Tuesday, March 31, 2009

How-to Tuesday: Sandblasting with Victory Stone Engraving

My parents run a stone engraving business (Victory Stone Engraving), so when I go home for visits, I get to play with the sandblaster. This time I took some pictures of the process. Here's how it works. 

Start with a rock. I'm guessing this one is granite. Any geologists reading this who can tell for sure? 

We'll engrave some little bits of tile, too. 

The first step is to come up with an engraving design that will be transferred to a self-adhesive rubber stencil. This can be done by hand, but doing it on the computer is faster and designs can be used again and again. The images need to be vector graphics--Adobe Illustrator or the open-source Inkscape are good programs to try--so that the lines are clearly defined for the cutting process. 

This is the plotter. Think of it as a printer that has a razor blade instead of ink. It cuts out the designs for you. 

Here's a little video of it in action:

I never get tired of watching it cut out masks. There's a lot to be said for doing things by hand…but if one machine turns a 45-minute process into a 45-second process, sign me up!

Of course, you still have take a few minutes to remove the parts of the stencil where you want the rock to be exposed during blasting. This process is called weeding. I find it oddly satisfying, but that's probably because I only do it a few times a year. 

Then you tape over the entire design so that all the little squiggles and cutouts stay in place when you peel the plastic backing away from the stick side of the stencil. 

Here are our tiles, all masked up and ready for blasting. 

And here is the masked rock. 

The sandblasting is done in a blast cabinet, which is definitely up there on my List of Coolest Inventions Ever. It resembles the glove boxes used for dangerous chemistry experiments. With your arms in the rather bulky, sand-resistant gloves, you engrave using a jet of compressed air and sand. It's awkward at first but the setup keeps you from breathing the abrasive, which is actually made from an aluminum ore, not beach sand. 

Inside the blast cabinet. 

Here's my dad, pretending to sandblast the rock. He's pretending because I stuck my head and camera in one end of the cabinet to get this picture. 

After the blasting, the rock and tiles are etched and the rubber masks look a little worse for wear. Now we just peel away the stencil and protective duct tape and…

… voilĂ ! Tiny engraved tiles. 

And a rock that looks like a fossil. Cool, huh?


p.s. If you're looking for engraved stuff, the fish skeleton rock in this post can be found in my parent's Etsy store, custom-made rocks are available on their website, and there are some engraved stone pendants here

Monday, March 30, 2009

Handmade Nation documentary screening

The craft movement documentary Handmade Nation will be screening in Portland this weekend at the Museum of Contemporary Craft

This trailer was filmed at last month's Crafty Wonderland, where I had a booth. I *think* I'm in the background of one of the shots…

New format & possible comment problems

I've made a few formatting tweaks here -- like adding a third column -- so please let me know if you're having trouble viewing anything. 

Also, my replies to others' comments don't always post correctly on the first try, which makes me think that readers might be having difficulties as well. If you run into problems when trying to post comments, please email me at wendy [at] buildmakecraftbake [dot] com to let me know. 

Happy Monday!

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Sunday shout-out: weather balloon photography

Photo by Meteotek08 on Flickr

If you like aerial photography from airplanes, check this out: last week, four students and a teacher from IES La Bisbal School in Catalonia captured some stunning photos from over 30,000 meters up (that's about 100,000 feet). News of this came out while I was out of town, but it's too cool not to post about. 

All photos here are from the group's Flickr page. Their blog is here. It's in Catalan, but they embedded a Google Translate widget that, while not perfect, gets most ideas across in English. 

Their camera, a modified Nikon Coolpix, survived the trip, including temperatures below -65 degrees Fahrenheit (-54 C). 

Group members with the balloon before launch. 

Looking straight down. 

Looking out. 

The real path the balloon took is in red and its theoretical path is in yellow. 

Nicely done, guys!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

It's what's inside that counts

Art-professor-turned-medical-student Satre Stuelke takes CT scans of ordinary objects, with eerie, unexpectedly beautiful results. 

Image by Satre Stuelke.

The NY Times ran a great article a few days ago on his work. 

Stuelke uses a CT scanner to essentially photograph his way through 3D objects in 200 to 500 slices, then colors the images based on the density in each area. 

Image by Satre Stuelke.

Density measurements reveal the inner workings of scanned items, be they people or inanimate objects. Who knew that Barbies have leg bones and skulls?

Check out Stuelke's website, which has a great image gallery: radiologyart.com.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Developing film and making prints with coffee

This week's How-To Tuesday is about developing film using instant coffee, vitamin C and washing soda. 

Photos by Photojojo

"Caffenol" developing, as it's called by those in the know, produces lovely, soft-contrast, black-and-white negatives when used to process either B&W or color film. You get the same results for color slide film, too. 

Why is that?

Photographic film is coated with a layer of silver-containing crystals. When you take a photo, light from the scene chemically marks these crystals to be converted into silver metal during the process of film development.  Crystals that were hit with more light when the photo was taken convert more readily into the silver metal. Unexposed crystals are later removed, leaving only the opaque metal. This means that the brightest part of the scene that was photographed will be the darkest part on the film, resulting in a negative image. 

For color film, this process happens in multiple layers, each of which respond to a different color of light (red, green or blue). Additional chemicals that produce the desired colors are attached to each of these layers. For negatives, the pigments are linked to the areas that were exposed to light (light areas become dark). For slide film, also called positives or transparencies, they are attached to the unexposed areas (dark areas remain dark). 

For any kind of film, coffee chemistry will convert the silver but the color-producing compounds are entirely omitted. Therefore, you'll always get a B&W negative.

Found Photography made this very thorough caffenol tutorial video that covers the entire process, even how to properly load the film into the developing tank reel:

Photojojo tried out the process and posted this fabulous tutorial

But the DIY coolness doesn't stop there. Tom Overton writes that coffee can be used to develop prints, too. Check out his photos and descriptions of the process here.

So, what kind of images do you get from caffenol processing? Here are a couple of examples. 

"Caro in Caffenol" by nueh on Flickr.
Photo by Travis Gray on Flickr.

Lots more caffenol photos can be found in the Caffenol and Homemade Soup groups on Flickr.

Have you tried processing film or prints in caffenol or other homemade solutions? If so, how did it work out?

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Secret Crafty Santa in March: loot sent

A couple of weeks ago I signed up for Dudecraft's Secret Crafty Santa in March exchange. I listed the rules of the swap in my original post, but basically I had 2 weeks to make something crafty based on a complete stranger's list of 3 things she loves in life.

I got to make stuff for Kate, who wrote that she loves her 4-year-old son, dancing, and music.

I decided to send her a sampler pack of my floppy disk record player cards. I took lots of pictures along the way and wrote up a tutorial about making the cards a few days ago. And whaddya know, it got featured on MAKE magazine's blog! So hello to the bazillion new visitors who came this way via MAKE.

I also decided to include a little something for Kate's son, Teddy. What do 4-year-olds like? Their names! I engraved Teddy's into a little piece of stone tile and put magnets on the back so he'll have a special way to put his artwork on the fridge.

Kate lives in Massachusetts and I live in Oregon, so I decorated the package with cutouts of all of the states in between.

I engraved the stone with a sandblaster*. This is a photo of the tiles and the stencil I used. I'll be posting more in the near future about the sandblasting process.

*Thanks to Victory Stone Engraving, a.k.a. my dad.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Make a moving turntable greeting card from a floppy disk

This week's How-To Tuesday project is a movable record player greeting card made from an upcycled floppy disk. 

I volunteer weekly at the SCRAP Reuse Store, which gives me a lot of time to think about how to reuse odd items in art and craft projects -- for instance, a box of 3.5" floppy disks. 

The actual disk part of the floppy disk looks suspiciously like a record, and it only takes a few minutes to turn it into a personalized turntable greeting card. The best part is that the card is assembled with brads so the record spins and the player arm moves, too. 

For this project you'll need:
  • an old floppy disk
  • a screwdriver
  • scissors
  • hole punches
  • blank greeting cards or cardstock to make your own
  • small brads
  • cardstock or corrugated paper for the record player arm
  • embellishment items: stamps, collage paper, glue stick, etc.

Start by busting into the floppy disk. Pull off the protective flap and slide the screwdriver between the plastic sides and twist to pop it open. 

At this point I always remember past teachers' admonishments to never! touch! the disk! 

Ha! I'm touching the disk!

Here are the guts of the floppy. For this project you'll just be using the magnetic disk itself, but if you have ideas for reusing the other parts I'd love to hear them. 

Lay the disk on the card and mark spots in the middle of the disk and where the arm of the record player will be located. 

Punch these with small holes. You can use a narrow punch like this one, a darning needle, or whatever else you have handy. 

Attach the disk to the card with a brad. I like to punch a larger circle of paper to go between them. 

Cut a thin strip of stiff paper to be the arm of the turntable. Punch a small hole in one end and attach it with the second brad. 

Now decorate the card however you like. I tend to favor silly music-themed puns cut from old magazines, but maybe that's just me.

And you're done! Sit back and admire your work.

(By the way, if you like the cards but don't have the time to make them yourself, they're also available in my Etsy shop.)

[Update 4/20/09: This tutorial is now on Instructables, where you can view it step-by-step or download a PDF to print.]

Thursday, March 12, 2009

How it's done: Flavor Paper specialty wallpaper

A behind-the-scenes (screens?) look at Flavor Paper hand-screened specialty wallpaper. Video by Michael Tyburski and via Cool Hunting.

Is it okay to intentionally damage a book?

For the bibliophiles and art-lovers of the world, altered book art is a touchy subject. It's a careful matter of weighing allegiances: you're not supposed to desecrate books, but you're also not supposed to stand in the way of artistic expression. These aren't just guidelines—for many people they're deeply held, nearly spiritual beliefs.

When I first encountered the art of Brian Dettmer, I was blown away by the intricacy of his book dissections:

"World Books" by Brian Dettmer on Flickr.

"Science in the Twentieth Century" by Brian Dettmer on Flickr.

"New Books of Knowledge" by Brian Dettmer on Flickr.

I also love Georgia Russell's explosive book art:
"The Story of Art" by Georgia Russell at England & Co. Photo: England & Co.  

"Spectacle" by Georgia Russell at England & Co. Photo: England & Co

"Le Mariage Parfait" by Georgia Russell at England & Co. Photo: England & Co

At first, it never occurred to me to regard this art as a mistreatment of books, but after reading through the comments on the various blogs featuring artists such as Dettmer and Russell, I can't help but see the comments as an ethical debate. On both sides, people are certain of the wrongness of the other. "You just don't do that to books," some say. Others straddle the fence by complimenting the art but pointing out that they could never do something like that to a book. And of course, some decry any art that destroys a book.

Researching this post, I found instances of altered book art being called not just destructive, but heinous, degrading and abhorrent.

Similar stuff was classified by one library under "book mutilation" … along with articles about libraries being ravaged during wartime. Mutilation? Really?

The sanctity of books

What is it about books that inspires such revulsion at the idea of cutting them up? Partly it must be what they represent: condensed and preserved knowledge, history and identity, eduction that will enable one to climb the social ladder, freedom of expression that not so long ago was reserved for the very few who knew how to read and write. But it's more than that, for I'm sure no one would mourn the old pamphlet, newspaper, or website printout used for art. No, that would be admirable—it's recycling, after all!

We see books as more than the sum of their parts: a couple hundred pages of paper bound by string, glue, and cardboard or sometimes leather. In a post about people who write in books, Sarah Werner at Wynken de Worde says, "what comes across is a fetishization of the clean book, an idealization of books that seems to prioritize book form over book content."

Going to the source

What do authors think of their books being used for art?

Jonathan Lethem, who once received a gift of his first novel, Gun, With Occasional Music, cut into the shape of a pistol writes:
In the first life of creative property, if the creator is lucky, the content is sold. After the commercial life has ended, our tradition supports a second life as well. A newspaper is delivered to a doorstep, and the next day wraps fish or builds an archive. Most books fall out of print after one year, yet even within that period they can be sold in used bookstores and stored in libraries, quoted in reviews, parodied in magazines, described in conversations, and plundered for costumes for kids to wear on Halloween. The demarcation between various possible uses is beautifully graded and hard to define, the more so as artifacts distill into and repercuss through the realm of culture into which they've been entered, the more so as they engage the receptive minds for whom they were presumably intended.

Here's another piece by Robert The, who turned Lethem's novel into a pistol:

title: Britannica Vol. 14
materials: wooden broom handle, encyclopaedia
artist: Robert The
year: 2008
images: ©2008 Robert The

Is this piece more provocative because it recasts a book as a broom, an ordinary object used for moving dirt?

How about this piece by Richard Minsky:

Forlorn Hope: The Prison Reform Movement
Text by Larry E. Sullivan
Binding by Richard Minsky, 2002.
The Eighth Amendment from The Bill of Rights limited edition set by Richard Minsky.

Minsky writes:  "During the 1990's the drive toward prison reform reversed. Prison libraries were closed, chain gangs and striped uniforms came back, and prison populations increased. The book is bound in stripes with the word 'CONVICT' on the back cover, printed inkjet on canvas, and is chained to a miniature jail cell of painted wood."

Does altered book art become more acceptable when it has a political cause? When one weighs both political and artistic expression against the act of damaging a book? Or is this piece more acceptable because the book is not actually destroyed, but merely rebound?

What's your relationship to books?

As I dig deeper into the world of book art, I am increasingly intrigued by our reactions, and I'd like to hear from readers about this. 

I still remember when, as a child, I once left a book sitting overnight on my swing set. In the morning it was warped from dew and I was In Trouble. Perhaps my accidental disrespect for Richard Scarry is why I never wrote in my books in college and now can barely bring myself to sell them to used bookstores. I dream of one day owning a home with a library.

So what do you think? How do you feel about books, what creates those feelings, and do you feel torn between respect for books and respect for art when you see an altered book?

Finally, I'll leave you with "This is Where We Live", a stop-action animation video that brings books to life. How can a book-lover not feel protective about books when, yes, this is the reader's world?

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

for the font freaks

I've been accumulating cool font links over the past few months, and it's time to share.

First is the Period Table of Typefaces, which organizes the top 100 fonts by family and class like the elements are organized on a conventional periodic table. You can find a large version here that lets you zoom in to read the rank, family, designer, and date of creation for each font. 

Neato idea…and thank god Comic Sans didn't make the cut. 


If you have a font you'd like to identify, What the Font and Identifont are worth checking out. What the Font allows you to upload a document with the mystery font and if their website can't automatically identify it, their "cloak-draped font enthusiasts" will try to figure it out for you. 

Identifont helps you identify fonts by asking specific questions about the characters. You can also look up fonts based on similarity to other fonts.  

It took me 3 tries to get the Harrington right, but it worked in the end. At least you know when it's wrong because they show you the font they think you're describing. 


Finally, you can easily make your own fonts at YourFonts. I tried it out myself. The process was super fast and they gave good instructions for installing the font. 
Parents, beware the next generation of forged permission notes…