Sunday, May 29, 2011

Signing Your Artwork

It's important for an artist to sign his/her creations.  The artist signature or mark identifies it for all time and is often the final step in the creative process.  Something about applying that signature or mark closes a creative verse and leaves a sense of well being with the artist.  Jewelry artists have struggled to find a way to apply their mark to the artwork.  For metal artists that often involves a stamp that is hammered into their piece or attached as a separate tag.

Bead woven jewelry still does not easily lend itself to an artist's mark and again most of this work is left unsigned or tags are attached that don't often remain with the work.  Why should you care?  Ultimately the mark is there for the future.  Beadwork encompasses a huge body of work that has lasted for centuries and has had historical significance. Time will tell if patterns emerge and whether we can trace an artist's growth and influences through the years.  At the very least, your mark will be important to your buyers and/or your family for future generations.

Bead embroidery artists have learned from quilters and embroidery artists and many have begun finding small ways to mark their creations.  Since most of this type of work has a fabric backing of some sort, there are places the artist can write or embroider their initials.  It's this type of beadwork signature I'm currently exploring.  In this post I concentrate on my first steps in branding my designs.

Cat Ivins hosts a series of giveaways on her blog Olivebites.  It was there that I discovered Bullfrog Laserworks, and owner Roberto Sand.  He was giving away a custom stamp, so off to his shop I went.  I was astounded at what I saw.  I had been looking for awhile at having a custom stamp made for cards and packaging, and Roberto's are not only functional, they are beautiful.

These well made stamps have wooden handles engraved to match your design and can be made in practically any size and shape you need.  I ordered two stamps.  The larger one will serve as my Thank You on boxes and cards but I can also cover the words and just stamp the larger logo when needed.  The smaller logo was purchased with the intent to mark my ultra-suede, metal work, and the tops of plain bottlecaps to use in packaging.

These stamps are wonderful, but they weren't the most amazing item I found in his shop.  The second item is still in the prototype stage, but we're getting close.  Roberto has wooden tags he initially designed as wedding favors.  The slots in these tags caught my eye because I had been looking for slotted buttons (also called ribbon slides) to use on my laced back cuffs.

Because of the small size of the button (7/8") the slots are not centered to allow room for the text.  Roberto is sending me a sample so I can see if it rests properly on the cuff, if it doesn't we'll go back to using two holes for the ultrasuede to hook through.  I'll be able to color these buttons and perhaps put artwork on the reverse side.  I'm looking forward to playing with them and seeing where else they can be used and how I can alter them to coordinate with my design.

But wait, there's more!  As excited as I was about these discoveries, I was nearly jumping out of my chair when I saw his listing for 50 faux suede labels custom engraved!  We began a long exploratory journey into faux suede while I considered the most practical use of these amazing labels.  I knew it would be too expensive for me to have multiple shapes cut, so I settled on a large circle with my logo at approximately 25mm in the middle.  This would fit the majority of the cabochon pendants I make.  The faux suede Roberto offers in his shop is not ultrasuede, it's a polyester blend that frays.  This is not the end of the world, when the laser cuts out your shape it seals the edges.  For me, though, that would require pieces to match the size of all my cabochons, I wanted more flexibility.  I asked if I could send him some ultrasuede to use and was delighted when he agreed.

We were both thrilled with the results although I did discover that light to medium colors work best.  As you can see, the logo did not show up well on the black and I loved the tone on tone result on the Orange ultra suede.

I quickly worked up a couple of Izze pendants and couldn't be happier with the look.  They add a professional touch while also keeping to the whimsy I like in my beaded work.  I'm looking forward to incorporating the stamps on my metalwork and anticipate a more industrial feel if what I envision works out as planned. 

So now what to do for my cuffs?  Since these are made in various widths, it just wasn't practical to laser engrave them.  My first experiment was with heat embossing.  I was at one time addicted to HGTV.  The first step to recovery is admitting you have a problem.  My realization came when my daughter (then only 2) exclaimed "it's Joan" when the host of one of my favorite shows came on the air.  I learned about heat embossing velvet from Carol Duvall a longtime host of all things crafts.  I thought I'd try to see if it worked on ultrasuede.  It will be hard to see in this picture, but it works amazingly well.  I set the iron at the "wool" setting, placed the stamp image side up and layered the ultrasuede on top.  I held the iron on the ultrasuede for 10-20 seconds, pressing firmly.  I lifted carefully and repeated until I could begin to see the indentation of the stamp.
It worked beautifully.  It's much more subtle than the laser engraving, but it still marks effectively.  Unfortunately, I did not get the same results with my new stamps.  The handles made it hard to get a firm press, I'd have to have them mounted on a flat wood block instead.  But the biggest reason is the detail.  My logo is too detailed for this method.  You need a stamp with deeper impressions, something to consider when you have your stamp cut.

My last experiment for this post was using the stamps and Staz-on ink.  The image to the left is the larger logo and the one on the right is the smaller one.  Both work well and this is the method I'll use for my cuffs.  With the smaller stamp, I'll need to press very firmly to work the ink into the grain of the ultrasuede.  I did these quickly and got good results, taking time and experimenting with ink colors will yield even better results. 
I like the boldness of the laser cut images, but these are a great alternative.

Roberto opened his etsy shop in 2008 and has grown quite successfully due to his unique product offerings, great prices and flexible customer service.  He has targeted the bridal market in the past, perhaps now the bead market will be a new venture for him as well.  You can find more in his etsy shop:


Sockentick said...

Wow, it's a very wonderful idea!!!

Best, Ruth

Unknown said...

Thanks so much Ruth! I learn so much from fellow bloggers out there. I doubt I would have stumbled across this wonderful shop otherwise (or not for a long time).

Robbie said...

What an interesting post! And Roberto's site is amazing! You've given me so many ideas I have to calm myself (with a glass of wine, of course!).
Sorry I ended up not being able to go to Flint show!! Summer is coming..we have to get together. I want to see Sue again too!

Unknown said...

Hi Robbie,
We're sorry to have missed you! We'll have to make plans to meet somewhere. Sue and I'll be getting back together soon. Rob has some great stuff in his shop, I love the beer caddy, that's on my list, wouldn't that make a great gift for a beer lover or a groomsman favors?

Sue G. said...

Excellent post Christine!!! Very cool stuff! I still want a pin of your logo.... Very excited to see that Robbie wants to get together- I'd love too!