Friday, March 29, 2013

DIY Plastic Figure Bowl Tutorial

In addition to being cool geek art, I thought this melded plastic figure bowl would make a great alternative to the traditional Easter basket for those kids or "big kids" that aren't the pastel basket or bucket sort.

Unfortunately, the site where I found the photo that inspired this project didn't actually explain how this piece was made. Rather, they offered a link to a project describing a slightly different result (3D interior, flattened exterior).

While this is fine if this is the look that you're going for, the tutorial also advises using your oven to melt the figures. This likely is NOT so fine as various commenters have suggested, since even with a fairly well ventilated kitchen, you'll be releasing some pretty noxious chemicals into your house.

While there's a link in the original post that suggests a safer/more even alternative, it doesn't actually lead to that explanation. I figured it out, though...and my solution also solves the fully-3D-on-the-outside-any-flattened-surfaces-on-the-inside question.

-Pyrex bowl (use heat resistant glass for safety)
-Various plastic figures (I found mine at Dollar Tree, 48 in a package)
-Heat proof surface (ext: wire grate elevated a few inches above a cement walkway or even bricks placed together to form a pad. There should be some ventilation from beneath the bowl and the holes in the grate/spaces between the bricks will allow bits of the figures to extend beyond the edges of the glass bowl )
-Heat tool (the sort used for scrapbook embossing and shrink film that goes to about 400 degrees...not a heat gun for stripping paint)
-BBQ tongs
-Safety glasses and dust mask (for precaution)
-Outdoor space (Don't do this indoors)


Place Pyrex bowl upside down on the heatproof surface. Take two figures and lean them against the bowl overlapping one another a bit. At the lowest setting (to start, increase heat if needed), use your heat tool to melt where they touch to form a joint(s). Take a third figure and fit it against the melded figures to see where it would join. Remove that figure and heat that point, then use that still-molten point to stick back in place to meld with the first two figures.  Work your way around the whole Pyrex bowl that way.

As you go, you'll want to make sure that the figures are melding securely, Holding the heat tool in one hand, use the BBQ tongs to smoosh the figures together to meld, Cool bowl and figures completely, then gently detatch the melded plastic from the glass where it may have adhered. If a join breaks when the bowl is being removed, use your heat tool to re-melt the joint.

You'll notice in this shot that there is a bit of flattening on the inner wall, but the exterior is still very 3D.

As you can tell, the melted plastic is quite rigid. The more contact points that you meld, the sturdier it will be.

Ta-DAH! Completed bowl, top view

 Additional Notes:

-Don't limit yourself to Army men. There are a TON of different options of bagged plastic figures at the dollar store and where party favors are sold. How about dinosaurs? Bugs? Farm animals? Cars or other vehicles? Close to Halloween, you might even find glow in the dark versions!

-Can't find the color you want? Finished bowls can always be spray painted. You can even add a sprinkle (or coating!) of glitter. Use a spray sealant to protect any color or sparkle from flaking or chipping.

-Because of the cheapy non-food grade nature of the plastic and the fact that it was further melted, I'd be a bit leery of putting unwrapped food in direct contact with the toy bowl. (I know...the toys are supposed to be tested as child safe, but speaking as someone who worked with procuring inexpensive import toys for a few years, LOTS of bad stuff slips through). A liner of some sort or just regular wrapping on the food (ie: the candy's packaging if using as a treat bowl) should be fine. Also, thoroughly wash the Pyrex bowl (and tongs) after using it as a mold to remove all residue.

-For a less porous bowl, use the same technique from the first layer to add additional layers of figures, melding the consequent layers onto one another.

-I know this goes without saying, but THIS IS NOT A SAFE-FOR-KIDS-TO-DO PROJECT! Despite this bowl being made out of toys, melting plastic and a heat tool will burn little fingers. If you can manage using a glue gun, you should be able to handle this project unscathed, but accidental burns are always a risk.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Free The Amigurumi!

 From A{mi}Dorible
As previously stated, I am not a fiber artist...but that doesn't mean I'm not amazed by all of the nifty stuff that my fiber peeps create. The other day, I ran into the motherlode of freebie amigurumi projects. The Great Amigurumi boasts 1500 (yes...FIFTEEN HUNDRED!) free amigurumi patterns. Some favorites of mine:

Daryl Dixon (Walking Dead) from Nicrochet

Sushi from StitchLove

Nibbler (Futurama) from Hooks and Needles

Monday, March 25, 2013

Run, Rabbit Run (and Lovecraftian snacks)

In the interest of silly, I decided to enter the RAM's Fourth Annual International PEEPS® Competition this year. I'd attended the showing last year and it looked like fun. It seems to also be garnering a bit of truly international attention too (like this piece on the BBC's travel blog), so why not?

 "Tom" Dave Watkins' adult division winner from 2012 

"Peeps Porridgeby Patricia Roberson, winner of The Coveted 2012 PEEPles Choice Award

The decision to enter was also somewhat aided by the fact that I had discovered two packages of green bunny peeps from LAST YEAR in my pantry. I'd stashed them behind the wine bottles, so I wouldn't be tempted to eat them...then promptly forgot them.  I'd intended to use them to make Cthulhu peeps, but they were quite stale by the time I found them. Perfect for some other odd repurposing, though.

Since a bit demented seems to work at this event, I'd initially thought about getting more Peeps that were soft enough to alter this way and do a carbohydrate tribute to The Old Ones. Instead, I decided to go in another geeky direction and play with a steamish sugar/calories=energy concept. Also: I wanted an excuse to use the title, "Run, Rabbit Run". Whenever one has the opportunity to make a Pink Floyd reference, I think that it is imperative that one should seize it.

Some of my original doodles for the project were a bit...dark, though. They just had too much of a Geiger-y or animal experimentation vibe, so I had to tone it down a bit. Since this was going to displayed in kid-friendly space, I figured there was a limit on the creepy mecha-mallow factor.

This was what I ended up with:

As a personal challenge, I tried to make this as inexpensively and use repurposed parts as much as possible.

Materials used:

-Recycled cookie tin ($0.49 from Goodwill...faux rusted and painted)
-Ossified marshmallow Peep (Spray painted)
-Salvaged copier gears (Snagged a while back from a surplus store...painted)
-Salvaged computer fan (Snagged a while back from a surplus store...painted)
-Wire fencing mesh (Roll end scrap from a hardware store. I think I paid less than a buck for about 4 square feet)
-Brass eyelets (Deadstock from a shoe factory that I had found at a flea market. I paid a dollar for a pound+ corroded box of them)
-Aluminum strip from a soda can (Faux rusted with iron paint, salt, and bleach)
-Metal stampings that I had on hand and a few "real" gears
-Vintage vacuum tubes (Flea market...maybe $0.50 each)
-Scrap wire (On hand)
-LEDs (Snagged a while back from a surplus store. I think they were something like $0.79 for a package of 4. Colored with Sharpie marker to make them red and amber)
-Copper bezel with a broken bail
-Salvaged switch (Snagged a while back from a surplus store)
-Resin and glue
-Paper and cardboard (On hand, cardboard from my recycling bin)
-Promotional keyboard wrist rest (Freebie from work, painted)
-Various hardware bits...screws, nails, washers, bolts (On hand)

Learning points:

-The fencing scrap was a fun material to work with. I expect that I'll use more of it in future projects. It cuts easily and maintains its shape nicely. The fan enclosure took me less than five minutes from measuring to completion.

-Fossilized marshmallows take spray paint well...but not liquid acrylic. I chipped the finish when putting in one of the eyelets, but since the Peep was already adhered to the base, I couldn't spray paint. I tried to touch it up with acrylic paint instead, but instead it started to melt. GAH!

-I'm still a clod with hot glue. *sigh* Just when my thumbprints were growing back.

RAM's Fourth Annual International PEEPS® Competition kicks off with the Meet the PEEPS® Artists Event: Artist Reception, Awards Ceremony and Media Preview
Thursday, March 28
5:30 - 7:30 pm
Awards Presentation at 6:00 pm

The exhibit runs from March 29 - April 14, 2013 during regular museum hours. If you're in the area, please stop on by. Personally, I'm really looking forward to seeing what creative projects everyone did with their Peeps.

Gone...but not forgotten

I was just going through some of my pictures from last Autumn and ran into a few shots from WindyCon. The con's theme was "Zombies", so I had made a bunch of creepy bits for the art show, most of which I've posted here or in my Etsy shop. Somehow, I'd missed these two pieces that had sold at the con, so I'm posting them now...   


Sunday, March 24, 2013

Train-of-thought tutorials using repurposed Easter items

Sometimes things just fall together in interesting patterns.

Case in point: Earlier today I was poking through some tutorials and came upon a really nifty project on Suzy's Artsy-Craftsy Sitcom for using Easter egg dye and a crockpot to hand color wool yarn.

Worth noting since spring is (theoretically) here, the thrifts should be clearing out all of their (ravel-able) wool sweaters and already-cheap Easter egg dye is going to be 75%-90% off in another week and a half. Might be an idea for cheap repurposing project experimentation for those so inclined.

...And later ran into fiber art project at Prudent Baby involving ANOTHER repurposed Easter clearance item: one of those plastic fill-able eggs to contain the bell in the center of the rattle. A good idea to make your amigurumi jingly too.
 Now to confess, I don't actually do the fiber art thing. I have tons of friends who do, so I do notice nifty yarn-y stuff when I run into it. 

For those of us who'd like to make a soft rattle but don't knit/crochet, yet have basic sewing skillz, I also saw this project on Handmade by Jill using ready-made cotton socks. This would make a terrific handmade baby shower gift.

See? Funny how things run together! 

Friday, March 22, 2013

New wrap/cash stand for shows

I had to go to the next town over this morning for an appointment, so while there, I decided to hit some of my supply scrounging spots. VERY happy that I did, since this is what I found for $4.99 at Goodwill. Snagged that baby IMMEDIATELY!
The outer dimensions are 10" x 10" X 14", so it'll fit with room to spare on the small folding wood table* that I usually use as a wrap/cash stand at shows. The weathered wood and tarnished brass will also work with my displays/general theme. I might clean up the finish and hardware a bit, but I'm tempted to just leave the exterior as-is.
The two internal trays are nice too, with slots for the moveable partitions. The third "shelf" doesn't have a tray, but that works fine. I may stain these or paint them black.

I should have plenty of room to store all of the stuff that I usually keep handy on my table (cut sheets of tissue for wrapping jewelry, bags, receipt book, pens, business cards, and little notebook) as well as the odds and ends that I stash under the table (tape, small tools, mints, emergency meds, tacks/pins, superglue, etc).

*Pointless trivia note: I have ALWAYS thrifted/repurposed. That folding table? It was inherited from my ex-partner in college...and salvaged from his parents basement when he was a teen. I've been hauling that thing around for 20+ years m'self.