Wednesday, April 14, 2010

In Search of a Pleasing Tin Design, Signature Canes, and Sanding Blocks from the Beauty Supply!

Decorator tins can be so magical!  Who knows what you will find inside?  My journey with covered tins began several years ago at Christmas time when I needed a special gift box for a necklace I had designed for my mother.  That tin was a covered Jolt mints box with a vertical orientation with a lid on the upper end.  I used black and white canes in a random juxtaposition and voila! a one of a kind jewelry box was born.   Last fall I revisited the covered tins in an effort to create something different and wonderful as small gifts for some friends with whom I had reconnected.  I decided to keep the tins because it became apparent that I needed to work on my covering technique in order to keep the hinges intact.  I had forgotten about tins after that until the June PCAGOE challenge came up.  My first idea for an entry is illustrated in my April 8 blog about the McCaw Cane technique and my first results from studying the tutorial.  The more I looked at that tin, the more I thought that I needed to cover some more tins!  The photos above show my results!  I still wanted to use the McCaw Cane, but this time I decided to work on a variation of pattern, line and texture to work those cane slices into part of a greater theme. 

I started on the top of the tin and decided to make some canes out of extruded snakes in colors matching the McCaw canes.  I used the darkest turquoise and the darkest purple and then I mixed some of the purple and some of the turquoise in the extruder to come out with a lavender that bridged those two colors.  After extruding the snakes, I bundled some of them together and began slicing from the ends of the bundles.  This resulted in a variation of pointilism and even had a kind of batik like effect after I shaved off the top layer.  These variegated cane slices were arranged around the sides of the McCaw Canes and the entire assembly was placed on a layer of purple premo for stability and to assure that any negative spaces would not reveal the tin beneath.  In order to add a little linear interest, I used a dark purple and a turquoise snake much the same as textile designers use cording to border this area of the tin top.  Next I decided to make some S-shaped spirals with the turquoise and purple mixed extrusions and I used small sections of the sliced bundles to border these so that they could be added to either side of the central panel.  Once this part was complete, I smoothed it onto the top of the tin.  I then used my rigid blade to shave off very thin layers of the top design, which had the added effect of exposing the multiple marbled strands of the mixed turquoise and purple extrusions and adding another layer of interest to the spirals.

I owe the idea for the upper sides of the tin to a fellow PCAGOE member.  Several months ago I had made a Mardi Gras themed bangle using some twisted extrusions in gold, green and purple.  She had encouraged me to use them on a tin.  I thought about that suggestion when designing the sides for the top of the tin.  I took three snakes, one of each color, and twisted them together, rolled them and twisted again in order to get some very tiny stripes.  These striped snakes were then laid side to side and sliced to make the strips with which to cover the upper sides of the tin.  I took great care to slice away the parts of the lower edge of this covering where the hinges were located so that the tin would be able to open properly.  I owe a thank you to all of the polymer clay artists who have provided free tutorials on tin construction because their guidance made this step so much easier.  I decided on another technique borrowed from textile and fiber crafts--braiding--to provide the final embellishment to the top of the tin and provide a pleasing transition between the top and side edges.   Later when I sanded the tin, the mixed color extrusions in the braid became even more interesting as their inner mixed colors were revealed by the sanding.
Now it was time to design the bottom of the tin.  Itook yet another slice of the McCaw Cane and surrounded it with the S-shaped spirals on the corners.  Next I packed in some more of the sliced variegated clay bundle ends and bordered the whole thing with a dark purple snake.  This entire assembly was then placed on a thin purple sheet of Premo which had been conditioned and run through the pasta machine on a #4 setting.  I decided to use one of the more complicated McCaw Canes as the outside border for the bottom piece.  Once all of these parts were assembled, I smoothed the entire design onto the bottom of the tin.  I decided to use multi colored spirals for the bottom sides and I bordered these with strips of the mixed purple and turquoise extrusions.  These, too, became much more interesting after the entire piece was baked and sanded.  
I had the entire design and then realized I needed a way to sign the piece.  Usually I use a stylus and just carve my initials and the date into the raw clay, but I wanted something a little more for this piece and had been wanting to try a simple signature cane anyway.  So I took some of the multicolored snakes and cut them about 1/2 inch long, started with two layers of these about 7-10 wide and shaped them into a J, then lined the entire thing in light turquoise, filling in all of the negative spaces and making a square cane with the J in the purple extrusions in the middle.  I used my cane reduction techniques to reduce the J, and then made an "E" and an "S", joined the three letter canes, reduced some more, and for the final signature for this piece, I bordered it in some more purple snake slices.  It is tiny, kind of hidden away in one of the corners of the bottom central panel, but you can read the letters and I am now encouraged to do this again.

I got to try out a new sanding technique on this tin.  I have been looking for sanding sponges in progressively finer grits and it occurred to me yesterday that the discount beauty supply might have just what I was looking for, because I know that nail salons are now using polymer clay canes in their designs.  Sure enough, there were sponges with 320, 460, 1000, and 4000 grits for nail art!  I was a little worried about not finding 600, 1500 and 2000 but figured I could always use my flat sheets of sandpaper for those parts if necessary.  So now I used the new sponges to sand the tin.  They worked very well and I didn't experience nearly as much finger fatigue or have ill effects the next day, so I think this is a step in the right direction.  The only problem I encountered was the sponge that had the different grit papers glued on instead of the entire sponge having the surface somehow applied.  The multi-grit sponge surface must not have been waterproof because it is now trying to come off.  So I will now need to look for the solid sponges in more grit varieties.  I am sure that they must be available somewhere online or I may go back to the beauty supply and see if they can order some for me.  What a find!  I had previously found a battery operated nail filing and buffing tool at the drugstore and used the brush attachment to buff my finished tin.  Between the 4000 grit sponge and the buffing brush, this tin is pretty shiny without any glaze.

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