Thursday, 21 July 2011

Iridescent Butterfly–Part 1

This is a new technique for me, which I learned from this series of Youtube videos – fairies and all that stuff are definitely not my thing, but I thought the technique could be used to make beautiful butterflies. I love to adapt techniques for my own use, and interpret ideas to suit my own creativity. This technique is a fairly fiddly, labour-intensive business, but I’m sure you’ll agree from the videos, the results are stunning.

If this is successful, and suitable, I’m intending to use it on the shadow box I’m making for our nephew’s wedding next month.

Once I’ve mastered the technique, I shall get myself organised, and make quite a few at once, so that I can progress in stages as each part is left to dry, etc.

The materials required are vellum, iridescent cellophane, wire (preferably covered; I used florist’s tape), superglue, Plaid Gallery Glass (crystal clear), iridescent acrylic paint or ink, or fluid acrylic paint mixed with iridescent medium, and ultra-fine poly-glitter. Embellishments such as gems can be added as well. I found it easier to place the wires using a pair of fine tweezers, and you need a pair of wire clippers (I used my Tim Holtz shears which can cut sheet metal and wire). You also need a pointed tool to spread the Gallery Glass, some paint brushes, your normal drawing stuff and a heat gun. Finally, a warning – you do need quite a lot of patience!!

The first step was to draw the design. When I was satisfied with it, I traced it onto a piece of vellum, and went over it with a fine permanent black marker. Vellum is more substantial than tracing paper, but still translucent. The design has to be done on this so that it can be turned over, and a mirror image made from the other side. This avoids having to make a symmetrical drawing, which would take unnecessary time and effort.

The maker of the video suggested using wire that was covered, to make it easier for everything to stick onto it. I didn’t have anything like that, but I’ve got some 24-guage wire which I wrapped with black florist’s tape and hoped that would do the trick – it came out thicker than I’d hoped, so this may be a non-starter. If so, I shall try it with uncovered wire and see if it really makes any difference. I’m making only one pair of wings to try it out, so that I don’t waste a lot of time and materials if I have got it wrong.

The next step is to cut a small piece of iridescent cellophane and lay it over the pattern.

You have to bend the wire around, following the shape of the pattern, cutting off short lengths and laying them down so that everything is covered except for the outer outline of the wing. Cut the main, inner outline pieces of wire quite a bit longer than the actual wing so that there is plenty available to twist together to assemble the butterfly and form the body and legs. The wires are anchored down onto the cellophane with spots of superglue where they touch one another.

When the first wing is finished, the pattern is slipped out from underneath, turned over, and put back so that the second wing can be formed.

(On this picture, you can see my original butterfly wing drawings on the large piece of paper, with the vellum pattern piece on top,)

Rather than doing the upper and lower butterfly wings in one piece, I’ve decided to do them separately, and have started with the larger, top pair.

When the superglue stage is finished, it is set aside to dry – this actually takes a lot longer than I thought, maybe because I was using superglue gel. I finished that stage late at night and left it till the following day.

Next you have to use a substance called Gallery Glass, made by Plaid. This is a range of products for making faux stained glass windows – something I’d quite like to try one day! They have a gorgeous range of colours, but for our purposes, all we need is the crystal clear.

Using the nozzle on the top of the bottle, you follow the outline of the wires glued onto the cellophane. I think I may have made the hole in the top of the nozzle a bit big because it came out pretty fast, and it was more runny than I expected. (Another time I shall probably decant some gallery glass into a syringe or small bottle such as an empty Stickles bottle, which might give a bit more control.) It is important to do the wires first, so that they are thoroughly glued down when the Gallery Glass is dry. After doing the outline, the spaces are filled in, by dropping a bit of Gallery Glass onto the cellophane and spreading it out to the wires with a pointed tool. On the unwired, outer edge, the Gallery Glass can be feathered out a bit with the pointed tool, to give a thin, delicate edge.

It’s not critical to be absolutely accurate in following the lines, either with the gluing down of the wires, or the Gallery Glass; the pattern is a guide only, and in nature there are always slight irregularities anyway.

After the Gallery Glass is applied, it takes a good long time to dry, so it’s best to leave it overnight. It goes on white, but dries crystal clear.

To be continued…

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