Die-cutter for ceramic surface

I’m back from a month at the Archie Bray Foundation, where I did a month’s residency in studio, and presented a 3-day workshop. Great people in the workshop and at the Bray. Thanks for the good time and inspiration.

One of the things that came from this was exposure to Andrew Gilliatt. I’ve seen his

Andrew Gilliatt pattern

work in print, but it was more revealing to see him in studio. He’s using a Silhouette SD die-cutter to cut out adhesive paper resist shapes, and to cut out shapes from printed laser decal sheets to match his glazed or resisted areas. While I’ve known that the scrapbooking world had such devices, the light bulb didn’t really go on until I looked up the die cutters. Early models required cartridges from the manufacturers and only cut those shapes. Things got more sophisticated, and Silhouette America made a cutter that connects to your computer and will cut from .svg files: you can make your own or buy from Silhouette. The graphics are vector-based, like those created in Adobe Illustrator.

A post on Facebook about my interest in this technology yielded a kind note from Brenda Moore, former workshop participant, who mentioned that she’d taken a workshop at Sawtooth from Doris Petersham who included this technology. A note to Doris to ask if she had any pointers for info led to her suggestion of Make the Cut software as the most flexible tool to use with a die-cutter. The have a hardware connection with the Zing die-cutter.

I’m sure there are a lot of uses for die-cutting in ceramics. Before the scrapbooking movement in DIY, the plotter-cutters available were expensive tools more suited to business use, e.g. cutting the adhesive vinyl that galleries and museums use for shows, signs, etc. The low end of these seems to about $900.00 and up from there. One of the U.F. faculty in painting who does works with icons and symbols has a wide-bed plotter-cutter. Since, there has been development of smaller, less expensive home units which are more within the reach of individuals. I plan to cut shapes from paper for use as stencils on leather-hard clay. I’ve always loved doing slip work on leatherhard clay, but it requires more timing pressure than majolica on bisque ware. This year on sabbatical, I plan to take some time to investigate the die-cutter and slip work, and will write this up when I’ve learned more. Another curiosity is cutting shapes from solid sheets of laser or China-paint decals. Chinese Clay Art now offers sheets of solid decal color. This is GREAT if you want to make something like graphic stripes, etc., and the die-cutter will expand what can be easily cut from such sheets (once I learn more …. )

I bought the cheapest Silhouette – the Silhouette Portrait. It has optical registration, is similar to their CAMEO but smaller – 8″ cutting width. It just arrived yesterday, and I’m working on setting it up. This really all was instigated by ceramic artist and educator Martina Lantin asking me to do the next Crimson Laurel Gallery themed cup show, Natural Disaster. I wanted to use symbols and icons to represent natural disaster suggestions, either in slip or decal color shapes.

Once I discovered Make the Cut and the Zing, thanks to Doris’s kind help, I wanted one of those. One is on the way. The Zing will do 14″ wide cuts, online reviews say it’s better for thick or tough materials (e.g. Tyvek for re-usable stencils), and has laser registration, which should be more accurate. Make the Cut works with many die-cutters and offers a lot of tutorials and free Webinars on Tuesday nights. The Zing people are kindly facilitating my research, and I hope to see my new Zing soon. I’ll post more info here on the blog as I learn, and will eventually work on an article and a handout for my web site.

Zing die-cutter from Klick-N-Kut

Zing die-cutter from Klick-N-Kut



Organizing for the new year

It’s occurred to me that I don’t have enough hours in the day for what I must do, would like to do, and want to do. I figure I am not alone in this, and that the New Year is when a lot of people review and work on what they want to enact in the next year.

 As I twirl around trying to multitask and get ready for being away, I’ve been working on organization and workflow. Both could be much improved in my life.

 E-mail: I have changed my old POP3 e-mail that downloaded to my home computer to IMAP, so it’s available all over, all the time. This means I CAN’T let my INBOX have 2500 messages, or the my e-mail server will archive them. So, it’s a nudge to do better about deleting or sorting e-mail.

 On the notes and files front, there are several cloud services that are free and helpful. Most have a more expensive paid component that offers more features, but the free versions are very useful.

 To Do list: My favorite is ToodleDo. Offers the ability to make categories, set priorities, and will e-mail you reminders. The TOOLS tab has some great features – I can make a one-page foldy booklet when I need to take my shopping list with me in hard copy. I also have all my show and workshop dates here, so I have ONE master place to look when I try to plan something new. Being a mildly paranoid belt-and-suspenders planners, I also put the dates with reminders into my Outlook calendar. My browser (IE) is set to open both ToodleDo and my Google home page when I open it, so I am reminded daily to LOOK at the list. Experience has shown me that the To Do list is only good if you train yourself to look at it regularly.

 Cloud file storage: I have a home computer, a work computer, and a laptop for mobile things. There are files that live in one place, but I need in others. I’ve come to love DropBox and Skydrive. Both have a free service. Search for reviews on them if you want to compare. You can park data in the cloud, and reach it anywhere. I’ve used Dropbox a lot, and anything you put in your local computer folder is synched to the cloud and available anyplace, as well as offline. I’m just starting to use SkyDrive, but it’s got a nice, clean interface and drag-and-drop file upload. Both offer the ability to make a folder private or shared, and Dropbox will let you send someone a link to a folder (SkyDrive may do this – I just haven’t gotten that far.)

 If you want to save things from the web – articles, images, etc. – as well as park files and make folders with info and notes by task, check out Evernote and Sprinpad. It’s like having a cloud file cabinet and a clipping service. Ahhhh. I saw a short article in PC World about business use of Evernote, and that nudged me to investigate. Springpad is connected to social media, and you can use it like Pinterest and have people follow specific folders. It’s not as flexible as Evernote in the brief investigations I’ve done. People have complained online about Evernote’s privacy polices, and that you grant them access to your data by accepting. Worth checking into. Still, it’s a service that will go everywhere with you, and will clip from e-mails in Outlook, etc.. You can put a link in your browser toolbar, highlight some text, and click to send it to the program, as well as using it for files, and it can be installed on your smartphone for pictures and info from there. Pinterest has a similar feature for pictures. Article on the use of Springpad for organizing projects (like blog post topics… ): http://lifehacker.com/springpad/

Articles online:
Springpad as content curator: http://www.business2community.com/social-media/springpad-the-most-powerful-content-curation-tool-youre-not-using-0321129

New Springpad vs. Evernote: http://blogs.computerworld.com/20055/springpad_review_a_new_more_sharing_data_collector

The new Springpad: http://web.appstorm.net/reviews/springpad-a-second-look/

I recommend investigating the new tools. Do an online search for the product name and review. Since many people have smart phones, there is online access to your critical data from wherever you are. If you don’t need much of that on-the-go, there’s still the shopping list and appointments needs.

 If anyone has a great app they love for keeping organized, do let us know.

My personal strategy for organizing is to get a highly-rated time management book from a bookstore or online, and put it in the bathroom. Read a page or two at a time, and think about how you can do just a bit better. If I could do just a bit better every week…. it would help. If I showed you a picture of my home office, you’d understand.

 One last check of Evernote details, and I’m out the door on my way to Chile, to teach with the wonderful Suze Lindsay and Kent McLaughlin, and Randy Johnston and Jan McKeachie and Randy Johnston will be there as well.


Other People’s Blogs

It’s summer, and I’m doing desk archaeology, trying to clear off the mounds. Clay Times magazine from Winter 2010/11 had an article on blogging by Albert Avi Arenfeld, and a list of other people’s blogs. Some of my favorites below.

Michael Kline         Sawdust and Dirt .  Thoughtful content. Great guest writers.
Mignon Khargie      Plate a Day.  Every day, a new plate to see. Great archive.
Christa Assad        Christa is a firecracker and an active, rewarding blog author
Molly Hatch            Stripes and Dots. – views and info on historic and contemporary ceramics
Naomi Cleary         Melt My Heart . Newsy blog about her own studio and beyond

Beyond the blogs from the Clay Times article, I also enjoy:

Ben Carter              Tales of a Red Clay Rambler. Ben has great posts about his experiences in China, observations about pottery and potters, travels.Great July video clip on using color and pattern on pottery form.
Meagan Chaney       Meagan Chaney Studios. Lowfire Fridays are fun for earthenware glaze development.
Chandra DeBuse      Virtual Sketchbook. Lively, mixed observations.

Not a blog, but a good online stop: The Louise and David Rosenfield Collection. Louise and David have put their collection of 1800+ ceramic objects by noted artists online.

Meagan Chaney glaze tests from her blog.