Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Iron Craft 2012--Project 2

For this challenge, we were instructed to make something with hearts. Every Valentine's Day, I have a patron that commissions me to make a valentine heart using animals in some way. The challenge was a catalyst to get started on making this project. Last year, I used penguins. After a friend of mine told me seeing the play and the movie called "War Horse" I decided to try and do something with horses. This is the final result of that project. The actual size of the finished project is 9" by 7".

Monday, January 30, 2012

Paper Cutting--Owl Project

After another two hours of cutting, here is the owl project with all of the feathers cut out. I will soon be working on the larger areas and the frame and then I will be complete.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Paper Cutting 101--Cutting Tips

For me, the most difficult aspect of cutting paper is cutting a straight line. Depending on the thickness of the paper, the paper can buckle under your knife. Or, the paper buckles as you cut towards you. So I have developed some tricks that I use when cutting paper.

Rule #1: When cutting straight lines, use a piercing tool for the starting and ending points of your cuts. The problem with cutting a line is that you many times you end up cutting past the point of stopping. When doing this, you end up with hash marks at the end of each cut. By using pin holes, you know exactly when and where to start and top.

Rule #2: When you can, cut one line in one direction and then cut the connecting line in the opposite direction. In the illustration above, for line one, I would cut north to south and then I would cut line six, east to west. Most people would cut line one--north to south--and then cut line six--west to east. The problem is that the paper is weakened and cutting line six this way could tear the paper when exerting pressure.

Rule #3: Cut parallel lines before cutting perpendicular lines. I have numbered the lines above as I would cut them. I would make all north to south cuts first before making east to west cuts.

Rule #4: Use your ruler to apply pressure on the paper. In the illustration above, most people would start with line # 5 (because they are right handed) and then continue to cut line #4, #3, etc. The problem with this is that the paper is weakened because you have cut it. When you go to cut line #4, the paper has pressure applied to it and will likely curl or buckle and eventually tear. To alleviate this problem, cut line #1 above first. Then place your rule on line #1 to cut line #2. The pressure of the ruler should prevent any buckling or curling of the paper as you cut line #2. Move your ruler to line #2 to cut line #3, etc. When you are cutting lines 6 - 10, I rotate the paper 90 degrees so that I could be cutting the lines from north to south (rather than east to west). I find it easier to cut in the north-south plane but some people prefer to cut west-east plane.

Rule #5: The pressure applied should be on the ruler and not on your cutting tool. When cutting with a ruler, keep the hand pressure on the ruler so that it doesn't move. Putting the pressure on the cutting tool will tire your hand but also allows for the ruler to slip and ruin your cutting. Please keep in mind, it is much better to make several passes with your cutting tool (which is easier to do when you are using a ruler) than to make a single deep cut.

Rule #6: Find out what ruler works best for you. I have a variety of rulers that I use and will have a separate post on that topic. Usually, I use a cork backed 12" ruler for most of my work.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Paper Cutting 101--Transfer and Cutting

There are a number of ways to transfer your pattern for cutting. One common way of doing a cut out is to print your image on a piece of paper and tape/staple it to the piece of paper that you want to cut. You then cut out your image until you are finished. The problem with this is that you are cutting two layers of product (the top layer with the image and the second layer of paper/card stock. This can become quite tedious and the finger strength that you need to cut is pretty severe. Also, it is difficult to retrace a cut line on the second layer when it has already been cut on the first layer.

A second way, and the one that I prefer, is to print your image on the piece of paper that you want to cut. I usually use black/white silhouette paper for my smaller paper cuts and this is a perfect medium for doing this type of transfer. Simply print the image on the back of the paper (the white side) and start cutting from the back. The only problem with this is you must reverse your image--especially if you are cutting out text.

A third way to transfer your image is to use carbon paper, pattern tracing paper, etc to transfer your image onto the paper that you want to cut. Print out the image on a plain piece of paper. Staple/tape this sheet onto carbon paper and then place these pieces on the paper that you want to cut. With a stylus or ball point pen, trace around the image that you want to cut. Once completed, you simply cut the image on the front side of the paper. Depending on how intricate your pattern is, this could be a long and laborious process.

For the owl project, I used silhouette paper and printed the image on the white side of the paper. When you start cutting, you should cut in an orderly fashion--either left to right, top to bottom, etc. I will provide you with some exceptions to this rule later which will refer to weak points when cutting that you have to consider.

For this cutting, I started inside--out and smallest to largest. I started in the middle of the figure and started cutting out the feathers. I figured that this would be the most time consuming aspect of the process. Considering that I am in a time crunch, I am having to cut this image after I get home from work at the theater. Keeping in mind that I am tired, I need to concentrate on those aspects of the cutting that I can do while tired. Long and complicated cuts should only really be done when fresh and awake. Normally, I would work for a longer period of time on each step of the project but I don't have that luxury at the moment.

So here is stopping point #1, belly feathers done. Time: 1 hour 45 minutes.

Disclaimer: Please don't use my timings as a gauge on your own work. Because I have been doing this for a little while--I am probably a faster cutter than many of my readers.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Paper Cutting--Owl Project

My friend loves owls so I decided to use her project as the basis of my explanation of paper cutting. I found the above image on the internet and I will use it as the basis of this project. Unfortunately, there are some problems with the image.

If I were to use this image as is, I would be working with the positive space. In other words, I would be cutting out all of the white spaces and would be left with the black image as shown above. While most of this would be OK, there are some trouble areas that I would have to address.

The problem with floaters is that they are not connected to any other section of the cutout. Unless you want to paste them down independently then you somehow need to connect them to another piece of the cutout. Also, there are some tiny feathers to cut out which could be difficult. While working on a larger scale, this wouldn't necessarily cause a problem but if I want to reduce the image to work on a greeting card then there could be problems. Also, I don't necessarily like a floating image on a white background. I usually frame the image and then mount it to a solid background.

Here is the final image that I will use for the cutout. Even though the border is very thin, I will cut a 1/2 inch border around the image. You will notice that the image touches the border on all sides--in other words, I did not create any new floaters when placing the border around the image.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Paper Cutting 101--Positive vs Negative Space

One of the most difficult aspects of paper cutting for me is still trying to decide and/or determine what I am going to cut. I still get confused sometimes and it often happens that I end up with the exact opposite of what I wanted. The problem is a visual or spatial one but most artists know it as positive vs negative space. While I have never taken an art class, I will try and explain it as best as I can.

In paper cutting, when you cut away all of the material that you don't need and are left with what you want then you are working with the positive space. In the image above, you are working with positive space. In other words, I would cut out all of the paper around the stool and would be left with a cutout of the stool (the image in black).

When you work with the negative space, you cut out the material that represents the image that you need/want. In other words, you make a stencil. In the image above, the negative space would be the white space.

To complicate the matter, if you spray paint the negative then you end up with the positive.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Paper Cutting 101

Today, I wanted to start a series called Paper Cutting 101. I want to introduce you to some of the tricks of the trade that I have learned along the way. I will introduce you to a project that I am working on and show you step by step how I do a paper cutting.

The impetus of this series was a question that I received regarding loss of feelings in one's fingers after completing a paper cutting project. The biggest problem that people have is that they grip their cutting tool too hard. Rather than letting the cutting tool cut the paper, people apply too much pressure to the cutting tool while thinking that the extra pressure will cut the paper better.

As a first issue, I want to introduce you to a collection of cutting tools that I use. The most common tool used by people is the Exacto knife. The Exacto knife is held in the hand very much like a pencil or pen. While this grip is familiar, it can lead to hand and joint problems because people apply too much finger pressure in order to cut paper.

There are three common types of Exacto knives. In the picture below, the knife in the middle is the most common on the market--in this case, it is covered in rubber for ease of grip. The first version is an ergonomically correct handle that places added weight in the back of the handle to offset the pressure normally used when cutting. The knife on the right is a swivel blade that is best used when cutting curves.

The knife that I use most often in my scalpel which is the same knife that doctors and surgeons use. Like a Exacto knife, the blades are exchangeable. The major differences are the weight and handle design. The profile of the handle is slim and flat (rather than round like the Exacto handle). The benefit of this handle is that it fits the web of the hand between thumb and forefinger. For my work, I use a rounded blade and a straight blade.

Other tools that I use for a variety of purposes are snap blades, punches, and pin tools. Snap blades (like Olfa blades) are useful when cutting thicker materials (like foam core, etc.). Also, I extend the blade when I need to mitre corners when bookbinding. This type of blade allows you to snap off the dull blade that then exposes the new sharper blade. Rather than cutting small circles, I use hole punches for nice clean circles. I will write a separate post about hole punches-especially the Japanese hole punch. I also use a pin tool to punch holes in paper when I need start and stopping points in paper. This will be explained in a separate post as well.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Happy New Year

OK--so I am late with my New Year's wishes but it was a very busy December 2011 and I wasn't nearly ready for the influx of stuff to happen as the year ended. I will definitely catch you up with goings-on but I wanted to share with you my first project for Iron Craft 2012.

First of all, the challenges this year occur every two weeks so the projects are expected to be more detailed or bigger risks. The first challenge this year was paper--dedicated to the first anniversary of Iron Craft. Because paper is my medium (and everyone knew it was it was mentioned in the challenge), I feel a little more pressure to produce something spectacular. I felt like Austin Scarlett in the opera gown challenge during Project Runway All Stars.

I decided to do another paper quilt. The first quilt that I did was a 9" by 9" quilt made out of a heart pattern. I decided to double the size of the quilt and make an 18" by 18" quilt.

There are three pattern blocks for this quilt. Two of the patterns are shown above. The third pattern is the big diamond pattern that you can see in the overall quilt above.

Here is the most intricate of the patterns above.