Tuesday, January 28, 2014


As part of my plan to re-dedicate myself to both the blog AND to not blocking up the creative flow this year, I decided to get caught up on playing with some new techniques and indulging in experimentation.  Believe it or not, this is somewhat difficult for me. 

It's not just the time and money to get all the supplies, get them laid out, actually have the time to play around with them and then, of course, clean up afterwards - although that is definitely one of the obstacles I struggle with.  Really, though, the bigger obstacle is fear of wasting the supplies with experiments that don't turn out well (for definition of well I mean at least nice enough to wear myself if not actually sell).

This often leads me to either avoid experimenting at all or to stop if too many things turn out really ugly.  I'm a harsh critic, too, so it can be especially difficult to get something completed that meets my standards.

Still, I decided to try to squash those impulses as much as possible and let go.  I put several new technique books/DVDs on my Christmas list and Santa was kind enough to oblige me by dropping a few into my stocking.

I've read them all, but the one that seemed the most approachable place for me to start was "Coloring on Metal" by Gail Crosman Moore.  After all, I'd already taken a step into this world in playing with the Vintaj patinas and I knew I had some embossed blanks and other pieces of brass and copper ready to go so I wouldn't have to lay out too much in supply money to get started.

This DVD covers several techniques for coloring on metal:
  1. Alcohol inks
  2. Heat patina
  3. Nail polish
  4. Prismacolor pencils
  5. Enameling
Overall, I found the video very informative and helpful.  I think it could have benefited from more close-up shots of what Gail is doing and of the finished pieces, but it was mostly well-done.

I knew right away I wouldn't be doing the enamiling.  Although I have a hot head torch (and even a VERY old canister of MAPP gas which would, I'm sure, have to be replaced), I just don't have the right area to set up for this.  Something to put on my "bucket list" for future, though.

I do have a micro-torch that would work for doing the heat patina, but the one item I would need to purchase to do this is a fire-brick and, since I was eager to get started and didn't have a lot of time, this technique also went on the "to be tried in the future" list.  Although, since then, I read on Gail's website that she has even achieved some interesting patina results with just putting brass stampings on a cookie tray in the over at 425 (or something) so I may give that a try.

I have a ton of alcohol inks and have already played with them from back in my rubber stamping days so I was pretty sure I knew how they'd behave so I'll definitely be doing those next, but I wasn't quite as excited about them

So, that left the nail polish and the Prismacolor pencils.  Luckily, I already had a set of Prismacolors (again from back in my stamping days) so the only supplies needed to use them as per the video are a paintbrush, some gesso, and some turpentine for blending.  I duly purchased those items at Michael's and got to work.

And wow...did my results SUCK!  I thought this would be so easy and I liked the idea that the pencils would give me more control of color and placement than using a brush with a liquid medium like alcohol inks.  And that part was true.  I think where I went wrong was in selecting the particular metal pieces I wanted to color.  In the video, Gail uses a large brass stamping of a leaf to demonstrate this technique so it is a mostly flat surfac with very little texture to it.  I used a couple of the metal blanks that I had embossed with the Big Kick and I think they had too much texture.  Also, she preps all of her pieces with steel wool to rough up the surface and I was unable to do that because despite stops at FOUR different stores (2 hardware and 2 grocery stores), I CANNOT find steel wool!  I'm not sure if it's some kind of temporary outage or if there's some wacko California environmental law that has made steel wool illegal (which wouldn't surprise me AT ALL).  Anyway, I know it's ridiculous, but I eventually had to give up because I was spending all my play time driving around to stores looking for it.  I used sand paper instead.  It works...sort of...harder to get into all the nooks and crannies like steel wool can.

Sooo...that was disheartening (see comments about hating to waste supplies above).  I refuse to give up, though, and have ordered some larger, flatter brass pieces to experiment on to see if I can't achieve better results.

That left nail polish.  Now, if I haven't mentioned it before, I am a total nail polish slut.  I loves me some nail polish...and the sparklier and brighter, the better.  I have oodles of it, can never actually POLISH my fingernails (between art projects and the parrot's beak...it's not worth it), but I keep buying it anyway.  Even Santa got into the act and brought me a couple of new colors for Christmas LOL!  So, here, finally, was something that I already have a ton of and needed to find a use for anyway.

I set to work using just about every different piece of metal I could find from some brass chain links in the shapes of dragonflies and shells that I already had in my stash to some pewter pieces I picked up at Michael's:

These leaves are actually a textured "mesh" so they are very lightweight.  I used a dark green polish with a subtle glitter in it and some burgundy polish for color and then I added a splash of gold glitter polish on top of that.
These are pewter angel wings from Michael's.  I used a couple of different shades of aqua and teal polish and then I sanded down the high points to let the silver show through and added some of the gold glitter polish as well.  Oh, and I'm just going to confess now that the glitter polish?  Yeah, it's like crack for me and I kind went nuts using it on everything.  The effects are actually much more pronounced in the photos than they are in real life.

These are two links of the brass seashell chain.  I did a base of the aqua and teal and then went over the top with some green glitter polish.  I was running short on time and had to take my photos before I finished the final sanding and polishing on pretty much all the pieces here.  Once I sanded these - the "ribs" of the seashells are a shiny gold now and really make a nice highlight in contrast with the recessed areas.

Same chain links.  Base is a purple polish with some berry highlights and a confetti glitter polish.  Again, the sanding and final polish came later and really highlighted the "ribs" of the shells.

Even I admit that I went too far on this one.  There are these shells on the beaches here that have, if you look closely, all the colors of sunset in them:  yellow, pink, lavender, purple.  I kind of had them in mind when I kept adding colors here, but it didn't really work out.  The base is a pale aqua and then I added some lavender and pink and did the green glitter over the top.

These might be the best of the shells.  I started with a dark, forest green and added some violet and lime green highlights and then used the confetti glitter.  I'm picturing these as deepwater shells because of the darker coloration.  Again, they really came to life once I sanded/polished the spines to shiny gold.
These are the last three links I had of this chain.  Gail mentions in her video that the cheap $1.99 nail polish from the drug store works best soooo...since I had to pop in there anyway to pick up some other stuff, I perused the cheapo polish section and I agree with her - you can get some really insane colors and since the polish is so cheap, most of them are transparent colors which works great on the metal.  I used a transparent lime green on the dragonfly bodies and a transparent, metallic teal on the wings and then I went over it with some touches of green glitter.  Once I sanded these, the raised metal dots on the wings became shiny gold and really made the wings look spectacular.  So far, these and the teal angel wings are my favorites.

This is another pair of the pewter angel wings from Michael's.  Last summer, I bought these kinda cool dual-ended nail polish tubes at the drug store.  One end is a solid base coat (in this case, a deep purple) and the other end is a clear base with bits of holographic material matched to specifically work with the solid base coat in the first end.  I never could really get it to work right on my nails, but it looks so cool on these wings.  I painted on the purple, sanded to get the raised areas to show up, then added some of the holographic pieces.  I sanded and polished again after this photo was taken to make the raised areas shine more silvery.

This was my one not so exciting result out of the whole batch.  My biggest problem was I couldn't figure out what color to make the bird and that pale aqua just ended up being blech.  I tried jazzing it up using some of the holographic bits and quickly learned that it doesn't work very well on any color other than the one that it comes with.  However, I decided to show this piece because it's one of the few I had time to sand...and you can really see how the bright copper comes back in the raised edges around the outer circle.  It's kind of a shame because I really liked the shape of this piece.  I'm wondering what would happen if I hit with nail polish remover and tried to take the color off and re-do it.

More of the mesh leaves from Michael's.  This mixed turquoise, berry, and copper with some glitter.  They look awful and muddy in the photo, but the real-life result is much prettier.  I'm not sure how that happens, but it's true.

Same with these...the copper looks really muddy, but in real life, it's this amazing metallic polish and looks great.

I'm not sure what the base metal is on these, but they have a gold-colored finish and I found them at Michael's.  I wanted to get more, but they were the last ones.  The two outer leaves are dark green polish with some gold glitter and the center leaf, I added a little bit of berry down the center and some confetti glitter around the edges.

These pieces started out a very dark, aged copper metal color.  I picked them up at a bead show and ever-so-helpfully managed to lose the name of the vendor they came from.  I try really hard not to do that and am usually pretty organized about keeping a business card or sales slip or label with things so I know where they came from, but these were some of the last items I purchased before my "beading hiatus" began and some of my systems kind of fell apart during that time frame.  Heck, I'm glad I even found them LOL!  Both components are meant to be leaves, but I kind of thought the more feathery one could be layered like this to sort of look "flowery."  The leaves are dark green polish with a few hints of pink/berry and then the edges sanded.  The "flowers" are dark purple/berry with some touches of holographic bits.  I think they will make awesome earrings when I link them together.

So, there are some of my "experimental" results.  Not too shabby for my first time and I got more fun and use out of my nail polish collection than I ever thought I would so it was worth it just for that.  Of course, this only fueled the never-ending need for "more things to try" so I immediately went on the internet and searched out more brass stampings and other metal pieces to play around with.  Can't wait to re-try the pencils and to break out the alcohol inks.

And I still have a few nail polish colors I haven't tried yet...


P.S. If anyone has a good on-line source for steel wool (so stupid, I know, can't believe I'm having to ask this) or fire-brick (yep, hardware store was out of this, too), let me know.


TesoriTrovati said...

I love the results! The colors, the blending, even the sparkly bits that I know you love! I have been amassing lots of pewter and base metal components for the past two years to do things like this. I like that this is a quick fix and it is likely very durable. Nail polish under resin yields amazing results as well. I just bought a brand new torch, not the cheapo creme brulee kind. I also will be playing more with the heat patinas in the next few months. I was thinking of buying some patinas from Lisa Liddy of Metal Me This as they look more manageable to me than some other treatments (and believe me when I say that I have almost all of them!) I will eagerly watch your results! Enjoy the day. Erin

lunedreams said...

I'm amazed you did this with nail polish!! I love the transparent colors over the metal. Very cool.

Shaiha said...

I have to admit that I am the same when it comes to learning new techniques. I go to my studio with the intent to just play and not make anything and I just go blank. So instead I make something using a new technique and end up tossing it because I am not satisfied. I would definitely waste less if I could convince myself to relax, play and learn.

I do have to say that I love your experiments. I am going to have to try nail polish because I have far too much which I never use because I tend to go get my nails done. I am really horrible about painting my nails with my left hand.

Kat BM said...

buy S.O.S. cleaning pads, they are steel wool with soap on them. ( they work.. though my steel wool I bought at menards/home depot? a few years ago, so you might try hardware type stores )