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Ooops – I’ve Just Bought a Flatbed Laser Cutter

August 31, 2010 Leave a comment

I imagine I speak for women everywhere when I say that it is surely every young girl’s dearest wish to one day have their own flatbed laser cutter. Well, Dear Reader, that day has finally come for me. I have this very afternoon purchased a second-hand Epilog Zing laser cutter.

I have no idea what I’m going to do with it when it is delivered*. Of course I was always going to buy one sooner or later, but before I actually bought it I was going to be all sensible and find a load of outlets for my laser-etched and laser-cut products, like….erm….making dog tags with pictures of people’s actual pets on them, or etching christening gifts with pictures of the actual babies on them.

You know when you’re a kid and you get a new pair of really sharp scissors and then suddenly there comes an irresistable urge to start snipping loads of things with them, just to check how sharp they are? Fingernails, paper, hair, curtains, carpet, that sort of thing? I’ve got a terrible feeling that a similar but oh-so-much-more-creative urge is going to overtake me when I finally receive the Zing. Oh dear. Under the guise of ‘learning how to use the features’, I sense that my first few experiments will be food-based. That way even if the design goes wrong I won’t have wasted any money on the raw material, because I’ll be eating the evidence anyway.

…In my head just now I have invented a new type of ‘marquetry’ toast/sandwich, that involves two pieces of very precisely-cut white and brown bread, with the cut-out pieces carefully swapped over.

"Marquetry Toast" - artist's impression

"Marquetry Toast" - artist's impression

Of course, this equipment isn’t just a toy. I need to get it working as soon as possible and to provide myself with enough income so that the laser not only pays for itself, but will start to help me make a living as well. My disability might prevent me from getting a ‘proper’ full-time job, but my ability should allow me to find other ways of supporting myself. On the negative side, I am effectively gambling a large chunk of my compensation money away on a big piece of machinery in the hope that my craft/writing business will eventually start to pay the bills. But on the positive side, there is a bit more to it than just “hope” after all, because (a) over the years I’ve been doing bits of teaching and writing and craftmaking already, so I should be able to build on those experiences, and (b) I’m going to WORK HARD at it and not just “wish for it” or think I deserve it just because I “want it so badly” (e.g. like so many X-Factor contestants seem to think).


* This particular laser cutter has a working surface area of less than two square feet, so although I don’t know what I will be doing with it, I know that one thing I won’t immediately be doing with it is strapping Sean Connery to the base and switching it on and going “No, Mr Bond — I expect you to DIE. Mwahahaha.”.


Etsy Here I Come!

August 19, 2010 Leave a comment

Thanks to the advice/encouragement from trinketsndreams the other day, I have been tempted into using Etsy as a possible outlet for my crafts, and have dipped my toe in the water by listing some tiny delicate polyclay leaf charms on etsy:

fifty polyclay leaf charms

fifty polyclay leaf charms

On the positive side, it’s only 20 cents to list an item – so with the current $/£ exchange rate that’s only 13 pence. But on the scary side, the exchange rate means that there is a fine line between my prices being set too high for people in the USA to want to buy my stuff, or for them to be too low for me to make a living (assuming that my theory is correct, and that far more people in the States know about polymer clay than in Britain (I think more craftspeople have heard of Etsy there, too, than here), so that’s where my main customer-base will be).

If I have time over the next few days, I think I’ll make a scientific experiment. I’m going to put three identical polyclay items for sale on Ebay.com, Ebay.co.uk, and Etsy. I’ll submit exactly the same photos and descriptions and prices for them, and then I’ll count how many hits I’ve had on each page.

Polymer Clay Nail Art

August 19, 2010 1 comment

I’ve only just found out that people are using mini polymer clay canes to decorate their nails! Duh!!

On the other hand, the UK often seems about five years behind the USA in terms of picking up on a lot of craft/fashion trends, so maybe it’s not surprising that not many people are doing this in the UK yet.

Looking at the websites of nail salons within a ten-mile radius of where I live (near Brighton), I haven’t found any that appear to use polyclay canes. Maybe I should view that as a business opportunity, and introduce them to my canes! The only trouble is that I don’t have a clue how they are actually incorporated into the nail design, so if the nail salon staff ask me how to use the canes I won’t be able to answer. Do the nail technicians bake the canes and then take fresh slices while the canes are warm? And then do they cover the design in gel and cure it under a UV lamp?

I’ve done a bit of experimenting with some leftover cane-ends that I had in my workshop, and a lot of them reduce quite well (i.e. you can still see the detail even when the canes are reduced to a diameter of about 5mm). Here are the results of my experiments this morning:

nail art cane experiments

nail art cane experiments

combination of cane elements

combination of cane elements

cool sort of mokume gane-ish water pattern

cool sort of watery pattern

even the wild violet (from the other day) reduces nicely

even the wild violet (from the other day) reduces nicely

closer view of some of the canes

closer view of some of the canes

quick experiment on some plastic nails

quick experiment on some plastic nails

Woo – I imagine that in the hands of an expert the nails could be made to look really special. Charlene ‘Cat’ Therien (polymer clay genius) has got lots of polymer clay canes for sale, and has a page about Fimo nail art, plus another page on http://www.neoflexnailart.com/shop/. There are some more pictures of pre-made nail art here, plus an article about polymer clay nail art here.

Happy Birthday to Me!

August 17, 2010 Leave a comment

It was my birthday a couple of days ago, and my sister bought me a brilliant present – a mini photography studio.

It came from http://www.maplin.co.uk/ and is called an “Ebay Photo Studio Kit“. I have now had chance to set it up, and it’s perfect for what I need. The kit includes a fold-out white ‘cage’ to diffuse the light, a blue background cloth (which I can replace with a different coloured cloth, as it is attached with velcro), two spotlights, plus an extendable camera stand.

mini studio

mini studio ready for action

mini studio packed away

mini studio packed away

…and all for (a very reasonable) £29.99.

Thanks Jackie!!

I will now be able to take some photos of the items I’d like to put on Etsy.


My second New Thing Of The Day was that I discovered how to embed PayPal buttons into websites. I got the instructions from PayPal on their ‘Merchant Services‘ section, and although it did involve quite a bit of geekery-pokery, I did eventually manage to get a test button on my website. It’s still under construction, but here is the ‘Shop‘ page of my new website.

Now I just need to make something that people actually want to buy!

New Polymer Clay Creations

August 15, 2010 4 comments

I’ve been away on holiday for a week, but just before I went away I finished photographing a collection of the most recent items I’ve been making:

fuchsia earring

fuchsia earring

fuchsia earrings

fuchsia earrings

blue basic butterflies

blue basic butterflies

goldfish earrings

goldfish earrings

hibiscus buttons

hibiscus buttons

wild violets

wild violets

wild violets next to the real thing

wild violets next to the real thing

At the moment nobody seems interested in buying my jewellery (or at least, not on Ebay), so I’m a bit scared of spending time and money on putting them on a craft stall and then finding out ‘for real’ that nobody wants to buy my stuff.

On the other hand, if I don’t start showing these things to people then I definitely won’t be able to sell them. I need to bite the bullet and go to a few galleries and try to do a craft stall. Eek.