Tuesday 30 December 2008

The end of 2008

As another year draws to a close, and a new one is ready to emerge, it's a time of reflection of what has been, and what is to come.

New beginnings and new experiences are a bit of a hit with me! I love trying new things, like food or crafting techniques, I also adore travelling to new places, and I certainly have done a LOT of that this year! In fact I kind of feel I need to probably slow down a little and try for more balance this year...I think I probably say that every year! LOL

Maybe this year we will have no choice about slowing down...the economy seems to be doing that for us all ...as a small business we try to be flexibile to adjust and react quickly to most situations, but it certainly is a more pressured and competitive environment as we work our way through these tough economic times.

I think that 2008 will be seen as a real landmark in the world's history. Becuase the world is such a small place these days, the economic trends have affected us all to some extent, no matter where we live.

We will continue to release new products, designs, techniques and ideas this year. It is interesting that "crafting products" was a top selling category for many high street retailers this Christmas. It makes sense that when people have less money to spend, they tend to spend more time in the home rather than out shopping, and crafting-related hobbies are satisfying, you can produce unique items for the home, gifts for friends, or create purely for your own creative pleasure.

We have plenty more squiggly ink designs ready to release in the New Year, as well as botanical and royal themes for the spring release. I am very excited about working with these new stamps. I already have some project sketched out to come to life once the stamps are born!

I hope that as 2009 draws near, you will also continue to be inspired by our ideas and designs. I want to thank you all for your valued support, and I wish you a happy, proseprous and fruitful 2009.

Leandra and Mark

PS. Special thansk to our wonderful Design Team who have continued to provide us with wonderful samples and ideas this year. Thanks to Isa Norris for this fabby 9-panel piece featured at the top of this post, where she has used lots of stamps from the Buttons series. We are going to miss her a lot this year - she and the family have just moved to Canada - good luck Isa!!

Sunday 7 December 2008

The Leandra Bead

Earlier this year I was lucky enough to go to Suze Weinburg's house (Suze is Ranger Industries UTEE expert) while visting the New Jersey area, and I showed her this technique. She has been having loads of fun with it (see her blog) and from there you will see she has called it the "Leandra Bead".

Now that the article I wrote for a UK magazine on this technique has been published for some time, I can share some tips and tricks with you so you can make your own "Leandra beads". No 2 are the same, and there are so many colour options for these. I am even using them as 'finials' (sp?) on the end of a dowel to hang other proejcts from too. It really is a lot of fun. Good luck and let me know how you get on!

I am really drawn to jewellery, and I was thinking there must be some way to stamp, and make a bead that can be used for bracelets, earrings etc. by using the melt pot and UTEE. This is kind of a fondue system, dipping the item into hot UTEE (ultra thick embossing enamel) to glaze or cover an item. By using a headpin, you then can easily create a loop for the bead to be attached to a necklace or other finding.
Step One: Stamp you paper and add colour to the paper to determine the colour of your beads. I used dye ink. Wrap your 1cm paper strips (make them wider for longer beads) around a wooden toothpick/ cocktail stick and secure with a little dab of glue. Make all your paper beads to this point. 10 of each colour is a good starting point.Step Two: Put the paper bead on the very end of the toothpick, and dip into the deep end of your MeltPot. Lift, let the excess drip away, then place onto a craft sheet as shown for about 10 seconds to set up.NB. I melted in the MP some Clear UTEE with a teaspoon of UTEE flex. You can also add to this 'to dye for' tints. Just a small drop will change the colour to tint the clear UTEE. The flex prevents the UTEE beads from Smashing or cracking, so they are more durable for jewellery.
Step Three: While the bead is warm, peel it off the craft sheet, remove the toothpick. A bell shaped base should have formed. Push a headpin through the base. The will anchor in the UTEE.Step Four: Now re-dip the bead into the UTEE, allow the excess to drip off again, then keep moving the bead until the UTEE has set up. Don't expect a perfect bead, sometimes they are round, but most often they are kind of pear or bell shaped. Once you get a whole lot on a chain, they look fab. Each is a unique and kind of organic looking creation!Step Five: Additions. After dip 2, you may like to wrap the bead in wire, dip into some bedazzles, perfect pearls or any other items like gold leaf etc that will cling to the hot or warm UTEE. Now re-dip again to trap these items in the glaze. Here are some examples.Some of these have also been dipped into other colours of UTEE such as UTEE Brightz. Of course you can do the whole bead process with any colour of UTEE, and lately I have made some stunning marbled looking beads by melting a mix of brights, clear, metallic and a dab of black or white into the pot togehter.

For marbled UTEE: Pour puddles of each powder into the pot, sprinkle someflex over the top, put the lid on and leave it all to melt. Once it is molten, gently draw lines through the mix with your non-stick spatula 3-5 times to marble the colours. If you over mix it goes 'cack', so resist the urge to mix.

Now dip your bead into the marble mixture. A good idea for marbled beads is to start with a wooden bead (say about 1 inch diameter. If the headpin falls through the hole of the bead, just put a sequin onto the headpin first, then the wooden bead. You can dip this into your marble mix once or twice. Marbled beads also look really good with a glaze of clear over the top.

Step Six: Attaching the bead is easy because of the head pin. Bend in half, thread onto the chain. I use 2 pairs of pliers, One to hold the bent wire , and the other to wrap as shown. You need to ensure there is a gap so that the bead can swing. Snip off the excess from wrapping and you're done!

I hope you enjoy this technique as much as i have! There are loads of way to use this idea - not just for jewelery. They make great "feet" for boxes !