Tag: DIY

Excitement!

My Etsy shop has been collecting dust for years now. It’s still empty as I write this but I’m sweeping out the cobwebs in preparation for the jewelry I’ve been making. I’m hoping to have it stocked by June. My sweet uncle has been helping me. He has a laser cutter so he’s been cutting out my designs for me. He also has an Etsy shop you should check out called BPaw’s Workshop. He can make all sorts of custom wood pieces.

So enjoy a sneak peek until I get these into my shop:

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studio

 

pieces

 

Salt Print Attempt #1

Last night was exciting! Well, it was exciting to me.

I tried salt printing for the first time with the kit from Bostick & Sullivan. I also used the gold toning kit though so far it looks like the prints need longer toning times. It was an interesting few hours. For starters, I have no idea what each stage of this process is supposed to look like. This is completely foreign territory for me. At least I’ve done cyanotypes on and off over the last 10 years or so. Tonight I was going off of written descriptions of what to look for and just winging it using various internet sites. I think I got lucky as far as which curve to use and how to print the digital negative for this process. I’m knocking on wood and kissing my muse’s butt right now.

I used two different digital negative printing methods and tried both out last night. One looked nice. The other was a miserable failure. I had a feeling the second one would not work but I had no idea what would happen with the first.

First, my failure:

bad

It’s still wet but you can see the overly high contrast, lack of detail, and the muddy highlights.

I was following some advice on a random website that suggested using colored ink to block light and allow the highlights to develop slower. I followed his directions but the results were less than stellar. I had my doubts as I was working on that so I also decided to do a mix of advice off of several websites and tried to create as dense of a negative as I could while preserving as much tonality as possible.

saltprint1

I still need to learn more about the process but I’m pleased with this attempt.

My other attempt was much better. I’m not sure if I could have pulled more detail into this negative or not. I’ve seen some detailed prints online and in books. I need to research the process more and see how far I can push it. This kit is nice but once I get this down and get fairly predictable results I may move on to mixing my own formulas to see what happens.

Just for the sake of, I put together a file so I could see the original image with the cyanotype and salt print. The variety of the different processes is interesting and I feel confident enough in proceeding with these alternative processes. Now to figure out a project to turn into a series …

Print

Cyanotypes (and the beginning of more contact printing)

{Warning: Long Post}

Cyanotypes can be a very satisfying process to work with. When I was in college I took an alternative photography class and cyanotypes were one of my favorite processes. We also learned  gum oils, Van Dykes, a dry plate method for doing tintypes, and a few more processes I’m sure I don’t remember anymore. For anyone just starting out with contact printing (specifically, printing out an image on paper vs. developing an image in a dark room) I recommend cyanotypes. They are one of the easiest, cheapest methods to try. You only need the sun, some paper, and the chemicals. You don’t need a dark room. But you do need to be aware of UV exposure if you aren’t going to expose the paper immediately.

I liked the idea of having a fairly consistent workflow so I decided to build a UV light box. There are several websites and books out there to get you started. Try to find someone familiar with electrical work (if you are not) before you start so the wiring will be done safely and correctly. Also, keep in mind that too much UV exposure can be harmful so when looking at plans keep that in mind. Some people build their boxes with the bulbs facing up. I chose to build mine to be fully enclosed. Sourcing bulbs cheaply can be difficult. Hopefully this website is still in business in the future and still has decent prices (Top Bulb). I used F20T12 BL (black light) bulbs (not BLB). I purchased the sockets and ballasts separately so that I had more control over the spacing of the bulbs. Yes, I should have documented the build but I didn’t. Have patience and plan well. A few google sessions should result in a good understanding of what you need.

I also recommend Jill Enfield’s Guide to Photographic Alternative Processes. It has a good overview of different processes along with recipes if you want to mix your own chemicals so you have more control over your results. There are so many books out there and many of them have good information. I tend to research and read a lot before I start a new project so I always recommend checking out as many information sources as you can. Bostick & Sullivan sells a cyanotype kit that will get you started and yields good results. You can also get a kit from Photographers’ Formulary but I haven’t used it. They do sell bulk chemicals though for when you want to try your own mixing. Another fun website is Rockland Colloid. They have a tintype dry plate kit among other things.

construction

Light box in the building stage.

wiring

Light box being wired. I used 10 bulbs in my box.

My light box took several weekends to build mainly due to needing to re-cut a few pieces and waiting on my father-in-law to visit so I could talk him into helping me wire it up. Once the box was done, Dan Burkholder’s book was a life saver. I do shoot both digitally and on film but the biggest film I shoot is 120. Contact printing means that the print will be the same size as the negative so you either need to shoot on larger film or learn to make digital negatives. Burkholder recommends the higher-end Epson printers and that is what he gives instructions for in his book. You can use other brands and you can even get away with using dye-based inks but after playing around on my own I found it easier to bite the bullet and get a nice Epson.

firstgo

 First test run.

step

 Step charts utilizing various curves found around the web and other sources.

With a working light box and a few curves to play with I started printing out my negatives and trying them on various papers with various exposures. With some papers it makes a difference what side you use, so when you cut the paper down, mark the back with a pencil. I also write the name of the paper and the exposure time so that I can remember later. I started playing with Lana Aquarelle, Fabriano, Arches Platine, Rives BFK, and Arches Hot Press. Arches HP was the clear winner, but I’m glad I have a variety because I want to play with other processes and each process reacts differently to each paper.

Once your paper is cut down, it’s time to add the sensitizer. When adding the sensitizer to the paper it is safe to be in a room with a 40W bulb while coating, drying, and rinsing. Fluorescents can emit a small amount of UV and cloud your prints. Some people also use yellow bug lights or amber safe lights.  There are a few ways to coat the paper. You can use a glass coating rod or various brushes. I prefer using a hake brush. Once the paper is dry (you can use a hairdryer on a cool setting to speed things up) sandwich the negative and the paper between two heavy, uncoated pieces of glass and secure with clips. You can also use a contact frame. They are expensive to buy new, but I found some smaller ones at a reasonable price on ebay.  Set the whole contraption either in the sun or into your UV box and wait. In bright sun the print will develop in a few minutes. Look for the shadow areas to go blue then start to reverse. You may or may not see the shadows start to solarize and get a shimmer. Keep track of the time so you can adjust as needed. Once they are exposed, rinse the paper until all the yellow has washed from the paper. I’ve seen recommended rinse times from 10 minutes to 30 minutes. Use whatever is recommended for your kit or recipe. Make sure you agitate the print and keep the water flowing. I have extremely hard water in my house so I start with a 3 minute rinse of distilled water and a dash of vinegar. I then rinse as usual and then do a final rinse in water and a dash of hydrogen peroxide to bring out the blues faster. You can also tone cyanotypes to alter the color but I haven’t played with that yet.

tests

 Different papers and exposure times.

samples

Trying to print from a scan of an old photo. These are different curves. None are very satisfactory. It leaves me wondering if making a digital negative from a photograph (vs scan) of an old print would be easier or not.

overcoat

 The fogging at the top is from overcoating. Some recommend to do a light coat with distilled water and letting it dry until just damp before applying the cyanotype solution to aid in an even coat.

It is good to remember that you don’t need negatives, light boxes, or fancy printers to do cyanotypes. You can also do sun prints. They are equally as satisfying and all you need is the sun and interesting things to put onto your paper. Feathers create unique patterns and certain plant material can be pleasantly translucent.

sunprints

 My stepkids had fun making sun prints.

I hope this post was semi-informative and made a few people want to go out and try this fun process. I wouldn’t have gotten this far without the help of Anthony Maddaloni. He makes this look so easy. Well, it isn’t hard, but I do over-think things. He is great about making me just do instead of plan to death.

paris

 My favorite image to date even though it could use some tweaking. A Paris hospital lit up for Nuit Blanche. Made on my back porch with a digital negative and printed in the sun on Fabriano paper.

After I get my cyanotypes to where I want them I’m going to start on salt prints and dry plate tintypes. I may venture into albumen printing only because we have an overflow of fresh backyard eggs. Look for more blog posts then those experiments start up.

My Not So New Fascination

{Scroll to the bottom of the post for links to resources not linked in the text}

I can safely say that I have been fascinated by the tintype (or ferrotype) process since I first saw the famous Billy the Kid image. Not sure why, but learning that the image was a mirror image intrigued me. I later learned that tintype images appeared backwards because they were actually negatives, but the black background on the metal (or glass if it was an ambrotype) caused the negative to appear as a positive. When I had the chance to take an alternative photography class in college I jumped on it. We didn’t do any true wetplate techniques but it was still quite a fun class and I learned a lot.

billy

In school, we used a kit from Rockland Colloid to do tintypes. The emulsion came pre-mixed in a tube and it was applied to the plate and allowed to dry before exposing it. Technically, this was a dry plate technique and most of us used a UV light box in conjunction with digital negatives to make contact prints, but it was possible to fit the plates into cameras and expose that way. Doing this sort of tintype doesn’t seem to create the same effect as a wetplate tintype. The effect is still interesting but it isn’t as “dreamy.” I do have a few ideas on altering lenses, altering negatives, and changing what I use as a plate in order to achieve a similar effect without the dangerous chemicals and the need for a portable darkroom, but I still want to try the original process at least once.

old

Since graduating many years ago I have wholeheartedly embraced the resurgence of film photography. Digital has its purpose but I find a warmth and intimacy in film that I don’t find with digital. I started dabbling in making cyanotypes again and have been following the sudden trend in exploring even older techniques. I started seeing blog posts for tintype portraits in San Francisco and was lucky enough to visit and have one taken at Photobooth. They were so sweet and let me watch the entire process from start to finish. Unfortunately, the store will be closing March 2014 so anyone in the SF area should book an appointment asap if they are interested.

A few months ago a pop up tintype photobooth appeared in Austin called Lumiere. I plan on checking them out soon and also plan on pestering them for lessons. I’ve found a few workshops scattered across the country, and while I don’t mind traveling, this process is expensive enough. In anticipation of finding a class I purchased an old Brownie box camera. I’ve heard from numerous sources that the Brownie #3 is easy to modify to use with tintypes. Applying a varnish to the inside protects the camera from the wet emulsion and can be wiped down between plates.

brownie

In the meantime, I’m finally building my own UV exposure box using this site as inspiration. I’ve already ordered a timer and the bulbs will be here soon. I will say that if you decide to also use this site to build one you will probably have to source the bulbs and ballasts from somewhere other than where he suggested. Those links didn’t work for me so I had to look elsewhere.

As far as other useful links go:

The book that got me moving forward on all this again: Jill Enfield’s Guide to Photographic Alternative Processes: Popular Historical and Contemporary Techniques

book

Making Digital Negatives and this site, too.

Alternative Photography Processes

A google search of wetplate collodion. Careful, some NSFW images can show up. It is art after all {smile}. I didn’t want to post other people’s images here without permission if they weren’t related to specific links, but you should look at the google link so you can see how magical wetplate images can be.

I’m hoping to post my future experiments and experiences with alternative processes here in the future, so keep checking back.

Easter Birthday DIY Wedding… Whew!

What happens when two impatient redheads get engaged? We end up throwing all of our October carnival-themed wedding plans out the window, that’s what. Why wait? We decided to just go ahead and get married after my birthday brunch in our backyard. That gave us exactly 7 days to figure out all the details. It is accurate to say that our friends and family just about had a heart attack. Maybe that is how I decided on the theme!

hearts

garland

 

Pinterest was a big help in finding some easy, quick, but fun decorating ideas.

hair

 

I bought tons of felt and ribbon and started cutting out hearts. Along with the garlands, I made my heart hair decorations, a heart pin for my shrug, and Shawn’s heart boutonniere. Along with the hand made garlands, we also had little paper lanterns hanging from the trees.

dress

 

I thought I had a dress ready to go but my idea on dying it another color was a bust so a new dress had to be found. Luckily, I had come across a dress at Charm School Vintage several months ago and it was still there. I’m glad Kim was there to talk me into getting it. It was perfect. With a few alterations from the fabulous Beth, it fit like a glove. Kim made my bouquet the day before and it was amazing.

 

bouquet

kiss

My talented mom made our beautiful wedding cake from scratch. It was strawberry flavored. I made the cake topper with some wooden hearts, chalkboard paint, and a dowel.

cake

lick

 

Luckily, Shawn and I had already built the photo booth months ago and had been testing it out at various events.

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gb

 

Beth made a guest book for everyone to glue their photo booth pictures into and write a little note to us.

 

We also had a piñata and cascarones. I’m from South Texas and piñatas were a familiar sight at birthday parties and other celebrations. It has been years since I had one of my own so why not? I don’t even mind that I’ll be finding confetti in my house for years to come.

pinata

cascarones

 

Shawn had also made washer boards the weekend before in anticipation for my birthday BBQ party.

washers

 

And last, but not least, my wonderful new husband waited until the ceremony to give me my birthday present… (which I suspect the making of helped his decision to speed up the wedding.)

book

 

Shawn and I wanted to thank everyone who made our special weekend possible: Kim and Beth- you guys and your creative energy amaze me everyday; Aurora- thank you for your help with the decorations; Adam, Crystal, Aurora, Kim, and Brianne- thanks for the amazing wedding photos; Mom- you have been making my birthday cakes since my first birthday. I’m glad that you made my wedding cake. Best cake ever. Shawn and I are very blessed to have our group of friends and our loving family.

adam2

Laptop Cozy

I found this project on Design*Sponge and decided to alter it a bit to suite my taste. I loved the colors they had picked out so I stuck with that. I have no sewing skills and don’t really browse around in the sewing supplies either so I had no idea what sort of fuseable interfacing to use. I picked the wrong stuff. It was too thick and when I tried to iron it the only way I could get it hot enough to stick to the felt ended up melting the felt. So, I decided to hand stitch the entire thing together then embellish it with a hand embroidered, appliqued jackalope. The melty felt parts are on the inside and I think it is still super cute. Keeps my laptop from getting too scuffed when I’m carrying it around with me and every time I look at my new laptop case I get that satisfied “I made that!” feeling. I have a whole slew of new embroidery projects I want to try. I love working with the felt because of the color and the fact that I don’t have to worry about any edges unraveling.

 

Grey FeltOrange FeltRabbit patternFelt PiecesJackalope EmbroideryJackalope Felt Laptop Cozy

Time to get Ready for Halloween!

So, I spent the weekend working on the fun stuff for my costume. My dad gave me this great blue hat that I spruced up with some feathers and a flower. I used the same feathers and flowers to embellish one of those mini hats that seem to be so popular on Etsy these days. Now I just have to decide which one to wear. They are both really cute.

I also made some jewelry that makes it look like my head and hands were stitched on to my body. I’ve seen a couple of people make these and they looked easy enough. I was right. I had a set whipped up in less than an hour. Of course, when I was trying them on to fit them I think I got super glue on my neck …

“Stitches”

Mini Top Hat
Full size, vintage hat