Gelatin Plastic

Gelatine Plastic 21This is the beginning stage of a pretty major undertaking I’m … undertaking. But it’s taking some time to get all my pieces in order so I thought I’d start with a bit of a teaser post for you. Did you know you can make plastic out of gelatin and water? I kid you not. And once you start playing around with all the different things you can do with it, it opens up the possibility for lots of super fun crafts, and it’s totally something you can do with kids. To start, you need some gelatin (I used powdered), some food colouring (optional, if you want your plastic tinted), something to cut your plastic with (I have a cookie cutter for big circles and a straw for little ones), and a smooth, relatively flexible, shallow plastic or silicone dish. Many people use the flexible lids to margarine containers and the like. Gelatine Plastic 1

For every little pouch of gelatin you use, you’ll need 3 tablespoons water.

Gelatine Plastic 3I used 4 pouches in my experiments so I needed 12 tablespoons water, or 3/4 cup water. I plopped that in a small saucepan with food colouring and turned it to low heat. Gelatine Plastic 4

Tip in your gelatin and stir it gently to dissolve all of it.

Gelatine Plastic 5Don’t feel the need to whisk it or start a stirring frenzy as this will cause your gelatin to foam and you won’t have a nice clear result. You’ll get a bit of foam at the edges but nothing serious. Gelatine Plastic 6

Once you have heated the gelatin water enough that all the gelatin is dissolved and the liquid is clear again, pour it into your little dishes (I used two 6″ x 8″ dishes) and smooth it out with a spatula so that all the surfaces are covered. Try to pop any bubbles you see, but a few are okay.

Gelatine Plastic 7Now leave that puppy alone for about 45 minutes. After that time you will have gelatin that is set but is still flexible. You can peel it out of your dish super easily, but do it slowly as it can tear. Gelatine Plastic 8

I used a cookie cutter to cut out large circles, and a shot glass to cut out smaller ones.

Gelatine Plastic 9Then I used a straw to cut out hanging holes from all my circles. Gelatine Plastic 10

The excess is weird and floopy.

Gelatine Plastic 14But cool to play with. It’s totally edible (but doesn’t taste that great) and you can chuck it in the compost. Gelatine Plastic 12

Then I set the circles to dry. I did a lot of trial and error with drying these things. There’s a school that wants you to set them on a paper towel, under another paper towel, sealed just under the lid of a tupperware container, but I didn’t have much luck with that, nor did a bunch of the people who have already done this project and posted it on the internet. In this picture you can see I set the circles on parchment paper to try, but of course paper wrinkles when wet.

Gelatine Plastic 11So I ended up with these wrinkled chip things when these were dry (which takes a couple days). Gelatine Plastic 17

I had also laid a second piece of parchment over top to help hold the drying circles down and prevent them from warping, but it only helped a little, and the paper’s surface got copied onto the circles, leaving a matte finish.

Gelatine Plastic 18I found when I left them on a smooth surface (in this case, plastic wrap taped to my counter) then they warped more but they were totally clear, and I preferred that. Gelatine Plastic 20

I also let some dry completely inside the dishes, and ended up with a big sheet of (still warped) plastic.

Gelatine Plastic 19You can cut this stuff easily with scissors. Gelatine Plastic 23

And it’s also compostable.

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It’s going to take me a while to get all the little circles made that I need but I have a due date of September so stay tuned!

Kintsugi – Hacked

WARNING: This is a long post. With an unsatisfactory ending. Sorry.

Have you ever heard of kintsugi/kintsukuroi?  If you Google it, you will probably see this picture:

From Sangbleu.com

And if you click on that picture you’ll get all sorts of lovely information about what exactly the process is.  Because I know your attention span is shorter than that (I mean, you’re here, right?), I’ll give you the skinny.  Basically, this method of pottery repair is based on the idea that something can become more beautiful for having been broken, and, rather than throw away a broken vessel, we can make it more beautiful by putting in the effort to fix it.  And to fix it in a beautiful way.

The problem is that doing it the real, traditional way is going to take a bit more actual effort than I really want to put in.  Not to mention that the real process involves many toxic substances, and many of these substances are not allowed to be imported into Canada.  So I couldn’t even do the real way if I wanted to.  If you want to see someone go through the real process, read the Kintsugi Blog.  The fact that the last post was in April 2013 should tell you something.

And I could buy some fancy schmancy repair kit from some other country, but I’d probably run into the same import issue and they’re expensive, if you include shipping and the fact that the Canadian dollar is tanking at the moment.  I don’t like things that are expensive, because I don’t have any money.  This is why my main hobby is talking to the internet.

I’ve seen a few attempts, like this one, to “hack” the method and do it more cheaply and easily.  But they kind of suck.  I can definitely do better than that.

Kintsugi Attempt One 37

Here’s the thing, though: so far, I haven’t quite managed to get it right — yet.  But now I’m obsessed with it.  So I figured I’d let you guys know how I was doing with it, and maybe some of you have some ideas about how I can make it better.  Sound good?  Okay good.

Kintsugi Attempt One 21

Materials:

What I wanted to achieve with my kintsugi is a fixed vessel that could be used again. So I did my research and I found a food-safe and water-tight all-purpose adhesive from Dap. I had to order it online from Amazon.ca, because for some reason none of the hardware stores in Ottawa were stocking it.

Kintsugi Attempt One 4

I also picked up these awesome babies from Lee Valley. They’re teeny tiny condoms you stick on the ends of your nozzle-y glues to keep them from drying out. Because I hate that they come with a twist cap that you use to break the seal and once you add the nozzle the cap is useless. And then the glue dries up in the nozzle and you’re hooped.

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These are awesome. And cheap.

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Now, to adorn the adhesive I needed some precious, precious gold. Or a reasonable facsimile. I considered gold leaf but again, pricey, and too complicated. So I looked around and I found these nice metallic powders from Neuberg-Ebel that looked awesome.  Of course I couldn’t find anyone who would ship them to Canada.    But then I found some re-packaged Jacquard Pearl-Ex powders at DeSerres that were in my price range so I picked up a few colours.  Make sure you get metal powder and not embossing powder, because embossing powder turns to plastic when it’s heated.  Although now that I think about it, that might be a good idea for next time …

Kintsugi Attempt One 8

And, you know, protective gloves and sheets of newspaper and stirring sticks and containers and all that stuff.

Kintsugi Attempt One 3

First Attempt:

I decided to start my experiments after I accidentally broke one of my parents’ porcelain bowls at Christmas time.  Porcelain and ceramic are ideal for this sort of thing, because they don’t shatter when they break (unless you totally smash them, of course).  Clay will turn into dust if you break it but porcelain is good stuff for dropping.

Kintsugi Attempt One 1

This bowl broke cleanly into three pieces, which was a good starting point for me.

Kintsugi Attempt One 2

My original idea was to mix the metallic powder with the adhesive and then apply it like regular glue. I reasoned that the metallic sheen would shine through the clear glue and it would look awesome. So I painstakingly removed the lid from the powder and tried really hard not to breath on the beautiful glittery copper stuff.

Kintsugi Attempt One 11

I squeezed some glue into a dish and carefully tipped some powder onto it.

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Then I used a stir stick (these ones are left over from my coffee stirrer wall art) to mix them together.

Kintsugi Attempt One 14

And used a paintbrush to apply the glue to the first piece.

Kintsugi Attempt One 16

Then I stuck it to the second piece. Unfortunately, it didn’t goosh out around the crack in the nice smooth way I wanted it to, probably because I applied it with a paintbrush.

Kintsugi Attempt One 17

So then I tried to wipe some of it away. Yup, you saw that coming.

Kintsugi Attempt One 18

Whatever. This was an experiment. So I continued with the final piece, once the first two were dry. I left it to goosh as it would, though the ragged little wisps were so not cool.

Kintsugi Attempt One 19

What it looked like on the inside.

Kintsugi Attempt One 20

I used rocks and a box of matches to hold pieces in place while they dried. I think traditionally you wedge it in sand, but you do what you gotta do.

Kintsugi Attempt One 23

I wasn’t happy with the final result, so I thought I might try to trim off those wisps I disliked so much. I used an X-acto knife and it was super easy.

Kintsugi Attempt One 39

Except when the adhesive inside the cracks decided to come with the stuff I was trying to cut off. GARGLEBARGLEGRRRRRRRR …

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And really it didn’t look that great anyway.

Kintsugi Attempt One 41

The bowl did, however, hold water. So I had that going for me.

Second Attempt:

For this one I was out of porcelain but I had this small pottery bowl thing. I knew that pottery would shatter more, but I figured if I controlled the environment in which it broke I might be in luck.

Kintsugi Attempt One 25

So after washing and drying the bowl I placed it in a paper bag and rolled the top down to seal it in. Then I took it into my garage and prepared to drop it on the concrete floor.

Kintsugi Attempt One 27

The only damage was a tear in the bag after the pottery shards had their way with it.

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I definitely had more pieces than I would had the bowl been of china.

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But only a little bit of shatter dust, which means I could still put the whole thing back together.

Kintsugi Attempt One 31

So I laid the pieces out and got ready to go.

Kintsugi Attempt One 32

In this attempt, I used the nozzle of the glue to lay a nice smooth bead along the edge of one piece.

Kintsugi Attempt One 33

Then I stuck them together and had a lovely smooth bit of glue smoosh out both sides. I carefully tipped some of the metallic powder onto the glue smoosh.

Kintsugi Attempt One 34

And did the same to the other side. What a mess!

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Then I set the piece down and let it dry overnight before I tried to get the excess powder off.

Kintsugi Attempt One 38

Look at that! It’s beautiful!

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The problem was that I couldn’t re-create the situation again. The powder got everywhere, and my hands aren’t that steady, so I ended up dropping pieces while trying to glue them together. It’s really hard to maintain pressure on two pieces of odd-shaped pottery (but not too much pressure) while also carefully tipping fine powder everywhere, especially if you have carpal tunnel syndrome and you have no gripping power.

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So that’s where I am right now. If you folks have any ideas, I’d love to hear ’em!

Fast Tip Friday: Let’s talk about THAT smell.

I recently got myself stricken with food poisoning and so spent an inordinate amount of time bent over my toilet bowl.  In doing so, I noticed that, no matter how many times I diligently scrubbed the toilet from top to bottom, I was still smelling … THAT smell.  Like a boys’ bathroom in a college dorm.  You know what I mean.

THAT Smell 1

Turns out that the problem isn’t my bad cleaning habits, but a gas leak from around the u-bend.  Fixing it is easy peasy.  Grab some all-purpose silicone and a pair of gloves.

THAT Smell 2

Run a bead of silicone all around the bottom of your toilet to seal in the bad smell.

THAT Smell 3

Run your gloved finger around that to smooth it down, and wipe off the excess with a dry cloth.  Let it cure, and you’re good to go. Smell solved.

THAT Smell 4

So … ap.

My sister-in-law, back before she was my sister-in-law, gave me a wee soap-making kit for Christmas a few years ago.  Love ya Teedz.

I’ve always wanted to learn to make soap from scratch.  I even have a book on it. It’s a pretty complicated process, and I’m not sure where I would get the raw materials here in St. John’s.  Maybe it will be a project for the future.

This wee kit is a good start, of course.  You make it in the microwave!  I really don’t use my microwave enough.  Mostly for heating tea and magic bags.

The kit is from Life of the Party and it contains a block of white unscented soap, a mold with three spaces for pouring, some decorative hand-made paper, a bundle of raffia twine, two tiny pots of metallic colour powder (one pink, one green), a small bottle of scent (half-empty – I think some of it transpirated over time, though the scent is just as overpowering as it as before), and two rubber stamps.  And a sheet of instructions.

Being rather uber-scent-sensitive, I quickly discovered an allergy to the perfume in the bottle (upper lip numb and swollen, that’s a new one).  I think if I make soap again I’ll use natural extracts.  This scent makes my brain feel a little itchy so I think I’ll be using it sparingly – and probably giving away the results.  Better make them good in that case.

This is how we do it.

Each bar of soap uses about four cubes from the big-ass block.  I hacked these off with the aid of one of my stupid sharp knives and some adult supervision (because, let’s face it, I really can’t be left alone).  Actually, it was much easier than I had thought.  The soap has a soft and oily quality that is slightly disturbing to touch but which makes it relatively easy to cut. I had three spaces to fill (but only two stamps, hmm).  I decided to do the bars two at a time, then.

Eight cubes went into a microwave-safe measuring cup (I love Pyrex for so, so many reasons).

Microwave the soap on high for 40 seconds, then stir.  Nuke for a further 10 seconds.  Stir again. Repeat 10-second intervals until the soap is all melted.  It looks like coconut milk when it’s done but smells like soap.

The instructions want me to caution you that melted soap is hot.  No kidding.  It does, however, cool quickly, and will cake on your measuring cup and whatever you use to stir it.

Add fragrance, drop by drop, until the desired level of potency is reached.  Due to my allergy I decided to forgo the perfume and use lemon extract instead.

Add the colour powder in a similar fashion until you get what you want.  I had a hard time mixing in the powder, and in the end much of it ended up clumped in the bottom of the measuring cup.

Put a drop of soap into the centre of your “mold cavity” (that sounds gross) and use it to stick down your embossing stamp.

Fill the rest of the mold with melted soap.  I noticed that a lot of my soap still went under the stamp, despite my sticking.

Allow the soap to harden and remove from the mold by applying steady and even pressure to the back of the mold.  This took a lot more swearing and bending of plastic than I had anticipated.

To remove the stamp from the bar, simply peel it away like a sticker.  Ha.  On both of them I had to cut them out with a knife before peeling them away. 

Also, I noticed that some of the colour from the stamp was left on the soap itself.  The soap still felt oily and left a residue on my fingers.

Plus it was weirdly bendy.

In addition, there was scary stringy soap stuck on my measuring cup and spatula. 

Fortunately, due to the oily nature of the stuff it was pretty easy to scrape off in huge peels.

I decided not to use the rest of the soap, and chucked the lot, keeping the stamps, raffia, and handmade paper for a future DIY.

This was an epic fail (though does not in any way reflect on the giver of the gift).  On the plus side my garbage smells nice.