Tag Archives: vintage

57: Grandma’s Costume Jewelry, as interpreted by my laser

It’s no secret I like antiques, and have since I was a little girl.  It probably was no surprise to my mom when I became a museum curator.  In my own personal collection, I have a handful of mid century costume jewelry pieces from my great-grandmother Rachel.  Much of the laser cut jewelry I make over at Isette has its roots in designs from the past, but those designs are a loose interpretation.  For this week, I wanted to get more true to the original; what would costume jewelry looked like if it had been designed for a laser cutter?  I had the perfect piece from Grandma Rachel to try to recreate.

The original costume necklace and earrings
The original costume necklace and earrings

wgermanyThis necklace and earring set is unsigned, but I know it is post WWII because the earrings are stamped “W. Germany.”  The design seems to be a throw back to an earlier, pre war era, when Art Deco flourished.  Perhaps it was made for a  older woman, such as my great grandmother, in mind, or it is simply a reminder of those bright years between the wars.  Because of the angular nature of the links, translating the design to vector would be just a matter of numbers (lots of numbers!).  The stepped design layered colors layers could be easily recreated with super thin acrylic with a little Rub n Buff for highlights.

A quick word on the color.  I would have sworn the necklace was silver colored.  To that end, I ordered acrylic in a silvery gray (which in retrospect is too matte for this) and the only pink that was really an option to recreate the necklace.  In reality, the original necklace is more like a white metal that has had 70+ years to age slightly yellow.  It kind of reminds me of old paste, the yellow tinge it has.  This yellow tinge is a monster and has taken over all my photos, making the necklace look positively golden, especially next to the cooler gray of the replicas.

My initial sketch with measurements.
My initial sketch with measurements.

The first step in recreating the design was a sketch.  While I didn’t use the sketch directly, it helped me study the piece and learn how it worked together visually.  It also gave me a place to write down my obscene numbers of measurements.  As you can see, I measured anything that I thought I might need to translate the design into illustrator.

The geometric symmetrical design made it beautifully easy to draw lines once I got the guidelines put into place.  I started with the complete design, then broke it up in to the necessary layers.  This recreation is 5 layers, more than I’ve ever designed with before.  To make the assembly part easier, I purchased the pink and a sheet of the gray with an adhesive back.  The bottom layer is the only one without an adhesive.

From Left to right: 1 - the box is the foot print of the original design to keep me in line.  2 - Total design, with all the layers, sto see how it works together. 3 - back piece 4 - layer 2 in pink, 5 - third layer ni gray 6 - layer 4 in pink and the piece on the far right is the gray cap to finish it off.
From Left to right: 1 – the box is the foot print of the original design to keep me in line. 2 – Total design, with all the layers, to see how it works together. 3 – back piece (gray) 4 – layer 2 (pink) pink, 5 – third layer (gray)  6 – layer 4 in pink and the piece on the far right is the gray cap to finish it off.
First attempt with Rub N Buff
First attempt with Rub N Buff
Pulling off the transfer tape after the silver is applied was nice and slick!
Pulling off the transfer tape after the silver is applied was nice and slick!

The pink enameled layers on the original piece have the silver line and dot work.  To recreate that, we engraved the designs and filled them with silver leaf Rub N Buff.  On my first attempt, I applied it straight to the acrylic, but it was a pain to rub off such tiny pieces.  I didn’t really get it all off if you look closely. So on the second, final version of the design, Ryan applied some transfer tape to make the painting easier.

5-layers
All the layers painted, lined up and ready for assembly!

 

In progress layering
In progress layering

Once painted, the assembly was easy – expose the adhesive back and line it up correctly!  I did all 5 layers because the original necklace link is silver capped, but I actually liked to look of 4 or three layers better, I think.

The final bit of bling was a 4mm crystal on the center top (the original is much flashier – an actual crystal rather than a craft store acrylic version!)  All the elements of the original are there, and it’s fascinating to me how the laser cut recreation looks like the original, but at the same time not.  The material difference and the straight edges that result from the laser cutter are part of it, but I think it’s also missing 70 years or so.  Age is a hard quality to recreate.

Old and new!
Old and new!
Side by side, left to right are the original, Version 2 and Version 1.  Version 2 is spot on for size, and once I go the correct length, the decorative line work worked better.  Other than those tweaks, I also thickened the linework between version 1 and 2 to make it more visible.
Side by side, left to right are the original, Version 2 and Version 1. Version 2 is spot on for size, and once I go the correct length, the decorative line work worked better. Other than those tweaks, I also thickened the linework between version 1 and 2 to make it more visible.
Of interested to the only the most geeky laser people - check out the holes on each side of the top.  They don't look like it, but they are technically the same size.  Version one, we didn't do offset paths to take into account the amount of material burned away by the laser.  It is truly minuscule, but on such tight margins, it's the difference between fragile and secure holes.
Of interest to the only the most geeky laser people – check out the holes on each side of the top. They don’t look like it, but they are technically the same size. Version one (right), we didn’t do offset paths to take into account the amount of material burned away by the laser. It is truly a minuscule amount, but on such tight margins, it’s the difference between fragile and secure holes.
shiny-vs-not
I made a couple extra large versions as well, measuring 1.5 inches tall. The link on the left is made with brushed aluminum acrylic layers, and I loved it. It made the Rub N Buff pop and the black bottom defined the layers much better than the silvery gray.

 

41: Pumpkin Decorating

Pumpkins (15 of 21)I’m doing my best Martha Stewart impression with our 52 Lasers version of pumpkin decorating.  We are definitely not the first to put laser to pumpkin; you can see Design Sponge’s amazing punched tin style pumpkin and Seattle Food Geek’s amazing in depth study on lasering a pumpkin for some awesome inspiration.

Pumpkins (13 of 21)

The set of limitations I had: I didn’t want to carve all the way through the pumpkin.  Probably too many bad memories of mushy, half rotted hollowed out pumpkins, but I didn’t want to cut into them.  So that also cut out lighting them.

We also don’t have the awesome rotary attachment (yet) that would allow us to engrave the pumpkin in the round, and I didn’t want to go searching for that one, perfect, flat sided pumpkin that would allow us to get a larger etching space.  I decided to instead work mainly with the largest flat area on a pumpkin; the top.

I had a little trouble finding the wide squished looking pumpkins I wanted, so I settled on smaller pie pumpkins.  They had a lovely color, lovely shape, and there was one that didn’t have a pesky stem at all!

Three naked pumpkins
Three naked pumpkins

For our our tester pumpkin I grabbed the tall one and decided to engrave a quick image on the flatter side (pretty much contradicting what I just said above!) – no sense of setting up something complicated if it didn’t work!  It features a vintage “Hallow e’en” title taken from a turn of the century postcard and a skull and cross bones.  We did two passes at 50% power, and then, since it went to well, did a third at 100% power.  So much for caution.  It resulted in a deep etch, and and it looked great…except for the unnerving tendency to weep.  Yep, we made the pumpkins cry on our laser.  My guess is that we got past the hard skin into the meat of the pumpkin that had more moisture.

Pumpkins (7 of 21)
See those tears rolling down the cross bones? Poor thing.
Frames engraving
Framed engraving

I did cut a little black frame for the engraving to kind of dress it up the engraving, since the tester didn’t get a nice paint job, but the paper was too thick and wouldn’t stick well.  So it doubles now as a jaunty hat or a lovely (tiny) paper doily underneath.

Pumpkins (1 of 21)For the larger of the squat pumpkins, I made up a ring of text with “Boo!” and little images of bats, cats, etc.    The ring was to decorate the top of the pumpkin, but to get the focal length right required a bit of delicate trimming with a hacksaw.  I had to trim the dried stem, because it was too long and would have hit the laser head as it moved back and forth.  A little indelicate, but it didn’t turn out badly.

Painted up and ready to go.
Painted up and ready to go.

Once everything was aligned correctly, we etched the top at 100% power, 80% speed.  The engraving isn’t as deep, but it looked great under the laser.  Admittedly a moment of panic set in when I scrubbed the engraved areas and the writing all but disappeared – but when it dried the text was visible again.  I finished this one off by painting the bottom half green, and covered up my paint line with a black and green ribbon.  A pretty swanky effect!

Pumpkins (5 of 21)Amusingly, the pumpkin idea that inspired this whole post was the last one we cut.  I was initially inspired by the lace covered pumpkins I’ve seen on Pinterest, and wanted to emulate that by laser engraving.  To make it really pop, I prepped the pumpkin with (decidedly unHalloween-like) teal acrylic paint.  The color was a) one I liked, b) only one of three I had, and c) probably inspired somewhere in the back of my head by a friend posting on Facebook about the Teal Pumpkin Project promoting an allergy safe trick-or-treating experience (thanks Erin!).  I painted it first and then sealed it to give it gloss and to protect against the weeping the pumpkin does under the laser.

Pumpkins (9 of 21)I used the pumpkin without a stem, as this gave us a greater canvas, and engraved the lovely lace pattern I found at Recoursos2D.  (The file doesn’t really give original artist attribution, so if they took it from another source, please let me know!) We went for 100% power, 50% speed, and the laser cut right through the paint and sealer.  This is a happy pumpkin; it did not shed a single pumpkin tear.  Apparently we didn’t engrave deep enough.   I didn’t scrub this one clean because I liked the gradual color change as the lace curved down, and I didn’t want to mess up the paint job.  It turned out beautifully!

Pumpkins (14 of 21)

Close up of the subtle color change.  It's a bit of soot from the burning.
Close up of the subtle color change. It’s a bit of soot from the burning.

I think the experiment was a success!  There were no adverse effects to the laser, the smell wasn’t awful, and the end product is something I’m excited to show off.  Perhaps we’ll have the rotary attachment to try pumpkins in the round next year!