I thought I had pretty much everything ready to go at the end of November to start the holiday shopping season, but it it wasn’t nearly everything I’d had in mind. I had one burning idea that I would not let go, and other inspirations with products I’d introduced. I’m so happy I went into overtime to work these out during December, just in time for my annual Holiday Open House and Studio Sale on December 15 and 16. In the coming year you’re going to see a lot of variations on these themes.
How many times in the past year have you heard about “tiles” in my creative experiments? Some experiments produced a nice-looking tile that wasn’t durable, or a tile that was durable but the art didn’t reproduce well, or it did reproduce well, some of the time, with too much waste. Oh, the disappointments, but I have had this vision for years, and each step of the way I could see it the finished work that resembled my vision a little more clearly.
The final step in the process was to set up the heat press I’d purchased way back in January, though it wasn’t for the tiles. I’d purchased it to use with commercial quality transfers that I’d print from my Epson printer to imprint on fabric items or even make small sheets of fabric to make tote bags and pillows. My route to success with this was by no means direct, so of course there’s a story involved, and one of the reasons I’ve left off posting for a week at a time here and there.
The press isn’t terribly large but it’s quite heavy and needs to be used on a heavy-duty, stable base. I’d originally planned on packing it away until I wanted to use it, then packing it away again when I was done, as I do with most of my equipment like my mat cutter, paper/stencil cutter, small press for block printing and paper embossing, even my sewing machine, which has equipment and projects piled on it when not in use. This is a very small house, and for the most part art materials, equipment and framing materials take up the space, and I pull out what I need, set up, do my thing, and put it all away. It’s time-consuming.
The press also needed to be close to a heavy-duty outlet for the heat it produces. All this indicated the best place was the basement, which was fine. Because of this I’d also planned to move my printing operations to the basement, block printing and the eventual screen printing, another goal this year. All this year I’ve been trying to work out the space in the basement, through this wet summer when I had water in the back corners of my basement for most of it, and still have to move out the old non-working extra refrigerator and switch an old dryer for a new dryer and many other things…it’s been so frustrating and I still don’t have the basement ready, but I did get things ready when I started screen printing for the Ailurobibliophile totes.
Learning the best process to screen print tote bags without the professional stand made a mess of about 14 tote bags, especially the heavier canvas ones, and prints were uneven, smeared, goopy, crooked, and all sorts of other adjectives to describe something I could never sell. I decided to make a sunny day out of a rainy one and use some of the commercial quality opaque fabric transfers to cover up the bad prints. I’d use the heat press, also practicing its use with something that was already unsellable in case I made a mistake with the heat press too. And I did—with the very first bag I had the heat set too high and scorched it in a matter of seconds, but because I had to press something that big in two parts was able to adjust for the second half of the transfer to work perfectly. And then I used four of the ruined bags with sample images to cover the bad screen prints and sold them for $5.00 each as “mistake” bags. Everyone laughed at the concept, and all four of them sold.
But it was while I was working with the heat press that I thought about using the process for the tiles. At that point I rolled the polymer clay and cut the tiles, then printed the same transfer paper used for the totes, burnished it to the unbaked clay with a rolling pin and put a weight on it while it baked in the oven, then peeled off the backing and let it cool. The edges were always rough, though that was kind of cool, and two of them came out perfectly. But some of them only transferred halfway, some not at all, and the variables of the brand of clay and how much I worked it before cutting the tiles, and who knows what else, I just couldn’t waste materials it would take to realistically make tiles this way.
I applied the same rainy day theory to the tiles that hadn’t come out well, the ones that were already baked, and printed the designs on opaque transfers and put them together in the heat press. OMG, there it was.
So then, even though it was Thursday before my Open House, I made and baked 30 different tiles and a dozen geometric shapes for pins, on Friday impressed the designs in both feline and flower themes on them all, let them cool, and set up the front room for the sale starting the next day at 10:00 a.m.
It was well worth the effort. They were definitely a hit! And I was buoyed by the success of the technique and by having something new and unique for my sale.
The square tiles are 4″ x 4″, rectangles 4″ x 5, 6 or 7, oval 4″ x 6″. Now that I’ve gotten the methods and materials down, I’m planning larger tiles and different shapes, all made of polymer clay so they are durable. This is also an item I can easily customize, so look for that as well.
And the pins turned out really cool too! Tiny cat pins, another experiment, very fun, using the same technique as the tiles. I can affix a pin back or a magnet or an earring back or hooks. The possibilities are endless. You can find the pins in my Handmade Gifts Gallery under Jewelry.
Jelly Bean shows you where those tiles are.
Take a look at other new merchandise and featured artwork.
Marketplace is a feature on The Creative Cat to share the latest coming out of my studio with my readers. Once a week on Thursday I feature something new in my “shop”.
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Find out more about creating custom items for your own home using the images you see here. Visit the “Ordering Custom Art” page to see samples and read bout how to order.
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It’s all done under the close and careful supervision of my studio cats!
All images and text used on this site are copyrighted to Bernadette E. Kazmarski unless otherwise noted and may not be used without my written permission, although links to your site are more than welcome and are shared. Please ask if you are interested in using and image or story in a print or internet publication. If you are interested in purchasing a print of an image or a product including it, check my animal and nature website Portraits of Animals to see if I have it available already. If you don’t find it there, visit Ordering Custom Artwork for more information on a custom greeting card, print or other item.
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Weekly schedule of features:
Sunday: Essays, Pet Loss, Poetry, The Artist’s Life Monday: Adoptable Cats, TNR & Shelters Tuesday: Rescue Stories Wednesday: Commissioned Portrait or Featured Artwork Thursday: New Merchandise Friday: Book Review, Health and Welfare, Advocacy Saturday: Your Backyard Wildlife Habitat, Living Green With Pets, Creating With Cats And sometimes, I just throw my hands in the air and have fun!