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

Behemoth VIII Paper Quilling

2 May 2020

Behemoth 8 Final Fantasy Paper Quilling

Finally got around to trying out a quilling set a friend got me a few years back; I had this idea a while ago, but told myself I’d been doing too much fanart recently and should probably come up with something else. But the idea stuck and well, here we are.

Behemoths are awesome. I always pronouce the name wrong cause Final Fantasy VIII didn’t have voice acting so I just kinda guessed how it was supposed to sound (apparently it’s a normal word from the dictionary, who knew?). I love the colours used in FFVIII and it translated pretty well to the bright colourful paper strips I had in my box.

It was great having a new craft to try out in the house with all the pieces in the box to just give it a go. Well, almost all; I had to order grey strips for the teeth cause I didn’t have any in that colour. eBay told me they come in different widths so I decided to try a thinner one at the last minute and I think it worked pretty well.

As a craft quilling is a pretty easy one to get started with. Just takes a bit of patience, and you have to be willing to accept the shapes you get; the material sometimes has a mind of it’s own (a bit like Watercolour really). I made plenty of mistakes and moved quite a few bits around as I was working when it looked like it’d fit better in different places.

Now all I need is a frame, but that’ll have to wait until quarantine ends.

Uncharted: A Fun Bit of Adventuring Ruined by Constant Hordes of Enemy Militia

11 April 2020

It’s 1995. I’m playing Tomb Raider, a game about finding things, exploring the wilderness, solving puzzles and occasionally dispatching the local wildlife.

2020 and I’m now Nathan Drake, finding things, exploring the wilderness, solving oh wait no there’s a guy with a gun. And another one. Oh he brought a friend. Now I’m in a room full to 10 men with guns and if I dispatch then here’s 10 more and oh look that one has a rocket launcher one shot and oh no, you’re done, time to do that all again. Repeatedly.

We’re in the middle of nowhere, where do they even get these guys from? Is there a cruise ship parked round the back of the island? Secret tunnel to a city? How did all the bullets get here?

As if to add insult to injury the game’s hint mechanism triggers when you’re even in spitting distance of a puzzle. Haven’t solved it in 5 seconds ping hint time, I’m here if you need me. You don’t even have to press the button, sometimes the fun of a puzzle is thinking there might be something here and scouring a room without ever really knowing but ping nope I’m telling you there’s something here. It’s almost like the puzzles aren’t the whole point of the game anymore, treated like an unessasary inconvenience blocking you from the next gun battle.

Nope, nuh-uh. See the puzzles are the fun bit and the gun battles are the tedious ‘seriously isn’t this over yet’ rolleye moments. Why can’t I get a ping hint for those? Like ping there’s a sniper rifle behind the staircase, rather than dying 20 times in a row entering a single room and quitting the game for 3 months.

And whoever decided video games need a ‘reload’ command needs to go sit in a corner and think about what they did.

I know modern games like their guns but if I liked guns I’d be playing Call of Duty. I’m not. Modern Tomb Raider titles went the same way, I wonder if there is such as thing as the fun exploration game anymore. The rest of the game I’ve really enjoyed, but these constant gun battles really drag the experience down.

The Uncharted collection disc is a trilogy so I’ve got 2 more to go. Perhaps I’ll take a break before starting those… and turn off the hint setting this time.

Kingdom Hearts: Shrink Plastic Pumpkinhead Halloween Keyblade

27 October 2019

I have the *worst* luck with blind bags.

This’ a nice quality Kingdom Hearts keyring if you like Donald Duck (I don’t, really). In an attempt to make this look more like, well, something other than a mummified duck I decided to try putting some other stuff on the keyring with it.

Enter the shrink plastic. There’s some very clear images of these keyblades in the assets for the KH games and it’s not too hard to redraw them onto a piece of paper with a ruler, some careful measuring and a lot of maths. (except Oathkeeper. Oathkeeper’s a pain to draw, but that’s a story for another day). I tested a piece of shrink plastic with a ruler first so I know the stuff I’ve got shrinks by a scale of roughly 2.66.

The keyblade was drawn on clear shrink plastic (not the frosted stuff) with a black sharpie, and the silver/white bits done in Posca paint markers.

After shrinking I used clear embossing powder over the top to seal the pen; I’d read online that some varnishes make sharpie run and really struggled to figure out what would work. I tried two types of embossing powder. Both worked, but the Papermania one was easier to use as the crystals are finer so it’s easier to get a thin layer without them bouncing off all over the place. I don’t have a heat gun so I stuck it back in the oven until the powder melted. The thinner the layer is the more likely it’ll melt before the shrink plastic starts to curl back up again.

I wasn’t so lucky; it did curl up and I had some fun trying to flatten it back out again. It’s not perfectly flat, but it’s close enough.

Finally I made the pumpkin keychain out of Fimo polymer clay, with some black acrylic paint and gloss varnish.

Painting Wine Glasses

31 August 2019

When I first moved in I bought some super-cheap plain wine glasses in the local Wilko. I take good care of my stuff and don’t have people over often (ever?) so 10 years later they’ve all survived. It’d be nice to have come pretty ones but I can’t justify throwing out something that’s perfectly good that I don’t use very often, so I decided to decorate them myself (and hey, if it all goes wrong they were only cheap).

I bought a bottle of Pebeo Vitrea 160 in 07 Amaranthine purple. But this stuff needs to go in the oven to cure it so I’ve been putting this project off for years, and now I’ve finally gotten around to it I’ve decided I wanted the colour to match some other stuff in my kitchen instead. I picked off a nice blue on the colour chart in Artycat and… well

One of these things is not like the other…

The one on the right is ’64 – Shimmer Turquoise’ I think, and it’s a terrible dingy green-grey colour on glass but great on other stuff that isn’t see through. I also think it’s been discontinued, so maybe that’s why. I didn’t have the reciept so one manufacturer labelling fault and a second purchase later, I got the correct Turquoise colour.

Testing the colours on a pasta sauce jar out the recycling bin I kinda liked them both, so I decided to go with it.

The brush stroke pattern on the top blue one was an accident; it is possible to use this paint without getting any streaks at all, but after I did this I thought it looked kinda cool so I decided to re-do the others to match. And then spent the next hour trying to re-create the mistake I’d made, without quite as much success but it’s close enough.

Definitely the weirdest thing that’s ever been in my oven

They’re supposed to be dishwasher safe but I probably won’t chance it. Though after seeing the mess other people’s dishwashers make of glassware I normally handwash them anyway.

Sharpie Colour Chart – Shrink Plastic

31 August 2019

After successfully using a black Sharpie on some Crystal Clear Shrinkles shrink plastic I picked up a few more to try adding some colour.

Sharpie don’t label their pens (helpful!), so the colour names are a guess based off what one website said was in this pack. I guess the names don’t really matter as long as I can tell them apart, so I’ve made up some numbers and written them on.

Before shrinking…

… and after.

Shell Shadow Boxes

5 August 2019

I have this habit of picking up a few seashells evey time I go to the beach. I say I won’t, but then I inevitably end up spotting one or two. I’m very good at only picking up one or two but, well, I’ve been to the beach a lot so…

I got the idea to put them in box frames from Pinterest somewhere. These are some 15cm deep frames I got in Hobbycraft.

I think the idea is you’re supposed to stand them up on their side so all the shells fall to the bottom but, well, I only pick up shells I think look cool so I want to see them all! The frames are lying flat on the bottom shelf of a clear glass coffee table. Dad reckons I should just make a coffee table with the shells under the top. Would probably need a load more years to collect enough shells for that one, so perhaps not.

Some of my shells are too big to fit, still haven’t figured out where to put those ones.

Translucent Polymer Clay Experiments

3 August 2019

A project I’m working on has a section made of clear stained glass. I can’t find any in the right size and shape so I’m experimenting with some alternative materials to find something suitable. This time; Translucent Polymer clay.

None of the samples were see-through when rolled to the width of a cocktail stick.

From left to right: Fimo Translucent white, Fimo Translucent Blue with some soft Pacific Blue mixed in, Fimo Translucent Blue and a stained glass mosaic tile

Rolled thinner, they show some partial translucency. The best was the blue translucent clay (lower left); when I tried mixing a different colour in to change the tone a bit it lost the translucency (upper left).

Lower left is a stained glass mosaic tile; this by far looks the best but it’s the wrong shape for this project, and it’s too thick. Sigh. (they also got lost in the post for 3 weeks so this was a suprise last-minute addition to a test of what it *should* look like).

The search continues…

Shrink Plastic Transparency Test

3 August 2019

A project I’m woking on needs a piece of see-through stained glass. I can’t find a bit in the right size and shape so I’m experimenting with using shrink plastic.

-1- The easiest way to find out how big something has to be drawn to come out at the right size after shrinking is to make a ruler as a size test, with lines drawn 1cm and 1 inch apart. I’m using Crystal Clear Shrinkles and mine comes out with a scale factor of 2.66.

-2 and 3- Sharpies: pretty easy to get even, comes out kinda dark but good transparency when held up to the light (see image below).

-4, 5, 7, 9, 10- Windsor and Newton Promarkers: according to the internet these should work but I found them to be not great at this. Perhaps the colours I picked were too light, butI found I just kept getting a puddle of the clear alcohol solvent building up on top of the plastic and very little of the colour. The best result I got was using 3 separate layers drawn in a different direction, letting it dry between each, but Sharpies work much better.

-8- Crayola: these work well, you have to use sandpaper / wet and dry paper to roughen the surface first (or use the pre frosted stuff). It’s not really see-through when you’re done so it’s not the look I’m going for in this project but nice to see how they’ll come out for other stuff.

FFVIII: Griever Keyring Rebuild

29 June 2019

About 15 years ago I picked up a Final Fantasy VIII Griever Keyring on a trip out in London.

Recently, it broke :(

They don’t make them anymore (and I don’t think this was an ‘official’ piece of merchandise anyway), but I’m the crafty type so I won’t let a silly thing like being out of print stop me from replacing something that’s been on my keys for years.

The rebuild is made from Fimo Soft polymer clay, with silver Mica powder and Fimo gloss varnish. I can’t take credit for the design because, well, it’s a copy.

I used what’s left of the original (far left) to draw a template, filling in the bits that’ve deformed over time. After redrawing it about 7 times I cut it out. I made a metal hook for the top, sandwiched it between two pieces of black clay and rolled the paper template on the top to leave an imprint I could then cut out.

I then grabbed my box of clay tools (a mish-mash of everyday household items, some cake decorating tools I got from Mum in a clearout , cocktail sticks, kebab skewers, old mascara tubes and a craft scalpel) and spent the Easter bank holiday weekend carving the shape out, using the original as a guideline.

My polymer clay’s a bit dried out; this was an unopened block of black Fimo Soft that I bought years ago for a project I’ve never gotten around to doing but thanks to global warming it gets quite hot in my flat in summer which this stuff is not designed to handle. It crumbles a little bit when you get to really fine details but was workable enough to not have to get the Quick-Mix out (though I did order some anyway for next time).

Why black? Because I saw a video by Ludmila Bakulina on Youtube (link) that showed it looks pretty good as a base for Mica Powder if you want a silver effect. I already had a pot of powder in my box so I dusted it on top before putting it in the oven.

I’ve been working away from home and only get to spend two days a week living in my own house so it was a few more months before I found the time to go and finish the rest of it. I work on a white ceramic tile so I can stick it straight in the oven without warping the piece, but that meant I couldn’t apply the power to the back before baking. The video mentions mixing mica powder into the varnish that you apply at the end and I can confirm this works, and it covered the black colour on the back completely.

Unfotunately some idiot decided to use it on the front as well, which buried the black colour that was supposed to be showing through in the carved sections and it took 10 mins of mucking about with a cocktail stick to get the varnish back out of there. Lessons were learned.

I like how it turned out :) . Only problem is, now I don’t want my keys to muck it up. Maybe I need to make two. I considered getting some silicone to make a mould from but never got around to it (and I suspect I could do a bit better if I rebuild it each time, having more practice and experience and all that).