Project Wayfinder

22 August 2020

Wayfinder made from shrink plastic glass paint and polymer clay

Omg this project took months. MONTHS. And I swear it was cursed, so many things went wrong (parts getting lost in the post, stuck at an address where I couldn’t get them for a month, wrong sizes, trial pieces that didn’t work), I’m amazed I actually finished it!

Wayfinder in the sun

I insisted from the beginning that the main feature was that it had to be see-through. And I didn’t want to use resin because resin’s expensive. Ironically, all the extra materials I trialled that didn’t work probably cost more than the resin would’ve.

The final piece is made out of

  • Shrink plastic
  • Air-dry stained glass paints (Lapis Lazuli)
  • Stained glass relief outliner (silver)
  • Polymer clay (for the Mark of Mastery and the star on the end: white, with silver mica powder on top)
  • Jewellery making cord (1mm and 1.5mm)
  • Gorilla glue gel (to stick the Mark on)

Experiments that didn’t work:

Failed attempt at using mosaic tiles
  • Clear blue mosaic tiles – I wanted to put a polymer clay frame around the edge but it just wouldn’t stay in place. When I finished working on one side the other side looked awful, and you cloud see it though the clear glass. The mosaic tile was also 3mm thick, so everything came out too chunky.
  • Transparent blue polymer clay (Fimo transparent) – it lets some light through but was too opaque. Would’ve been the easiest to sculpt the frame onto though; my trial piece looked good but didn’t fit the transparency requirements.
  • Air-dry clay (Daas) – this stuff is awful. It has a weird slimey texture and you can’t do fine details with it. When it dries it’s like a ball of dried-up paper. It might work for big chunky projects (christmas ornaments with cookie cutters maybe?) but it can’t do this.
  • Winsor and Newton Promarkers on Shrink plastic – alcohol markers are supposed to work but all I got was a thin layer of clear liquid and a very faint hint of colour when shrunk down
  • Sharpies on shrink plastic – these actually worked…. though I thought the glass paint looked better so I went with that instead.

Experiments that did work:

Docrafts Artiste Glass paint colour samples
  • Docrafts Artiste glass paint – I couldn’t find a colour chart for these so had to buy all 3 shades of blue and try them. From left to right: Laquer Blue, Lapis Lazuli, Turquoise blue (aka Petrol Blue).

Things I would do differently:

  • The Docrafts Artiste stained glass relief outliner takes 3 days to dry. 3 days!!! I had to use multiple sittings to do the front, back, sides and the points at the top and this just dragged out the timeframe of this project so much. I would definitely look for a different brand that dries quicker.
  • I used Fimo Professional for the polymer clay parts, but it didn’t seem all that different to Fimo Soft so I could’ve used what I already had.
  • I’d like the colours on the star piece to be a bit more glossy and a bit less, well, shitty acrylic paint-y. Haven’t figured out what I could use for that yet.
  • I’m not sure I used the best shape at the back of the star to tie the thread on.

Hints and tips:
Measure everything over and over. When working with shrink plastic it’s too easy to make a mistake on both the enlarged and the actual size version. One time I didn’t even notice I’d make one side too long until I shrunk it down.

Shrink plastic template demo

The measurements are really finicky; I tried using a sharpie to outline the pieces but being a few millimeters off with the measurements makes a huge difference when it’s shrunk down. Construction lines are at 34 degrees (getting this off on one side by 2 degrees will make a right mess). I had to switch to a Unipin fineliner, which doesn’t dry properly on the plastic so you have to be careful not to smudge it before cutting it out but you can wipe it off afterwards.

Finished shrink plastic pieces

Don’t forget to punch holes before shrinking! I have 1mm thread so the holes are standard hole punch size, which I can loop it through twice when shrunk down. The top hole I made larger, about 1cm so I could use thicker 1.5mm cord on this bit.

Shrinking; shrink on a baking tray lined with tin foil. When it comes out of the oven flatten it with a ceramic tile while the shrink is still on the baking tray (the plastic cools down really quickly and I found it would harden before I could move it onto something else).

Adding a glass paint relief outliner frame to shrink plastic

The silver frame (Glass paint relief outliner) requires a steady hand, don’t be afraid to wipe it off and start again if it’s not working. Or leave it for another day if it’s really not working. Getting this even is the most difficult part of the whole project (and there’s was a point where I decided I’d had enough and just went with the imperfections). I did the front first, then the back, then the sides and finally the top line of the pointy bits. Avoid stopping halfway or backtracking cause it makes the shimmery silver particles look weird. Pick the side that looks least tragic to be the front.

Glass paint demonstration

Glass paint goes on the front (it just looks better that way).

Mark of mastery polymer clay sculpting processcompilation

The Mark took a while to sculpt; I cut the basic outline then pressed a flat tool into the centre and tilted it against the middle pieces to make the pointy triangle shapes. It looked like it wasn’t working but after repeating this for 15 mins or so the shape in the centre started to come together. Be careful not to make this piece too thin.

I found a tutorial for tying the style of knot at the top on Rings and Things The Mark symbol is glued onto the frame of the top petal thing (what are those even called?) and to the thread at the bottom

Project covers from approx May 2019 – Aug 2020

Template for Wayfinder and finished size guides