Sunday, August 28, 2011

Good Night, Irene

We were supposed to go to Cape Cod for five days over this weekend.  I spent days writing up my packing list and then putting it all together.  I had everything ready by Wednesday afternoon.  I was totally ready to leave first thing last Thursday morning, but Wednesday night we realized that the Cape was going to get a direct hit from Hurricane Irene, so we cancelled our trip.

I've lived in Vermont full-time for the past five years and didn't think that hurricanes could come this far inland--but Irene is coming straight for us here.  My sister told me that this hurricane is almost as big as Europe!

They say we should expect to lose our power, which is no surprise because we lose power here in the mountains on a regular basis.  So over the past three days I've been getting ready.  I brought out the candles.  I filled 10 gallon-sized bottles with tap water so that we can flush the toilet, brush our teeth, and wash our hands and faces--and put the bottles in the bathtub.  I bought plenty of spring water for drinking.  I baked several loaves of bread and cooked up a few pounds of chicken so we can have sandwiches if we can't cook.  My cellphone is fully charged and I have a book to read during the daylight hours.  I've also fully charged my MP3 player, so I can listen to a book after dark.

So, we're as ready as we're going to be.  Good night, Irene.  We hope we'll be ready when you show up tomorrow!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Part II: How to Paint Lettering on Clear Glass

Painting lettering on glassware is similar to painting lettering on wood.  You need to start by choosing a font and a font size as described in Part I.  Of course, the lettering is likely to be much smaller on a wine glass than on a wooden sign.

Once you've printed your letters onto plain white paper, the steps are a bit different from lettering on wood.  A biggest difference is that there's no sealing or basecoating required on glass and there's no need to trace the letters onto the surface of the glass before painting! 

On the other hand there are some unique requirements for painting on glass.  Regular acrylic paint will quickly chip, peel, and wash off of the glass.  There are a variety of paints that were created to stand up to the wear and tear that glassware receives.  I've used a few of them and they all have their good points.  My favorite is FolkArt Enamel, but that doesn't necessarily mean that those paints are the best.  Whatever I write about here is based on my experience with FolkArt Enamel paints.  They are water-based, so the paint is easy to clean up with soap and water before it is cured.

Another thing to consider is that, although most glass paint is classified as non-toxic, it isn't necessarily classified as food-safe.  Therefore, there should be about an inch at the top of a drinking glass that is left free of paint.  This also protects the design because acids from food, lipstick, and saliva can damage the paint over time.  If you want to paint on a clear glass plate to be used for food, you should paint the underside of the plate, so that food does not touch the paint.

When you paint on glassware, you need to wash the item throroughly with warm soapy water and let it dry completely.  Just before you begin painting, wipe down the surface with alcohol.  Be VERY careful that you don't touch the surface where the paint will go after that or you'll leave fingerprints or oils from your skin that will interfere with the adhesion of the paint to the glass.  This can happen no matter how clean you think your hands are.

PAINT A FLAT-SIDED DRINKING GLASS:  Placing the lettering on a cylinder-shaped glass is fairly easy because the glass is the same width from top to bottom.
  1. Print the letters onto plain white paper.
  2. Cut away most of the excess paper around the outside of the lettering, but I don't recommend cutting the letters apart.  If you do that, you'll have to spend a lot of time lining up the letters.
  3. Clean the glass and wipe it down with alcohol.
  4. Place a rubber band at the top of the glass, about an inch down from the top.  Try to make the distance between the rubber band and the top of the glass somewhat even, but it doesn't need to be perfect.  Just eyeball it.  This is simply a guideline that will keep you from painting on the area where your lips will touch.
  5. Tape the paper onto the inside of the glass, below the rubber band, with the letters facing out.
  6. Paint the letters.  You'll most likely need to paint 2 or 3 THIN coats.  If you don't let paint dry between coats it will liftabout 15 to 20 minutes between coats should be fine.

PAINT A CURVED-SIDED DRINKING GLASS:  Placing the lettering on a curved drinking glass, or one that is not the same width from top to bottom can be a litttle more challenging.
  • Steps 1 through 5 are the same as for a flat-sided drinking glass above.
  • If the paper with the lettering doesn't conform to the curve of the glass, you can cut slits into the paper (don't cut into the letters themselves) so that the paper can move and spread, so that it will fit better.  Add more tape if necessary.
  • Paint the letters.  You'll most likely need to paint 2 or 3 THIN coats.  If you don't let paint dry between coats it will liftabout 15 to 20 minutes between coats should be fine. 
  • These instructions would also work for a curved glass bowl.

PAINT A FLAT GLASS PLATE:  The paint must be applied to the underneath surface of the plate so that it doesn't make contact with food
  1. Print the letters onto plain white paper and turn the paper over. 
  2. Retrace the letters with your Ultra Fine Sharpie on the back of the paper--those letters will be in "mirror image."  If you have a hard time seeing the already-traced letters on the front of the paper, just put your paper on a window with light behind it.  Put the already-traced letters against the glass while you retrace.
  3. Cut away most of the excess paper around the outside of the lettering, but I don't recommend cutting the letters apart.  If you do that, you'll have to spend a lot of time lining up the letters. 
  4. Clean the glass and wipe it down with alcohol.
  5. Tape the paper onto the TOP of the plate, on the eating surface, with the normal letters facing UP.  As you look at the tracing paper from the underneath surface of the plate, you will see the mirror image of the letters.  After you paint the letters, when you look at them from the top of the plate they will be normal.
  6. Paint the letters onto the underneath surface of the plate.  You'll be looking through the plate at the letters from above when you're finished.
  7. You'll most likely need to paint 2 or 3 THIN coats. If you don't let paint dry between coats it will liftabout 15 to 20 minutes between coats should be fine. 

  • Remember that you don't want to transfer fingerprints or oil from your skin onto the surface to be painted.  
  • Sometimes  you can fit your non-painting hand inside the glass to hold it.  Other times you can hold the glass by its stem or by the top edge above the rubber band.
  • Wearing a disposable latex glove on your non-dominant hand will allow you to hold the glass without transferring fingerprints or oil.  Be careful not to smudge wet paint with the glove.  I can almost guarantee that you won't like wearing a glove on the hand you paint with.
  • Remember when you're painting around the side of a drinking glass that you have to be careful not to smudge wet paint as you move around.  You can't lay the glass on it's side and roll it along as you paint, or you'll be rolling the paint onto your table and smudging the paint all over the glass.  Ask me how I know this!
  • One of the nicest things about painting on glass is that you can fix mistakes and smudges pretty easily before the paint has cured.  A cotton swab dipped in alcohol can often be used to remove a mistake.  There are also tools that look like paintbrushes with  the brush part replaced by rubber tips of various shapes.  They can be used to remove mistakes and smudges, but they work best when the paint is very wet. 
  • If the paint has dried, but is not yet cured, you can scrape off small mistakes with a toothpick or craft stick.  I don't recommend using a razor blade or craft knife because it can scratch the glass.
  • For more specific information on FolkArt Enamel paints, see these FAQs:
  • Even though the company says it's OK to put your painted items in the dishwasher, I prefer not to.  I definitely will not put a stem glass in the dishwasher.


FolkArt Enamel paints must be cured so that they are permanent.  This can either be accomplished by air-drying them for 21 days or by baking them in your oven.  Some people swear that the paint is more durable if you bake it, but the manufacturer says that it's the same either way.  If you air-dry, that means you can't use or wash the item for 21 days.  Here are the instructions for baking:
  1. Let the paint dry for several hours.  If you bake it too soon, some of the paint can spread slightly and make clouds around your design.  I usually like to wait at least 8 hours.
  2. Remove the rubber bands!
  3. Put a cookie sheet into a COLD oven on a shelf that leaves enough room for your glassware.  You'll want to keep the glassware away from the heating element.
  4. Put the glassware on the cookie sheet in the still cold oven.  Don't let the painted areas touch the cookie sheet.  With most stemware, I like to turn the glasses upside down so that the top is against the cookie sheet.  This is just for stability.
  5. Turn the oven on to 350 degrees. 
  6. When the oven temperature reaches 350 degrees, set your timer for 30 minutes.
  7. After 30 minutes turn off the oven.  DO NOT OPEN THE OVEN DOOR.
  8. Let the glassware cool completely in the oven before you open the oven door.  I like to do my baking at night and leave the glass to cool overnight. 
  9. In the morning I remove the cooled and fully-cured glassware, one glass at a time.  If you try to remove the cookie sheet and all the glassware at once you're courting disaster.
If you open the oven door while the glass is still hot, cool air can hit the hot glass and crack or break it.  I'm told that the thinner the glass, the more likely it is to crack or break.  Some people say that even if you do everything right, you might lose a glass here or there because of flaws in the glass itself.  So far, I've never lost a glass to baking.

© Copyright 2011 Linda's Art Barn. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Part I: How to Paint Lettering on Wood

I just realized that I've never posted anything about decorative painting on this blog!  I guess that's because I've been so focused on jewelry lately.

Recently I was hired to paint a plaque that is going to be given as a present to a man who will hang it on his deck.  He jokingly refers to his deck as "The Martini Deck," so that's what the plaque needs to say.  Of course, there is other embellishment as well—after all, this is "decorative" painting.

The person who hired me gave me a few ideas that she had for the plaque and asked me to think about it.  A few days later we talked and we had very similar ideas about the design.  We quickly came to an agreement and I painted a sample for her to check out.  She liked it, so I got to work.

This is the photo I sent to my customer for approval before I begin varnishing.  I don't like the way the yellow "t" in martini looks and she agreed with me.  I'm going to re-paint it the same deep pink as the glass at the top.

Here's the finished sign with a pink "t" and some minor adjustments in the design of the glasses.

The first thing I needed to do was to design the lettering and that is the main focus of what I'm going to talk about here.  An important thing to consider is that lettering can be tricky to paint, so you don't want it to be too fussy—Victorian serifs would drive me crazy—but it does need to be interesting.

For simplicity, let's say that I'm going to paint a sign that says Linda's Art Barn.  Before I start the lettering, I would have already decided on the size of the sign and have a pretty good idea of the placement of the words.  These are the steps that I follow:

I open a word-processing file and type Linda's Art Barn.  I personally use Microsoft Word, but there are other sources of lettering on your computer that you might prefer.
  1. I enlarge the text to a size that looks like it might work.  If necessary, I change the layout of my page to Landscape or even change the size of my page so that I can make it wider to fit the words.  Of course, how you do these things will vary depending on the software you're using.
  2. Sometimes when I want really big lettering, I put each word on a separate line.  I've even split a single word onto more than one line when I wanted extra big letters.
  3. Next, I Select my text and browse through my fonts until I see one that I think will work.  Then I change the font of the selected text.  At that point, I might decide to readjust the font size.
  4. Now, I'm probably going to want to test out a bunch of different fonts before I make a decision and I want to be able to compare them.  So I type Linda's Art Barn several more times.  Then I change each occurrence to a different font.  I always make a note below the text that says which font and font size it is.  That way, I don't have to depend on my memory when I make a final decision.
  5. When I've made my font decision, I finalize the font size.  Then I change the lettering to Outline.  This is because I don't want to waste all that printer ink/toner by printing solid letters.
  6. Finally, I print the lettering onto plain, white paper.

Now that I've printed my letters, I'm ready to transfer them to tracing paper and then trace them onto the plaque/sign.

My husband cuts the wood for my signs.  Then I sand, seal, and basecoat the cut wood.  It's important to let the sealer dry completely before basecoating and then to let the basecoat paint dry totally before continuing.

My next step is to trace the lettering onto the basecoated sign.  Decorative painters usually know how to do this, but for anyone who doesn't, it's fairly simple:

  1. Trace the letters from the printout onto tracing paper with an Ultra Fine Point Sharpie.  If you don't mind the price, tracing vellum is wonderful.  It's stronger than regular tracing paper so it stands up to repeated usage.  It's also easier to manage than regular tracing paper.
  2. Now tape the tracing paper/vellum onto the prepared wood.  Make sure it's exactly where you want it before you tape it down.  Use Scotch Magic Tape because you can remove it without damaging the paint.
  3. Slide a piece of graphite paper or Chaco Paper between the tracing paper/vellum and the basecoated wood.  Be sure that you've done this with the colored side of the graphite or Chaco Paper face down.
  4. Using a fine stylus, empty ball-point pen, or other device, trace the lettering.  This will transfer the design onto your wood.  Don't press too hard or you'll dig into the wood and make dents.  You will probably also rip your tracing paper.
  5. Now you're ready to paint.

Graphite paper comes in gray or white and is inexpensive.  If you have a dark background, use the white; if you have a light background, use the gray.  I have pretty much stopped using gray graphite paper for several reasons.  First, new graphite paper leaves very dark lines. Second, even the light gray lines of older graphite paper can be difficult to remove after you're painted over them.  It can be a real bear to clean this up because some colors of paint are just too transparent to hide those lines.  Even worse is that while you're resting the palm or side of one hand as you're tracing with the other, you can leave a messy smudge.  I don't find it to be as much of a problem with the white graphite paper.

Instead, I prefer Blue or White Chaco Paper, depending on my background color.  It's more expensive, but SO much nicer than graphite.  What makes it so wonderful is that most of it will disappear when you paint on it with acrylic paint.  If there are some marks left after your paint has dried, you can remove them with a damp cloth.  Be sure your paint is fully dry before you do that.

You do need to be careful of moisture while using Chaco Paper.  If you're in a humid environment, you might find your transfer disappearing before you've completed your painting!  It's not a huge problem; you can just retrace the design.  Be careful that your Chaco Paper doesn't get damp or wet because the transfer color can disappear from the Chaco Paper itself.  You should store it in the paper folder and plastic bag that it's sold in.  It wouldn't hurt to seal it up in a zipper bag, too.

Another tip I'd like to pass on is to tape a piece of waxed paper over your tracing paper before you begin transferring the design onto your wood.  First, it helps your stylus or pen to glide over the design as you trace.  Second, you'll scratch the outline of the design into the waxed paper as you trace, so you can always tell what part of the design has already been transferred and what part has not!

I don't recommend using a pencil to do any of your tracing because you can get black marks on your hands and smudges on your project.  A ball-point pen that still has ink in it can also make a mess.  My preference is a stylus.

I almost forgot to say that if you don't find a font on your computer program that you like, you can search the internet for free fonts and download them to your computer.

Don't forget that your finished, painted-wood project needs several coats of water-based varnish, especially if it's going to be hung outside.  Also, be sure that if holes are drilled into the wood for screw-eyes or other hardware for hanging a sign, you need to go back and seal those holes so that moisture doesn't enter that way.  If there is even a single spot for moisture to enter the wood, the moisture will keep collecting until it touches the paint from the inside and makes the paint peel off.

If you plan to hang your sign/plaque, the hardware needs to be stainless steel, aluminum, or something else that won't rust or develop a patina that will run onto the sign and stain it.

Although there are other ways to do some of these things and there are people who have other preferences,  what I've shared here are my opinions and my favorite methods.

© Copyright 2011 Linda's Art Barn. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Gold & Silver Prices August 2, 2011

My husband was just watching one of the business channels on TV and they were talking about what a great day it is for metals--their words, not mine.  Apparently the debt ceiling upset had caused precious metal prices to drop for a few days, but as of yesterday, they're back up again.  From their perspective, if the prices are rising, then investors are doing well.  For those of us who make jewelry, it's just more bad news.

Ending prices on August 2, 2011:
  • Gold closed at $1664 per ounce, the highest price yet in 2011
  • Silver closed at $40.09 per ounce
  • Copper...I can't find the closing price of Copper from yesterday, but I did find a site that quotes Copper currently at $4.33 a pound, which is about $ .27 per ounce.  That's almost no change from the $ .25 per ounce that I told you  about in my blog last August 14, almost exactly a year ago.
On May 5 of this year I blogged about the new (at the time) Silver-Filled wire.  I included links to a couple of companies that sell Silver-Filled wire.  I've just learned of two other companies that have added Silver-Filled wire to their inventory: 
Blue sells Silver-Filled findings, beads, and clasps, too.  I imagine that means that other companies are selling Silver-Filled findings as well.

I've also heard of local bead stores that are now carrying Silver-Filled wire and findings.