.

I also made some good attempts at some new styles of ear cuffs, and made a couple of jigs to try and make some of the shaping easier. It turns out that, in at least one case, the jig is actually not that helpful. What was really useful was to carefully wrap some string along the curves of the ear cuff, and mark the string at each place the wire bends. Then lay the string out straight, transfer the marks to paper, and note what each mark means.

When it came to trying to duplicate the shapes, it was much easier to hold a length of wire against that straight template, and grab the wire with my pliers at the given places. Since I ended up doing a couple of variations on this particular pattern, the template came in even handier than the jig, since the template made it easier to place some of the shapes at different places along the curve of the ear cuff. This would all make more sense with pictures, I know, but I’m not done yet, and it really deserves an entire post of documentation on its own.

A few of my fingers are rather sore from bending wire. They can do things my pliers can’t, and sometimes I have pliers in one hand, holding the wire firmly, and I need to shape it. I suppose if I spend enough time doing this, I’ll build up calluses. Or figure out how to do things with other tools, not my fingers!

Also: I was thinking about how to document some of my other techniques, and thinking about how much time it takes to take photos of every step, and write out text to explain every step, I realized I do actually have the technology to record video. And that might be better than still images and text. Setting up the camera to get a good look at what I am doing may be a bit tricky, though; I would like to set it so that the point of view is the same as MY point of view, which means the camera would probably have to be between me and my hands. Could be awkward. We shall see; now that I’ve thought about it, I want to do it. If nothing else, I need to know how it will work!

Another to-do, needing doing since I moved from blogspot to this site: figuring out which tags need to be converted into categories, and properly categorizing the old posts.