Dec 182014

Another Scrappy Cat. This will be the last one for a while; I’m going to work on other things.

I got an idea in my head that this cat could have wings.
Scrappy Cat Five, the spotted cat with wings!
The wings are removable, not stitched on. This one is made entirely from my scrap box, which somehow is not at all less full than when I started. Suspicious.

Dotted heart and collar.
The dotted heart and chain collar. You can see bits of spots all over the stripes.

Zipper stomach and AteMouse.
This AteMouse has little blood red Xs for eyes.

Soft claws.
Soft claws on paw tops.

Soft paw pads.
Puffy flannel paw pads on the undersides of paws.

Back view, without wings.
Back view, without wings. I had a lot of fun layering up all the fabrics and spots.

Back view, with wings.
Back view, with wings. There are ribbon straps so the wings slide on like a backpack, similar to human costume wings.

Signature star on butt.
My signature star on the butt.

Headshot of Scrappy Cat Five, the spotted cat with wings!
Headshot of the spotted cat. The ears are velvet.

If you are in Cheyenne and interested in seeing this cat in person, it will be with AmyKatt at the Universal Space Love Church Winter Craft Sale. Here are those details:

WinterMart Arts & Crafts Sale 2014
Unitarian Universalist Church of Cheyenne
UUCC Social Hall, 3005 Thomes Avenue, Cheyenne, WY 82001
December 19, Friday 4:30 – 6:30 pm
December 20, Saturday 9 am – 4 pm

Frankly, even if you don’t give a fig about the Scrappy Cat, I highly recommend going to the sale anyway. The whole thing is packed full of ideal gift items and you’re supporting local artists. It doesn’t get better than that – so GO! While you’re there, visit AmyKatt and thank her for showing my Scrappy Cat to the public.

Maker talk: I was concerned that after making a few, the Scrappy Cats were becoming less scrappy, so I made special efforts to play loose with the fabric and to make parts less symmetrical. I succeeded and the look is just what I wanted. I tried a new wiring method for the tail so there would be more wire, but somehow it turned out less curly than previous tails. I might experiment with that again one day. I quite like the dark red eyes on this AteMouse – I like the contrast better. I am definitely on a Scrappy Cat break for a while. I have a lot of other projects to do for some time.

Dec 172014

The last Art, Design & Dine of the season was Thursday night. With the Metals class over just in time, AmyKatt and I were able to visit multiple venues to close out the year with art. At WYO Art Factory, on 15th ST, the art vending machine was finally available for use. The idea is not so new, read about the official history here at this link, but the gallery owner (Maura Jacobsen) isn’t an official Art-O-Mat participant. She liked the idea and found an old cigarette machine for her own. Basically, you put in five bucks and pull the knob and a cigarette pack-sized piece of art, or art in a pack-sized box, drops down.
Art Vending machine at local Cheyenne gallery.
If you look at this picture, you can see the top row has little artist squares giving you a hint of what is in their pull column. You don’t know exactly what you’ll get, but the square helps some. Out of the five bucks, $2.50 goes back to the artist (in a standard setup) and $2.50 goes to the gallery. This lady is using her profits as a donation to the Children’s Museum.

Here is the art I got:
Art received from Art Vending machine at local Cheyenne gallery.
The top artist I was already familiar with, Marla Rosa. The bottom two are from Kristy Johnson (I think, let me confirm that name when I get home tonight).
Pretty neat. Maybe one day I will put some work in the Wonderpull!

Dec 092014

At last, the final class project – a ring. The requirements were for a silver band with texture and/or interest and a bezel set stone. My project was inspired by the Black Rabbit of Inlé, from Watership Down. The rabbit appears in the book and associated stories as Death, the rabbit servant of the god Frith.

Inlé-rah (The Black Rabbit of Inlé) as a silver ring with garnet eye.
I got a small garnet for his eye and did some patina cycles to make the silver darker. It doesn’t look very dark here since I quickly snapped these shots under the unfiltered work lights of the Metals classroom right before turning in the ring. The outside of the ring is textured to hint at fur.

On the inside of the ring, I used letter stamps to print a very small quote from the Black rabbit. I was limited in space, so I chose a short bit from the passage below, at the end.

I am night, and I am death. I am the moon too, hovering in the night, granting light where it may spread. I am darkness, who comes to steal away the breath of the dying rabbit. In Lapine they call me Inlé, Inlé of the moon. I will guide you with my crimson eyes and ebony fur to where the truth does lay. I am the night, I am the moon. I am death, and I am true. I am Inlé, rabbit in the guise of the abyss. So when you hear me call, answer me back. Follow me home.
– Inlé-rah (The Black Rabbit of Inlé)

Inlé-rah (The Black Rabbit of Inlé) as a silver ring with garnet eye.

Inlé-rah (The Black Rabbit of Inlé) as a silver ring with garnet eye.

I have to say, I love this ring. I know many people think Inlé was bad, evil and scary, but I don’t. I also didn’t read this book as a child, so maybe that is part of it. However, I like to think of Inlé as he was when he took Hazel away at the end. He was a friendly transition to the next existence when Hazel was old and tired. It is true that Inlé had some less friendly interactions, especially in the stories, but I didn’t see evil. Dark, sure. So, this ring will probably stay with me as my own. I’m quite fond of it and I did size it for me, too.

Maker talk: I used a grinding wheel and a light, methodical hand to create the fur texture on the outside of the band. I made two passes for homogeneity. There are some careless plier marks on the inside band, not really visible here, that I thought I’d sanded off, but apparently not well enough. The patina didn’t get as dark as I wanted, but I wanted closer to black. I was a the mercy of the cold, old, weak Liver of Sulfur solution in the classroom. If I were doing it at home, I could have made a fresh, hot, strong solution and I think that wouldn’t gotten it darker. I might try this still, once I get it back from grading.

Dec 022014

The fourth Scrappy Cat was also a commission, requested to be a tuxedo marking cat in blacks, whites and touches of red. The tuxedo style changed a few of the typical Scrappy Cat details, but I think it is all the better for it. Just look at that red bow-tie collar, for example!

Scrappy Cat, Tuxedo-style
The tuxedo marking is obvious. Look closely as his left lapel (on your right) – see the slight gap? It is a hidden pocket. This tuxedo cat wouldn’t break his stylish lines with an exposed heart, so he needed somewhere to keep it. Somewhere out of sight, but very close to the surface and easily accessible, as appropriate for a lovable Scrappy Cat.

Scrappy Cat, Tuxedo-style - front view
Tuxedo Cat’s lightning heart, out for display. It is attached to a black satin ribbon that feeds into the hidden lapel pocket.

Scrappy Cat, Tuxedo-style AteMouse and zip belly
The AteMouse and the unzipped belly. I put an extra strip of black along the belly lining so that the tuxedo look would stay uniform. It won’t do to have the belly lining showing in a tux!

Scrappy Cat, Tuxedo-style - delicate, well-trimmed soft claws
This cat has neat, well-groomed, soft claws.

Scrappy Cat, Tuxedo-style - paw pads in pink flannel
Soft, puffy paw pads in a pink flannel. This one’s legs were skinnier than other cats, which I think I prefer.

Scrappy Cat, Tuxedo-style - back detail and signature star
I couldn’t resist putting my signature star right in the center of that phone pad print.
Somehow I didn’t take a single other picture of his back, but his back body and head have dark gray and black skull filigree print fabric in a chevron layout. Pretty cool.

Scrappy Cat, Tuxedo-style - head shot
That ear stitching turned out nicely. I like this tuxedo cat on par with the violet cat. This head shape is the one I prefer. This cat is off to its new person and I hope all goes well.

Will I make another Scrappy Cat? Probably yes, but not right now. I have to finish carving the Solstice invitations or I won’t get them out in time. Also, I’m on the last class project and have only two class times left to finish it in – yikes!

Dec 012014

After the second, violet, birthday Scrappy Cat I wanted to make one more Scrappy Cat to see how I’d like it without a deadline. Very conveniently, someone commissioned one as a holiday gift. This gave me plenty of time to work, even if there was technically a deadline, albeit months away. I was able to work on it when I felt like it and get a good idea of the time spent to completion.
Here is a blue, odd little Scrappy Cat:
Third Scrappy Cat
The head shape on this cat turned out different than the last and gave it a distinct personality. At first I found it unsettling, but this cat has grown on me and I think it is a bit sweet now. Especially with some of the fabric scraps that ended up here. Flowers and dolphins and stars!

Third Scrappy Cat, ribbon collar and heart
I tried two different metal collar necklaces on this cat, but they looked wrong. This ribbon was much better.

Third Scrappy Cat, whiskery mouse and unzipped belly
This AteMouse has whiskers, and sad wee eyes.

Third Scrappy Cat, soft claws
Soft claws, a bit too neat. This is a pampered Scrappy Cat.

Third Scrappy Cat, paw pads
Soft, puffy paw pads. I’m getting a feel for these and they’re looking a certain way. I like it.

Third Scrappy Cat, back view of body - note the curly tail!
I’ve been working to make the tails curly and I think I succeeded.

Third Scrappy Cat, a special little detail
Special detail of a bitty mouse, on the back.

Third Scrappy Cat, my signature star
My signature star blends right in with the dolphins.

Third Scrappy Cat, headshot
Goodbye, sweet third Scrappy Cat. I hope you and your new person are a good match.

Stay tuned for the fourth Scrappy Cat, another commission tomorrow. This one is even more different yet!

Nov 152014

Our red-headed adopted cat has many entertaining qualities, so let’s see what he’s up to lately.
The Captain and Oz, sorta snuggled on the sofa.
The cold weather has made all the cats more snuggly and here Oz is nestled with The Captain on the sofa. Oz doesn’t like the fur blanket, but The Captain loves it. They’ve found a snuggle compromise.

Oz, pushing his big self theough some blinds to get a better view.
Oz is neither a graceful cat. nor a small one. I hope our blinds survive the winter.

Oz, hiding under a kerchief.
He also likes to hide under things. Even things he doesn’t fit under. Oz suffers from the same misconception as many cats – if I can’t see them, they can’t see me!

Nov 142014

When the weather turns chilly, two things happen with the cats. One is that the gray kitties (Moxie and The Captain) sit firmly in front of the heating vents until their fur gets hot. Two is that all the cats, even Nora, become much more snuggly.

Snuggly cats.
And if no one is willing to snuggle, they will burrow themselves under blankets.

Snuggly cats.
Friday and The Captain are the champion snuggle cats.

Snuggly cats.
Usually The Captain is the snuggle initiator. He’s naturally a slender and has short hair. He always seeks warmth; even in the summer he suns his belly more than other cats.

Snuggly cats.
But, sometimes Friday is snuggly, too.

You may notice there are a lot of cat pictures up now. I may have gotten my schedule back under control, but I fell off the picture-taking wagon and I have yet to catch up to it. I’m trying.

Nov 102014

The blog was quiet last week as I started a new, intensive class and my entire schedule was thrown into disarray. But, no class shall best me and I am back!

Last week I finished my second project in the jewelry making class and got it turned in. The project was to create a cuff (or very large pendant) using wire as the main component and only solder joins. I drew up a number of designs, trying to keep it simple and not so complex as my first project, but I think I failed at that. The design I went with was pretty much flat, but had about 120 solders in it. Once I got started, I was able to shave that down to just under 100 (I think 92?) but still, that was probably too many solders for a beginning project like this. Oh well, it is done now and it looks pretty good.

Soldered wire cuff.
Here is the finished cuff, right before I turned it in. I used copper wire, mostly because it is cheap and I’ve squeezed my credit card getting supplies and tools for this class which I’d not budgeted. The cheap part helps not only with the cost, but with the learning. There were a number of pieces that refused to solder, repeatedly, and sometimes I would get so tired of pickling and sanding them clean that I’d simply cut new pieces and try again. Doing that with silver wire would be costly and weigh on my mind and stress me out. So, yea copper!

After soldering the whole thing, I filed down any spots, shaped it, gave it an overall sanding with 400 grit for a matte texture and then copper plated it. Yes, copper plating! Exciting!

Soldered wire cuff.
Here is the piece after the solder, before the plating. Lots of silver solder that needs covered up.

Copper plating is very easy to do with basic household items and chemicals. Since I didn’t have any old, used pickle, I stopped by the hardware store and bought some cheap copper sulfate pentahydrate – AKA root killer for drains and pipes. It is an electric blue crystal of high copper content. I threw some of that in a small container (dip-sized Crock Pot) of pickle and let it dissolve. This charged the pickle with free copper ions. Then, I took steel binding wire and wrapped it over the cuff and dropped it in the copper-charged pickle. The steel (non-stainless, or you could use iron) creates an electrical reaction in this situation. I’ve also heard this called immersion plating, but you get the idea. You can also use batteries or whatever, but steel wire does the trick! The silver solder, as well as the existing copper, then sucks up the free copper.

The cuff was plated for three sessions of five minutes each, with a rinse and wire brushing in between. I wanted a heavy copper coating to cover up those 100 solders, as well as to create an allover, even color and matte finish. After it was done, I finished it with an acrylic matte spray. I usually finish my pieces with a coat or two of Renaissance wax, but there were too many and too inaccessible surfaces for wax.

I turned the piece in at the last Thursday class and was glad to be done with it. For most of the work time, I hated it. There were too many solders and I could not do any of the work at home since my tiny butane torch couldn’t get all the metal hot enough to solder. Instead of spending hundreds of dollars on a serious torch, I was determined to do all the solder work in class, which I accomplished. I really only started to not-hate the piece when it was finished, sanded, shaped and ready for the plating. Plus – I got to do copper plating, which was actually quite fun and easy. My final opinion is that of not-hate, but I don’t think I’ll ever love it.

P.S. If you didn’t notice yet, the design is based on fingerprints. There are five, enclosed in boxes similar to those on a form for having fingerprints taken.

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